Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Truly Awesome Book

Some time ago, I had one of those really amazing internet experiences where someone sends you a link to something, which then refers to an article, which is featured in a blog, which mentions something else, and before you know it, you've discovered this whole part of the universe that you otherwise would not have known about. (Though I don't know how it came to be that I had that much free time.)

And in the end, I discovered An Awesome Book, which is really one of the greatest discoveries I've ever made. (Even better because I found it on my own, not because Amazon said I would like it.) Really. You should check it out. It has the overall sound of Dr. Seuss, with that lovely rhyme scheme and incredible imaginative world it creates. But lest you think this is someone trying to be another Dr. Seuss, the look is all his own. The illustrations look like they were done with colored pencils and have that uneven quality in the color that makes it feel so personal, as if they were drawn just for you, so you could have a book all your own. And the story is one that every child should hear, a simple message: Dream Big. If you follow the link, you'll be able to read the entire book online, which Zachary and Ezra have wanted to do just about every day. And though I am always a fan of getting things for free, I actually ordered a copy and it arrived just a few days ago. Now we have to read it all the time.

I will admit that it made me cry the first time I read it, and it still gets me a little choked up every time. But unlike some books, which are supposedly written for children but clearly have adults in mind (like "Love You Forever"), this one is very compelling to kids. When we read it, we talk about what kinds of dreams they have, how you make your dreams come true, what it means when a dream dies.

There is a marvelous sense of humor in the book and in everything he writes. To give you a sense, in the copyright information, he suggests: "PLEASE SHARE. DON'T STEAL. IT MAKES PEOPLE UNHAPPY. I HAVE A DRAGON. HE WILL CRY."

So don't make his dragon cry. Make your kids happy, and check out a really awesome book.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

So Long, Fortress of Solitude

I posted a while ago about my relationship with the bathroom. It's been an emotional one, full of missed chances to take advantage of such small joys as peeing by yourself. But my bathroom is no more. Literally. My bathroom is no more. In the bastardized words of John Cleese, my bathroom has ceased to be. It is an ex-bathroom.

You see, we live in a 1958 house that is, really, much too small for our family at its current size. My father-in-law has a bedroom on the main floor, technically the master bedroom, and Ezra has the other bedroom on the main floor. In the basement, my husband and I share a bedroom with Matilda, and Zachary sleeps in what is really a study, across the hall from us. If I ever want a decent night's sleep, we have to get her out of our room--and so a plan was born. We're adding on to the house. We knocked out the wall of Ezra's room and, next to it, the bathroom, extending both those rooms into the backyard 10 feet. When the project is done, Zachary and Ezra will share a nice big bedroom, and we'll be able to open the bathroom door without banging into the vanity. Sheer heaven. However, in the meantime, we have construction going on, in the house, where I spend approximately 23 hours a day.

First we had a giant hole in the backyard for the foundation. That lasted about 2 weeks, with a giant pile of dirt, no backyard to play in, and a frustrating lack of progress. Then suddenly there was a floor, then walls--progress! Of course, we had a rainstorm in there that caused the entire basement to flood at 5 AM on a Monday morning. And the giant pile of dirt was "graded" all over the backyard, killing the strawberries and most of the lawn. And we lost power to the garage. And we have no outside water, so it takes about 50 watering cans and many trips to the sink to water the garden. But that's progress!

Along with the progress, of course, came messes. So first Ezra had to move out of his room and into ours. Just one big happy family--all in one room. He contends that he's afraid of the dark, so we have to sleep with a giant night light, which wakes Matilda fairly often, and I keep waking up disoriented by the light. Still, progress!

Then Monday of this week, they gutted the bathroom. So we had to empty out all the accumulated crap in the bathroom (Sudafed that expired two years ago? Can that still be good?) and create a temporary shower in the basement. Nothing like showering next to the washing machine and the dog's kennel to make you feel sexy and refreshed. And when they gutted the bathroom, they knocked a lot of sawdust and sheet rock all over the downstairs bathroom and the pantry, but we can clean that up, right? Progress!

Then they had to cut a hole on the ceiling of the downstairs bathroom so they could get to the pipes. This is a slight mess, and I couldn't use the bathroom for about 7 hours without asking a guy I've only just met to move his ladder so I can pee. That's not such a problem. But they did have to cut a hole in the floor of the upstairs bathroom so they can move pipes around, meaning that I can (and nearly did) sit on the toilet and look up and see the feet of my contractor, his assistant, the plumber, the electrician, and whoever else has stopped by to see the mess that is my house. Plus they had to move our bed into the middle of the room so they could get into the crawlspace, which means that our bed, Ezra's bed, and Matilda's crib are all now pretty much touching in the middle of the bedroom. But that's the price for progress, right?

And did I mention my underwear? You would be right to wonder how that could possibly figure in, but it's really quite logical. You see, I am a slob and we have a bedroom in the basement. For these reasons, I don't really keep close track of my clothes as I discard them. I kick them around for a few days and then gather them up on laundry day. It's a system that has served me well and that my husband has more or less learned to live with. It is also a system that does not account for the massive numbers of people who will be wandering through my bedroom, to deal with a leak, to cut holes in the ceiling, to crawl out through windows. And it is, of course, only after they've all been wandering through there for several days that I realize that my bra is hanging on a hook next to the bathroom door and I've got a pile of underwear on my dresser. Progress, dammit!

And the roof. We mustn't forget the real icing on this "burn it down and buy a new one; heck, in this economy, they're practically free anyway" cake. As they were assembling the roof for the addition, the contractor came and grabbed me one afternoon (I was probably nursing at the time; my dignity is so long gone with these people) and asked if I could come take a look at something. I was unprepared for the suggestion that I climb up onto the roof. But once I was (in most undignified fashion) settled up there, he proceeded to show me that our roof has signs of major wind and hail damage. Since I was up on a roof and don't know what they're supposed to look like anyway, I immediately agreed and called the insurance company. Many phone calls later, an insurance adjustor arrived and informed us that it was mild damage and he was going to recommend a repair, not a replacement. Since then, we've had him try to find a matching shingle (he says he did, but it clearly doesn't match our current shingles), my husband has cussed out the adjustor and our insurance agent, we've had several estimates for the roof repair, I've gone back and played "good cop" with the insurance agent and managed to get the case appealed to another adjustor, and I've called our friendly adjustor to tell him that his so-called "matching" shingle isn't going to work (if there is no match, it seems they have to pay to replace them all). And while all this is going on? Sure, our roof is in need of replacement; we knew we'd only be able to make it another year or two. But on the addition, we only have a tarp. We can't pick shingles for the addition until we know what's going on the rest of the roof. So when it rained the other night, we had to fill the boys' room and the bathroom with wading pools and laundry tubs to catch the rain where it leaks, because though they're almost complete rooms, they have no roof! But it's all in the name of goddamned progress!

And you want to know what the saddest part is? (Arguably the saddest part is that I would think that anyone would want to read about my home improvement woes, but we're going to set that aside for the time being.) It has taken me three days to write this post. Little by little, my house has been whittled away to almost nothing as the bathroom and Ezra's room have entirely ceased to be, the backyard is mostly unusable, and with all the plumbing activity taking place in our bedroom, Matilda has been napping in Zachary's room. Zachary has only been out of school for the summer for a couple of weeks, and he and Ezra are completely on top of each other. Not only are they used to having more time apart, but they're used to being able to get away from one another when they're both home. So now my days seem to consist entirely of "stop that," "give that back," and "if you do that one more time, so help me, you will spend the rest of your life in time out and we will never go outside again!" (I've actually said that. Not my finest moment.)

Someday all this will be done, and I will almost certainly (please, please, please) be glad we did it. But until then, I time my bathroom visits for when there's no work going on, put out buckets when it rains, and try not to think about how great it was when all I was upset about was how many people wanted to be in the bathroom with me. Unlike the legs that threaten to appear in the bathroom these days, at least they're related to me.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Taking a Bite Out of Crime--or other people

Well, yes, I did disappear off the face of the earth, but only for about a week. We had a terrific camping vacation full of all kinds of interesting stories about my cute kids and hiking with a stroller and the evil that is tent caterpillars.

But is that what finally got me to the computer? No, of course not. It was Matilda and her incessant biting of her friends. I've kept thinking it was a phase, every time she would bite another little girl I watch, who is 10 months old and her closest playmate. She was teething, or she had an ear infection, or there was some other excuse. But today I thought she'd been doing a really good job of being gentle, touching her friends with her gentle hands to show me what a good baby she was, and yet when they got home, her mom called to tell me that she had a big bite mark on her arm!

So how did I not notice that? I'm a little upset, first, because I swear I looked her over several times to make sure there was nothing I hadn't seen. But possibly worse, will she ever stop this? I've never had a biter; Zachary is really easygoing and is more likely to cry than to lash out (though he did get in trouble for hitting at school the other day--but that's another story). And Ezra is a fighter, but he's been one to scratch, and the kid he used to scratch would hit back just as hard, so there was no real sense that my kid was being a bully.

She's got her 15-month-checkup tomorrow, and I've also registered for a class on toddler biting. But I think at the heart of it is this feeling that my kid, my baby, is somehow bad, that only bad kids bite, and I've failed her and everyone else. My wonderful, beautiful, last baby is a biter! And my day care mom (who's kind of been becoming a friend) is upset--understandably. And I just feel like everything that's wrong in the world is wrapped up in my baby girl and the things she continues to do with her teeth.

I need a vacation from my family.