Last Night with the Boogey Man

Tonight will be Nate's last time to work the graveyard shift.

After this one last night alone, I'll finally have another adult in the house with me all night. I couldn't be happier.

I am a scaredy-cat. I am afraid to be by myself at night, and I have gone to asleep afraid every weeknight for the past 8 months. Maybe it's because I have never lived by myself, or maybe my parents let me watch too much violence on TV as a youngster, but I can imagine the most horrifying things happening when I am in bed, alone in this big house. Of course, the boys are here, but they don't count. They can't protect me; on the contrary, it is my charge to protect them, and their tragic, grisly demise is always part of my morbid fantasies.

What am I afraid of, exactly? Anything. Everything. Mostly scenarios in which crazed lunatics break down the door with the sole intention of inflicting violence on whoever is inside. I know this is fucked up. I know I should try to get over it. But right now I am fighting mental battles on so many fronts --- trying to lose weight, trying to be a patient and fair mother, trying to be a good person in general --- I just don't have the energy to devote to quelling these ridiculous fears. Instead, I've been waiting it out. I knew Nate wouldn't be on third shift forever. And now I have one more night to be freaked out by every odd shadow, every creaky floorboard. One more night. Tomorrow morning I'll be a very happy woman.

We drove our new car home yesterday. A Chevy Malibu Maxx. (It's actually a 2006, for anyone who cares). Nate did all the research and shopping; I just picked out the color. It's white, in honor of a white Toyota I used to have and drove to death.

Tonight my brother and sister-in-law are babysitting so we can make another foray into the strange world of work clothes. Nate wanted me to come with him so we can pool our fashion knowledge. Even though he'll soon be just another midwestern man in the office, he doesn't want to dress like one. He wants to look sharp, and I say Amen to that.

So, after we buy some more work attire, we'll be ready for this change. We're excited.

Well, we're mostly excited. Nate is nervous about controlling his swearing as he transitions to the office. In the warehouse, workers are free to let fly any colorful expression they can dream up. But Nate suspects the expectations the office will be different. He's probably right. But I know he'll be fine. He can keep it in check in front of our parents and (usually) the kids. So all he needs to do is keep a tight lip for the first couple of weeks, feel it out, and then let loose, with or without swearing as the situation dictates. I predict there will be a fair amount of cussing even in this more glossy environment. If watching The Wire has taught me anything, it's that drug dealers and councilmen alike enjoy a good "shiiiiiiiiiiiiit," now and again.

For my part, I am dreading the extra hour or two of solitary childcare a day. Right now Nate gets up at 4 pm. He's not really awake for another hour, but if I pester him enough, he can help out. But when he starts his new job, he probably won't be home until 5:30 or 6:00 pm. Sometimes later. This fills me with anchor-in-the-gut-dread, as dinner is, bar none, the most hectic part of the day. I'm going to have to get more organized, maybe do some dinner prep during afternoon nap. I can't believe I'm about to say this, but here we go: In order to get the boys to bed at the time I want, I'm going to have to have dinner on the table when Nate gets home. Oh my god, I'm really a housewife now. Just give me some pumps and an apron, and I'll be good to go. We'll see how it all works out... I might have to use the TV a little more than I'd like to get through these additional hours alone.

Third shift wasn't all that bad. We got used to it. I think we adjusted well. There are even a couple things I will miss about it. For example, when it was time to take Simon to school but it was also time for Theo's nap, I could leave him because, technically, someone was in the house (even if that someone was asleep). Now Theo will have to come to and from school with us every time, even though it will cut his nap short and I absolutely hate that.

Also, I have to say it was nice to have someone else in the house all day, who could be woken up in case of emergency. I can only remember one time that I had to wake Nate up. It was the time I discovered piles of shit all over Simon's room. Shit smeared on the floors and walls, shit caked on toys. All of this, but an inexplicably clean little boy. "Simon, what happened?" I asked, simultaneously feeling the urge to vomit, cry, and punch a door frame. "My animals were taking a mud bath." What, I never told you that story? I guess it was because I was trying so hard to BLOCK IT OUT. Anyway, at that moment in time, it was nice to be able to storm into the bedroom and say, "Get up. I'm about to explode. I need help." And, groggily, he came to the rescue.

It probably goes without saying that the benefits of this new normal-hours job will far outweigh any advantages of the third shift job. We are very ready.

It will be great to go to bed without a knot of terror in my stomach. Oh, and spooning with my guy as we fall asleep together. That will be nice too.

Retreat Review

Thanks for the jokes and suggestions, everybody. I had myself some good chuckles. For the retreat, I decided to stick with the Harper's list of malapropisms, because I wasn't confident in my ability to tell a joke. It turned out that many women at the retreat shared my insecurity. At least half of the thirty attendees echoed some variation of "Well, I just have this list of botched church bulletin announcements because I'm not very good at telling jokes." (Seriously, I love the church bulletin humor. These can make me laugh until I hurt. Is it just me?)

There was one woman, though, who had no trouble telling a joke. Her name is Gwen, and I would guess her at 70. She told us that, for more than twenty years, at 9 am every Saturday morning, she and her mother would exchange jokes over the phone. She had a huge notebook full of them! I absolutely love that a mother and daughter would do that. Love it.

I had a great retreat weekend. Laughed until my face was aching, karaokied to "We Built This City," and "Bust a Move," and kayaked on Lake Springfield.

I'm really glad I went. It's amazing to be surrounded by women of all ages who are all so wonderful, so witty and vibrant. Despite my ambivalence about God, the opportunity to meet such a group of women is reason enough to continue going to church. That's what I learned this weekend. Also, I learned that my boys' childhood will be incomplete if we don't buy a couple of kayaks. They are so fun!


Make Laura Laugh Challenge

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to send me a joke or short story that is both funny and appropriate to take to a church retreat. Granted, this is a pretty progressive church, but I still have to read this aloud to older, church ladies. So let's keep it appropriate, shall we?

Friday evening I leave for a women's retreat with ladies from church. When we moved down here, I sincerely intended to keep attending the retreats of our old church (in Chicago) as a way to stay in touch. And while I think that idea was nice in its way, I'm realizing that I need to make connections here if I'm ever going to get over leaving Chicago. I hope I can make some friends from our new church and also have a relaxing weekend.

The theme for the retreat is "She Who Laughs, Lasts." We're supposed to bring a "joke or very short story" to share with the group. The all-A student in me wants to bring something really great, that will have everybody rolling in the aisles. I have a list of funny school-work mistakes from Harper's, but I'm open to something better. If you have some time to kill, search the ol' ninnernet and find me something funny! Thanks.

Buying Power and Will Power

One way in which third shift kind of worked toward our advantage was that Nate could use the car to get to work at night, and then it would be at home with me during the day. But when Nate starts his new job on May 1, I will be stranded. I do want to start using a bike to get around some, but in Central Illinois, you just can't get everywhere on a bike. In Chicago, yes, but Bloomington is simply not a bike-friendly town. Plus, I still go to my folks' at least once a week to keep my dad company, and I definitely need to drive there in a motor vehicle. Thus, at long last, we'll become a two car family.

Nate is obsessively researching cars for me. Generally speaking, I don't have strong opinions on cars, though Nate might disagree with me on that count. It seems like whenever he sets his mind on the best car, I find some reason to veto it (it's not on purpose, honey, I swear). We've finally narrowed it down to three choices. Sometime soon we'll go look at them in person and then we'll be signing away a good bit of our newly earned income. I want a wagon. Not a van. I will never succumb to the pressure to be a minivan mom. That is probably the only strong feeling I have about the kind of car I want. Not a van. And not an SUV. Okay, I guess maybe I do have some opinions.

Yesterday I bought the couch. I absolutely love the frame, but I'm incredibly nervous about the fabric I picked. I could go on and on about the decision process, but I know that's not interesting to anyone but me. Suffice it to say, I agonized over the choice. In the end I went with my first instinct, the one I liked more than all the others, simply on its own merits as a fabric. Now I am nervous about how it will look in the room, and am frantically shopping for rug and curtains that will compliment the couch but not look too matchy-matchy (a process complicated by the fact that my budget for these items is cheap to very cheap, and there's just not a lot of fabulousness to be had in that price range). Basically, I have no idea what I'm doing. Hopefully it will all come together in a way that I like. There's no way Nate will let me buy a third set of curtains in as many months if the ones I pick now end up looking wrong. I'll have to live with the wrongness for a long, long time. Anyway, all decorating concerns aside, we'll have a new couch in 8 weeks. None too soon.

Today my shoulders and back muscles are sore, thanks to two consecutive early-morning Tae Bo sessions. I'm back on the wagon, eating well and exercising, but trying to listen to my body and be more balanced in both areas. I'm also trying not to watch TV. I got some audio books at the library, and I want to listen to those in my downtime instead of turning on the TV. I still plan to watch all of our weekly favorites (Lost, The Office, 30 Rock, etc). But I'm trying to cut out the mindless TV watching --- aimlessly channel surfing, switching between The Search for the Next Doll and Style channel reruns. I have so much I want to do, and TV really eats up my time and energy for getting things done. So far, so good.

Next task for my willpower to conquer is my terrible nail biting. I don't know if I'm strong enough for that one, though. Might have to make a hypnosis appointment. (Funny thing: Nate was staunchly against hypnosis for purposes of weight loss, but for nail biting he thought it was worth a shot. He really hates when I bite my nails.)


Look for me in the self-help section.

I know I've written before about how much I love a good parenting book. I am unabashed in my reliance on said books, because Lord knows I don't want to parent my kids based on my instincts alone (since my instinct is often to strangle somebody).

Now I am reading a different kind of book, in the hopes of developing a healthy relationship with food. I've been trying to do Weight Watchers since September, and I've lost 25 pounds. That's pretty good. I worked hard, I did it, yea me and all that. The problem is that I gained 50 pounds during my pregnancy, so I still have at least 20 to go if I ever want to unpack those famous boxes in the attic. But I'm stuck. I've been losing and gaining the same 5 pounds for months now. I have a nasty habit of eating really carefully for a few days, a week, or whatever, then going nuts on a carton of ice cream or slamming down a whole pan of brownies. It's incredibly frustrating to realize, week after week, that I have sabotaged myself once again.

I tried to talk Nate into letting me undergo hypnosis to override my binging tendencies. Since he wouldn't go for it, I went to the library to look for some books to help me. I admit I felt slightly embarrassed checking out titles like The Rules of Normal Eating, Why Can't I Stop Eating, and When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies. I just felt like such a typical fat American woman. But maybe, if I can master the ideas in these books, I can stop obsessing about food and just eat in a healthy, moderate way. And maybe I could actually like my body, whatever the scale reads. That would really be turning a new leaf. Healthy, confident, beautiful new leaf.

It's amazing how babies change so fast. I had to laugh when I read my last post... not because Theo isn't a good baby anymore; he is, of course. But he's no longer such an easy baby. Probably two days after I wrote that glowing review, he became a climber. And I mean a serious climber, not just playing around on the first step. Suddenly he can climb all the way up the stairs in the blink of an eye. We've had to start keeping the door to the stairwell closed, and this does not please our little mountain climber. We've heard more whining and fussing about the inaccessible stairs than we've heard in the previous 8 months of his life combined.
He's also trying to pull up on anything taller than him. As a result, he's having his fair share of accidents. He tries to pull up on drawers and they pinch his fingers. He tries to pull up on chairs and pulls them down, pinning himself to the floor. Basically, that happy baby who we used to forget was in the room now requires close supervision. Not a bad thing, just a change. One last thing: I mentioned that he was easy to get to sleep, remember? Now he is so in love with pulling up to standing in his crib that he can't get to sleep. Even after he's deliriously tired, he can't stop pulling up. The boy fiends for that vertical high.
So we're learning to live with a climber. He's still the best baby I know.
Tomorrow we are going to buy a new couch! Here's a picture. Cute, huh? We are very excited. Our current couch is the pits. Sitting on it does not so much resemble sitting as it does some kind of ancient mind-over-pain meditation practice. And sleeping? Forget about it. We'll be grateful to have some soft cushions supporting our rumps again.


Blog as Baby Book

I've noticed that Theo nary gets a mention on this here blog. I think he gets overlooked because he's so easy-going. If he kept me up all night and was inconsolable by day, I'd probably complain about it here. As things are, he kind of stays under my "blog-worthy moments" radar.

But this baby is fantastic. Really, he is. He's quick with a smile or a giggle, he's easy to comfort, easy to put to sleep. Basically, anything you could want in a baby, he's got it times ten. Even though I can't properly convey his sweet spirit through this medium, I can at least chronicle some of his latest endeavors.

He is always crossing his feet, whether he's sitting in a chair or relaxing on his tummy. I don't know why, but I find his feet-crossing so utterly adorable; it makes me want to eat him up.

Since around his fifth month, he's been so active, such an explorer. He doesn't do a traditional crawl; he prefers the "army crawl." His tummy stays on the ground, and he pulls with his arms and pushes off the floor with his toes. He can drag his 18 lbs across a room with surprising speed.

Lately he has been pulling up on anything he can reach. Yesterday he pulled up straight as a pin using the dishwasher door for support.

The past few days, if I don't know where he's wandered off to, the first spot I check is the bottom of the stairs. He spends a lot of time there, pulling up on the stairs, carefully getting down, then pulling up again. He's like an athlete in training.

Not surprisingly, since Theo has taken up residence in this nook, his big brother can often be found there as well. Simon doles out an equal amount of pestering and loving. I tend to only take pictures of the latter.

He is a great little boy, with such a winning personality already. I can't wait to see what he's like at 2, 3, 4, etc. It saddens me to think that so few of our friends are experiencing his babyhood. Many of you knew Simon at this age, and yet Theo is a stranger to you (even Celeste, who witnessed his entrance into the world). So I guess I should try to post more about him, to give you a glimpse of his wonderfulness.

Also, visits would solve this problem. Visits, people, visits!

When the third-shift factor is eliminated, in about 3 weeks, it should be easier for us to make weekend trips up to Chi-town. But, seriously, if you aren't already planning on it (see you soon, Seeleys!), you should consider a trip down here. Visiting Bloomington will up your chances of seeing Theo at his best, as babies always perform better on their home turf.


Documenting the Daily Battle

As a mother (especially as a mother of two), I have always struggled to balance the demands on my time. At countless moments throughout any given day, I am trying to decide how best to spend my time.
Should I play with my boys?

(love the way they're both crossing their toes)

Should I devote time to housework?

(when the dishes in the dishwasher haven't been put away, dirty dishes have nowhere to go)

Can I rightfully spend some time on myself?

(new workout dvd's, which I requested instead of candy in my Easter basket; latest embroidery project)

From reading I've done and conversations I've had, I believe many mothers put themselves last on the list. Not me. For me, the house comes last. The housework is always there, and somehow it gets done eventually, only to start piling up again. Even though it drives me crazy to have a disheveled house, I'll gladly use my free time (the boys' afternoon rest time, for instance) to do some crafting instead of tackling the growing piles of laundry. Is it laziness or self-preservation? I don't know.

Anyway, this morning, even though the kitchen looked like this...

(witness, every last inch of counter space covered in things that need to be cleaned or put away)

...and the laundry looked like this...


(clean, but not put away)

... the winner of the constant battle for my time was Simon and this new toy, a gift for Easter. I had a marble maze toy when I was young, and Nate did too. What about you?
What a great toy. Watching Simon race his marbles with bated breath was far more gratifying than a clean kitchen could ever be.

There will always be dirty dishes. Four year old boys enthralled by physics? I think not.


Hell yeah.

On Monday, Nate had an interview for an office job at Cat. We went shopping for something for him to wear, because his wardrobe is sorely lacking in appropriate office attire. It took us several hours; the world of suit pants and shirts with collar measurements is completely foreign to us. He felt good about the interview, and we thought we'd have to wait at least a week to find out whether he got the job.

We were wrong about that, though. The call came on Friday. He's in!

This job is going to change our lives, and that's no joke. First of all, we're done with third shift, probably forever. More importantly, the salary for this job will double our income. DOUBLE.

The possibility of a job like this is the reason we moved down here. I still miss Chicago like hell, but seeing Nate so happy after that phone call made me think that maybe we're in the right place. We'll finally be able to get off the dole, which has been generously administered by Nate's parents since we were married. They have been the most amazing people to take money from... completely unconditional in their giving, never any strings or judgement, only assistance. They are fantastic, for many reasons. We're going to take them out to dinner soon to thank them for everything.

On his new job, Nate would like to add this:

"I really make cake, you can call me Duncan Hines"
Maybe he'll have to change his moniker from Dow Jones to Duncan Hines.
Send him some congratulations, ya'll.