What a Difference Three Years Makes

Today is our last full day in our current home. The movers come tomorrow, the boxes are already packed, the walls are bare and damned if I can find half of the shit I need.  My mom is here to help with Rex wrangling, packing, cleaning, etc.  Mr. X is tearing his hair out at the details.  I’m playing the pregnancy card like it’s going out of style.

Three years ago today, though, Michael Jackson died and Rex was conceived.  It was the day of our egg retrieval that resulted in that amazing child we now have and we have come to recognize it each year.   We could not have begun to imagine that three years in the future we would be moving and I would be pregnant again, this time naturally.  No way, no how.

Finally, time moving has resulted in good things, not the same.

Revisited

Almost three and a half years ago, I encountered a neighbor on my walk who was in full pregnancy mode and looking particularly smug about it. I blogged about it here. I expended more energy than I’d care to admit disliking her, her husband and their perfect life.  I scoffed to Mr. X at the name that they chose for their child. I hated that they had what I wanted.

This evening, around the same time of the evening that I had first run into her, I ran into her again. Her three year old son ran toward me, Rex and G to say hi.  We stopped to talk to her.  I complimented (genuinely) how sweet her child was. She asked after Rex and how old he was.  I asked her advice on when she transitioned him to a toddler bed from a crib.  We talked about potty training and day care.  We talked … as moms.  As much as Rex healed a lot of my wounds, this conversation today helped me forgive myself for how awfully I felt towards her all those years ago.

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I had a date this morning with an old friend, the Dildocam.  This was not the panic-inducing wand of Dr. Salsa’s office – it was the one at the OB/GYN’s office.  I had gone to see the Lady Doctor last week because I had two annovulatory cycles in a row and was getting concerned that something was going on.  She ordered bloodwork and, not surprisingly, wanted to get a peek on the screen of the lady bits.

It was as uneventful as it could be and the ultrasound tech and I had a few good chuckles.  She didn’t see anything amiss and I agreed since, I’m so good at looking at scans of my lady parts. Still, part of me was almost wistful for the days of searching for a little sac in the uterus.  There was always that possibility of hope, that this would be the time it would work, that was just so addictive.

I Resolve To Not Resolve

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions.  I’m happy if I can make it through any given year relatively intact, sane and with hair where I want it and not where I don’t.  Bonus points if I had a great time at least most of the year and can still fit in the same clothes.

Via Creative Commons by rachelnwonderland

January is usually not the time that I want to try to something new, get healthy, change myself or do anything proactive because frankly, Thanksgiving through Christmas exhausts me.  In January, I want normalcy again, I want 9-5, Monday through Friday with no mail or daycare holidays.  I want BORING and ho hum.  I do not want new year, new me.  I mostly like the old me.  Sure, there are some rough edges, but I’m not a serial killer, I pay my taxes and I drive safely. What more does society want out of me?

Besides, I’ve been around myself long enough to know that if I truly want to do something, I will do it.  It might not get done immediately, or without drama.  It might not even be done right, but it will be done.  Right now, the only thing I want to do is play Angry Birds, ponder getting some ankle boots and snuggle with my boys.

A good year does not have to be one of momentous change or renovation.  A good year can be as simple as a giggle a day from Rex, waking up each day with my best friend with benefits, and sharing good company and wine.

I would not, however, say no to winning the lottery.  You should resolve to buy me a ticket.

Merry Atheist Christmas

The only time I regret having told people that I am an atheist is around Christmas time. This is because short of going to mass, I celebrate Christmas full tilt.  We have the tree, the stockings, the lights, the ornaments, the holiday cards and, of course, the presents.  Friends who otherwise know me to be non-religious are confused by my embrace of a thoroughly religious holiday.

The 2011 Tree

They simply don’t understand how I can call my tree a “Christmas” tree.  I mean, “Christmas” is a religious term, right? It’s Christ’s birthday, so by calling my tree a Christmas tree, I’m essentially saying that I celebrate the Christ’s birth.  This isn’t why I have a Christmas tree, though, much as I wouldn’t want to cheat the man out of his birthday celebration.  I have a Christmas tree because ever since I can remember, we’ve have had a Christmas tree.  When I was a wee little Miss Y, my parents were Catholic and we had the tree (along with mass, the advent calendar, all of it).  Even after they became disillusioned with the Vatican, they still put up a tree every year.

I don’t want to be one of those prickly atheists who insist on celebrating Winter Solstice just to show everyone how non-religious they are.  I don’t want to set that example for my kid.  I want him to come to know all of the various traditions so that he can decide on his own which ones he wants to follow, or not.  And, I really love the tree.  It has ornaments dating back to when I was a little one and ornaments that Mr. X and I have gathered on our travels.  It has animal ornaments and now, of course, Rex ornaments.  It is a brightly lit museum of our lives that we get to share with each other and Rex.  It also happens to be put up around Christmas.

Perhaps the most important question of all is, where else would we put the presents?

Juror No. 27

My streak of getting out of jury duty due to scheduling conflicts ended in November.  I received the summons two weeks before I was to appear and even though it was a fairly inconvenient time (but, when isn’t?) I showed up at 8am on the appointed day, along with 399 of my fellow citizens, including the Mayor, who had also been called.

By 9:30, I was on my way to a court room as Juror No. 27.  I wasn’t confident that I would be seated on an actual jury because who wants a lawyer on their panel?  But, I was still excited at the possibility.  By 10am, we were in a matchbox-sized courtroom.  The defendant was there, in a new suit. This was not normal for a small case. There were two district attorneys at the table next to him.  The judge repeated the long-winded speech that the bailiff had given about not using cell phones, or talking or eating or drinking.  Then the district attorney dropped the bombshell:

This was a capital murder case.  You could have heard a pin drop in the room.  Sixty-five people in a small room and no one made a sound.  Capital murder is the worst kind of murder.   It is murder with extenuating circumstances, like the victim is a child, elderly or a police officer, or murder in the commission of another felony.

I knew immediately that if the victim was a child or the death penalty was on the table, I would be as vocal as necessary to not be seated on the jury.  I would not be able to be objective in either case.  The district attorney then told us that the death penalty was not available because the defendant was under 18 when he allegedly committed the crime*.

Under Texas law, though, even a person who commits a crime as a child can be sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole, which is exactly what the defendant was looking at.  As far as I was concerned, this was the same as a death sentence for a now 20 year old.  So when the DA asked if anyone would have a problem with sentencing this young man to a life in prison without the possibility of parole, I raised my hand.  I had to wait, though, for him to question several gentlemen in the back, including the skeevy guy dressed in all black.

He made his views well known, early on. He could not be part of a justice system that could not execute this young man.  Yes, he wanted the kid to fry, it was not enough that his life was to be spent behind  bars.  I was called on after this and stated firmly, but clearly that I opposed a mandatory life sentence because it was the same as a death sentence, and I was against it.  The back bencher mumbled and grumbled after I spoke, but I was encouraged by the number of people who raised their hands when asked if they felt the same way I did.

Most of all, though, I was incredibly impressed by the thoughtfulness that each person who answered a question gave to their possible role in determining the fate of this young man.  They asked thoughtful questions and plainly stated their opinions, knowing that none were right or wrong.  Many expressed great concern for having the responsibility to determine his fate in their hands.  Others were quite honest that they could not stomach to see the photographs or hear the evidence.  Still, others made it clear that they were strongly on the side of law enforcement and would likely support their version of the events.

The DA for his part was incredibly professional, never disagreeing with someone’s view but simply asking if that view would make it difficult for them to sit on the jury.  The defense attorney was similarly professional as was the judge.

In the end, I was not chosen.  I had made my view clear and it was not what the prosecution wanted to hear, so I imagine they struck me for cause.  The empaneled jury was made up of the people who said nothing.  I followed the case in the news for the next few days.  He was ultimately convicted, but the jury had some difficulty deliberating. It seems that there was one person holding out because they had a problem with the defendant being sentenced to life without possibility of parole.

I think about this man and the man that he killed.  I think about both families this holiday season and I can see that justice was served, but no one won.

*And that pesky supreme court in DC won’t let them execute a child.

Just Blow

Mr. X and Rex are busy this week trading a cold between them.  They each have a stuffed up nose and a bit of a cough.  Rex has been out-snotting Mr. X, though, with an impressive crusting of snot around each nostril that he refuses to let me even look at let alone touch.  The kid is snot-nosed.

I understand, though, why Rex has snot crusted around his nose and his cheeks and in his hair.  I get why snot ends up on my sleeve and shirt.  The child will not be picking up a dainty handkerchief and deftly unloading each nostril for some time because he’s all of 20 months old and does not understand the concept of blowing one’s nose.  Oh, what joy he will have, though, with the discovery that his nose is a cannon when air is blown through it.  Then I will probably miss the days of snot only on clothes.

Mr. X, however, I don’t get.  The man hates to blow his nose.  He will snort the snot back into his throat, or sniffle, or sound pitiful rather than just blow.  When he finally reaches the point where he cannot stand the backlog any longer, and he does blow his nose, his eyes tear and he makes noises like a wounded animal.  It’s painful to watch and hear.

Before Mr. X, I had never met anyone who has such a problem with what I thought was a basic human biological function.  Doesn’t everyone blow their nose?  Sure, everyone has different styles, different choice of catch-all, and makes different noises.  My dad prefers a handkerchief and the side-to-side blow that makes him sound like a goose (which was soooo embarrassing when I was a kid. Mortifying.) I prefer a regular Kleenex and tackle one side at a time. But, we both blow our noses when required.

My expert nose-blowing has not convinced Mr. X that it is a normal bodily function that does not have to be either painful or something to dread.  I just don’t have the heart, though, to try to get him to practice more.  Maybe nose-blowing to him is like getting up on high things for me – unless it’s life-threatening, I will not do it.  I remind myself of this after the umpteenth sniffle which could be snuffed out so quickly with a good blow to the hand but will not be put out of its misery.

With Rex, though, there is a clean slate.  I’m already reading up on how to teach kids about nose-blowing.  I’ve done plenty of demonstrations of the concept for him since I’ve had a perpetual cold it seems since he was born.  I’m sure Grandpa will give him a good show, too, at some point.  When he’s old enough and hopefully fully proficient in nose-blowing, if he asks why Daddy doesn’t blow his nose, we’ll just have to tell him that Daddy is a conscientious objector.  And we’ll pity him his inability to just blow.

Catch Up

Hi all,

Yes, still here. Yes, still trying to blog but obviously not being very successful about it. So, instead, you get the dreaded bullet points of life. Because, aren’t our lives really just bullet points?

  • Rex is officially in his twenties.  20 months he turned on Thursday! I can’t quite tell a difference between 19 months and 20 but I can say that the child is sucking up language like it’s going out of style. Mr. X has already taught him “A, B, C” and he sings it constantly in the backseat of the car.  He is like a little parrot saying the things that we say, which is cool but also disconcerting since you never quite know when he’s going to do it. He has been helping to keep my sailorly swearing problem in check, though.
  • Rex also has developed a fowl problem. The child does not like poultry of any kind. No chicken or turkey.  He has nothing against cows, however, and will happily devour hamburger. But, Chik-Fil-A is off the menu for the time being, which I know is disappointing their cows.
  • Mr. X got a promotion at work to a manager position.  I told him that night that woke up that morning with a staffer and went to bed with a manager. He accused me of sleeping my way to the top. He’s very relieved as this is what he had been wanting for a while and I’m relieved because it means we get to stay where we are for at least a little while.
  • I’m in the process of trying to find a new therapist.  I’ve got some issues that I’d like to work on and I want to start with a clean slate, so to speak.  It’s a lot like internet dating, though. What are some of these people thinking with the pictures they post of themselves?
  • I’ve been feeling very nostalgic for life before the internet these days.  Not nostalgic enough, however, to turn off the computer. I blame the new Droid Bionic phone I got through work.  How did we kids ever entertain oursevles without Angry Birds?

That’s all for now. I’ve got lots of things swimming in my head that I want to write about, but you can see how well that’s going.

Ta ta,

Mrs. X

The Permanence of My Records

A few months ago, I spent an evening sifting through a box that contained my school records from kindergarten through college.  During those years, my parents diligently saved report cards, memorable artwork, progress reports, and yearbooks, among other items, and then handed them off to me when I moved out.  I don’t know what compelled me that night to look through the stuff, but I remembered pretty quickly why I don’t go through them very often: I hate reading about my younger self.

There is in fact a great deal written about me from those early years, starting with the letter that my parents wrote in support of their application to have me attend a private school for kindergarten.  They unfortunately thoughtfully kept it for me, for what purpose I have yet to decipher.  While my father now points to the positive portions of the letter as proof that I was then who I am now (does that make sense?), I actually hate this letter.  I feel as if it makes me out to be this little monster instead of a probably pretty normal 5 year old only child.  This gem of a paragraph, which Dad wrote in his best PhD-in-childhood-development-ese, still stings:

Probably the least successful aspect of her development so far has been in developing social relationships with other children. She tends to be aggressive and self-centered.  Thus, as an only child who is very independent, she tends not to share well or to seek out relationships with other children on an equal, sharing basis.  Rather, she tends to dominate efforts of other children to relate to her.

Was what he wrote true? Absolutely. But reading about these propensities of mine in such strong, negative and almost accusatory language still gives me the feeling of failure and bad-egg-ness.  Before you get indignant on my behalf, though, know that the essay worked, I was admitted to the school and got glowing reports from kindergarten onwards before they pulled me out after third grade because it was getting expensive.  And, I now I have friends and get paid to be aggressive. Ironic, eh?

But, what strikes me now for the first time is the question: what 5 year old kid isn’t like this?  Seriously. Aren’t all kids basically self-centered, aggressive (passive or otherwise) miniature adults who are still learning the social norms and graces for maneuvering successfully in the world? Reading the letter in the past has always made me feel as if I was exceptional in this regard.  Now, though, I have to wonder if being a well-adjusted, selfless and passive 5 year old is in fact the exceptional thing.

Watching Rex grow has helped to put this all into some kind of perspective.  I’ve been reading a lot about toddlers and their behavior and I’m beginning to subscribe to the notion that the ‘bad’ behaviors of toddlers are not ‘bad’ in the way that they would be if you and I did them.  They are trying out all the world offers and it’s my job to say what is and what is not acceptable and where, not label them as self-centered or aggressive.  Above all, I’m embracing the notion that it is a phase, as in temporary, will grow out of it behavior.  Just like being a self-centered aggressive non-sharing brat was (mostly) a phase with me.  I share now, although I still hate it (but I would never tell you that to your face while you are helping yourself to my ice cream).  I am aggressive only when called for and I feel pretty confident that I’m not wretchedly self-centered, or at least any more than anyone else.

So after that stellar introduction of me to the school, what did my kindergarten teacher think about me?

She is able to be a playful little girl but readily takes on the challenges of being six years old in a competitive environment.  She is strong minded and can be quite stubborn.  She is sensitive and has a good sense of humor.  These characteristics have helped her to become a leader and much sought-after playmate.

I like this version MUCH better.

Welcome, September

I am so over summer.  August was brutal here in hell Texas.  I’ve been living in cotton dresses, flip-flops and the bare necessities.  We’re also in the worst drought in living and recorded memory.  Temperatures are regularly in the 100’s with lots of bright burning sun, and they barely bother to dip below 80 at night.  The weather men have their work cut out for them each night to prevent mass insurrection with each forecast of high heat, lots of sun and no rain in sight.   September, though, holds hope of a break, even just a few degrees so that we can say that our high temperature was in the two digits.

by RL Johnson, via Creative Commons

When I was growing up in Maryland, the arrival of September also heralded change.  Except for us in the northeast, it marked the beginning of the end of summer.  The local pool closed its doors for the season the day after Labor Day while the kids simultaneously started back at school.  We all knew that the end of September would be a lot colder than the beginning and the days would be shorter.

Down south, though, September is welcomed more for its promise than its foreboding.  A cool front bringing temperatures in the low 90s is celebrated like the birth of a child. And, while I came to Texas six years ago to escape a hurricane, I now get inappropriately excited when a tropical storm is anywhere near the Gulf because it means that we might just get that deluge that we so need.

So September, welcome. May you bring some sense back into the weather here in Texas and try to reason with Mother Nature on why it is just not natural to have 100+ heat in the month where fall decorations are already popping up in my local grocery store.