Thursday, September 21, 2017

A philosophical post about cake, in which we bury the lede (in cake)

Back in June, as I furtively ate the remains of my oldest child's birthday cake, I realized that at some point we were going to have to address who owns a birthday cake. Is it the entire family and they can eat slices of cake until it is gone? Is it the person who made the cake, payment for their efforts (as I am the primary baker and primary cake eater in the household, you can guess my preference)? Is it the birthday boy himself? In the past this has never been an issue, but now we have passed out of the halcyon days of Calvin not remembering that he had leftover food. It used to be that he would wander off from the kitchen table, full, and I would dispose of (read: eat) the last of his (tasty) toddler lunch. Now, he comes back half an hour later and asks "hey, where's my girlchee [grilled cheese]?" and I explain that it is gone forever. Normally this inspires no feelings of guilt in me (eat it or lose it, buddy) but when he asked for pieces of his stop-sign birthday cake during the day I felt conflicted as to whether I should deny him from the cake. Pros: it's arguably HIS cake. Cons: I don't want to foster the expectation of cake during the day. Also, then I would have to share his leftover cake.

I think we all know Elisabeth well enough by this point to know what happened: I ate most of his cake. But what will we do in future years, once he starts to point out that it is, in fact, HIS birthday? (The solution I'm gravitating towards is that after the initial song and sharing of cake with celebrants, the cake belongs to the birthday person themselves to eat/dispose of/smash as they see fit. This may mean that Elisabeth needs to acquire her own secret cake to avoid sneaking off with the leftover main cake.)

This came up most recently when Liam declared that we would share his own cake until midnight, and then cake leftovers were off-limits to anyone except him. We ate half of the cake in his preferred method, which is to say that we attacked the cake as a whole like savages, eating forkfuls rather than cutting slices. In deference to my twitching eye at this act of cake barbarism he carved the cake bites off in a clockwork pattern, as if we had indeed cut off slices with a bizarre notched knife.

All of this is a roundabout way, of course, to bring up why we had leftover cake. See, Liam got a new job designing training materials for the fire service at the State of NH, and I had purchased a delicious 8" dairy-free chocolate cake in celebration. He'll definitely miss a lot of co-workers from Bellwhether, but is excited about the new opportunities to come! Our next task is to figure out a new professional wardrobe now that he won't be wearing business-casual logowear all week long.

If you read this far, here is the reward of a .gif of Calvin at a dance class open house, boogying to the music.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Morning Mom Meander

I call it the Morning Mom Meander, and it's why I get lots of projects at a very slow pace. For a visual representation, see here:


Feed baby and jump into the shower before the Older Child barrels into the bedroom. He finds you before you're finished and helps you shower by handing you, one by one, everything that was on the bathroom counter. Send him on the hunt for a banana for breakfast (there are some on the counter near the refrigerator downstairs). Get dressed, stick empty Fitbit band in pocket (do steps taken without a fitness tracker exist?). It's sheets day in the laundry rotation, strip half the bed and toss sheets down the stairs. Before you can finish, the Older Child has found the bananas and brought two of them to the bedroom so as to give you one to eat ("Two bananas, Mommy! One for me, and one for you.") This is very sweet but you can't eat raw bananas because they give you horrible stomach aches. He is insistent, though, so you noisily pretend to eat it and put it on top of the shelf in your closet as you're getting dressed, hiding it from him. Grab a handful of business cards from the box in your bedside drawer, because three times this week someone has asked for a way to contact you and your wallet has no business cards left in it. Go downstairs and bring the bathroom laundry basket with you; throw towels into washer and start the load cycle. Gather all of the abandoned child clothing from around the downstairs and put in a laundry basket. Pop recharged Fitbit out of its charger and back into the bracelet and put it on your wrist. Pull daily vitamins off the shelf in the kitchen and put on counter so you remember to take it later.

There are fruit flies in the kitchen, your arms are full of more discarded kid's clothing but you pull the kitchen garbage can out from under the sink to take out later. Pull vacuum into the living room so you remember to vacuum when your hands are free. Cat was sick overnight, only once but apparently while running a race. Scrub cat spots out of carpet, Older Child is more than happy to point them all out for you. Go upstairs to put acquired detritus away, bringing carpet shampooer with you and it put into the spare bedroom, there are a few carpet stains that you've been meaning to get to. (Everytime you go upstairs, take two or three pieces of laundry from the drying rack in the dining room and toss on to bed to hang up later.) Strip the rest of the sheets from your bed and toss down the stairs. Strip the sheets from the older child's bedroom, oh, you've been thinking he's old enough for a PROPER pillow now. Go back into bedroom and pull a spare pillow out of the closet while you're thinking of it. Start to resheet child's bed. Find the household's extra pillow cases in with the child's clean sheets, Liam wanted to try layering the pillowcases this week so he could have a fresh one every day. Tell yourself to bring those into the big bedroom as you finish resheeting the child's bed. Toss child's sheets down the stairs, evaluate his blankets (seven of them, sometimes he decides he needs all of them) for needs of washing.
What time is it? Remember that I still have yet to hang the new wall clock in the bathroom.

Carry the sheets from the bottom of the stairs and dump them in the laundry room. The towels are still mid-wash-cycle. Separate blankets into a separate pile for washing, empty the dryer and start folding last night's clean dry laundry. When putting kitchen hand towels away, spot the kitchen garbage can still out and remember to take it out. It's only half full, but those onion skins from last night's dinner (spicy peanut noodles) are what is attracting the fruit flies. Bring kitchen garbage out to garbage can, bring out two boxes full of recycling as well. See the gallon jar of bubbles (we go through a lot of bubbles) from yesterday's playtime and pick them up and put them on the porch with the spare bubble wands. Inside, put a clean bag into the kitchen garbage can. Laundry wash cycle is done, swap over wet laundry to dryer and shove the sheets into the washer to wash. Bring the baby's bathtub from the laundry room to the kitchen counter because it's easier on your back than washing her low on the ground in the bathroom tub/shower. Vacuum the living room because you've tripped over the vacuum twice now. Bring the vacuum upstairs with an armful of clean folded laundry. Put the vacuum in the spare bedroom next to the carpet shampooer. Bring an armload of picture books downstairs and put those away. The dryer is buzzing, unload and dump the dry towels onto couch (there are no empty laundry baskets), refilling dryer with clean and wet sheets. Remind self to purchase a mattress protector for Calvin's bed, because we've been lucky that there have been no vomit-incidents so far. Actually, we should get two, to layer protector-sheet-protector-sheet, for easy middle-of-the-night-with-a-sick-kid cleanup. Kick loose ping pong balls towards the living room, there's a bucket there for them (theoretically, if it hasn't been repurposed as a helmet.) Find folder of preschool registration forms on the dining room table, make a note to call the school to see if they'll accept the internet bill as a major utility bill as proof of residency. (I called. They said yes.) The vitamins are still out on the counter, you haven't taken them, nor actually have you had breakfast. Suddenly remember the banana in your closet, and run upstairs to get it before you forget it. While you're up there, let one of the cats out of the Older Child's bedroom, where the Older Child has shut her in there.

Snap a clean dry cloth diaper insert into a diaper cover every time you walk past the drying rack. Stack each one on the bottom of the dry diaper stack. Baby is awake upstairs! By now mother-in-law has picked up Older Child for a day of summer fun (he didn't want to go because he wanted to to hide under the couch cushions. Finally agreed to go when we offered him a receiving blanket to hide under as he walked around. He looked like a Charlie Brown ghost walking down the driveway). Run upstairs and grab the fussing baby and bring her downstairs to nurse. As you walk through the room, load the DVD player so you can watch The Avengers while you're couch-bound (you're running through the series again since seeing the new Spiderman over the weekend). Half an hour of The Avengers later, pause the film and draw the baby a bath in the tub on the kitchen counter, look at you thinking ahead, good job, lady! While the bath is filling, run around gathering clean baby clothes for the day. Put baby in bath and watch as she soaks the floor with excited bathwater kicks. Make note to mop the floor later as it is already wet. As she happily kicks next to you, put away clean dishes from last night, left to dry overnight in the drainer. Come across new package of toilet paper (next to drainer, not in it), open and grab two rolls to toss upstairs, the roll upstairs is looking skimpy. The soon to be empty toilet paper tube will be useful to making Dragon Finding Binoculars later in the week. Shampoo baby's hair and rinse the soap off her. She likes the sprayer. She likes everything.

Spot wedding invitation on counter, grab phone to remind husband to take the day off for that wedding in September. (He already did so! Well done Love.) Get into a text conversation about the size of furniture in the Older Child's bedroom. Baby is angry that the bathtub is being drained, and decides to fart directly into the towel in revenge as you are drying her off. You're in luck, it wasn't poop. Drop damp (poo-free!) towel onto the water she kicked on the floor from the bathtub and swipe it around with your foot. The baby is signaling that she's tired or hungry (again?) so you drop her into the swing for a nap.

You chose poorly, she is now angry.

Settle onto the couch to nurse her again and start The Avengers up again while you are suddenly aware that you haven't eaten breakfast yet. Consider eating chocolate chips by the fistful.

While trapped under a hangry (hungry angry) baby on the couch, hear your mother in her attached apartment transfer her own load of laundry into their own dryer and start it. Realize suddenly that you did not start your own dryer. This is unfortunate because while there are two dryers in the extended house, they share a vent and therefore only one can be used at a time. This means that your sheets will not be dry for another two hours instead of one.

Thank goodness for digital calendar reminders, because a reminder pops up on your phone that you have a digital webinar on running large-scale author events to attend in one hour. You would have totally forgotten otherwise. Hopefully by then the baby will be asleep.

Settle the baby back into the swing. This time, with a full tummy, she prepares to fall asleep. Run upstairs to vacuum the upstairs carpets while she's drowsy, hopefully the white noise of the vacuum will help send her to sleep (it does). While vacuuming the Older Child's room, discover the pillow cases that you pulled out earlier and subsequently forgot to take into your own bedroom. While vacuuming your bedroom, realize that you forgot the pillowcases again. Turn off vacuum to run and pick up pillowcases and toss them onto your own bed, before you forget. Shoddily vacuum the rest of the upstairs because you're rushing now.

It is now 1:30, and forgotten breakfast is turning into forgotten lunch. You have 25 minutes before you have to sit down for the webinar, so scavenge for food in the kitchen. Eat last night's leftover spicy peanut noodles. Finally take those vitamins and put the bottles away up on their shelf out of the reach of little hands. Eat a handful of chocolate chips and grab a packet of brown sugar Pop-Tarts left over from that 90's-themed tv-watching party you threw a few weeks ago1, because you're an adult and you do what you want2.  Suddenly remember that there's a library DVD due today, and the overdue fee is $1/day. Renew DVD loan online (for the 2nd time, you really should watch that and bring it back.)

Eat a second packet of Pop-Tarts as well, because you've lost control of your life.
The business cards are still not in your wallet.

1 - Legends of the Hidden Temple is still amazing, GUTS is not. AH! Real Monsters and Are you Afraid of the Dark? were tolerable but not particularly inspiring.
2 - This applies to both superfluous parties and to eating Pop-Tarts irresponsibly. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

In which our toddler becomes a Child, and we get a second one, which probably is not a great idea

Calvin welcoming Ginny home from the hospital.
So it turns out that one of the first activities that gets pushed to the side once you run out of time is blogging. Which is a shame because I've had about a dozen clever ideas of family stories to write that I've promptly forgotten.

In April we had our daughter, Genevieve, who came very late, and got very stuck, and forced Momma to get an very unexpected and slightly traumatic emergency c-section. She upended out lives (in a good way?) and we're relearning how to be a new family all over again. Calvin was initially excited to meet her (and to have Momma back as a playmate!) until he realized that she was splitting the attention that he formerly got all of, and Momma did not, in fact, have more time to play now that she was no longer heavily pregnant and unwieldy. He promptly started ignoring the baby, and declared Daddy his favorite by sullen glares at Momma and a refusal to spend any time with her. This has lasted until... well, until a few days ago when he snapped out of his funk and returned to his loving snuggly old self, launching himself at either parent for hugs and declarations of his affection. Just yesterday we had our first spontaneous positive sibling interaction, where Calvin crouched down near Genevieve's face and cooed back at her (she's always cooing at him). "She's trying to talk to me, Mommy! She's not very good at it."

"She's trying to talk to me!"
On that note: Happy third birthday, Calvin! You like the color pink, and peanut butter crackers (so many crackers. so many.), and stop signs, and Paw Patrol*, and painting, and Play-doh, and feeding the cats. You like running and jumping, and when the " 'cito" song comes on the radio (Despacito, the original version, not the one with Bieber), and can be easily bribed with a single gummy bear (although you'll try to bargain for one of each color, because that gets you more gummy bears). You like the pepper nuggets at the Market Basket hot counter ("Chicken? Chicken, Mommy?"), and you don't like when the car window is down too much because it's "cold" (read: windy). You picked Batman velcro sandals this summer instead of the Spiderman ones. You like going to daycare, and when they've got the water table out we have to pry you away with a crowbar.
Happy birthday, sweet boy.

Genevieve is a fat and happy baby herself, 10 weeks old today, hair surprisingly reddish and waving sky-high, fresh from her first round of vaccines. Downsides: that moment when their face crumples from happy to BETRAYED and they howl. Upsides: NO POLIO OR WHOOPING COUGH. My bathroom scale is massively off, though, as I thought I weighed her at 13.4 lbs last week (remember when I said she got stuck during birth? Yeah. She's big), but it turns out that the doctor's delicately calibrated baby-scale says she's only 12lbs 11oz. She's a better sleeper than even our mellow Calvin was, which is bizarre and seems like we've had an offspring "bank error" in our favor, since you're not supposed to get TWO excellent kids in a row**.

In other news, we've (I've) picked up baking again, as evident by my slowly regaining all of the baby weight that I've lost. The culprit this time is the Great British Baking Show, three seasons of which are on Netflix, which is exposing me to all sorts of pastries and breads and flavor combinations that I'd never heard of, and inspired me to Try New Things. The first New Thing was choux ("shoe") pastry, which is most recognizable to Americans as eclairs or cream puffs. The first batch was an abject disaster, as I'd added the eggs to the stovetop pan too quickly (you cook the pastry on the stove first, then bake it, interestingly) and ended up with bitter, dense, scrambled egg breadsticks instead of puffing flaky pastry. The second batch was slightly burnt, but at least puffed up like they were supposed to. Baking hasn't been something I've allowed myself to get back in to, I used to bake a LOT*** and I have a lot of great baking gear/cookware****, so it's fun to experiment now. My Facebook friends have become accustomed to seeing pictures of my latest baking adventure pop up in their newsfeed late at night, and I marvel at the mess my kitchen is each morning even though I could have sworn that I'd wiped the counters down the night before.
(And I'm not very good at decorating, either. Tastes good, looks a mess.)

I promise I'll start writing down my story ideas when they pop into my head. Maybe I need one of those dopey notepads on a string to wear around my neck. (This is a terrible idea, the baby gets herself tangled in EVERYTHING without even trying.)
Happy birthday, Calvin! (Ginny was sleeping.)

*despite having only seen maybe five episodes. Paw Patrol is toddler crack.
 **note to siblings: I'm not yet certain if this is a zinger directed at you, or if I've just zinged (zung?) myself
***but then I gained 20 lbs because of it and had to stop
****have managed to not lose our new pie pan for three whole months, an improvement over the half dozen or so that have disappeared over the last decade. But now my muffin pans and mini-muffin pans are missing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

In which Hobbes goes missing, amidst general panic.

It finally happened. After 2.5 years, we couldn't find Hobbes at naptime. Hobbes, you may recall, is Calvin's stuffed animal lovey, a stuffed tiger that he sleeps with and cuddles when he's feeling a need for snuggles or encouragement. This tiger is precious to Calvin, and thus to us, because Calvin does NOT go to sleep without his Hobbes and we very much like it as parents when he gets a good amount of sleep. This Hobbes does not leave the house except in extreme conditions, because it is irreplaceable (moreso than we had originally thought, as you will see).

The scene: Calvin's bedroom, 1pm, cuddled up under his blankets in the dark, having just had me read a book to him (four times, once forwards, once backwards, and then forwards and backwards again.), with his music on a timer and the shades drawn. He was ready to sleep. He wanted to sleep. And then.
And then.
He sat up.
"Oh! Where Hobbes?!"

Where was Hobbes indeed? Hobbes wasn't in the bed, under the blankets, or squashed between the bed and the wall. Hobbes wasn't stuffed into a bureau drawer, or under the armchair, or tucked into the closet. Hobbes wasn't in the bedroom.
So I promised I'd be right back with Hobbes and dashed out to tear apart MY bedroom (terrorizing Butterscotch the Scaredycat who desperately tried to find new hiding spaces ahead of my frantic search, sorry kitty), to tear apart the whole upstairs, and then to search downstairs. Hobbes was nowhere to be found. I ran upstairs in defeat with a different version of a stuffed Hobbes, not wanting Calvin to grow suspicious that I might not come back in my promised timely manner and come searching. I could hear him singing to himself through the door, and he was thrilled to have Hobbes... until he realized it was Not The Right One and tossed it to the ground with a "No Mommy, wrong Hobbes."

Out I went again. Where could Hobbes be? Did I remember Calvin carrying Hobbes downstairs that morning? No, but I'm not exactly a detail oriented person in the morning.

This was okay. We had trained for this. We had a BACKUP HOBBES, which we had acquired at great personal cost. (By which I mean that Calvin's beloved Hobbes is discontinued, and goes for about $95 online as of writing this, since the creator of the comic Calvin & Hobbes refuses to allow licensed trademarked merchandise after a terrible falling out with his publisher, and this generic stuffed tiger looked quite a bit like Hobbes. Three out of the four backups we purchased online were mislabled or mismeasured as the incorrect larger sized stuffed tiger, which did not have the same details as Calvin's particular lovey and were thus rejected.) I pulled the brand new stuffed Hobbes out of its packaging and brought it up to Calvin.
"Mummy found Hobbes, Calvin!" I found Calvin curled up in his armchair, trying to cuddle Not the Right Hobbes but looking very uncomfortable. He was very pleased at first, until he held New Hobbes and a distrustful and betrayed look came over his face.
"...different Hobbes." New Hobbes was dropped onto the floor, rejected. I felt like a fool. Of course. New Hobbes had fresh and fluffy stuffing evenly distributed through his squashy body. New Hobbes felt completely different from The Right Hobbes, who has had his stuffing settled and squashed into a floppy pleasing shape. We had failed. Oh, we had failed. In our arrogance as parents, we did not consider that we ought to have swapped the two stuffed animals out periodically so they would wear evenly. Oh what fools we were.

So I left Calvin in his room as I trudged downstairs to look again. At this point it had been about 45 minutes since his nap was supposed to start, and I could still hear him singing quietly to himself over the baby monitor. He was not napping. This evening would be difficult. I needed a break from Mom'ing before I went in to work a holiday retail shift at the Bookstore, and here I was searching for a stuffed toy.

I did find it, eventually, a stuffed paw spotted out of the corner of my eye as I passed the cats' scratching post/climbing tree. Hobbes was stuffed into the cats' carpeted tunnel hideyhole at the bottom of the tree. Calvin was silent and asleep on the monitor within two minutes of receiving him. ("Hobbes! T'nk you, Mommy.")
Well-loved-Hobbes on the left, Fresh-Hobbes on the right.

Let this be a lesson to you. Acquire several copies of your child's beloved sleep lovey, and wear them out evenly.

In other news, Elisabeth has decided to fully embrace her label as being a wimp, after literally fainting (whacked into the wall on her way down to the floor, threw up, the whole 9 yards) while watching a clip from a horror movie. Being scared was never an enjoyable experience for her, anyway.

Oh, and we're having a second baby. Wheeeee!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Oblivious Election Night 2016, and Calvin's Halloween

 When I was a child I hated Election Night because my parents (particularly my mother) would keep flipping the television channel away from Monty Python reruns to check the local ABC channel for polling location result updates scrolling across the bottom of the screen. It was incredibly frustrating to have her click away from British absurdity and fill the screen with a suited news-anchor in a studio talking about people I didn't know as a mid-90's computer graphic (usually blue) filled the bottom 1/3 of the screen with names and percentages.

As a young adult, I found it moderately more exciting, as I finally had a say in what was happening. I even got excited about some of the candidates.

Now, as an adult, I find myself sitting here on Election Night, avoiding social media and news sites, feeling my blood pressure rise just thinking about what happens if front-running Candidate A wins (nausea), and what happens if front-running Candidate B wins (nausea plus fear).* My Grand Plan is to go to sleep tonight without having seen any numbers and have one last rage-free evening and night's sleep before waking up to a new President. We'll see how that works. So far there have been two episodes of The Flash on Netflix, and some knitting and ice cream.

So we pretend that nothing is frightening and awful, and that tomorrow 50% of the country won't be in an angry rage, and we talk about happier things like silly discussions Liam and I have, and Calvin's second Halloween.

Last year was Calvin's first Halloween trick or treat. You might recall that he was a fluffy chicken, and that he got more and more upset at every house we went up to (all six of them) because we would go up and climb the steps to the front door and knock/ring the bell, but then not go inside, which confused his little toddler brain because that is what you do at doors, you go through them, and here we were going up to doors and not going through them. There was a feathery meltdown and we went home and considered six houses a roaring success. He was very adorable, and I ate the candy he had collected in his bucket.
This year was Calvin's second Halloween trick or treat, and it went much better. We went to 12 houses around our neighborhood (a very popular trick or treat neighborhood, even in this age of "trunk or treat", where about 250 children come to our door. This is down from 600 in our childhood, but many of those children then were from rural neighborhoods that now host trunk or treats in municipal parking lots), and Calvin very much enjoyed walking around among throngs of happy people, walking up to doors and mumbling "tssk n tick!" and choosing a brightly wrapped candy from a bucket (he doesn't know what candy is yet, but he likes bright shiny things), and chirping "t'nk you!" at the grinning neighbors. He was dressed as a panda, and we learned that apparently pandas are viewed as effeminate bears, because no less than four different people said that he was a "very cute little girl". I ate the candy he had collected in his bucket again.

And now for something completely different, several ridiculous conversations Liam and I have had lately:
Me: "LIAM. I found our new nightlight for Calvin's room!"
Liam: "Is it Captain America fighting Iron Man?"
Me: "No, it's a chubby cat!"
Liam: "Ah, that would have been my second guess."
Scene: grocery store baking/spices aisle
Liam: /thoughtful pause. "Should we regret purchasing brownie mix this week?"
To really imagine this, add a pinch of resignation at our own faults to his tone.

Also, we're painting the upstairs bathroom. This isn't particularly exciting to most people (it's Sherwin William's "Aloe," in case you're curious, and it's a really nice color), but it's really exciting to us because we've been in the house for a year and we're finally starting to feel like we're putting our mark on the decorating. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of seeing Pinterest ideas of bathrooms decorated with the paint color and now I'm totally unsatisfied with how my perfectly functional bathroom is decorated. I've got Home & Garden aspirations but a standard layout full bath and a Nope Can't Do That budget.

* Candidates C & D are disappearing quickly in the rear-view mirror, I assume. I purposefully haven't seen any voting results yet, and it's 9:30 p.m. as I write this. From Liam's grunts and carefully non-committal answers, as he tries to keep Election news from me at my request, I'm gathering that there is nothing really to be learned yet as West Coast states haven't closed their polls yet and no battleground/swing states have reported in yet.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

And now, a note from our sponsor

Some reflection on turning 30
Liam here, and I apologize in advance that I'm not nearly as talented as my dear wife when it comes to waxing poetic about the daily life in the Jewell household - her prose is a tough act to follow!  Nonetheless, we proceed... fair warning, if you arrived at this blog update and were looking for a light post with cute pictures of a 2 year old I give you leave to skip this and continue to the next section by Elisabeth... I can be a bit wordy and serious and that's not for everyone - especially when it's unexpected.

I've been asked more times than I can count in the last few weeks about how it "feels to be turning 30" as if this 30 turns on a huge rock around the big ball of hydrogen we call the sun had some sort of mystical meaning or purpose attached to it.   News flash... in the bigger scheme of things it's just another day.  If you know me, and presumably you are reading this because you do, it means you probably already know that birthdays are not a big deal to me.  But it's as good of a milestone as any to evaluate the question, how am I actually doing at 30?
As you may or may not have heard, I'm now enduring a life in chronic pain.  My shoulder injury is neurological in nature, and has spread to much of my body.  After 4 years of poking, prodding, x-rays, MRIs, and declining health... the doctors are running out of ideas and have pivoted mostly to pain management instead.  There are days when I don't want to get out of bed, and many other days that I just can't physically do the things I want to do like go for a walk with my wife or even just pick up Calvin when he asks.

Yet despite that, I'm happy to report, on balance, I'm doing frickin' awesome.  I've worked my butt off and it's paid off - whether it was working 3 jobs at 14, working full time for real world experience through college to give me a leg up when I graduated into the worst job market since the 1930s, or forgoing fun for responsible choices many times over... after half a life of effort (and a hearty dose of fortune and parental guidance) I'm very pleased with the results of my endeavors.  I have a job I love and finally found a career I really can see staying in for a long time.  I have a loving wife, and a wonderful son... each of whom bring joy and light to my heart. Every. Single. Day.  I have a nice house.  I have paid off my student loans.  I own my car outright.  Life is stable, enjoyable, and rewarding.  On paper, I live the American dream... and while that means something, it also means nothing as it provides no actual meaning in and by itself.

Faced with the prospect of living your entire life twice over in constant pain has given me ample opportunity to ponder about what makes life worth living, and after all this rambling, I'd like to get to the thrust of why I chose to share all of this with you.

So, what am I thinking and feeling about turning 30?  Being 30 is the same as being 29 or 31 or 91.  You, I, all of us, knowingly or not, consciously or not, spend each moment looking for meaning, and what that meaning is, is unique for each of us.  My purpose, why I mean, why I choose to get up each day is not with the goal of making it to retirement so I can sit in a chair bored all day.  It's not to make a million dollars so I can buy a bunch of stuff that doesn't actually make me happier.  I strive to make each moment count, and I personally find most of those moments with my family. I challenge you to find the moments that count to you...and then pursue them.  Nobody will do this for you.  No matter our age, background, or experience, it's up to each of us to make each day count.  It's up to you and I to find our own purpose and it's up to each of us to decide why we get out of bed tomorrow.  And let me tell you, there's no time like the present.


Ordering crepes is exciting.
It has been a year since we moved into our "new" house, and it feels like home. We've had a few disasters (remember the sewer pipe bursting in the basement? It turns out that it was a sheared off sewer main in our front yard, which ended up involving excavators and expensive plumbers and several thousand dollars. Incidentally, have we mentioned that you should check your insurance policy? You should know that most insurance doesn't actually cover pipe repair or replacement, only the damage caused by a broken pipe ), and lots of things have been breaking all at once, but interestingly it is all not nearly half so stressful as it was at the old house. I suspect this is because no matter what has been breaking, none of it has actually threatened the structural integrity of the house. The sewer pipe was stressful, but was ultimately outside the house. I remember February 2015 when we had an ice dam that threatened to actually soak and damage our walls and house frame (thank goodness that didn't come to pass the way the first contractor predicted) and siding and roof, and we spent sleepless nights wondering how we would pay to have it fixed. None of that sort of stuff has happened here. There's a ceiling fan that suddenly stopped working, and there's a bedroom door that sticks and doesn't fully close, and the shower sprays mist against one of the bathroom walls, and all of these things are fixable. We don't miss that old house. (We do miss the wide flat grassy back yard that we spent several years imagining filled with future children and puppies wrestling over soccer balls. But that's about it.)

Calvin is blossoming under speech therapy. His vocabulary is exploding day by day, and he's newly interested in "cooking" ping pong balls for people to "eat" in his snazzy new kitchen play set. He has added "Pop Goes the Weasel" to his repertoire of songs (which formerly included golden hits such as "The ABCs", "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", and "Frere Jacques") and begs us to put a charming British children's show Sarah & Duck onto the television (it's on Netflix, and sometimes we watch it without him, because it's just that good).

Monday, July 18, 2016

In which our basement turned into a swamp

Let's clear one thing out of the way: It's a heck of a lot easier to Life-Changing-Magic-of-Tidying-Up your possessions when you're faced with sorting through a soggy box that has been sprayed by your leaking water main.

On Tuesday the water main broke in our basement. I'll spare you the details, but it was... not sanitary. It took 5ish sweaty hours and $1400 for our plumber to finally find the blockage: a root ball in the pipe in our front yard. (This means that it's likely to happen again in the future, with the charmingly nebulous date of "5 or 20 years from now".) The whole experience really pushed into focus how precious a commodity on-demand potable water is. It's a pretty terrible feeling when you aren't allowed to turn on any faucets or taps, or flush any toilets, and you're feeling dirty and just want to wash your hands. Not an experience I will soon forget. (Incidentally, if anyone needs a plumber recommendation, our guy was fantastic. I'm pretty sure that was NOT how he imagined he'd be spending his Tuesday evening.)

What this meant for us this week is that we've been abruptly forced into sorting the boxes in our basement left over from moving (cough cough, last August, cough cough). Lots of items are being aggressively donated, and there are lots of rediscoveries along the vein of "oh THAT'S where this was, I've been looking for this!". It has also shown us that there is a lot of work that we put off doing in the house, such as setting up our extra bookshelves, or setting up the furniture properly in the den/parlor/small-livingroom/whatever you want to call it, or fixing the fallen hanger rod in the walk-in closet. So this week we've set to fixing that. With the nerve damage in Liam's shoulder, most of this has fallen to me. To be honest, most of this would have fallen to me anyway because Liam lives a largely minimalistic lifestyle and so the things that are boxed up and need sorting are pretty much all MY things that he can't make decisions on. I'm fairly certain that were we to need to pack up and move tomorrow, Liam would be able to fit all of the worldly possessions that he actually wanted to bring with us into a single car, with most of the space being taken up by his computer and by our three cats. (Whereas I'm pretty sure I could fill a single car with my beloved yarn stash alone.)

Last evening we shoved and cajoled furniture into place into in the den/parlor/small-livingroom/whatever you want to call it in a large-scale sliding-puzzle game. We're really happy with the initial placement, but Calvin almost immediately began climbing on things and we realized that we needed furniture safety straps to secure them to the walls before our daredevil toddler pulls a 100lb bookshelf down on top of him. (Calvin quietly turned 2 last month, by the way, and apparently DOES NOT LIKE FROSTING which makes me question whether he is actually my child.) We have to get the furniture placement right the first time, though, because furniture anchor straps leave holes in the walls and we'd like to minimize the number of repairs we have to make.
Forgive the mess, we're still not done moving things. To our shock, Butterscotch "Shycat" Jewell spent most of the evening on top of our giant foam pouf. She was very upset that we had moved furniture and disrupted her Secret Lair of Hiding, but seems to be taking it much better than we expected.

In the meanwhile, I've come across stacks and stacks of "Oh I meant to read that" books, which I'm sorting into stacks of "I might still read this" and also "I need to gracefully let this book go". The new Little Free Libraries at our city parks have been the recipient of many of my books already, and I feel a little thrill of victory every time I come back to find that the books I left behind have been taken, and that the ones OTHER PEOPLE brought look untouched. Is there such a thing as competitive literacy spreading?