Thursday, July 27, 2006

on vacation, or my in-laws drive me crazy

Really. A cliché, I know. But I can’t help it! They are both sweet and generous, but still.

We – Iz, Abraham, and Zi the Dog – are currently on vacation in Downeast Maine… at the in-laws gorgeous, huge house on a bay. The weather is fantastic – anything is compared to the DC area in July and August – and I am actually on real vacation – no work! I have not had a real vacation in a long, long time. Unfortunately, they are here the whole time.

  1. They have the same conversations over and over (their daughter needing to meet “someone”, what to have for dinner the next night while eating dinner, which side of Abraham’s family Iz looks like, how the food or a restaurant is “the best” in one way or another, how they and their neighbors are worried about property taxes – to name a few of the stock conversations).
  2. New conversations confuse them –especially my father in-law, who joins in a conversation with a hesitant, yet know-it-all tone, but is completely off about the actual topic. Any new conversations quickly devolve into the same old conversations.
  3. They do very little but putter (come on, they are in Maine, on vacation – do something for god's sake!) – she cleans and goes to the grocery store, he moves from room to room reading – and talk about potential plans (“Oh, there is a silent auction there,” “Such-and-such movie is playing,” “I want to build model boats,” etc.).
  4. They have no real interests – though maybe I am being a creative/intellectual snob here. Sure, he reads books constantly and others describe him as smart. Yes, she reads the newspaper. But he often reads very trashy thrillers et al (So badly written that Abraham often cannot finish what his dad recommends), and she reads the Style section, especially the wedding announcements in full.
  5. They seem so traditional – he is a doctor (mostly retired now), she was primarily a stay-at-home mom who still caters almost entirely to her husband – for example, she makes him lunch while he sits and reads; he hates writing thank you cards and making plans with others, so she does it all. Maybe part of my annoyance is culture clash – I just don’t get it.

Yes, it is their house (and we could not afford a vacation in a location such as this); yes, I am probably being supremely ungracious – and I feel more so because I often sense they are trying to please me, which makes my annoyance and guilt worse. I used to think I was a good person.

A major bonus (and source of guilt): they will babysit Iz, so Abraham and I can go running, cycling, kayaking… Oh, I am going to hell. Maybe not such a bad level of hell, but hell nonetheless.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

matchmaking circumcision

So I am receiving spam messages that are stock "tips." Maybe one or two a day.

For, oh, a month, I have just been copying the (supposed) names of the senders and the titles of the messages. The names are pretty basic (Tim Shields), though sometimes a bit bizarre (Nappie Greer).

The messages titles can be compelling, from the simple (autocrat) to the poetic (energies solace).

I got the funniest message title by far today: "matchmaking circumcision." The closest runner up is "polar bear well rounded."

Monday, July 10, 2006

first run-in with death (don't worry)

Iz had his first run-in with death today. Not to worry -- I just mean that he saw his first dead animal, a robin at the playground. It was a rather neat scene -- just a robin lying on the ground with some flies on its head.

He and some other toddlers spied it and gathered around. We parents moved in and whisked them away in one way or another ("The bird is not working/not living", "Don't touch it," etc.). One parent moved it to the trash can using some branches like giant chopsticks. No one yelled, no one paniced. It was all a pretty calm, but clear, group parental reaction.

Iz seemed unaffected. Until he was playing nearby the dead bird site and a branch brushed his shoulder. He cried, terrified, and ran to me. Huh? I thought. Then he went back to play. A leaf on the ground brushed his ankle, and he had the same reaction. Does this have to do with the bird? I thought. An 11-year-old said to me, "Do you think he is scared because of the bird?"

He would not let me go after those two incidents. When we got home, he would not get out of his stroller on the grass. He insisted that I carry him to the cement path to the front door. Once inside, he wouldn't let me go for over an hour. He talkd about "bird" a few times, but I did not understand the words surrounding the one clear word (Iz is not a big conversationalist, though he can and does say a lot and have a decent vocabulary). If I tried to put him down, the fear tears started, and he would stand on his toes as if the ground was what he was trying to avoid.

I wonder why he thought to be that scared of the dead bird?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

first day of school

I dropped Iz off for his first day of "school" -- a summer program in town that meets two days a week for four hours each day. One of the days is called"Mothers' Day Out", the other the "Early School Program." The former concentrates on holidays and social stuff, the latter on school-like topics (colors, shapes, numers, letters). But the teachers, kids, and place are the same. The kids arrive, play with toys, do an art project, play outside, eat lunch, and again play with toys or go outside. Perfect for little Iz.

How to explain to a two-year-old kid who has never been to school what school is... Didn't matter. We arrived at the door and he took off without a backward glance. The Seasame Street theme helped (he pounced on a little plastic Elmo action figure).

I hovered a bit before I left. I wasn't worried that the teachers couldn't take care of him. But I did wonder if I should tell them that he doesn't eat a damn thing. I decided not to because it occurred to me that he might eat better around other kids and when those around him had no idea he is a pain about food. We'll see. I'll probably get a starving, exhausted child back at 1pm. Maybe then he'll start figuring the food thing out.

This school thing is odd. Now I have four hours and no work on my desk to get done (when I don't have child care for him, I have tons of work -- am I cursed?). Sure, I could clean some part of the house. Yes, I could clean and organize my office. Maybe tomorrow, when he goes again. Now I think I am going to exercise out back, then paint a bit (I'm still working on the big version of the Zamia Street house). Maybe, maybe, then I'll start in on cleaning my office.

Update: I received an "Iz has messed himself, please come and change him" call an hour after I dropped him off. You see, they don't do diapers, though they don't expect a two-year-old to be toilet trained, just toilet "aware." I sent him in pull ups to at least pretend he is aware. I ran over (okay, drove over), changed him, and left again.

The report at 1pm was that he been great -- not even cranky when he was tired (which the teacher said some of the older kids were -- understandably). He is a rallyer when tired, as long as there are other kids around and toys to play with. But he didn't eat a damn thing.