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?