Thursday, October 28, 2010

The hard truth we all learn

This morning Josie woke up at 5 in the morning, screaming her face off.

She's teething again.  Finally, because I was getting a little worried that those four teeth she has were going to be it for her.

But it hurts.  A lot.  Much more than her other teeth did, at least so far as can be determined by her reaction to it.

So I got up and went and got her and tried to comfort her by sitting with her in the rocking chair, but she was having none of it.  Just cried and cried and cried.

So I put her in Zeke's bed and lay down next to her, trying to snuggle her into calmness (Zeke had made his way to our bed at this point, so his bed was empty).

Nothing doing.

So I took her downstairs and gave her a bunch of ibuprofen, and then got back into bed with her, waiting for it to work.

It took about 30 minutes.  And she was furious the entire time.  I would try to cuddle her, and she would beat at me with her fists.  I would try to hold her upright, and she would scream and shake her head back and forth.  I would try to give her a frozen pancake to chew on, or a teething ring, and she would push it away and wail.

She was in so much pain, and so pissed off at me for not being able to make the pain go away instantaneously.

At one point, while crying inconsolably, she kept holding up her hands and making the "finished" sign, as if to say, "OK, Mama, I'm done with this shit.  Please help me.  Please make me feel better."

But all we could do was wait it out.  I had given her medicine, I had tried topical remedies, and now all I could do was comfort her and try to sympathize.

I'm not all-powerful.  But she doesn't know that yet.

Well, now she does.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Damn the Man

This is the saga of J's worker's comp claim.  Or, non-claim, as it turns out.

Some time in mid-August or early September, J came home from work and said, "I think I got a hernia at work today?"

Being the calm, rational one, I shrieked, "WHAT??"

"Yeah.  I was lifting a big spool of cable and I felt something pop."

"So what did you do?  Did you report it to your foreman?"


"Well??? What did he say???"

"He said, 'not on my fucking job, you didn't get hurt!'"

"What??  He can't do that.  That's illegal.  This is a worker's comp claim, you need to report it."

"I tried, but he refused to accept it."

"Well, he can't do that.  You need to talk to his supervisor, or call the main office, or something like that.  You can't just let it go."

"If I do that I'll get fired."

My head was about to explode right off my body at this point.  "They can't fire you for submitting a workers comp claim.  There are laws against it!"

"Baby, they do it all the time."

I fumed.  "You cannot let them get away with it.  You have to report this."

Long story short, he was intimidated by his foreman's attitude, didn't report it (thought there were witnesses to both the injury and his efforts to tell the foreman), it got worse, and a month later, it hurt so much that he couldn't lift his tool pouch without excruciating pain.  So they sent him home and told him to go to the doctor, get it fixed and go on short term disability.

So he went to the doctor.  Who confirmed that he had a double hernia and sent him to a surgeon.  Who also confirmed that he had a double hernia and scheduled him for surgery.

But all along, I was confused.  It was a workplace injury.  Why wasn't it being covered by workers comp?  What the fuck was going on??

I wasn't the only one.  The administrator at the surgeon's office was confused as well, because workers comp is billed differently from other kinds of claims.  And if it was a workplace injury, it needed to go through workers comp.

So she called the HR people at J's company, who proceeded to yell at her.  Then they ran around trying to cover their tracks by intimidating the guys on the job -- the witnesses -- into giving statements casting doubt on J's version of things.

J, being totally non-confrontational and intimidated, didn't want to make waves.  He was perfectly happy to pursue the personal-insurance-and-short-term-disability route.  But the safety manager at his company, who was walking around talking about how he was going to "bury J in court," insisted on submitting the claim through workers comp.

Which denied the claim today.  Because it was a "your word vs. theirs" thing, according to the claims rep.

So we'll submit it through our own insurance and seek short term disability for the time he needs to take off of work to recover.  Which we were willing to do all along.  We can't afford to fight it, so whatever.

This is why my great-grandfather, the proud socialist, believed in labor unions and working for the rights of the working man.  Because he knew that without them, the working man has no power.  The Big Man will always find a way to bring the little man down.  I never really thought about it before I was married to a tradesman, but now I know.  In Hawaii, a very pro-union state, J would have been protected.  In Colorado, where the union has a very weak presence and there are no union jobs to be had, he's fucked.

It makes me so mad, I don't even know what to do but sit and stew.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You can't go home again*

For Zeke, one of the consequences of turning three is that, in addition to being a big boy who almost always remembers to use the potty, who will be starting preschool with his buddy Connor next week, who is learning how to read and put puzzles together, is that he has to sleep in his own bed.  All night.

I'm sure some of you may be wondering if you accidentally stumbled on an old blog post from last year (or even the year before), because we've been fighting this fight for a long time.  Or, more accurately, not fighting it.  The kid has been playing us like a Stradivarius.  What with J being out of town, and not wanting to wake up Josie by putting him to bed later than her (they share a room now), and just generally being a big ol' softie about it, he's been spending a lot of time in our bed.  A lot lot.

So I decided that his birthday would be the arbitrary Maginot line that would mark the start of him Being A Big Boy And Sleeping In His Own Bed.  It was the perfect day for it, because he didn't nap, and in addition to his party, which involved non-stop running around and excitement, he went swimming at my parents' hotel in the morning and then immediately after the party, went to the park to play some more with his friend Lucy.  So by 7:30 or so, he was a complete zombie.

I put him in his PJs and put him in his bed and sang the sleep song and he eventually went to sleep.  But not before, as we were turning towards his room rather than mine, he said, "but I want to sleep with you, Mama."

"No, honey, you're a big boy now.  You need to sleep in your own bed."

"But I don't want to."

"Well, remember, we talked about it, and now that you're three, you need to sleep in your bed."

"No!  I don't want to!  I want to be two!  I want to be two!"

Sorry, kid.  That ship has sailed.

*Hat tip to my brother Sam, who came up with this line (by way of Thomas Wolfe, obvs).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Three is a magic number

Zeke is turning three on Sunday.

I could do another Animoto video, as I've done in the past on the kids' birthdays, but I feel like it doesn't tell enough of a story anymore, where Zeke is concerned.  The pictures are cute, and he's turning into a gorgeous kid (if I do say so myself), but the pictures aren't enough.

They don't convey what it was like for me to be driving him to school this morning and have him sit in the back seat and look at his animal book and say, "C-O-W....that spells 'cow', Mama!"

Yes it does, son.  And also, holy shit.

Newborn Zeke in his first bit of prison gear.
The pictures can't really give you a sense of what it's like to see this ... this boy -- I mean, he's certainly not a baby and not even a toddler anymore, he's seriously a kid -- and remember what it was like the first night of his life when he woke me up crying and for a second I was confused and thought someone had let a cat into my hospital room.  All of a sudden having this tiny little person in my life was so weird.  But now he is a person, an interesting, smart person, and we have hilarious conversations about elephant poop and which park has the best slides and the relative merits of mac & cheese vs. ham sandwiches and why it's fun to play with toy trucks.  It blows my mind.

There's nothing baby-ish in this guy anymore.
The pictures don't tell you how my heart feels like it's swelling up and about to pop out of my body when I walk by him when he's sitting on the couch looking at a book or watching a DVD and he calls me over to take my face in his hands, plant a big smooch on me, and say, "I love you, Mama."

The pictures can't express how I simultaneously die from the cuteness and also laugh my ass off when I drop Zeke off at school in the morning and he and his friend Elliott run up to each other, call each other's names, and give each other a big bear hug.

From looking at a picture, you can't hear the joy we both get from playing the silly "I'm going to change you..." game that we play all the time.  "Mama, I'm going to change you into a hot dog."  "Oh, yeah?  Well I'm going to change you into a piece of macaroni!"  "I'm going to change you into a traffic light!"  "I'm going to change you into a shoelace!"  There is no rhyme or reason to this game.  It's just funny and it makes us laugh.

You can see a lot from the pictures.  His twinkly eyes, his big smile, his sweetness toward his sister, his joy at being alive.  But you can't tell that if you take the joy from the pictures and multiply it by about a million, you might come close to the joy he brings me every day.  Maybe.

So, happy third birthday, Zekey-beans.  You're my best, sweetest, lovie-est boy, and I'm over the moon about you.

And I'm going to change you into a tree.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Conversationus Interruptus

One of the unfortunate side effects of having two small children is that any telephone conversation with me is bound to be either confusing, incredibly annoying or both (unless the children aren't at home, in which case I hope you will consider the conversation pleasant, unless you're with customer service for Verizon, in which case, piss off).

Few things drive me nuttier than talking on the phone with someone who is very obviously doing something else at the same time, like, say, opening his mail.  I'll say something, and the other person will start a sentence but then will go silent in the middle of a thought, and then finally mutter, "but I paid this already."  And I'm all, "Hel-looooo!  I'm still here!  Pay attention to me!"

Yes, I'm talking to you, Dad.

But now I'm doing it too.  Not opening my mail, which I almost never do anyway, which is why my water will be shut off, causing me to have to pee outside in the middle of the night, and I'll think that someone is playing a prank on me until I realize that I just forgot to pay the bill because I never opened it.

No, my offense is trying to have an intelligent conversation while also supervising my children.  So my poor brother will call me to chat, and then be forced to suffer through sentences like this:

"I also loved that scene at the end between Betty and Don, and really thought the whole episode was don't throw food at your sister."

Or:  "I can understand why you'd want to just settle the case and get -- I smell poop.  Who has poop?"

Or:  "We're really excited about get your finger out of your butt!"

My brother has the decency to not hang up on me or even scold me, though I totally deserve it.  But it's hard.  You get so used to trying to do 47 things at once, it bleeds over into your conversations and obliterates every rule of politeness that you've forever held dear.

So to anyone that is subjected to this in the future, please bear with me.  I know it's a problem, and I'll try to be better.  Things should normalize in, oh, 17 years or so.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday miscellany

  • You people are a bunch of serious task-masters.  By an almost 3-1 margin (and that's not counting the votes cast to let me know that I'm a big ol' dork), you said that I should pull up my big-girl panties and just suck it up and read the Chernow book already.  Lucky for me, this isn't a democracy, so I may or may not heed your advice.  I'm still deciding.  At the very least, so that I don't become completely boring, I am forcing myself to alternate every non-fiction choice with a fiction choice.  So right now I'm reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and loving it so far.  
  • Josie is starting to communicate.  I've been a little bit worried about the fact that she is at least 4 months behind where Zeke was at her age, developmentally speaking, because when Zeke was 13 months old, he was saying words and walking and had at least 8 teeth.  Josie says "dada" or "da-di" and occasionally says "mama," is at least a month away from walking, and has had 4 lonely little teeth that don't appear to be getting any company any time soon.  But suddenly she's taking more steps and chattering up a storm, saying "bye-bye" and using sign language for things like "eat" and "more" and "all done."  And as a close family friend said to my mom upon learning of my concerns, comparisons are odious.  So I'm not worried.  She's perfectly healthy and normal.

"Look, Ma, I'm standing!"
  • We're slowly but surely getting the house in order.  It was even presentable enough to have friends over for dinner Saturday night!  And my parents will be in town this weekend and have agreed to take the kids for a solid stretch on Saturday so that  and I can finish the drywall in the front hallway and dining room.  When it's all done, it going to be beautiful.
  • My friend Elizabeth is having a baby today.  Send her positive vibes for a smooth delivery and speedy recovery and a healthy, happy baby girl.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Climbing the literary Everest, and a "test your level of geekiness" poll

So I finally, finally, finally finished the Alexander Hamilton bio.  At 4 in the morning last night when I couldn't sleep and I had already watched my recording of The Good Wife.  I've been reading it since the beginning of August, but have only had snippets of time here and there, with the occasional plane ride that gave me a bigger chunk of uninterrupted reading opportunity.

And the book is huge.  But I didn't realize how huge, because I've been reading it on my Kindle, and the Kindle pages don't match up to actual pages, plus you can adjust the font and print size to your liking.  So all I knew was that a) it was amazingly written and researched; b) Hamilton was an extraordinary guy, and probably the most essential of the Founding Fathers, in terms of his ability to take the concepts underlying the Constitution and turn them into an actual working government; and c) it was taking me forever to plow through it.

Then when I went to DC for the Israel reunion, my parents had an actual physical copy of the book, and I was stunned.  It wasn't just 700+ pages, but 700+ big pages with teeny teeny tiny print.

Jesus, I thought.  No fucking wonder.

But I kept plugging, and finally finished it.

And somewhere along the way, came up with my latest uber-geek plan to read the history of the United States in order, by president.  I'm good with Adams and Jefferson (and a few others), but I've never read a biography of George Washington, so I was talking to my mom about looking for a good one.

Wouldn't you know, Ron Chernow just came out with an opus about George Washington.  And it's 900 fucking pages long.

"For God's sake!"  I said.  "I'm sure it's great.  He's an incredible writer.  But there has to be a worthy Washington biography in the 300 or 400 page range."

"But if you're going to be reading anyway, what difference does it make if it's a 900 page book or some other book?  My feeling is, I'm going to be reading something regardless, so I'd rather be reading something good, no matter how long it is."


"I mean, do you read for quality or quantity?  Would you rather read more books, or read better books?"

"Can't I do both?"  I wondered.  "I'd rather read really good books that don't take me a million years each, because then I can read more of them."

She laughed.  But it got me thinking.  Why was I so hung up on the length of the book, when I enjoyed it and was going to be reading something anyway?

What say all of you?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I've been doing a lot of blogging in the middle of the night lately.

It beats lying in bed and tossing and turning and thinking about the various things on my to-do list that are crowding my brain.

But the middle of the night is also a great time to get caught up on my shows.  My DVR does its thing, and then I watch my episodes of House or Mad Men or The Daily Show at 3 in the morning, when no one is clamoring for my attention and Zeke isn't asking to watch Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa for the 80 millionth time in a row.

But I can't focus tonight.  My chest feels tight and full of anxiety.

Could be the fact that I'm changing jobs soon.  Going to try my hand at being a special ed. specialist again, instead of a general education generalist, which, as it turned out, I am ill-suited for.

Or it could be that J and I can never seem to get caught up around the house.  I feel like I spend every spare moment unpacking a box or trying to figure out where something is going to go.

If I'm not actually doing renovations.  Like sheetrocking.  Here's a piece of my handiwork:
I still need to tape and mud, but the cuts are clean and that sucker isn't going anywhere.
And here's another.  And see that thermostat?  I wired and mounted that bad boy.
The duk-duk dancer is watching over my work.
It's been nice having J home again.  Did I mention he's home again?  Except that the reason he's home is that he has a double hernia and can't work and needs to have surgery.  So he's around, but I'm still doing plenty of the heavy lifting, literally.

Lately when I talk to my friends and family on the phone, they keep asking me if I'm OK.  And they don't sound like they believe me when I tell them I am.

I'm OK.  I'm taking my meds.  I'm stressed out, but I'm OK.

I guess.  I don't know.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Blue Rules

One of the coolest things about my school in Israel was the Hockey Marathon.  Every year, I think in February, the entire high school would divide up into red and blue teams.  In the weeks leading up to the Marathon, the captains of teams would determine the hierarchy of players and divide into squads from A to E (or so) and practice.  The school was decked out in huge posters that covered every bit of available space, and the gym was transformed into a red and blue battlefield.

Then came the big event -- starting on a Friday afternoon, we would play floor hockey for 38 hours straight, finishing up on a Sunday morning.  First the A boys would play for an hour, then the A girls, then the B boys, and so on.  Most people played on two squads and thus were scheduled to play every 6 or 7 hours.  So we would camp out in sleeping bags and try to get some shut-eye between heats, or hang out in the gym cheering on our team, with the music blaring and all of our friends there and the whole school watching. 

I've never been involved in another tradition quite like it.  It was awesome and crazy fun and overwhelming and exhausting.  We'd all be fried and hoarse from cheering for days afterwards, but would immediately start looking forward to the next one.

And the allegiance to color was pretty much a permanent deal -- once you were blue, you were always going to be blue, barring some extraordinary set of circumstances.

When I showed up this past Saturday for the Alumni Hockey Marathon, I wasn't even sure I would play.  I had my kids with me and I was tired and I haven't played hockey in 26 years.  But I wore a blue shirt without even thinking about it.  Honestly, I just grabbed it out of my bag, and only when I got there and decided to sub in on a heat did I realize I was wearing blue, and of course would only play for blue.  Playing for red was unthinkable.

I only played for about 10 minutes, and was totally on the verge of barfing up a lung afterwards, but it was worth it.

And Blue won, of course.

The reunion was as most reunions are.*  A whirlwind of old memories brought to the surface and old friendships rekindled and the fascinating experience of finding out, 26 years later, how your recollections of teenage awkwardness matched up with what other people remember about you.  Seeing old boyfriends and thinking, "really? him??  Huh."  Martinis.  Getting into intense conversations with people you haven't talked to in decades, and have them tell you seriously deep dark secrets.  Dancing until 3 in the morning.  Laughter.

Lots and lots of laughter.
* Of course my nervousness and apprehension were totally unfounded.

Many thanks to Candice and Sharon for the pictures.