Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another Tuesday

I weighed myself two weeks ago with the idea that I would weigh myself every week, but then forgot last Tuesday. So, now it's every two weeks. And that's final.

I'm not one of those people (women) who know their weight up to the half-pound. You know, we all know, some girl who tells you she's 107 1/2 pounds, and you think, we all think, Wow, that's kind of specific, maybe there's an issue there. I assume a lot of people (women) weigh themselves every day whether they're on a diet or not. I don't. Part of the reason is probably because I've never had a serious problem with my weight and I could usually measure the progress I was making in my exercise/eating less efforts by seeing whether my clothes (pants) were tighter or looser. I know lots of people have much more significant issues and I do (usually) keep mine in perspective. I really don't want to be one of those obnoxious people who whines about the same ten pounds for years and years. But, this is my blog, and right now the ten pounds are bothering me. If I'm still whining about it in five years, um, think of an appropriate punishment.

I don't even own a scale, so I weighed at the Y. Same scale today and the first time, same time of day. I lost 1.5 pounds. I don't know if that's even statistically significant or if my weight bounces around 1 or 2 pounds on a regular basis (see above paragraph), but at least it's going in the right direction, right? I also am aware that because I began weight training for the first consistent time in my life this summer, I may have some "muscle" weight. That's totally cool, however, I'm still not fitting into some of my pants, and I'm pretty sure that's not muscle on my hips. The number is not that important, but it does indicate something. And the direction is good.

I exercised every day last week except Sunday. Saturday we took the kids to the park and I went on a rather hot and humid nature walk with E. We had brought her bike, but she decided she only wanted to ride it for five minutes once she remembered the nature trail. This is the same trail we walked at her birthday party, when it was even hotter and more humid. The walk combination was probably only about 20 minutes but I was walking around the playground afterward, following little P. (rather than sitting on a bench smoking or something), so I was upright and moving my feet, albeit slowly some of the time, for at least forty. Monday I remembered I had made an appointment to get an oil change while I was driving to the Y. I could have turned around (since I'd forgotten my cell phone--hey, at least I finally got one!) and gotten hubby to follow me in the van, blah, blah, blah, but I decided to just drive to the auto shop and walk to my sister's house. It reminded me of when we (my sister and I) lived in Cville and walked back to our crappy basement apartment on Cherry from the auto shop on whatever that street is (and back again to pick it up) because we only had one car. Sometimes we even walked all the way downtown. Anyway, that was 40 minutes or so and I helped reduce gasoline emissions and all that.

I plan to keep it up, exercising every day. It feels good and it can't help but help, right?

Ha ha. I was trying to take a quiz to find out my real age. Really a time waster because I'm sure there's something more productive I could be doing besides entering personal health/marketing information into an online quiz, hoping for the false rush of finding out I'm really only 33. (When I go back and finish it later, I'll let you know what it really is. Unless it's over my actual age, of course. In that case, I never finished it.) Yeah, so I had to quit because I either accidentally clicked that I had a heart problem or the program had a glitch in it. First it asked me about my last artery reading and then asked me how long I'd had each of the following problems: one of them was heart disease. Well, that would screw up my results, wouldn't it?

And I cleaned the bathroom (okay, half of it [okay, just the toilet]). Maybe I'll do the rest later, after I waste some more time on unimportant things. Like buying vegetables for my post-partum sister--yikes, I won't make it to school for pick-up and tutoring if I don't leave now. Bye.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Hours Fly By

when you're attending the birth of your niece. Actually it was less than three hours from the time we got to the birth center, which isn't very many hours at all in the perspective of those of us who have labored. Considering that my sister had 27 hours the first time around, with at least 3 hours attempting to push, that's really really short.

It was actually a very cool experience. She leaned over a birthing ball during contractions for the first hour, talking normally to her husband and I in between contractions. Then moved to the tub, where she continued to talk normally in between contractions. The midwife and her assistants weren't even in the room except twice to check the heartbeat. It was so cool that I was almost thinking I wanted to do this again.

Almost. Until she got the urge to push. Then I remembered how much I hated that whole pushing part and the rest of the reasons flashed before my eyes: physical recovery, no sleep, hormonal craziness, no sleep, breastfeeding what seems like every 30 minutes, no sleep, spit up and more spit up. So, it was only 10-15 minutes of pushing, which, again, in the perspective of those of us who have labored, is not much time at all. But Holy Mother of God (I can say that because my sister, the Catholic, isn't reading this blog), that was a hell of a fifteen minutes. I think the words "Get it out!" were used a few times, and I remember the feeling and am very content with the idea that memories of the feeling are as close as I will get to the actual feeling ever again.

Then she was out and it was blissful again. My sister sat in the tub holding the towel-wrapped baby, umbilical cord still attached, for 20 minutes or so while pictures were taken and we all ooh-ed and ah-ed. I haven't posted a picture of the sweet new girl (or her name) on the family blog yet because I keep forgetting to ask for permission. (Plus my brother-in-law seemed to be warning me about stalkers a few days ago: "Are you sure you want to put the kids' names on the blog? People could figure out who you are. Aren't you worried?" Um, no. But maybe you don't want your kids' pictures/names up there? I'd never asked him, only my sister!) But, she's here, just one day past her due date, and she's cute, and all the kids (mine and hers) are very excited.

Three things:
1) I used "very" a lot in the above paragraphs. I remember being told that "very" is an unnecessary modifier if one is a skillful writer. Tonight, I'm not. Sorry. Tired.

2) Being content with not having to push a baby out of my body again is a weirdly ambivalent contentment. Knowing that I will (most likely) never give birth again brings up age and yes, death issues (for my fellow counseling program/philosophy major readers: it's an existential crisis). It's not a rational thing; I know that all women's childbearing time must come to an end, but saying that mine has feels weird. Even though it's just me saying that I don't want any more pregnancy/childbirth/children, not a physical reality. I listened to a woman talking about dealing with her hysterectomy at age 49: she also talked about these feelings and being unprepared for how the finality hit her. There's no finality (as far as I know) with mine. It's just a choice, and I'm glad I have it and I'm glad I've made it. But I probably will never feel completely without, I don't know, regret? curiosity? Maybe I think continuing to birth will keep me young, stave off death, continue to increase my chances (biologically-driven desire) to perpetuate my gene pool. It's all complicated by emotions as well. I've told many people that "I'm done" because that seems to be the way to handle it here, these days: with no equivocation. Either you're a baby-making, if-God's-willing, "culture-of-life" woman in which case the answer is some version of "We'll see." Or you schedule your conceptions, make sure you have one room/child, and count the days until they're eighteen, in which case you say, "Oh, no more. Only (1, 2, or, less likely, 3) for me. This is definitely it."

Of course it's not that simple. Some people want to have babies and can't. Or have to do complicated things so they can. Some people plan it all out and then change their minds. Sometimes surprises happen and we change our minds about that number after all. I know a lot of people in that first group, so that's perhaps part of my own problem with this (artificial) finality. Many of these people are warm, nurturing, happy, generous people. Some of these people also use terms like the "culture of death" to refer to modern society, extending this term to abortion, birth control, or just the general selfishness and individualism all around. I think there's an in between, I do. I'm not an all-or-nothing thinker, but even saying that puts me on the wrong side in the minds of the all-or-nothing camp. This is way too long a discussion for right now.

3) My sister was very lucky to be able to have the kind of birth she wanted the third time around. She did all the right things to prepare, but even with all that, it could have been impossible. Some people have very strong objections to non-hospital/doctor-attended births. Some of those people have lost babies and would consider this kind of a birth a risk they wouldn't want to take. I'm not sure I would either, in those circumstances. All that said, the contrast between this birth and my hospital births was pretty striking. She basically just did it on her own. The midwife was right there, prepared to catch the baby, only for that last 15 minutes. I think she helped move the baby's arm a little right at the end. If it had been 150 years ago on prairie, I might have been my sister's midwife, performing those necessary but minor assists. Again, many babies and mothers died on the prairie (and still do, in underdeveloped countries) without the option of emergency c-sections, vacuum suction, and sophisticated post-natal care. My sister required no stitches--really great for her, although I'm a teeny bit jealous--and went home after 4 hours at the birth center. She slept in her own bed. She will be visited by the midwife at home on Monday. (I wonder if she'll ask her about birth control! Ha! Another post entirely.)

Even with my Bradley natural childbirth training classes (and lack of complications) which allowed me to labor without drugs, my births were still medical births. Strapped to monitors, IV (for fluids which made me need to pee what seemed like every 5 minutes, and antibiotics for strep-B which my sister took with a one-time injection into a port which was then taped off). With my induction (birth 1), I couldn't even shuffle to the room bathroom, but had to use the potty chair by the bed. Nurses in and out looking at papers, asking me to rate my pain from 1 to 10. The damn blood pressure cuff. I do not deny the necessity of the safety net provided by the hospitals and machines, but this birth was something completely different. So quiet. So normal. So simple.

That's all I have for now.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Great Books

A meme from my friend at Westwood. Originally from this site. If anyone knows an easy way to do copy this list into comments and bold/italicize/underline without repetitively doing the less-than-u-greater-than crap, let me know. It's after midnight and I'm a huge fucking idiot.

Bold those you’ve read.
Italicize books you have started but couldn’t finish.
Add an asterisk* to those you have read more than once.
Underline those on your To Be Read list.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: A Novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre*
A Tale of Two Cities*
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway

Great Expectations*
American Gods*

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West*
The Canterbury Tales*
The Historian
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum

The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
(we're talking Dante, right? required, Christian college)
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray

Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist*
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables

The Corrections (heard him on NPR, meant to check it out)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (read review, meant to check it out)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
(ditto, see above)
The Prince

The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes
The God of Small Things

A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey (okay, did I see it on Masterpiece or read it? I’m going 50/50 on these Austen novels, to be fair)
The Catcher in the Rye*
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down*
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit*
In Cold Blood
White Teeth (read a review ages ago, forgot about it!)
Treasure Island
David Copperfield*
The Three Musketeers

Thanks to A.P. classes and my English major for many of these. Also, reminded me of how much I like all Margaret Atwood, loved Watership Down, and want to read Wicked again right now. Plus, I didn’t actually have a list except in my head, but now I do! Thanks, J.! I should study for my exam first, but . . .

Also, Exercise: 40 minute nature walk (carrying 27 pound 2-year-old about half the time; 25 minute treadmill during dance class at the Y (interrupted by beeper buzzing to tell me 2-year-old had accident in babysitting room; where would the beeper/pager business be without in-house daycare?)
Cleaning: nada and proud of it
Studying: yech, not much
Employment: verified interview for Monday, that took 2 minutes at most

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Boring Boring Boring

It is keeping me sort of accountable, but I'm boring myself. I will write about something else soon. Soon.

Exercise: 40 minute walk outside (skipped yoga to take a nap)
Cleaning: nothing that counts
Studying: Read more of study guide, probably an hour
Employment: nothing except checking email


Exercise: 30 minute treadmill, 30 minute weights (1 1/2 rotations)
Cleaning: nothing that counts
Studying: Plugging away on study guide and taking online practice quizzes
Employment: scheduled a sort-of-interview for Monday--she may think it's more of an internship inquiry, but at least I'm in the door giving them my resume.

Here's the thing that ticks me off about cleaning, in addition to the fact that I hate it. I do a lot of things on a daily basis that I can't suddenly stop doing, but I also don't feel it's fair to count them. You know, things like laundry, scooping the cat box, making breakfast, packing lunches, making dinner, putting away dishes, scooping the cat box, wiping the table, folding laundry. It's the big things that I want to get more disciplined about doing. Big things that, to some people, are likely daily, weekly things that THEY can't count. Things like vacuuming and dusting and cleaning the bathroom.

I have a whole rant about how, as women, we can say we hate to clean, but we still have to do it (or at least arrange for someone else to do it). Whereas for men, it's weird when they do clean or, even more weird, when they say they like to clean. I have run into several women lately who actually say they like to clean. I haven't drilled them on the intricacies of what part gives them satisfaction (that woman in the grocery store might have found me a little intense, especially since she wasn't even talking to me). I mean, I like the feeling of having had cleaned. That is, the pleasure of having a relatively sparkling bathroom. I just don't like it enough to compensate for the utter and complete loathing I feel toward scrubbing the tub.

Here's the rant part. I think we put a lot of burdens on ourselves unnecessarily when it comes to cleaning. Or maybe it's just me. I'm self-conscious about my usually-neat-but-decidedly dusty/somewhat grimy house. So much so that I rarely have anyone over besides my family. Even though I've been to houses which are just as dirty as mine. And I really don't mind other people's dirty houses. I breathe a small sigh of relief that I am not as horribly incompetent as I always, somehow, come back to believing that I am. (I only exaggerate slightly.) But I do really really notice when someone's house is immaculate and wonder how much time she spends cleaning each day or week.

Do you think thoughts like these EVER cross the minds of men? And, for once, I am not asserting the superiority of women here. I think we need to be more like men. Who the fuck cares about the dust on the baseboards? Who even acknowledges the existence of baseboards? Let's use our college degrees and our creative impulses toward higher things. But not toward the dust on the fan blades. That's too literal. I mean, things like reading novels and writing blog posts.

Still, I acknowledge that these tasks have to be tackled by someone at some point. Like when my mother-in-law is coming for a visit. I kind of like doing them in big chunks. Like, really thoroughly cleaning a whole room or two every three months or so. And if that seems icky to you, well, I'm probably not inviting you over anyway.

So, I want to be more industrious, but not more neurotic. The state of my house/dust is irrelevant to who I am as a person. Of course it is, but I wonder how many of us otherwise intelligent women really feel that way. That some part of our worth, no matter how many other things we do, is tied to how clean and presentable our houses are. That this is still our responsibility or our burden because we're women. (Ugh) Wives.

Note: my husband is VERY helpful. He almost exclusively does the dishes, both loading and unloading. He does about 50% of the laundry, both the loading and the folding. He sweeps. He swiffers. He has never proudly announced that he changes poopy diapers; he just does it. But, he doesn't really think about any of the other things. Those big things that I don't do regularly, but feel bad about not doing. He doesn't notice the dusty baseboards or the tub mildew or the dirty linoleum. Should he? I say, No! If I ask him to do something, he will do it, so it's all good.

I will still post my large cleaning tasks, just because I like seeing them there. Like crossing something off a list. But I will (try to) stop tying them to my self-worth.

Time to make pizza. Yum.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I didn't really take a nap

I filled out one job application to mail, sent one through the internet, and emailed another job contact. Nearly two hours!

So here's today:

Exercise: 20 minute elliptical (cardio); 30 minute weights (2 rotations)
Cleaning: Does dumping out and cleaning cat litter box count?
Studying: Finished first chapter in study guide, started 2nd
Employment: 2 applications, 1 email contact.

I have a blog post(unrelated to my mundane goals) started in my head. It's about sexism. Sort of. More later.


First off, if you're a reading sort of person, read The Sorrows of an American, on the top of my recently read book list. Also very good is Ann Patchett--The Magician's Assistant is the one I just read and I've also read/loved Bel Canto--I am going to read the rest of her books ASAP. ASA I have taken my exam, it should be. Might be sooner, though.

Exercise: 1 hour on treadmill
Cleaning: finished girls' room incl. vacuuming, dusting, baseboards, throwing out more stuff.
Studying: Umm
Employment: Meh

Exercise: Vacuuming, moving furniture, dusting and moving objects to dust
Cleaning: see above--the two are related today: both BR and LR now clean enough
Studying: Took practice test online
Employment: Hey, it's the weekend!

Exercise: blah
Cleaning: blah
Studying: another practice test, read half of first chapter in study guide
Employment: Still the weekend, people!

Seriously, I should be filling out applications on the weekend, but apparently I can only be industrious in one or two quadrants at a time. I'm going to do more today! Not more cleaning, probably, but more job stuff. Right after I take a nap . . .

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Guest Post Extraordinaire

OK, since it looks like Karen’s throwing me under the bus with her latest post, I don’t think I have any other option than to tell the whole story of Shitstorm 2008.  I think Hurricane Shit is better, but given the Gulf tragedies, I don’t think it’s quite fair to compare what I dealt with yesterday to the agencies cleaning up in Texas.  That said, after reading this, you may disagree.

First off, there are no pictures, so imagination will be necessary.  Whether or not there should have been pictures is an interesting discussion.  I tend to think that pictures enhance the storytelling, but here, they may have been a bit over the top.

Perspective is always good, so let me lay out what the typical afternoon naptime routine is.  On Wednesdays, P. (the two-year-old) usually goes to a Mom’s Morning Out at our church until 1 PM.  I try to get in at least two hours of work while she’s there as well as catch up on sleep.  I pick her up, bring her home, and immediately start moving toward naptime.  Any delay pushes start time past 2 PM which is kind of her naptime event horizon.  Plus, if I get her down quickly, it has the added bonus of me getting in an extra hour of work in the afternoon before E. (the five-year-old) gets home at 3:30.

That was the plan yesterday.  I had her home and after cleaning out her lunch bag and such, we were in her room reading books by 1:15.  She wears underwear to MMO because (KEY POINT) she is 85% potty trained.  So, every day before her nap, we change into “bedtime clothes”, which involves a total wardrobe overhaul and (KEY POINT) change into a diaper in case she has an accident.  She also (KEY POINT) goes to the bathroom to clean the system out before we put on the diaper.  So, she is clothed, diapered, and ready to take a nap.  Time is 1:30.

At this point, I usually head back to the kitchen or TV room (where my computer is) on the other side of the house and eat lunch while I wait for P. to fall asleep.  This is like a 15-20 minute exercise and she usually falls asleep during this time.  Occasionally, she’ll still be fussing or asking for something, so I’ll go in and tell her to lay down, time for a nap, etc., and reset the process.  Wednesday, there was no noise coming from the room, so I do what I always do and check on her visually to make sure she’s out.  On this occasion, she was clearly still awake; however, she was lying down, sucking her thumb, and quiet.  Obviously, I’m not going in there and interrupting this and I assume, like 95+% of the other times she does this, she’s within minutes of being out.  So, I start prepping to work by going to the bathroom, getting water, etc.

Side note: I think all regular blog readers here know what I do for a living.  It’s a perfectly legitimate career that has supported us for two years, but I can think of many people that Karen knows who would disapprove.  That’s not the point of this blog, though, and it only pertains to the story in that when I work, I need to have an hour of uninterrupted concentration.  This is why I do the bulk of my work after the kids go to bed and usually stay up fairly late to get in hours.  If I start and am forced to quit for whatever reason before I’m done with the hour, we’re talking several hundred, occasionally thousand dollars.  I will not start unless I’m positive I will have an uninterrupted hour.  Period.

So, over the ensuing few minutes, I am moving around the house, including the kitchen, which is very close to P.’s room and hear nothing.  I don’t believe I checked on her again (possibly first mistake), but since there was strong evidence suggesting she was asleep and nothing contradicting this, I think it’s fair to say I was going to be in the clear.  When she naps and the house is quiet, it’s usually two hours minimum and sometimes as much as three.

Side Note 2:  It’s been beaten to death in the other blog, but we got a kitten in the last couple of weeks.  Prior to getting the kitten, whenever P. took a nap and I was home alone with her, I would open up all doors between myself and her so that I could hear if something was up.  As Karen can attest, I can and have heard her waking up from a nap with the TV on, so we never used the monitors with P.  The kitten likes to cause problems though, so we have to close doors to keep him from waking up P. and I have to close the door to the TV room so I won’t be attacked while working.  My right leg can attest to what that cat will do to get up on the desk.

So, at 2 PM, I sit down at the computer and start working, not to emerge until 3 PM.  Little did I know what I would come out to in an hour.  Nothing at all notable during the hour except a phone call from Karen at about 2:45, letting me know that she was heading from an afternoon out with a friend to pick up E. at school.  At about 3, I came out and opened the door to the main part of the house and the stench was bad and P. was clearly awake and crying.

My immediate thought is “where did that cat do it this time?”, a fun game we get to play about once a day with the new kitten.  I searched the main room, kitchen, and headed for the laundry room, where the cat’s litter box is as the smell intensified.  I saw many fresh droppings and covered them up because he doesn’t do a good job of that yet.  Thinking things were good, I went to the bathroom, got some more water and such before going to get P..  Normally, when she wakes up, she fusses for someone to come get her, but she’s fine.  Two year olds fuss, especially when they’re tired and just woke up.  Say whatever you want but every parent knows that they don’t always immediately rush to their crying two year olds unless there’s reason to be concerned.

All that said, what I saw when I went in to that room is nothing short of horrifying.  I’m not even sure it hit me immediately what was going on.  I certainly had to think for several seconds as to what I had to do next.  P. had no pants on and her hands and feet were covered in poop.  Every square inch of the sheet on her crib was covered in poop.  Every square inch of the railing was covered in poop.  It.  Smelled.  Awful.

Now, given this, I’m pretty pleased with how I handled it.  I’m thinking a lot of parents would freeze.  My first instinct was basically that I was going to have to contain the situation quickly and save what was salvageable.  First, deal with the child.  P. had poop on her and was very angry.  I got the shirt off, picked her up and carried her across the house to the bathtub, put her in and turned on the water, trying to get as much of the poop off her as I could.  Unfortunately, it was dried on pretty well (I suspect this had happened 30 or so minutes ago, maybe more :flogging self: ). Once I got the easiest of it off, I left her there, telling her to keep scrubbing and went back to ground zero to see what I had to do next.

Reflecting back on the scene of the crime, one thing sticks out.  There did not appear to be any solid remains.  Anywhere.  There was a definite epicenter, resembling the center of an explosion, but outside of that, all of the poop appeared to have been distributed equally on the entire crib.  I removed the sheet and the mattress pad and threw them in the washing machine.  I figured they were permanently done, but our new washing machine would later prove me wrong.  Go Frigidaire!

Now to attack the actual crib.  First thought is that this was a really big job, so I decided wet paper towels would be my starting point.  Unfortunately, they really weren’t that effective, so I ran around the house looking for a bucket, planning to fill it with a bleach/water combo.  I remembered it was outside, so I went back to check on P. who seemed fine.  Our drain is not working right, so I had to check back fairly often to make sure the tub wasn’t filling with poopwater.  I found the bucket outside with rocks that E. had been collecting, dumped it and threw it under the sink.  However, since the bathtub was running, I had no water pressure and it was taking forever, so I grabbed a plastic bag and some Clorox wipes and got back to work.

Back in the room, I noticed, interestingly, that absolutely no poop was on her diaper or pants or the numerous stuffed animals she usually keeps in her crib, but were now strewn about the room.  I still am not sure why she chose to remove her pants/diaper before doing this, but I guess I’ll never know.  I worked on it as best I could with the Clorox wipes, but they’re small and my mess was big.  After a few of these, I ran back to check on P. in time to stop the bucket from overflowing in the sink.   P. seemed pretty well cleaned at this point, so I picked her up, sprayed out the bathtub and started to refill it plus lots and lots of soap.  I plopped her back in and ran back to add some bleach to the bucket of water in the kitchen.  This plus a washcloth, which would give itself to the cause, and we were finally making some progress.  A few minutes of this, then back to P..

Now, I was well aware that Karen and E. were due home any minute, so I was really hoping something held them up at school and would give me more time.  Of course, this is the day they come straight home.  Fortunately, I was able to alert them immediately upon entering the house of what they would see.  I’ll give Karen credit.  She and poop really don’t get along well, but she was able to take it in stride and help out.  E. reacted about how you would expect a five year old to, with lots of unnecessary comments and noises about smell.

There’s really not much else to say about the cleanup.  P. was fine, as if nothing had happened.  We had the windows up, fans blowing, and cleaned every part of the crib we could, but the smell was not going away.  It was like it had bonded with the wood.  Ultimately, we took the crib apart and out to the garage where its fate will be determined at a later date.

I vacuumed the area under the crib after spraying it with carpet cleaner, but still, stink.  Next were the toys under the crib.  We pulled out every basket and inspected it with eyes and nose, throwing out what we didn’t care about anymore and washing everything else.  Still there was a stench.  Finally, P.’s books that were on the floor, but not right next to the crib.  I found a few (Karen mentioned them already) that smelled and made the executive decision to toss them.  I also encountered the largest actual piece of poop on the cover of Olivia, which was a good four feet away from the crib inside a bedside table.  To the author of Olivia: we like your book enough to have cleaned it. 

It still smelled a bit after all of this, but the kids managed to sleep in there anyway.  Karen vacuumed again this morning and we shuffled some things around.  As of right now, the smell seems to have been completely eradicated, so I think we got it all.

Ultimately, I think this was pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime set of circumstances that led to this, but I’m still pretty sure I lose Parent Points for not making sure P. was completely asleep and not making sure that I could hear P. if she woke up.  Everything else was a series of flukes that culminated in one big, shitty mess.  After five-plus years of this, I think I’ve got pretty good parenting instincts and maybe I got a bit casual here.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Spouse will be guest posting imminently (he's currently editing a four page Word document, seriously), but here's my-mostly-for-my-own-accountability checklist for the day:

Cleaning: More work on the girls' room: vacuuming with attachment to get corners! Sorting through toys!
Exercise: 5 minute cardio, 30 minute weights (2 rotations) during E.'s dance class; skipped yoga to take a nap :(
Studying: Umm, maybe after I finish posting.
Employment: One email. Again delayed phone calls I've intending to do for several days.

The closest to a literal shitstorm I hope I ever see.

I think I'm going to let the hubby guest post the chronicle of this unbelievably fetid afternoon, an object lesson in less than good parenting, and the reason many former playthings (and books) are now in the trash, since he was the one home when it happened. So I will simply record my progress on my goals. (RIP Snuggle Puppy and Barnyard Banter. Not so much Biscuit Goes to School.) And to all the future parents out there, maybe you should skip this one. 

Cleaning: Involved many, many clorox wipes, a sink full of hot soapy water and plastic toys, and a lot of sniffing to detect whether said odor clung to random items apparently within poop-flinging distance from crib. And that's only a fraction of what my spouse did before I got home. And thank God for that because it prevented me from strangling him.
Exercise: 60 minute treadmill, back in the blissful morning. 
Studying: Listened to one study cd (60 minutes) while driving, unaware of what was happening at home.
Employment: Met with a former co-worker to brainstorm internship sites, ditto above.

Oh, and P. is now sleeping on a mattress on the floor! Like a big girl! We had planned to transition to this soon, just not, you know, today. Vaguely laid plans are often shat upon, apparently.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Personal Betterment Campaign

Thanks to E. for the term, is also possibly planning something similar in her blog/life. (Let me know if you want me to link to you, E.)

The truth is I am spectacularly lazy. My laziness is perhaps unmatched by anyone except my husband, whose advantage is that he doesn't feel guilty about it. You know how, when you were young and single and maybe had a college roommate or two, or a post-college roommate or two, or a boyfriend/girlfriend roommate or two, and there would always be someone who would slack on all the chores. That was me. I was enabled in this slacking by subconsciously (in one case) choosing a passive aggressive neat freak to share a house with. In another case I was living with my sister and I knew she would "notice" that the kitchen was dirty before I did. My comeuppance was marrying someone who never has noticed that the kitchen is dirty. (The upside is that I never have to clean to please him: that would truly be worse.)

So, I hate to clean, but I also am really good at wasting time when I should be studying. Or putting off tasks that need to be done for work if I can do them from home. Right now, for example, I should be preparing for this afternoon's tutoring session, but I have 45 minutes and I can probably bang that out in half an hour. Then, run late and tear out of here, forget my purse or my phone or something, and possibly get a speeding ticket on the way. 'Cause that's the way I roll.

Exercise is the same way. Although I've been semi-consistent through the summer, I've not done what intended to do. Nor have I lost any of the weight that's been creeping back up in the last year. I keep setting goals in my head for how many workouts, when to do them, where to do them. I keep meaning to start running again; I remember that I really liked it when I was doing it. I have even woken up spontaneously around 5:30 for the past few days, but have just groaned and gone back to sleep.

I also have to study. I have to take a comprehensive exam for my master's degree, so that I can graduate in the spring (yay!). Correction: I have to pass a comprehensive exam. Everyone that knows me might be rolling their eyes because I'm a reasonably high achiever when it comes to grades, but I feel that's because I usually, eventually, with possible kicking and screaming, buckle down and study at the last minute. Well, now it's a month away and several smart people from last year said it was really hard, so it's probably close enough to the last minute to start buckling.

Oh, and I'm trying to get a job. So I should be doing more about that. More applications sent out, more contacts made, etc., etc.  

Sounds good on paper, but so hard in reality. I wish I could do all of this on the internet. Yes, the cleaning and exercising, too.

So, here's my proposal for personal betterment.

Cleaning: Assign chores (make chart for kids), have a daily task.
Exercise: 1 hour/day
Studying: 1 hour/day
Employment: 1 application or 1 phone contact/day (until they all dry up!)

I wanted to create a feature on my webpage where I could update those daily, but I can't figure it out. Plus, now I only have half an hour to work on my tutoring lesson. So, I leave you with today's effort.

Cleaning: Swept and mopped new laundry room floor.
Exercise: 20 minute cardio, 30 minute weights (2 rotations)
Studying: Not yet (2 hours yesterday?)
Employment: Not yet (interview yesterday?)

I'll keep you posted as I get better and better. Or totally slack off. One or the other.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Swift Romance

Seriously, it was like I'd fallen in love with this job. When I first read the posting, I thought it sounded cool, definitely worth checking out. I read up on the agency, the program, its missions and goals. Definitely my kind of thing. As I said to my husband, It's like all my experience meshes in this job. All those weird seemingly random things I've done, could reasonably be said to be preparation for this job. After that first interview, I was hooked. This was the one for me. I was valued, I was appreciated. When I got a call the next day for a follow-up, I even felt a little bit loved. I could picture my future there. I imagined myself telling someone where I worked. "I just love it," I said to my imaginary friend.

The second interview just confirmed my adoration. Everything felt comfortable, relaxed, natural. I knew all the answers to all the questions. We shared jokes. The eye contact was sizzling. Leaving, I loved just walking down the hall, going down the elevator, feeling like this was my place. I would get to know those security guards at the front door. That would be the bathroom in which I brushed my teeth after lunch. Ooh, right across the street, there's the little cafe where I and my new co-workers would do lunch together. I would learn the secrets of the parking garage, what time to arrive to get the best spots. Sigh.

Then three days went by and no phone call. I began to doubt. Finally I sent a cheery email: Just wondering about the position! Had a great chat on Monday!

I went out and returned to a blinking message on my machine. Sum: They just weren't that into me. Sob. Descent into unreasonable self-recriminations: I must be a loser; No one will ever want me; WTF am I going to do now? Put myself out there again? I don't think so!

I do have another interview (different job) on Monday, though, so maybe I should prepare myself for another rollercoaster ride. I don't think I'm going to fall in love again so soon, but you never know.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Meet and Greet

Seemed to go well. I talked to two co-workers in a separate room, after seeing where the people at my level worked (one not-so-big room, five desks and a small conference table) and saying hi to the woman (assistant director) who interviewed me Thursday. The director also poked his head in the door and said he was happy to see me again. Everyone was friendly, the discussion was informal and low-key. The two people were the team leader (my would-be direct supervisor who also has cases of her own), a woman around 50, and one of the people at my would-be level, a young guy (30 at most). Neither were dressed anywhere near formally, so I'm glad I scaled down a little for this second meeting (thanks, J)!

The best question was when the young guy said, We do a lot of report writing for the court, we have to edit and submit to the attorneys and then reedit--how comfortable are you with, you know, writing, using Microsoft Word, summarizing, etc., etc.?

Ha! English major! I love it when that actually comes in handy.

I should find out in the next day or two one way or the other. I feel pretty good about it, although Mary Poppins* could also have gotten a callback. I will try to go about my daily routine and not be driven to distraction by wondering and what if'ing. A lot of things will change if I get the job and my tendency is to want to mentally work out all the details as soon as I can. I was driving home holding imaginary conversations with the mom of the kid I'm tutoring, the group I volunteer with, etc., etc. No harm in that, I guess, except to get my hopes up more, maybe.

Thanks for the help, everyone! I will keep you posted.

*Practically Perfect in Every Way

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pessimistic Me

The thought that what if there are two candidates coming in to meet the staff and the other one is the one they really want . . .

Still, I have no control over that, even if it is true, seeing as I doubt my lack of dazzling charisma to change anyone's mind.

So, moving beyond that . . . has anyone done a meet and greet with prospective co-workers? From either side of the table (the employed or the pre-employed)? What would my prospective co-workers want to know about me? What should I expect?

My only previous experience with this was when a professor did a trial class in one of my existing classes as part of her interview process. She is now employed at my university. Also, my spouse and his coworkers "interviewed" their prospective boss, only to find out that he was already hired and no one really cared whether they liked him or not. He was the reason my husband became miserable at work and eventually quit under pressure. (Irrelevant fact: That boss left/was fired around six months later.)

Neither of those examples really help me much. I am not anyone's boss, although there are administrative/secretarial support staff. There are five other people in the office at my level (total number of employees in the office is around 15, including bosses [3?] and secretaries), doing the same job I will be doing with different cases. What will they want to know about me? Should I just ask them questions about how they got their jobs? Their experiences in the job?

Lurkers (you know who you are, brother and brother's girlfriend, friend from the university) and faithful commenters (all one of you) alike, what do you think?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Call Back

I got a second meet-the-staff interview. It's on Monday! Very excited!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What makes a good interview?

Is it me? Is it them? Is it what everybody (or at least my business-school-graduate husband) says: When it simply becomes a conversation?

I don't know, but I finally had one today. For a job I actually want. I sent out two other applications/resumes this week, so I'm not clinging to it as the one and only hope for a meaningful life at work. (Although I may be checking the mail and phone messages with something approaching neuroticism in the next few days.)

What was nice about it:

People treating me as someone who might have many options. While intellectually I know this is true, my self-confidence is shaky and each interview, at the moment, feels like my only option. It's nice to be considered worthy of the job and other jobs, too.

Being asked whether I would find the position challenging enough. That's like they're acknowledging that I'm smart and capable and am up to challenges. And I was able to answer how it would, in fact, be challenging for me.

Being asked whether the starting salary would be enough for me. See above. My husband says that's just a screening question, but as long as I've been removed from the world of work for pay, I find it flattering that someone, however shallowly, thinks I'm worth more than they can pay. And I was able to assure them that social service jobs are pretty much right at that level or even lower, so yes, the salary would be fine. (Plus, State benefits! I have no benefits right now!)

No questions about a time I had a conflict at a previous job. Really, is there a good answer to that question? I've been asked that at two interviews this summer.

I don't know whether any of this means that I'm on the short list or will soon receive a Thanks Anyway letter in the mail, but it was nice to feel competent and qualified, at least for an hour.

Thoughts on the drive home: (Or, ways my brain might be preparing me to see the positive side of not getting this job.)

Will I be able to drive D1 to school if I have to be [40 minutes away] at 8 or 8:30?

Will my husband be able to get up and deal with that, as well as the two-year-old, if I can't? (No offense, Honey, it's just that you probably haven't gotten up before 10 two days in a row since you started working from home almost two years ago.)

When will I work out? Will I have to give up yoga? I just started yoga. I love it. I guess there are evening classes, but that means coming home even later. Suddenly my time at home seems very limited. And precious.

Will we be eating pizza and fast food more often? Could I do crock pot meals twice a week? Would anybody eat them?

How tired will I be at 6:30 pm for dinner, clean-up, bed-time? At 8:30 pm when the kids are finally asleep? I mean, I'm up by 7 every day anyway, but no more naps?

I'll have to pack a lunch for me as well as for D1. And D2 if we use any kind of daycare/preschool for her.

Random amusing moment:

I had my long-time hairdresser "do" my hair before the interview. My hair's at that weird stage where it's sort of long, needs to be highlighted again, and kind of just hangs there. And my hair is very fine, so attempts (by me) to put it up generally slip out and look sloppy (but not sloppy chic) or juvenile (like I'm 12, but with crow's feet!). She charged me $10, curled it and sprayed it, and if I looked a little more like my best days were in the '80's than I'd intended (or as my so-helpful spouse said as I was hurriedly getting dressed, Are you getting ready for the Prom?), it was way better than anything I could have done. And I felt pretty.

All this background to my daughter's (age 5) first question to me when I arrived home from the interview at 4:30. (She was at school during the preparation stage.) I was wearing my business skirt (pinstripe! black!), hose, heels, white blouse, and a nice jacket I've probably only worn once before. And make-up. She says:

"Mommy, why does your hair look all weird?"


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Talking Politics (or not)

I don't know why I expected my dad to be reasonable about politics. I mean, I knew he was a raging conservative. I even knew he slavishly waited upon every word that fell from the lips of Bill O'Reilly. So what was I thinking, that he'd be all like, Whatever. McCain, Obama, it's all cool, man?

The thing is, I guess I was hoping some of that was a bit of an act, that whole Fox News part anyway. I made the mistake of saying, What makes Obama any worse than anyone else? after Labor Day family dinner at my parent's house (while 4 children, between the ages of five and two, two of them mine, ran wild around the house). Apparently, I "just don't get it." No, I don't, but I think I've decided not to discuss it further.

Everyone says, Don't discuss religion or politics with your family. Assuming you don't all agree on every single point. My sister and brother-in-law, for the most part, can discuss these topics with my parents without concern, even though my sister became a (evangelical, so that's okay) Catholic and married one. Me, on the other hand, I'm voting for Obama, but I'm not saying that out loud in front of anyone in my family. Oh, and I also don't think de-legalizing abortion is a good idea, but this is also not to be discussed.

My husband who (hopefully obviously) isn't biologically, psychologically or emotionally related to my parents, sat (perhaps uncomfortably) still during this brief confrontation, but didn't even bring it up until I did, well after we were back home and the kids were in bed for the night. His parents are also Republicans, although not of the Religious Right kind (more the Southern, Comfortably Wealthy kind), and his dad likes to send us forwards containing rumors about Hillary Clinton and various other hated Democrats. My husband likes to immediately link to the Snopes debunk and hit reply. It doesn't seem to bother him like it does me. Isn't it just the way it is, that you move apart from your parents politically? Isn't it?

It is, but not in my little enclave of Christian family and cohorts. Here, you know what's right, and why would you want to change it? I wonder if someone who grew up among raging progressives might feel a similar hesitancy to betray/hurt/disappoint her roots. Is my disagreement just rebellion? I know it isn't just the influence of the liberal media. I hardly even watch the news. Okay, a little Stewart/Colbert if I'm up extra late. And a fair amount of NPR in the car.

Now, I have a problem with the idea that the only way to be a Christian is to vote Republican. Or to be a one-issue (pro-life) voter. But that isn't really the heart of my rant. I think the heart is that I respect my parents. I value them as articulate, thinking, reading people who raised me to be the same. I remember my dad talking about writing college papers on the American Indian Movement and his stories about traveling through the South as a child in the 50's (he lived in Philadelphia) and being shocked by the separate drinking fountains. He talked about the inspiring speeches of Jack and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.

For God's Sake, my parents voted for Carter in 1980. (I was hoping to find a link that said, Nobody Voted For Carter, but it was closer than I'd thought. And check out the issues Reagan and Carter disagreed on.) How do I know this? Because I voted for Carter in the 3rd grade elections at my elementary school and I was practically the only one in the school who did so. And 8-year-olds vote the way their parents do. 8-year-olds believe in their parents' beliefs.

Of course my parents are entitled change their political beliefs, too. What I don't like is feeling like they (mostly my dad, my mom rolls her eyes at him when he's not looking, although I'm sure she's voting Republican, too) have gone right for the bait people like Bill O'Reilly are throwing at them. No reflection. No question of whether this is the party that meets my needs and addresses my concerns. At first it was just the abortion issue, I think, and I can respect that. The whole life-begins-at-conception argument is (enviably?) morally unambiguous. But now, Dad? You're angry that Obama might want to get rid of the estate tax when you have no estate that qualifies for that tax and have railed your whole life against the greedy rich people of the world (even if some of that was because you felt disenfranchised and unsuccessful yourself?). I freaking had to get reduced lunch in school! If anything, you should be on the other side. Tax the g-d-mn rich!

I'm not politically savvy or even particularly well-informed. I just know that it hurts my heart. My dad and I have a good relationship now, and it seems weird not to be able to, I don't know, be reasonable. Not agree, but be reasonable.

I would blame Bill O'Reilly (oh, yeah, there's a man of upstanding moral character!), but that seems too simple. My dad is what he is. He's capable of better, but I can't do anything about it.