Monday, November 30, 2009

Wow, I did it! I made it through NaBloPoMo, postin' like a mofo, shootin' out my mojo, keepin' it on the down-low.

I apologize for that last bit. I'm just excited to have made it. I promise not to inflict my lame "rhymes" on you again.

Like some guy said one time,* my month of daily postings will end not with a bang, but a whimper. I wanted to put together a video of the kids for the last day of the month, but instead of editing video tonight, I met with some of my fellow students to hammer out a potential panel we want to propose for a conference (a.k.a. grad school stuff). Business before blogs, as the saying goes. It doesn't. I just coined that on the spot. I'm spinning out magic over here, people. Blog magic!

Speaking of magic...GOB Bluth!

So, this is the final countdown (see what I did there?? Huh?) to NaBloPoMo, but I think it's taught me a few lessons, just like DJ Tanner would have learned. For one, writing every day is hard, but it's not that hard. So I think I'm going to try to post more often, even when I'm really busy. Because the other thing I've learned is that I get a lot out of posting on this blog. I thanked my readers a few days ago, so I won't embarrass us all by doing so again.

Okay, I lied. Thanks! You're the best.

*Actual way one of my students introduced a quote in an academic paper once.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Last year, at the beginning of December, I was very pregnant with Sam. Although I wanted to find a Christmas tree farm and head out with Charlotte and Jeff to cut down our tree since this was the first time we had space for one (our apartment in Athens was too small), in the end we got a tree from the Morning Optimists Club in the Hy-Vee parking lot. The tree, I recall, was a little under six feet tall, and cost $25. I remember this, because Jeff thought that was pretty expensive. (Foreshadowing!)

This year, I really wanted the full-on Holiday Tree-Sawing Extravaganza! So we headed out to what seemed to be the only nearby tree farm, Strawberry Hill. I had attempted ahead of time to find out their pricing info from their website, and when that failed, sent out a friendly email of inquiry, to no avail. Well, no problem. I was sure the pricing would be posted at the farm to help us make a selection within our budget.

When I mentioned to Charlotte last night that we'd be going to a Christmas Tree Farm to cut down our tree the next day, you'd have though I'd told her we were going to Fluffy Puppies and Unlimited Candy Farm or something by her reaction. She wouldn't shut up about about the Christmas Tree Farm. She even mentioned it, loudly, during the children's sermon at church today.*

So, the anticipation had built up to quite a boiling point before we headed out today. We got all bundled up and grabbed our hacksaws (just kidding, we don't have any) and hit the road. The place wasn't far from our church/C's preschool, and it didn't take long to get there.

When we arrived, I could see that this wasn't the most high-class operation. Sure, they had a ton of employees (mostly college-aged guys) wearing their company's embroidered shirts, but it all seemed kind of run-down and tacky. Whatever. Charlotte didn't care. I also noticed that there weren't any prices posted where I could see them. Huh.

So we headed out, sizing up trees, looking for the perfect one. I wanted a smaller tree, not too huge, but we ended up (after being kicked out of the wrong field...sorry, guys, they looked like trees to me) picking a decent, only slightly crooked six-footer. We posed for the obligatory family picture in front of the tree, then hopped on the FREE hayride back to the shed where we'd pay as they packaged our tree up.

An interlude: I love the thing where they stick the tree to violently shake all the dead needles off it. I get a strange sense of calm watching the tree shaken brutally.

So, we headed into the "gift shop" to pay our bill. This "gift shop," and want to use that term even more loosely than the quotes imply, was a metal shack with a tiny, labyrinthine path that meandered through the tables and shelves of random, holiday-themed crap. Just the kind of environment I wanted to be cramped into with my three-year-old and kicky 11-month-old in a backpack! But the promise of cookies and hot cider lured us on. Plus, we had to pay.

The cookies, we found once we reached the bowels of this horrid junk shanty, were slightly stale off-brand Hydrox sandwich cookies, and the tiny dixie cups for the hot cider held just enough to convince you it was too hot to drink by the time you'd thrown back the shot. This was unsatisfying, but even more unsatisfying was the price that rang up on the cash register when the ancient crone behind the desk tabulated our cost.

Jeff turned to me with a look in his eyes first of disbelief, then of horror. A vein in his forehead began to pulse. We carried on one of those side-of-the-mouth, tense muttering conversations. "Is that right?" he hissed. "I guess it is," I whispered back. His eyes widened so that I could see the whites all the way around the irises. I expected them to pop out in the manner of that Nazi in front of the ark of the covenant in Indiana Jones. At the very least, I thought his flesh would melt. " can't...I..." he sputtered. "Just pay," I whispered. "We can't do anything about it now."

So we did. But the afternoon was a bit colored by this unexpected expenditure. I mean, when you go into a venture expecting to pay $X, and end up paying $XXX, it feels a bit obscene. Those of you who know Jeff, and know his extremely frugal, Dutch penny-pinching nature, know that for him, the day was ruined. I managed to pull it together and have a fun time decorating the tree (which, of course, is totally lopsided) with Charlotte.

I'm also chagrined to find that our XXX amount is not really as horrible and vulgar as I had thought. I posted a brief version of our experience on facebook, and mentioned the amount when others asked. Well, not only do most people not think twice about paying XXX, several had paid XXXX and even XXXXX for a tree. A tree! A tree, made of tree materials, and not of, say, gold, or puppies and candy even.

Needless to say, next year, we're going to the Optimists Club again. I myself am optimistic my husband won't have a coronary event in response to Holiday Sticker Shock, and we'll all be merrier as a result.

*I just love it when kids do this during the children's message--belt out random, sometimes inappropriate things. Mrs. Jane was talking about Christmas trees, and she said, "Maybe some of you went out to get a Christmas tree this weekend," when suddenly a tiny little voice chirped out "We're getting OUR Christmas tree TODAY!" Guess who!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Video evidence that we were there last night!

Santa visits downtown Lawrence

Watch for us at 1.43, and again for Charlotte at about 1.52.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Oh, hey, what's up? Yeah, it's late, and once again, I'm barfing up some totally lame last-minute "content" for my "blog". I'm tired, okay? I was up really early, at 3:45 a.m., so I could go stand in line at Target with a bunch of people. Some, like me, were bemused. Others were Very Serious, as in hand-drawn maps of the store Serious. As in, won't share what items they're looking for Serious. Most were cold. And then the doors opened and I did some Christmas shopping and got some good deals and did not get trampled. The end.

I think I'm also tired because we went downtown this evening for the downtown Lawrence Santa/Tree-lighting event. Look, a link! The event itself was a bit tiring because wrangling the children in a crowd is always draining. But even more tiring than the great Santa rescue itself was the sudden flood of questions about Santa the event inspired in Charlotte.

"Why is he on the roof? Why did his sleigh break down? Where are his reindeer? Where will Santa go now? How will he get back to his sleigh? Will his reindeer be okay?" etc.

I did my best to answer her questions in a way that would keep the mystery alive for awhile but still tried to give the story the flavor of a story, so she doesn't think we're totally full of it. As we drove home, and the answers came faster and faster from the backseat, Jeff and I looked at each other with one of those Significant Spousal Nonverbal Exchanges.

"She's finding every hole in this story," I said.

"She's smarter than this," Jeff responded.

I answered a few more questions ("His rudder broke!" "The reindeer are eating some hay and carrots! They're resting up for the return flight!" "The mechanics are fixing the sleigh!") and then said "I am just digging myself deeper into a pit of lies."

Dramatic, yes. But this is the girl who was so fixated on the possibility that my dad heard a turkey on our walk yesterday ("But what did papa hear?" "Where is the turkey?" "Will the turkey come to see us?"). She's really interesting in the world around us, and has a particular curiosity about the strange, the bizarre, the out-of-the-ordinary. Which, really, this whole Santa thing is.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Apparently I'm getting up in about six hours to go be trampled by a mob of psychotic shoppers, among whom will be my mother. Can't wait!

So I invite you over to flickr to check out some photos of our lovely post-feast walk today out at Clinton Lake.

I am thankful for many, many things today, not least among them the amazing food we were privileged to eat together in our comfortable home. I'm glad Sam's fever broke and he was back to his old happy self today. I'm less glad that he pooped his pants so violently this afternoon that I was washing feces out of his hairline. I'm thankful Charlotte was a sweetheart today, and that she ate some real food, and that she says so many hilarious things that I can't remember them all, but I do remember laughing all day long. I'm glad my family could come down and help justify the preparation and consumption of a first-class Thanksgiving meal.

And I'm thankful for you, the readers of this blog, for giving me this creative outlet. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This is spot-on:

Tomorrow, expect a full run-down of Thanksgivingpalooza!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I briefly mentioned the cake failure in yesterday's post. I tried making a recipe from the always reliable Smitten Kitchen for this chocolate peanut butter cake that sounded divine. She mentioned that this cake was soft (she may have even used the word "tender") and that freezing the layers for a half-hour before frosting them would make them much easier to handle. "No problem," I thought. "I have plenty of time." I started the cake-making process early in the afternoon. Little did I know that first half-hour of Sam's nap would be the only half-hour of Sam's nap. Also, little did I know that when Smitten tells you to not only butter your cake pans, but also line your pans with parchment, which you should also butter, she really means it, and that if you happen to not have parchment, you may want to consider making a different cake altogether. I discovered this last part when about one-third of my first layer came out of the pan, and about a quarter of the second. I was staring at my sad cakes in dismay when Sam woke up.

All was not lost, however. I put the cake bits into a freezer bag, where they will suffice quite nicely for a future trifle (or, let's be realistic, late-night snacking). And when Jeff and Charlotte got home, I handed cranky Sam over to them and tried again. I still had no parchment, but I buttered the HECK out of a square cake pan, floured it liberally, and prayed.

Well, it was delicious, even though it looked like I had baked the cake on the roof and the tossed it down onto a plate waiting below. A bit bedraggled, but nothing that the liberal application of peanut-butter cream cheese icing couldn't fix.

It was the perfect follow-up to Jeff's birthday dinner, wherein I served what is fast becoming my go-to fancy meal: The Pioneer Woman's steaks with heart-attack sauce. I added a bag of spinach to the sauce, to make it healthy!

I also posted a new recipe at Tig Eats, one I made tonight and am pretty dang pleased with. Check it out: Creamy Pumpkin Penne!

Monday, November 23, 2009

In many ways, today was a pretty crappy day. Really, it began last night, when I went to bed. I had been feeling off all night, but I was busy grading papers so I tried not to notice. As the night progressed, my goal of completing this round of grading before Thanksgiving break slipped away as the grading wasn't going as fast as I had hoped (it never does) and the papers weren't as good as I had hoped (they never are). So around 10:30 I decided to call it quits.

As soon as I lay down in bed, I knew something was not right. My gut was emitting noises like a very unwell beast, and I felt nauseated. Then the dizziness kicked in. I was exhausted, but every time I would get close to sleep, I'd feel like I was falling. I'd jerk awake, heart pounding, stomach swimming, gut churning.

It was a long night. I think I got about two or three hours of sleep before my 10-month-old alarm clock began cooing at 6 a.m. I sat up, and my stomach said, and I quote, "REEEEEEEEEE-uuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhh-*blorp*". "Not happening," I answered.

So I got the baby, but before I did that, I emailed my students to cancel class. Jeff and Charlotte woke up shortly after Sam and I, and the day began. For the three of them, that is. Jeff kindly let me sleep after I weepily told him my sad stomach story.

A few hours later, I was feeling closer to human and my stomach wasn't making any more conversation. So that was good. But then Sam started having one of his crabbiest days on record. Teething? Growth spurt? Ennui? I asked what was wrong, and all he said was "ball!" Not helpful.

Also not helpful was the fact that he boycotted his afternoon nap today. I decided to stay home to try to get a few things done (I had a cake to bake, for one) while Sam took his guaranteed afternoon nap. Well, guaranteed except for today, when I needed the time to get things done. No nap, and my cake was a disaster.

So Jeff and Charlotte got home and Sam and I are both in foul moods, which are contagious. Before long, all four of us were sitting around grumpily grumping and crying intermittently.

Jeff and I watched the clock and as soon as 5 p.m. rolled around, we fed the kids and hurried them into bed. But the theme continued as Charlotte had a full-blown bedtime meltdown the likes of which we haven't seen in weeks. I talked her down as Jeff stirred the onions on the stove.

So, in many ways, not the best day. But in one way, it was.

Happy birthday, Jeff.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Date night!

That's right: Jeff and I actually get to go out on a date tonight. Woo! See you tomorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Foto Fridays are Flippin' Fantastic!

This photo is one of my favorites. It pictures the author as a young child, weeping while dressed as a Dutch peasant. This was taken in May of 1979, when I was 18 months old.

For the sake of comparison, here's a picture of Charlotte at the same age:

Here, she is weeping not because she's been costumed as an impoverished 19th-century European, but because her mother, who up to that moment had been fairly loving, kind, and protective, brought her to a shopping mall and handed her over to a stranger with a puffy white beard and a bizzare coat-and-hat ensemble, a stranger who was so dedicated to his craft that he stayed in character, jovially bellowing HO HO HO in spite of the despondent wails of the tiny blonde person on his lap.

I will pay you $10 to diagram that sentence.

So, what have we learned today? First, weeping when being made a spectacle of runs in the family. I can't wait to humiliate Sam! Second, I can't help but notice a more than passing resemblance between my daughter and I. Hmm. And finally, and most importantly, mothers are not to be trusted, especially when they are wielding a camera.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Normally, on Thursday nights, I'm in class right about now. But I wasn't feeling the greatest today, so I'm skipping. I should be spending this time doing either 1. productive things; or 2. sleeping. So I'm going to first do 1, then move on to 2 shortly.

So here's a picture of Sam that cracked me up:

This is post-bath. When he saw the camera, he sat up, propped his elbow up on his knee (conveniently blocking the camera's view of his junk with his hand...very clever!) and sat all smiley and posed like this for minutes. I guess I take a lot of pictures...he knows what's expected of him!
And also a bit of Sam news: he pulled himself up to standing today! In pursuit of a small toy of Charlotte's on an end table! A toy that is totally a choking hazard! Guess what I'll be doing this weekend!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hey, whaddya know! They didn't turn out so bad after all. In fact, I think they're pretty cute. Of course, Charlotte helped by giving them some of her best smiles. Well done, kiddo.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Today, November 17, is a day dedicated by the March of Dimes to raising awareness of the crisis of premature birth.

Back in the late 1990s, when I was in college, a family I babysat for was expecting their third child. They had two adorable redheaded daughters already, and were excited to round out their family a bit more. Little Ethan was born early--very early. I babysat for his sisters one day when their dad was visiting his wife and son in the children's hospital in Des Moines.

I was pretty naive, and didn't realize how bad things were. I asked the father when he arrived back home how things were. He seemed exhausted, scared, and sad as he told me a few things about his day visiting his tiny son in the NICU. While we talked, he had been folding and unfolding a paper napkin that he had picked up absentmindedly from the table. When the napkin was folded into quarters, he paused for a minute, then held it up to show me. "This is how big his diapers are," he said. It was incomprehensively tiny.

My family was on vacation the next week when we got a call from someone at our church, passing on the prayer request for this family. Little Ethan had died.

This is the closest I've ever come to premature birth. My children were both full-term babies with no health concerns, a fact for which I probably don't give thanks often enough. The concern and anxiety I pour into parenting my relatively normal kids gives me only the tiniest inkling of what it must be like to worry that your baby, the one you've been waiting and hoping for, planning on, might not make it.

But I'm not the person you should listen to on this topic. Please, go read Julie's (as always amazingly well told) story, and consider contributing to March of Dimes.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I am not the perfect mother. And most of the time, that's completely fine by me. I realize that nobody is the perfect mother, really. But I think there is this idea of a perfect mother, a Platonic Ideal Mom, if you will, that many people have lurking somewhere in the cave of their minds. You know: totally selfless and yet completely put together, fun and funny, encouraging and appropriately disciplinary, calm and patient and rational, and totally in control of everything that's going on. Comes with: mini-van/SUV, fancy cell phone, highlights, organic snacks, trendy skinny jeans that totally fit because she doesn't have a smidge of baby weight left.

I fall a little more toward the "average mother barely holding it together" end of the spectrum on most days. Today was a day I drifted below that point, into the "crappy frazzled mom who's pretty lucky her kid is too young to know better" range.

It was photo day at Charlotte's preschool. And I'm so irritated with myself because I knew this was coming up, but I just...forgot to remember. I had my typical Monday morning: teach from 8-10, office hours from 10-11, real office hours from 11-11:30 because that's when students show up despite the fact that I'm not supposed to be in my office then, panicky quick-walk to my car because I'm running behind, get home with just barely enough time to get Charlotte dressed and do something with her hair, nurse Sam, throw my stuff in my bag, toss some food down my craw, kiss Jeff hand off Sam and out the door we go! Whew.

And then when we walked into Charlotte's preschool, I saw that there was a little lighted backdrop area and cameras set up in the gym, and I saw all the other little kids be-ringleted and wearing their Sunday best, and I felt...well, horrible and guilty and suddenly frazzled and unkempt.

The thing is, the pictures will probably be pretty cute anyway. Sure, her hair is a little crazy (we were sporting a favorite look of Charlotte's that we call "bunny ears"--basically two ponytails holding the top part of her hair out of her face) and I might have selected a different outfit (although the sweater she had on is pretty cute), but she seemed relaxed and unfazed by the fact that it was photo day and we hadn't prepped her ahead of time. And she is only three, for crying out loud, so it's not like she noticed or cared that most of the other girls in her class had on floofy dresses.

But when I was driving away after dropping her off, I was so upset I started crying (dangerous behind the wheel, people. If you see a 2001 silver Subaru Forester piloted by a weeping blonde woman, I'd take the next exit). I called Jeff and told him what had happened, what I'd done (*drama*), and he seemed unconcerned, and in fact a little irritated that I was bothering him with such a trivial concern. Of course, this is the man who routinely dresses his daughter in outfits like this one, so grain of salt &etc.

But the thing is, sometimes I want to be...well, not Perfect Mother, but somewhere closer to Relaxed and Pretty Good Mom, as opposed to Last-Minute and Barely Okay Mom, which is how I feel most days. I know I am putting most of this pressure on myself. But there are times when I feel like I'm not doing as good of a job as Charlotte and Sam deserve.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This picture is the best way to tell you why I wanted two kids, and why I think having two kids is awesome.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Okay, I'm a little low on content ideas tonight, so I'm going to do the linky linky thing.

To offset my dog and soldier love stories I linked to on veterans day, here are some cat videos that make me embarassed about how many times I watch them:

Cat meets empty soda cartons.

Same cat, empty box.

I miss my kitties. I like to pretend Hobbes and Murdoch are frolicking (who am I kidding? Lolling lazily, more like) around some happy farm somewhere. Jeff posits a different fate for my poor former smalls.

Anyway, enjoy the cats. Or, you know, see you back here tomorrow for something you're actually interested in.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A few minutes ago, I clicked "purchase" on our tickets to Michigan for Christmas. Moments before, I had selected two adults, one child 2-17, and one infant in lap as the passengers for this itinerary. I shuddered visibly when I selected that last one, because...well, Sam in my lap for a two-hour flight? It's not the cakewalk it was a few months ago.

Sam is really into things. Like, he's both physically into things, as in the fireplace, the cupboards, the bookshelf, any open doorway, the dishwasher, etc. And he's also really into things emotionally, invested in them fully. I kind of think of babies at this age as being a bit like the dog in UP, you know, Dug, the nice one? He's totally devoted to you, really interested in what you're doing, where you are, until SQUIRREL! Except for Sam, it's more like BALL and WHOA A CLOUD and WIND and HOLY COW A FAN! His entire body arches and cranes to be near the newest object of his affection. He loves taking baths so much that he all but flings himself bodily into the bathroom as I walk past the doorway holding him.

And he's a big guy. At the last appointment, he was in the 97th percentile for height, but had slimmed down a bit to the 85th for weight. But he throws all 100 percent of that weight around, army-crawl grunting his way across the floor at a remarkably fast pace, just to arrive at his destination (two blocks stacked one atop the other), which he proceeds to decimate. Our motto these days is SAM SMASH. He really does delight in roughing things up, throwing things, grabbing glasses and hats off our heads and then flinging them underfoot with a cackle.

Tonight, and oh how I wish I had charged the video camera's battery, because this was a moment I need to archive and share simply so others would believe me...anyway, tonight he GRABBED the footstool his sister uses to reach the counters (she wasn't on it at the time), LIFTED IT UP (and bear in mind he is in a prone position), and CHUCKED it across the room. It was like a little WWF match between Sam the Brutalizer and the kitchen rug. After the stool clattered noisily across the kitchen floor, Charlotte backed tentatively out of the room. Sam, meanwhile, was on to bigger and better things, like determining how he could access the oven and maybe TEAR IT APART.

So, perhaps you can understand my trepidation about flying with this 24-pound, 32-inch chunk of pure unharnessed spastic baby energy. And to the passengers in row 25 of NWA 7470: I apologize in advance.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Scatalogical Thursdays!

To understand this post, you should probably know that our bathmat is brown.

Charlotte really labors with her poops. I mean, really. We're talking extended minutes spent on the john, clutching her face and doing this weird moan/whine thing. And when she finally does produce, her face turns red, she does jazz hands, grunts, and SHAZZAM! adult-sized poo. Seriously huge turds for such a little girl. She clogs the toilet regularly.*

So, here's a conversation we just had after her 20-minute ordeal finally came to fruition, as it were:

Charlotte: I did my turtle (our word for poo, in case you're a newcomer)!
Jana: Great job! (Charlotte stands up.) Whoa, that's huge one!
Charlotte: I know, and it was so ouchy!
Jana: I bet! Wow!
Charlotte: Oh! My turtle matches that towel on the ground (bathmat)! They are bathroom twins! Except that my turtle is even browner, because it's even more stinky!

And, scene.

*She's going to hate me when she gets older, isn't she?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Both of my grandfathers were veterans of World War II.

My Grandpa Terlouw, my mom's dad, was a plane mechanic in England. He got sick (pneumonia, I think?) and was hospitalized during his service. I've wondered if this illness (coupled of course with his years of smoking) didn't weaken his lungs and contribute to his eventual death from lung cancer. He died in February 1996, during my senior year of high school. The day of his funeral was unseasonably warm, and I remember thinking grandpa, who loved gardening, would have probably started puttering around outside a little on such a beautiful day, planning that year's veggie patch.

My Grandpa Deur, my dad's dad, served in the Pacific. His job was to set up radio communications on the various islands. For years I didn't know what this meant--in fact, I thought it was kind of a cushy, non-combative job. But apparently this meant that grandpa was one of the first people going into some of these locations. He was entering into the unknown. Grandpa Deur died April 2007, and at his funeral they played a clip of a presentation he did for a grade school class about his service in the war. He revealed details to these fifth graders that he had never openly shared with his own kids, details that revealed how terrifying the experience was for a fresh, untested 20-year-old farm boy from Iowa, and how closely he connected those experiences to his growing faith and love of his family.

When I think of Veteran's Day now, I don't just think about those who served, but those who were left at home. I think of my Grandma Deur, who found her courtship with my grandpa extended from three years to seven because of his deployment, who went out to Penneys for her wedding dress that she would wear in a blizzard just days after grandpa arrived back in Iowa. My Grandpa and Grandma Terlouw hadn't met when he was in the war, but I sometimes think of the conversations they must have had about his service after they were married, and whether she wondered about this part of his past that she had no access to but that must have shaped who he was in some indefinable way.

I think of Jeff's Grandma Beukema, who lost a baby on the day he was born while her husband was serving in Italy. I think of that letter or telegram, and that horrible aching and longing to be together that must have doubled, tripled at the news. I can't imagine.

I also think of my friend Kristin, my masters program buddy, whose husband, Nathan, was in Afghanistan while she was studying for her MA in Ohio. That was the closest I've ever been to someone who had a loved one serving in a war, and I can tell you with complete assurance that it sucked. Now Kristin (who is also in the military...yay, Cap'n Loyd!) and Nathan live in Colorado...together.

And I think of my sister-in-law, Katy, whose brother Rich is in Afghanistan now. His emails home are riddled with military terms and jargon I don't get, but they are also full of insight, intensity, and experiences that I will never understand.

But even if I can't comprehend the experience, the motivation, the reality of service, I can be thankful for those who have served, who have come out the other side unscathed, or with invisible scars that have shaped who they are.

Three links: Kate at Sweetsalty has written a moving account of her grandpa's war experience here.

The always-awesome Julie at alittlepregnant linked to a post from a couple years back.

And this one: Dogs welcoming home soldiers. Get the tissues ready.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Today was a big improvement. Charlotte was much more stable, less whiny and prone to crying fits and stomping "NO" and other awful three-year-old behavior. She was her usual witty, fun, inventive, sensitive little self.

I think it's the 5:45 p.m. bedtime, personally.

And speaking of that bedtime, we're still suffering under the 6 a.m. wake-up call, so I'm going to click "publish" and call it a night.

Coming soon: video of the kids!

Monday, November 09, 2009

I always feel a little down the day after my birthday, anniversary, or a major holiday. I love the anticipation that goes into preparing for the big event, whatever it might be. The celebration itself always contains a little disappointment, too, of course--does the reality ever live up to our big expectations? But the day after is especially depressing. The detritus of the day before (in this case, the dirty dishes from cupcake baking, the remnants of frosting stuck to the countertops) is a visible reminder that this day isn't special.

So today was a downer day anyway, and then it turned out to be one of Charlotte's worst days ever. EVER. Do things improve after 3 1/2? Because if they continue to get worse, I don't know how we'll get through. I have had days in the past few weeks where, after Charlotte goes to bed, I try to think about one thing about her that I liked that day, and I can't come up with anything. There are days, in other words, when she's a first-class brat, a real three year old. And today was one of those. She was so uncooperative, so deliberately stubborn and obstinate and sulky and talking in that horrible whiny baby voice she does now and refusing to cooperate with anything and ARGH. She went to bed at 5:45 p.m. and I really think we could have put her to bed an hour earlier. She was obviously tired and not coping well with her own emotions. It just sucked, frankly.

So, 3 1/2 = not my favorite age.

Sam, on the other hand, is in one of my favorite ages. Plus, he sleeps great, so he's already getting a grander portion of my vast estate in my will. I feel bad liking Sam's baby shenanigans so much when I dislike Charlotte's behavior just as much, like I'm betraying Charlotte, but it goes without saying that of course I love them both equally. Sam's needs are just simpler to understand, his demands fewer. Charlotte is tapping into a part of my brain that is unused. Reasoning with a willful young child is stretching out areas of my cerebellum in a way that is at times just painful. But it can be enlightening, too, and my hope is this stretching will lead to flexibility.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Hello, internet! Would you like a cupcake? It's delicious--I made them myself.

Is it lame that I made my own birthday cupcakes? I hope not.

Yes, today is my birthday. I got flatware from my mom, and I was totally excited about it. Both of those things seem appropriate now that I am 32. Getting really worked up about new flatware is a 32-year-old thing.

I'm using my new flatware to eat a slice of this:

The lighting was so bad that I couldn't make the picture look decent in color. So enjoy my dramatic art-student black-and-white emo cake.

Charlotte really wanted me to use 32 candles on my cake. Because we don't have a fire extinguisher, I declined.

Charlotte was also very enthusiastic about helping me bake my cake, because she knows that baking = beaters to lick. As she was going to town on the first chocolate-batter-covered beater, she suddenly said, "This is better than a corndog!"

And it is.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Post post post...

Just a quick post before I go out to celebrate my birthday (tomorrow)!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Man, I hate to be cliched, but this DST time change is kicking our collective butts over here.

The kids just can't/won't sleep past 6:15 a.m. And somehow, we can't manage to get them in bed early enough to make that a real full night of sleep. I mean, you try putting kids to bed at 5:30 p.m.

And somehow, that extra forty-five minutes of sleep in the morning was apparently what it took to make the difference between Functional Jana and Barely-Hanging-On Jana.

And it's equally difficult to convince myself to go to bed when I should. 10 p.m. sounds like a pretend bedtime.

Plus, that was fifteen minutes ago, and I still have grading to do.

I hate you, DST.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Three weird phobias I have:

1. Claymation
2. Turbines
3. Fog

Your turn! In the comments.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Today, when I was walking from the library to my car after a couple (excruciating) hours of student conferences, I had a...moment. I saw someone out of the corner of my eye, and for a second I thought it was Jeff. But not Jeff right now--no, Jeff from 1997, when we had been dating for a few months, but were still "fresh" enough that I got butterflies every time I saw him walking around campus. It was strange. This guy, from a distance, looked exactly like 1997 Jeff: the auburn hair, the sideburns, the coat, the baggy corduroys, the brown boots. It was eerie. And for just a second, my heart jumped a little bit and my breath came a little faster, and I thought "there's my boyfriend!"

Then I was back in the present, a nearly 32-year-old mother of two headed home after some really wretched conferences with seriously underprepared students. But at least my boyfriend was at home waiting for me.

I think, knowing Jeff, he probably still has those baggy corduroys around somewhere, too.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

My brother, Scott, a.k.a. Uncle Awesome, is in town. Rather than typing an entry here, I'm going back downstairs to hang out with him, no doubt so he can gross me out with more stories about making out with girls. Ewww.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Parenting is sometimes a thankless task, full of endless, repetitive drudgery, diurnal concerns, and little by way of compensation or even positive feedback.

Writing, too, is frequently unrewarding. The amount of time a poet spends carefully crafting the perfect alliteration, the right balance of tones and images, the exact word for that feeling is simply not reciprocated. The world doesn't give back equally to the hard-working poet, particularly the poet who works, as one does, in isolation.

Jeff's two jobs these days are: 1. Stay-at-home parent; and 2. Poet. Stay-at-home poet? I guess that would be accurate, too. Because he's not in a grad program or an active writers' group, he doesn't get the regular feedback and assistance of a group of like-minded peers. He often relies on my (totally unqualified) eye to look over a poem before he sends it out, with hope and faith, to a journal. And my schedule means I rarely am able to offer him the kind of attentive reading he needs and his writing deserves.

The other form of feedback a writer usually receives is in the form of reponses from literary journals and publications to which work has been submitted. Journals get a lot of submissions, and accept a really, really low number of those submissions. So if you're an active writer who is sending stuff out, trying to get published, you're going to get alot of self-addressed stamped thin envelopes back.

This is all to say that today, Jeff got a fat envelope, with an acceptance to a well-regarded literary journal. And I'm so proud of him, and happy for him, and relieved, because a guy that works this hard at such a thankless task and has such talent that is usually only appreciated (and not appreciated enough, really) by me deserves a fat envelope every once in a while.

Congratulations, Jeff. And I suggest you all buy issue 23 of this journal in 2010!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

That's right, I'm doing it!
Uh, this counts as the first one, right?