Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Laurel and Hardy of grandparents

My neighbors were at Disney all week, and one set of grandparents were in charge of their dog while they were gone. They were also in charge of retrieving the family from the airport, which entailed using the family van. This meant they would deliver the dog back at the same time they were picking up the van to go to the airport. Two evenings ago I heard voices in front of my house and went to the door to check on what was going on. There was grandma, in her nightshirt, with her hair tied up with some sort of ribbon, in flip flops, with the dog wrapping her up in her leash, while holding the dog bed in the other hand. Grandpa was running back and forth between house and car talking loudly about the fact he couldn't find the key to the house, (which also meant he didn't have the keys to the van), but he had a screw driver with him. This illicited the following response from Grandma (it is best appreciated if you can hear it being said with a heavy Boston accent): "Oh my Lord in heaven, are you retahted?" Even now I am not sure if she was speaking to the dog or her husband.

Apparently a decision was made to return to their house to get the keys, rather than break into the house with a screw driver and hotwiring the van. Grandma really was in her nightshirt, much to the distress man of the household, since this was his mother-in-law and he found her thusly attired on his couch when they were delivered home around 11pm by the grandfather. I guess going to the airport in your pajamas was too risque even for her. I am kind of surprised though, because this is the same woman who I once observed in a conversation in the backyard with her two daughters and the other grandmother, discussing the fact that her boobs were falling out of her bra. And by way of demonstration she leaned forward, pulled the top of her top open and showed them how her boobs were falling out of the bottom of her bra.

I should point out I was politely sitting on my deck having a cup of tea and reading while Cooper played. I was not skulking in the bushes waiting for someone to flash me her boobs. The way our houses are situated, should the other neighbors have been out and about, no less than 6 people would have been able to give a detailed description to Victoria's Secret about the shortcomings of their Apex bra as illustrated by my neighbors' mother.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ode to Kaloo

What is a Kaloo you ask? Why, it is that little guy you see my son holding in the picture. You cannot see it very well, but it is this thing that looks like a washcloth, has a bear head and little hands and feet. It is also a puppet. It is, in French, called a doudou or small security blanket. Our friend Diana gave it to Cooper when he was born. It is now THE item of comfort. He must have it to go bed, and often wants it with him at other times of the day. He has not become attached to a blanket, or stuffed animal. He is attached to Kaloo.

This actually the brand name of the item. We are terribly inventive in our house with naming items. He has several stuffed bears, two of which are blue. They are Blue Bear and Fluffy Blue Bear. Although Blue Bear has also been called Opera Bear because he has been known to sing opera at the breakfast table. Then there is Yellow Guy which is actually a webkinz but I don't know what its name is. We also have Pig, Ellie the elephant, Froggy and Kaloo 2.

See, when we realized Cooper was attached to the original Kaloo, we decided we needed a back up Kaloo. Of course I could not find the exact same one, so we bought a different one. Which is absolutely, unconditionally, with out a shadow of a doubt NOT an acceptable replacement for the original. Cooper is 100% sure of this. Just try giving him Kaloo 2 instead of Kaloo. Nope. It will be discarded, thrown aside like yesterdays banana peel, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth occurs until the original is produced.

You can buy other Kaloo products besides the doudou. There are stuffed animals, blankets, even perfume. PERFUME. Whatever. I have shopped at this website and try to give a Kaloo to anyone who is having a baby. I just wish I could find one that looks exactly like our original. I dread the day it gets misplaced or disolves in the washing machine.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

On to Toddler 1

So officially my baby is no longer an "infant". He finished his last day in the infant room at day care yesterday. They have a week off and then he begins in the Toddler 1 room. In our state you can move a child into a toddler class at 15 months, but this center runs like a regular school, so they don't transition kids at certain ages, they transition at the end of a year. So while he could have been a toddler for 5 months now, he has only now been promoted if you will.

It is amazing to me that he is 21 months old. Time has truly flown. His arrival in our lives was a surprise, and it has been a fascinating journey so far. His personality is so obvious already, yet I know there is so much more to come. I really enjoy having him around too. He makes me laugh every day. He might make me crazy too, but he definitely makes me laugh. Everyone should have someone in their lives who brings laughter into it every day.

This coming week while he is off from school his dad will be doing daddy duty. I am flat out crazed at work and can't take that kind of time off. This will be good for both of them, although different than when I was out visiting my parents. At least this time I will be around to assist in putting Cooper to bed so that he will stick to his routine.

Now if I could just get rid of this cold. Ugh.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shunting cars and hauling freight...

"Earworm": a portion of a song or other musical piece that gets stuck in a persons' head or repeats endlessly against the persons' will. That is what has been happening to me for at least the last 18 months with the nonsensical theme songs to the shows Cooper likes to watch. I know, it is a problem of my own creation. Had I not let him begin watching these shows, I would not continuously be tortured by the theme songs to Bob the Builder (can we build it? yes we can) Thomas the Tank Engine (they're two, they're four, they're six, they're eight, shunting cars and hauling freight), the happy birthday tune they sing on Sprout TV with the damn chirping Chicca, and the super annoying Dragon Tales.

I almost always have a song in my head to begin with, and in the past it would normally be a current tune or something I was listening to from my own music. I often wake up with a song in my head. It is like being a radio receiver but with almost no control over what station I am tuned to. For some reason I channel the 80's in the morning. I have awoken to Dancing Queen, The Night the Lights Went Down in Massachusetts, things like that. Until now. Now I wake up with demented children's songs in my head.

I once was under the care of an otolaryngologist, or ear, nose and throat guy to you laypeople, for tinnitus or ringing in the ear. It is a problem without resolution in my case, and in most people's cases for that matter. The doctor said that in the industry, they joke around that one day someone with tinnitus will show up at a clinic and go postal on all the ENT's in the room because they can't help him. It is my theory that constantly repeating out of control theme songs to kids' shows actually going to be the cause of that. Not even waking up to the Bee Gees is worse than an unstoppable loop of "Make way for Noddy, he's coming round the bend".

So if you hear about someone losing her mind and ramming her Honda CRV into a Dunkin Donuts building somewhere near Boston, it might well be me, just trying to make the music stop.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Money Monday - another financial aid post

We are three weeks out from the beginning of our fall semester. We are two weeks past the due date for the bills for the fall semester. There are 45% of our students on hold right now because they have not yet satisfied their fall bills. Our phones and the phones of the student accounts office have been literally, not figuratively, ringing off the hook.

So here is the thing. I said this in the first post, and it bears repeating: No one is responsible for paying for your or your child's college education except you. Unusual and unexpected circumstances aside, and by unusual I mean Godzilla sat on your house and ate your savings account, NOT that you are not earning as much on your investments these days and thus cannot possibly be expected to contribute even $1000 to your educational costs, you should have been planning for this day. Between child support to my step kids and day care for my current kid, we have NOTHING left at the end of the month, and yet I am managing to save something in a 529 account for my sons future college education. If he for some inexplicable reason does not go to college, like suddenly there is no reason to get an education because Utopia arrived and no one is ever sick or has to work, I can use it to fund my move to Costa Rica to run a coffee plantation. But I am saving. That is the point.

Let's review. You applied for aid, you got an award letter, then you got a bill. The next thing you do NOT do is call the aid office to inform them of how ludicrious the offer of aid is, that you can't pay this outrageous sum of money because you need to renew the lease on your Lexus. No, the next thing you do is decide how much you can afford to carve out of your monthly income to contribute to those costs. This may entail, and this is a very very VERY controversial statement, I am aware, sacrificing something. Some regular expense in your life you don't really NEED. Like dinner out three nights a week. Or coffee at Starbucks before 2pm. You can go there after 2pm now because to compete with places like Dunkin Donuts they have decided to reduce the price of a regular cup of coffee to something less than the GDP of Zanzibar. You might not be able to get a new car, but will have to drive that current one for 5 years more instead of replacing it after 3. I know not everyone lives extravegant lives, but everyone can make some sort of sacrifice. If you can't then you have other choices. Like borrowing.

Parent loans for undergraduate students, PLUS, are the cheapest and most easily obtained loans out there, for educational purposes. Usually you can borrow up to the cost of attendance less any other aid your student is receiving. You can defer payments on principle while the student is in school. You can deduct the interest you pay on it on your taxes. The interest can never be more than 9%. What could be better in terms of having to borrow?

There are private student loans, where the student is borrower, but they will need a credit worthy cosigner. These loans have variable interest rates, and depending on the credit of the cosigner, can be pretty high. You can defer these while in school as well, but I advise paying the interest so you are not accruing interest the whole time you are in school. The interest rate is based on either Prime Rate or LIBOR, and in both cases fluctuates constantly.

These are just a few of your options. If you have a legitimate hard luck case, of course the aid office wants to hear from you. We are here to facilitate this process as much as we can. But sometimes the situation really boils down to the student cannot afford to attend this school. We are a private college, we cost just under $35000 a year for those who live on campus. Sometimes it is just not the right thing to do, for a student to get that much in debt, no matter how much they want to go here. That is the hard conversation. But I am not the one who should be saying those things to the student. The parents, and 98% of our students have at least one parent involved in this process, should be the ones sharing the details of the situation and helping the student understand the ramification of certain choices. It is not the worst thing in the world to go to a 2 year or 4 year state college either for a year or two, or for your whole education. We want you here, but that isn't necessarily the right choice to make. And I can't solve the problem for everyone.

So mom and dad, be realistic and responsible. Students, understand that no matter how long it has been your dream to to XYZ school, the reality of the situation is that 10 years after you graduate, if you did well, applied yourself both in and out of the classroom, and squeezed every drop of opportunity out of your education as you could, it won't matter what emblem is on your sweatshirt or bumper sticker. What will matter a lot longer is if you are in debt for the next 20 - 30 years because of your educational choices.

Go forth and choose wisely.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The treadmill gods

The politically incorrectly named Sambo
Cooper looking cute

So I came home to a surprise. I wondered why the old dead treadmill was out on the front sidewalk when we got home yesterday. It is garbage day today, but that seemed awfully motivated of a man on his own for a week. Turns out that Bob aquired his old treadmill from his ex-wife FOR FREE while I was gone. She had been using it, but had foot surgery and decided she would stop running for the time being. So we have a new used treadmill. It is in good shape and now I can keep up my weightloss campaign without freezing my butt off in a few months when it begins to snow.

And the dogs of the cove are shown above. We never got pictures of Mr. Darcy and Lizzy, two little dogs that fell in love with Cooper. They are named for the Pride and Prejudice characters. We also missed getting a picture of Marley, who left the day we arrived. He was a big yellow lab.

My dogs were happy to see me, although Buster the beagle is currently out visiting with the ex-wife. I would like him to stay there, but that is another story for another day.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

This corner of the earth...

So we are home again. We left the cove around 10am, got to Lewiston ME where we picked up Cooper's Meme, i.e. grandmother, Bob's mom, and got home around 3:30. It was an uneventful drive, thankfully.

The pictures above are more of the cove. The man who owns the property, John Flood, looks like your average Maine lobsterman. He is almost always in overall shorts, and has a shock of white hair. He is very protective of his little parcel of land. He used to be a teacher. Which explains the latin quote from Horace that is at the entrance to the cove. You see it in the first picture. It means, roughly translated, "This corner of the the earth is, to me, most beautiful." I couldn't really agree more. The sign also lists the names of the residents who are in residence at the time. It is kind of a funny but cool tradition.

The other pictures are of the view of the cove from in front of the Barnacle, one of the cabins, and of the Defiance, one of the other cabins. The last one is of a tidal river/marsh, the Sheepscot River. I love me a tidal marsh. It is so primeval, calm, and beautiful. This was on the way to the train in Sheepscot. I made John pull over on the bridge so I could get pictures.

Cooper and I had a great time in Friendship. We loved meeting new people, going on a scavenger hunt in the cove yesterday that D planned out for the kids to enjoy with the birthday girl, C. My child is now sound asleep in his own bed again, but he loved it all. As did I. Thanks to John and Virginia for their hospitality, and to everyone else for making it memorable.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nice to meet'cha

Spooky Fog
I love the ocean
Reading with J.
John and C of the Smiling Skull Saloon
Kids on a Harley.
So along with a great view and the opportunity to relax, the thing I love best about coming to Friendship is, well, the friendship. I get to see friends I love and meet new ones. This time around I got to meet some new kids, Z and O. They are the daughter and son of my friends, D and T. Z is 5 and half, and O is 3. You can see them in the picture of the kids on the Harley.

The Harley is the property of T's mom and step dad, C and C who are also new friends now. They hail from Athens OH and are owners of the Smiling Skull Saloon. If you are ever in Athens, you should stop by. You can get wine and beer. That's it. And a great T-shirt. They don't do mixed drinks or food. But these people are salt of the earth people and Cooper has managed to get over his concern over C's beard. It is a bit disconcerting to a small person I think.

I told Zelda the other day she was even smarter than I originally thought she was. "That's because I am 5 and a half" she responded. Who can argue with that.

We have rain today, but had gorgeous weather yesterday. At first there was fog, then sun, and then more fog, which rolled in at one point in a very spooky Stephen King way. I tried to capture that in one of the pictures.

I have two more dogs to document for my Dogs of the Cove installment. Meanwhile we are figuring out what to do with our afternoon today. Some people will be going to see a movie, I think Cooper and I will find some shopping to do - we need diapers.

Some of the pictures I have included were from a wine and cheese hour we had two nights ago, just after D and T and C and C all got here. There are so many lovely people here, and Cooper made new friends, like J who read him a book while I ate my dinner. Tomorrow we will have a birthday party for T's mom, as she is turning 55 on Thursday.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Where everybody knows your naaaaaame...

We have arrived in Flood's Cove, Friendship ME. It was raining yesterday when we got here, but today dawned bright and sunny. So we took advantage of it and went off to the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway, a 2 foot narrow gadge railway being restored to its original glory. They are painstakingly restoring both the line and the engines and cars. The men (surprise, there are no women who work on it)working on this are mostly volunteers, read TRAIN NUTS. Our friend, John, is also a train nut. They are a harmless sort of nut, building models in their basements usually. But these guys are committed to restoring this line. You can ride the train out 2.2 miles and back, being driven by an original steam engine and riding in an original car from 1894. So we did. This was Cooper's first experience with a real live train. He LOVED it. He is already obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. This was even better.

But I need to back up. When we first got here, my friends were not home, so I got to introduce Cooper to the Barnstable, the house we stay in. It was dark and rainy and spooooooky. Cooper would not let me put him down. He just kept saying "nonononono". Eventually I got my computer out and loaded up the Bob the Builder DVD I so brilliantly brought along, and that went a long way toward easing his discomfort. See the picture of him hugging his Bob and Elmo dolls. Then my friends, John and Virginia, arrived. John has a "benevolent neglect" approach to kids. He will exist in the same space with them, but generally waits for them to express a need before interacting. Cooper loves him. He did manage to raise three kids and they are all contributing members of society, none of them are axe murderers that I am aware of, so I trust him with my offspring. To say that the train expidition has cemented the bond is putting it mildly. John rides this train as often as possible while visiting in Maine. He may be supporting the renovation solely on his patronage.

The other events of the day were taking many walks, wading at low tide into the ocean, falling down in the ocean, crying and then completing not caring about being wet. We also met a dozen dogs. Everyone who is here has at least one dog, except my friends who are cat people. I will try to document the dogs, they are a funny pack.

So that was our first and second day here. Tomorrow the son and daughter in law of my friends show up with their two children, and the parents of the DIL are coming too. We will have a FULL house. But I love being here, and Cooper seems to be loving it, so the more the merrier. We have made the rounds to meet the old friends and look forward to making some new ones. We will let you know how it goes!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Off on vacation

A view of the cove through the woods and ferns.

Over the next week Cooper and I will be in Friendship ME staying with friends in Floods Cove. It is the fabulously quiet, isolated, off the beaten path spot. You go to Waldoboro ME, where you can have some of the best 4 berry pie at Moody's Diner you could ever ask to have, and make a left and head down to Friendship. We will be staying with friends of mine I have known since 1978 when my family first moved to Cleveland OH. They are probably the people I have known longest in my life besides my own family.

The Bob is not going, because he still does not have the warm fuzzies about our basement and the sump pump. They came and redid the trench, but it has not yet been put to the test. He is uncomfortable leaving the house in the hands of the house sitter. God forbid the basement flooded again while she was in charge.

I am very excited about introducing the cove to Cooper again. We went last year, and that was when he learned to crawl. It has been this wonderful touchstone place for me through many moves, job changes, marriage, divorce, marriage again, having a baby and the other vagaries of life. The friends I visit with are such good, kind, generous people that I feel renewed having spent time with them. I hope over the years we get to keep going and Cooper grows to love and appreciate this place as much as I do.

I will post when I can while we are gone. In the past I have had no internet access while there, but last year someone put up a wireless router so we had access. Which is good and bad. I loved that I could tune out completely - I can't even get cell service in the cove. No one can regardless of provider. It is GREAT. With internet access I have email access which means I can read up about work. But it also means I should be able to blog, and may be able to post pictures.

Don't miss me too much, all three of you who sort of read this blog.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Punk'd out ice cream

Yesterday Cooper's class did two things - they painted and went to eat ice cream at a local establishment. While painting my child decided to make it a full body sensory experience, and apparently took two handfuls of red paint and smushed them into his hair. Which left him with a pink, punk rock hair do. Which matched his choice of ice cream, strawberry.

Prior to this trip Cooper had very little interest in ice cream. Or punk rock hair styles. But it seems that a love of strawberry ice cream is genetic. It is the Bob's favorite.

The other thing I noticed in looking at the pictures the teachers took, is that my kid is HUGE compared to the other kids in his class. This started out as the infant classroom, and they will all transition to Toddler 1 in September. Cooper is 4 months older than the next oldest kid and thus has always seemed bigger, but these last few months of development have been crazy. He is a little boy now, not a baby at all. I am not sad about this. I loved him being all cuddly and a baby, but I am so enjoying engaging with him, seeing his consciousness and intelligence in action. And he cracks me up on a daily basis. I didn't expect to have children, but it is totally worth it just for the laughs. And kisses. He has begun giving the sweetest little wet kisses and it just melts my heart.