February 28, 2012

A Thousand and One Soggy Nights

We’ve started letting H help clear the dishes after dinner. We want her to have a sense of helping, and she gets a kick out of putting things back in the fridge. Yellow care bear in one hand, she was cheerfully putting silverware into the dishwasher with me tonight when suddenly she was gone. I thought she’d just gotten distracted by something. Then I saw Josh run.

He made it to the bathroom just in time to see H’s wide-eyed confusion as pee streamed down her leg and all over the rug. By the time I got there she was seated, with soaked panties still on, on the toilet. It’s still quite common for a few drops to get in the pants; sometimes the whole crotch gets wet. It’s been months, however, since I’ve had to clean a trail of pee from the kitchen to the bathroom. All three of us were rather bewildered at this particular turn of events on the long road to potty training success.

When we started potty training in September, it was meant to be a three-day process. That was five months ago.

Given all that has transpired in those months, maybe I would have done things differently. Maybe I would have waited longer to start. The crux of the matter, like so many of the spinning plates in my life, is that we chose that time because I was pregnant with the twins. I wanted H to have a good six months to perfect the potty before she had a new baby brother or sister (this was before the final ultrasound). Also, Josh had finally returned from being gone all year, and we had finished our round of travel to see family. It seemed like the perfect moment.

Then I lost the twins, Josh left on deployment, and in grief-stricken, single parenthood I relied a great deal on simply continuing to put one foot in front of the other to get us through. The potty training was, at varying times, successful enough to give me hope of its soon success. Regardless, it is now far too late to abandon ship, despite H’s pitiful, and random, plea this afternoon for a diaper after she peed a bit in her underwear. In her post-nap stupor, she cried and clung to me and moaned for diapers to save her from the horror of having to remove the pee-soaked underwear herself. Sorry, kid, not a chance.

It’s not that I expect perfection from a child who’s two years and nine months old. But, dear God, what will it take to convince her to let us take her to the toilet before she starts peeing? In her defense, before today’s double debacle, we’d gotten the accidents down from almost every time she peed to 1-2 per day. After success and regression, she’s staying dry during naps again. Josh’s magic touch in taking a sleeping toddler to pee has also helped her to stay dry all night. (Author’s Note: Moments after writing this, Josh came in with a pantless, sleepy toddler, whom I held while he freshened up her pee-soaked bed. Apparently I jinxed her. Sigh.)  I’m not at all trying to brag when I say she’s probably still ahead of most of her peers. I remind myself of this when I’m ready to start tearing out my hair.

H, unfortunately or not, received, along with beauty and charm, the combined stubbornness of both sides of the family. We’re talking some alarmingly stubborn people here. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a more resolutely stubborn creature in my life than my daughter. Combine that with an under-developed sense of logic, a stubborn mom, and a case of denial over the fact that she has to pee, and you’ve got a perfect storm of wet pants ad nauseam. (I will refer you to the multiple occasions when she asserts, "I can't go pee pees," sweeping her tiny arm defiantly, as she pees in the toilet.) Some days I feel that it is only my conviction of her slim chances of going to college with wet pants that keeps me going.

Several times (here, here, and here), I have talked about the potty training journey. Often I wrap up by philosophizing that children need time to blossom into the flowers they are, or some such bullshit. Tonight, however, maybe I’ll just count small blessings. For example, I don’t have to pay for water on base, so bring on the pee-soaked laundry! This is the longest H has had two parents around in a year and a half, so maybe our powers combined will turn the tide. I am now versed in removing pee from every soft surface in my house. Surely this is valuable Mom-knowledge. Finally, let’s admit it, H is still the cutest, most lovable, sweetest child I could ever hope to parent. If this is as bad as it gets, then yeah, I guess I can clean up some pee.

February 17, 2012

Striped Kiddo Afghan

I’m posting my very first crochet pattern. H is still at a stage in the toddler bed where she doesn’t really have sheets, just a blanket. Her baby blankets are starting to get a bit small, so I thought I’d make her a new one.

Clearly it needed to be purple. The light grey seemed to be a nice compliment. You can, of course, use any colors you like. Likewise, you can use any brand of yarn. I like to stick with something machine wash and dryable, especially when it’s for a kiddo.

As indicated at the bottom, you are free to use, share, and adapt this pattern for non-commercial purposes. Happy hooking!

  • Vanna’s Choice yarn, Medium weight: A- 21 oz. of Purple Mist (7 skeins) and B- 9 oz. of Silver Heather (3 skeins)
  • Size J crochet hook

Finished Size:
Approx. 37” x 44”

ch: chain
hdc: Half-double crochet (a video review of how to make a hdc)
spike: Spike half-double crochet (a tutorial for the spike stitch)

A close up of how the spike stitch will look in this pattern. It's reversible, so it will be visible on the front and back.

With A, ch 122.
Row 1: Work hdc in 3rd ch from hook (beg ch counts as hdc). Hdc across. (121 hdc)
Row 2-8: Ch 2 (counts as first hdc), turn, hdc across. In last stitch of Row 8, change to B.
Row 9: Ch 2, turn, * spike into the row below, hdc * rep from * to end of row. (Row begins and ends with hdc.)
Row 10-11: Ch 2, turn, hdc across. In last stitch of Row 11, change to A.
Row 12: Ch 2, turn, * spike into the row below, hdc * rep from * to end of row. (Row begins and ends with hdc.)
Row 13-19: Ch 2 (counts as first hdc), turn, hdc across. In last stitch of Row 8, change to B.
Rep Rows 9-19 until you have 9 panels of A.

Creative Commons License
Striped Kiddo Afghan by Jamie Holaday is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

February 16, 2012

Crime and Punishment

A Russian student, Raskolinikov (we’ll just call him Rask), in late 1800s Petersburg gets a little too depressed. He had to leave university for want of funds and locks himself in his room for a good month. In his depression and slight madness, he gets it in his head to test a grand theory he’d come up with that if a man is truly extraordinary, like Napoleon, then he can overstep the bounds of regular men (i.e., the law) and do whatever he wants.

Rask tests this theory by murdering an old pawnbroker woman and robbing her. He plans to get at least 3000 rubles so that he can set himself up in school and go on to the greatness that is surely in his future. (Thereby making the murder ok.) Problem is that once he kills her he panics, steals just a few things, realizes that he didn’t lock the door to the apartment, and ends up also killing the woman’s sister, who came in and caught him. By sheer luck, he escapes unnoticed.

If he had kept his calm, he would have gotten away with the murders. But he can’t handle it. He’s remorseful, though he’d scarce admit it, and extremely paranoid. On a routine trip to the police station the mere mention of the murder causes him to faint. He’s laid up in bed for several days after that, delirious with fever. That combination causes members of the police to become suspicious of him.

Rask’s friend Razumikhin comes to help him out. He probably saves Rask’s life.  Rask is largely ungrateful for his help. A bunch of random stuff happens, which I will summarize very quickly. Rask insults and gets rid of his sister, Dunia’s, horrible fiancĂ©. Rask befriends the widowed family of a drunk he met in a bar and consequently meets Sonia, a prostitute, who went into prostitution to support her family (her dad was the drunk). Dunia’s former employer shows up with strange and dubious plans for the Rask family. The lawyer investigating the murder finally meets with Rask and tells him point blank that even though he has no evidence, he knows that Rask committed the murders; then he details the whole thing.

The fiancĂ© is driven off in a disgraced huff. The kids of the drunk are helped out, randomly, by Dunia’s former boss and thus saved from living in the streets. Dunia inherits some money, so Rask’s family is taken care of. Razumikhin and Dunia fall in love. Sonia gets money from the former boss, who, after playing Robin Hood, shoots himself in the head. And finally Rask decides to confess.

The epilogue tells us how Rask goes off to Siberia to serve eight years for the two murders. Sonia, the prostitute, follows him out there because she’s in love with him. After a year Rask finally gets over his morbid depression and self-delusions and decides he’s in love with Sonia. The happy couple is thrilled that there are only seven years left before he’s released and they can marry and be happy. And at the very, very end Rask picks up the Bible and decides maybe he’ll become a Christian.

Other Thoughts:
  • My edition was 521 pages long. I’m pretty sure it could have been 300 pages and the gist still would have been quite clear. On the other hand, it was fairly entertaining most of the time. There were only a few times where he went off into lengthy, pointless rants. Also, I actually followed the plot. The only other book by Dostoevsky I’ve read is The Devils. I couldn’t tell you what that book was about if my life depended on it.
  • I do not understand Russian names. Everyone has three names; they are called random things by different people. Raskolinikov had a different surname than his mom and sister. It was a big mess. Thank goodness this copy had a list of characters at the front in case I got confused.
  • I found it a bit odd that after subtly mocking religion the entire book at the very end Dostoevsky leaves us with Raskolinikov contemplating his Bible. Was the whole thing really a plug that proper Christians don’t commit random crimes? Or that religion will save us from ourselves when it comes to lofty ideas?
  • How is it that Raskolinikov ended up with only eight years in prison for murdering two people in cold blood? Granted, that’s eight years in Siberia, but still. Oh, and apparently temporary insanity was already a defense in 1866 because Dostoevsky mentions that Raskolinikov didn’t use it.
  • This book was so blah that I actually finished it weeks ago. I just couldn’t be interested enough to finish my blog post on it until now.

I have been too lazy to take myself to the library in search of Gone with the Wind. Consequently, I’m ready War and Peace on my iPhone. It’s 6455 iPhone pages long.

February 13, 2012

Stopping by Windows on a Snowy Evening

Saturday was the first legitimate snow in a remarkably snow-less winter. When we moved to Dover we were assured that it rarely snowed. Then we had two winters with multiple heavy snow storms. When Josh came in from shoveling the driveway he’d always remark, “It’s a good thing it never snows in Dover.”

I cropped my goofy self out of this one.

In anticipation of another snowy winter I outfitted H with parka, snow pants, heavy duty mittens, and snow boots. We’ve not actually need any of these items this year. Sigh. Determined to get some use out of the boots, I took her out to salt the sidewalk. H was over the moon about the snow. She jumped up and down that it was snowing and how she was going to go play in it. She’s at a stage where English fails her when she gets really excited, and it all becomes a fusion of giggles, squeals, sighs, smiles, and arm flapping. I have no idea what she’s saying, but any fool can see that whatever it is, it’s wonderful. The sidewalk was far more wet than icy. Nevertheless, the flakes drifted whitely through the air and the street had the stillness of new snow. No one else was outside. I showed her how to make a snowball and let her throw one. I threw a couple at Josh hiding in the office window upstairs taking pictures. Josh took her out later for a quick puddle-splashing/stroller trip to the shopette. She came back soaked and thrilled.

Glad the water proof boots are getting some use. I yelled at Josh about her walking in the street, but he assured me it was in the cul-de-sac.

The snow stopped by about 11am but started again after dinner. As our game of building-block phones was winding down, I suggested that we turn off all the lights and watch the snow. We all huddled on the love seat under a blanket, Josh got the lights, and we strained to see the tiny flakes blowing through the light pools of light around the streetlights behind our house. It was one of those cozy, quiet moments that last in Mom memory banks forever. H was fascinated.

Then it got better. We heard a squeak. I am convinced that we have some kind of nocturnal animal holed up in our porch/roof for the winter. I’ve heard it on and off for weeks now, but it’s not loud or persistent enough to bother me and I’m lazy, so I haven’t done anything about it. That little squeak turned what had been a sweet moment into a grand adventure in the fine art of bat listening.

I wondered aloud if the sound might be a bat. Josh’s iPhone research indicates it probably isn’t. Mere facts, however, make no impression on H. Mom said it was a bat, and a bat it shall be! She shushed us so she could hear the bat better. Every time it squeaked she’d exclaim, “There it is!” I took the opportunity to try and teach her about bats. I googled pictures, which were interesting, but the content was not quite as interesting as scrolling through pictures on the phone. I tried to tell her how bats are mammals. I was told to be quiet so she could hear the bat. Listening for bats is very serious business.

By this point it was getting late. I suggested that perhaps she could hear the bat in her room and maybe we should go investigate. This turned out to be an excellent idea. Peering out the window of her room, H attested that she could see the bat near the playground. Her eyes must be better than mine (they actually are, as I can barely see) because I didn’t see anything. PJs could be changed into, but only if we were VERY quiet, so she could hear the bat. Turns out that whatever makes that noise is not really audible in her room. H started asking, “Where’d the bat go?” I told her that the bat was probably getting breakfast.

When it was time to go to sleep, she clearly could not lay down because there was a bat out there waiting to be heard. I told her that she could stay up to listen to the bat and tell us about it in the morning. This seemed like a great idea to her until we actually turned off the light. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen her run to bed and throw on her blanket.

The coolest thing about a two-year-old is the way you can take the simplest idea and spin it into an entire adventure. The part of me that is sad that she probably won’t remember this particular adventure is soothed by the thought of how many more adventures we can have tomorrow and the day after that. There could be creatures to search for in the grass, or clouds to turn into animals, or cookies to bake, or if we’re visiting Mimi and Papa, there could be real bats to watch.

February 11, 2012

Becoming a Great Writer

I went to grad school to be a journalist. Turns out that writing on deadline makes me itchy. I switched to editing, which suits my anal retentive tendencies and rule-following predilections. Like so many that work in the background, I secretly lust after the spotlight.

Clearly, that’s not a big surprise to you. I did START A BLOG. There are few so obvious “Look at me! Look at me!” moves that one can make with regard to writing. This blog gives me a tiny, supportive audience made up almost exclusively of family and friends. If I top 100 readers on a post, I get pretty excited.

Recently I’ve come across some amazing blogs/memiors. Writing that just blows me away in the grace of their prose and their beautiful honesty. I read these posts and memoirs, and I get sad. I get sad because when I look at these writers they all have some EVENT in their past. They’ve survived something that transformed their view of life.

One night, I found myself wondering if I can ever become a great writer without going through that emotional hurdle. I have never been and hope to never be a drug addict or alcoholic. I’ve only ever had two boyfriends (I’m married to number two). My parents are happily married. I was a good student. I have good friends. I have a wonderful husband.

I’m brushing my teeth, thinking about how my life is too good to be worth reading about. You know, Tolstoy, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Just think about how messed up the lives are on every top-rated drama on TV. No one wants to hear about how you don’t fight with your husband. Halfway through scolding myself for bemoaning my happiness, I suddenly think, “Well, three of my children did die last year. That sucks pretty bad.” And I can’t tell if it’s a testament to how far I’ve come or how far I have to go that I felt like somehow that wasn’t good enough to count for literary brilliance. Is my experience of loss so commonplace that it doesn’t differentiate me? I’m not sure how I could compare the number of women who have had miscarriages with the number who are alcoholics. I am certain that doing so will answer none of my questions or doubts.

The circumstances of your life or your loss or your tragedy are actually not so important. Truthfully, we only want to hear about the bad if there is a promise of good afterward. That’s why people hate Romeo and Juliet. They die. That’s not supposed to happen. They’re supposed to overcome the odds and be happy. Maybe that’s why I find myself admiring these women who have survived. Not because of what they overcame but because they overcame at all.

Losing my children won’t magically make me a better writer. No tragedy could do that for anyone. Perhaps it simply provides a different view of life. One reason people quote, “’Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all” is that you can’t understand love until you’ve felt it. You also can’t really describe love until you’ve felt it. If writing is about “Show; don’t tell,” then you have to experience life—all of life—to write well.

Before I lost those babies, I was sad when I heard that someone had a miscarriage. I was sad in the way I am sad when I hear about a tragedy half a world away that happened to people I don’t know. It’s sad in the abstract. I understood a little better when I had H. But it wasn’t until my own heart broke that I truly knew what it meant. It changed me. My world has levels of sorrow and empathy that never existed before.

Here I find myself written into a corner. I would dearly like to take you on a nice path back to the beginning. I’d like to claim that I can be a great writer, that I’ll keep plugging away if you’ll keep reading, or that it’s all a bunch of rubbish and greatness has nothing to do with your life history. Or maybe I could put a happy spin on it and say that the spirits of my children will gift me with more emphatic prose and everything happens for a reason bullshit. I’m not sure any of that is true.

I do know that we are wise not to wish for other’s lives. They often contain dark hidden corners we wish had stayed hidden. I know I’ll try to remain thankful for the relative tranquility of my life. I know that I’ll keep writing to my tiny, but kind and loyal, audience. I know that I’ll try to remain honest. I hope that you won’t get sick of hearing about my kids—all my kids. Your children are as inseparable from you as your own hands.

It’s not much of a pledge in terms of grand writing. I can’t guarantee a happy ending, and I hope to Hell and back that I’ll not have to share too much more bad news. But there it is: a new credo for a new year. Tell the truth. Feel the pain. Live life.

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