Monday, February 22, 2010

A Cry for Help

Grace has fallen into this terrible habit of shouting out, "Help! Help!" in this high-pitched, shrieky voice full of terror that sounds like a horrible nightmare-ish monster is attacking her, when in reality she just wants us to come help her get dressed or get a toy unstuck or something. We are trying to get her to understand the difference between an actual emergency and being frustrated with something and wanting some help, but this is proving challenging because I suspect having her head stuck inside her shirt does in fact feel like an emergency to her 4-year-old mind. Perhaps explaining about the boy who cried "Wolf!" might prove instructional? Sometimes I think that Grace might be a little bit of a drama queen, really feeling her feelings with a lot of intensity, although maybe it is just normal small-child behavior. They do not have a lot of perspective, it turns out.

Violet (who is 14 months old TODAY) has learned how to shake her head "no" (along with learning how to walk with a modicum of skill-- hooray!) which, it turns out, is terribly adorable. However, she has not yet learned what it means to shake your head, and instead thinks it is what you do whenever you are asked a question. Asking Violet anything at all these days will elicit her shaking her head vigorously back and forth and smiling hugely. Do you want a kiss? No no no no no. Is your name Violet? No no no no no. Do you want up? No no no no no, immediately followed by arms outstretched to be picked up. And speaking of kissing, she has learned both how to make kissy noises and how to lean in for a kiss, but does not manage to do them both at the same time. It kills me.

What hopefully will NOT kill me is a trip we have coming up at the end of the week. Rob is going to a conference for his subspecialty in New Orleans and all the rest of us are tagging along. I am looking forward to it and it will be fun, but oh, it will be so much work as well. Traveling with children is just more challenging than I ever imagined it would be. Maybe it's partly that I am out of practice... For most of my grad school years, I traveled back and forth between Austin and Dallas every week and I had packing down to a SCIENCE, a science of which I was an expert practitioner. And then all the observing runs to the telescope gave me further opportunities to hone my craft. My skills have fallen into disuse, however, and the ante has been upped as I am now responsible for packing for more than just myself. I feel like there is a LOT to do this week to get us ready, including figuring out what I am going to do with the wee ones while Rob is learning about allergies all day. Traveling with children is no small undertaking, but in exchange New Orleans will have crawfish and beignets and beautiful architecture and a free fancy big conference dinner (assuming I manage to find some kind of babysitter for that night) and a swimming pool at the hotel for me to splash about with Grace and Violet.

Oh, and New Orleans will also hold more job-hunt-related activities for Rob. There has been a good bit of activity recently in that search, with some new opportunities cropping up, and he's got a couple of interviews lined up during the meeting. That job in Salt Lake City is still a possibility with a lot to recommend it; when Rob was interviewing there about two weeks ago, the doctor said she wanted to make a decision within a month so we'll see what happens. And we'll see if the four of us survive the 8 hours of driving to New Orleans!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dogs Live Forever and Our House Will Sell Quickly, Right?

I am having a yen for spa/salon/personal-grooming things. I want to get a pedicure and a facial and a new tattoo and my hair colored and my eyebrows threaded. Low maintenance I am not.

We are having a couple of realtors over to our house this week so we can decide who we want to use to sell our house. It feels weird to contemplate putting our house on the market before Rob has a definite job somewhere, but we think it is the wisest move. We aren't really looking at jobs here in town at all so we almost certainly will be moving somewhere when he finishes his fellowship this summer. Also, the federal housing tax credit could very well apply to whoever buys our house, so we want to get in on the right timeframe for that. We will probably have our house on the market within the next month. When it comes down to it, Rob and I would rather risk selling our house too early than risk sitting on the house for ages. If we are so lucky, we will put all our stuff in storage and live somewhere furnished for a while; after all, we have done it before. Actually, this whole process is making me have serious flashbacks to selling our house in Connecticut. You sort of forget how stressful the whole process is.

And oh, how I am filled with dread about this whole ordeal! There is the stress of whether we will sell the house, if we will come out in the black or red on the transaction, and so forth. But then there is the stress of just having the house on the market, having to keep the house impeccably clean at all times and being ready for a showing at an hour's notice. I see this as a Sisyphean task if ever there was one, what with the dog who constantly sheds hair and the two small children who constantly shed Legos and crumbs and stickers. I had a bit of a taste of it when I was getting ready for the first realtor to come over Monday evening; I seriously felt like I would NOT MAKE IT as I scrambled to clean and straighten while Grace and Violet milled around undoing what I had just done. It is going to suck; it is going to suck a lot.

Speaking of our sweet source of dog hair Abbey, I am starting to worry more about our her. She keeps having these ear and eye problems that she can't seem to kick, despite our multiple bank-account-emptying visits to the vet. It's so hard to tell how much pain a dog is really in because they are so stoic, but she is crying out when we accidentally touch that side of her head and walking around with her eyes squinted shut-- so sad. She doesn't come to the door anymore when we come home and takes SUCH CAJOLING to get her to eat her food and spends so much of her days sleeping on her bed. I am starting to worry about her quality of life, and wondering if there is something else wrong with her. Dear sweet Abbey, how I want her to live forever and be happy and healthy for all time...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Four Years of Grace

Pretty birthday girl

Today is Grace's birthday and we get to pause a bit in our regularly scheduled running-in-circles to celebrate her lovely, wonderful self. The word that comes to mind to describe Grace right now is "bright", not in the sense of being intelligent (although of course we are moderately sure she is a super smart genius child) but in the sense of being luminous and vivid and beaming. She is full of flashing smiles and bold ideas and sunny chatter. She makes up silly songs with haphazard tunes and games with nonsensical rules. She is brave about trying new things and always drops her fork on the floor at dinner and loves stickers.

I was looking at the post I wrote last year for her 3rd birthday and I am struck by how much less she has changed in the past year than in the preceding one. It has definitely been a year of more subtle changes and less dramatic transitions. Still, she is transforming before our eyes, her face losing even more babyish plumpness, her legs and arms growing even longer and slimmer, and her conversation growing ever more complex and grown-up.

We had a birthday party this morning for her with a handful of little friends. Grace's very favorite TV show right now is Ni Hao, Kai-Lan so I capitulated to the commercialization of childhood by having a themed birthday party. The invitations and paper plates and cups and whatnot all made her very happy, though, so there you go. And now that she is a little older and thus capable and/or in need of a little more structure in parties, it is helpful to have some sort of theme for planning a game or activity or whatnot. We played "The Radish Squats" (which I'm assuming is a real game in China and not something someone on the Internet made up) and made Chinese lanterns out of construction paper. And then, of course, the highlight of any birthday party-- cupcakes.

Cupcakes for a 4-year-old

This year, Grace went through many iterations of what kind of cupcakes she wanted to have. At various times, she requested purple cupcakes with pink frosting, yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting, and so forth, before finally settling on chocolate cupcakes with white frosting (which I made cream cheese, because that is my favorite). Finally! She is requesting chocolate. It couldn't have happened soon enough. She also got to say what she wanted for her birthday dinner tonight and decided on noodles, plain with no red sauce and just some cheese. Oh, little kids' eating habits... Smitten Kitchen just put up this recipe yesterday, which actually sounded kind of perfect and was indeed delicious. Pasta and cheese-- a good idea if there ever was one. This evening we ate dinner and opened up her presents and each ate yet another cupcake and reflected on the marvel of Grace's beautiful self and how lucky we are to be her family.

Happy birthday, sweet girl!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jumping on the Snowy Bandwagon


Everyone is talking about snow snow snow, all the time snow, aren't we? I can't help myself, though, because it has been snowing ALL DAY here, and gosh, is it pretty. It's nothing like the massive amounts that have been dumped on you mid-Atlantic types but we have inches and inches out there on the ground and it is still coming down in soft, white, fluffy, giant flakes slowly drifting down.

Grace plays in the snow

Grace keeps wanting to go outside to play but only manages to stay outside for about 20 minutes before getting too cold. You know, with her nonexistent body fat and all. The snow is so appealing and enticing, however, that it is not too long before she hears the siren call of the piles of white powder and wants to go out again. I am about to run out of clean dry pants for her because we have been through this several times today and she needs a change of clothes each time she comes in. I would have planned better if I'd realized at the beginning that she was going to waft back and forth all day between the indoors and outdoors.

Life looks better covered in snow and this IS astonishingly beautiful for Texas, but it turns out that other places are even prettier covered in snow. Rob took this picture when he was in Salt Lake City interviewing for that job. Nice, huh?

Mill Creek Canyon

Thursday, February 4, 2010

On the Sunny Side of the Street

Things are finally starting to look up around our house; I think we are all on the mend and it does not appear that any of us are about to fall under the corrupting influence of any more viruses immediately. I think it's been since Christmas that all four of us were all healthy. No one has been seriously ill, thank goodness, but it's been weeks of low-level illness. And gosh, how boring is this? I myself am bored, just contemplating you having to read this. Being sick and/or having sick children is such a black hole that sucks up all my attention and energy, but what a dull, uninteresting, undramatic way to lose it. Hopefully now I can gather my energy and start to spend it in things that are more fun. I haven't taken any pictures in days and days (I can't even find the camera actually; where is it?) and I haven't managed much reading or sewing or other fun things. I have, on the other hand, watched many episodes of Doctor Who (the new ones, not the 1960s ones) and The Biggest Loser. Watching TV is so blissful and relaxing (oh, how I enjoy TV...) but it doesn't give me that creative, fulfilled jolt that other leisure activities do.

Rob is gone to Salt Lake City right now for his interview. We are feeling pretty excited about the possibilities there; it seems like the practice could be a really good situation for him to get involved in professionally and the more we learn, the more positively we feel about the city as a place to live. For starters, it is a beautiful, beautiful place with mountains and four lovely seasons (snow! fall colors!) and all these national parks within driving distance. I would be ALL OVER exchanging the drab north Texas prairie for something better. As far as the culture and vibe of the city, at first I had a lot of reservations because I wasn't sure I wanted to live somewhere with a dominant Mormon culture and I wondered what it would be like to raise non-Mormon kids there and whether I would just exchange my frustrations with über-conservative Dallas for über-conservative Salt Lake City. We've been doing a lot of research, though, and I think it could be a good place for us. Apparently, if you stay within the city proper (away from the suburbs) and in the neighborhoods close to the university, the vibe is a bit progressive and indie and, I guess, bohemian, which would all be a good match for us. The houses in those neighborhoods are generally ADORABLE, as all the time I've frittered away on real estate websites has shown me, and would be within our reach financially. It's not a really pedestrian friendly city, but it does seem like there are some pockets with parks or little shops or whatnot that you can walk to, and there is a farmers market and a half dozen CSAs to sate my hunger for local food. I've thought about what it would be like to be a Christian who takes her faith seriously there, and I don't see the situation as entirely negative. In my poking around, I found this essay by a Christian pastor who lives in SLC and as I read his thoughts, I can see myself being content as an outsider and a "listener" and in a position of cultural weakness as a Christian. Heck, the times I've been happiest with where I've lived have fit exactly that description, although it was more in secular/atheistic/agnostic spots than a place dominated with a particular religion different from mine. So yeah, we'll see. Rob returns on Saturday and we'll see where things go from there, as far as this job and the other jobs Rob is pursuing in other cities.

Of course, Rob being gone means I am doing the single-parent thing again for a few days. I made a tactical error last night and cooked a real dinner, leaving me with too many dishes to do and wailing, exhausted children and no one to help. Tonight I chose more wisely and we all ate leftovers, and tomorrow night I am hanging out with my friend Christy, who is also flying solo for a few days, when we will allow our girls to distract each other and eat dinner somewhere all together. The afternoon and evening do stretch out very long when you've been with little ones all day and no one is coming home to shake things up a little.

Getting into bed alone last night made me realize how much our lives have changed since residency; I was glad to be reminded of how much better things are now. For most of Rob's residency, I slept alone every 4th night while he was on call at the hospital and there were a lot of dinners eaten by myself and putting Grace to bed without her seeing her dad. Now, he rarely misses dinnertime and he never has to stay at the hospital overnight, and yet somehow I have gotten used to it and I don't remember what it was like before and I am greedy for yet more. I was thinking about this today when Beck wrote about being sick, seriously and then not so much. We do get used to things, and sometimes it's easy to forget how good I've got it, even compared to just a few years ago. And there's a very good possibility that things will get even better for our family starting this summer, both as far as the hours Rob works and our financial situation. Gratitude-- it's the way to go.