Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Random bits of stuff and fluff...

So, big news! Ricky Martin is GAY! GASP. The only thing that is shocking here is that it took around a decade for him to officially come out. Anyone, including my almost 90 year old grandmother, who saw him shake his fabulous latin bottom on the Grammys knew he was gay. Who knows why it took so long. He wanted his privacy, he didn't want his musical career, such as it has been here in America lately, to be centered on who he was in private? Whatever. Congrats to him for owning who he is.

I am so flabbergasted by the public response to the health care bill, I don't even know where to start. So I won't. What I will say is if anyone, ANYONE was paying attention, health care isn't the only thing the federal government decided it wanted to take a hand in with that bill.

Attached to the reconciliation bill was legislation that takes all federal Stafford and parent PLUS loans, loans most college students use to pay for some or all of their education, out of the hands of private lenders, and puts them into the hands of the William D. Ford Direct Student Loan program. Otherwise known as DL. All of these loans will now be processed and owned by you, the tax payers, and handled through the DL program. Just thought I would let you know. As of July 1st no private lenders will be involved in those programs. Lenders, guarantee agencies and servicers around the country will be laying off tens of thousands of employees as a result.

I am not a fan of this move, and I added my two cents to the discussion, but it didn't matter. They sold this as a huge savings plan. The BILLIONS of dollars that are supposed to be saved by making this switch are supposed to go into increasing the Pell grant program, which is a federal grant for very needy students. Since the beginning of the discussion 2 years ago, the amount of savings we should see has decreased, shocking, and now they are taking around 9 billion of those savings to help balance the whole health care deficit. So much for more grants.

And for the record, I am against creating or increasing a grant program that benefits the few (you have to be pretty needy to get a Pell grant) on the backs of the large quantity of students who borrow through the federal loan programs. I am fan of more grants, but not this way. Ironically, this is kind of the same thing many colleges got in trouble for doing a few years ago when it came to light that some colleges were getting money back from lenders in the form of a percentage of the interest charged on loans to their students, in exchange for a certain percentage of loan volume to that lender. The schools often put that money into scholarship funds. I didn't that was right either and we never did that at my college, and I don't think it is right at the federal level either.

And finally, it is raining, AGAIN, here in New England. So far our basement is dryish. We have deployed all sump pumps, so they are ready and waiting to be put into service should they be needed. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

And Spiderman is alive and well, living in my house. I can sing the theme song to the cartoon in my sleep. In fact, I do sing it in my sleep. Spectacular, spectacular Spiderman...daaadaadaaadaadaadaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Super Duper Spider Cooper

Introducing the newly potty trained web slinger....

A month ago when we talked to Cooper about potty training, to which he was quite resistant, I said he could get a big prize once he was doing both poops and pee on the potty all the time.

"Spiderman costume, WITH mask?" he responded immediately. As if he had been planning this all along and was just waiting for ME to be ready.

Last Sunday we began the potty training. We had purchased a large quantity of super hero underpants, and by Wednesday, his teacher at school said she considered him potty trained. I think the good (or bad depending on your perspective) news is that he is as fussy about being dirty or wet as I was at his age. Once he was not in diapers, getting his underpants wet was not interesting to him at all.

So we have been living with Super Duper Spider Cooper since Friday afternoon. I am considering getting Buster a cape and a small mask, so he can be his trusty sidekick.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm here, here I am!!

It's raining again, but it is a more reasonable rain, so far, and is not trying to flood my basement. So far. The sump pump people were out again, and I would like to know why every time someone looks at the work, they find something done wrong by the previous guys. This time the guy looked at the drain that should take water to the sump pump and said "They should have put holes in the bottom" because as it was, the water had to fill it more than half way before it started draining. No wonder it was overwhelmed. And the pipe that takes the water out of the house and to the end of my front yard, was installed a bit too shallow and with the seam facing in the wrong direction, so it has been leaking into the yard. At least it is not leaking in the house.

So he fixed the holes in the bottom of the drain thing, and someone will come out and fix the pipe thing eventually.

In other news, we began potty training again, and this time it is working! I am so grateful he goes to school. He has really responded to the potty training at school with other friends who are already using the potty regularly as a living example. And even though you probably don't care to know this - he has even POOPED on the potty at school. That is HUGE. Some kids take weeks to work that out.

Things have been changing for Cooper so fast lately, and he is becoming such a little boy. He is not a baby. He is barely a toddler anymore. We switched his room a few weeks ago, and now he is in a full sized bed, not his toddler bed. The toddler bed is still in the other room, and he stopped and looked at the other day and said "What's that?" I told him it was his baby bed. "Yeah, my baby bed. I'm in a big bed now." And I was all verklempt. He is just growing by leaps and bounds and now he is potty training and telling us when he needs to pee and WHERE DID MY BABY GO?

He is also totally into super heroes. We went to Target last weekend and bought 450 pairs of super hero underpants. He LOVES Spiderman and now he is into Iron Man too. We have watched the newer cartoon versions of these two guys quite a bit lately, and he wants to act out everything. It is hilarious. I hope his Uncle Chip appreciates that there might be another comic book collector in the family. I can get behind loving Iron Man. I mean, helloooo, Robert Downey Jr.

So we have been busy, and I feel like tomorrow I will be writing to tell you I have a teenager, because life is flying by. I am hoping I get the chance to really embrace the moment and savor it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I needed to use up vacation days anyway...

Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon...

If you don't listen to A Prairie Home Companion that will be meaningless to you. And it has NOT been a quiet week for me. Not at all. No. The opposite of quiet, calm, still.

Last week began with the thing at work that I can't talk about taking a whole new and annoying turn, to which I state again DO WE REALLY NEED ALL THE LAWYERS?? And it has been really super sonic busy at work, since it is that time of the year where we begin awarding all the prospective new students for fall, and remind all the currently enrolled students they have to apply for aid again, and plan for the graduating students to graduate, and then the auditors surfaced saying they would love to come a full month and a half earlier for the yearly audit. So when the weekend came, I was ALL SET for some relaxation and a complete lack of thinking about stuff I didn't want to think about.

The universe decided to see my desire to not think about work related crap, and raise me with a monsoon of biblical proportions that threatened to flood my house with many feet of water for three days straight.

In case you think I am exaggerating:

This is the water spout that appeared out of my foundation on Sunday. This is the result of a rising water table, that was probably a solid foot above the floor of my basement. Fortunately it spurted OUT.

This would be me, sitting in the backyard on Sunday, seeing if we could use a sump pump to drain the yard so it would STOP GUSHING INTO MY BASEMENT.

And this is a picture of the left half of my yard from our deck. Can you see the floating dog poo? Mmmmm.

I have blogged about my basement flooding before. We have a lovely and expensive sump pump system, that can pump 2500 gallons of water a minute out. If the water can get INTO it to begin with. And thus the reason we sat in our basement for over 12 hours straight, pumping water with a smaller sump pump from the pit of despair. That is the pit you can see the water spurting into. And in that picture you can see the grate over the drain that should take water to the expensive sump pump BEFORE it floods my basement. The water came in at such a high volume it overran the drain and didn't get to the pump. So we had to pump it out of the pit BEFORE it entered the basement. Which meant turning on the pump every 5 minutes and then off again because the pit is not deep enough to cover the pump and allow for it to run on its own.

Do you know how cold my basement is at 3am in March? COLD.

By Monday sometime it slowed down enough that we didn't have to pump every 5 minutes, but every 20 minutes. We finally made a dent in the amount of water in the yard by pumping the water out of the pool, so as the yard would drain into the pool, we would pump it out into the street. It stopped raining on Monday night, and by Tuesday the water was actually draining into the drain at a speed that it could handle, so we didn't have to babysit it. We then could use the wet/dry vac to get at the small amount of water that came up through the floor and the walls at the other end of the basement. That is still happening.

We will eventually have to remove some drywall that is down there, because it has been wet for 4 days now. But we did NOT lose the treadmill, the freezer or the furnace. That was the goal of the military campaign we waged for 3 days. It only cost us the price of another sump pump, which I bought Sunday morning when it became apparent that things were not going to go well as the weather reports all showed this massive swath of green over all of eastern Massachusetts, pulling moisture off the ocean and dumping it in my yard. I was lucky to get my paws on that pump too. The road to Home Depot was flooded and eventually closed not too long after I went through there. And I might have had to arm wrestle some guys to get the pump if it weren't for Cooper being there. I might have gotten the "mom at Home Depot with small cute child" dispensation.

We count ourselves lucky though. We didn't lose power, which would have doomed us, we didn't have to be evacuated in the bucket of a bulldozer as some people in town did, and we didn't lose anything expensive. The company that installed the expensive sump system will be out on Friday to assess if they can make the drain BIGGER. I want a giant sewer grate in my floor if that is what it takes. And it couldn't hurt to create another sump pump hole in the pit of despair, where we could put one temporarily if this particular set of circumstances were to converge upon us again.

I also want to give a shout out to The Bob, who personified grace under fire through this ordeal and battled the elements with style, using his computer and our wifi down in the basement while monitoring the sump pump activity. You rock.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Channeling my inner Ella

Today I went to do a one on one rehearsal with Harvey, the guy who leads our jazz group. I like to do this every so often to sharpen up what we are singing as a group, but to also work on other pieces that I want to do as a solo, in the event I sing with him at Ryles again.

I think I have mentioned previously that I am not necessarily the visionary type. My comfort zone is in taking someone else's vision and implementing that. This is true in work, or when I was into sewing and I would make great clothes based on a pattern, but wasn't able to create my own pattern. It is also true in my singing. I hear a version of a song, and I can reproduce that pretty well. Whether it is Ella Fitzgerald's version of The Nearness of You or Nora Jones', I can pretty accurately sing that back to you.

What I am not as comfortable doing, and what Harvey was challenging me to do today, was to improvise, find new phrasing, melodies and generally sing around the song.

I suspect this is a skill that like most, the more you practice it the better you get at it, but even though it was just Harvey and myself in his living room, with no one else listening, it made me anxious, nervous, and tapped into a few feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. But since I want to grow and challenge myself in areas that don't involve work, but are more extracurricular, I tried to just be in the moment, let the inhibitions go and listen to that still small voice of my musical instincts.

I had a similar problem when I was playing the viola. I remember my teacher trying to get me to tap into the emotion of what I was playing. One day I played something differently than I had been previously, and he was ecstatic. "That was fabulous! There was emotion and feeling! What did you do differently?" he asked me. I had no idea. But in my defense, I was probably 13 or 14 years old. My experience with life was a bit limited, and the extent of my emotional bond to music extended to being in love with George Michael, who as we all know is gay. So you might say I was not exactly in tune with a lot.

40 years, two marriages and a boatload of other life experience later I at least have a deep and colorful to tap into to help inform what I am trying to sing. It is still HARD to improvise with melody, especially one that is well known. I hear the standard version in my head and that is the way I want to sing it.

But it is a good challenge, a healthy one, and as long as I experience a bit of success doing it, where I hear Harvey say "YES! There you go, that was great phrasing!" then I will keep trying. I just need to channel my inner Ella and I will be just fine.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Please stop eating that book...

That is just one of the many fun things I overhear as I walk in and out of Cooper's day care. Usually I only hear the infant and toddler rooms, and that was uttered in the infant room today. Obviously SOMEONE is teething.

I don't know if this week has been so difficult with Cooper because he has not been feeling 100% (took him to the urgent care place Wed. night because he said his ear hurt, and lo and behold, ear infection), or if it is just because he is three, but WOW has this week been hard. He has been contrary about everything. What he wants to eat, whether or not I am going to wash his hair, taking a bath, where to sleep, when to sleep, with whom to sleep, putting on clothes, taking off clothes. GAH. I had to plop him in his room last night for 10 minutes to let him defuse a bit, because he was getting so angry about nothing that he could not even be remotely nice.

I might have stumbled onto another reason he has been a bit more cranky than usual - we brought up potty training again. He announces without fail that he has gone pee or pooped in his diaper and YES he needs a new one right NOW. He will go get one for you, and lay down on the floor ready for a change. Very accommodating. So we thought maybe he was ready to try again. So the other night I introduced the idea, suggesting that once he has successfully achieved a no diaper during the day status, doing all his business on the potty, he could get a prize. To which he immediately said "Spiderman costume, WITH MASK?" Okaaaay, if that is what you want, we can make that happen. For the last two days he has been insisting I "order one on 'puter." Which I have. Do you know how hard it is to find a Spiderman costume, WITH mask, in March? Anyway, I did it, and every time he has mentioned it, I have reminded him that in order to get the mask, he has to go pee and poop on the potty all the time. Not too long after this is mentioned, he starts acting out. He will start knocking things over, demanding to watch something else on TV, but is not able to say WHAT he would like to watch, just that he does NOT want what is on now, nor is turning it off an option as his immediately protestations establish.

I know a lot of life for a three year old is out their control, and potty training, or NOT potty training is probably the one thing they have any sort of control over for real. And I don't know why he doesn't like the idea, but he is resistant, as a friend of mine is wont to say regarding concepts about which he is not crazy.

So until the costume arrives, I think we will avoid talking about the P.T. and will see how his mood goes. If it doesn't improve, he will be on a plane to see his grandparents in Oregon SOON. For an extended stay. Til he is 20.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A doggie dilemma

We have three dogs. I have introduced them before I am sure.

These are the Schnauzers. Gus is gray, he is 6 years old, and Poncho is the black one and he is 4.

Then there is Buster.

Buster turns 13 on Sunday. And we have just found out he is suffering from hyperparathyroidism. Generally this is caused by a benign tumor on the thyroid. The problem is that it is causing Buster to have elevated calcium levels in his blood, and that can eventually lead to things like kidney or bladder stones, crystals in his urine and urinary tract infections. Right now he is relatively healthy, for being 13, and they would like to take the tumor out to stop things from escalating.

And that will cost us $2000. Minimum. We don't have $2000 to spend on Buster. So we are not doing it. But that means risking that he will develop bladder stones and UTI's and any number of other related problems because this is not being fixed.

We would be hard pressed to be able to cough up $2000 for this even if Bob was fully employed, but with the current situation, it just isn't happening. And that makes me a little angry and very frustrated. But there isn't much we can do about it. As it is we have to call a plumber today because the upstairs toilet won't unclog. How is it that a toilet is fine and then one day things just won't go down? No, Cooper did not put something down it. He is not unaccompanied 99% of the time he is upstairs and awake. So I am confident he didn't stick anything in there. But it is clogged and no amount of plunging or toilet opening enzyme product is making much a difference.

Speaking of awake, the sleep gods have forsaken us. Hopefully temporarily. Cooper would not go to sleep last night. He never fights going to bed. But he was wound up. I don't know what happened, but at 10pm he was still AWAKE and Bob finally decided to lay down in the guest room with him, and that is how they fell asleep. This had better pass.

Is Mercury in retrograde or something? Dogs, toilets, kids not sleeping. GAH.