Friday, October 31, 2008

Did I speak too soon?

Today at naptime, Dan chattered and bumbled around his bedroom for an hour before falling asleep on a body pillow on the floor, a book open right next to him. He's having a language explosion this week. He repeats everything we say. The other night, he repeated "boil water" when Jim asked whether he should boil water after I winced loudly in pregnancy-related back pain.

Well, this evening, Jim reported that he left Bob the dog upstairs behind the gate so he could go in Dan's room. Bob did. Minutes later, Dan and Bob were found in the hallway outside our bedroom door. Dan was pointing to our bedroom door, telling Bob, "locked," which is Dan code for, "Open the door."

And, no, I don't think I spoke too soon with my last post! Bob was definitely the instigator this evening.

My little bed-sleepin' boy

Dan has been sleeping in his own twin-sized bed for nap and bedtime for about a week now! Jim and I both check on him more often now because we're just so incredulous that the little guy actually stays in his bed or in his bedroom. We've had no midnight or early morning visits. He has fallen out once. I comforted him and put him back in bed where he went right back to sleep. Yesterday, he was a bit out of sorts and we found him lying on the floor, his legs under the bed and his body hugging Dennis the monkey. I'm just floored that he is such a good sport about the whole thing. Not to toot our own horn here, but Jim and I agree that he seems to handle big changes pretty well because we've never really babied him. (The everyday transitions from one activity to the next are a bit harder for him, as they are with most toddlers, I have learned.)

The crib is still in his room with his mobile from Aunt Suzy hanging on the outside so he can see it. He's still quite attached to it; the new baby is just going to have to get her own. Before nap, he asks for Bach, just one of the musical selections (Mozart and Beethoven are the others ... much to my dismay, he's lukewarm to Mozart, but nuts about Bach). This weekend, Jim plans to disassemble the crib and move it to the guest room.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A big fat super WHY?

"Super Why" ... Dan seems to like this show and I let him watch it because it involves letters that he often points out and repeats. It also allows me to get breakfast ready for us, then read the paper. Most of the time, it's pretty innocuous, but once in a while, a story line runs so counter to what my husband and I believe that the hairs on my neck stand up.

This morning, Red Riding Hood's "super big problem" was this: She didn't want to share her apples with her friend. The friend walked up and asked her to share some of her apples. When RRH refused, the friend said, "But you have so many and I don't have any."

My first thought was "Well, then climb a tree and pick some yourself, you little mooch." My second: "What a demanding little brat." And third: "Why does this little girl think she should get something for nothing?" First of all, when someone asks a question, they should be prepared to hear an answer they don't want to hear, like "No, I don't want to share these apples with you." Maybe RRH had plans for those apples, maybe she was going to make apple butter and sell it for a little extra dough, maybe she was going to feed her hogs or her family. Whatever the reason, the questioner should accept the answer and move on. Arguing with the person makes no sense. Why ask the question if you were going to accept only one answer? Secondly, sharing should be initiated by the sharer, not the receiver. Period. And third, why didn't the girl offer something in return for those apples?

This "Super Why" scenario, incidentally, is very similar to our government's philosophy. They're polite. They ask us to "voluntarily" pay our taxes (yes, they actually do use the word "voluntary" in reference to income tax collection). But noncompliance brings the full force of the federal government to bear. And why do they not accept no for an answer? Because they want to give your money to others they think are more deserving, needier or have a better use for your money. (Before you write me off as a heartless witch, let me just say, I have no objection to charity. My husband and I give to the charities of our choice, charities we think are well run and do good work. The Salvation Army, the Durham Rescue Mission and Habitat for Humanity are a few of our favorites.)

This, of course, brings me around to the present. There's been some talk about "sharing" on the campaign trail lately. A certain candidate doesn't seem to understand the word's definition. So let's go over this again ...
Share means to divide something equally or give out a portion. What does "give" mean? It means to make a gift. What's a "gift"? It's something given to another in a show of friendship or affection.
Sure, you may have shared your toys in elementary school. But if someone forced you, it wasn't born of friendship or affection, but out of a fear of authority. I'd rather my son learn to share out friendship and affection than fear of authority. I also want him to understand that when others share with him, he should accept with gratitude and return the favor in some small way.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Take another look

This is not really meant to be a political post, so if you take it that way, well, it's on you.

Last night I somehow managed to take in two PBS documentaries in two hours as I worked on a knitting project. One was a Frontline documentary about the Afghan front and the complicated role that Pakistan is playing right now. The other was on Saddam Hussein's trial and execution. It was very sobering, to say the least, watching our troops taking fire, seeing people who live in small huts in freezing temperatures in the Afghan mountains, hearing about families tortured by Saddam's regime or gunned down accidentally in a war zone, and even witnessing the entire execution of Saddam Hussein (yes, they showed it on television).

Today I sit typing this missive on a home computer hooked up to the Internet in my warm home while a batch of turkey meatballs is cooking in the oven, my son sleeps in his own bedroom and I have choices and opportunities in my life that others can only imagine. I can work part time to help support my family and still be the primary caretaker for our son. We can save our money to purchase whatever we want or save it for a rainy day. We own two or three televisions and appliances that are less than a year old, have decent furnishings throughout our home, can afford food, running water and electricity, and have three working, paid-for vehicles. And I can go to the polls to vote my conscience without fear of retribution.

With the picture of America that some state and national candidates paint, one can easily forget how fortunate we are. And while I personally find Phil Gramm rather odious, there really is a grain of truth to his assessment that the recession is mental and we've "sort of become a nation of whiners." (I agree with the comment, but not the delivery. The PR professional in me knows there is a much better way to get that point across.)

And I know there are people in this country who can't pay their mortgage or don't have health insurance or are going bankrupt from medical bills or have lost their jobs. All I'm trying to say here is that we're more fortunate than we believe because when Americans hit rock bottom, at least there's a ladder.

Mommy the diplomat

Motherhood is often called the toughest job you'll ever love. And most days that's true. Other days, I'm ashamed to admit, I wonder how anyone can see far enough past the tantrums and the teething, the pee pee on the floor, the sleepless nights, the barnyard ambiance of our dinner table and so on to express an affection for the job. At the end of the day, I love my son, but often hate the kind of parent I've become.

Lately, my favorite times of day are before nap and before bedtime. And for this, I feel supremely guilty and wonder why I can't enjoy my son in between. Even nice treats like a trip to Locopops or a stop to watch the diggers and bulldozers at a nearby construction site or a trip to the park must end eventually. When they do, Dan devolves into a monster-sized tantrum that makes me wonder why we ever left the house at all. This morning, we went to the park as we always do on Tuesdays. I both love and dread this activity. It's fun while we're there, but when it's time to go, no amount of warning, waving bye-bye to the slide and the sandbox, hugging his friend good-bye and other activities helps ease the transition.

When Dan resists, I'm more likely to be authoritarian than understanding. I'm a "my way or the highway" mommy some days, but I don't want to be. Distraction and diplomacy, empathy and ego-massage does not come naturally in my interaction with him. And that is a surprise considering that these are traits I have practiced professionally with success. I've been a reporter, an editor and a public relations professional at various times over the past 15 years. I can easily cajole sensitive information out of sources, gently convince a reporter to reword a few paragraphs and spin any issue in an organization's favor, yet I can't convince a 2-year-old to get dressed or leave the playground without drama.

The diaper and dressing drama has gotten easier in the past few days only because I've been dragged kicking and screaming into the subtle art of toddler diplomacy. Playing games and singing have replaced begging and strong arming. Since I've acquiesced, it's gotten better. The playground drama is another story altogether.

Yet after learning to practice even a little diplomacy with a toddler, it seems that any mom could easily gain ground with the world's most stubborn tyrants.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The 8:03 a.m. boy

Danny has slept in his new big boy bed three nights in a row now. Naps are a different story. It's hard to get him to stay probably because it's still light out. Friday morning I totally expected him to come find me or be roaming around the hallway. He didn't. But, just in case, we have the bathroom and guest room door closed and the gate locked at the top of the stairs. I found him on his bedroom floor snuggling with Dennis the monkey.

Saturday morning he came to find us in bed. The clock said 8:03 a.m., normal wake up time for him. This morning, he again came to find us at ... guess what time? 8:03 a.m.

By the way, we do now have a twin sized mattress on the bed. You didn't think we'd make our son sleep on a bunky board, did you???

Monday, October 20, 2008

Day one with Dan's new "bed"

I put a few blankets and a down comforter atop the bunky board today to see if he'd sleep there for nap. But it's too much of a novelty right now. He climbed up, laid his head down, fake snored, grinned, wriggled, humped Dennis the monkey, looked out the window, got down, got back up and repeated. And since Jim recently taught him how to, um, dismount head first from stairs, sofas, chairs, or whatever, he gets off his bed head first.

Fantastic. The bed is less than a foot off the ground, but still ...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Halfway to a big boy room

We're approaching the 90 day countdown to baby number two and there's a lot of work to be done. Rooms need rearranging, clothes, diapers and other supplies need corralling, the car seat needs installing, preparations for the birth need attention.

At least one task was started this weekend. Literally overnight Dan's room has gone from a baby's room to a little boy's room. My husband started moving Dan's "new" furniture into his room. Notice the quotes ... nothing in this house is really new. His "new" bookshelf was made for me by my father when I was a teenager. His "new" dresser is really mommy's old dresser from her bachelorette-hood. His "new" bed is actually an old metal frame with the lid from a blanket chest my father made for me years ago serving as the headboard. All the furniture matches, oddly enough; it's all This End Up style. The blanket chest will become a toy box with a new lid that Jim will fashion into a train table. We have a twin-size bunky board that we bought new (literally, still in the plastic) from a second-hand store for $10, but no mattress yet. The twin mattress will come later, free from my parents who happen to have an extra one. So far, the only money we've spent is the $10 for the bunky board. (Normally, I would have photos, but our camera's rechargable battery is, um, unrevivable.)

Dan's crib is still in his bedroom, but Jim's idea was to move the new furniture in and let him get used to it at his own pace. Dan will have his pick of beds for a while since, as I've mentioned before, the new baby will likely sleep nestled in my armpit for the first few months. We're not really in a hurry.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why so cruel?

Pardon my recent spiteful streak. Few things anger me more than having my time (and money) usurped by an entity that I can't literally reach out and strangle (the cell phone company). If you've guessed by now that I have a bit of a temper, give yourself a cookie. I'm not usually this mean, really, I'm just six months pregnant, miserable, not sleeping because of hot flashes and realizing I have three more months of this blessed condition.

That said, the streak continues ...

I recently went to purchase some leggings from a local maternity shop, knowing full well that my local drugstore would not carry anything in my current size. Leggings/stockings for the non-pregnant come in sizes A, B and Q (also known as Queen). Maternity leggings/stockings come in these sizes A/B (a bit thick), C/D (considerably distorted) and E (elephant). No, it doesn't say those words exactly on the packaging, but it might as well.

Here's a little clue for maternity marketers: It's not nice (or safe) to annoy pregnant women. I'd much rather associate my size right now with a queen than an elephant. Can you do something about this??

Monday, October 13, 2008

Don't call us. We'll call you.

My plan to make an end run around the cell phone company had to be shelved. Friday morning, I tried to use my cell phone to call a friend while en route to her house only to get an infuriating message: "Your phone is no longer activated or has been deactivated."

Great. A planned weekend road trip made action necessary. Normally, I would have just ignored this little setback and dealt with it later.

Another wasted morning on a day when I could scarce afford and a barely tolerate it. My son was at Parent's Morning Out; I needed to get the dog to a friend's house for the weekend; I needed to pack and fold laundry; and I'd had about five hours of severely broken sleep the night before thanks to pregnancy hormones and a shrieking toddler.

I spent 45 minutes trying to get my phone deactivated and reactivated with a new phone number. I was reassured that the process was complete and my new phone number should show up in my phone in about an hour.

Two hours later nothing has changed - no new phone number, no restored access - except now, my son is home, eating his lunch, being ignored by his mother who is struggling to rectify the situation, crying from sheer exhaustion and frustration. I am forced to put him down for his nap with the bare minimum of routine as I'm still on the line with the most ineffective customer no-service person on the planet. At this point, I don't care if the worthless piece of shit on the other end hears me saying "Danny, sit on your potty. Time to go pee pee" or hears my son squawking loudly. Serves them right for not fixing the friggin' problem the first 100 times I called.

This is why very few people, if anyone, will have our new cell phone number. I already resent practically being forced to own this digital leash because we are all now expected to be available to anyone at any time. But, of course, with caller ID, people will feel perfectly free to save my cell phone number in their own phones and use it any time they like. Go right ahead. We aren't likely to answer.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A major disconnect

I really am not a phone person. I hate paying money for someone else's "right" to have unfettered access to us. It seems that some technology is more of an inconvenience and I feel that way about cell phones. It's like a leash that anyone can tug, if you let them. We have Vonage and we recently switched to a pay-as-you-go cell phone. (That's right, one cell phone.) We tried to keep the same phone number by porting it over to the new phone. But, as it turns out, it's just not worth the hassle it's become.

We've had the new phone for a month now. I can make calls and my cell phone number shows up on other's caller ids. The only problem is that I can't receive calls. Normally, this wouldn't pose much of a problem for me except that a few weekends ago when my husband was out of town and I was at work. I wanted to call to make sure he arrived safely. No deal.

So far, I've had at least two conversations with the new cell phone company and two with the old company with no resolution, each blaming the other for the incomplete porting process. One person actually dropped the call while I was on hold, forcing me to start over. Two hours of my life later, the only appealing option is to drain my minutes on the new phone before the expiration date without adding more. I can then reactivate my phone with a new number thereby doing an end run around the customer no-service departments at both companies. I don't want to talk to one more surly, obnoxious American or a way-too-polite yet incoherent Indian.

This just confirms my belief that some technology can be a huge waste of time. My own private island is looking really good right now.

Monday, October 06, 2008

More cheap, green neck entertainment

Dan has a new toy. No, we didn't go out and buy it (sorry GW, can't help boost your economy right now). The game started with one of Jim's fishing pole holders which I propped up on the back steps. Dan and I would then take turns dropping small rocks and acorns into the top and watching them come out the bottom. We'd experiment with different size items and different levels of incline.

Soon, Jim got wind of our little game and out came the 24 volt drill. Now, the two fishing pole holders are drilled to the side of our potting bench. Dan can rearrange the tubes and experiment with the different angles to his heart's content without Mommy having to hold the tube. Rocks now go down one tube, meet the other and come hurtling out onto his little rock pile. Today we pointed the tubes, one higher than the other, toward a little metal bucket to collect the rocks. Very exciting stuff for a 2-year-old.

You can never underestimate a toddler's attention span. He played with it on and off for about an hour and half this morning (an eternity for toddlers). He toddled off to hit golf balls a few times (he's getting pretty good at it, too), then to dig some dirt with shovel (a new skill for him). But he always came back to the rocks and tubes.


I know it's not Halloween yet, but if you want a real fright, keep reading. Apparently, the IRS has had, off and on during the past decade, the authority to essentially entrap citizens by posing as undercover agents and to turn over our tax returns to federal authorities investigating terrorists.

From CNet News:

IRS undercover operations: Privacy invasion?
The bailout bill also gives the Internal Revenue Service new authority to conduct undercover operations. It would immunize the IRS from a passel of federal laws, including permitting IRS agents to run businesses for an extended sting operation, to open their own personal bank accounts with U.S. tax dollars, and so on. (Think IRS agents posing as accountants or tax preparers and saying, "I'm not sure if that deduction is entirely legal, but it'll save you $1,000. Want to take it?") That section had expired as of January 1, 2008, and would now be renewed. This is the first time that such undercover authority would be made permanent.

... There's another section of the bailout bill worth noting. It lets the IRS give information from individual tax returns to any federal law enforcement agency investigating suspected "terrorist" activity, which can, in turn, share it with local and state police. Intelligence agencies such as the CIA and the National Security Agency can also receive that information.

The information that can be shared includes "a taxpayer's identity, the nature, source, or amount of his income, payments, receipts, deductions, exemptions, credits, assets, liabilities, net worth, tax liability, tax withheld, deficiencies, overassessments, or tax payments, whether the taxpayer's return was, is being, or will be examined or subject to other investigation or processing, or any other data received by, recorded by, prepared by, furnished to, or collected by the Secretary with respect to a return." That provision had already existed in federal law and automatically expired on January 1, 2008.
What ever happened to being secure in our papers? Fourth amendment anyone? The fact that this has been going on for years doesn't curb my outrage. It makes me wonder how such a provision could be slipped into law so quietly.

Apparently we were all too busy shopping till we dropped with other people's money to pay attention to the gradual creep of the police state brought to us by the Internal Terror Service.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Being a grown up

If a steady job, a mortgage, an IRA, a 401K and almost two children won't make you feel like an adult, then this will: In the past week I've picked up two slugs inside my house with a wet wipe without screaming, whimpering, standing on furniture or waking up my husband in the middle of the night. The fear of what my toddler will do with the slug is greater than my disgust and fear of slugs at this point.

Here's a new photo album from the past week.
Dan in the yard

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Up in flames

I may have finally stumbled upon a "cure" for the incessant heartburn. Last night, I downed a Pepcid, three Tums and an 8 ounce glass of baking soda and water quickly. Voila. Little to no heartburn for at least an hour. Hey, I didn't say it was perfect.

The heartburn is so much worse this time than with Dan. Shortly after Dan was born, the New York Times had an article confirming the old wives tale that if you had a lot of heartburn while pregnant then the baby would have lots of hair. Dan had quite a bit of hair at birth. In fact, he had sideburns and backhair. If the myth hold true this time around, I expect to be giving birth to a gorilla.