Monday, January 29, 2007

Literary Thimblerig

Oh, I have so many things to tell you. And yet, I won’t tell you any of them.

It’s been some time since I sat down and brought you up to speed on the goings-on at the Gredstead and it’s understandable that you would be wondering “whither went my gren?” And sadly, any assumption you would make concerning a correlation between a lack of posts and a lack of post-worthy events in and around my life would be erroneous. The days are just packed, my friends…the days are just packed. There are countless tales to tell, any one of which would, no doubt, amuse you enough to illicit a long string of comments. But, I’ve not taken the precious moments to inform you, my treasured webby-friends, since what rare minutes I have had to dedicate to word craft have recently been targeted upon the tale (previously mentioned) of a little girl and a certain mysterious creature. The words, they come slowly and are oft deleted. The process is taking longer than I had anticipated, so I’m leaching time from other tasks.

And so, you will not be informed of Jet’s triumph at the comedy competition. His advancement to the finals round in single-elimination, to-the-death, comedian vs. comedian battle will go unreported on this site.

You will also never know about the date night that Moonshot and I shared…our first since Norah joined us. And that’s sad, because MoMa and Aunt Gimpy’s kindly journey to St. Charles for the sole purpose of allowing Jolly Green’s tired parents an evening of out-on-the-town-ness would have made a compelling post. I’m sure you would have enjoyed knowing that we two love-birds enjoyed a wonderful dinner, a tasty pitcher of 1554, and compelling dinner conversation before huddling together through the cold to watch “Pan’s Labyrinth” at St. Louis’s lovely old Tivoli Theater.

It’s especially tragic, this misplaced literary attention, because today is Norah’s six-month birthday. It’s a big day in Little Lutine’s life. But, sadly her selfish father is too busy telling tall tales to even mention it in his blog. Although she appears to mumble only non-sense as she shows off her newfound rolling ability, you would not be blamed for assuming that her intent is a guilt-inducing rendition of “Cat’s in the Cradle” directed at her fiction-obsessed father. When her small fingers have grown enough dexterity to press the keyboard, no doubt she will craft a post of her own, detailing that horrific day, the 29th of January, on which her father could not be bothered to tear his awareness from an imaginary girl long enough to notice the very real little girl cooing desperately for his attention.

And you, being both kind-hearted and a victim of my lack of concern in your own right, will most assuredly take Norah’s side in this issue. You will say, rightly, that Jet’s on-stage accomplishment deserved more than a mere cast-away mention in a feeble blog-post in which I tried to hide my drought of detail and dearth of content behind an only mildly amusing gimmick. You, being the insightful reader that you are, will recognize immediately that I am trying to buy you off with a literary device in which I occupy your attention with a convoluted logic structure in hopes that you will not notice that I am, even now, moving swiftly toward the conclusion of this post so that I can return to my fiction.

“Don’t take your eyes off the shells,” I smile as I deftly hide the ball and pocket your hard-earned cash.

It’s almost criminal.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Just Two Pictures

Hurray for Sweet Potatoes!!
"Hurray for Sweet Potatoes!" thought Norah as she tasted her first real food. I know I've already posted this over on Norah's page...but she was so proud of it that we wanted to post it here as well so that even our more casual readers would know all about it.

Oh, Our Poor Bradford Pear Tree
Some kindly spirit is looking out for this house. This is the second rather large tree that has fallen and just missed smashing into our home. I’m also glad I had the forethought to move my car out of the driveway.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Very Fine Saturday

As I sit here in my bedroom recliner and watch a gentle snow fall outside my window, I’m happy to report that today has been a pretty good day. Many things that have been annoying me of late have finally been resolved. I’m now able to easily wash my hands after I go to the bathroom. I witnessed firsthand proof that our wedding photo album is a real and physical thing. I’ve found some time to sit down and work on a blog. And if things continue the way they have been…I might actually be able to sleep in my own bed tonight after three nights on the couch.

The Bathroom

The plumbing behind our bathroom pedestal sink has had a slow drip for several months. It was minor enough that a procrastinator like myself could conveniently ignore it, but just bothersome enough that my wife was continually reminded to remind me about it. I replaced some of the connections a few months back, but it didn’t really help. So we invited a plumber to take a look and he suggested that the faucet itself was old and in need of replacing. He kindly solved the drip by shutting off our hot water at the wall and charging us $100 for the wisdom. And so, for the last two months, we’ve washed our hands with naught but cold water. It stayed in this state for so long because in addition to my natural tendency to avoid just about any sort of project, I also have a particular aversion to plumbing. Give me an electrical project and I’ll only put it off for a little while. Paint? Only feeble attempts to avoid it. But, I have never attempted a plumbing task without confounding the issue into a catastrophe larger than the original annoyance. So, as much as it may have sucked to have no hot water in our bathroom sink…it was better than the fiasco I knew awaited us if I attacked that faucet with my arsenal of tools.

However, Moonshot eventually overrode my fear and I replaced the faucet. And you know what? I had no problem with the procedure. And had I stopped there, I would have walked away from my first successful water repair. But, I didn’t stop there. I instead decided to install the new drain that came packaged with the new faucet…cuz…it’s a new drain…that’s gotta be good, right?

Alas, the new drain didn’t work with the old sink and leaked everywhere. After conferring with Uncle Norman (my home repair guru), I opted to just replaced the entire vanity. We bought a new vanity and began to convince ourselves that this was better anyway. We needed the extra storage space the small vanity would offer.

Alas, the drain for the new vanity was further away from the wall than the old pedestal sink. Now, typically this would be a simple adjustment. But this old house’s pipes have all been soldered in frustrating ways, so there was no way to adjust the pipe. We had moved from no hot water to no sink at all. Hand washing and tooth-brushing were done exclusively in the kitchen sink as the new vanity sat in the bathroom waiting to be installed for two weeks.

Now, in my defense, I feel I need to explain this lack of forward progress. Monday’s and Wednesdays I entertain Norah during Moonshot’s piano lessons. Tuesdays and Thursdays I work late in a last minute sprint to get the books for Jet’s and my business done in time for tax season. By the time we eat dinner, it’s time for Norah to go to bed. And since the vanity is directly on the other side of Norah’s crib wall…it never seemed wise to tackle the project while she was asleep. I had planned on being productive last weekend but the ice storm power-outage thwarted my best intentions.

But today…

Today was a free Saturday and I was finally able to prove to my wife that my avoidance excuses had been genuine. There were more consultations with Uncle Norman and some crudely drawn diagrams given to a kindly gentleman at my local hardware store who was nice enough to explain some basic plumbing tricks. But, before I came upstairs tonight, I was able to brush my teeth in the bathroom…a bathroom with a working sink…working sink with both hot and cold water that doesn’t drip everywhere.

It’s a small pleasure, true…but dammit I did it!

The Photo Album

As I have mentioned here, Moonshot and I recently celebrated our second wedding anniversary. And yet, we still don’t have our wedding album back from the photographer. It’s been a long and complicated struggle involving countless calls and emails, mediation with the Better Business Bureau, and many senseless rants to empty space while driving in my car. I’ll not go into the sad story, but I will say that with the BBB’s help, we were able to get her to commit to today as her completion date. And while it’s true that she didn’t quite have them done, I did actually get so see exactly what she has done. We’re just waiting for the black and whites to come back from the outsourced developer (probably Wednesday). This is great news because it means it’s not in her hands anymore. So, even though we still don’t have our album…it felt wonderful to know that there is a real life, mostly finished book sitting there. It’s not imaginary…she’s not blowing smoke…we actually may get this thing some day soon.

Hang in there just a bit longer, MoMa and Panache.

The Blog

Yeah…I know I’ve been a bit absent of late. Well…clearly I’m writing it now, so what else do you want me to say about it? (See excuses under “The Bathroom”)

The Couch

While sleeping on the couch often carries a connotation of marital problems, I’m happy to report the cause of my relocated slumber has nothing to do with my impressive ability to annoy Moonshot. No, I’ve been on the couch because of snot. Seems there’s a ton of snot in the Grenstead these days. I’m sniffling a bit as I type this, but my poor wife has been knocked down my illness for the second time in this still new year. And sadly, Norah was not able to escape the virus this time. The little girl blows snot bubbles from her nostrils and fights a never ending battle between her desire to suck on her binky and her desire to breath.

On Wednesday night, my Jolly Gren slept horribly. She awoke every thirty to forty minutes and needed a bit of comforting to find her way back to sleep. I had recognized this pattern by the time Moonshot and I were ready for bed and I knew I didn’t want to go up and down the stairs that many times in one night. So, I curled up on the couch and let my sick wife get a good night sleep.

On Thursday, we stuffed a pillow under one side of Norah’s mattress in hopes that the incline would convince the nasal blockage to retreat down her throat instead of gagging her. It worked. Little Miss slept quietly all evening and I bedded down under my own blankets. However, sick Moonshot in a horizontal position had developed a horrible cough. For the first half hour I kept offering to get her anything she needed. But, it soon became clear that there was nothing I could do other than lay there and listen to it. So, rather than do that, I rolled away from my comfy sleeping nest and returned to my place on the couch.

Last night was a perfect repeat of Thursday with Moonshot’s coughing coming in regular intervals.

Everyone’s been pretty good today. Both Norah and Moonshot seem to be on the last leg of their illness and the couch as yet to show itself, so I’m hopeful that I might be able to sleep next to my wife tonight.

Time For Bed

And with that, I call this very fine day complete. Goodnight.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Nature WANTS us to go crazy!

Well, I’m officially bummed out. Back in November, Moonshot and I booked a stay at a bed and breakfast over in Hermann. It’s a quiet little German town with a host of wineries. Since late November and December was so crazy with travel, we figured a January get-away would come just in time to preserve our parental sanity. MoMa and Aunt Gimpy would come up and watch Norah overnight and everyone would be gloriously happy.

However, despite weeks and weeks of spring-like weather, Mother Nature has decided that we are not to be awarded a quiet break from child rearing. An ice storm is currently racing its way across the state. By tomorrow the roads are to be covered with a thick sheet of undriveable ice. We all discussed it last night and again this morning while pouring over satellite imagery both online and from the Weather Channel. We decided that MoMa and Aunt Gimpy would still make their run ahead of the storm this afternoon. Even if they got stuck here and we had to cancel our B&B trip…at least we’d all be together and the extra hands about the house and new conversations would be a welcome relief of its own.

I just got off the phone with MoMa. She was rolling out from her home down at the Lake of the Ozarks. The weather here is still 55 degrees and while it was drizzling at the Lake, the thermometer was holding at just above freezing…so it looked like she could beat it. However, the trip from there to here starts off with a northern trek to the little town of Kingdom City before turning East on I-70. I had the forethought to check the current weather at Kingdom City. Freezing Rain. MoMa fought, she suggested calling a local business up there to see if the roads were bad yet. But I reminded her that it didn’t matter if the roads were bad NOW…what mattered is what they’d be like in an hour and a half when she and Gimpy got there. I told her to turn around and go back home. Bless her, she protested and wanted alternate routes to St Louis, but in the end I just couldn’t risk encouraging her to make the trip.

So, Moonshot and I will have neither our weekend away nor company in the house. And I’m more than a little bummed about that.

Someone needs to tell me a corny joke or two to cheer me up.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Happy Birthday MoMa

Happy Birthday Grandma MoMa!!

Event Within a Tale Within a Story

In theory, I’m working on a short story. In fact, however, I’m just daydreaming a lot and finding ways to avoid sitting down to start the writing process.

Writing is scary for me these days. Though I once had so much confidence in my ability to put my thoughts to paper, I know cringe at how unnatural it feels to create a solid piece of word craft. Part of me says that I just have a better understanding of good writing these days and thus have higher expectations than I did when I was younger. But another part of me knows that my lack of practice, my years of not writing followed by this stream of consciousness blog rambling (the writing equivalent of a fully Twinkie diet) has corrupted my ability to tell a cohesive tale. So, I’m left to think that since the story is so interesting and engaging in my own mind…why mess it up with feebly constructed words? Why yank it down from Plato’s higher reality to limp about as a shadow of its perfect self? Why prove to myself just how far my story-craft has faded?

So…um…I’ve been avoiding the hard work of story-craft lately. I just don’t feel like writing in the evenings, hit the snooze button in the mornings, and pesky work keeps me from writing in the afternoons. Not sure what magical non-time time I’m waiting for to be the perfect writing time…but it hasn’t arrived yet. I’ve even sat down to work on my story…but made the blog rounds instead. Therefore, tomorrow I’m going to try to sneak away from the house and find some quiet nook in the local library. No internet connection, no work, no distractions. If I can’t write like that…well I’ll just have to give up and admit that I obviously just don’t want to write.

And how have I scored this time away from home and Norah? Well, it was hard earned by taking such good care of my wife and child while Moonshot huddled in bed, locked in combat against a particularly nasty cold. She’s doing much better now and suggested the library hide-away as both a solution to my writing problem and as a thank-you for stepping up and taking care of things while she recouped. Crafty wife…tricking me into productivity even as she rewards my hard work.

There is, however, one dark cloud that could waylay the quiet story time. Norah is learning to go to sleep on her own. Unrelated you say? Not at all. Everything in the Gren household is directly related to Norah’s mood; she is the filter through which all homestead events must be viewed.

Our treasured baby-rearing books inform us that Norah is now old enough to start the difficult transition into a child who can fall asleep by herself in her crib. We’re told that her five months of life have solidified her faith in us as caregivers and we are now able to let her cry for longer periods of time without her feeling she has been abandoned. Currently, the only way she really falls asleep is in our arms (typically to wake up when laid down). The absolute inconvenience of this arrangement made us eager for the transition to occur. And so, last night we began this process. We wrapped her in blankets, rocked her and read her a bed time story until her eyes looked heavy. We transferred her to her crib, turned on her bedtime music, kissed her forehead and left despite the fact that her little eyes had popped open fully the second her head touched the mattress.

Oh the screaming! Oh the rage!

The house was filled with her howls. We could hear her little mouth filling with snot as she screeched against the injustice of our abandonment. We knew that little fists were pumping against the cruel universe, but we just kept finding some way to distract ourselves from our guilt. We kept reminding ourselves that she was fine. Nothing was wrong other than she wanted us to come…which was exactly what she needed to get over. But it’s not easy. We’ve spent 5 months responding to her every cry and rushing to her aid whenever she claimed to need it. Turning our backs on that instinct ran against every grain in our new parent bodies. We just kept stealing glances at the clock, reminding ourselves that the “What to Expect” book assured us that the average baby gives up the fight after no more than 45 minutes of yowling.

Blessed silence finally descended over the house after “only” 33 minutes of high pitched complaint and she sank into a deep sleep. Hours later, however, this peace was almost disrupted by Troubadour Dali, the band across the street. Seems they decided that 2:30 am was the perfect time to record some drum tracks for their new album. Norah isn’t even on that side of the house and I could hear on the baby monitor that she was being disturbed by the thunderous beats from the unassuming little white house.

In my bathrobe and new Christmas slippers, I made my way through the cold drizzle to the band’s porch, my footsteps on the sidewalk drowned out by the thump-thump-thump of the Troubadours’ rhythm section. On their porch, I pounded and pounded on the door but it did little to get their attention as the drummer continued his cymbal beating frenzy. I eventually just stuck my head and arms into the living room and waved my hands about in a lame attempt to make someone see me. There were just two people in the room…the oblivious drummer and an equally oblivious young girl at the computer monitoring the recording levels. I remember thinking in my sleepy, arm-flapping state that they both had very nice hair under their headphones. Such things cross my mind at 2:30 apparently. Suddenly the girl caught sight of a madly waving robed figure and startled. The drummer put down his sticks and took off his headphone. He smiled and said, “Oh, is it too loud out there?” in a friendly and slightly embarrassed way.

“Um…yeeeeeah,” I replied with a slow smile and nod.

“Oh,” he said sheepishly. “Really loud, huh?”


“Sorry ‘bout that.”

“No problem,” I replied with what I hoped was a friendly tone. It’s hard to tell since I was half asleep. They’re nice guys and usually try to be courteous neighbors, so I’m just going to assume that those headphone they were both wearing were so amazingly good that they had no idea how deafening his pounding was. While I had to play the curmudgeonly neighbor, I hope I came across as the amused curmudgeon that I am.

After this, Norah slept all night and didn’t even want to be waked for breakfast.

Anyway, Moonshot will be continuing the sleep training with Little Miss’s naps today. She’ll be put in her crib for each nap. If she doesn’t want to sleep, that’s fine…she’ll be picked up and given another try when she again acts tired. But, under no circumstances will she be given the option of sleeping in Moonshot’s arms. Eventually, she should get tired enough that the crib seems good enough.

I have no idea what this process will do to her mood. Saturday may find a relaxed child who has made her peace with the new sleeping arrangements, or it may find a grumpus who is overly tired and pushing her parents to the limit of their patience. If the former…I get to have some quiet time at the library. If the latter…well…I’ll just have to keep waiting for the imaginary perfect writing time as I continue to enjoy the still Plato-perfect story that that rumbles about in my head.