Thursday, November 25, 2010

Post-pie Administration

I want snacks
I don't want snacks
I want my snacks
no snaaaacks!!!
my snacks...

I want cheese
I don't want cheese
no no NO cheese

I want milk
I want white milk
I want chocolate milk
I don't want chocolate milk

I want pie.

Color me...

They are all there in the green and grey metal lunchbox, jumbled and broken, blunt and peeled. Their existence, dating back decades, makes you wonder why anyone ever has to buy new ones. This lunchbox is here at Gramma and Gran's house, and at home we have two other, similar containers in the same kind of disarray.


The names bring back floods of memories...

lemon yellow
brick red
carnation pink

The dreaded burnt sienna and, for me, blue violet (I always preferred plum and magenta). The names printed on the pale papers, and the waxy smell, even the dull sound as they rub together in the box. These things are evocative of childhood, bringing up both the good memories of how excellently cool the new fluorescent colors were and the envy I felt over those who were lucky enough to have the box of 64 with the built-in sharpener.

We dragged out the lunchbox of crayons and some scratch paper, trying to entice babywhumpus to color. daddywhumpus and I made some lovely pictures. Finn moved crayons from one place to another, bunched them up, scattered them with a flat, flailing hand, and stuffed them down my pants.

Eventually I felt a need to sort. So. Many. Crayons. All over the place. Too much chaos. I could not find colors I needed to finish the barn or the mountain or the bear. Stupidly, I began to sift through them, making piles of greens, reds, purples, oranges, yellows, browns, blues, and greys. I knew it was futile. I worked quickly, as time and toddler would be working against me. I got half way through.

It doesn't matter what it is. Legos. Blocks. Crayons. Dinner. Just give it up. Divorce yourself from any sort of plan. It's not going to happen. You are a parent. Your life, your vision, your dream of the perfect split-level plastic block house with shutters ain't gonna happen. Your child wants the yellow Legos. All of them. He needs to use the crayons to draw on your back and stack on the fireplace ledge. He had one bite of turkey, he's done with Thanksgiving, and so are you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Story for Ann

I wrote this story years ago... it could be twenty by now. Six years ago today, my aunt Ann died unexpectedly, and this is one of my best memories of her. And one of my best memories ever. I wish she were here today. She'd get a kick out of my little family.

My aunt Ann was coming out to visit. She had always been my favorite aunt. Her imagination was vivid, and she really knew how to play, even though she was fifteen years older than I. As if summer wasn’t already enough of a pre-school overload for me, there would now be an overabundance of girl things to do. This was going to be an extra special treat.

Summer for me was a wild romp through the mountains of south-western Montana. Almost every year contained those six weeks of passionate playtime, surrounded by endless cow pastures and college students who thought I was a cute kid. It was also six weeks without T.V., but I never noticed. The reason for this unadulterated and often unsupervised experiment in childhood was that my dad taught at a field station in the Tobacco Root mountains, and the family came along. I really didn’t know what he did exactly. I just knew that he was a teacher, the students called him the Limestone Cowboy, he tromped around outside all day, and sometimes graded papers. Us kids could, in turn, sell rocks we found on the hill behind the lab, and peddle Kool-Aid to the students after a hard day in the field.

The nearest town was listed as having 32 people, but these citizens didn’t actually live in the town proper. They were ranchers who were scattered about the out-laying areas and up into the mountains themselves. The town was called Cardwell, and the post office, general store, and gas station were conveniently close - in the same building. Maxine the postmaster sat on her stool behind the counter, and gave my brother the stamp collector illegal postmarks from the town.

I usually passed my time running around in those endless cow pastures, out behind our trailers, negotiating sage brush and cow pies, or playing with my extensive collection of Barbie dolls. My brother went around making the sort of trouble that boys make, such as pushing little sisters into creeks and general teasing and badgering. Mom spent her time doing crafts and relaxing. She also had the fun job of keeping Jim and I from severely hurting each other. Ann’s visit was a very exciting addition to an already pleasant routine.

I loved Ann. I was five years old, and she seemed to be perfect. She drew pictures that really looked like what they were supposed to be, loved horses and pretty things, and liked to do my hair with colorful yarn ribbons. She would pick flowers with me, and admire my Barbies. She was almost a better kid than I was.

The morning she was supposed to get in, we drove the one and one half hours to Bozeman, and picked her up at the two-terminal airport. One and a half hours is an eternity in the life of an antsy five year old, and I’m sure that my excitement and anticipation contributed to making me one of the most charming little chatterboxes around. I would imagine that I annoyed my parents with all sorts of trivia, perhaps adding in a song or two as I gazed out the window at the scenery speeding by, wondering if we would ever get there.

The plane landed, Ann walked into the airport, and everyone had their chance to say “hi.” The whole ride home consisted of boring grown-up questions such as “How was your flight?,” and “How is college?” By the time another agonizing ninety minute ride was over, and we were back at the camp.

I wanted Ann to dive immediately into playland. But it wasn’t to be. She had to rest Maybe she was an adult after all; they sleep all the time.

The next morning, I woke earlier as usual, as kids often do when they are overly excited about something. It was better than Christmas. Well, almost better than Christmas. I went out into the small living room as quietly as possible, because that was where Ann was sleeping, and made as much noise as possible. I ate the cookies that dad always left for me, dragged the chairs over the cheap linoleum floor, and banged the cabinet doors. Ann, to my horror, woke up. Mom woke up also, and I found out that Dad was actually in camp grading. Wonderful. Everyone would be home to show me a good time. All I had to do was sit back, be cute, and let them do their best to make me happy.

The day was mine. My father arrived and he, Ann, my brother and I planned to trek all the way across the river to Rattlesnake Butte. A hike! Off we went, I in my embroidered Toughskins, striped knit shirt, and blue children’s hiking boots, was ready to go. We left the trailer and headed down the newly-tarred dirt road, over the South Boulder River, and back up the other side to the mountain, a distance of about a quarter of a mile. Rattlesnake Butte was really not a mountain, it was only a small foothill of a foothill in the Tobacco Roots, covered with brush and outcrops of jagged rock. It was tiny.

It was surrounded by the beginnings of the actual mountain range, which made it look even smaller. The only thing which made it remarkable and lent it its exotic movie-western name was that one of the teacher’s dogs was bitten by a rattlesnake on top of it.

But I was five. Almost everything was bigger than me. A whole hill was huge. And the distance traveled was practically an odyssey, complete with obstacles meant to trip up the unsuspecting wanderer. A system of metal bars two inches wide and four inches apart familiar to anyone in the west blocked our passage to the promised land of adventure: a cattle guard. My father’s Super 8 movie camera caught, in visual proof, my brother actually being nice to me. We were attempting to cross this cattle guard when I hesitated. A better name for these contraptions would be “childrenguards.” Jim went ahead and showed me how easy it was, and returned to take my hand to guide me over the treacherous thing. Once I was safely on the other side, he went across and back just one more time to prove to me that he needed no help. Rattlesnake Butte now loomed over us. We went through the gate into the empty cow pasture over to the slope and began our hike.

It was all easy at first. We went slowly, Ann and I picking flowers as we went, Dad following with the camera, and Jim, once again, running ahead to show us how easy it all was. Then Dad dropped a bombshell. He had to go back to the camp to grade more papers. I suddenly had the choice to stay and go on with Ann and Jim, or to go back with my Dad. It might seem like this would have been an easy choice to make, but I loved my daddy, and if he was leaving, I felt I should, too. After standing on the hill with my dad below me and Ann above me, looking back and forth at both of them, and jumping up and down while shaking my hands, I decided to stay and continue the trip.

We reached the top of Rattlesnake Butte and began to explore. I had been up there many times before, but Ann made it seem like a completely different place. The small pine trees, large rocks, and sagebrush became a hideout for the good guys.

We were being chased by a group of nasty robbers. They were after us because we knew too much. We had witnessed their last heist, and were determined to turn them in. We perched ourselves behind some rocks near the edge of the hill, and looked down upon the dirt road. We were worried-it seemed like we couldn’t be missed, and these guys were ruthless. They would show no mercy, so what if we were kids.

A lone car appeared. It came around the corner on our left, around the hill, a cloud of dust following it. They were driving fast. Was it the robbers? I felt my heart speed up, and a lump grew in my throat. The car passed without incident. Ann held her breath through it all, trying to be brave. I couldn’t handle it. I could never handle fear. I had to go to the bathroom. I retired to the bushes for a short amount of time while Jim and Ann held down the fort. As I returned, another car approached. I was advised to duck, which I did. The car went by. Ann was sure it was the bad guys, she remembered the car. It passed out of sight up the valley.

“Listen,” she said, “They didn’t see us.” She was whispering, even though the only thing there was to hear in this wilderness was a bird, maybe a cow. Her ponytails were almost quivering with fear, “It will be a while before they realize that we aren’t up there. The road ends five miles up. If we make a run for it now, we should be able to make it home before they come back.” Admiration almost poured out of my eyes. She was fearless. She was pretty. She was smart. She didn’t condescend. Ann knew everything. We took one last peek at the road, looked at each other for reassurance - Jim informing us that there was really nothing to worry about, , and made a break for it. We tore down the side of the hill, through a herd of wandering cattle who didn’t even realize what peril we were in, and took off down the road.

We didn’t stop until we reaches our trailer.

“I think we made it,” Ann said, “Let’s eat lunch.”

We went inside. The robbers never found us. Ann was so smart, and she had her priorities straight. Food before fear.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Flu Facts from the CDC

The whumpuses have all had their flu shots. Finn and I had them at the same time, which I hoped he would find fascinating and would lessen the pain for him. It did. He had his then watched me have mine. We were in shot solidarity, and it gave him a story to tell. Pete had his at work, where we have free flu clinics.

Go here for some facts about the seasonal flu and children, like:
  • Each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of influenza complications.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm Reading A Book!

It's about raising a well-behaved toddler! Yes, once again, I have succumbed to the lure of a quick fix by checking a parenting book out of the library. Previously, they were about sleep, and it ended in a blind rage about the "Sleep Lady" and a vow to never again read a child sleep book, no matter who recommends it. So far, this vow has stuck, even when babywhumpus has a few bad nights in a row (he's in one right now).

Recently, babywhumpus' whiny, petulant moods led me to seek solace in written advice, as I feared that my brain would eventually explode from all the "No I Don't Want To-s" and general high-pitched, incomprehensible wheedling, whinging demands coming from the mouth of my small human.

I should know better. It won't matter. They will offer plans, which we have neither the time nor the fortitude to implement. What I really want, truth be told, is a quick fix, akin to a spell or charm that will end the whining and turn the boy into an engaging, reasonable individual. In reality, there is a spell, but it's not quick. It's time. With patience on top. And even then, as the recent mid-term elections have proven, there's no guarantee that I will get a reasonable individual out of the bargain.

The current book is by a celebrity pediatrician, the same one who wrote "The Happiest Baby on the Block," which I read regarding sleep issues. I was probably so sleep deprived at that point, that much of it flew past me. Like the exclamation points! And the cutesy language! And the mistakes in terminology! Or the assumption that your child is not in day care because you are a wealthy parent in southern California! Or the further assumption that only women are reading this book!

I'm not sure why I am doing this to myself!

Homo Habilus was not Neanderthal!

I am not a stay at home mom!

Dads should start reading these damn books too!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Green With It

Do you ever feel like someone else's life is just better than yours?

It's unfortunate that the subject of my envy lives with me. It would be easy if I could say it was my cats or even my son, but it's not, and that leaves just one person.

Before the baby, I'd say we were about equal. I had friends, he had friends, we had friends. I went out, he played gigs, I usually came along, sometimes with the friends that I had. I could read, write, knit, sew, or draw at my leisure. I still did more of the housework and almost all of the cooking, but there was more time. Oodles of luxurious, lavendar-scented, foamy bubbles of time. We were busy. I, especially, am a busy person--can't sit still to save my life.*

Now, daddywhumpus still rehearses and plays gigs, but it costs $100 to pay a babysitter to join him, plus it sucks extra hard if neither of us gets any sleep. I have one girls' night a week when a friend comes over for a couple of hours and we watch America's Next Top Model, but I still have to help with the baby.

I'm still doing most of the housework and almost all of the cooking.

daddywhumpus tells me to make time, to just do it. But if I do, the housework is still there. daddywhumpus says we should get a studio; I say we can't afford it, and the last thing I need is money worries. It seems like there isn't time for both of us to have a life outside of work and family and get everything done. And when are we a couple? When are we a family?

It's not new and we whumpuses are not unique. I have other friends who are band widows, and we have the same problems. I knew about the music, it's not like he surprised me with it. I don't resent the music. I resent the loss of me, and I don't know how to get it back, how to make time for it. If I am not the one doing the housework, I feel like I am slacking. If I am the one doing the housework, I feel like I am doing all the housework, and I get frustrated. When I am home with the boy, I also do chores. If I am out doing something with friends or for myself, and there are chores left behind, I feel like I am slacking, and I can't relax.

daddywhumpus says that I should just make plans; the chores will still be there.

Yeah, that's the problem.**

*Clearly, if my life truly counted on sitting still, I could make a shift to do so.

**Last weekend was work and chore-filled, and so was the weekend before that. Can't tell by my sunny disposition and positive attitude, can you?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Before and After

Both for the weather and the house.

It was almost 70 degrees earlier in the week, but today, there is much snow.

This is the whumpus residence.

In between those two pictures, we had the garage door replaced and a beautiful patio put in, a fresh coat of paint, a motion detector light, and new storm windows. Inside, we have a new toilet, new plumbing, and a portable dishwasher. Plus a new attitude. Right?

It's like we are almost grown-ups.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Time to Ponder

When you are sitting in a windowless room, in a thin cotton robe that is open at the front, you have time to think. As I waited for the gynecologist, I thought about how I should have done my toes. Pedicures are pretty low on the priority list, behind eating, cleaning, working, and breathing. Should I have carved out time to make my toes look nice for my new doctor? She's not really going to be focusing on my feet. The area of concern is more northerly, and that area looks as nice as it ever does.

For the past two-and-a-half years, I have been to the doctor numerous times, with Finn. For the five-and-a-half months before that, I was at the doctor a lot, for pregnancy. I have not been in for a non-pregnancy visit for over four years. When my old (though young, cute, with excellent taste in shoes) doctor left for a position at the University, I was bereft and did not take the time to find a new one. Finally, I read the bios on my HMO's website, and chose another young, cute doctor. I didn't try to, it's just what happened.

I found myself saying, "Since I became pregnant/since I had the baby" a lot. Since I had the baby, I have had lower back pain. Since I became pregnant, I have had facial redness that resembles rosacea. Since I had the baby, I have not slept well. Since I became pregnant, I am much dumber. Since I had the baby, I have a sex drive of negative 1.

My blood pressure is good. Everything looks good. I weigh 12 pounds more than I wish I did, but it may well be something that I have to accept. In a month, I'll go back for blood work that will check my cholesterol, glucose, and thyroid as well as get an IUD. I also have to schedule my very first mammogram, now that I am over 40.

I'm such a grown-up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Family Portraits

Yeah, that picture yesterday? I mainly posted that as a little balm to my bitchy Friday post. Really, things are pretty OK, but sometimes it's better to spew a little venom into the ether instead of at your husband, son, or animals. Even when they barf on your rug. (Cat, not husband)

I had a photographer come to the house on Monday evening because we have no family portraits since this one, really:

And it's a little out of date.

Plus, I am rarely in photos of Finn because I am taking the photos of Finn. From the looks of our album, I never spend time with him. Which is totally true, but no one needs to KNOW that.

I found our photographer through a newsletter from a women's shelter.  She had come by to offer her services for free, so the families there could have some portraits done. How excellent is that? I checked out her website and wrote to her. For a very reasonable fee, she came to our house with her equipment and followed us around. It was simple and fun. Pete still had time to get to rehearsal, and Finn got to show off for a new person as well as flex his "Smile for the camera" muscles. He's a ham.

She put up a few photos on her blog, so I'll send you there to look at them if you want to. Her name is Crystal Leipa, and she's going into this business full-time starting soon, which is brave and exciting.

(We hope to have Mattress come by sometime and do some different family photos... we just have to decide a theme... Plus, I hear his fee is astronomical.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's always nice to be behind at work, behind at home, have people pissed at you, find the cat in the closet (having ruined a brand-new towel and possibly numerous other items INCLUDING YARN), be by yourself with your candy-demanding child, unable to find the pumpkin that is full of the candy being demanded, and have to clean up cat barf once the closet cat is done re-eating the other cat's barf.

It must be great to be in a band.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Give Me the Chickenpox, or Give me Death

Until it was time to vaccinate my baby before he left the NICU, and I had my subsequent fear-based freak out about vaccine danger, I had no idea that there was such a thing as a chicken pox vaccine. And when I heard, I thought, well, "Meh, why do we need that? Chicken pox is not so bad. He doesn't need that one."

It was part and parcel to my weird reluctance to vaccinate. The fear had gotten to me in my highly emotional state. babywhumpus was extremely premature and in the NICU. Even though we knew relatively early that he would survive, it was still a state of heightened existence. I tried above all to hold it together and not be too emotional. Consequently, I think I may have put all my fear regarding his very real condition into other areas: vaccines, bottle-feeding, toxins in the products they used at the hospital. Though I still have my issues with the bottle feeding and the products, I was hysterical at the time. Not hair-tearing and raving, but overly panicked and fearful about these small things, having denied the emotional reaction to the very large one. And in a situation where you feel you have very little control, you cling to what you can control.

I look back, and it's embarrassing. Let the damn nurses give your baby a bottle when you are away and get him home earlier (I did, eventually). There are more important things right now than the possibility that he might not adjust to the breast. Calm down about the diaper cream and the petroleum jelly. The dose makes the poison, and, again, there are more important things on which to focus.

And then the vaccines. I had this still very tiny baby, who had survived so much, so early, and I wanted him to stay exactly how he was. Those stories about babies regressing or becoming damaged after vaccination had wheedled their way into my subconscious. After all we had done, I was not going to lose a part of him.

Never mind the other side of that coin: pertussis, hepatitis, and other vaccine-preventable diseases that could take all or most of him away.

People can say a disease is not that bad, or that "only a few people die of it every year, anyway," but if it's preventable, then isn't that statement just a little unethical? What if you or your child is one of the few? It's all OK when it's happening to someone else, I guess.

I didn't think about those things back them.

By the time babywhumpus came due for his chickenpox vaccination, he was all caught up and got his shot. Because even though "only" 50-100 people die every year from varicella, I'd rather it be none.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Side by Side

One year in between, walking and talking, truly a little demon.

Hallowe'en pictures

Submitted for your approval...

This was Finn's first Hallowe'en trick-or-treat experience, and the candy monster has been created. This is last year's costume because I did not have time to make a new one, but the adorable-ness translated well.

The candy rationing and bursts of tears begin...

Vaccine Awareness Week (The Evidence-based Version)

This week has been declared an unofficial Vaccine Awareness Week by anti-vaccination advocates, so a bunch of evidence-based bloggers are writing about vaccines. I guess it's taking them at their word, and working to make the public more aware of the facts about vaccination. Many of these individuals were very helpful to me, getting me out of my fog of irrational fear and putting me back on track.

"It's also important to realize that most parents who buy into anti-vaccine views do so out of ignorance, because they have been misled, rather than due to stupidity." - Orac, Respectful Insolence

"Vaccines stimulate and increase the function of the immune system – that’s how they work. They provoke an immune response. Stimulating the immune system is healthy for the system, which needs exposure to antigens to remain active." - Steven Novella, Neurologica Blog

Vaccine Central, vaccine information by parents, for parents.

A post from last year, by Mark Crislip, on the flu vaccine.