Friday, February 29, 2008

Waiting by the Phone

I’ve never been one much for a lot of phone calls. Even as a teenager, I didn’t spend lots of time chatting with pals on the phone. Between my grandfather’s decline and our house being on the market, however, the phone has all of the sudden become really important in my life. Every time the phone rings, it could be an update on my grandfather or another appointment for our house to be shown and I find myself running to grab it. I’ve realized that I don’t use the phone that much for regular keeping in touch with people; I’m more of an email/IM person, I suppose.

The big phone call we’d been waiting for over the past several days came yesterday. My grandfather died yesterday morning, quietly at home with my grandmother in the room with him. He was aware enough to see my mom and recognize that she was there when she was in St. Louis at the beginning of the week. This weekend I am traveling there, along with the rest of my family in Texas, to be together and to have a service. I know it’s going to be emotional and sad (and I don’t relish emotional tumult), but I am glad that we are all going to be there.

I originally planned to bring Grace with me. She is the youngest relative of my grandfather and I suspected it could be good for all of us to have her there. Also, I haven’t ever been away from her overnight and she’s not totally weaned, still nursing at bedtime, so I am a bit apprehensive about leaving her. (I know, I know, I am a total hippie breastfeeding my 2-year-old.) She has been fighting a cold over the past week that got significantly worse yesterday, though, so we decided that a plane flight would be miserable and possibly bad for her. I will thus soon spend the most time away from Grace that I ever have; I think the most time I have been away from her up until now is probably 7 hours or so. I know that Rob will do a great job with her and showing the house, but it will definitely be a new experience for Rob to be the sole caretaker for such a long time.

In the meantime, it is Snotfest 2008 over here at our house between me being occasionally teary about my grandfather and Grace’s cold. I am definitely looking forward to the day when Grace learns to blow her nose and that is one fewer of her bodily functions which I am intimately involved in. Also, it is paying off this week that we buy Kleenex in bulk at Costco. “More Neeyex!” as Grace would say.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Who We Are

Things have taken a sad and serious turn in my family over the past week or so. My grandfather has been increasingly ill over the past months and just a few weeks ago was diagnosed with liver cancer. Last week they were talking about treatment options, but he has gotten very sick very quickly and over the weekend they put him on hospice care at home. On Sunday my mom traveled from Texas to St. Louis to be with them all there because the hospice caregivers were saying he could die within hours to a few days.

This picture is from our wedding in 2002 and shows my aunt, my mom, my grandfather, and my grandmother-- a little family just like the one I grew up in as far as siblings and age spacing and whatnot. It is a very different family in some ways, of course, and has its own tangles of history and hurt and love and that are being intensified right now because of the potent stress of dealing with the life’s end of such a strong, central figure in all of their lives. There is significant heterogeneity in their beliefs about spiritual things as well, which makes dealing with death especially hard. They seem to be doing well together right now, pulling together to be a family, as far as I can tell from here.

Being far away both from them in St. Louis and my immediate family in Texas has made experiencing this process kind of strange. It all seems weirdly far away and unreal at times and then overwhelmingly sad and heartbreaking at others. When they first put him on hospice care, I was thinking about trying to make a trip there in the next month but things seem to be happening so fast that I am not sure what to do. Although he has been feeling sick and losing weight for months, this feels like it has escalated really fast.

It has made me realize how lucky I have been to have enduring personal connections to the people who make up my past. At almost 30 years old, I currently have all 4 of my grandparents alive and I knew 3 of my great-grandparents well into childhood and even adolescence. It has made my life richer to know all these people including my grandfather, the loyal, strong-willed, trustworthy, gruff, funny man I know him to be. I look at Grace, realizing that she is my future in the same way that my Papa is my past, and hope that she is so lucky.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Cold Winter Day

It is a cold, cold winter day today here in New England and it is supposed to snow tomorrow. February is starting to feel a bit gray and dismal so some fluffy white snow would not be amiss. Spring still feels eons away, that is for sure. It seems like a good day for hot tea and wooly sweaters and something steamy and substantial for dinner.

Grace’s birthday celebrations last week were delightful and fun. We had chocolate cake and a few presents with just the three of us on her actual birthday, and then had quite a handful of toddler friends over for a birthday party on Friday. I may have gone overboard with how many people I invited given the space we have here. I am totally OK with a huge crowd of riotous toddlers wreaking havoc at our house, but a few of the little ones looked a bit shellshocked by the mayhem. And I had planned a craft, but there were just too many kids and not enough space to really do it. It was a delightful rollicking party, however, despite a few mishaps including one little one having an allergic reaction to the cupcake icing (egg whites) and the cupcakes all coming crashing to the floor because of a toddler’s curiosity. Did I pick up the cupcakes and still feed them to our guests? Yes, yes, I did.


I am normally a really neat person but having a gigantic mess after a party does not bother me at all. I love entertaining, whether having grownups over for dinner or kids over for a playgroup or party. Getting to play hostess somehow quiets my inner neatnik and makes it fun to get the house ready and cook, and not too dreary to clean up afterwards.

Keeping the house clean for prospective buyers is not quite as fun, but it hasn’t yet become too tiresome. Our house has officially been on the market since Saturday and we’ve had people coming to see it at what seems like a steady clip. I’m not going to directly link to the house listing in an effort to not be so cavalier about what info I put on the internet, but you can pretty easily find it at if you know our zip code, which I am pretty sure everyone does who has come to our blog. So far, the prospective buyers have said they are looking for something bigger or a bigger kitchen, but we are feeling OK about the process so far. We’ll see how it all goes...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Two Years of Grace

Today is Grace’s birthday, and it seems a fitting day to reflect on the past two years of having Grace here in the world. She has changed so much, from a tiny little bundle of myopic cuddles and floppy neck to a talking, running burst of independence and exuberance. Also, you will be happy to hear that she is finally growing some hair.

I recently watched the little movie Rob made about Grace’s birth again (gosh, are we slackers about the movies or what? we have quite a bit of unedited video sitting around; many apologies, grandparents...) and it all came rushing back about being so pregnant and so ready for her to arrive, and then the overwhelming and scary and wonderful experience of actually having her with us.

I love seeing the character qualities in Grace that have remained consistent through her short life, although they tend to manifest themselves in different ways as she gets bigger. She has always been active and sociable, interested in people and being busy and trying new things. She’s a little bit of a drama queen, experiencing her feelings with intensity, but she is almost always easily comforted. She has always been a bit unpredictable and not too bound to a schedule (although our parenting style might be partly culpable there) and she is intense and persistent when interested in something. One thing that brought me a lot of gladness when we started to be around other babies Grace’s age was to see how many of her characteristics were particular to her, and not to babies in general. Even from those newborn days, she was so obviously an individual.

And then of course, there are the little passing quirks that are so intense for a few weeks and then are made obsolete by the next obsession. For posterity and grandparents and all that, here are what Grace is interested in at two years old:
  • She is currently really into brushing her teeth and will do it for fun while I shower in the morning. Nonetheless, we are afraid she has a cavity.
  • After a shopping trip when we have transferred our bags from the shopping cart to the car, she will insist, “Mommy, go fast!” as we return the cart to the store. I try to accommodate her.
  • She will eat all the blueberries I am willing to put in front of her; seriously, I am not sure when she would stop if I just kept giving them to her.
  • She likes to hang on to Rob’s back and gleefully demand, “Go go, daddy, go!”
  • Grace loves to press buttons, especially if they beep or do something when she presses them. Pushing buttons on the microwave is a big hit, as is pushing the button on our remote to start music.
  • As she comes out of a fit of crying and being upset, she will remark “Gracie sad”, ask for a Kleenex (“Neeyex”), and dab her eyes. It’s a coping mechanism, I guess, and not a bad one, actually. Maybe I’ll try it the next time life feels overwhelming.
But today I don’t feel like I need a Kleenex. Today feels like a day for celebration and chocolate cake and covering Grace’s sweet-smelling two-year-old cheeks with kisses.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Right Foot on Yellow

Rob and I spent this afternoon (after church and our regular jaunt to a little greasy spoon with friends afterwards) doing little tasks around the house to get it ready to go on the market. I mostly painted, touching up walls here and there where they have gotten banged up and/or slobbered on by our dog. I also finally finished the trim in the kitchen, only 2+ years after we had it put up. Our window in the kitchen is right over the sink, which made painting its trim quite a challenge. It resembled nothing more than a game of Twister as I contorted myself to reach all the various parts of the window trim while hovering over the sink.

We own a copy of Twister with the above picture on the box and Rob and I are always a bit disturbed by the expression on the face of that kid in the lower right. Such lasciviousness from someone so young! Definitely up to no good! And what about that poor curly-haired girl?

The painting fell to my lot because it turns out that Rob really abhors it. He is not a big fan of any kind of work around the house, but he is quite capable and usually willing to do other things. Painting, however, is the ne plus ultra of DIY misery for him. I don’t get it, I must admit. Painting is cheap and pretty easy, and it can be a certain kind of fun, especially when you are painting walls a color that you are excited about. I dislike painting trim and edging out a wall, but merrily rolling some brilliant new color onto an expanse of wall has a particular transformative, metamorphic delight to it. With just some paint and a few tools, you can be living in a WHOLE NEW ROOM. The last time I was at Home Depot, I browsed through the paint chips a bit, contemplating what new colors I might like to try in our next house. I’m thinking there might be a Tiffany blue and a tangerine orange, and maybe a grassy green. I’ll just have to find someone other than Rob to do the actual painting.

It is now less than a week until our house is listed for sale. We have pretty much all the little projects finished and now only need to begin the cleaning marathon that will be living here while it is on the market. I am giving myself a few days at the beginning of this week not to worry about the cleaning/orderliness too much, and then it will be time to kick the house upkeep into high gear. I am a naturally organized, neat person and I can get the house in good shape for company with the best of them, but I feel a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of perhaps months of unrelenting neatness. As Elizabeth Bennet’s uncle might say, it will be tidiness and cleanliness enough to satisfy even my enthusiasm for them.

Monday, February 4, 2008


Rob and I have been starting to talk about various things for our new house in Texas-- what to do about phones, what to do about a TV, etc. This is all fairly premature, considering that it’s still another 10 days or so before our current house goes on the market here. Probably we should concentrate on selling this house before we expend a lot of effort negotiating whether we’ll only have cell phones or if we’ll have cable. Most recently we’ve been talking about our TV/entertainment options. Here in Connecticut, we have a dark basement that Rob has outfitted with a projector and huge screen and speakers and all the associated wires and whatnot. This likely isn’t going to be an option when we move to Dallas, due to the lack of basements and the unlikelihood of having an “extra” room for a dedicated home theater. Our TV is probably going to have to live in our main living room and it turns out that the two of us have very different expectations about what that should look like. I would prefer something like this (although Pottery Barn is out of our price range) that you can close so that the TV and all the components and speakers are hidden. Rob, on the other hand, would like to have something like this in our living room.

Go ahead, click. Browse.

OK, I am being a bit facetious and Rob doesn’t really want gilded columns and velvet curtains. There was serious mention of theater seating, though. Although I am horrified by the idea of those kinds of seats in my living room, this is a good opportunity for me to work on not demanding what I want. I usually have strong opinions on what I want or what I think is the right way to do things, but I want to be a generous spouse who gives Rob the opportunity pursue his interests and do what he enjoys. I actually don’t find it very helpful to concentrate on the idea of compromise; when I do this, I tend to obsess on who has compromised more, who is moving further toward the other’s position, and why it’s just not FAIR that Rob wants to put six ugly speakers in our living room. I feel more freed to give Rob room for himself when I think about situations like this as an opportunity to let go of what I think I deserve or am owed. We had this read at our wedding, and the idea of this as a model for human relationships is big for me-- not grasping for my own importance but setting aside my own selfishness. Of course, I am profoundly, terrifically bad at this, which a number of people from my parents to my sister to Rob (to probably every roommate I’ve lived with) can attest to. My baser self asserts itself and I wonder why everyone just can’t do things my way-- my wonderful, logical, insightful, brilliantly-thought-of way.

My ponderings on TV and compromise were interrupted this morning by poop. A whole lot of poop. I often deal with poop since I have a toddler in diapers, but the main perpetrator this morning was dear Abbey. She’s been having some digestive trouble in the past few days and unbeknownst to us, she made several messes upstairs last night. What a thing to wake up to... Fortunately, nobody stepped in any of it before we noticed it. Blech... If Abbey doesn’t get better soon, we shall have to go to the vet. She never used to have any kind of trouble like this, but this is the second bout of GI trouble in the last few months. I have a sneaking suspicion that the culprit may be all the food Grace drops. Just in the past few days, Abbey has pilfered an entire cheese stick, most of a muffin, and chocolate-covered raisins, among other little tidbits. That can’t be good for her doggie tummy.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Impending Haircut

I finally called and made an appointment for a haircut yesterday. Hooray! Since Grace has been born, I have gone Way Too Long between haircuts. Haircuts and doctor appointments are two things that are rather difficult when you are the main caretaker of a little one. Although not ideal, I have taken Grace with me to quite a number of doctor appointments. I just can’t do it for a haircut, though. I can just imagine myself sitting there trying to hold still while some young woman scissors my hair and Grace flips out from boredom in the stroller. So I must try to arrange such things around Rob’s schedule, which is, shall we say, constrained.

So I have about a week until said appointment and I am toying with the idea of a significant change. I did like my last haircut (in September!) with chin-length subtle layers and a long, side-swept bang. (This is from right around that haircut, although I have the bangs pinned back.) Now I am leaning toward doing something like this (courtesy of Whoorl’s Hair Thursday), with things a bit shorter and a funkier shape.

I am definitely a proponent of having a haircut with an actual shape and style, especially once you are no longer a college girl. Long hair with no shape to it makes some women feel young or feminine, but I come down on the side of unsophisticated and unflattering. I have been known to harbor a secret desire to run up to someone and cut off their long, all-one-length hair. Bwah hah hah! Then they would HAVE to go to a hair stylist! To repair the damage I had just inflicted! That being said, I am so bad these days about getting to regular haircuts for upkeep. Maybe I will get a delightful haircut that I love and will be motivated to make time for it more.

Another hair annoyance of mine is women who get really precious and attached to their hair. I was at a salon once and I saw a girl actually crying because she was so unhappy with her new haircut. She thought it was too short, if I remember, but it was shoulder length still. (If I were in charge of everyone’s hair, I doubt that I would allow anybody to have hair longer than shoulder length. Unkempt! Unstyled!) It is just hair, for goodness’ sake. It grows back. Again, however, I am being a bit hypocritical. I too have known the woe of a disliked haircut. This picture is from a haircut I had a few years ago that was just not a good match for me. I really wanted an Amelie-style bob with short bangs but it was awkward after about a week of growing out and every time I looked in the mirror I would feel annoyed and grouchy. Rob got really sick of me talking about it, if I remember correctly. But oh, looking at these pictures makes me want to try it again! I am such a glutton for punishment!

In non-hair news, last night was the night of important paperwork. We had our chosen realtor over and signed a contract with her to sell our house. What a big step! I am feeling more at peace about the whole process these days. The house will officially be on the market two weeks from today. And then I helped Rob proofread and finish up his application for the PSDP, which would give him funding for research during his fellowship. Boy, did that bring back the memories... The last big academic grant proposals I worked on were my own for postdoc positions (I did work a bit on some while I was a postdoc here at Yale, but not as much) and it was interesting and a little weird to help out Rob with his. That is certainly one part of the academic research world that I will not miss.