Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jury Duty; or A Government Mandated Break for Moms

I reported for my first ever jury duty on Monday. Between my recent citizenship, voter registration and casting of votes I wasn't entirely surprised to receive the summons a few months ago. My original date had been for the week after we returned from our Costa Rica trip and, having already had to take off 2 weeks from work, I decided that it would be better to reschedule it. So, I had requested this week, which would have been my employers' spring break, were it not for the fact that she got laid off. Sadly, it now turned out to be the week that she'd be starting her new job and, upon arriving at the King County Courthouse, I was quickly informed that my commitment would be for at least 2 days. I was, however, unable to reschedule it again.

There were 250 potential jurors called at the same as I was, and to start us off feeling all warm and fuzzy inside about having shown up, we were shown a cheesy little video about the valuable service we'd be providing as jurors, followed by a rousing speech by one of the judges. They both stressed the deliberate slowness of the process and the mucho waiting around we'd be doing.

As I settled in with J. Maarten Troost's latest book, "Lost on Planet China", I kept hearing grumbled parts of conversations between fellow jurors or on their cellphones.

"...better things to do than sitting here..."

"...stuck for at least two days..."

"...can't be missed at work for that long..."

"...nothing is happening..."

Over the next two days I then proceeded to read more than 300 pages, practically uninterrupted.

Nobody tugged on my pants or shirt saying "mama, mama, MAMA!".

Nobody needed their diaper changed.

Nobody relied on me to entertain them or feed them.

People put themselves down for a nap, without needing my assistance at all.

I ate potato chips out in the open, not secretly hiding in the kitchen and I did not have to share them with ANYONE.

I enjoyed a pleasant conversation with a fellow juror.

I even got to have lunch with a friend - LIKE A GROWN-UP! (No need to cut everything into bite sized pieces!)

And I read. I sat on my butt and read. And read some more. I hardly ever moved. I was occasionally interrupted by the court clerk reading out another list and I once saw the inside of a courtroom, but was fairly quickly released.

There were no trains to be fixed, strollers to be pushed, spilled juice to mop up or the same stories to be read again and again. The only thing that had to be done was sit in the large, windowless room and pass the time.

It was glorious. It felt like a vacation. It was incredible to be able to read something I enjoyed for that long without being needed or feeling compelled to do something useful.

At one point we had to fill out a questionnaire. It stated that the trial would last until March 14th, not including juror deliberations and asked if I'd be able to serve for that entire time. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted. I actually thought about it; nobody would be able to argue with my need to be downtown for the next two weeks - we were dealing with the government after all! But then, the logistics of course proved fairly impossible (Jacob has to go to work at some point, if only to keep our health insurance and I can't just find - or afford - a daycare at zero notice. Besides, two weeks seems like a long time to be listening to people describe and defend a domestic violence case.) so I filled out the "claiming hardship" part and was promptly excused.

When I came home, Joris had stories for me; "Park. Slide down. Bawakuk (garbage truck). Soccerclass - kick ball, daddy! Ride bike." He had obviously been enjoying himself. There were reports of standard naps, extraordinary eating and a full hour of playing with his new tea set. He seemed bigger, more mature, even after just a day.

I helped Joris fix his train, changed his diaper and made encouraging sounds as he was playing basketball. We read the train book and the Dikkie Dik (a cat, it's a CAT!) book at least 5 times. At one point, I believe it was in the middle of a game of tackle, Joris looked at me and said "Dohta miss mama."

"Mama missed you too, sweet pea."

And I had. But I also enjoyed the downtime.

Jury duty comes highly recommended by this mom.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Joris has been voicing his understanding of "happy" and "sad" recently. A few weeks ago, at Maddy's house, we were reading a book that had a page featuring a glad fish and a sad fish (take a guess on the author). He appeared concerned about the sad fish and lifted the book to his face to plant a big kiss on the sad fish, so he would feel better.

A recently re-discovered favorite book is Sandra Boynton's "Birthday Monsters" book. Next time you see Joris, you should ask him to read it to you - he is getting pretty close to memorizing the whole thing... Anyway, he has a little orange dinosaur / monster stuffed animal that rather looks like it could be one of the birthday monsters in the book, and he has been toting it around the last couple of days. Today, at the hardware store he kept saying "birthday monster happy" and confirmed that birthday monsters like hardware stores.

Moments ago, Jacob had to go back into Joris' bedroom to convince him to go to sleep. Joris was crying to be picked up and when Jacob finally gave in, he started calming down, and with a quivering voice announced "Doota...happy..now". He repeated it again when he had calmed down and had nestled himself in his daddy's arms.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Things Joris does that crack me up

1) A recent favorite activity, if you can really call it that, is watching cat food. That's right, WATCHING CAT FOOD. Not cats eating the cat food, although he doesn't mind that either, but Joris will actually announce that he'd like to look at the cat food and will proceed to lay down on his belly in front of Koos and Oskar's little bowls, looking at them. Last night he brought out a chair on which to sit while watching cat food (see picture). Of course, the trick is that when mama tires of watching the boy stare at some bowls and inadvertently walks into the other room to do something that might actually be useful, he will sneak a couple of pieces of cat food in the water and watch them get all soggy . He thinks he is getting away with something and I think that getting a half hour (no kidding!) of cleaning time in exchange for some waterlogged pieces of cat food is more than a fair trade.

2) Sometimes when I hold him and he is facing me, Joris will softly stroke and twirl strands of my hair with both hands. He will then look at me, cock his head and says "hi" in his sweetest, most angelic little voice. Then he will proceed to cover my face with my own hair, really mess it up as well as he can and says "bye!".

3) When having dinner at Avery's family's house this week, Joris and Avery were so excited to see each other that they ran from one end of the house to the other and back again, shrieking and panting like puppies FOR 45 MINUTES. It also involved collapsing into giggly puddles on the rug.

4) When we are at the park and one of the local high school kids is playing basketball, Joris insists on watching him play. He will then give a running commentary: "waak!" (raak, meaning it went in), "he miss!" when the ball doesn't go on and, if that happens a few times in a row "more in? more in!". Poor kid. Nothing like getting pressured to perform well by a one year old.

5) Joris now insists on wearing his new Obama hat whenever he plays basketball. The hat was a gift from his friend Miles and the basketball hoop was an early birthday present from his grandparents. Apparently, they now go together.

6) Joris has five stuffed animals that sleep in the bed with him; Aap, George, Coco, Bruin the Bear and Owl. All five have to be accounted for when he goes to sleep and when he gets up he will say "Doota pail animal pas" (Joris veel animals vast or "Joris wants to hold his many animals") and insist on holding all of them before you lift him and his animal posse out of bed. Which is easier said than done when you have just woken up, especially since they really are two big armfuls of stuffed animals for him. (Talking Lion is also hanging out in this picture and although he is definitely well-loved, he is not a bedtime companion.)

All in all, my days are pretty entertaining.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Change and Hope

Almost exactly a week after finding out that I would no longer be employed by Maddy's family, Avery's mom got laid off and had to give me two weeks notice. It hit me harder than I thought it could. While I knew that I cared about Avery and have always gotten along with her parents very well, I somehow imagined that my job of taking care of her two days a week was just that, a job. Faced with the prospect of losing this job, however, it quickly dawned on me how much this actually meant to me.

Not only have I seen this little girl develop from an immobile four and a half month old baby into an active, sweet and fully functioning toddler, but Joris has no memory of Avery not being in his life since he was only 7 months old when we started.

Avery and Joris and Joris have developed a really beautiful little friendship and I'm pretty sure that Joris is not fully grasping my "we are all done going to Avery's house" explanation.

I have been looking for "real" jobs at non-profits and have applied to a variety of interesting sounding positions that I would be excited about and be qualified for. But halfway through completing an online application to a great job, I actually stopped to crunch some numbers on the $17+/hr salary and realized that, even with a very decent paying job like that, once you deduct childcare costs (because Jacob can't lose any time that he has available to work on his dissertation) and the federal benefits we'd be losing - I would actually bring home less money and have very little time to spend with Joris. So, it made very little sense to keep pursuing that avenue and I decided to look for another childcare job again, instead. Which, once I had made the decision, was a load off my shoulders and definitely felt like the right choice.

On Wednesday, we spent our last day with Avery. We went to the zoo, which is a favorite outing for both her and Joris, and, I admit, me. It was cold but a lot of fun. I took my camera along and got some nice last-day shots. Joris has been requesting looking at the pictures all weekend.

I've been talking with a variety of different families to look for a new situation for Joris and I. It is hard to piece together enough hours to make it worthwhile and not have to contract with a slew of different families. I'll be meeting with a family looking for care for their infant son this afternoon, which may or may not be a good situation.

As I was writing this blog post, Avery's mom called me to say it is likely that she will be accepting another position and there is a good likelihood that we will be able to continue spending time with Avery. So, while it kind of feels like my entire world is in great upheaval, there is definite hope that it will all work out alright, too.

Monday, March 2, 2009