Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I keep listening for the little voices

It's my birthday! You know what the best thing about today is? Jeremy took the day off work. It's like an extra Saturday. An extra Saturday where I get to go to a coffee shop and lounge around and feel like a responsibility-free college student again. Okay, I had a lot of responsibilities in college, but homework never threw itself on the ground and screamed if I didn't do something exactly right. In fact, I could ignore homework up until the very last minute possible, and it still never uttered a word of protest. Something tells me the children would not allow that.

Yesterday I got the kitchen cabinet re-hung. And that's about it. Other than some of my regular everyday duties. I took a stab at the peeling paint in the dining room, but I didn't know what I was doing and made it way worse. So I stopped, lest I pull down the plaster or burn the house down by accident.

This insomnia business is making me crazy. My brain will go back to normal for a few days, just long enough to lull me into a false sense of happiness and (almost) well-restedness.

Then, BAM! The night before my birthday I wake up three times for no reason at all and take forever to get back to sleep. The BABY sleeps better than I do. I think I need to be swaddled at night or something.

There are some slightly crazy ladies (crazy in the fun way) at the table next to me. I'm trying not to eavesdrop, but that's not really possible. They're talking pretty loudly, and I can even hear them over my headphones. It's funny that the most granola people I've run across in years are here in Jefferson of all places. And I lived in the Crunchy Capital of the Midwest for five years. Excellent people-watching there.

Oh, Madison, I do so miss you. Enthusiastic road construction and all.

Monday, September 27, 2010

House stuff, mostly

I decided to try something new. Whenever Emmy falls, I try to make her laugh instead of picking her up. If I can't get her to laugh, it means she's really hurt and needs love. So far, so good. She's toughened up quite a bit in just the one day I've been doing it.

This is good, because she started pulling herself to standing minutes after I hit "save" on that last entry.

So, it's official. We are MOVING! (2-6 months from now)

This house needs so many things done. Any peeling or chipped paint needs taken care of. I'm looking at YOU, crappy front porch that I spend half the morning de-webbing--pointlessly, I might add, since there will be just as many spider webs up tomorrow morning, and I can still feel them crawling all over me ew gross gross.

I need a gold star for my morning's work.

Lots of other little annoying things that we can live with (and had planned to live with while fixing them slowly), but would make the house harder to sell:

-Clean the siding
-De-spider the porch and deck
-Clean the windows (I'm afraid to do this because every time I have, a million gigantic spiders have come out)--really clean them, not just wipe the inside with some vinegar and paper towel
-Paint the porch (the floor of the porch, which was the worst, got done this weekend; one of my dad's church members does that kind of work, and he did a great job)
-Possibly paint the downstairs bathroom (more on that later)
-Clean the carpets (this is utterly pointless until Emmy is past the spitting-up stage, but it should really get done before any showings)
-Finish painting the upstairs hallway
-Sand down and paint over plaster patches in kitchen
-Re-hang kitchen cabinet door
-Sand down, prime, and repaint parts of dining room (someone who shall remain nameless didn't prime all the way to the edges, so the paint is peeling off the plaster in spots)
-Go through all our stuff and get rid of anything we don't need
-Go through all our stuff and box up anything we won't need in the next six months
-Go through all that stuff and look for more stuff that we actually can get rid of but just don't want to because someone who shall remain nameless gets stupidly sentimental about the dumbest stuff, like t-shirts and old notes
-Find a storage unit and start carting stuff away
-Possibly sew a couch cover from the old curtains down here (totally weird, I know, but our couch is BLUE! in a pink-and-maroon living room, and while the curtains are ugly, they're not BLUE!, and couch covers cost a trillion arms and legs)
-Get curtains and curtain rods for girls' rooms
-Hang curtains in girls' rooms (yes, for people like us, these two steps need to be articulated; do you know how long we had the curtains and curtain rods for our living room before we finally hung them?)
-Figure out what's wrong with the stupid upstairs hallway light
-Paint radiators (maybe)
-Paint office door (the old color scheme is on there, and it's so hilariously awful that we just couldn't let it go)
-Hang curtains over closets (maybe)

It's not that the house is a dump (I do a pretty good job of keeping up most of the time, if I do say so myself), but there are all those little unseen corners that don't get scrubbed regularly. And after a while you just don't notice anymore. But if you're looking at a house with new eyes, it's the sum of all those dusty little nooks that can make a house seem dingy and dirty even when it's not. Ugh. Nooks mean spiders. Spiders mean constant adrenaline and nightmares every night.

Come to think of it, all that adrenaline might be a good thing. It would certainly get me moving.

Most of this is stuff I can do even when the kids are awake. Both are pretty good at entertaining themselves for decent periods of time. Especially Grace. So long as I'm nearby and available, she's usually happy to play her imaginary games with her stuffed animals and to read her books and to spout nonsense sentences (today's favorite: "Downstairs crining baby mocha psychos!" [Downstairs crying baby motorcycles]).

It's the painting that I'm a little worried about. Grace can be told not to touch something, and she'll stay away. But she just forgets after a while. And Emmy is still far too young to learn any of that. We have a pack 'n' play. I need to break that out and see if Emmy will play in there contentedly. Yes, I'm willing to let her scream if need be, but I'd rather avoid it. Screaming babies wear me out. Constant emotional distress is not something I handle well.

The Bathroom

When we first moved in, we affectionately referred to our bathroom as "The Hunting Lodge." Diagonal wood paneling (real wood; it looks like the inside of a sauna), dark mossy greenish linoleum (it's actually kind of pretty), very small space, and frayed flannel curtains with a moose/duck/bear theme. Oh, and a gigantic pipe right between the sink and the toilet. There's also the huge gold-framed mirror over the sink. It's actually kind of awesome. One of those things that is really ugly in the room the way it is, but might actually be cool if we could figure out something better to do with the room.

The appliances and wire shelving over the washer and dryer are bright white. The tiny little cabinet over the toilet is wood. I've already mentioned the mirror. Then there's the sink counter, which is a beigy color, like coffee with LOTS of cream.

I really think painting the paneling would make the room seem much bigger. One of the things this house has going for it is the first-floor laundry, and I would like people to see that and say, "Oh, sweet!" and not say, "Oh, I am having a panic attack from claustrophobia. Also, you have a BATHROOM just feet from you dining room table?" I drew a kind of to-scale diagram:


The red is exposed pipes. The one near the toilet is about 6" in diameter. It's hideous. And painted beige. Which, I suppose, is better than unpainted, but just barely. The radiator runs along the wall (our house has the kind that is low to the floor and runs along the wall, not the taller, shorter kind), and it's off-white. The window has new curtains that I sewed myself. They're not pretty (especially not if you get close enough to see my horrible seams), but they let light in, and they're an inoffensive off-white/light beige pattern.

So, what color for the bathroom? I can't decide. It has to go with brownish mossy green, beige, and bright white. I'm thinking GOLD! would be a lot of fun, but I don't think it would sell well.

Couch Cover

So, we have these hideous old curtains that we had hung up in the living room. We replaced them with off-white sheers because they made the room feel tiny and dark. The sheers don't afford much privacy, but I guess that's what blinds are for. The old curtains are hideous as curtains, but as I was taking them off the rods and tossing them on the couch, I noticed that they look a bit like upholstery. I'm wondering if I could sew a couch cover with them. I don't even know where to begin, though. I can still barely sew a straight seam. I have a sewing book, but I do not learn well by reading directions. Ideally, I would take sewing lessons and learn by doing, but we can't afford that either time-wise or money-wise. What say you, Internet?


Our radiators are scuffed and ugly. I really thinking painting them (or at least the visible ones) would brighten up the rooms. You don't really see them, but I think they make the rooms looks dirtier and darker than they are.

We have to walk a line between making the house salable for a decent price and spending so much money on getting the house sold, that we come out even further behind. I don't know what it take to paint radiators, if they need special paint or equipment or what.

One realtor pointed out to us that most people who look at a house like ours will probably be looking for the same thing we were: a decent house that needs a little work. They'll probably be like us: young people who don't yet have the money to buy a dream home, but are looking for something they can grow into and eventually sell for a good price. They're not going to care about everything being perfect. We want to do as little as possible to get the house sold. Both because we don't have much time, and because all the little projects are going to add up to a money-sucking black hole of grrrr.

So I'm looking at you Internet people who are wiser than I. What do you people think? I know it's hard to say without actually having seen the house, but I still want to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Where I've (not) been

Life with two very small children just got a LOT harder. Emmy isn't just crawling clumsily around the floor anymore. No. We have an obsession with all things climbing. I'm of the firm opinion that unless she's in danger of causing permanent or severe damage to herself, we need to let her fall and hurt herself. Also, Grace sometimes requires my attention (like when going down for naps). I can't drag Emmy with me every time. This means leaving Emmy to her own devices in the living room or dining room.

I thought the downstairs was mostly free of serious baby hazards. But no, not this baby. If she were alone in a rubber room, she'd fashion a noose for herself out of her diaper, her hair, and her toenails, and hang it from the ceiling with a fingernail. This child is hellbent on offing herself, and I'm not sure I can stop her unless I stick her in an exersaucer or her crib all day.

I was upstairs yesterday afternoon, about to get Grace up from her nap when I heard horrible screams downstairs. I haven't ever heard Emmy scream like this, and let me tell you, that girl can scream when she wants to. I came flying down the stairs to find her throat-first across the support beam on one of the chairs. I think she was trying to get at the straps on Grace's booster seat and slipped. It was really awful, and I nearly panicked (and I did cry). She still has a bruise on her neck.

Okay, bad experience, but maybe this means she'll learn a lesson, right? ... right?

No. She was right back at it today.

She tries to climb the book boxes in the living room, always the ones closest to a hard corner of the piano or TV cabinet. She tries to climb the couch, always at exactly the right distance from the coffee table that she'll whack her head on the top on her way down. She has a radar for power cords and small spaces that the laws of physics say she shouldn't even be able to occupy.

So that's why I haven't written in a few days. That, and Jeremy being gone. Yesterday was the most exhausting day I've had in a long time. I'm very thankful for the seven hours of sleep that preceded it. Oh, and Emmy is teething. So on top of the suicide attempts, she's just been grouchy in general.

She's like that nursery rhyme: "There was a little girl who had a curl right in the middle of her forehead [okay, so she only has peach fuzz, no curls]. When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was HORRID." My grandpa used to say that to me when I was acting up. He'd growl out the "HORRID" like he was a bear. Anyway, Emmy is happy and sweet about 90% of the time. But that other 10% is wretched.

I think I've aged about five years since Emmy started crawling and teething again. Someone send me booze. Or more Vicodin.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Laundry Room Security...

...I wash clothes so Jeremy doesn't have to.

(It was funnier in my head, as so many things are.)

I was doing so well with house work for so long. Tidy house, clean(ish) floors, dishes done, dinner planned every night, laundry always folded and put away. I must have reached around too far to pat myself on the back over this because I seemed to have sprained something and can't do anything but lie around anymore. I need a pool boy.

You can always tell how many days it's been since I've done laundry by the pants I'm wearing around the house. I made a threat level diagram. I'm omitting shorts and skirts because temperatures around here plummeted a few days ago, and because it's a lot of work to make basic pictures in paint. Especially with a touch pad. Maybe I'll make a new threat level diagram for the summer. But probably not.

Laundry day, and the day after (Threat Level: None):


Jeans, they go with everything! The fabric is stiff enough to shape my waistline into something resembling a waist!

Two days post-laundry (Threat Level: Low):


Jeans, they stretch out! And sag! And the only thing they hold in are the flesh just below your waist.

I didn't draw the love handles. You're welcome.

Four days post-laundry (Threat Level: Guarded):


By now they are barely staying on. And I've eaten a few meals, thus the polka dots (they're actually food, but I'm not good with Paint). Shut up. Do you know how hard it is to find jeans that fit? Jeans that I won't have to sell one of the kids in order to afford?

Wait. That's genius!

Six days post-laundry (Threat Level: Elevated):


This is odd, I know, but these are my nice pants. I save them for church. So if you see me wearing them, and it's not Sunday, it probably means I accidentally poured ketchup on myself the day before.

Ten days post-laundry (Threat Level: High):


Yes, I wore the other pants for four days. Shut up. They make me look skinny. Don't judge.

These are my fleece pants from Christmas three years ago. They're very comfortable. I love them. But they're not for public consumption. And they don't make a housewife feel sexy. I don't think they make anyone feel sexy.

Twelve days post-laundry (Threat Level: Severe):


If you stop by my house and find me in these, it probably means you want to turn right around and go back to wherever you came from. We have no clean laundry. The kids are probably naked. Jeremy is wearing that one shirt I always shove to the back of the closet because I hate it but don't have the heart to tell him, so I just hope he'll forget about it back there.

I couldn't capture the correct color on here. They are horrible enough to be offensive, but just unhorrible enough to maybe make a person think I wore them on purpose because I like them. This is why the pajama pants are a lower threat level. At least if I have to dart into the front yard, my neighbors will look at me and say, "Oh, she's still in her pajamas." If I run into the yard with these horrors on my legs, they'll say, "What was she thinking paying money for those?"

They were THREE DOLLARS at Wal-Mart. And the only pants ever in existence that didn't slice into my C-section wound. OKAY?

(Yes, my neighbors do pay close attention to my pants. It's a really small town.)

(They don't really.)

(But I always imagine people are talking about me... and not in a nice way.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I am feeling curmudgeonly

I had some tea last night. Big ol' cup. That means three tea bags. The first one said, "THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT." Okay. I mean, I bought a product; I didn't donate, but if it makes you feel good, you can go ahead and think I'm supporting you.

The second one said, "YOUR CHOICES WILL CHANGE THE WORLD." Is that supposed to make me feel fuzzy inside? Everyone's choices change the world. I want to see tea bags that say, "BIRDS SIT IN TREES," and, "THIS IS PAPER," and, "IT HURTS TO LAND FACE-FIRST ON PAVEMENT." Stalin's choices changed the world. I don't think you'd send him little encouragement platitudes in his tea, now, would you?

The third one--and this is my favorite--said, "HERBAL WISDOM IN A CUP." I don't know what that means. Does one absorb wisdom by drinking tea? Am I supposed to read the dregs when I'm done?

Today sucks. No, nothing tragic has happened. It's the Sneaky Hate Spiral kind of suckage.

I lay wide awake in bed until 2:00 this morning. I thought I'd figured out this whole jolting awake thing: take a melatonin one hour before bed, then another right before turning out the light. It worked for a couple days. Then, last night, back to staring at the ceiling.

The morning started out well. Both kids in very good moods all morning. I got a lot of picking up done. It's a beautiful day, and I have all the blinds open. All this light is one of the best things about this house.

And then, naptime. I put Grace down an hour and a half ago. She's still awake. I've gone in there twice. The second time, she was hot and sweaty. She's had a runny nose all day. Ooooh boy. I gave her some ibuprofen and put her back to bed. If she's sick, she needs to sleep. I'll get her up for good if she's still awake in half an hour.

Emmy's mood went from cheery to SCOWL! in about three second around 1:30. She's been sneezing for two days. I gave her some Tylenol before bed, and I'm hoping she sleeps, too.

Poor kids. I must admit, I'm more worried about me right now. Grace's long bout with sleeplessness gave me this panic response to any kind of bad napping or waking in the middle of the night, even if it's just for one day. If either child cries once in her sleep just once during the night, my heart plummets to my knees, and I can't fall asleep again for the next hour. It's ridiculous. Somehow getting up all the time with a newborn is so much different from going back to it once the kid has been sleeping well for a while.

Oooh... silence!

Please please please stay asleep.

I hope I didn't just jinx it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Frivolity! I promise!

Thanks for all the notes on the last entry. It helps SO MUCH to know that this is not anything terribly out of the ordinary. Why do all the cool kids have to live so far? I think the closest one of you is in St. Louis. You people are lame.

The Child likes to recite random words these days. I think she's experimenting with sentences, but doesn't quite realize that the words actually have to make sense together in order for it to work. Also, when she's upset, she recites her very favorite words. The more upset she is, and the harder she's trying to calm down, the longer the string of words. A few gems for you:

Hot baby grease!
Hot baby horses run daddies.
Hot titties run! (ahem. that's kitties.)

It seems "hot" is a new favorite.

I need to start writing these down because there were a few today that had me in tears. Going up the stairs behind her at bedtime tonight, she counted the steps. Only it was three counts to each step, and it went like this: "One... six, seven, eight... six, seven, eight..." all the way up. She can get to ten, but she's really, really fond of six, seven and eight. I heard her practicing at the end of her nap the other day. Other times her counting to ten sounds more like, "One, two, three, six, seven, eight, twelve, ten!" I know this is another one of those things that every kid in the world does, but I think it is hilarious.

Emmy went to bed an hour early tonight. She was SO grouchy this evening. It was like having a newborn all over again. A newborn with the lungs of a diva.

I hope this early bedtime does not mean I have to get up at six tomorrow morning.

I am losing my supply. I tried everything: fenugreek, beer, lots of water, extra feedings, tea, everything. The extra feedings are a little difficult anyway, since trying to feed Emmy if she's not hungry just makes her really mad. Things! To! Do! And! See! And pumping only works right away in the morning. Even with my awesome new pump.

I don't really mind that much. I've nursed her for almost seven months, and I still only have to supplement her very last feeding of the night, but for some reason it still makes me a little sad. And formula is expensive. I will have to hit up my friend for some tips on finding deals on formula. Silly me, I gave away all the free stuff we got in the mail, which would have been at least a couple weeks' worth.

As usual, I thought I had more to write about, but now I've forgotten. Earlier tonight, I had something very amusing to tell you people. I was SO AMUSING that I just knew I couldn't forget it. Kind of like my Very Logical Places, right? Will I ever learn?

(UPDATE: There are a few more pictures up on Facebook. They're on my wall. You'll have to scroll down just a little.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

In which there is a sappy tangent, I'm so sorry.

I am so tired.

Yet! So! Awake! Augh!

Whenever I'm wide awake like this in the middle of the night, I get this compulsion to Do Something Cool.

Sometimes I actually get up and do it. Before we moved here, I would get up in the middle of the night and clean the apartment top to bottom. Or study a whole lot. Or--and this was always an exercise in lunacy, because I can't bake--try to bake something delicious.

Right now I want to go downstairs and sew some more curtains.

But I probably won't. Instead I'll lie awake, getting more and more excited and more and more awake about Doing Something Cool. Curtains! Cleaning! Decluttering! Making baby food! And at some point, I will suddenly be very, very sleepy, and next thing I know, Jeremy will be bending over me with a cup of coffee at 7:30 in the morning, and I will want to shoot him in the head. Even though he is the kind of guy who brings me coffee in bed every morning.

This sucks.

I don't know why this happens. Often I can't sleep because I've done something stupid that day--watched an exciting movie right 'til bedtime, or downed six cups of coffee with dinner. But the bouts of real insomnia, when it happens in spite of doing everything right, last for two weeks or more when they do happen. And they always happen right after I've finally gotten into a good schedule and have caught up on sleep. Maybe I'm supposed to live in constant sleep debt.

Let me tell you, though, it really sucks. I'm a very happy person. Mostly. But last week (two weeks ago?), when I'd finally had several days in a row of good sleep, I realized just how lousy I'd been feeling. For months! Months of not being very happy. I wouldn't go so far as to say depressed. Just... not all there. Eugh. At least I don't realize how I feel until after it's gone. Or I'd be really depressed.

I'm probably not making any sense because it's 1:00 in the morning, and I should be sound asleep.

A friend came over for lunch today with her two kids (she took some pictures; two of them are up on my Facebook wall, if any of you are my friends there). I was looking forward to the visit. I was not looking forward to Grace's behavior during that visit. She alternates between shy-but-personable and oh-my-gosh-we-need-to-call-a-behavioral-expert. I've found that holding her as much as she needs or wants to be held helps more than trying to get her to interact. But it's a trial sometimes to have people over. I have to keep track of her, and of Emmy, and somewhere in there, I want to have a conversation with my friends.

(I worry too much. I'm 99% sure she's just shy, as I was. But that little 1% is screaming, "Spectrum disorder! See how she sucks her thumb and plays with her hair? That's stimming! Early intervention is key! If you don't get her in now, she'll be chewing on tablecloths and counting toothpicks by the age of 12!")

Today was a happy surprise. She clung a little at first. Then she was content to sit on the couch next to me. On the other side from where my friend was sitting. Then I had to get up to go into the kitchen. I expected her to follow me, most likely screaming. She didn't. Five minutes later, I walked back in to see her still sitting on the couch, smiling at my friend (from a safe distance, of course).

What really bothers me is criticism from other people who aren't there day in, day out. "You baby her too much." "Stop holding her all the time." "She needs to learn how to behave." People who get up in her face when she's clinging to me or Jeremy in terror. Because spazzing out inches from a frightened child's face is certainly going to cure her shyness.

I know where we've made mistakes. She's a firstborn, practically guaranteed to be screwed up. But the things we do now--holding her, helping her calm down instead of disciplining her when she's frightened--are things we've that we've learned help her the most. We have to walk a line between pushing her just past her comfort zone and traumatizing her. Believe me, we're trying, and we're very conscious of her shyness. And making us stress out over it even more doesn't help.

(This is not directed at anyone I know who reads this blog; I'm just frustrated. I didn't even intend to write about this right now.)

Grace is afraid of so many things. Water in her face. Other people. Falling. Stairs. It's exhausting to constantly work with her on these things, and pushing her too hard takes us ten steps back.

On the other hand, she sits and looks through books for half an hour, an hour at a time. She has countless words and is working on sentences. She has a sense of humor (though I think, as a proud parent, I might be seeing more than what is really there). She can and does will herself to master her fears when pushed long enough and gently enough.

This spring, when the weather was first warm, I took her outside in the grass several days in a row. At first she wouldn't even walk in it with shoes on. This went on for a few days. I'd plunk her down in the middle of the yard and walk ten feet away. After a sufficient length of time, I'd pick her up, and we'd go back inside. Then, one day, she just started walking around in it. Barefoot, even. Falling on purpose and shouting, "Whoah!"

The same thing happened with the stairs a few days ago. The thrill of such small victories is almost worth all the angst.

Emmy, though. Emmy is... going to be a handful, in a whole different way. I think. I guess I don't know this, but that's how it seems so far. Emmy has never cried over water in her face, not even as a newborn. She faceplants in the carpet hard enough to leave a mark, and all she says is, "Mah!" in irritation. Diaper changes have become an Olympic sport. Feeding her anywhere but a quiet room is like intubating a coke user in the middle of an epileptic fit. She's crawling all over now. Not well. It's like watching a drunk try to pirouette. But she does it. There is a lot of running face-first into hard objects and screaming. And then getting back up and doing it all over. Grace had the decency to wait until her brain development could catch up a little; she went through this phase when she was a wee bit smarter. Emmy has a divine mandate to grab and chew anything in her path. Twice now I have found her face-first in a mangled magazine, cheeks and fists smeared with ink and paper fibers. She screams for five minutes after I take it away from her. She's happiest being thrown through the air or hanging upside down.

In fact, she's happy almost all the time. Except, when she's not, SHE'S REALLY, REALLY NOT ROAR GROUCH HISS. How so much rage can be bundled up inside such a tiny ball of sunshine is a mystery.

This is such a cliche for anyone who knows pretty much any parents, I know. Yes, KIDS ARE ALL DIFFERENT. KIDS ARE MIRACLES. KIDS ARE FULL OF WONDER. BLAH DE BLAH. But it's so much different to have such a close look at it. These girls share DNA and parents and environments. They both sleep well. They even look alike. But in almost every single other way, they are opposites.

It's such a wonder to see the person emerge from the (seemingly) blank slate. I could do this a hundred times.

(I say that today; ask me again tomorrow.)