Saturday, February 24, 2007

Something new every day.

A little background: Barak has been told many many times that he does not give things to the baby or put things in the baby's crib without asking Imma. He has pretty much absorbed this lesson and will in fact usually ask me before handing anything to Iyyar. Sometimes we make a game of it. "Barak, can you give a crocodile to the baby?" "No! Iss very dangerous!" "Can you give a toy to the baby?" "No! Gotta ask Imma!" "Can you put a toy in the baby's crib?" "No! Gotta ask Imma!" Etc.

So. Friday night, I was setting the table for dinner. Chicken soup (the famous "kitchen soup") was on the menu, so there were soup spoons, forks, and knives. I put a spoon, fork, and knife at my place and at Abba's place. At Barak's, I just put a fork and a spoon. Barak did not like this.

"I needa knife."

"Barak, you don't need a knife. Knives are very dangerous."

"I needa knife! I be very careful." Soulful, earnest, and such big eyes. Hmm. He is usually careful when he knows I am watching...

I considered. Then I looked through my plasticware for the most innocuous plastic knife I could find--being all too aware that even the mildest-mannered knife can, if used carelessly, send one unexpectedly to the emergency room (yeah, remember the borekka incident? Me too.) I found one that looked the closest thing to safe one can find in a knife, and put it carefully and respectfully by Barak's plate.

"Okay, Barak, I gave you a knife. That's for you, but I want you to be very, very careful with it. Knives are dangerous. If I see that you're not being careful, I'm not going to count. I'm just going to take it away, and then I'm not going to give you a knife again. Okay?"

Barak could live with that. "Kay."

I mentioned earlier that his language has gotten a lot better lately. He still, though, has a totally endearing habit of struggling mightily to construct sentences that are little bit beyond him. He'll come out with a phrase, stop, purse his lips, say "hmm," and try again a few times. That's what he did after I gave him his knife. It sounded like this:

"Imma say... hmm. No can't... hmm. Iss very... hmm."

And then,

"No can't putta knife inna baby's crib. Iss very dangerous for the baby."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sorry, I know it's been a while

I can't really post, because I have to churn out 1000 words tonight and it's already late. In a nutshell:

1. Iyyar pulled himself up to standing for the first time on Tuesday. He is very very excited about standing. It's hard to put him down in a sitting position--all he wants to do is stand.

2. I have one decent wool skirt that fits me. One. I bought it 60% off from LL Bean a few years ago, and it still wasn't cheap. It is long, warm, lined, comfortable, and flattering. It goes with everything. Verily it is the linchpin of my winter wardrobe--I probably wear it three times a week. While folding laundry this afternoon, I discovered it among the kids' jeans and sweatshirts. It had gone through the washing machine on hot.

3. Today I was vacuuming in Barak's room, and I stuck Iyyar standing up in his crib. When I started vacuuming, his jaw literally dropped. It was probably the most comical expression I have ever seen--baby with mouth hanging open. What is that thing??

4. This afternoon Barak was being very insistent about climbing in and out of the pack and play that Iyyar sleeps in. Finally, I said, "Barak, do you want to sleep in Iyyar's crib tonight?" He did, so I moved the pack and play into Barak's room, and put Iyyar in Barak's crib. It's really time for Barak to graduate from the crib--he'll be three IY"H Pesach--and it's also about time for Iyyar to move out of our room. So far, so good--they're both asleep. What I found amusing was hearing Barak quietly saying, "ah da da da da" while standing in Iyyar's crib, totally a la baby.

5. When I take the kids places in the double jogger, getting in and out of the house is quite a production. I have to bring the stroller into the back hall, but it's so heavy I can't do it without emptying it completely first. So usually I let Barak out, he goes up the back steps while I ferry whatever bags into the kitchen, and then I bring up Iyyar and plunk him somewhere, and then I go back down to get the stroller. A couple days ago we were coming in like that and Iyyar was very, very annoyed--he is never a big fan of the stroller and he'd really had it at that point. When I sat him down on the floor and ran back out for the stroller he started to shriek. I called back, "Barak, can you smile at the baby and make him happy please?" Behind me, I heard, "Hi, baby! Happy baby, kay? Gonna be happy, baby!" By the time I got back inside, Iyyar was positively chortling. If only everything in life were that easy...

6. On Monday Barak's language took a sudden and noticeable leap. Longer sentences, more complex, and just more... informative. He came home from school with a bruise on his forehead, and when I asked him where it came from he told me. "I jumped off the bench and I hit my head. Morah Freedman say no no, you can't do that. No can't jump off the bench." I asked him if he was going to do it again and he said, earnestly, with that rising-and-falling toddler tone, "NoooOOOoo." Not until he sees the bench again, anyway...

7. The work-at-home thing has turned into a saga. I'm still not convinced it will ever really happen, but for now the effective date is supposed to be mid-April. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Scattered

The thing about working from home (NOT THAT I AM COMPLAINING) is that you do still have to work. It amazes me no end the number of people who have said, when they find out that I work at home, "wow! so you don't need a babysitter!" Like I could chase an almost-three-year-old and look after a nine-month-old and keep them both clean, calm, fed and happy all day--a feat in and of itself--while writing rousing and stirring pieces of inspirational (and deathless--let's not forget deathless) prose. On deadline. I mean, what are these people thinking? And some of them are even parents. Truly.

Because of the weather I did not even try to take Barak to playgroup today. I didn't leave the house at all, and just tried to have a nice, happy, kid-centric day. I attempted to clean, and I'm sure that the house looks better than it would have if I hadn't spend so much time cleaning, but it doesn't look anything approaching clean right now. And it's almost ten, and I haven't even thought about Shabbos, despite the fact that tomorrow I'm working a full day in the office. (That's bad, just in case you didn't know.) I need to get at least something written tonight, and what am I doing. Yup yup. I'm writing a blog post.

No, to those of you who asked, I have no idea what "assessing my workspace" entails. I know that I was asked whether I had a separate workspace, and whether I would have my children home while I worked. I think they are going to be putting in a second phone line for me, or at least that was mentioned at some point (a year ago...) I hope someone tells me what they're looking for before anyone actually comes out here. And I hope I can schedule the visit for a time that my babysitter can whisk the children off to the library...

A couple of things that bear mentioning....

Iyyar is teetering on the brink of locomotion. That wonderful baby phase where they sit and play happily and independently but can't yet get into mischief is nearing its end; he can, if he's trying to get to a toy (or dangerous implement) while sitting, lunge over and wind up on all fours. He doesn't yet realize the potential utility of this position, though. He can creep on his stomach and do a 360 like that, and move a good couple of feet before he gets annoyed and starts to cry. He can stand very well if he's holding onto something, can pull up easily on my hands, and is a hairsbreadth away from pulling up on his own--right now he can get up to his knees but that's it. And yesterday, for the first time, he got into a sitting position from his stomach. I don't think he really realizes he can do it though.

In general, Iyyar is chubby, cheerful, and talkative. He has an expansive vocabulary of consonants and vowels, but whenever he has something serious to communicate he stays with the tried-and-true. Ah da da da da, Imma. No, really, I'm serious! Da da da! Ah da, da da da, da da. And the da you rode in on, too. He is sleeping much better, though still tries to sneak in a stealth nurse sometimes at around 3 am. If I'm tired enough not to notice the time, he gets his nurse; if I see that it's between the hours of midnight and 5 am and the milk bar is closed, he gets Grumpy Man with Beard.

Today, he was not so happy. He's had a low-grade fever off and on since Monday. Every pediatrician I've ever talked to says definitively that there is no connection between teething and fevers; I've never met a mother who believed it. He got a tooth on Friday and is working up three more. The one that came in was a top tooth, but not one of the two front teeth--it's one of the ones just to the side. He looks pretty funny. He was miserable this morning, and just wanted to nurse, snuggle, and sleep. Some Tylenol helped, and even after that wore off he was still feeling better. I made butternut squash soup for dinner, and he ate mine for me--a good sign.

Today's Barakisms were pretty good. We baked bread this morning--bread of the Activity with Toddler ilk, not the I Care What It Tastes Like variety. It turned out surprisingly good, despite the lack of sprinkles. (Only for Shabbos.) When I was about to put it in the oven, Barak was too close and I shooed him to the other side of the kitchen, as I do about fifty times a day. "Barak, go to the other side of the kitchen, please. The oven's hot."

"Stove hot. No can't touch it!"

"Right, you don't touch the stove."

"Only Imma Barak touch it stove."

"No, sweetie, only Imma touches the stove."

"No Abba touch it stove."

"Well, no, he doesn't really touch the stove, you're right."

"Abba's gonna touch it stove when he's bigger."

Barak, as you may have noticed, still has some trouble with pronouns. His usual way of asking me to him him is pleading "Imma help you!" If he wants to sit in my lap, he says, "Imma sit in my lap please!"It makes sense--he's repeating the phrases I use. Today, I was sitting in the rocker in his room, holding an unhappy Iyyar on my lap. "Imma sit in my lap please!"

"Sure, you can sit in my lap."

"Open it please!"

"What?"

"Open it sit in my lap!"

I had no idea what he wanted. He repeated himself a few times, and then, with another "Open it!" pulled one of my arms away from the baby, climbed into my lap, and wrapped my arm around himself. Open up your lap, please, and let me in.

All together, now: ohhhhh.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Stunned

The December before last--we're talking December 2005, when I was barely in my second trimester with Iyyar--I had a talk with my boss about working from home. She put in a request to have me moved offsite, for a variety of reasons that boiled down to "Uberimma can work more, better, and faster if she's home than she can here."

The weeks and months went merrily by--bedrest, baby, maternity leave. No word from the Man Upstairs. A week before my leave ended, as you may recall, the request was denied. I decided to pull a dangerous bluff and said I'd quit if I had to work in the office for all of my scheduled hours (22.5 a week, which boils down to 6 hours a day out of the house and away from my kids). My boss convinced the Man Upstairs to reconsider, and I was told I could have three days a week in the office, two at home, for three months. Iyyar's now nine and a half months old, so that request has now been extended twice.

Earlier this week, in light of all the extra hours I've been working for some very high-maintenance clients, my boss asked me if I would consider going from 3/5 time (22.5 hours) to 4/5 time (30 hours). More benefits paid, better benefits, and obviously more money. (I get paid straight for extra hours now, but it doesn't affect my standing so far as my benefits.) I said no, I couldn't. I told her I had thirty hours in a week that I could devote to my job, and I felt that that was all I could handle. 13.5 hours in the office, 4.5 commuting, and 12 at home is how it currently breaks down. I already have no time to myself and not nearly enough to sleep--more would not be manageable. We talked about the basic problem we are having, which is that we have some high-need clients who will be around for a while, and there is not really anyone else who can do the bulk of the work they will be needing. We're trying to break in a new freelancer, but there's a limit to what can really be offloaded. It's down to me, and there's more work than I can do in the time I have.

What happened today? (Nothing bad, don't worry. I didn't get fired.)

I went into the office, worked my regular day, had a couple of chats with my boss about various things (not the above issue), and came home. Played with the kids, had a nice afternoon, the usual. Around 4:30 I did my regular almost-end-of-the-workday email check, to see if there were any fires to put out. And I had a three-sentence email from my boss saying that my request to telecommute had been approved, the details were being discussed, I should still plan to come in on Friday, and someone would be coming out to my house to assess my workspace in the next couple of weeks.

Whoa.

I mean, this is great, obviously. I don't think it means that I'm now committed to formally increase my hours, or even that it's necessarily expected.

I think I'm just too shocked to be excited.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

CSY.5

I know what you're thinking--what happened to CSY.4? (What, you weren't keeping track? Oh, never mind.) I made them and sent them to Grandma E a few weeks ago, and never got around to taking a picture. They were gorgeous--trust me--and she says they fit. Moving on:

Here is the pair I made for my MIL. The weird positioning is hiding the fact that I haven't grafted the toe yet. I have decided that I am a toe-up-sock kind of girl; I don't know, I just get bored knitting them top down. So sue me.

The socks:
The yarn is Meilenweit. You probably can't tell from the pictures (I know, I know, my pictures stink, I'm sorry) but there is a ribbed leg and foot, square garter-stitch heel, and expanded toe section. Once the toe gets grafted I'll try to get them in the mail, along with all the other packages I owe people.

Right now I am in the middle of a pair of socks out of Lorna's Laces (literally in the middle--I just grafted off sock #1) and have realized that as much as those Regia/Meilenweit/Opal/Fortissima printed yarns are fun to knit with, I really prefer 100% wool sock yarn. After a few washes I find that the ones with 20% nylon get a sort of plasticky look. It's something about the way they pick up the light.

Moving on...

We went on a shabbaton with MHH's school this weekend. It was fun, but exhausting. The boys were great on the car ride there (three hours) even though Iyyar left with two teeth and arrived with three. On the way back, though, there was much screaming. And whe, having gotten everyone tucked into bed and asleep, I foolishly checked my work email at 12:15 am, I discovered that Head Honcho Client Guy needed a speech in less than 36 hours that had not been written. For an important event hosted by, shall we say, a fairly significant head of state. I knew about the event, but had been misinformed about the venue, and thought that it was a week later (as had everyone else, it seemed--how this happened I do not know). I had missed the frantic emails by not being home on Friday, and my cell phone battery had mysteriously died in the car. So I got to crank out 1600 words between 12:15 am and 5 am.

I'm pretty tired now. I'm sure there are cute kid things to blog about, but I can't think of any. Oh. Wait. There was one. Barak pooped in the potty, pointed at it and said, "Issa snake! Issa poop snake!"

Indeed.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Job satisfaction

So, remember my little hair-pulling episode at work a couple of weeks ago? The one where my AV got sabotaged by passive-aggressive PR nutcases?

Yeah, so.

The client involved did, I am told, a relatively spectacular job on his speech. Now, this is someone who is very, very low-key. In ordinary conversation he does not enunciate and is hard to understand. He mumbles a lot and trails off at the end of his sentences. He doesn't have any sense of drama or pacing to speak of and cannot tell a joke. At the first run-through, he sounded like he was giving a play-by-play of a very unfortunate football game. Public speaking: not his strong point. But he's very, very smart, works hard, and has an incredible memory. He was a delight to coach and, when I complimented him on how well he'd done, looked me in the eye and said, "I just did what you told me. " Have I mentioned he's also very nice?

So, anyway. Today my boss came up to me at work and told me that the head of PR had come up to her and congratulated her on--get this--"turning a forensic accountant into a world-class speaker."

Grin grin.

(I should point out here, in fairness, that I myself am an atrocious public speaker. I talk too fast, I get nervous, my throat closes up and I invariably lose my voice afterward. I know what should happen in theory, but can't put it into practice to save my life.)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Motherhood is full of surprises, part 8

1. I may have mentioned that Barak's diet has, shall we say, telescoped alarmingly in recent weeks. As of last Monday the only acceptable food items in his lunchbag or on his plate, so far as he was concerned, were--let's see--string cheese, Triscuits, bananas, raisins, milk, orange or apple juice, granola, yogurt, cereal, challah, noodles and cheese (the famous "doodles cheese"), and, of course, cookies/ice cream/sugar in any other direct delivery system. While the bulk of his diet was composed of perfectly healthful items, it was not, as you might notice, particularly well-rounded. It didn't get that limited overnight--it had been about a year of items gradually falling off the accepted list and being scorned with a summary "I don't want it. Someping else please."

So, being full of bright ideas, I decided to resort to drastic measures. As of last Monday, I decided to strike all Approved Food Items from his diet. He could have any someping else he wanted as long as it wasn't string cheese, Triscuits, bananas, raisins, etc. I bought carrot juice and apples and cucumbers and veggie baloney--all recently acceptable--and dropped the bomb.
Remember when I decided I was going to toilet train Barak by taking the diapers away with a six-week-old baby in the house? Remember that brilliant idea?

Well, this went much much better.

Before I left for work I packed him a lunchbag of all kinds of things in containers. Our babysitter (babysitter, fabulous) cheerfully offered the breakfast and lunchtime buffet to withering scorn. When I came home, he thought there would be relief. Nope. His most winning requests for cheerios, granola, yogurt and crackers were all denied.

But by dinnertime, well, he just got hungry. So he ate the cucumbers.

And then he ate the tomatoes. That was last Monday.

You will not guess what he ate for dinner tonight. No, guess.

Herb linguini with pesto. I'm serious. He did. And half a cucumber, which he asked for, and the totally wrong kind of crackers. On Shabbos he ate chicken soup and even played earnestly with his cholent. He's eating apples. And cheese that isn't stringy. And things with sauces on them. He isn't suddenly eating anything--he is still a toddler, after all, and those bean burritoes I made last night just weren't going to fly--but, well. Wow.

Weird.

2. Further to the "things we didn't really think were going to work," Iyyar slept more or less through the night last night. Yeah. Really. He did. And that's not just sleep-deprived hallucinatory imagining, either--he slept from around 8 till 4 am, then nursed and slept again till 9.

Nine!

What happened? Two nights of Abba fielding the baby from midnight till six, that's what happened. Iyyar decided that getting cuddled by a grumpy and impatient man with a beard was not worth waking up for.

So, he sleeps. And wakes up to an awful lot of milk. I know that in a few days my supply will adjust but right now he is not used to having all this milk spraying into his mouth, and he tries to get all of it. Even though it doesn't fit. And he throws up afterwards. This happened to me tonight, after Iyyar's bedtime nurse. He nursed away happily for a while, looked up at me with a big grin, opened his mouth, and then all of a sudden I was very, very warm. In a smelly, sour-milk-and-curdled-banana kind of a way.

What does this make you think of? Roman banquets? Yeah, me too.

3. In addition to sleeping, Iyyar is now eating food fairly regularly. Cheerios have become more acceptable, but mostly I just put whatever I'm eating in a bowl and go after it with the immersion blender. Last night he had zucchini and yellow squash soup and brown rice. And plain full-fat yogurt, unsweetened. I wish I'd taken pictures of the faces.

4. Since it is really really cold here right now (I'm not giving away my location, it's cold pretty much everywhere that isn't LA) I haven't taken Barak to playgroup in a while. Today was a work-at-home day and I had both boys here, which ordinarily would have meant an hour or two of writing while Barak napped, regular email checks, and serious writing after bedtime. But at 10 am the phone rang, and it was the Head Honcho Client Guy's secretary. He wanted to talk about speeches. Uh-oh.

I had a little talk with Barak. Did he want Imma to go to work? No. Did he like Imma to go to work or stay home. Stay home! Well, Imma could either go to work or talk to work on the phone. What should she do? Talk on the phone. Okay, so, that means that you're going to need to play with toys in your crib for a little while, okay? You don't have to go night-night, and you're not getting a time out. I just want you to play quietly with toys. Which toys would you like? He picked out a few puzzles, and I put him in his crib with the light on, door open, and curtains open. Not only did he not object, but he played in there quietly for forty-five minutes--the entire length of my conversation with this guy.

Iyyar, fortunately, had been napping all this time, and woke up just as I went to get Barak after I got off the phone. Barak was looking perfectly content. "I didn't getta time out. I just play in there."

5. While Iyyar was having nap #2 of the day I decided to clean out my spices, and then my whole big food cupboard. I took everything out, washed all the jars, consolidated spices, wiped down the shelves, etc. Barak thought this was lots of fun. Especially the pepper grinder, which, it transpires, he can dissassemble and reassemble. Not actually with the peppercorns intact, but, well, nobody's perfect.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

grumble

When I get stressed out and cranky, I have a lot of not-so-savory impulses, like being short with my kids and getting mad at my husband and eating all the ice cream in the freezer. When this happens, I try very hard and very consciously not to get mad (the ice cream, forget it, the ice cream I just eat). I count to ten a lot. I breathe deeply. I stop and say to myself, okay, what's really more important right now--getting the dishwasher emptied or letting Barak help you? What's more important, a dishwasher that is empty Right Now or a child who knows that you want and value his help? One, two, three, four, five...

And when I get stressed out and cranky, my tolerance for disorder of any kind plummets. I do not want dishes in the sink. I do not want toys in my bed or laundry on the floor or an apple core on the kitchen table or shoes in the back hall right where I will trip over them when I come in and am holding the baby and can't see the floor. No no no. I want tidy.

We had a guest last week, a friend of my family--one of the two links I have left to my biological past. (The other one is 84 years old and in Hungary.) She's nice, she likes us, she's known me since I was seven, and when she's in town she makes a point of stopping by. I like seeing her. My husband likes her too, but every time he finds out she's coming he groans a little because he knows that after she leaves I'll get all sad and morose about the whole no-family business. And I say, no I won't! This time I won't, really!

Um. Yeah. So.

Did I mention I like the house tidy? Last week I cleaned and cleaned before she came, and then after she left I cleaned some more, and on Thursday night I went to bed with the food all made and the house SPOTLESS. It was a very nice way to go into Shabbos, but of course 25 hours later it was all gone.

Speaking of all gone, there was a whole tub of ice cream in the freezer just a couple of days ago. Haagen Dazs Caramel Cone. It vanished sometime around Shabbos afternoon. Yes, folks, I married a guy who keeps three hours and eats chalav stam. With all my worrying about my boys not getting shidduchim because I wear purple shoes, they should be in demand just because of that.

Okay, so, time for the good news. The good news is that we have been invited to visit friends for all of Pesach. Did you catch that? All of Pesach. Me, I do not need to make Pesach this year, and this, my friends, this is a mighty relief. We will be staying with friends with more than three times as many kids as we have, and in a home where we don't have to worry about what Barak breaks because, as my friend told me, "Anything that can break around here, my kids have already broken." I don't have the vacation for leaving town that long, but I am working so much overtime right now that I can take the time unpaid without any end financial hit, and my boss is okay with that. Well worth it. Right now I am trying to figure out the logistics of who we will and won't manage to see, and whether we can visit other friends for the last days, including Grandma E, without making ourselves insane with the shlepping of car seats and luggage and strollers and children through Penn Station.

So, something to look forward to.

In the meantime, I am going out grocery shopping with a friend, and this is the social high point of my week, so excuse me while I go put on makeup (ha) and find my shoes (yeah, that could be a good idea, it's cold out). I need to replace the ice cream in the freezer.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Four totally unrelated things

1. First the good part. Iyyar took his first ride in the top of a shopping cart this morning. He was favorably impressed by the experience.

2. This article, by the AP... ah, where to even begin? With this?

"Notably, it says the U.S. is one of only five countries out of 173 in the survey that does not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave; the others are Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea."

Or this gem, at the end?

"Traditionally, many conservatives have opposed moves for paid family leave, but there are signs of some shifts. A prominent anti-abortion leader, the Rev. Paul Schenck of the National Pro-Life Action Center, recently said he would support paid maternity leave on the premise that it might dissuade some pregnant women from having abortions."

Ya think?

3. That was just depressing and enraging because of the idiocy. This report on anti-Semitism in England--it's just depressing. And if you look at the full report, you'll see that most of the perpetrators aren't Arabs. They're white. And this is England, not mainland Europe, which traditionally and currently is much worse. When you can't go daven without having to think about this, well... it's not going to be so good for your kavanna.

4. All of which might make us remember why this is a good thing. And wonder what people like this think will happen if they get what they're asking for.