Monday, June 29, 2009

What they will be like when they are old men...or in a fraternity

This weekend was kidapalooza. We had a get together at our neighbor's house, with the bouncy house and everything. There were a few truck ownership negotiations to be worked out among the 2-4 year olds, but all in all it was a lot of fun. We also went to IKEA and found an appropriate first pillow for Cooper along with a froggy blanket. He is officially very happy.

The next day was kind of rainy and gross and we spent most of the day inside. Until late afternoon when we all, and I mean ALL hit the street. There were no less than 9 kids under the age of 6 on bikes and scooters and running around, along with all of their parents. At some point Cooper had gotten his hands on some drinking straws in our house, so he came out with them in his hands. Soon he had his buddies Liam and Carter hanging out with him sharing straws.

I can't help but think if you replaced the straws with cigars, you would get an idea of what they will look like when they are old men, or in a fraternity.

Cooper checked out a scooter for the first time. He is a super cautious kid, so there was a lot of standing on it, but not moving.

There are so many times I look at Cooper and I see no sign that he is my child. He looks so much like Bob, and like his much older brothers and nothing like me (he so did NOT get those curls from me) I wonder if I contributed anything at all to his genetic makeup. But then he does something like gets upset by a change in his routine, or sighs this deeply contended sigh and says "naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap" when I put him down for his nap and I realize that sometimes genetic contributions come in forms other than looks. My mother will tell you that I LOVED my routine (still do) and I truly love sleeping. And we finally got in the pool today for more than 5 minutes. The kid LOVES to swim. That is truly my child.

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's not as futile an idea as one might think...

So in an effort to not be a lay-about and keep busy, the Bob, husband/father extraordinaire, has reactivated his real estate license. He got it some years ago, during another layoff period. He has joined a Century 21 office in Newton MA, and is ready to become a real estate mogul.

In the greater Boston area houses still sell, so this is not as futile a job prospect as one might think in this economy. In our neighborhood houses used to sell the week they went on the market. They take a little longer now, maybe a month or so, but they still sell pretty quickly and for close to asking price. The problem with our particular neighborhood is Hans. He is a Coldwell Banker realtor who lives in the neighborhood and pretty much has a lock on all the business. Not everyone uses him, but most do. If I am not mistaken, in the last 6 or 7 years he has sold the house behind us three times. Each time he made at least 3% but more like 6% on each sale I am sure. That house alone could have meant around $80,000 in income to him over three sales.

Even if Bob found a software engineer job tomorrow, I think he will still do the real estate thing on the side. Why not? Having more than one revenue stream is never a bad thing. We have any number of things we should be actively saving for, like a college fund, retirement, a new table and chair set for the deck. Seriously, we need a new set. The one we have I bought at the grocery store 4 years ago. It was a good buy, but now the chairs are falling apart. It is on the short list of things we would like to purchase once we are out of layoff hell.

But who knows. Bob is a pretty self motivated and directed person, and if anyone can be successful at this I think he can. So maybe this will be his new career.

In Cooper news, he has been obsessed with his harmonica. He has insisted on taking it to school with him, but I only let him as long as he puts it in his cubby once we get inside, so he is not annoying the heck out of everyone, or worse, he loses the thing. The other day I picked him up and they were playing outside for the 10 minutes it wasn't raining. So after I went in and got his stuff and he retrieved his harmonica, we went back outside through the playground to leave. He came out onto the playground playing his harmonica, and in about 5 seconds he had at least 5 kids gathered around him, staring at him with big smiles on their faces. He has FANS already and he can't even play a real song. I think he realized how cool it was that they were staring at him in awe. My kid, the rock star.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What will her cell phone bill be like?

A friend brought this video to my attention. Seriously, they are in so much trouble when this kid is a teenager.

That is all. And I think enough for today.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thoroughly Random Tuesday

Right. What has MidLifeMama been up to....

Had my yearly mammogram today. Don't expect any untoward news, but need to have the girls checked once a year now that I am OVER 40. And since two people I know have dealt with breast cancer recently, I feel even more compelled to get things checked. Although every time I have this done I am reminded that if men had to have this done, MRI's would be STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE and insurance companies would pay for it because no man is going to tolerate having his good squeezed in a vice grip like that on a yearly basis. I mean, I am pretty sure that nice lab tech owes me dinner or something now.

In other news, Cooper POOPED on the potty. Wheee! This is a major step on the potty training trail.

It has been raining for daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaays. Mushrooms are growing in my yard. We had to get out today for a bit, to burn off some extra energy. Since it had stopped raining for half an hour, every kid on our street was outside, stomping in puddles and generally giggling and screaming and running. It was a beautiful thing. My kid was covered in mud and I didn't care.

Something took place at work recently that kind of pissed me off. It is hard to talk about without being really specific, but the abbreviated version is that a colleague got a title change. Previously this position had the same title I have, director. Now this position has the title of Dean. It is not an academic position. There has been no change in reporting structure, or seniority, but it supposedly reflects the level of work being done in the position. Which means that Dean is better than director. Which to me reflects some sort of value judgement on that position vs. any other director level position. Which left me feeling a little "What the freakity frack" because my job responsibilities are equal to, at LEAST, those being done in this other position. I manage an overall budget of close to 30 million dollars. While my staff is less than half of this individuals', we process aid for 90% of the students at the college. I do my job. Effectively, efficiently. My staff likes me, my coworkers like me, the students and parents love my office. We get compliments from people who have had contact with other aid offices at other colleges along the lines of "You guys answer the phone, or You are so responsive and helpful unlike this other college." I don't want a new title for the sake of a new title. But if that position warrants some level of acknowlegdement, so does mine. But I don't see that happening anytime soon. For the first time in 9 years of working there, I am disappointed.

The flip side of this is that I am supremely grateful for having a job. My quality of life is good at this job, and it is a great community to be part of. So I am trying to keep it all in balance in my head and heart and continue to do the good job I know how to do. In the meantime I shall now be known, at least in my own head, as Supreme Goddess of Financial Aid.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Because I forgot to blog at all about Mother's Day

Some how in the process of living life, I forgot to blog about Mother's Day. Which I remembered eventually, but way to late to really go back and say anything about it until now, Father's Day.

So, to both of my parents: Thanks for being my parents. It's not like I had a lot of choice in the matter. But all things considered, what with the random assignment of genetic information and luck of the draw etc. I think things worked out pretty well.

I was born in 1964. Despite the fact I grew up during a few decades of major change, right on the cusp of the Vietnam War, women's rights, with hippies to the left and Nixon to the right, and then the 80's with Madonna and preppies and high school and college, my parents managed to provide a relatively quiet and stable existence for us. There were fun adventures and interesting experiences. We had stuff like bikes and pools and dogs and even a canoe when I came home from summer camp raving about how much I loved to canoe.

From my dad I learned things like loving to garden, the value of regular maintenance on my car, and how to wash a car correctly.

From my mother, I learned the art of problem solving, the value of laughing until I can't stand up and to love reference books.

Those are not extensive lists by any means, but they are the items I feel like mentioning today.

I also say Happy Father's Day to the Bob. You are a great dad. If I had to get knocked up by accident and raise a child with someone, I am glad it was you. You are funny and kind and you didn't mind getting up in the middle of the night with Cooper when he was in that phase of his life. You walk the dogs in all manner of weather and are a mighty fine painter of rooms. You appreciate my cooking and baking efforts. You are a keeper.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Do you feel oriented? Orientated...whatever. Or this blog is about farts.

I want so badly to blog about farts right now, but since mocking my dear husband for that is not nice, I am going to write about something else. But let's just say that Bill Cosby's description of his father changing keys as he came down the stairs in the morning has NOTHING on the Bob.

This week began the orientation sessions for the new incoming students. We do four orientation sessions over two weeks. So it is a parade of parents asking the same questions. It is normal, I am used to it. But this year we have the economy adding a new layer of anxiety over the normal "my kid is going to college for the first time, living away from home for the first time, it costs HOW MUCH" anxiety. Today was the second parent session, and I am always fascinated by the capacity to ask a question regarding something I JUST TALKED ABOUT. In depth and at length. With pictures and diagrams and graphs and arrows. OK, maybe not arrows or graphs, but a powerpoint presentation, which I print out for their take home benefit. Sigh. Like work study. This is a financial aid award that the federal government gives us money for, to pay students to work on campus. They have to work to get paid the funds. It never appears as a credit on the bill. Never ever ever ever ever NEVER. I say that at least three times in a presentation, it is in BOLD LETTERS on the screen and on the paper in front of them. Then the director of student accounts speaks about the bill, and reiterates that it is never going to be a credit. We don't know if a student will actually work or how much they will earn. So no credit. PAY CHECKS. FOR HOURS WORKED.

But without fail, someone will ask about work study and the bill. SIGH AGAIN. I will grant them it is all very overwhelming, and it is almost like learning a foreign language when you begin the financial aid process. Which is why I work very hard at making it as clear and simple as possible. I will assume that I must be helping some people. Or else there would be more questions.

And it is raining here, again. It is supposed to rain for a solid week. Seriously. I may never actually swim in my pool. ARG. Cooper wants to be in it badly, but it is hard to help him understand that 64 degree water is ccccccooooooooollllllld. I suppose I could let him find out how cold it is, but then he might never go in the pool or any body of water again, and that is counterproductive.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Are Booper

Yesterday evening our neighbors were out with their two boys, Ty who is 4 and Liam who is 2. Liam is 2 months younger than Cooper, and they have begun forming what I hope is a long standing bond. Cooper has discovered he likes to make people laugh, and Liam is an obliging audience. The video is evidence of this. They make up the silliest games, like saying "achoooo" while jumping into Liam's driveway and running to touch the wall on the other side. Or running around the tree in our front yard with the training wheels that were taken off of Ty's bike for the first time last night, laughing and screeching. I would also point out that Liam wins the contest for the whitest person to ever walk the planet. We thought Cooper was in contention for that award, but once you see him next to Liam, the contest is over.

And yes, Ty gave it a go without training wheels. He did a pretty good job, although I would suggest he get a little bigger bike soon. I didn't get it on video, but he even took off on his own once. As with many things that involve skill, the moment he stopped thinking so hard and being worried about falling, he was rolling down the street like a pro. You could see the moment his brain registered "UH, dude, we are moving along WITHOUT TRAINING WHEELS" because his head would come up slightly, his eyes would get this panicked look and the handle bars would suddenly wobble and he would put on the brakes and tip over. But he was so proud of himself. As he should be. Ty is a big fan of Spider Man and of wearing pajamas. That is why he is out in the street in his Spider Man pj's. Some battles are just not worth fighting. Getting the kid out of pj's to ride his bike is one of them. He wears them just like he would regular clothes, with underwear and everything. Just in case you thought he was without some sense of propriety.

There was one breakthrough moment for Cooper, which again, I didn't get on video, where he turned to me from playing with Liam and announced with a slap on his chest "I are Booper!" This is quite the cognitive moment for kids his age. They often can tell you their name in response to the question "What is your name" but it is a whole new level of processing to say "I am so and so". It seems like every day there is a new thing he says or does that is a signal that a new synapse formed and connections are being made. It is amazing, frightening and gratifying.

Now if it would please actually become summer here, so I could use the pool. It has been raining and in the 60s for over a week now. The pool filter is fixed and working and the water is clear and mocking me. Maybe in July. Sigh.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Activism vs. Terrorism

I am not an activist. Or should I say I have not been in that overt, in your face kind of way where people stand on street corners with signs or work for a political or social or religious movement. I like the idea of demonstrating my belief system by how I live my life.

For example, for as long as I can remember, I have believed in a higher power. Through my childhood experience of going to church I learned to call that higher power God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. But the initial acknowledgement that I can recall came at a very early age - sometime around the age of 5 - 7 years old because we were still living in our first house in Enfield CT and my brother had been born. We were in the rooms that my father and our neighbor built on the second floor of that house because we were at the point that we were old enough to have our own rooms. I remember distinctly thinking that there was something bigger than me, outside of me, that was there, present in my life watching over me. And throughout my life I have had enough experiences that support that feeling to continue to believe.

In high school I was very active in our church and the youth group, and ultimately went to a Christian college. It was a very conservative college, being of the Reformed Presbyterian tradition - they don't believe in drinking, smoking, using instruments other than the voice in church. Very Footloose. During those years my belief system was challenged and honed.

But through all of my church related experiences, I was not the one who was out evangelizing to the non-believers. I stand pretty firmly in the conviction that everyone needs to find their own path to their understanding of God or Goddess or higher power of their choosing. I cannot stand here and tell you I am absolutely right about almost anything, much less God. No one really knows my position on religion or politics or the designated hitter rule unless they ask or it somehow comes up in conversation.

Extremism in anything makes me uncomfortable. I like balance. I also like honor and integrity. I have problems with extreme acts that are done in the name of "God". The murder of Dr. George Tiller is a good example. He was a doctor who provided abortion services. I don't care if you agree with abortion or not, I think we can all agree that killing a man, IN CHURCH, is just wrong. Killing in the name of God is wrong. I recognize that some people feel that abortion is as much an attack on the unborn fetus, is in fact murder, as any attack against a full grown adult, but taking a life in order to make your point is wrong. It is hypocritical. It is terrorism.

There are a lot of things I can't deal with in terms of organized religion. I will not go to church if I hear bigotry, chauvinism, racism, any kind of intolerance being preached from the pulpit or being exhibited by the members. There is no room for hatred and intolerance in Gods house, whatever house that might be - church, synagogue, mosque, temple, big open field full of sunflowers. We all need to work harder at loving in spite of our differences, BECAUSE of our differences, and embracing each other for the gifts we bring to this life. Stand for what you believe, live it every day, but stop hurting those who don't agree with you. Learn to understand them, to accept them and maybe we can move forward as a community. A big world wide community.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Keeping things in perspective

Right. So it does kind of suck for Bob not to have a job right now, but there are worse things. Like CANCER. Two people on my blog roll are dealing with it right now. One I know personally - Tammy from FoodontheFood who is my neighbor in addition to being a ridiculously funny and talented woman. She is also the mother of two little boys and she has breast cancer. She is 37 years old. She is being very funny and brave about it on her blog but WOW does it really stink that she is dealing with this. And there is no history of it in her family. She is having a mastectomy this week. Fortunately her family is relatively close by and available to be of assistance. But we are also all here for her. As I have told her 435 times since I found out about her diagnosis.

Then there is A. Scott White's wife. Scott writes the blog Caveat Emptor. I don't actually KNOW Scott, or his lovely wife, but she is dealing with cancer of the esophagus. And I guess this is not her first round with the evil disease. He has been blogging about it and comments on it on his FaceBook page.

And then there is my other neighbor's mother, who is in her 60s and was diagnosed in November with breast cancer. She had treatment and is doing really well. We were talking about it last week through the fence as she was babysitting the boys.

But seriously. I will take a loss of a job over dealing with cancer any day. Having Cooper in my life has had a not unexpected effect on my thoughts on death. I am not afraid of dying, I never really have been. I have always had strong feelings about HOW I might die, because there are methods of leaving this life that I would rather not experience. But dying is not the issue. Now the issue is who is left behind. I have known people who lost one or both parents while still young, and that is NOT FUN. They say women who lose their mothers at an early age measure their lives by that moment in time - and once they reach the age the mother was when she died, it can be very difficult because now the child is forging ahead in life with no example to look to. They are now treading ground that their mother never did and it is hard to move forward. We consciously and unconsciously look at our mothers' lives for examples of how to do, or not do, things.

I am fortunate. My mother is still among the living, as is her mother. I have boat loads of life examples to look to. I have been well prepared for my own experiences as a parent, as a person. I will admit the examples have sometimes left me saying "Well, I will try to do THAT differently" but even that has its purpose in life. They are strong and great women and I am grateful for them.

But I don't even like to think about what it would be like for Cooper to have to forge ahead in life without one of his parents. And I am praying that Tammy's and Scott's children will have a long life ahead growing and learning from and about their respective mothers.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The milestones keep on coming

This weekend we converted Cooper's crib to a toddler bed. He is not one of those kids who was climbing out of his crib, quite the opposite. He was quite happy to sit in that crib and call for us. Unlike our neighbor, Liam, who is quite the acrobat. But Cooper no longer fits in a pack and play, and we would like to be able to travel without worrying what he would sleep in. So we bought a bed rail and converted the crib yesterday before his nap. And so far so good. He didn't question at all the new arrangement. After his nap he stayed in bed and called for us, and when I got up there I took the rail down and sat on his bed with him, which he LOVED. He was so happy to have me sitting there he couldn't give me his stuffed animals fast enough.

Bedtime was the same. He didn't seem to care at all that the rail was there, and went right to sleep. Today has gone the same way. He calls for us and stays in bed. My main concern was he would get out of bed, which he totally can now, and would get out of his room and fall down the stairs. We moved the gate from the top of the stairs awhile ago. Because of the arrangement at the top of the stairs, it is hard to find a gate that fits. So we decided to go with a gate on his bedroom door. Even if he gets the door open, the gate is there. So I am hoping this works out. He can go up and down the stairs, but he is very unstable on the way down still.

The other exciting thing that happened this weekend is Cooper received a little wheelbarrow from our friend TR.

Suffice to say it was a hit.

Then we went to the farm again today. It was one of those "circle of life" days at the farm. First we discovered a chicken that seemed to shuffle off this mortal coil right there in the chicken house, then at the pig barn the sow, Harriet, was being inseminated. Poor her. But that certainly seems easier than actually having relations with a 900 lb boar. No one else seemed to notice that there was a dead chicken, so we alerted the authorities on our way out of the farm. I hope it was a case of old age and not bird flu. As it is we got the email that alerted us to students exhibiting signs of the flu at day care. Whoopee.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Graduation 2009 Festivities

Bob and Nick

After graduation mob scene

Worcester North HS Class of 2009

I don't talk about them much, but I have two step sons, curteousy of Bob. The oldest is Alex, who is 20, and the other is Nick, who is 18 and just graduated from high school last night. He is officially a member of the Worcester North High School, Class of 2009.

They don't hold the ceremonies at the high school, but at the DCU Center in downtown Worcester. It was a mob scene during and after the ceremony. We sat in the back half of the auditorium, and this provided for being vastly entertained and annoyed all at the same time.

Worcester is the second largest city in New England, according to the mayor who spoke during the ceremony. It is a very diverse and multi cultural community. I asked Nick afterward exactly how many languages were spoken by the students in his high school. "A lot" was his response.

What was annoying about the experience, for this child of somewhat reserved Yankees, who learned by going to church every Sunday that you sit quietly and pay attention (mostly) at organized events; NOT walk around all the time, talk, yell, laugh and generally carry on during events. There was this one guy who kept getting up from his seat way up front who would walk to the back of the auditorium, yelling on his cell phone the entire time he walked through the audience. Then there was the guy who wanted to stand the whole time, fine, but not in the middle of the aisle half way up in the audience so that many people behind you can't see what is going on. At one point the mayor was speaking and EVERYONE except Bob and I in the back half of the audience was talking.

But my favorite part of the evening was watching the outfits. Everything from shorts and t-shirts to suits and ties and fancy dresses and high heels. The woman below though, she won the prize for Fashion Statement of Night. A lot of thought went into this outfit. Black textured tights, teal short shorts, coordinating teal and white top, big white patent leather bag, and odd beige and white flats.

In other news, here are pictures of my newly painted living room colors. I tried to capture them so you could get a sense of the color, not the room as a whole. And the peonies from my yard that Cooper helped me pick this morning.

Sunshower yellow and Fostoria Glass

Peonies, mosaic by me and yellow wall

One of my favorite paintings by Jamie Wyeth, Iris At Sea

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Awkward social moments

Have you ever been in the situation where you realize that something has happened that might warrant you doing or saying something to someone else, but by the time you realize you should be doing that thing, too much time has passed for you to reasonably do it, and not look like a lunatic who has put too much thought into that thing and now is obviously trying to cover some social faux pas that only exists in your head?

Like right now. My work study student sits right outside my office. She can hear me typing and probably thinks I am writing some email. I was deep in a project a few minutes ago, so I wasn't fully present and paying attention when she sneezed. Normal polite social protocol warrants a "Bless you" to be said by another person if said person were paying attention and within earshot of the sneeze. By the time my brain registered she had sneezed, and I thought out whether I should still say "bless you", way too much time had passed. And now she is probably sitting there thinking, "She totally heard me sneeze, and didn't say 'bless you'. She is a bad person and I am going to remember this slight and some day when she needs to be blessed I am so not doing it."

But too much time had passed. And she is wearing hot pink underwear under a white linen skirt. What does polite social protocol say about THAT? I don't even know. She is a very nice person, knows the alphabet (a critical skill to working in this office yet not one that you should take for granted a college student actually HAS) and answers the phone politely. Yet she seems to a) be lacking any sort of sense of humor and b) is wearing hot pink underwear under a white skirt. Does she seriously not know we can see the underwear? Should I mention it? That is such a dilemma. I think I will wait it out and see what the rest of the summer wardrobe looks like. Maybe it is a fluke. If not, I guess I will point it out. If I don't, my boss who would have all work study students in full dress suits like the Von Trapp kids before Maria came along will say something, and that ends up with people crying. Not me, other people. Other more gentle and humorless people.

And on a completely different note, the other night I was giving Cooper his bath, during which he turned over on his stomach, stuck his butt in the air and while pointing with his hand at his butt commanded "Pinch my buttocks." WHAT the WHO? In a disclosure that borders on TMI, the Bob is known to walk around the house announcing he is going to pinch someones BUTT: mine, Cooper's, it's his thing. But no one has been using the word buttocks. So while it would not be all that surprising for Cooper to say something like "Pinch my butt" because he thinks that is a hilarious thing to do, but it is VERY surprising for him to use "buttocks." And he repeated it. Bob stuck his head in the bathroom when I started laughing uproariously, and I told Cooper to say it again. "Pinch my buttocks" he announced proudly. And so we did.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Do chocolate chip cookies qualify as a balanced meal?

Hmmm, dairy (butter) CHECK. Protein (eggs and enriched flour!) CHECK. Vegetable...vegetable...nope, no vegetables in chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate is made from the cocoa bean, so MAYBE I can pull off calling it a legume...

Nope. Chocolate chip cookies, homemade at that, are not a balanced meal, however, boy howdy are they are great mood enhancer. Followed by a large vat of coffee, one dose of Claritin and I might just survive this pollen infused day we call Tuesday.

I took yesterday off and continued the painting project in the living room with the Bob. The yellow went up last week, but touch ups were needed around the edges to completely remove any vestiges of the burgundy/maroon that were peeking through. That was my job. Meanwhile, Bob applied the stunningly beautiful gray/blue color Glidden calls Fostoria Glass. It is so pretty. I don't think pictures will do it justice, but once all the blue tape is removed from the walls I will take some and post them.

Which makes me ask - to tape or not tape? I am a NOT taper. I hate using that stuff. It takes forever to get up there neatly and it still doesn't prevent you from having to go back and cut in and touch up around the edges. Bob loves the tape. Well, love might be a strong word. He prefers to paint with it as opposed to without. So if he wants to spend all that time applying it, I guess that is his business.

We need to apply one more coat to a few walls, but once that is done, it will be on to the next room - the dining room.

And we have a lone carpenter bee burrowing into the roof of our front porch again. Last year this happened and the bug guy said "I have never seen just ONE carpenter bee" and yet there it was, one bee. No other signs of infestation anywhere on the house. So this year we are dealing with it ourselves. A little bee spray and some caulk and no more bee. If it weren't so damaging to the property I would let the bee be. But they burrow and nest and they can really do a job on your house. So the bee must go. And I guess I will go eat a yogurt now, for balance.