Waste not, want not

Earlier today, I was drafting up some emails to remind subjects of their appointments tomorrow for an experiment I’m running. I started by forwarding the info emails I sent each them last week, detailing the time and place of the appointment, along with some minor updates. I changed the subject line to begin “Reminder:..” rather than “Fwd:…” As I started to delete the “Fwd,” and got to the d, I caught myself thinking: “But I’m going to be using a d in ‘Reminder.’ I shouldn’t waste it!”

Clearly, I have internalized the whole reduce-reuse-recycle message.

Also, I don’t think I got quite enough sleep last night.

I did manage to get a nice sleep on Saturday night, when I was home alone, and slept in till 8 (which really felt like 9). Admittedly, that doesn’t sound very late compared to my former life’s schedule, but it was glorious. I felt so well-rested. Unfortunately, circumstances were such that I made up for getting 8+ hours of sleep on Saturday night by getting only about 4 hours last night. I was up too late, then both kids were up at different times in the night. By morning, the whole family was in the same bed. Much like dogs, small children can take up a remarkably large amount of space on a mattress. Even a king-sized one. I had to struggle to keep on the bed. Then Theo didn’t get the memo about the time change, and was all done sleeping by 6.

You could say that I was not exactly at peak mental performance today. (Not that I can remember being at peak mental performance.) While I did get some work done, it felt like much of the day was wasted. What I needed was a nap, or at least some quiet time to focus. But that wasn’t going to happen, as we are having some work done in our attic. (Our insulation is a mess up there. Lots of heat has been getting wasted.) (Also, we need a new roof. Not that it’s all that relevant here, but it sure is a pain.)

So, yeah. Not sure what my point is. Look, here’s a completely unrelated photo!

I like this photo, and it’s been sitting around for weeks. I didn’t want to let it go to waste.

Home Alone

Home Alone 5¹
Synopsis: A 40-year-old mother of two is left behind when the kids’ father takes the family to the grandparents’ house for the weekend. Mayhem and hilarity ensue.

That’s right, I have the house to myself this weekend. John took the kids down to his parents’ last night, and I stayed home. (Except that I wasn’t home, I was at a conference hosted by my program in Boston. Minor details. I still came home. And was alone.) John’s brother is visiting my in-laws, and leaving tomorrow, so John wanted to get down there while he was still in town. I, however, had committed to being in Boston for the conference. The miraculous result is that I have a whole weekend free of parenting responsibilities.³

Can you guess what it is that I most fantasize about doing?

Not setting the alarm.

I didn’t get to do that this morning, my first morning home alone. I had to leave the house by 7:30 to get back to the conference, as I was scheduled to chair the morning session. But tomorrow… tomorrow, I have not committed to going in. In fact, I have committed to not going in. I have committed to sleeping in.

I realize that there is a strong possibility that my sleep binge fantasy will not be realized. I can envision any or all of the following happening:

  1. I will wake up early with a cough or cold
  2. I will wake up early with a headache or a stomachache
  3. I will wake up early with leprosy or rabies
  4. I will dream that the house is on fire and wake early in a panic
  5. The power will go out, causing the smoke detector to beep, which will make me wake early in a panic
  6. I will dream that I am back in high school and it’s finals day and I haven’t been to a class all semester and I don’t even know what room it’s in and wake early in a panic
  7. The kids will figure out how to use the phone and call me at 6:30 in the morning
  8. I will get a wrong number phone call from India at 5:30 in the morning
  9. Bumbling burglars will attempt to break in at 4:30 in the morning
  10. Aliens will come and abduct me at 3:30 in the morning

I can only hope that if it’s aliens, they put me in a quiet cell and let me sleep some more.

Beyond the goal of sleeping in, I also plan to work up some data, review some journal articles for a paper I need to write, read up on logistic regression and maybe mixed models, as well as clean out the refrigerator, bake some muffins and do some laundry. Hilarity and mayhem will ensue.

¹ Can you believe that there have been 4 Home Alone movies? I haven’t actually seen any of them.²
² Can you believe that Macauley Culkin is over 30 years old now? Holy crap.
³ I suppose I will have to parent again when they come home tomorrow evening. But I’ll have most of the day, right?

return trips

We got home late last night from a trip down my in-laws. It was a pleasant visit, but ultimately very tiring, as all trips away from home with the kids are. No matter what we do, the sleep schedules get disrupted.

This trip, the sleep issue was compounded by some sort of bug Theo had, which gave him a runny nose and completely took away any impulse to sleep. We drove down Wednesday night, leaving after 8 in order to avoid the worst of the holiday traffic. The plan worked well, as far as traffic went. And Phoebe fell asleep within about half an hour of leaving home. Theo, on the other hand, did not fall asleep in half an hour. Or an hour. Or two. He did eventually fall asleep, but once we arrived, he was wide awake. Phoebe also woke up upon arrival, which was around midnight, but was willing to consent to go to bed after an hour or so of visiting with Grammy and Grampa. Theo, on the other hand, continued to be wide WIDE awake, and none of our usual efforts to settle him down had any noticeable effect. Even taking him to bed with me, rocking him, singing to him, sitting with John as he worked. Theo was just awake. The funny thing was that he seemed perfectly cheerful, except for those times when we suggested that it was time to think about sleep. At those points, he was decidedly, and vocally, unhappy.

In the end, Theo finally crashed some time after 5 in the morning. I was asleep then, after hours of passing Theo off between me and John, with me periodically falling asleep for too-short stretches. At 7:30, a moderately well-rested Phoebe came in to wake me up. I pulled her into bed with me, hoping to get a few minutes more rest. Theo was asleep in a portable crib at the foot of the bed, and while he didn’t wake immediately, it wasn’t long before Phoebe started to meow. (She is often a kitten these days.)

Thanksgiving day was a blur of trying to prevent tantrums, and I mostly didn’t have any. Theo, on the other hand, demonstrated that two-year-olds really do need more than 2 hours of sleep a night, and would cry at the drop of a hat. Well, we didn’t drop any hats to test that, but he certainly cried about a large number of other things. Like being offered breakfast. Or not being given breakfast fast enough. Or not being given the right cup. You should have heard the shrieks of outrage when his banana broke. And that was just the first 15 minutes of being up.

Theo on Thursday, coping with the ordeal of having been given a cracker.

Thursday night also didn’t give me enough sleep, though part of that wasn’t Theo’s fault. (I ended up staying up till 3:30 working, after finally getting Theo to sleep at 11:00.) Most of Friday was a blur, too. Remarkably, Theo was a completely different child by Friday night, and went to sleep without effort. He was utterly charming on Saturday. This was apparently a cue to Phoebe to act out, lest we thought we could get away with a tantrum-free day.

We headed home late Saturday, and happily both kids slept the whole way home. They unfortunately both woke up upon arrival home at 1:30 or so, but we managed to get everyone settled again moderately quickly. (Though I did have to take Theo to bed with me again–he had a cough that kept waking Phoebe.) Miraculously, Theo and I slept till 9:30, and Phoebe slept past 10:00. There weren’t even any tantrums at breakfast.

Anyhow, I’m not really sure what my point was. But it feels good to be back home.

In other news, I was thrilled to learn yesterday that my nephew, Diego, after things had been steadily improving without surgery, got to go home from the hospital. Unfortunately, he had a setback again in his recovery, and he has had to go back to the hospital today. I am still hopeful that he can avoid another surgery, as things are not as bad as they were a week ago, but it is still very worrisome. It is all so hard a little person, not to mention on the bigger people who take care of him. Once again, I’ve been trying to figure how and when I can make it out there to see my family again.

rough night

Sorry if you are looking for a list, or even any sort of entertainment. It’s Thursday, and therefore I’m due for a ThThTh list. It’s in progress, but damn those things take a lot longer to put together than you might expect. A list will be up much later today. What follows can be happily ignored by anyone who doesn’t enjoy reading about the crankiness of dealing with a toddler.


I’m feeling less-than-fully functional today. Phoebe and I had a bad night. I didn’t mention in last night’s post that John had to run off to get a meeting this morning. In California. So he was gone last night, and will be gone tonight. I also think that Phoebe’s been teething. The biting is one clue. She’s also been drooling and sticking her hands and other things in her mouth a lot, which she’s not generally prone to anymore. For whatever reason, she woke up twice last night. Once about half an hour after she went to bed, and then a little after midnight. (As in just when I was going to get to bed.) I just could not get her to settle down.

We talked. I dosed her with Motrin. I held her. I rocked her. I sang to her. But every time I went to put her in her crib, she’d cry again. I tried leaving her, and she screamed and screamed. I went back after a few minutes, and am not pleased with myself that I snapped at her that it was time to stop crying. (I was tired. Sorry. I have a temper.) So then I started right in with the soothing and snuggling and talking, and she seemed to settle. But still objected to going back in her crib.

I asked if she was sad that Daddy wasn’t here, and she said “yeah.” So we called John. (It was only 10:30 or so California time, and John’s ususally up half the night anyhow.) He talked. He soothed.

I put Phoebe in her crib. I sang. I talked about things she likes me to talk about. Then I said it was time to go, just like I do every single night. She usually lets out a sob as I walk out the door, just to pull at my heart strings, but then goes to sleep quietly. But last night, at 2:00, she started screaming. And screaming more. I haven’t left her crying for ages. I don’t even know how long it’s been. (Yes, we did a version of the dreaded Ferberization way back when. Dr. Sears can bite me.) But I thought maybe she’d settle down without me. I went back in after 10 minutes, and got her quiet again. But the screams started in once more. I went back in and she was saying “Mommy room. Mommy room.” “You want to go to Mommy’s room?” I asked. (I swore I’d never talk about myself in the third person, but deictic pronouns are tricky beasts.) She said, “yeah.”

I caved. I brought her to bed with me. I was desperate for sleep. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. She eventually stopped squirming enough to fall asleep. At least, she appeared to be just waking up when she woke me up crying at 6:45.

Now I wonder if this will come back to bite me. She really does sleep best on her own. And she’s generally a good sleeper.

Happily, she went to daycare this morning, and I was able to get a bit more sleep. I am “working” from home today, but haven’t been able to defog my brain sufficiently. I do have a conference call at 3:30, so will need to kick into high gear.

I hope that tonight goes better, because I have to drive the two of us down to New York tomorrow. John’s dad is going back home, after over a year in various hospitals and rehab hospitals. John will be going right to New York from his trip, following his red-eye flight to Newark, rather than going home first, so that he can be there to help. Phoebe and I will go down later in the day. Our eyes may well be red, too.


We just got back from a whirlwind trip down to visit John’s parents. John’s sister was visiting them, and John’s mother just had a birthday. Plus, coincidentally, my sister (from California) was in New York city for a couple of days for a trade show. So, a trip down to New York seemed in order.

We left Thursday night, after I got home from a really long day of teaching and meeting and commuting. We didn’t get on the road till about 8:30, which isn’t bad considering I got home at almost 7, and still had to pack and eat dinner. But it did mean an arrival time after midnight.

I then took the train into New York City to meet my sister Friday morning, and join her in checking out some retailers. (Actually, I don’t mean shopping, believe it or not. Though I did buy a bathtub drain stopper and some licorice. I lead a glamorous life like that.) I had a really fun time. This was the first time in years my sister and I just got to hang out together. With no babies or anything. It was rainy and windy and cold, and not really a great day for walking around outside. But walk around outside we did. I also took the opportunity to spend the time on the train reading a book for fun since I wasn’t lugging my laptop. I re-read Sara Caudwell’s The Shortest Way to Hades, one of my favoritistest books in the world.

John is going through a crazy-busy time for work now, and so we decided to come back home Saturday night. (It’s impossible for either of us to get stuff done when visiting John’s mother.) But first, we had the day with John’s sister, visited John’s Dad, then made a trip to my favorite restaurant in the universe. We then went back to John’s parents’ house, packed up, and were on the road by about 9:30 or 10:00.

Phoebe and I got to sleep most of the way home, which was great. Especially since, upon our arrival at home at 1:30 a.m., we found that the house was a nippy 50 degrees (that’s 10 degrees celsius). Our furnace had shut off at some point in the past couple days. We spent the next couple hours doing various things to speed up the warming process: turning on the oven, running space heaters in the bedrooms, and burning cardboard and whatever scrap wood we could find in the fireplace.

It was actually almost festive, with the roaring fire and the scavenging for amazon boxes and clementine crates. Phoebe had fun playing with her crayons while bundled up in a blanket nearish the fire. By 3:30, a space heater had brought Phoebe’s room up to a tolerable 60 degrees or so, and I managed to get her into her crib by 4. (We didn’t want to leave the space heater running in her room, so wanted to get the room warm before we left her in there.)

And I did sleep past 7:00 this morning, and seeing as I have no deadlines this weekend and have even read a book for fun and watched some TV, I now can lump myself in with those categories of people of which I was previously jealous. Hurray!


Here I am again. Not home, but not where I was last time. We’re now down in New York to visit John’s parents for a post-Christmas Christmas celebration. Phoebe will find herself believing that Christmas is a holiday that features no fewer than 5 present-opening sessions…

We took the red eye back to Boston Thursday night, and our eyes were appropriately red when our flight landed at 6:00 a.m. on Friday. Phoebe got some sleep in my arms, but I couldn’t get too comfortable, largely because I was often trying to keep Phoebe from kicking or poking the passenger next to me, and well, because I had a toddler on my lap in a cramped space. (I was very resentful to see that there were empty seats on the plane, but that they weren’t offered to the people traveling with a toddler-in-lap.) John got no sleep. The flight was otherwise pretty uneventful, as was our drive back home from the airport. We were immensely relieved to see that the reported snow had melted from our driveway, and that we could pull in without shoveling and chiseling at ice.

The plan was to then pack up and head right down to New York, as one of John’s sisters was visiting his parents for a few days. Since John got no sleep on the flight, we deemed it wise to delay for a bit and get some sleep before the 4-ish hour drive. John went to bed after dealing with some work, and then I thought Phoebe and I could get some rest, too. However, seeing as Phoebe had actually slept on the plane (as well as while she was carried out of the plane, while we
got our bags, and went back to the car, not to mention more sleep in the car), she was less interested in sleep, and more interested in being reunited with her toys and books.

Anyhow, I did get about 3 hours of sleep yesterday, John got a bit more than that, and we headed down in the evening. We didn’t really even repack. We just unloaded a few gifts we’d received, and loaded up a few gifts to give, and lugged down our big suitcases full of dirty clothes. At least that way we knew we’d have what we needed.

We head back home tomorrow evening.

As you might guess, things have been rather busy. Good, but busy. I have spent whole days without even opening my laptop, and have had scant actual time to myself for the past couple of weeks that didn’t involve being in a bathroom. (A shower is a glorious thing, by the way.)

Work stuff has been piling up, which I’ll need to get to soon. I see that I have several important emails to respond to, which will involve some actual thinking. An important abstract is due in just over 2 weeks. I have loads to do to prepare for the course I’ll be co-teaching in January. (I’m in denial that January technically begins in a few days.) On the exciting front, though, John got me some really sweet recording equipment for Christmas that I’ll be able to use for my research. I now have a USB pre-amp to use with my laptop that was recommended by my advisor.

I also have over 500 unread blog posts. I think I need to cut down. (But I’ll try to drop in a say “hello” over the next few days. Even if I have to take my laptop into the shower to accomplish this.)


Tonight, my brain is tired. Very tired. Sleep deprived. Stressed.

We’ve come down to New York to visit John’s parents, since we haven’t been down here since before our big trip to Europe. It’s been about 2 months. We drove down last night. Left later than we meant. Hit more traffic than we anticipated. Arrived after midnight.

Phoebe slept in the car on the way down. And I largely did, too. (You’ll be happy to know that I wasn’t the one driving.) So the car sleep was dandy. But then, we were up. And visiting with Phoebe’s Grammy. And there were new toys. (Actually, some old toys that were John’s when he was little. But exciting and new to Phoebe.) There were delays of getting our stuff together, and putting together the travel crib.

Before we knew it, it was 2:00 a.m. While this may still be before last call at some bars, it’s a time of day that some might consider to be late for a toddler to be up. So we worked on winding back down. Pajamas. Reading books. A sippy cup of milk.

But Phoebe would not wind down. NOT. Nope. Nuh-uh. She was Awake. Wired. And when she realized that we were conspiring towards getting her into bed, she was also Not Happy. We had screaming and sobs the likes of which we had not seen or heard in many a month. The long and short of it was that it was 4:00 before she (and we) got to sleep.

She did sleep as late as 8:00 this morning, but all in all, it wasn’t enough sleep for her. So it was a bit of a rough day. And then tonight, we got home late too. (From visiting John’s dad and then picking up dinner from my favorite restaurant in the universe.) Not as late, but Phoebe had fallen asleep in the car and was Unhappy to be Awake, but Unwilling to be Asleep.

So the upshot is that now I am tired. And feel that I barely have half a brain left with which to function. But I did come across this test at Azahar’s place that lets me know a bit more about the halves of my brain. (Apparently, I’m supposed to have two halves.) It looks like I’m more right-brained. I thought I was more half-and-half brained. Or perhaps sometimes just half-brained.

You Are 30% Left Brained, 70% Right Brained

The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.
Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.
If you’re left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.
Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.

The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.
Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.
If you’re right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.
Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.

the arrival: loss, losers, and a whole lot of lugging

Here we are, safely and comfortably settled in Saarbrucken. It’s day 2 of our trip. Or is it day 3? Well, it’s Monday night. I know that much. I guess that does make it day 3. It’s just that we’ve only had one actual night of sleeping in a room with walls and, you know, a bed.

Ah, beds. How we do take them for granted. Until the point where we’ve spent 24 hours or so sitting in various car, plane and train seats, or floors, not to mention walking and standing…

The trip here was…long. Not terrible. But well…long.

Day 1: Leaving home

We left home around 2:00 p.m., drove to the airport and checked in without incident. We were very happy to find out that the flight was underbooked, so we got to sit in a row with a free seat. It was fabulous news considering Phoebe would otherwise have been only in our very crowded laps.

The flight was good, though it involved too little sleep. I tend to forget how chaotic and noisy flights are, what with the beverage and meal service and people getting up and moving around. And with the lights on. It was almost as if people weren’t scheduling their activities around Phoebe’s bed time. Could that be possible?

Phoebe was very good overall, though too interested in what was going on. There was a bit of crying here and there, but not for too long overall. She was almost asleep when dinner was delivered. And then she perked right up and wanted my cantaloupe. I tried covering up my food to keep it from calling to Phoebe, but eventually worried the flight attendants would think this meant I was finished and snatch up my tray before I could eat. So eventually, John held Phoebe while I ate. Which Phoebe did not like. (Translation: she cried.) I shoveled the food in, some sort of lentil-ish loaf and mashed potatoes (the “special” dinner), and what was left of my cantaloupe, to a soundtrack of Phoebe’s various sad and angry vocal stylings. But then Phoebe settled in John’s arms before I finished eating, and eventually fell asleep. She slept well enough that we could transfer her to my arms at some point.

The flight was long, but seemed too short once Phoebe finally fell asleep, around 9:00 p.m. by our time. Meaning about 4 hours before our scheduled arrival in Paris. And then the lights came back on and the chaos started up again about an hour before landing, what with breakfast service and all.And then, before we knew it, we were on the descent.

Day 2: arrival in Paris (and departure)
So there we were on the ground at Paris, CDG. And we gathered up our big piles of stuff and eventually got off the plane. There were quite a lot of other babies and small children on the flight, and it was funny to see that most of those other families were also slow getting off the plane. And we headed out of the plane, and expected to see our stroller, which we’d checked at the gate. It wasn’t there. Neither were any of the many other gate-checked strollers. We hung around for a bit, with the gathering small crowd of baby-toting people, until we finally got the news that all the strollers had all been sent to baggage claim, as everybody “had already left.” Everybody, I thought, except for all the people travelling with small children!

So, we headed off to clear immigration and customs, joining the end of the line with the rest of the baby people. And I was crankily muttering to John that it defeated the purpose of checking strollers at the gate when they have the stroller sent off to baggage claim. And John said something like: “If that’s the worst thing that happens on this trip, it will be a pretty good trip.”

An excellent point.

But it turns out this was not the worst thing that happened to our stroller. We don’t actually know what happened to our stroller. Everybody else got their stroller. Ours didn’t appear. Apparently, the very cranky agent at the desk in Boston misdirected our stroller. I didn’t notice when she handed me my receipt that she’d written LAX (that’s LA) and some other possibly non-existent flight number, rather than CDG and our flight number. And sadly, we didn’t even have a name tag on the stroller. When I asked the agent if I could put my name on it, she just said, “I’ll take it now.” I complied. That was all she said to me, before she scribbled on a tag, and handed me the receipt, all the while ranting to a coworker about the crappy day she was having. I slunk off without even reading the tag. Was it spite?

So, our stroller is probably gone. It was a very nice stroller. Nicer than American Airlines (losers) will be willing to reimburse us for, according to the lost baggage agent. They offered us a loaner, some poor other soul’s lost stroller, from all appearances. But that sad little thing wouldn’t even open. I thought we’d be better off without it. We can apparently get reimbursed for up to 50 U.S. dollars for a new stroller. There was the possibility that they would be able to find the stroller, and get it to us.

So, off we stumbled and lugged. Happily, we’d at least brought our new lightweight carrier for Phoebe, so we were able to manage our luggage with Phoebe on my back. We had to get moving to get the train station to make our way to Saarbrucken, Germany.

We took the RER to Gare du Nord, then the Metro to Gare de l’Est, which was where we planned to take the newly opened TGV line, a super-duper fast train, direct to Saarbrucken. Notice how I used the past tense there…planned. Because, you see, all the TGV trains, for the day were sold out. One can purchase tickets in advance. However, I hadn’t. Unbeknownst to me, one can only purchase online at least 5 days in advance. Once I got my act together to buy, our departure was 4 days away.

No big deal, I thought. We’ll buy our tickets at the station.


It turns out that not only were all the fast trains sold out for the day, so were the usual slow routes. What the agent finally arranged for us was to get a 2:00 train, after a 3 hour wait, to Nancy. Followed by a train to Metz. Followed by a train to Forbach. And then a train to Saarbrucken. Count ’em, my friends. 3 changes, 4 trains. Plus 2 suitcases, 2 backpacks, a diaper bag, and one very tired toddler. Anyone care to do the math?

That’s all I have time for now. I’ll write more when I have a chance. For now I’ll say that I’m actually having a great time, in spite of various inconveniences. The first day of the conference was good, and tonight I get to sleep in a bed. Which I should do now, because it’s way, way too late. And because I really appreciate having a bed to sleep in.

Phoebe enjoyed looking at the planes at the airport.

p.s. If you are a relative of mine, and wondering why I haven’t emailed, it’s because I can’t manage to get to my email just now. I managed to check it just fine, but haven’t been able to get back on for the last few hours. I’ll try again tomorrow.

public display of procrastination

Sometimes I feel like that should be the title of my blog. Public Display of Procrastination. Actually, many blogs could fit that bill. Perhaps it could be a blog genre: the PDP.

How did it get to be past 11:00 again? This is the eternal question. At least the nightly question. I’ve been trying to make sleep a priority lately, as sleep can lead to general well-being. And lack of sufficient sleep (which is what I’ve largely been dealing with, or not dealing with, depending on your parse) can lead to the following: memory loss, crankiness, sloth, chocolate cravings, crankiness, low tolerance for the shortcomings of others (“crankiness”), low tolerance for the shortcomings of self (“crankiness”), chocolate consumption, ice cream cravings, chocolate ice cream consumption (which is odd, because I never even used to like chocolate ice cream), reduced productivity, decreased patience (“crankiness”), confusion, speech errors (“each sparers”), muddle-headedness, shorter tempers (“crankiness”), increased stress, distraction, nap envy and memory loss. Also, there is some chance of crankiness.

I was all gung-ho to get some work done tonight, after Phoebe got to bed. And while I’ve been busy since then, actual work has not happened. Here is what has happened. (And I have less than 8 minutes to write it before midnight, at which point my laptop will turn into a pumpkin. And lord knows I’ve got enough vegetables to deal with.)

  • I read a few blogs
  • I read some news
  • I pimped out a minivan with flames
  • I ate some ice cream
  • I wrote and sent a vegetable-related email
  • I wrote a list of bird songs
  • I ate some more ice cream
  • I put in some laundry
  • I wrote this

Time’s up.