Sunday, March 29, 2009

Six Years

Six years ago tomorrow, Dan told me that he was really enjoying the conversation we were having in the parking lot of our job, standing next to our cars, and he'd really like to continue having it, but he was cold and tired and would I like to come over for awhile?

I said yes. And six hours later, he kissed me for the first time.

In the past six years, we've moved in together, worked together, gotten new jobs, planned a wedding, moved halfway across the country, had a baby, lost jobs, made new friends, gotten pregnant again, changed plans mid-stream, evaluated and re-evaluated and re-evaluated what was the best thing for us and our immediate family and our extended families, and now, six years later, we've come to another bend in the road.

I lost my job earlier this week. I know for a fact that my former place of employment knows about this blog and I am still waiting to hear about unemployment benefits, although I was assured it was not a factor, so I won't go into the finer points of the loss of this job, but suffice it to say that, working in media, it wasn't totally unexpected and the economy has a great deal to do with it.

I am 26 weeks pregnant and I can't go running out to get another job right now. We can't make it here on one income. We're having a baby in July. Our parents are getting older, and we want our kids to really know them. We miss having the backup of family. Dan isn't happy with the school where he teaches, he feels that it's been a hostile work environment and the administration is phoning it in in the worst possible way. And worst of all, in five years, we feel like we haven't made any real progress toward the things we want--a real home, some security. It's incredibly expensive to live here, and becomes more so all the time. Add to that the expense and inconvenience of Dan having to re-certify as a teacher this year, and it's all just a little more than we can handle.

So. We've come to a decision. We're going to finish out the school year and have this baby, and then we're going to move back to Kalamazoo, permanently. In a lot of ways, it breaks my heart. I love it here. I've always loved it here. I have friends here. My best friends are in town twice a year, minimum, and I've loved that I've had the chance to see them so often. There are great restaurants and museums and places to go, an endless supply that we'll never get tired of seeing. I love it here.

But our families are a long way away. We need the backup, especially with a new little person arriving so soon. We've been the victim of crimes here, repeatedly, and every time it knocks us down and it's just so fucking hard to get back up. And we're exhausted.

I don't mind that it's hard. I don't. This is being a grown-up, and I'm not afraid to stand on my own two feet, especially with Dan standing next to me--I couldn't ask for a better partner in life. But it should be a little easier, shouldn't it? After five years, should we still be fighting this hard, every day? I want to let my guard down a little, and I still can't. I don't mind that it's hard, but it shouldn't be this hard.

I don't know exactly what we're going to do. Dan can absolutely sub until he finds a real teaching job, and his teaching certificate, which he originally got in Michigan, is still good there. He'll have to take some classes this year in order to keep it current, but he's willing. The economy in Michigan is terrible, and I'm pretty well assuring myself a boring job in marketing or something like that, stuff I've done before, but I'm also giving The New Girl a chance to have me all to herself for awhile. Max got that chance, and I feel like I owe it to her as well. I owe it to myself. This is the last baby I'm going to have, and I want this for all of us.

My parents are thrilled of course. We're having a hard time getting a read on Dan's mother's feelings on the subject, mostly because her reaction was to immediately change the subject to something totally unrelated, which enraged me to the point that I had to get off the phone and find something else to do. I am probably going to leave this topic alone for the time being, as I have nothing productive to say about the subject. We anticipate staying with my parents for at least a few weeks, and then, depending on the job situation, either looking for an apartment or a house--home prices in Michigan cannot be beat right now, and we're pretty happy about that. A lot of the salient details of all of this remain firmly up in the air at the moment, but we're putting our ducks in a row to make all of this work in the best, easiest, most expedient way we can think of. Additionally, living in Kalamazoo, our kids will qualify for the Promise, possibly the best college scholarship program in the country.

The lesson in all of this is that I am learning, once again, that things that feel permanent seldom are, except for things like the love you feel for your children, your partner, your friends, and your family. Six years ago, Dan took my hand and stepped off a cliff, and the results have been serendipitous; I couldn't have asked for more. This summer, we'll take a step off another cliff, and it's scary, but I've got no choice but to hope that our luck holds.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An Impressive Family Tree

Dan and I put up a few family pictures of various members of our familes on the wall in Max's room yesterday. We figured that since we live so far away from most of them, he ought to at least be able to recognize them.

We were looking at a picture of two of my cousins with their father, my uncle, who is now in his mid-eighties and in faltering health. "Who's that?" I asked Max.

"That's Cousin Dan," he said.

"And who's that?" I asked.

"That's Cousin Don," he said.

I pointed to my Uncle Lonnie. "Who's this guy here?"

Max hesitated for a minute. "That's God."

I think I'd like to place a moratorium on all further discussions about religion between my son and his father until Max establishes a firmer grasp on some of the more elusive elements of the topic.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Talk Therapy

Max is sick. Yesterday was really terrible; he was throwing up constantly and couldn't keep down Tylenol or Motrin, which meant that his temperature was 103.7 and going up. We took him to the E.R., where we discovered that Children's Tylenol comes in suppository form. Thank God.

Today is better, but he's definitely not well. He's at least able to eat, but he is feverish, coughing and snorting and horking. I mostly just kept him home to give him a chance to lay low for the day. The cure seems to be rest mostly.

Unfortunately, we weren't set up to spend Sunday in the emergency room or Monday at home, as the pantry is largely bare at this point. After I dropped Dan off this morning, we had to stop at the grocery store so that we could eat today.

Every once in a while I get it into my head that I am cut out for stay-at-home motherhood. With another bun in the oven, it makes a fair amount of sense, although maybe not on a permanent basis. Typically it lasts only long enough for me to remember that Max is three-and-a-half years old, and we've been encouraging him to learn to talk for the last three-and-a-half years.

It started in the grocery store. "Look, Mom, roses!"

"I see them."

"I like roses. Do you?"


"They smell nice. Can I smell them?"


"Mmmmm, they smell so nice. Remember when Daddy and I brought you roses?"

"I remember."

"That was at your old office. Remember?"

"I remember."

"We brought you pink and white roses. Remember?"

"I remember."

"You had them in a glass vase on your desk. Remember?"

"I remember."

"Mom, we should buy yogurt while we're here."

". . ."

"I like yogurt. It's so yummy. Do you like yogurt?"


"I like cherry yogurt. It is so yummy. It's not disgusting at all."


"Mom, we need milk. Are you going to buy milk?"


"What kind of milk? Red milk?" His milk isn't actually red, just the kind that he gets comes in a container with a red label and top.


"I like milk. It is so yummy. Thank you, Mom, thank you for getting me milk."

"I....You're welcome?"

"We need fruit too. I like fruit. Do you like fruit, Mom?"


And so on, through the entire grocery store, with a kid with a motorboat engine attached to his tongue, through the single open grocery store line with the checker that I cannot stand, the one who loads my groceries willy-nilly into bags without regard for the logic of putting away groceries (Hello, why would you put ice cream in with the bread and dried pasta? Those three things obviously will be put away all in the same place.) and leaves my bags piled up behind her as she starts to bag the next person's groceries and I lean awkwardly around her and my growing pregnant belly to try to load my cart. Grrrrr.

So out to the car with Max and my groceries, Max who hasn't stopped talking since 6:15 this morning, Max who barely stops talking to sleep at night. Hoist the kid into his booster seat, while my back complains. "Mom, what was that noise? Did you hear that noise?"

"Which noise?"

"The noisy noise. Was that a car?"


"Was that our car?"


"Was that the lady's car?"


"Which lady?"

"The...tall lady."

"Which tall lady?"

"I...don't know."

"Why not?"

"Because, sometimes Mom just makes up the answers."


"Because sometimes the questions don't make any sense to me, buddy."

Then to the nearest mailbox to drop an envelope in it. "Why are we going this way, Mom? What's over here?"

"The mailbox."

"What mailbox?"

"The mailbox where I'm going to mail this card."

"What card?"

"This birthday card."

"Whose birthday? Mine?"

"No, your birthday is in June."

"I like birthdays. We have cakes and goody bags and ice cream at school. I like cake. Do you like cake?"


"I like chocolate cake. It is so yummy. It is not disgusting. Do you like chocolate cake?"

". . ."

By 10 in the morning, I am totally exhausted by this kid. It's not that his behavior is bad--it's not. It's terrific. Everything I ask him to do, he does without complaint. We've finally instituted a bedtime ritual that seems to keep him in bed at night, he loves to help us, he doesn't run away from us in public, he shares willingly, he's mostly pleasant and sweet and adorable. The problem: he's three and a half. And he's awesome at it.

And keep in mind that this is him dosed up on cold medicine. This is him dopey, this is Max set on about 4. This feeling of having to stay a step ahead of his constantly-racing mind is like running a marathon, all day, every day.

Kimberly's Sprout has learned to crawl, which for a visually-impaired parent presents a set of problems that I think I would find totally staggering. I admire her fortitude. My own fortitude, however, is pretty well up against a brick wall. I am watching far less TV than usual these days, just because I need the time without a voice bashing up against my eardrums in order for my brain to reset its counter. The New Girl is making it increasingly difficult to get any sleep at night, between heartburn and the constant movement, and between my increased state of total and complete fatigue and the need for my brain to be turned on constantly around my kid, I am desperately in need of a week or so spent in silence, staring off into space, reading People Magazine, and contemplating my increasingly-protruding navel.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I Don't Want To Wait For Our Lives To Be Over...WTF?

The best thing the show "Scrubs" ever did was move over to ABC. Because I really love this season, I do. And most of the reason is Gooch, Lawyer Ted's new girlfriend who totally rocks the ukelele.

I now have to add the ukelele to my list of instruments I want to learn to play (top of the list: accordian. Dan is not thrilled with this idea. The neighbors prolly won't be either, especially when I get Max a little accordian and we take accordian lessons together), and also, I need to add Katie Micucci to my list of women I'd consider switching teams for. (Dan likes that idea a little bit. Guys.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

No More Naps For Me, Thanks.

This is the first job I've had in...oh, six years or so where I haven't been encouraged to work a whole lot of overtime for free. I'm hourly here, as is everyone else, which means that when my 40 hours is up, it's up, and home I go, jiggety-jog. It's kind of great in a way, since I typically work 40 hours by about noon on Thursday. It's also kind of great because after working where I did for two years, where my boss regularly called on the weekends and in the evenings without regard for the fact that I had already worked sixty hours that week...yeah, this is better.

For this story to be funny, you need to know a little about the layout of our living room and its furniture. If our living room were a clock, which it isn't because, you know, it's a room, not a clock, and also, it's not round, but go with me here; if it were a clock, the fireplace would be at 12, the kitchen would be at 3, the window facing our deck would be at 6, and the front door would be at about 10:30. Our couch would be the hour hand and it would be 6 o'clock--so basically, the couch stretches along the wall between the deck window and the front door.

Got it? No? Doesn't matter really.

I was lying on the couch with my head towards the window (in other words, facing toward the door, which was down by my left foot.) I was watching "The West Wing" on DVD on my laptop, which I like to do when I'm reading the entire internet, because I don't have to focus on two different things at two different distances, which makes my eyes tired and also makes me throw up.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I fell asleep with my laptop balanced on top of my pregnant belly, "West Wing" still playing. Less than an hour later, the cat made some kind of a vaguely human-sounding noise somewhere in the house, which woke me up. I know it was less than an hour later, because "West Wing" was still on the same episode. The scene that I happened to wake up to featured Josh and Toby standing opposite the President's desk, both wearing dark suits.

I was asleep long enough to be exceedingly stupid when I woke up. You know that kind of deep and extremely restful sleep (it seems to be particular to the second trimester of pregnancy) when you wake up and you're not sure where you are or what's happening and you don't, in fact, register the fact that you've been asleep at all? Yeah, it was that kind of a thing.

The first thing I saw was Josh and Toby standing in front of me in dark suits--on the laptop screen of course, but in my head they were right there in front of me. In my peripheral vision, I registered my living room, with the front door by my feet. And literally, this is what I thought:

Bradley Whitford and Richard Schiff are in my living room! Why are Bradley Whitford and Richard Schiff in my living room? Did I leave the door unlocked and now they're just standing by my feet at the end of the couch, talking? Where did they come from? What the hell is going on?

And I jumped about a mile before I realized that there was no conceivable logical way that Bradley Whitford and Richard Schiff had committed a B&E mid-morning at my house, dressed in costume from "West Wing," and reciting dialogue from the show while standing next to my feet at the end of my couch. But that split second was probably one of the weirdest of my entire life.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Almost Paradise?

There is a weird thing that happens when you can't get pregnant when you think you should, for whatever reason. You start to think of the state of being pregnant as this sort of quasi-nirvana. I think it has something to do with the grass always being greener; you want the baby of course, but more than that, you crave -- what? The act of outgrowing your pants overnight? The loss of your appetite for three months? The overwhelming urge to fall asleep any time you aren't physically in motion?

Well, it all comes back to you pretty quickly. I was feeling pretty decent with this baby until the middle of Thanksgiving dinner. If you'll recall, when I'm in charge of Thanksgiving, there isn't turkey or cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie; there are mini crabcakes and cocktail meatballs and boiled shrimp and hummus and cheese spread and all the other things that I usually like about the three hours before Thanksgiving dinner. That's what we had this year, and I bit into a perfectly poached, perfectly seasoned, perfectly chilled shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce, and my universe instantly changed shape. And not in a good way.

Goodbye, appetite. See you sometime in mid-February.

A partial list of things I couldn't/wouldn't eat while pregnant with Max: Yeah, I got nothing. My food aversions were not terrible with him. Cereal grossed me out a little, and dairy.

A partial list of things I couldn't/wouldn't eat while pregnant with The New Girl, only in the first trimester: ground meat of any sort, or really meat or poultry of any kind, dairy, citrus fruit, tomatoes or tomato products of any kind, nothing sticky or gooey, or anything sweet of any kind except for the possible exception, on very good days, of Sour Patch Kids. They actually were pretty great as far as a short-term cure for morning sickness. I pretty well subsisted on apples, diet Ginger Ale, saltine crackers, frozen bean and cheese burritos and Chef Boyardee ravioli.

Those illusions about how great pregnancy was flew pretty well out the window in the months of December, January, and the first half of February. I felt shaky and sweaty with a combination of fatigue and hypoglycemia pretty much all the time, had an overwhelming schedule of doctors' appointments with a variety of specialists and a brand new full-time job, and the three-and-a-half year old who lives with me couldn't understand why I was far more likely to fall asleep mid-sentence than I was to get down on the floor and play with him. I was not enjoying myself very much at all, and I'm pretty sure no one else around me was enjoying me at all either.

Right around the time that I experienced a brief but violent bout of the stomach flu--how's that for a kick in the pickle?--the morning sickness eased and I found my appetite again. It was really great, to be honest: food hasn't ever tasted as good to me as it has in the last three weeks, and after two and a half months of not even wanting to think about, look at pictures of, or discuss food, let alone eat it--well, sufice it to say, I've been a very happy girl.

In general, I am happier than I tend to be most of the time, to be honest. The cloud of low-grade anxiety that typically floats around me has magically cleared and despite my initial shock at the news that I am pregnant with a girl, I don't feel as much sheer terror at the thought of raising one as I thought I would. I never enjoyed traditional girlhood that much, not being really a big fan of clothes and makeup and dolls and stuff, and guiding someone else through it--well, the thought didn't exactly make me do the Snoopy dance. But I survived it, and it was not that much fun at the time, but I am basically no worse for wear because of it, and so will my daughter.

I am a little sad about all of the adorable little boy clothes that I am currently sorting through, all of the memories of 6-week-old Max, round and drowsy and adorable in the smallest baseball jersey I've ever seen. The fact is, we're not having another baby after this one--we can't afford it, for one thing. For another, it's a good round number--two kids, two grownups, and maybe a dog eventually. Nobody's outnumbered that way. So we just don't have the need of all of the boy clothes, and we've culled out most of the things like pajamas and things that are sort of unisex, and we're sorting things into too-tired-looking-and-stained-for-anything-but-the-trash, donate, and send to Kimberly and Michael for their little Sprout. It will actually be kind of great to see Sprout wearing a Nationals uniform, however deeply it will most certainly gall his Cubs-fan parents.

In the last couple of weeks, I have begun to feel The New Girl kicking, prodding, rolling around, and in general being as active as Max ever was. This weekend, I was sitting on the couch and noticed that she was kicking me hard enough for me to be able to see my shirt moving. I am looking far more pregnant at this point than I did with Max--I have all but given up on even my fattest fat-jeans, the ones I bought right after Max was born, ones that have been too big for me for two years now, and am splitting my time between maternity jeans and my most forgiving yoga pants. I am carrying this baby very high, much higher than I carried Max, and as a result I look far more traditionally pregnant than I did with her big brother, with whom I looked mostly just fat and never more than about six months pregnant.

Despite the fact that Max had his heart set on a "baby brudder" and there were several meltdowns on his part after the ultrasound that revealed girl bits--I really wondered about some kind of prescription sedative in a dose safe for a preschooler--he is as excited as we are about having a girl, and far less trepadatious about what having a 13-year-old girl around the house will be like.

The thing about second babies is that they're unpredictable. You learn your way around the first baby, figure out what they like and what they don't like, whether the bouncy seat makes them cry and the swing puts them to sleep, what kind of blanket they like and which they can't stand. Then the second baby comes along and you start fresh and you don't know anything again, except that you're still overwhelmed by love and a number of years older and more tired, and as it turns out you still don't know anything.

And that's really the thing that's causing most of my small amounts of anxiety surrounding this baby--I have no idea who this little stranger is. A week or so ago, I demanded that we decide on a name for her, because I couldn't bear that I didn't even know what to call her in my own mind. I suspect that I rushed Dan into making a decision, but in the meantime, I think all three of us have become a little more at-ease with the thought of a little person whose name we at least know.

So in general, I am very much enjoying this pregnancy. Despite the fact that I have "stranger danger" in regards to my own daughter, I feel good--energetic, most of the time, clear-headed, not too physically uncomfortable, my health is good. Basically, I don't have a lot to complain about. The grass, in this case, really is greener on this side of the fence, and I'm pretty relieved about that.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bizket the Sleepwalking Dog

This video is the funniest thing I've seen in weeks, and I live with a three-and-a-half year-old who likes nothing more than when naked time is combined with age-inappropriate dance music. What I'm trying to say is, I know funny.

(Courtesy of