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December 2009
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January 2010

Mostly Cricket, Briefly

Caroline had her two year check at the pediatrician today. Originally I took them to these appointments together but after the last one during which Edward stood on a chair and flicked the lights off and on while Caroline had her ears checked - giving an odd strobe light effect to the proceedings - I decided that future meetings with the pediatrician would be conducted on a two adult per one child basis. So Edward stayed home with Steve and Caroline and I went to see the good doctor.

Caroline is a young giantess. A pink sequoia. Two words: basketball scholarship. She finally crossed the 25th percentile for height and is almost at the 50th. Well 40th. The mind boggles. When she was born 97 out of 100 premature girls were estimated to be able to kick her ass, now she is practically wearing her pantaloons in age appropriate sizes. Just the other day Steve asked if the size 24 month pair of jeans he was holding could be worn by Caroline without rolling up the cuffs and I said no... but I had to think about it first.

Other than that she is slender with a small head and she was a miracle of affable cooperation with the doctor. She highed his five, she covered the light with her finger when requested to do so, she let him count her teeth and she only wiggled a little when he listened to her chest. When he asked after Edward she volunteered, "We need find Edw-ad! Where'd Edw-ad go?" Then she looked under chair and said, "There he is! No! It's a spider. Hi cweepy spooky spider! Hi Spider Edw-ad!" and - just like that - Edward was replaced by an (I hope) imaginary arachnid.     

For all of Caroline's curiosity about things and her never-ending climbing she is turning into a pretty easy kid. She is patient with herself and others, although she does have a bit of an edge to her. Patrick kept banging something in the living room and I heard her snap, "Stop it Patrick stop it!" with an air of authority to which even the kindliest of elder brothers would take exception. Edward was shrieking "Share Cayayine share!" at the top of his lungs so she handed whatever it was he wanted to him. Then she waspishly said, "Sank you?" just so we all knew what she thought of his manners. And when I accidentally pulled her hair as I tugged a shirt on her she said, "Sorry?" as soon as her head cleared. It was the way she said it, you understand, that made me say, "Oh. Oh of course. I'm sorry." 

She's got a gimlet eye.

Edward, meanwhile, sprouted his molar and has returned to his sunnier self. He has stopped shrieking all the time and is now displaying a waggish sense of humor.

Sit next to each other and smile, I said.

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No, no, Edward... smile!

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Aw c'mon. Smile! Show me a nice smile!

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Caroline, can you show me a nice smile?

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Huh.

They think they're funny.

Pending:

Patrick's first conference with the new school tomorrow; Steve and I left the twins with a sitter overnight (but brought Patrick with us;) I finally talked my old grocery delivery service's new owner into re-expanding their delivery area to include me and I am so excited I don't even know what to do with myself... that's like an extra THREE WHOLE HOURS a week back again - I might take up jai alai with all that time; and... what? I know I owe you the rest of the story about Julian and Honduras and how I wound up married to Andy having left my heart in San Pedro Sula and I will - hand to my heart - return to it sooner or later... but is there anything you would like to know? Ask, I aim to please.


Timely

Lately Edward has turned peevish. Is this what is meant by the Twos comma Terrible? We skipped this stage with Patrick (although we are deep in the Sevens, which can be uniquely annoying in its own right) and I had secretly put the lack of tantrums down to my superior parenting. My god Patrick was delightful at two - sweet and patient; curious without ever once getting into mischief. Edward, on the other hand, is acting like a sociopath and I am now secretly putting the surplus of tantrums down to my inferior parenting. Bummer and allow me to note for the millionth time what a comeuppance additional children can be - although! Edward eats anything, absolutely anything, so clearly Patrick's three vegetable, two fruit, some grains, all protein no sauce on anything ever diet is NOT MY FAULT.

Where was I?

Right. Freak Out City.

So one moment Edward will be sitting there looking at a book; the next he has leapt to his feet and is doing that rapid-stampy flashdance thing and screaming. Screaming. He starts somewhere around high C and then goes up and up until glass shatters and dogs howl in the distance. When he does it Steve retreats to his office. I try to ignore him with a bright, firm smile that slips to reveal incredulity and horror. Patrick attempts to tickle him or get him to bounce on the bed or read a different book... Patrick is actually excellent with toddlers now that I think about it. Only Caroline remains unaffected by Edward's bouts of temper. If anything she seems slightly amused as she picks delicately around his reverberating body (he is a purist and enjoys the classic form: flat on his back, body rigid, heels drumming against the floor, mouth stretched in a howl) and she slips off to pry open the bathroom door, scale the toilet and climb onto the sink for a toothbrush while the rest of us are distracted. Caroline spends most of her time plotting ways to get into the bathroom. She loves to brush her teeth.

I was hoping that the new and unimproved Edward was resulting from his speech issues. Maybe the past six months of Caroline conversing smoothly and easily while he struggled to unglue his tongue from the roof of his mouth had unhinged his nice round brain a little

[Caroline and Edward are sitting on my lap looking at pictures online.

Edward: Buh!

Me: Yes, Edward that's a bird!

Caroline, coolly: It's a bald eag-hull. Hi bald eag-hull! Fly your nest!

Edward: ****

Me: Right! Next!]

I have been worried that Eddybear has been feeling frustrated by his inability to articulate very well and I have been making an extra effort when he starts to get mad about something to ask him what? What? WHAT my darling WHAT? I have been facetiously employing the expression "use your words" with Steve for over a decade; I now say it with utter sincerity fifty times a day. Steve pointed out that based on the look of inhuman rage that accompanies Edward's outbursts those words are probably "I hate you and your assface" but I thought even that would be better than the screaming.

For the first six weeks of speech therapy Edward was pleasant but uncooperative with his therapist. He watched her politely like bad performance art and got embarrassed - as you do - when she tried to get him involved. After every session she would tell me that they had had fun playing with the toys but he refused to imitate her and she would urge me to work with him on this at home. I wasn't quite sure what to do because he would imitate us - within reason - so we decided to wait it out and eventually he must've decided she wasn't trying to kidnap him or trick him into an indiscretion or anything because he suddenly started responding to her. The past two weeks have been amazing and he has rapidly gone from adding those ending consonants (moooooN! tiiiiiiMe! uP!) to two and three words phrases of some clarity.

I'm not sure if the increased ability to make himself understood is helping or not. On the one hand he threw a fit about wanting raisins yesterday - while I was in the very act of getting him the damned raisins - that had to be seen to be believed. On the other he stopped mid-fit as I was getting him dressed this morning when I asked if he wanted to unzip his own pajamas.

"Oh-tay," he said, all relieved like, finally

This is where I would insert a picture of Edward building a train track with Green Puppy and about to go Vesuvian but unfortunately typepad keeps telling me that my file has been rejected. Not sure what that is about. 

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Caroline is delightful but she is giving up her nap and it is killing me. Every day I deposit her in her crib and every day I have to come rescue her an hour later when it becomes obvious that she is not going to fall asleep. She keeps it together marginally well for the rest of the afternoon but by dinner time she is a mess. Last night she put her head down on the table, covered her eyes with two small pieces of salmon and stayed like that.

She has a few new phrases that are very cute:

1. Bubble bees

2. Graham snackers

3. G-H-I-J-Caroline!

It reminds me of my childhood friend Katie who once went to the beach at Cupcake Cod.

This is where I would put that darling picture of Caroline smiling all sweet and pretty but... . 

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Our man in Havana - or the second grade as the case may be - had lost interest in his friends' spelling movies long before the shower scene so my conversation with Patrick on the subject of grownups and privacy and butts was necessarily brief.

I asked how the spelling movies were. He said fine. I asked if anything unusual had happened. He said no. I said that the principal had called to tell me that a mix-up had resulted in one of the movies showing a woman in the shower and I just wanted to know if he had any questions about that. He said, "Really?" Then he laughed. Then he looked at me thoughtfully and I said, "So help me if you ever think it is funny to take a picture of anyone in this family while they are in the bathroom you will be in more trouble than you have ever encountered in your life... ever." He lost his look of foxy contemplation and wandered off. And that was that.

So I know nothing further but I continue to be mildly amused. As far as ramifications go there have been none. I think the fact that this is a magnet school that pulls from a far-flung population reduced gossip. I was able to figure out which kid it is and it so happens that the child is one that Patrick has expressed interest in having over to play so... it's possible I may find out more later. Maybe.

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I read an article in the Washington Post this week about working mothers and time management. I do not - for the record - consider myself to be a working mother. I have been fortunate to get some freelance work this past year and might have the option to do more (next up: a something something about time that I cannot find the time to contemplate let alone write - isn't that the fly on your wedding day) but 900% of my day is childcare and tidying and it seems like mere posturing to pretend otherwise. So the article (I'll link it but I think the Post requires a login) was written by a woman who obviously has a far healthier career than mine plus two children and a life that involves birthday parties and yoga; and it covers her incredulity at being told by a time management expert (funniest line of the article comes when the author points out that the so-called leisure time he identified didn't feel leisurely: "I just measure time. I'm not a chrono-therapist") that the average working woman has 30 hours of leisure time a week. It's an amusing piece and I sympathized utterly but the thing that struck me most is the fact that of the 28 leisure hours he found in her week's time diary 18 of those hours were spent with her children. As. If.

Clearly I love Caroline and Edward and Patrick more than I love salt but as much as I enjoy spending time with them I have to confess that I don't really see it as leisure. I sat on the couch before lunch and read books to the twinkles for a solid hour. I... guess this is leisure time? Is it work if I enjoy it? What if I liked the Don't Let the Pigeon books but hated Beady Bear (worst. scansion. ever.) Now that we are liberated from the notion that the only labor is paid labor how do you qualify free time? I like playing Quiddler with Patrick; I hate playing chess with him. I consider the one to be pleasurable and the other falls under the general heading of Responsibilities subheading Parental subsubheading Unpleasant. I'm not sure where I am going with this, just musing. One of the women interviewed for the piece said: "So you live in a dirty house. You say, no, we don't make homemade cookies. You enjoy your kids, enjoy your work. And know that [the time squeeze] can't last forever." In theory this sounds nice but.. I dunno. I suppose the idea that we throw off the oppressive shackles of traditional anti-feminist roles by letting the dishes stack up in the sink while we give our family the gift of ourselves is appealing but frankly it seems ludicrous. I acknowledge freely that I've got an Issue with tidiness (clutter makes me feel like my life is out of control and nothing annoys me more than fishing through laundry baskets to find clean socks) but sooner or later even the most lackadaisical person is going to need use one of those dishes, right? Is life just a merry free-for-all of quality time when you stop cleaning?

So today's discussion question is leisure time and do you have any and do you think it depends on personal nuanced definitions? Does it matter if you work or work and have children or don't work or don't have children? Like, does the fact that I have the kids at home all day every day make me less likely to see time spent together as downtime than someone who does other things with their days? Right now I am obsessed with making bread so I find doing so a pleasure; making dinner is mostly a drag - both feed us.

On a vaguely tangential note I invite you to check out the brilliantly written Irretrievably Broken. It's a... well, go read it. 

[And this is where I would put a final picture of Caroline and Edward and Patrick in their pajamas, lying on their stomachs studying a ladybug.]

Edited:

AH HA!

I broke the cardinal rule of tech support and I should be ashamed: Thou Shalt First Reboot.

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PS Noticed two pointy tooth bumps poking through in the back of Edward's mouth. Maybe he's just getting molars and is not a potential ax murderer. Will advise.


They... WHAT?

Patrick's school called on Friday. When it comes to inducing parental panic the sight of one's elementary school in caller ID is second only to that of a sheriff's deputy coming up the front walk and the fact that it was the principal on the phone did nothing to quell my anxiety. My knuckles were white when I answered but after a couple of minutes I realized that Patrick was not lying in a pool of gore nor was he being accused of subversion. Beyond that I hadn't the slightest idea what the problem was because although the principal spoke volubly and at length she seemed strangely reluctant to come to the point. That there had been an "incident" in the classroom I gathered. That Patrick was not responsible I was further reassured. But what, exactly, had happened? I hadn't the faintest freaking idea.

Eventually after many soothing uhhmmm-hmmmm's on my part she got to the point and when she managed to choke out "mother" "spelling" "shower" and "movie" I suddenly realized what the deal was and I am ashamed to admit that I laughed like a ten year old boy.

It goes like this:

As I think I mentioned, Patrick's class got to write and film short little movies for their spelling assignment this week. Patrick's movie was about a Lego town called Sassinium and an ill-fated resident named Mr Firehead who kept setting houses ablaze with his, you know, head made of fire. I thought the dialogue was quite snappy although a purist might criticize the film on the basis of the camerawork because large chunks of Patrick's movie featured the rug when he forgot to point the camera and talk at the same time.

But anyway

The kids all made movies and they have been watching a couple each day in class and on Friday they saw the last of them. One kid (and I am DYING to know which one for gossipy reasons that will shortly be evident) screened his movie. It ended. The video cut out and then cut back in again and before Patrick's teacher could get to the player the entire second grade class was treated to a view of a woman who was most extremely naked. The family who has just started driving Patrick partway home (more on that later) got the call from the teacher rather than the principal and - in addition to saying he was so embarrassed he could die - the teacher reported that the first thing he knew one kid had shouted, "Hey that's a butt!" and another kid yelled, "That's my mom!"  The version I got from the principal had lead me to believe that the poor lady was simply taking a shower and had been caught unawares but further conversation with our new friends revealed that the snippet was much more adult in content. She was "taking a shower" if you follow me.

CAN YOU IMAGINE?

Every time I think about it I cringe. Somewhere out there is this veritable heroine who is managing to find the time and the energy to keep the spark alive (clearly at least one family at Patrick's school is not as desperate for Date Night as the rest of us - nudge nudge) and now this happens. I can only wonder how long it took the principal to get to the point when she called the woman who had done the cameo: 

"So there was an incident..."

"Yes?"

"Involving the second grade class..."

"Yes?"

"Seeing an inappropriate video..."

"Yes?"

"Of you."

*clunk*

I sympathize utterly although oh my god. I am also giggling. Thought I would share. Steve and I have a bet on what the overall parental reaction will be. What do you think?


Soluble

Agatha Christie had a nice trick of starting a story with multiple threads, each leading inevitably toward the same end... murder.

1. Steve likes Reese's peanut butter cups so when I saw a recipe for a shortbread cookie cup filled with melted chocolate and peanut butter cream I decided to make it for the holidays. The cookie wound being wildly unsuccessful (a nasty combination of gritty and gunky) - so much so that I still have a dozen of them in a container on the porch/freezer.

2. The peanut butter filling for these cookies is cream cheese and peanut butter, lightened by whipped cream. When I started the cookies on Christmas Eve morning I misread the recipe and subsequently made the mistake of whipping twice as much cream as I needed.

3. It snowed heavily on the 24th but with my mom already in residence and my brother's family not expected until late the next day this mass of snow was most welcome: soothing and Christmas-y. We had nowhere to go and no way to get there even if we had wanted to do so.

4. So I looked at the bowl of freshly whipped cream and the snow coming down and my mother and Papa Stan and Steve grouped around the kitchen as I worked on the cookies and I made a decision.

5. I made Irish Coffee.

6. We are not - as a family - accustomed to drinking whiskey at ten in the morning.

7. Whether Steve is an inconsiderate jackass or whether he was merely merrier than he had any right to be at that hour is a question that will be debated for many Christmases to come but he first placed his not-nearly-empty-enough coffee mug on the shelf above my desk and he then batted it over like a kitten, like a kitten with hams for paws.

8. Irish coffee poured over my laptop before pooling underneath it like Lough Dhulough.

9. I screamed and raced to snatch it from the creamy poisonous puddle.

10. I was too late.

11. Steve and Papa Stan were convinced that the laptop was simply damp and needed only a good airing to restore it to its previous robustness. This was ridiculous. Here's a hint: if something/one reeks of whiskey and is completely unresponsive it/he/she is in need of professional care.

12. There was nothing to do about it on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and then my brother and his family arrived and the fact that my computer had x's for eyes took a backseat to the fact that my entire family needed to have their Mii's updated so that they could all - from biggest to smallest - eviscerate me in the new Resort Sports bowling.

13. It wasn't until days later that I was able to call the Apple store to see if they would mind if I just dropped my laptop off with them and then I could do a quick jog through the mall while they fixed it. They thought they might be able to let me bring it in sometime this year and then it would be a few weeks before they could actually, you know, look at it. Fortunately the local guy who subcontracts with Apple was less booked forever and produced a diagnosis within an hour: dead.

"You mean comatose?" I asked.

"No. Dead," he replied.

"How dead?"

"As dead as it can possibly be."

14. I cried and we commended its casing to the deep and then Steve and I tried to decide whether or not to buy the old laptop the Mac guy had refurbished but which was too outdated to run most of my software or whether I should just go back to a simpler time and start stamping out my correspondence with potato handblocks. As we were debating these options my mother bought me a new laptop. It's hard to express how nice this was. You say thank you when someone holds the elevator door for you, thus saving you a minute's wait in the lobby. How can thank you suffice when someone keeps you from plunging into the Dark Ages?

15. So that was that. I back up to Steve's work server so my files were saved and parts of my hard drive were salvaged and other than the occasional moments when I turn to Steve and ask whether he remembers that time he killed my laptop everything is back to normal.

It lead to something of an epiphany, though. While I missed my computer I began to appreciate its absence. I got more done and read more and took longer baths. Not that I am anxious to eliminate my computer again any time soon, just that I liked the lack of distraction and I am trying to spend more time with my computer off and closed. I am even thinking about moving it out of the kitchen - both for its own safety (who knows when I might find myself with extra celery stalks and decide to make Bloody Marys?) and to prevent myself from going over to it every few minutes and dithering. I spend way too much time frittering about online. I don't mean time spent writing my blog or reading others or anything like that (why should I? it's a large part of my social life, such as it is) but I had gotten into the habit of checking my email every five minutes. Yeah, sure, there will always be a new message from Lands' End (does Lands' End stalk you too? I actually do want to know when they are offering free shipping or 50% off kids turtlenecks but to email EVERY DAY? this persecution must cease) when I check but obviously that can wait an hour or two. It is just a habit and what better time to try to break a habit than with the new year.   

In a similar vein I am also trying to finish one project (and by "project" I mean "cleaning the kitchen" or "putting away laundry") before starting on another. I distract myself. This is such an ongoing problem in my life that I suspect I have already written a similar sentence in the past but: I clear the kitchen counter and discover a sock so I take the sock to the laundry room where I find stacks of leftover boxes from Christmas so I start to dismantle the boxes to recycle them but I find a receipt in one which reminds me that I wanted to save that receipt to return something so I take the receipt into the kitchen where I start to clear the counter again.... thus I spend all of my time and energy half-doing things so that by the end of the day I am tired and yet nothing is done. Depressing. I'd like to stop it.

So those are my resolutions and despite the fact that I have been picking at this post for over a week I am not going to just abandon it this time and I will post it - come tedium or repetition - before Caroline and Edward start lunch.

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"Happy New Ear!" as Caroline says - a charming bookend to her "Merry Christmas Tree!"

She is a walking malapropism (not unlike her older brother who peered at the combination of things on his plate the other night and said, "Hey! Are those mashed potatoes?! What - exactly - is this sheepish pie?") and when she uncovers her eyes to shout "Peeking You!"she is delicious.

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I love this picture. The folded hands, the stretched legs, the inward eye, the contented smirk... she is a never-ending source of delight and what-the-hell?

Edward is straight-forward. He has a few moods, mostly variations on delighted and embarrassed.

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He also does a nice take on berserker rage but I don't get many pictures of that since I am usually busy defending myself.

Edward doesn't bend his knees when he runs or when he dances and although a corner of my mind wonders if this is quite, exactly normal the rest of me just enjoys how cute it is. His resemblance to a bear is uncanny and I can always tell when it is Edward coming around the corner due to the thumpthump thumpthump of his peculiar gait. That and the fact that he is usually wailing, "CAH-AH-YINE!" meaning "Caroline took my train/bear/book/car/plastic broccoli and I need you, Mother, to retrieve it for me."

Caroline never tattles. Ever. She waits. Sometimes she will attempt to lure Edward with another toy but for the most part she is content to let him have whatever it was she was playing with and move on to something else. Her attention span is less than half of what he possesses. They are funny.

And they're TWO! Caroline and Edward turned two last week.

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Almost everything they received for Christmas and their birthday was a hit but for the two'ish year old on your list I can most heartily recommend a couple of things: my friend Noelle bought them a basic no-frills shopping cart and it is awesome; I bought a pair of Leapfrog My Pal dogs and although they are vaguely tacky Edward and Caroline both love them (you personalize them online and the dog says "I love you... [Edward]" or sings a tuneless but surprisingly haunting "Me and my pal... [Edward]... are the best of friends" and Edward beams and shouts, "OhTAY!"); Edward got a very small wooden Thomas the train set that they both like to play with. Oh and Patrick loves Quiddler, for what it is worth. It's a kind of Scrabble'esque card game, fast to play and easy to learn.

Where was I?    

Right. Caroline and Edward (who have already gone down for their nap after lunch - I'm failing already.) You know, that ineffable twinness that has escaped me since they were born is becoming more clear as they get older. I used to describe them as the Craig's List roommates but they are starting to get a twin thing. For starters they look more similar as Edward's hair darkens and Caroline's hair turns chestnut and they have the same eyelashes, thick like caterpillars. Beyond that they have a connection that is easy to perceive but hard to express. Different interests, different personalities but they click. They play together a lot. The toy kitchen (we went uber-plastic and got the combination kitchen/market from Step 2 - it's quite cute and the oven door that stopped closing within seconds was fixed with a piece of duct tape on the inside of the door) was a huge success. Edward puts his cars in the sink and Caroline bustles over like a health inspector and tosses the cars out again. Repeat ad infinitum. 

Not that they don't fight sometimes. They do. In addition to Edward's frequent petitions to get his whatever back he also has twigged to the fact that he is bigger than she is and has started trying to use this to his advantage. Fortunately for the sake of balance and equality, Caroline is a thousand times more agile so an attempt to dislodge her     

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inevitably results in compromise

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They're sweet.

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Someone left a comment a post or two ago suggesting that part of Patrick's improved disposition might be due to the extra one-on-one time he is getting from me while we drive and I think this is emphatically true. We didn't get a whole lot of jealousy when the twins were born but there is definitely a level on which Patrick felt and still feels threatened by his siblings. He adores them - especially Caroline who shouts "SUPER PATRICK!" when he comes home from school; what's not to love about that? - but he does compete with them for attention more and more as they get older. So the drive helps, as does the new school which enables him to be both wildly creative (they have the flexibility to approach things in lots of different ways: this week's spelling assignment was to write and film a movie and make up his own spelling words to go with it) and reassuringly middle-of-the-road (they have started division and he is having to work at it - it's good for him.) If I had it to do over again I would have moved him sooner and if you have a kid you are wondering about and there are options available I urge you like a scary zealot (me, not you) to explore those options. The difference is unbelievable.

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If I had realized ahead of time that I was going to be writing a resolutions post I would have written this whole thing with neat segues but I didn't so I didn't. But in keeping with the obvious theme (Things/People who need/want/require my full attention but have been receiving only chunks and slices and what I intend to do about it) it has become increasingly obvious that Steve and I are knee-deep in children and work and responsibilities and we barely see each other. I mean, we see each other all the time because he works at home and I spend my days going from room to room with a sock in my hand but we don't see each other. Long ago we used to play computer games together or tile bathrooms or travel. Now we get Patrick to bed by 8:30, pick up the toys, clean the kitchen, pay bills, check email and go to sleep. I used to be somewhat skeptical about the much lauded panacea of couple's therapy, Date Night, but I would love to be able to go on a date with him. Just Steve and me and a waiter. 2009 however was not kind to us so I am hesitant to start throwing money around on babysitters. Once bitten, you know.

So I don't know. What do you do? Oh hey I wrote that as a shrug but I guess it could be an actual question: what do you do? Do you go out? Do you stay in? Do you and your partner/spouse/significant other share a hobby? Do you have any idea what I am talking about?