Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Blog Design

I think this will be my last meta-blogging post for awhile. I've switched from the summer blog design to a Fall-inspired image and colors. If you don't usually read on the blog itself and are looking for some inspiration for crisp autumn days, candy corn, and jack o'lanterns, be sure to check it out!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blogging Overload

When Keith trains for races, he ends up with a few different goal times in mind. There's the ultimate goal: a ridiculously amazing time that would require perfect training and an unblemished race. There's the mid-range goal: a pretty good time, usually a PR, that falls a bit short of his wildest dreams but that he would still be satisfied with. Finally, he has a bottom "goal" time in mind. It's the lowest possible time that he might find acceptable. If he falls below this minimum threshold, his legs must be severely broken or falling off or else he will be very, very disappointed.

For me, this 3-tiered goal system is somewhat relevant to blogging. (It is not at all relevant to my running; I'm much more of a "just get across the finish line" mentality.) And truthfully, I guess I really have 2 goals. I don't have the ultimate goal. I think that would probably be something insanely consistent, like writing 5 days per week for 52 weeks a year. I said good-bye to that type of goal a long time ago. Instead, my high goal is to post at least 3 times a week, every week, which would amount to at least 12 posts a month. My minimum goal is to post at least 10 times a month on average, so I get to 120 posts by the end of the year.

You may have noticed that I've been a blogging machine for August and September. Instead of the bare minimum 10 posts, I had 15 August posts and 17 September posts. I just want to warn you, particularly new readers: don't get used to it!

I started the blog in November 2005. From 2006 through 2010, the only year I did not have at least 120 posts was 2008, when Eleanor was born. She was born at the end of July. That August, I had one sad, token post on the very last day of the month so I didn't miss out a month completely. Every month after that had fewer than 10 posts, and I didn't even make it to 100 for the entire year.

This time around, my goal was to pad my post count in the months before the baby arrives, so I can be a sleep-deprived slacker for October through November and still get to 120 posts for 2011. At this point, I can write 5-6 posts for those last 3 months and still be in the clear. Looking good so far!

Of course, the question is: why does it matter? Does anyone count posts other than me? I seriously doubt it.

But it's important to me that I'm at least somewhat reliable in my posting. I don't expect all of my readers to be constantly refreshing the home page, awaiting my latest musings with bated breath. But I do like to keep the readers I have, and I think that part of that is being around. I do think that it helps; the image above is a screen capture of my Site Meter stats. You can definitely tell that I started posting links to blog entries on Facebook in January (first tall column). There was a crazy busy month in April when I got a ton of random hits, but otherwise the traffic has been consistent.

So I guess I want to warn you in advance. I probably won't be posting as much in October/November. But I haven't forgotten about my readers or the blog! I'll probably be composing many, many posts in my head as I'm feeding the baby, changing diapers, chasing after Eleanor, and all of the other endless tasks of a Mother of Two. Maybe a small percentage of those will actually make it onto the blog, but I'll do my best to make it to 120 posts for the year.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Photo Challenge: Green

This week's Shutterboo Photo Challenge is "green." Sometimes I think Keith likes not even worrying about the actual content of the picture, and thinking only about whether the overall impression is of the right color. It's somehow freeing.

This year, it's much easier to find some green at the end of September than in years past. The amount of rain we've had--and are still having--is a little ridiculous. I take it for granted, but every once in a while I look up and realize that all of the lawns, bushes, plants are still a lush, verdant green. The leaves on the trees may be changing color, but otherwise, it still looks like the middle of summer.
The downside to this is: more grass-mowing and weeding. Also, my neighbor's house is still not done being painted. The one they started painting the first weekend in July .... of course, to be fair, I did put a stop to the work because of lead paint concerns. Then nothing happened for about a month while he found a new contractor. But even though the new (much better!) painters started work in mid-August, the job is still far from complete, due to the incessant rain.

When the first snow falls, will the house be painted? Will it fall on a freshly mown lawn?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baby Projects: Eleanor's New Room

I can't help but feel a little guilty for Baby #2. So much of our baby preparation has actually centered around Eleanor, and the room situation is an area where that becomes very clear.

Many people have asked us if the baby's room is ready, and we say, "Oh, we haven't really done anything with the baby's room, but Eleanor's new room looks great!" We moved Eleanor into her "big girl room" after her birthday in July. She got to pick the paint colors and the general loose theme of "flowers." (Okay, if it were really up to her I'm sure it would have been princesses, but she did have some censored input.) We talked a lot about how awesome it would be for Eleanor to have her own reading corner and a big girl bed and so many amazing new features.

We thought we should move Eleanor in early just in case she wasn't fully on board, so we had a few months for her to move back and forth, and say good-bye to her old room. The room was habitable in late July, but it's taken me this long to post about it because it took us awhile to add all the finishing touches. Like how I forgot that she would need a laundry basket. Whoops! And we also bought some small speakers for her hand-me-down iPod Nano so she can listen to the all-important white noise during nap and bedtime. It also took me weeks to finish her new curtains, but sewing projects are a separate post, so more about that idea-gone-awry later.

At this point, her clothes are all moved over and (pretty much) organized. The walls are decorated (apparently her fairy friends like to sleep on the flowers by her bed, Eleanor has informed us). The only project left is the most challenging one. And, even better, it's not mine!

Keith and my Dad are most of the way finished with building and painting custom bookshelves that will be on two walls of Eleanor's purple book corner. The shelves, plus the comfy beanbag chair and soft rag carpet make me very jealous of her book corner. I've never had such a nice reading spot all for myself!

And, for the record, the baby's room is nearly ready too. We haven't forgotten about Little Sibling! It looks a little odd to be a baby's room again, instead of a 2-year-old's room. The baby boppy is back, and all of the diapering supplies have been washed and stacked. We've gotten the baby toys out of storage, and there's a pile of board books next to the rocking chair.

I'm not sure when Keith and I get a room makeover, but I'm trying to figure out where to put my reading corner...

Monday, September 26, 2011

How To: Get Rid of Drugs

I understand that the title of this post may be a bit more scintillating than the actual content, so I apologize if you feel misled. This post has nothing to do with illegal drugs or kicking any bad habits, etc. It's related to the fact that, throughout our house, we have numerous expired prescriptions, vitamins, and other somewhat-controlled substances that we can't figure out how to get rid of.

You're not supposed to flush them down the toilet and contaminate the water supply. Nor is it safe to throw them in the trash and risk someone else taking them or releasing them into the landfills. What other options are there?

Well, apparently the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) sponsors National Prescription Drug Take Back Days every six months. The next one is October 29. I clicked on the link to find a site near me, and saw that I can turn in prescription meds at the Cleveland Clinic Beachwood Family Health Center, which is my home away from home of late, since that's where my OB-Gyn's office is.

On the DEA's website, there's also a link to an FDA flyer about Disposing of Unused Prescription Medicines, which might be handy as well. So if I can't turn in non-prescription items like expired vitamins and supplements, hopefully at least I'll know what other options are safe.

I know I've talked to at least a few of my neighbors (and fellow parents) that were having problems with this same issue. So hopefully this information helps!

Friday, September 23, 2011

15-Year High School Reunion

Last weekend, Keith and I attended my 15-year high school reunion.

I saved this for my last post of the week, because I've been wondering all week what I really had to say about the experience.

Reunions, particularly high school reunions, feel like they've reached almost mythical levels of importance in our society, and I'm not sure why. It was nice to see people, see how they've changed, hear what's going on in their lives, find new similarities with people I didn't know well during high school.

It was not a life-changing event. My sense is that a big reunion (although I know 15 years is kind of an odd one; we missed out on a 10-year, and the organizers decided to go ahead and hold a 15-year one instead of waiting for another 5 years) is supposed to make me stop and really think. I will be in a room filled with people that I haven't seen on a regular basis since I was 18 years old. I thought I was chubby (although I would LOVE to weigh that much again) and my only priority in life was ME. Where was I going to college? What was I going to do with my life? What was I going to do about my hair?!?

So in some sense, I suppose that going to a reunion automatically makes a person confront her 18-year-old self, and consider what has changed. And that could provoke some deep thinking of a sort. Showing off pictures of Eleanor and, whether intentionally or not, also showing off my 8+ months pregnant belly, I did think quite a bit about how the nature of my personal relationships have changed over the years.

But this isn't really a revelation to me. I've known for quite some time that I'm not the same person as I was at 18. Or rather, my brain/the way I think still seems the same but many of my priorities and experiences have changed. To be somewhat flippant, I think this is a normal and positive development.

On the other hand, I can understand why this reunion experience wouldn't be particularly earth-shattering for me. I can't think of anyone from high school that I was constantly in touch with, very close to, with whom I've lost contact since. In July, we went to the Lakehouse weekend with about 10 other high school friends and their spouses/kids. I see my best friends from high school on a pretty regular basis (at least a few times a year). I know about their families, jobs, current hobbies, etc. So seeing these familiar faces was not a surprise.

Another part of my high school experience that may not always be the case is that, overall, people were pretty nice. I wasn't bullied in high school. There weren't any people that I really wanted to confront. I didn't have any one or two particular people in mind that I was either 1) keeping my fingers crossed to find out terrible things had happened to them, thanks to karma, or 2) trying to impress people with where I'm at and what I'm doing. Of course there were people that I liked more and some that I liked a bit less, but none that I felt ruined my life or anything melodramatic like that.

I kept thinking, all this week, that I surely must have something of greater import or depth to report about the reunion, but I was actually a bit relieved by how much of a non-event it was. I enjoyed talking to old classmates and catching up, I was proud of myself for wearing my high-heeled boots and standing for much of the evening, I was surprised by how little of the talk was about the past but that it focused mainly on the here and now.

I was not suddenly shocked into realizing that my life is anything other than I already thought it was, if that makes sense. I'm a happily married mother of 1.8 children. We have a big enough house and enough money. I have a job that is enjoyable and frustrating (sometimes simultaneously). I have good friends and family. I enjoy my hobbies and often don't get enough sleep. I am still me, and a 15-year reunion didn't change my opinion on the matter.

Currently Reading: Diana Gabaldon

Ever since school ended at the beginning of August, I've had a fabulous time reading. I've been so much more relaxed when naptime comes around, and I don't feel like I have to fit in schoolwork and housework. So I do some housework, and then I read without guilt. It's been wonderful!

Much of this reading has been dedicated to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I'd read the first few books years ago and really enjoyed them, but have not kept up with Claire and Jamie as later books came out. Like my mom, I liked knowing that there were further adventures to be enjoyed at some point in the future.

However, by now, book 7 is out and book 8 (the final book in the series) is expected out in 2012. With this two-month break, I thought it was a good time to try and read all of the books in a close time period and really immerse myself in the story, so I don't read one and then, months later, pick up the next and wonder, "What's going on? Who is this person?"

And immersed I have been. These books are romance, history, sci-fi (time travel) ... so many genres wrapped up into one. The main characters are very strong and unique, and the time period they experience is fascinating. Right now I'm (finally) on book 7. I'd put it off for a few weeks, because it got to a point where it felt like reading these books was all I was doing, instead of it being a nice break from other tasks. So I took a break and now, with only a few weeks left until D-Day, I thought it was a good time to finish up the existing series.

Overall, I have really enjoyed the writing and the characters and the time period. My only issue, which I haven't really decided yet whether it's a true "complaint" or not (depending on how things end up), is that as the series goes on, more and more time is spent on secondary characters. There used to be two main characters. Now, in this book, the chapters are constantly switching between probably 6 main characters, many of them in different geographical locations, and a couple in a different time period. I'm not sure yet if I like this expansion of the focus, or if I wish she would just stick with the original focus on the two characters of Jamie and Claire. Either way, I'm looking forward to finishing this book before Little Sibling arrives (maybe I'll get time to read while Eleanor's in Preschool next week!) and reading the final book when it comes out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Photo Challenge: Game

This week's Photo Challenge is Game. Monday night gave Keith the perfect opportunity to take some pictures, because he and Eleanor went to an Indians game after work. Or I guess you could say that this is a case of Keith making his own luck, since taking Eleanor to the game was all his idea.


Eleanor loves baseball. Her favorite team is the Reds, and her favorite player is Joey Votto. She has a Joey Votto bobblehead in her bedroom, courtesy of Uncle Nick, and sometimes we find Joey in bed with her or on her headboard, watching over her at night.

She's gone to a few games this year, and enjoyed every one. She's actually surprised us with how much she pays attention to the game. I'm not saying she understands the infield fly rule (because who does, really?) but she stays in her seat and looking at the people on the field more than I would have expected of an antsy 3-year-old. The fact that hot dogs and lemonade are also two of her favorite foods on earth doesn't hurt, either.

This is the last week of regular season baseball, I believe. I'm basing that on the fact that Keith mentioned the Indians have 10 games scheduled in 7 days, with all sorts of make-up games and doubleheaders. He said this would probably be their (his and Eleanor's) last chance to get in a game this season, so he suggested that Eleanor and I meet him downtown after work and they could scoot over to the 4 o'clock game.

So that's what they did. I think I'm much more aware and appreciative of the flexibility of toddler parenting since we'll have a newborn again so soon. I dropped Eleanor off a little after 4 o'clock. The two of them had a great time at the game and then taking the train home. I has a wonderful, quiet, relaxing evening at home. Everyone wins!

Now if Keith wants to do a dad/daughter activity again in a month or two .... that will mean that I'm home alone with the newborn. Not quite as relaxing.

But it does bode well for the future. I love it when Keith and Eleanor spend time together, and bond without me getting in the way. (No listening to cries of, "Mommy do it! I want Mommy to do it! Not you!") I love that it was Keith's idea, and this is their special "thing."

Some day, it will be daddy's "thing" with Eleanor AND Little Sibling, and I will again sit home and enjoy the peace and quiet. Just like Keith will, when the kids and I go to the tea shoppe or something similar. Everyone wins!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Preschool Battles on the Bench: Week 2 (and final?)

On Monday morning, I was really disappointed to discover that, for me at least, Week 2 of Preschool was more difficult than Week 1 even. As my younger sister and I often say, it's all about the expectations. If you expect your kid to sleep until 6am and he sleeps until 7am, it's fantastic! But if you expect the child to sleep until at least 7:30 or 8 and you hear her chipper voice at 7:03, it's a bad start to the day.

Likewise, I think Monday was so terrible because I thought it had to get better after the first week. But we walked into the building behind a kid from her class who was already crying, and so she started sniffling before we had even approached the classroom. Great.

When I tried to leave her in the room, she cried and clung to me. "Stay for just a few minutes!" she kept whimpering tearfully. Last week, I was frustrated by the difficulties of separation anxiety and a little nostalgic thinking about the fact that she was moving away from me. But this week, for the first time, I was actually close to crying. As I walked out of the classroom on Monday morning, there were tears in my eyes and I was afraid that, if I tried to talk, I would seriously start crying.

I think I was more ready to cry from frustration than from sad emotions. Is it going to get harder every week, instead of easier? For months, I've been looking forward to Eleanor's being in Preschool in September. For one month, I was going to have a few hours a week to myself. Whether I choose to run errands, get some things done around the house, or go for a cup of coffee ... I could do it by myself! I only had 4 weeks of Preschool before Baby #2 is due, and I planned to make the most of it.

Yet here I am, halfway through "my free time." I haven't run errands, or gone home, or relaxed in a coffee shop. I've spent the majority of my time on an uncomfortable wooden bench outside the classroom, trying to pass the time and quell my mounting frustration.

It's been a weird limbo. I feel like we are encouraged to stay .... but we don't really do anything. We sit outside the classroom and listen to crying, and then quiet, and then some more crying. Ever since the first day, the only time a parent has been called in is for massive accidents that require a change of clothes, either not making it to the bathroom in time or when a kid got so worked up that he threw up all over himself and the teacher. Do the teachers really want us there? Or are they wishing we would go away and just let them do their job?

I don't really want to be there, but am scared that if I go, Eleanor will have a massive meltdown and it will be 10 times worse since I wasn't there to pick up the pieces. I can't shake the feeling that I have to put in the time investment now, to ensure that Preschool goes smoothly for the rest of the year.

Anyway, after all of this doom and gloom about Monday morning, today was better. Keith dropped Eleanor off because I had a doctor's appointment. After the doctor's appointment, I did stop by a coffee shop and pick up a drink, so I may not have had hours to sit and write or read, but I got a drink! When I showed up at the school , I didn't go anywhere near the classroom and that purgatory bench. I went straight into the other building, to the parents' lounge, and felt much more relaxed and at ease even though I was in the vicinity. I could plug in my computer and didn't have to listen for Eleanor's sobs.

Next week, instead of walking Eleanor into the building, we are given the option to drop the kids off at the door, and they will be escorted to their classrooms by teachers and staff. Eleanor's teacher swears that this actually makes it easier for the kids. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that she's right.

Even though I fully understand that expectations often make for disappointment, I still expect to spend next week OFF the bench. I will run an errand, get some things done around the house, and do one fun thing for myself during Preschool time. And Eleanor will survive all this just fine!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Financial Nesting?

As the baby's due date gets closer, I realized that I was getting paranoid about some massive, unforeseen expense popping up.

Last time around, we chose to buy a bigger car (the Toyota Matrix) the Fall before Eleanor was born. Then we found out we had to replace our windows, which was going to cost upwards of $10,000. And the final straw before she was born was that our roof started leaking, and we replaced it the week before birth. They actually finished on Saturday and I went into labor in the early hours of Sunday morning.

I thought that was bad enough, but it was only the start. Once she tested positive for a slightly elevated lead level, we stepped up our plan to replace ALL the windows (so far we'd only done about 70%), got new siding on the house and garage, and also replaced the garage doors. All items that we hadn't planned on and which were not accounted for in our budget. Our greatly reduced budget, which included a lower income thanks to me working part-time, and higher expenses of childcare.

So here we are. In terms of getting ready for the baby mentally and physically, I'm really enjoying all of this time at home. Financially, of course, the fact that I'll be off for at least 5 months instead of 3 is a bit worrisome. Plus we've spent a lot of money over the summer on Eleanor's new room, new furniture for the living rooms, storage shelves in the basement .... a lot of smaller projects (smaller than a new roof or siding, anyway) to get the house just how we want it before the baby arrives. Finally, there's all sorts of unknown possible medical expenses that may or may not occur once the baby is here.

And yet, I am very surprised to find that I'm not overly worried about the money, which I (being the perverse sort of person I am) worry about. Does this mean there's something I'm not considering? Have I forgotten a factor that will push us over the edge into complete financial ruin?

But I think I'm actually experiencing the benefit to all of our unexpected, major expenses last time. This time, our budget is tight. And there's always going to be unforeseen expenses (Hello, $400 to clean our dog's teeth?!?). But as we've managed to stay afloat over the past few, slim years, I'm started to feel like the chances of the expenses being as high as last time as pretty slim. I've already seen the worst! Are we going to replace our roof again? Replace all of our windows again? No.

So when the dishwasher wasn't working earlier in the week I was worried, but not as freaked out as I could have been. And Keith even fixed it on his own, no service call required. Just do me a favor: if you think of some other potential financial disasters, don't tell me! Let me stay in my happy place for a little bit longer, where the worst is behind us and our financial outlook is, if not sunny, at least not full of hail and tornadoes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Decadent Toast

I've been having a really hard time with heart burn and indigestion during this pregnancy. A few weeks back, I spent an entire weekend with constant heartburn and the consistent feeling that I could be throwing up at any moment. After spending most of the weekend in bed, leaving Keith and Eleanor to fend for themselves, I talked to my OB, who told me to take an over-the-counter stomach acid inhibitor before bed every night.

This has been a huge help, but I still need to be more careful with my food than I was with the first pregnancy. There's some foods that I've cut out entirely (tomato soup, which seems a bit odd) and others that I can only eat early in the day, or risk a sleepless night of burning fire in my esophagus.

I'm guessing it's these terrible food experiences that have me craving simply weak tea with toast and butter. And not just any toast; it has to be the least nutritional of all: white bread toast.

I finally bought some the other day at the grocery store, and it felt so decadent. No whole wheat! No added seeds or nuts! Eleanor didn't even really understand what it was, since we've never had white bread. I mean, she's seen it, and we've had white hamburger burns, but we've never actually bought white bread for our house. In general, this doesn't feel like a sacrifice to me. I prefer the stronger, nuttier taste of the more nutritional breads. So why would I buy white?

Except for lately, when even a mundane food can make my digestive tract rebel, and suddenly white bread is one of the most appealing foods there is. I've luxuriated in white bread toast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ..... on white bread!

I think my digestive issues are resolved enough that I'm mostly over my white bread obsession. At the grocery store today, I picked up my usual oat nut bread and barely glanced at the Wonder Bread's gleaming loaves. But I also know that there's still a half-loaf of white bread stashed in the pantry, for a few more bland yet delicious treats.

Photo Challenge: Triangle

Ah, yes! A more concrete prompt than last week's Photo Challenge of "happiness." Keith does a great job of taking a very straightforward term and interpreting it in his own way, or just composing a really unique image. After the indecision over what image constituted "happiness," Keith immediately had a plan for "triangle."

During lunch last week, he walked from work to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and took some pictures. Over the weekend he touched up his favorites, and he was all done by Monday!
I think it's good to have a really concrete week directly following a hard, abstract concept. I don't know if that is planned intentionally, but it makes sense to me! I'm not sure what kinds of photo prompts are left .... I hope, for Keith's sake, it doesn't end up with a solid month of "life" and "misery" and the like.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Clash of the Preschool Classroom

It's so hard to believe this day has come! Today was Eleanor's first day of preschool. Eleanor had been dealing with some new-experience jitters last night. But by this morning Eleanor's apprehension of the night before seemed forgotten, although Keith and I were more nervous than ever. Would she cry? When? For how long? Would she be that one kid that couldn't take it? Or would all of our fears prove unfounded, and she would join in right away, make new friends, and not even notice when we left?

The answer, of course, lay somewhere in the middle.

To start, it was the first day fantasy of every parent. We played together in the room for about 10 minutes, and then when she started a new activity we said our good-byes. She didn't want hugs or kisses, and couldn't even be bothered to look up as we left, she was so engrossed in her crafty activity. We retreated to the hallway bench, and waited for the fallout.

You'll notice I said "retreated" and I realized that, during my inner monologue, I was describing many aspects of the morning in terms of warfare. Those of us parents who were waiting in the hallway carefully watched every time the classroom door opened. We listened for screaming, and we waited for the reports from the "spy parents" who were just emerging from the battlefield. How's it going in there? What about my little 3-year-old soldier? How's he/she doing? Is she putting up a good fight? Is she victorious over the yearning for home and familiarity, or has she succumbed to the tearful enemy of fear?

Early reports on Private Eleanor were very encouraging. She was completely engaged and looked like she'd been going to Preschool all her life. She was playing dress-up, playing with dollies, sampling all of the delights a Preschool classroom has to offer.

And then, the tide of battle suddenly turned, and Eleanor was a casualty. Two other kids were screaming/crying. Keith told me the one kid started crying pretty much before he was even over the threshold of the classroom. And these were loud, determined criers. There were a few other stoic soldiers; they were crying, but more for their own personal anguish. But these two were loud and wanted everyone within earshot to know they were not happy with their marching orders. They surrendered 100% and just wanted OUT.

Eleanor could only resist the sounds of agony for 15 minutes or so before she decided they may have a good point. She started to remember that she had a mommy, too, whom she missed very much. A mommy that she needed to see right now. So that's when the field commanders called me in, the special Eleanor Relief Unit, to hold and comfort her. I stayed in the class for probably an hour (most of which time, the two original criers or a late addition kept the noise/angst level on red alert). We played quietly, but there's plenty of time where I just held her and she twirled her hair and looked around, shell-shocked.

I finally escaped again with a half-hour left in class. The crying had stopped, and the imminent delivery of rations (goldfish and juice) had revived the troops. She teared up again a little after I left, but rallied valiantly.

I rejoined the other civilian parents in the hall, awaiting the final battle outcome. When our children were dismissed from the battlefield, the word that actually came to mind for me was "hostage." Only one child came out of the classroom at a time, straight into the arms of his or her loving, caring family. It felt strangely like a hostage situation where the authorities had finally talked down the hostage-taker, and the tense situation was coming to a peaceful resolution.

Actually, the hardest part is that we get to do it all again tomorrow. She's only in a two-day per week program, but it's back-to-back days. Tonight, we tried to rectify our tactical errors by discussing some strategies for unforeseen battle circumstances.

"If other kids start crying, what can you do? Maybe you can offer to give them a hug or a tissue? Or, even if they keep crying, you don't have to cry!"

Eleanor overtly agreed with the situational analysis and, like a good little soldier, is prepared and excited even to enter the fray tomorrow morning.

Hopefully sometime within the next few weeks, the tears stop and I can start thinking of preschool in friendlier terms like "education" and "fun." Until then, once more unto the breach, dear friends!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Currently Watching: thirtysomething

I vaguely remember when thirtysomething was on TV, at roughly the time I was in middle school. My main priorities were: bad hair days, passing notes with my friends, whom I might slow dance with at the upcoming school dance, and angsting about the rest of my life. I never watched this show.

But now, thanks to Netflix Instant Queue, I have rediscovered it. I keep trying to find shows I can watch during the day when Keith's not home. He likes what he's seen of this show, but I wouldn't say it's his new favorite, so I feel okay watching it without him.

The main couple have a baby and are struggling with how to take care of the baby, take care of themselves, take care of each other .... all of the same things that we're dealing with on a daily basis. I enjoy laughing at the 80s outfits (the one woman always wears sweatshirts tucked into high-waisted jeans! Tucked in!) but the essential content isn't terribly different from many issues facing today's parents.

I haven't decided yet how that makes me feel. Better, because other generations have made it through? Depressed, because things haven't really gotten any better? Maybe a little of both. But also grateful that modern technology gives me the opportunity to watch a show that I enjoy in my free time, rather than making do with soaps or trashy talk shows.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Photo Challenge: Happiness

Keith and I are in agreement that the most difficult prompts for the Shutterboo Weekly Photo Challenge are the abstract ones. I already discussed this a bit in the "anger" post, but it's just as true for this week's topic of "happiness." Everyone's ideas of happiness are so unique and personal. How can you really convey that in a picture? I see a picture of, say, a cookie, but what makes you happy about it? Is it the chocolate chips? The fact that your mom baked them for you? You're finally off that stupid cabbage soup diet?

As predicted, because Keith did so well with "yellow" he was looking around for a happiness picture at the 11th hour last night with no real inspiration.

"Help! I'm desperate!" he said.

"I think a picture of bed would be good," I offered. (This is usually my idea of happiness, starting at 8 o'clock in the evening.)

The look on his face clearly indicated a lack of happiness with this idea.

"That's right," I said. "This is the part where you claim to be desperate for ideas. So I throw out a few, and then you immediately shoot them all down."

He pretended that wasn't the usual pattern, but I knew better. I kept my mouth shut.

So, to Keith, my hugely pregnant belly means happiness:
I appreciate the thought, but when I see the photographic evidence, in black and white, all I can think is "Wow, I'm huge." I'm excited about the baby, and excited that we're so close to meeting this new person growing inside me .... but I wouldn't say that my massive belly itself brings me joy. Mostly heartburn and indigestion.

Hopefully we can be in better agreement on what illustrates "triangle" for next week's challenge.

Talk Me a Gruesome Story

Eleanor has some ... interesting ... tastes in stories. There's the Tinkerbell stories that I mentioned before. But now there's also a few "A" favorites. She likes to hear about ambulances, accidents, and allergies. I think she's going to be a doctor.

I know how the ambulance obsession started: it's because, on the drive across town, we pass a large ambulance bay? depot? whatever it is, there's always several ambulances out front. We've gotten in the habit of pointing out when it's coming up (See? We're getting closer! You don't have to whine for the entire ride, really! Focus on the cookies you'll get once we're at Grandma's.) and we count how many ambulances are parked there. Sometimes we guess before we reach it how many ambulances we think will be there, and Eleanor also likes to pay attention to how many ambulances are facing in or out.

This has led to many discussions about what ambulances do. It also led to some concern on my mom's part, when Eleanor was in the car with her and asked for an ambulance story. This entails someone Eleanor knows getting very sick (usually a stomach ache caused by excessive consumption of cookies), calling the ambulance, hearing the siren, and the patient being safely delivered to the hospital, where they will be completely cured. I think Mom found the idea a little macabre.

The ambulance stories, however, aren't nearly as bad as the accident stories that came soon after. I can't remember as clearly where this came from .... we might have passed an accident on the highway, and I talked a bit about how cars need to stay on the road and if they go off the road or run into each other, that's an accident. Sometimes she wants to hear other accidents (people running into each other, other smaller events) but mostly she wants to hear about car accidents.

And finally, her most recent story request pertains to allergies. More medically detailed, but at least a little less gruesome than accidents or ambulances. Again, I can't remember why it started, but once she went on this allergies kick, we got out a book about allergies from the library, and she was ecstatic. She's learned about food allergies, breathing allergies, and skin allergies. She knows that her Daddy is allergic to pollen and her aunt is allergic to penicillin. When a kid in her music class turned out to have a peanut allergy, she almost hyperventilated because she was so excited.

I have no idea what her next "talk a story" request will be. Another "a" word? Another request somewhat related to the medical field? I look forward to finding out what it is ... even if I'm not quite as ecstatic as she is at the thought of talking this type of story many, many times. Talk me an easy story!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Bad Vacation Memories

While catching up on posts over at Clover Lane, I saw a post about a recent trip to Boston that her family took, which brought back terrible vacation memories for me.

We went to Boston, I think when I was in middle school. Surely it was middle school, because no other time in one's life is filled with that much angst and capacity for humiliation. It's also important to note that, in addition to my age, I was very, very excited about this trip. Some kid I had a crush on (another reason it must have been middle school) had probably mentioned in one off-hand conversation that he liked Boston, so I therefore decided it must be the coolest place in the world.

So we took a family trip to Boston. Our family vacations have always been a mix of camping and sitting around the fire, and then also visiting historical sites. Of course, there was no shortage of these in Boston. We walked the Freedom Trail, saw the "one if by sea" church, etc. None of this is really what I remember.

One day, I think we were in front of Faneuil Hall, watching street performers. This one performer picked me out of the audience to demonstrate something. I was ecstatic. Best moment of my life! I'm practically famous!!!! (Because all emotions in middle school can only be the best or the worst, and must be expressed in multiple exclamation points.)

But, as it turns out, I was the butt of the joke. The performer spent the rest of the time telling everyone that he was really trying to get my younger sister to come forward, but I just wouldn't let her, I had to hog all the attention for myself ..... It was so awful. And it wasn't true! I swear. But that was his schtick, so he kept coming back to it, over and over again, throughout the rest of the performance. I was mortified.

Of course, I would bet that no one else in my family even remembers this moment. Yet I still can't think of it without feeling bitter and a tad bit humiliated. Looking at it as a parent, rather than as an angsty middle schooler, it just points out to me again how many of my children's experiences will be out of my control. My parents took us on a trip that I was so excited for, did lots of activities I wanted to do .... and this is what I remember most strongly from the trip: being humiliated by a street performer. (At least he wasn't a mime. Would that have been worse? I can't decide.)

On the other hand, looking at this awful vacation memory as a somewhat more self-confident and assertive adult, it makes me want to plan a family trip of our own to Boston, just for my sake. I want to go back and reclaim the city that held such interest for me, and have a nice, enjoyable family vacation there where the parts I remember are the historical sites and the fun moments with my husband and kids. So, even though my kids will undoubtedly have painful memories (perhaps caused by callous street performers?), I will also have to remember that it will be within my kids' capacity to rectify/repair those memories at a later date.

Photo Credit: GSOM Student Blog

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Lunch Date

Today Eleanor and I met Keith at work for lunch. (Clearly, the picture is not actually from lunch today. It's from this past weekend, when we visited Hale Farm. But we did not actually take pictures of Keith sitting at his desk, so this will have to do.) When we started talking about a day to meet for lunch, I was shocked to realize that we've only ever done it once before, when Eleanor was only a few months old.

The problem has been twofold. First my always-changing work schedule would get in the way, which in the Spring meant working 4 days a week, right in the middle of the day. Secondly, for a very long time, Eleanor has been taking a nap right in the middle of the day. There was no way to plan on meeting Keith for lunch without expecting it to go very, very badly. I'm not complaining about the napI love the nap!but it could be a bit inconvenient.

But these days, she's become a bit more lenient about the time of her nap. Previously, she had to be down by noon or 12:30 at the latest. Lately, her nap can start anytime between 12 and 2, and it will (usually) still be a good, 2-hour nap. So it was time!

It was so fun this time to show up at Keith's work with a toddler. She was very excited to see Daddy at work. The elevator doors opened, she ran out and turned to see him then yelled, "Daddy!" and launched herself at him. He shushed her, but with a big grin on his face.

He showed her his desk, with many Eleanor pictures on it, and introduced her to his co-workers. It was so fascinating to watch Eleanor take it all in. She knows that Daddy is "at work" a lot, but I don't really know that it's ever meant much to her. What did she think that meant, exactly? Did she have an idea in mind? Or did she just equate that with "not here" and not really think about it any more?

The only downside is that it's really expensive to park downtown. We wanted a close spot to Keith's work, because I'm very pregnant and didn't really want to drag Eleanor several blocks back and forth from the car to his building. But we were there for less than two hours and had to pay the daily MAX of $11. WTF?!? I think they charge in 6-minute increments, like the lawyers at Keith's firm. So even though the meal itself wasn't expensive (especially since we didn't buy Eleanor her own meal but just shared ours with her), the entire outing was a bit pricey.

Still, even with the complaints, I'm glad we did it and I hope that we can do it again sooner than 3 years from now. I'm interested to hear if Eleanor says much about it, next time we talk about how Daddy's at work. Next up: Eleanor sits in on a college English class!