Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy House-ing

I have complained a bit recently about not-so-good house related issues, so I figured I'd post a couple happy house related accomplishments.

#1: Our dining room no longer looks like this:
I realized something was missing, but I just couldn't put my finger on it.

Ah ha! A table!

And better yet, a tablecloth. Now I need to start throwing dinner parties. And get curtains, because I don't like those white blind-type things the old owners left behind. Haven't found any that tickle my fancy yet though.

#2, and even more excitingly, thanks to our pal Eddie the space between our front hall and our laundry room no longer looks like this:

It looks like this:

We are still waiting on a slab of Corian to match the rest of the kitchen (we might be waiting awhile) so for now the surface is just plywood, but it's still very useful! There was a big open wall space anyway, it seems like a little kitchen desk belonged there in the first place, and I love having a place to put the laptop and file all my works in progress. I still can't really believe this idea worked out, I was scared the whole time that we were seconds away from hitting a snag that would derail the whole project (can you blame me given how my ideas have been working out since moving into the new house?) but it seems like I measured everything correctly and Eddie did a great job putting everything in!

I'm thinking I might put corkboard up on the wall between the top cabinets and the desk as sort of a little built-in bulletin board. If we don't, we're going to have to paint it again anyway. I'm still waiting for creativity to strike.

Definitely making progress, although I feel like a house always seems like a work in progress.

Now and Then



Same couch, same Santa even, but very different baby!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I robbed a CVS this morning

I got up this morning, and headed out to CVS before Emily was awake. The store in Ballenger Creek opens at 8, and I got there at 8:50. I was already too late for the best of the freebies, but I got a couple good things. Then I got home and realized there was a whole page full of freebies I hadn't noticed, so I packed Emily up and went to a different CVS to see if I could fare any better over there. I went to the one at the FSK mall, despite the fact I was worried it would be packed with Christmas shoppers. It was actually incredibly UN crowded, and I got quite a few more of the freebies. It's strange how so many of the freebie shoppers hit the Ballenger Creek CVS, but at the FSK CVS 2 miles away it's so rare the cashiers couldn't believe how many coupons I got back after my purchase. I guess they don't see people who work these deals very much. That's disappointing, because it turns out that store is closing at the end of December :-( So I discovered a gem only to have it snatched away!

Anyway, getting to the point, here is my haul:
5 bottles of Listerine
5 Arm & Hammer Essentials start-up kits
2 bottles Sally Hansen Lacquer Shine nail color
2 L'Oreal Metallic Eye Shadow Duos
1 box Zipfizz Energy Mix (3 ct.)
1 bag Halls Naturals Cough Drops
1 box Alteril All-Natural Sleep Aid
1 box Excedrin Extra Strength Express Gels (20 ct.)
1 EAS AdvantEdge Protein Bar
1 EAS AdvantEdge shake (4 pk.)
1 box Sleepinal (32 ct.)
1 box Benefiber drink mix (16 ct.)
1 box Iceland Health joint relief (60 ct.)
1 box Zantac 150 (8 ct.)
1 box Slimquick Energy (2 ct.)

Total value of merchandise: $145.35
Amount paid after coupons and Extra Bucks: $0.00, actually I earned $8.00

I'm pretty psyched, because most of these things are things that I or someone I know could use. When I get things I don't need (like blood glucose monitors or things like that) I just donate them, but it's always an extra-good deal if I can use the things I buy!

Then I headed over to Giant. I turned in my coupon and got a free gallon of organic skim milk, then I bought two Olay Regenerist facial cleansers:
Total value of merchandise: $14.00
Amount paid after coupons and mail-in rebate offer: $0.00, actually I earned $12.00

So I had a pretty productive morning. I came away $20 richer than I started out, PLUS I have a bunch of neat schwag, all of which I will use or give to family members who need such things. Sure I could get a job and earn $20 more quickly, but I couldn't do it with my daughter in tow, and this is much more fun than working :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Costly stupidity

When we bought our house, we managed to get a home warranty as part of the deal. I don't know if it was originally meant to be included or not, but we put it in the contract and they signed it, so there you go.

The problem is, this home warranty has sucked so far. The only things that we have had issues with (luckily) are the icemaker in the freezer, and a faucet outside that has started to drip. We called the home warranty company, and they don't cover either of those things. "But wait!" I said. "It says here you cover refrigerators and freezers!". "It's true," said the lady, "but the icemaker is not essential to the functioning of the refrigerator or freezer so that part of the freezer is not covered". And the faucet is not covered because it is outside of the walls of our house. Nevermind it's technically ON the wall and is definitely attached to plumbing that is inside the house. I wanted to dump a bucket of ice on her head, but I didn't have any on hand. Luckily our fantastic real estate agent felt badly that she had led us to believe that the icemaker was covered so she paid to have it fixed :-)

Then, one day, my favorite burner on the stove stopped working. It would get warm, but not hot enough to cook anything. It's a glass-top stove, so it's not as simple as just buying a new element like with a regular stove. I called the home warranty company, and it turns out it was covered! However we would still be responsible for a $100 deductible. Bastards. But my grandmother told me it cost her $250 to get hers fixed, so I figured we'd at least get some coverage out of the warranty.

Well the (rude and smelly) repairman showed up yesterday, took one look at the stove and said "I'll bet it's this switch". Turns out our stove has an incredibly helpful little switch that, when turned on, limits the temperature of the front burner to simmering. I must've bumped it while cleaning or something, and that explains why it stopped working overnight, and why it was still getting warm but not hot.

I was so excited to get some use out of our home warranty that I hadn't even really taken a look at the stove myself before calling them. I'd like to think that had I bothered to poke around a bit I would've realized the problem. And WHY ON EARTH do you even NEED a stupid switch like that anyway?

So the (nasty and sarcastic) repairman charged me $73 to "fix" a stove that wasn't broken. It's less than $100 so we're responsible for all of it, and I am incredibly pissed. I'm pissed at the sleazy repairman for being such a jerk that he charged us $73 for flipping a switch. I understand the whole "trip charge" idea, but he admitted he had two other calls in the area today so given the circumstances I would think he could find it in his heart to give me a discount or something. I'm pissed that the home warranty in effect cost me $73 because I feel like I would've taken a look at it and realized the problem if I hadn't thought to myself "Don't worry about it, it's covered under the warranty and they'll send someone to fix it". But mostly I'm pissed at myself for being so stupid.

If I sound like I'm still inordinately irritated considering this happened over 24 hours ago, it's because I was just recently frustrated by something entirely different. The people who painted this house saw fit to lay a thick layer of paint over every door hinge. This wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that Will gets up an hour before I do, and spends half an hour opening doors. He opens the bedroom door to get out. He opens the door to the laundry room to let the dogs out. He opens the pantry door to get out his cereal. Sometimes he opens the powder room door or the door to the garage. He definitely opens the front door several times. And every single door in our house emits a high-pitched nerve-shattering squeal every time it moves. I figured I'd take matters into my own hands and oil the doors tonight so that I could enjoy a blissful hour of uninterrupted sleep tomorrow morning. Well, each hinge is covered with paint, so you can't get any oil into them as they are. I've tried sticking a nail under the hinge pin and hammering it up, but the paint holds it tight and it's an awkward enough angle that I don't feel comfortable hammering with ALL my strength to get them out. I pried at them with a screwdriver, same problem. The paint keeps me from being able to get the tip in there. So instead of sleeping peacefully tomorrow, I will once again be treated to the screaming symphony of un-oilable doors with no solution in sight.

Any suggestions? For the squeaky doors I mean...I'm afraid my stupidity is beyond help.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Weight Watching....again

Last Saturday, I joined up at Weight Watchers again. Whenever I try to lose weight I always use the WW method, but if I'm being honest with myself, I know I have to join for it to actually work. The "Mommy and Me" meetings I attended back in the spring didn't really work for me that well, probably because I had to give 90% of my attention to my little munchkin and not the meeting, keeping her from eating other kids' goldfish and keeping other kids from hurting her.

And if I'm being really honest, the WW meetings are ME time. I enjoy them, I get lots of positive feedback, and I know it's big-headed to admit it, but I love that. I love it when my leader asks me to tell the class how much weight I lost back in '04-'05 and everyone claps. I love it when she asks me to tell the story of how I joined, how I go over my plateau to lose my final 5 pounds and get to goal, and I love the respect all the other women give me, because I've already once accomplished what they're trying to do. And it's not all self-centeredness...I like to share tips and get recipes and clap for other people too.

So I joined on Saturday, and was a perfect eater for 3 days. Then I hit day 4. If I think back on the 10-20 times this last year I've tried to lose weight, it was usually day 4 that did me in. On day 4, my body rebels, and it wants to be full. Not just satisfied, but stuffed. It must be something psychological. I know overeating is bad, I know I should control myself, but I think there's some link in my head between feeling completely stuffed and something good because I just need to eat until I can't eat anymore sometimes. Definite food-related issues.

So anyway, day 4 rolled around. And I ate everything in sight, trying to achieve a certain feeling that my body had been missing the last 3 days. But this time I wrote down everything I ate, which makes me feel awful looking at it, but I forced myself to tally it up. I had used up every flex point I had for the week, which is about twice as much as I'm allotted in a particular day (since this week was only 5 days between weigh-ins). I don't like to use all my flex points in a day, but there it was. And this time, instead of feeling defeated, disgusted with myself and hopeless, I felt like I had learned something. And I knew all was not lost because technically the number of calories I took in was fine, despite the screwed up psychology behind it. Knowing that enabled me to jump straight back on the wagon today. I've been great all day today, and at my weigh in tonight I was down 4 pounds :-)

It's difficult for me to look back at my previous weight loss endeavor and remember that I wasn't 100% perfect the whole time. When I struggle to stay on program for 4 days, I feel like I was a different person back then...a magical person who stuck virtuously to the plan for over a year when in fact I was far from it. I had weeks where I lost only 0.2 pounds, or nothing, or even gained weight. I had weeks where I went over my flex points by 20. But I never completely gave up on a week, and I still lost weight. A lot of it.

So I'm proud that I lost 4 pounds, but I'm also wary. I've done that before a million times this year, the TRUE test will be to see if I can keep losing weight. I think with the meetings I can.

So for now my monthly membership is on automatic renewal, and let's hope I get back to my lifetime weight and don't have to pay for too much longer!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Shame

Well, I did it. It feels so wrong, but it feels so right at the same time.

I bought an artificial Christmas tree. And I kind of love it.

Growing up, we ALWAYS got fresh trees. Not the pre-cut kind either. We did the whole deal, complete with fighting over which tree to cut down, pouting if your first choice wasn't decided upon, yelling "TIM-BER!" as the tree fell on my dad, knocking him into a puddle of melted snow. Well that was only one year, but we still talk about it.

When I was 12, the house my parents built on a lot they bought 6 years earlier was finally complete, and we moved WAY the heck into the boondocks. The lot in question was a Christmas tree farm before my parents bought it, so for 2 years or so we were able to just walk down into the woods in front of our house and pick out a perfect Christmas tree. And for about 4 years after that, we continued to walk down into the front yard to get our Christmas trees, but they got steadily less perfect as they grew wild and huge. They started to resemble giant bushy columns of pine more than an actual Christmas tree, as we had to trim large sparse portions off the top and even larger portions off the bottom in order to access the part of the trunk that was still small enough to fit into a Christmas tree stand. And since they weren't maintained and pruned as they grew like trees on a Christmas tree farm usually are, when we brought them into the house we brought along with them all the charm of the outdoors. By that I mean pinecones, bagworms, birds' nests, and on several occasions egg sacks of different types of insects which would hatch and crawl all over the house, spreading Christmas spirit. Finally our begging worked, and we began to purchase trees again, with my mom grumbling all the while about having to pay for a tree when we lived on a Christmas tree farm.

Ever since Will and I have been married, we have continued this time-honored ritual and gone out the first weekend after Thanksgiving along with my parents to cut our own tree. But every year, Christmas seems to require more and more preparation, time slips by faster and faster, and this year we found ourselves in the week before Christmas with no tree.

On Sunday, as we discussed how on earth we were going to manage to get out and get a Christmas tree before next week, we came to a realization. Our conversation was something like this:

Sara: We have to get a Christmas tree soon, this week is the week before Christmas!
Will: Ugh. I hate getting Christmas trees.
Sara: It is pretty cold and dirty. And you have to drag it so far.
Will: And I HATE tying it to the car.
Sara: And we can't take a stroller, so Emily would be running around in the mud.
Will: And actually driving it home sucks.
Sara: Yeah, it's always stressful making sure you get home without it flying off.
Will: And I hate getting it into the house, AND getting it set up in the Christmas tree stand.
Sara: It does make a huge mess.
Will: And I hate watering it every day.
Sara: It'd be a pain to keep Emily from playing in the water.
Will: And I hate getting rid of it....

And on we went. We realized that what all this meant is that we actually hate everything about real Christmas trees, except the smell and the tradition of it.

So we decided to get a fake one this year, and that doesn't mean we can't get a real one in the future if our kids want to. So I picked one up last night at Giant on my way home. If we were going to "cheat" and have an artificial tree, we might as well get a pre-lit one while we were at it for maximum convenience. I wanted one with LED lights since #1 they last forever, #2 they are energy-efficient compared to incandescent lights and #3 I like the way they look. Giant had them on sale this week, so that was that. I bought the tree less than a quarter mile from my house, threw it in the trunk and drove it home, and today it took me less than 2 minutes to get it set up and lit. Other than the fact that when you look at an LED light straight on it feels like it's beaming through your eyes and into your soul, I really like it. During a time of year where things can tend to get a little stressful, I'm really enjoying the time savings. I'll just have to get some pine-scented room spray or something to make it smell more authentic.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm back Democrats...did you miss me?

Oh, and one more thing. I'm officially a democrat again! It feels good to be back. When I first registered at 18 I looked at the people around me and thought "I'm definitely more liberal than most people here, I'll register as a democrat". Then I went to UMD for 4 years, and saw a new definition of liberal. "I'm definitely not THAT liberal", I said to myself, and I switched my registration to Republican.

Shortly after college I realized I should base my party on what I believe, not on how my beliefs compare to the people around me (i.e. I should be a democrat) but I haven't gotten around to changing my affiliation until now. In the meantime I contented myself by voting against the most conservative republicans, and I'd really rather be registered Independent, but I kind of like being able to vote in the primaries so Democrat it is.

I don't know why, but it just makes me happy to be back!

Slip sliding away

Last Saturday was a nice day. We went to the gym as usual, came home and Will rang bells at the Salvation Army pot (something he does every year through Rotary) and Emily and I put up Christmas lights on the front porch. Well, I put them up, Emily kept her own little unintelligible but entertaining running commentary going the whole time. As we decorated the porch, a light snow was falling, and everything seemed very Christmas-y and nice.

Will and I planned to go to our friend Ken's house that evening for a wine dinner, and so we had arranged for mom to keep Emily overnight. I intended to leave around 6 to take Emily to my mom's house, then stop by the liquor store to pick out our contribution for dinner. My mom called at 4:30 to say that the roads might get bad, so I should probably leave soon to bring Emily over rather than risk coming later. I peered out the window at the friendly little flurries swirling by and thought "She's full of it, she just wants more time with Emily". Nevertheless, I packed everything (and everyone) up, and we left at about 5.

One of the things that makes me happiest about moving to the new house is that we don't have to worry about going over Braddock mountain anymore. I don't think Braddock is technically even a mountain...but at 950 ft it still is enough of a pain in the butt that I'd just as soon live on the side of it where all of my destinations are. The top of Braddock always freezes before the rest of the area, and there aren't many foothills, just a pretty steep ascent and descent.

So as I was merrily driving on 70 through the flurries to my mom's house (on the other side of Braddock), I noticed that traffic up ahead had stopped dead. "Ugh", I thought, "There must be an accident. Probably idiots who are getting freaked out by the flurries." I made a quick exit onto 40 Alt, thinking it would take me longer that way to get to my mom's, but at least I'd be moving and not stopped dead. No such luck. 40 Alt was also stopped dead going over Braddock. Luckily, I made another quick change in my route and headed over to 40. Ahhh, much less traffic.

Except that the actual road got really bad, really fast. As we entered the woods at the base of Braddock, traffic slowed to about 20 mph and I started to realize why the other two main routes over Braddock were stopped dead. People were off the road in all directions. You needed some speed to keep enough momentum to continue climbing, but getting up that much speed was impossible because you'd start to fishtail. I desperately wanted to turn around before I ran out of momentum and started sliding backward into the people behind me, but I knew if I pulled off the road onto the shoulder or into someone's driveway I risked getting stuck or else sliding into oncoming traffic if I tried to make a U-turn. I hung on and crept my way up to the Dan-Dee and pulled into the parking lot. Many people seem to have had the same inclination as me, because about 30 cars were slowly circling around the parking lot like grazing cattle. I managed to get myself turned around, and then I started the slide back into town. I cursed my parents for living on the other side of the mountain. I cursed the county for not having a single salt truck out on the roads. I cursed my Highlander for not having all wheel drive, and for not being as good in the snow as my dear little Audi A3 (go figure).

Anyway, Emily and I got back home unscathed thank goodness. And danged if I was going to miss the wine dinner. I needed some wine! So we packed Emily up and drove the 1 mile over to our friends' house for dinner.

Now you may be saying "Foolish woman, a toddler does not belong at a wine dinner!" and you'd be very right. But I was selfish, and I was overly optimistic.

Everyone wants to believe that their child is the exception to the rule. And even if you have been burned before, if you really want to attend something it's easy to convince yourself to give it another try.

And Emily really was very good. She was in a great mood the whole night, played well with the resident dog, and was generally charming. The problem was, there was an un-gated stairway, which was a huge draw for her. I spent most of the night chasing her up the stairs and holding her hand while she toddled down the stairs, grabbing sips of wine and bites of food here and there. It was pretty casual, so it was ok but I got tired quickly and while friends offered to take a turn here and there and Will did a couple rounds, I was still pretty worn out. On the way down the stairs one particular time, Emily fell. I was holding her hand at the time, but very loosely and her little hand slipped out of my grip and she went head over heels down about 6 stairs. I scooped her up at the bottom, and she wasn't hurt badly but she screamed. And screamed. And screamed. And vomited all over us. Thank goodness she didn't get any barf on my friends' carpet or belongings, but having your daughter take a collosal spill down the stairs and then vomit in front of a roomfull of your childless friends is embarassing. I felt pathetic, like I should have known better, like I was that old mom who had moved on to the next phase of her life but was still trying to act like she fit in with the people with no kids. like I was compromising my child's safety so that I could have fun, and definitely like I should have been holding onto her hand tighter. We got cleaned up a bit, then excused ourselves to go home where I put Emily to bed and then had a total breakdown. After the half hour I spent sliding around on the ice with my heart in my throat, and feeling ashamed for going out to the dinner even though I knew it would be difficult with Emily, the result being my child getting hurt, I was in pretty bad shape.

When you first have a baby, much of your world changes. But there are some things that don't change right away, at least not totally. You can still usually go out to dinner and to friends' houses and your baby will, with any luck, snooze the evening away in their infant carrier. But now, Emily notices when we leave her with Grammy and gets sad when we leave. If we bring her along she gets into everything and I don't enjoy myself anyway. I have been proud that Will and I haven't just disappeared into our house now that we have a kid; I think it's healthy to get out and keep doing some of the things you used to do. But where do you draw the line? I feel bad for the moms who say "I just HAD to get out of the house", because more often than not I wish I spent more time IN my house. I have a lot going on, between friends, all our family in the area, and getting to the gym when I can and I KNOW I'm lucky for that, but it makes it too easy sometimes to try to do too much when it would be in my daughter's best interest to stay home. Plus I am going out on New Years no matter what, so I have to hang out with Emily lots in the coming weeks so that I won't feel guilty!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

I always dreamed you'd be my library buddy

My friend Carolyn gave me the first book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series for my birthday. Due to various circumstances, I just started reading it last week. I really enjoyed the book, so when I finished it this morning, I was anxious to start the second one in the series.

I have also been wanting to take Emily to the library to just play around and hang with other kids, but she has been sick for SO long, and I feel bad bringing my child out to play with other children with her nose pouring. I take her out if it would waste money not to (like to the gym with me and to her sing and sign class) but otherwise we've been pretty sequestered from other kids.

So for reasons more selfish than I like admitting, I bundled her up today and took her to the library. I quickly grabbed the book I came for, then went downstairs and set her loose in the children's wing of the library.

At first she just enjoyed running up and down the aisles, but then she came upon the little play house that sits smack in the middle of the children's section. And right in the middle of the house was a giant stuffed Elmo, with whom she played for quite awhile. I've said it before...I don't know what it is about Elmo but Emily loves him despite her fairly limited contact with him.

We met some cute little kids who were very nice to Emily, and while I was trying to guide Emily through her first usage of a water fountain (she just stuck her mouth in the water and let it all fall right back out, giggling the whole time) we met a nice but WAY too helpful little girl who immediately befriended us and began following us around piling random books in the stroller and screaming "Hey Guys! Wait up!" if I got too far ahead of her while chasing down my toddler.

Upon checking out, it was discovered that I owed $21.80 in library fees. Oops. Most of that was for a book that I had checked out to pass the 2 weeks before I was due to give birth to Emily; the 2 weeks I spent in the hospital and caring for a newborn instead of wiling away the hours on the couch with a book, stroking my giant belly as I had pictured. Anyway, needless to say that book didn't get returned for quite some time after Emily's arrival, plus there were books about Peru which hadto've been from when we actually went to Peru which was almost 3 years ago, and some books I checked out last spring. I don't really mind paying late fees at the library...I consider it my donation for a free service, but I was a bit peeved that I have had books that were overdue accruing late fees for 3 years and no one ever mentioned it so that I could pay the fees before they got so steep. Oh well. It's mostly my fault, but I do kind of depend on the library to tell me when I have late fees and how much they are.

The bad part was that they don't take credit cards, so I had to re-bundle Emily, push her out down the lengthy handicapped ramp, up through the parking garage, carry her up the stairs in her stroller, get the checkbook from my car, carry her back down the stairs, back out of the parking garage, back up the ramp and into the library to pay my fees. Then it took the librarian (who resembled an owl, like most librarians should, but definitely not any of the more intelligent species of owl) over 10 minutes to get my fees paid and books checked out, and despite the fact that Emily was totally freaking out by that point she made me update my address because I was stupid enough to've mentioned that I had moved earlier in the conversation.

So all in all it took me about half an hour longer than I had hoped to get out of there, which is no good when you decided to leave in the first place because your toddler was starting to get whiney and antsy. But our library does rock, and I was able to get some new Baby Einstein DVDs and new Disney CDs to listen to in the car without having to shell out money for them. I'm just as happy to swap out for new music and DVDs every couple weeks anyway, because although the children's entertainment doesn't seem to bother me as much as it does some people (namely Will), I do also have my limits. And as long as I get my deadbeat butt back there to return everything in time, the checking out process should be much easier in the future.

And despite the fact that I was towing a little raggamuffin around with me and trying to go about my business as quickly as possible, I enjoyed visiting the library, and I realized I've missed it. From the tiny bookmobile that used to pull up in front of my house every week as a child, to the gigantic McKeldin Library that allowed you to feel as far away from other people as was ever possible in College Park (you just had to look out for the flashers) I love libraries, and I love how they make me feel. Like all the knowledge of mankind is sitting there, ready for you to learn it. I am good friends with the internet, but it's no library. And sure, I usually end up checking out something from the fiction section instead of anything that will actually expand my knowledge in the slightest, but at least I feel like the possibility is there, and hopefully when she gets older Emily will too.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Holiday yammerings

As I was falling asleep last night, I realized that tomorrow (today) is Monday. I couldn't believe the long weekend went by so fast. For that matter, it's Monday December 1st and I really can't believe that November went by so fast. I think about Lyle and Wendy's Halloween party that was exactly 30 days ago and it feels like last week. I guess that's what happens during the holidays.

Now that it's December, I can listen to Christmas music, which is exciting for me and nauseating for Will. Growing up, my mom had these old Christmas albums (and I do mean albums as in record albums) that we listened to pretty much 24/7 during the month of December. As I grew older, it got harder and harder to capture the same feeling of being "in the spirit of Christmas" I know you can never truly recapture the same feeling from your childhood Christmases, but I feel like maybe....just maybe if I listen to Christmas music often enough I can get close. My problem is that I don't own any decent Christmas albums, so I always just used the Christmas music channel on TV. That offered the advantage of not being able to pick your own music so I got the treat of listening to such unbearable classics as Paul McCartney's A Wonderful Christmastime and the formulaic and vomit-inducing Christmas Shoes by Newsong several times a day. Well, we don't have cable anymore, so now I'm reduced to listening to our local Christmas music station over the internet which features the convenience of not being able to pick your own music and the additional advantage of having to listen to commercials and corny taglines.

But no matter what I'm listening to, I definitely need to start decorating. It's been difficult because we were so busy every day this weekend. Thursday was Thanksgiving of course. Friday we had a family business meeting at the newspaper, and after that we went out with one of Will's friends from childhood who was back in town. Afterward we went to the Weinberg center to watch "Dark Side of Oz", which was The Wizard of Oz played with the soundtrack muted and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album replacing it. I'd heard of people doing this but I'd never seen it myself, and I still haven't really seen it because right about the time Dorothy was chatting with the munchkins we got a text that Emily was sick so we went to my mom's house to take care of her. The only problem was I had decided to cut loose and have fun since we had an overnight babysitter, and 2 glasses of wine, a glass of sangria and a peach pomegranate mojito later I was worried I would be in no shape to take care of a sick toddler. But luckily we took Emily home, put her to bed and everything was fine...there are few things more sobering than having to deal with your sick baby!

Saturday was a dark day indeed. I walked into my Salsa Aerobics class, excited to finally get to take it again after a week and learned that Kevan the instructor had quit. It's all very scandalous apparently, possibly related to his recent separation from his wife and his only slightly more recent dating of several girls in the class. Recently I have been branching out a bit and trying out some new cardio classes, but Salsa was still my mainstay so I'm going to have to find something else to take its place although I doubt anything can be as fun :*(

Yesterday and today we've had our friend Eddie over installing cabinets and rewiring light switches. Home Depot wanted an exorbitant amount to install our cabinets (of course) so we're having Eddie do it instead and in exchange we're giving him our old van that he borrows all the time. It's a win-win because now that we've moved and have curbside recycling and don't have to periodically move our inlaws junk out of our house we don't really have any need for a big nasty van anymore. And really it's a win-win-win-win because it also means we won't have to pay insurance on the van and I will be able to park in my driveway and not in the street in front of our house! And if all goes well with our unpacking, I should soon be able to park my car in the garage itself. Incredible.

And as I mentioned earlier, Emily is sick again. Maybe I should just mention when she's NOT sick, because honestly she's had a runny nose since June with just a couple days here and there of wellness. It was funny to me when the pediatrician remarked that Emily must be a very healthy girl because in 15 months we'd only had to make 1 sick visit with her. That is true, but she's been slightly sick for a large percentage of that time so I guess I don't think of her as super-healthy. I probably should, I know how lucky I am that she hasn't had any serious illnesses (hold on a sec while I go knock on every piece of wood I can find) but when she's weepy and clingy and covered in snoot all the time I sometimes forget.

So when she's feeling better, we'll have some fun decorating and doing other holiday-type activities for her first real Christmas. At least the first Christmas that she'll realize is different from any other day of the year.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dollars and sense

Emily's been a sleeping champion these last few days, and that's great because she needs to get her immunity up since her mother has something dreadfully wrong with her throat. It feels awful, looks red and white and nasty, and I probably should go to the doctor but I have to take Mingus to the vet today for his follow-up appointment which I already had to reschedule once. BOY do I love that dog. I tried to give him away as a door prize to the first guests to arrive at our Kung Fu Panda viewing on Saturday evening, but no dice. But we had a great time breaking in Will's theater room, and Emily LOVED Kung Fu Panda so much that she stayed up until 10:30 with not so much as a whiney moment, then went right to sleep without a complaint. She then slept until 9:30 the next morning, took a 3 hour nap yesterday, and is still asleep this morning at 8:30! If I felt all that well I could really be getting some stuff done around the house with my extra Emily-free time but I don't, so I'm pursuing less physical activities, like figuring out how much my foreign currency that the coinstar machine spit out yesterday is worth. I have 81 Icelandic Kronur ($0.58), 83 Peruvian Centimos ($0.26), and $1.63 in Euros ($2.08), score!

The really cool thing is that the US currency I collected up and dumped through the Coinstar machine turned out to be $73.18, which I am turning into an $83.18 Amazon gift certificate with their $10 holiday bonus deal. That'll cover a couple family members' Christmas gifts using money we didn't even really know we had! I also hit up CVS last night for 3 American Express gift cards so I could get my $10 extra bucks and $15 gas card, and I also plan to transfer our family's 5 collective prescriptions to CVS and get a $25 gift card each time. And on Friday morning, when everyone else is headed to the malls, I will be headed to CVS with my coupons to earn some money! Have I mentioned that I am love with CVS these days?

I always used to feel guilty that I wasn't more frugal, but it's exciting that now I am doing it and actually enjoying it! If you have the time, it's really satisfying. Take that crappy economy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bloody Debacle

I'm always perplexed when I run into an adult who claims that they have never really had blood taken before. Blood and its study/donation/taking/mismatch has figured largely in my life. When I was in 5th grade, our teacher assigned a research paper/presentation on a subject of our choosing, as long as it had something to do with the Civil War. I, being a budding scientist and supremely bored with the study of history and specifically the study of the history of wars (what can I say, I think it's subconscious rebellion against my history-teacher mother and Civil War-obsessed extended family) decided to do my paper on blood. My teacher, God bless her, decided to allow it after hearing my argument that quite a bit of blood was lost during the Civil War and that my paper would end with a tidy closing paragraph mentioning that Antietam was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. So while my (chump) classmates wrote papers and did presentations on Gettysburg and Robert E. Lee, I delved into encyclopedia articles about platelets and Rhesus factors.

At the age of 12, I was diagnosed with Hashimodo's thyroiditis and Grave's disease, and thus began my intimate relationship with my own blood. Since then I have had varying amounts of blood taken sometimes as often as every 2 weeks, never less often than every 6 months. At first I never had problems having blood taken, it was a very normal occurance for me. I was good at it too, the only times anyone has ever had a problem getting blood from me were after volleyball practice in high school (when I was dehydrated and had spent the last 2 hours beating the blood out of my arms) and while I was being smashed in the stomach and the back simultaneously with sledgehammers in labor with Emily, so I didn't really even notice or care that it took them 5 tries that time. "I don't understand, this has never happened to me before!" exclaimed the 3rd nurse to give it a shot.

I started to realize I was more like my dad (who did many things involving blood to monkeys in his career as a biologist but passes out at the mere sight of a drop of his own blood) in college. Finding myself in desperate need of extra cash and having previously tried various part-time jobs to the detriment of my GPA, I signed up to be a test subject for an experimental vaccine for Dengue Fever. I know, I know, I've been told by everyone I know how stupid I was, but hey, I got $750 and immunity to Dengue Fever (along with the 104 degree fever, blinding headache and painful rash all over my body for days) so there! As part of the study, they took 14 tubes of blood, and they unfortunately didn't use a butterfly needle. That means that every time they changed tubes, the needle wiggled in and out of my arm a little bit, which totally squinked me out. I told the nurse I felt like I was going to pass out, and as if she had been eagerly waiting for just such an occurance, she immediately whipped out the smelling salts which changed my status from "about to pass out" to "about to barf".

After college, I started donating blood because as an O+ donor I felt it was my duty to help. My blood is only half as awesome as O- donors, but still pretty awesome, and I figured that my extensive experience with blood-giving made me a good candidate. My husband's work runs quarterly blood drives, so it was convenient for me as well. All went just fine until my third donation, after which I stood up, walked over to the recovery table, got into a converstaion with an aquaintance (who was waiting to donate for the first time), then passed out cold. I can remember thinking to myself "Do NOT pass out, you'll scare the crap out of her and it would be incredibly rude to pass out in the middle of a conversation", but my postive self-talk was all for naught. The twinkling stars in my peripheral vision could not be held back, and as they led the blackness in towards the center, I keeled right over. I awoke to people slapping me and shouting my name. I saw my friend Matt running over and I weakly asked him "Did I throw up?" Apparently I was very concerned with the etiquette of fainting. As the phlebotomists laid me down on a cot behind a divider and assigned Matt to watch over me, my first-time donor aquaintance mumbled "I think I need another bag of cookies" and went running for the snack table.

Despite my peformance, I donated again, at which point I had the privledge of watching another person pass out. I was totally embarassed, because BOY did she look awful and I was sincerely hoping I hadn't looked like that when I had passed out.

Then I took a trip to Darkest Peru and was banned from donating blood for a year, during which time I got pregnant and that's a whole other kettle of fish. Doctors love taking pregnant women's blood, they must think since you have such an increase in blood volume you can spare it, but listen buddy, I made that myself for my baby so control yourself. After Emily was born, I learned that even though Will and I are both Rh+, the fact that I have type O blood means any babies I have who do not are at risk for severe jaundice because having Will's type B blood (as Emily does) makes them "Coombs positive". I never knew about this beforehand, but daily pediatrician visits complete with heel sticks, weigh-ins that made me cry as I watched my baby get skinnier and yellower, and the eerie blue glow of bili lights taught me quick.

I am ashamed to say that I have become more fearful of giving blood these days, and had not gone back since having Emily. When I got a call on Wednesday informing me of a blood drive that would be happening right where I would be running errands while Emily was at Grammy's house, I couldn't very well come up with any more excuses. I figured I am now sporting about 15 more pounds than I was last time I passed out (my maternal fat stores, which I selflessly carry in case Emily needs them in the future) so I was bolstered by that thought.

So yesterday I walked into a church to resume my blood donation career. And once again, it was memorable.

After being asked my gender (um, wow, do I really look so androgenous that you can't tell?) and deemed fit to donate, I was handed a big pile of plastic bags into which my blood would shortly be pouring. This was a bit odd to me, shouldn't such things remain in a sterile environment supervised by trained medical personnel until being used? I could have taken the caps off the needles and dragged them across the floor, inadvertantly punctured my bag, detatched a tube or done any number of things to compromise them. I just found this a bit strange.

Then I was escorted to my seat, and the phlebotomist had a very bustle-y, "I have way too much going on" attitude about her, but she still had time to yak for quite awhile with each patient when the topic interested her. I can't complain too much, she hit the vein on the first try, and I have no bruising today or freaky clicking in my inner elbow when I bend my arm like I have had before. She plugged me in, then went over to start on the next guy, who had to go coach a little girls basketball team in half an hour. As she was swabbing him with iodine she looked over at my bag and her eyes got big. She said "You can stop squeezing now, your bag is full!". She yelled for someone to come over and unplug me since she had just disinfected the other guy, but all she got were bovine stares so she scurried over to do it herself. She was telling me how she hadn't expected me to fill the bag in under 4 minutes when I heard her say "Uh oh". I was already feeling a little woozy from the needle removing process, but stupid me, I looked down anyway and was treated to the sight of my blood all over the floor. Luckily it was she and not me who had dropped it there, and even more luckily it was just the blood from the tube that they don't really use anyway and not from the bag that had spilled, but I didn't know all of that at the time. I tried coughing, which I knew from past experiences was supposed to push more blood to your head, but to no avail. She was desperately trying to juggle my bag of blood and cover the gore with paper towels at the same time as the other donors' eyes got bigger and bigger, and that was when my dizziness and nausea were joined by my friends, the twinkling stars and I sighed "I think I'm going to pass out".

Poor lady. Poor other donors who had to watch 3 people rush to my side as my blood splattered the floor. And poor guy I made even later to his girls basketball practice with all my drama.

An ice chip in the eye, a rest in a reclined position and a forced ingestion of a coke and I was feeling just fine again. So fine that they allowed me to eat my apple chips instead of cookies (donating blood is terrible for a diet, but I guess you temporarily lose over a pound in the process so that makes me feel a bit better about it) and I was able to leave a bit later. Apparently I bleed too fast, and my body doesn't take kindly to losing a pint of blood in less than 4 minutes. At least now I know.

So I will continue to donate blood because as bad as it briefly makes me feel, I know I am helping someone who is feeling even worse. I encourage everyone else to donate blood too, but learn from my mistakes and try not to bleed to fast when you do it :-)


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chicken and home decor

As anyone who's read my blog for any amount of time knows, it's important to me to feel like I have my life "under control". My standards for "under control" are pretty high, and I can probably count on one hand the number of days I've ever actually felt this way. But it keeps me striving for that goal.

This blog has really inspired me to take control recently. The woman who writes it is the mother of 3 young kids, and she still manages to cook food ahead of time and use coupons! She has made it easy to play the CVS game (where you get all sorts of stuff for free, or even earn money by buying particular products when certain deals are running and you have a coupon). And I spent most of yesterday cooking up 15 pounds of chicken into 2 weeks worth of dinners that are now hanging out in my freezer, waiting to make my life easier on busy nights. And don't worry, I don't plan to serve chicken for 2 weeks in a row.

So yeah, not much else to report except that the old house is officially devoid of stuff we want. Everything we plan to keep is over here now, and we just have to unpack it. Plus pack up the stuff from the old house we want to donate, rent a rolloff and chuck whatever's left and then clean it up, but still, we've completed the most arduous part!

We also have a new window in Emily's room, the cabinets for our kitchen desk area are sitting in the garage, and my couch FINALLY arrived!

The living room still looks a bit sparse though, so I'm thinking I need a lamp or a fake tree or something in the corner. I have also been eyeing this painting for the wall above the couch. It isn't really my style, but it really catches my eye for some reason, plus it's the perfect colors and I really like the idea of having 9 little paintings grouped on the wall vs. the typical one big one. The only problem is that it's really freakin' expensive (not for art in general, but in terms of how much I'm willing to spend on a picture for above the sofa). I found it as a poster on Amazon, so I'm thinking I might buy the poster for $35, cut the individual squares out, then stick them onto canvases (if I can find the right size). I know it's cheating, but it would be getting the same effect for about 90% less money so I might have to just overcome my moral issues with it. On the other side of the living room (behind where I stood to take the picture) I have a console table and I want to put together a little family tree of pictures on the wall above it. I won't draw connecting lines or anything, but I'd like to just kind of group them like a family tree. I have pictures of Will's and my parents on their respective wedding days, and all of our grandparents too so I have a good start. If I go back much further I might have some difficulty finding pictures (if there even are any) but it'll be a fun project and I think our kids will enjoy looking at it.

So that's what I'm focusing on now. There's plenty of other stuff I still need to do, but I haven't really posted any pictures yet and now that the living room looks presentable I wanted to get at least one up!


Monday, November 3, 2008

My house is totally classy

I have my very own bathroom attendant.  She accompanies me into the bathroom every time, without fail.  She pulls the toilet paper off the roll and hands it to me.  When I am finished she closes the lid of the toilet, then flushes.  Then she escorts me out and closes the door to the bathroom, and all she requires is a bit of applause when she completes her tasks.

Oh yeah, I also pay for her room and board and devote every waking moment to her upbringing.  But at least I'm starting to get some service out of the deal! 


Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick and a Treat

*I wrote most of this post on the evening of Halloween, but started having issues with uploading photos and couldn't finish until today. I am backdating it so that I don't have to go through and change the tenses because I'm lazy like that.

Our dog Mingus has become a fleshbag monster and is exceedingly disgusting to be around these days. He walks around our new house, pausing every 3 seconds for a 60-second long itch fest, then walks a couple steps and starts the routine all over again. Along the way he drops pieces of skin, hair, and blood. He smells wonderful too.

Ha! Told you there was a trick. Doesn't that look like a creature you'd love to share your home with? If so please call me, I will PAY you to take him.

So even though I've already taken him to the vet 4 times, changed his food twice, given him any number of different medications, painstakingly flushed the affected area, and even bought him a new house for God's sake, he is worse than ever. I took him in to a new vet (one that is walking distance from our house, hooray!) and I really like this new guy. He seems to genuinely want to help Mingus instead of just treating his symptoms and having me come back every month when I reach my breaking point and can't stand living with the dog anymore.

So now, Mingus is on a pill regimen that is distributed to him in just 3 easy daily installments and reasonably priced at about $8 per day. Have I mentioned I don't even like this dog anyway?!?!?! Not to mention the fact that he pooped on the way to the vet and since I forgot to bring a bag with me I had to pick it up on the way home. The problem was, they gave me this newfangled fancy bag at the vet with a wire rim and a cardboard part that was supposed to fold over and close it but danged if I could figure it out, so I had to walk home through my neighborhood pushing a stroller and holding onto a dog leash with one hand and holding an open bag of dog poop out away from me and everyone else while enjoying the subtle aroma wafting back at me. I am NOT happy with this dog right now.

Now on to the treat, which was the rest of the day. I don't know about your kids, but Emily is absolutely tearing around the house right now, and she hasn't even eaten any candy! Halloween was a big hit here, both for her and for us.

We set up the candy bowl in the front hall, I dumped in a bunch of candy and I also added some dehydrated apple chips, figuring we might as well give the kids a choice. Will went so far as to put a bowl of whole apples up there too. The only problem was that Emily was totally jazzed about this and ended up taking bites out of many of the apples:

Then we got her dressed, and she was of course the cutest puppy in the universe:

When trick or treaters showed up, Emily would grab handfulls of candy and show the trick or treaters while I offered up the bowl, then she'd pull her candy back and help me close the door. Once the door was closed, she would clap, as if to say "Jolly good, we did an excellent job".

We goofed around on the front porch for awhile:

Then we went trick or treating! I figured we'd do about 4 houses or so, just to show her off a bit and meet our neighbors, but she was loving it so we stayed out for about half an hour. Every time a big group of kids went by, she'd take off after them (especially the little boy dressed as Elmo. What is it with Elmo?) And every time someone would open their door, Emily would just go barging in! I had to chase her down in a couple people's houses, but it let us introduce ourselves and we got invited in a couple times. Will was thrilled that our neighbors across the street invited him to have some beer to take with him. There were people in the neighborhood that really went all-out too! One lady had a Tarot card reading table set up in her front yard, along with horror movies playing on a TV outside. One woman dressed up and set her porch up with a Harry Potter theme. It was lots of fun, and Emily was sad when we came back inside. It was great, exactly what trick or treating should be, and I was thrilled because this was part of the reason we wanted to move to a younger, more active neighborhood.

The other trick or treaters were great too. They started promptly at the appointed time, and we only had 2 small groups show up after the official stop time, and all the kids were so polite! We didn't have any greedy grabbers, we didn't notice anyone coming around twice, and they all said thank you and one even told me I had a lovely house! There were also a couple little girls who offered to trade me candy for water since they were so thirsty, so I let them keep their candy and sent them along with disposable plastic cups of water. Too cute.

After the trick or treating Emily was totally jazzed and she went tearing around the house for awhile. She stopped at the candy bowl, and just flung every piece out of it onto the floor:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Baking Soda + Vinegar = The Bomb Diggity

And not just because dumping the two together brings back fond memories of the 2nd grade experiments that started me down the road to becoming a chemist. I am somewhat "crunchy" when it comes to eating, diapering my daughter, recycling, cleaning etc. The problem with being crunchy about cleaning is that many of the organic/natural cleaning products out there suck compared to my beloved Clorox wipes and Swiffer Wet Jet, and even so they are usually way more expensive.

But as I sadly surveyed my new glass cooktop onto which I had allowed a boiling pot of lima beans to overflow, and my teakettle which bore a layer of scum comprised of every meal I've cooked since I got married 5 years ago (it lives on my stove), I REALLY didn't want to use the bottle of chemicals that the old owners left behind for cleaning the stove. I thought of the residue just sitting there on the stove until I turned on a burner and then volatilizing into the air to be inhaled by me and my nearest and dearest and I was just glad I don't own any canaries. I have an organic stainless steel cleaner that I really like for all my appliances, and I've been using the "Green Goddess" cleaner recipe from Good Housekeeping to clean my floors, small appliances and toilets, but neither of those were cutting it for the cooktop or the teapot.

So that's when I consulted my friend the internet, who advised me to bust out the baking soda and vinegar plus a razor blade for burnt-on ickyness. It has taken me a couple false starts over the years, but now I'm a believer. I should have taken before pictures too, but look at that sparkle! I didn't even need the razor blade.

I then decided to attack our Teavanna tea steeper, as an unappetizing brownish tea coating had built up on the inside of it, prompting one of my recent guests to say: "Wow, it looks like that thing gets a lot of use."

You can see through it again!

The I attacked our bathtubs:

Lovely. Now my daughter and I can sit in clean bathtubs without stewing in leftover chemicals.

I know you're all laughing at me right now for my little infomercial on vinegar and baking soda, but know you want to try pickling your house too!


Monday, October 27, 2008

What fireplace?

I have always had a problem with family rooms. Most of the time there is a fireplace, which tends to be the dominant feature in the room. The problem is, where do you put the TV, and how do you arrange your furniture when you have a split focal point? Our solution?

With the invention of flatscreen televisions, I thought this problem was solved. If you notice, there is a design in the fireplace tile that looks like a built-in frame, so we went out and bought an LCD TV that would fit in the frame. We were warned that we'd have to be careful that the TV didn't get too hot when we used the fireplace, but as we pretty much only used our old fireplace (with usually disastrous results) on Christmas Eve every year, we figured this wasn't a problem. We were warned that we'd have to get a mounting system that would angle the TV down so that we wouldn't have to crane our necks to see the TV. No problem, we got a mounting system and even paid for professional installation.

Well when the Geek Squad showed up last week to set up our TV, they walked into the family room, and I immediately got "the look". I am SO sick of getting "the look". It's the look that says "Are you insane? There's no possible way this will work". I'd say I've gotten it an average of 1.5 times a week from various workmen since we moved in.

Aparently even with the mounting system that angles the TV, the tile rectangle up there is WAY too high to mount a TV. They offered to mount it lower, but they still cautioned that every tile they drilled into would surely crack, and said we'd never be able to use the fireplace because our TV would get soot in it. Now it would drive me absolutely nuts to have the TV halfway in that tile square and halfway below it, it would look like we mounted it in the wrong place. I also didn't want to irreversibly wreck the tiles. They suggested mounting the TV on the wall perpendicular to the fireplace, but there we were back at the split focal point problem that bothered me so much to begin with that I bought a new TV instead of messing with it. Not to mention the fact that I really wanted to be able to see the TV from the kitchen, and there was also our old TV out in the garage (you know, the one the movers gave me "the look" about when I told them we wanted it in the basement?) which would go against the wall just as well as the new LCD TV would. So I sent the Geek Squad on their way, dragged the TV, the mounting system, and a million reciepts back to Best Buy (where they told me their system said I had already returned the TV) and finally we just hoisted the old TV in. It was late at night and I was already in my pajamas, I shudder to think what the neighbors think of us. After the difficult task was complete, I just exclaimed "Why don't we put the stupid thing in FRONT of the fireplace?!?!?" Turns out it wasn't a terrible idea.

Luckily we have a flat hearth, and our fireplace isn't a traditional design that screams "there's a fireplace back here!". I don't know, maybe it looks really stupid, but I don't care at this point. Now we can use a TV we already had, we don't have to split the focal point (since we in effect got rid of one) and we can still use the fireplace if we roll the TV out of the way. Or we can just get a screensaver that looks like a fireplace. Either way, that's one more thing that should have been simple but wasn't that's finally taken care of.

Emily's new hobby

Emily has taken to walking around the house and collecting everything she can get her hands on, then carrying the items one by one to a place where she arranges them. As you can see, she helps herself to the contents of the plasticware cabinet (which I leave un-childproofed because I love cleaning up lids from all over the house, I mean because I am a good mother and it makes Emily happy) and even the liquor cabinet, which we will shortly be relocating.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

And we're back!

Phew. I can't believe it, but it is officially two weeks now since the big moving day. And thanks to my naive belief that the cable company could respond to a new service request in a semi-timely fashion, this is the first day we've had internet. It feels really good to have a link to the outside world again (especially since we have no TVs either right now) but I also know that I've been able to get a lot more done these past two weeks thanks to not having the distraction of the computer.

So everything went pretty well, except that we had to rethink some plans for the basement due to the fact that NOTHING fit down the steps. We have no outside entry to the basement, so the only way to get down there is through a door that is in a narrow hallway. So between the less-than-optimal entry point and the 90 degree turn the stairway takes on the way down, we couldn't fit the treadmill, ping pong table, tv, couch, or refrigerator down there. Will was able to bring over some buddies and disassemble the treadmill and ping pong table to get them down there, but the refrigerator will have to stay in the garage, and we'll have to get rid of the couch and the TV and get skinnier models instead.

But other than that snag we're enjoying the new house immensely. Will is biking to work every day, I am walking to the grocery store, and we're LOVING curbside recycling and twice weekly garbage pickup. Emily's favorite part is the backyard (specifically the swing set), which is a reasonable size to maintain and not the unmanageable wilderness our old yard used to be.

I am amazed at how much stuff we still have to put away though. There are still boxes filling the garage, which we pick away at a couple at a time. But most distressing is the fact that we STILL have some stuff at the old house that we're working on getting over here. I am tempted to just get rid of everything that is still over there (if we've lived without it for 2 weeks we can't REALLY need it, right?) but much of it is paperwork we need to sort through and keep, clothes that are not my current size but that I HOPE to fit into again sometime in the future, and seasonal things that I will eventually want. One or two more couple-hour stints at the old house should see it cleared of our stuff, but it's so difficult to do with a toddler. Emily freaks every time we go back to the old house, and I feel like it'll probably be easier for her to think of our new place as home if we don't take her with us to the old house. It's also been difficult to unpack here because at first we came to the harsh realization that none of our baby gates from the old house fit our wider doorways here, and now that we have that taken care of it's much more difficult to go up and down the stairs with big boxes, not to mention the fury that being left behind inspires in Emily when we try to go out to the garage to grab a box or take something downstairs.

But I am confident that by Halloween we will at least have all of our possessions cleared out of the old house and be 70% of the way to being unpacked here. At least now we've gotten enough stuff taken care of that I can fall asleep at night without spending an hour or two laying in bed making panicky lists of everything that I have left to do.

And in other exciting news, congratulations to Will's cousin Ceci on getting engaged last Wednesday, and to Will's sister Margaret for getting engaged last Saturday! I can't believe that Will's/my college roommate Brad is going to be our brother in law! At any rate, we'll have no shortage of weddings to attend next year!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Almost there...

Ok, definitely regretting scheduling closing the day we leave for Chicago. As is my usual method for getting ready, I am blogging instead of actually doing anything useful. I still need to pack up Emily's clothes and food for her 4-day stay at Grammys. This is complicated by the fact that one of Emily's favorite passtimes is putting clothes into and pulling them out of laundry baskets, especially if I have placed them there in order to collect them neatly in once place before packing them up. Also, every time she sees me trying to cook ahead a little bit and assemble dinners for her she wants to eat them NOW. I am also trying to schedule people to come over and fix our siding and our hot tub, pack things up (starting to get panicky, moving day is next Wednesday, which leaves me about 3 days to finish packing) and getting all the last-minute documents to our mortgage company, which is being frustratingly slow about everything. Locating and faxing documents is relatively easy so I have been doing pretty well keeping on top of that, but new requests keep popping up and I don't appreciate things being left until the final 24 hours when I've been trying my hardest to keep things organized and get them done early. Here we are, the day before closing, and they're still requesting that I send them things. Didn't they know they'd need my 2005 tax return several weeks ago? Why are they just telling me this now? And I'm pretty sure if they need my 2005 they'll want my 2006 also so why haven't they asked for THAT yet? I'm glad it is more difficult to get a mortgage now because, let's face it, they kind of ruined the economy by making it too easy, but I'm not enjoying the results. Especially not all the "What was this deposit back in May for?" questions. I feel like I'm being audited, and while I don't have anything to hide, it still feels like a 3-week nonstop invasion of privacy. Thank God for having organized and responsive accountants and a scanner at home. Otherwise I'd be going even crazier.

I am lapsing into the same mode I used to get into during college when I was having an especially difficult week, or when finals week was approaching; the one where I tell myself "It'll all be over soon, one way or another, and in a little over a week I'll have managed somehow". That mode usually only serves to calm me down enough to enjoy procrastinating a bit more. Instead of reading the entire Harry Potter series to calm my nerves like I used to do instead of studying in college, I'll be heading to Chicago instead of just getting this whole house emptied and us moved out of it.

But the bright note is that by 10:45 tomorrow we should have the keys to our new house, and by the time we get back from Chicago the hot tub should be fixed. That leaves only the packing to do. Oh yeah, and the unpacking. But I have time to do all of that, and as long as we can get the new house baby-proofed and the boxes away from Emily so she won't keep injuring herself at every step, I'll be happy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Raising the bar

I could never do chinups as a child. Every term we'd have to do that danged president's physical fitness test, and I'd have to walk up in front of the class and demonstrate my weakness once again. And the evil gym teachers didn't just let you say "I can't do a chinup", or even just hang there listlessly. No, they forced you to "try", so you had to wriggle around like a worm on a hook while the class sat indian-style and giggled. I was always inevitably followed by a guy who could do about 40. It's ok though, I always blew the guys away at sit and reach. That's equally impressive, right?

I still can't do chinups, although I am pretty sure I did one once. It was on a bar that was part of a fitness trail at a hotel in St. Thomas and it was too low to the ground to do chinups without bending your knees so there is some question as to whether or not it actually counted (Will being the one questioning) but I'm 98% sure I did a chinup.

And these days, the chinup bar is not the only bar I can't seem to get up to. A couple weeks ago, the bar was set at "Keep your child alive, keep a clean house, and manage to get SOMETHING made for dinner every night". I'm pretty good at the keeping my child alive part, but I can never keep my house clean (probably because there's a living child occupying it) and dinner is usually a pretty frantic affair.

This week, the bar is set at "Keep your child alive, keep a clean house, manage to get SOMETHING made for dinner every night, and make some sort of progress packing every day". Strangely enough, the floor is clean, the dishes are done, and I've already made dinner for tonight. Emily is alive last time I checked, but I can't seem to make myself pack. If this were last week, I'd be pretty impressed with myself. I'd be close enough to the bar for it to count. But since it's this week, and I NEED to pack desperately, I am not impressed with myself. Instead, I am overwhelmed and panicked so I'm doing anything BUT packing.

I seem to be able to always do about 80%, even when that 80% is the same as what would've passed for 100% last week. As long as I'm not getting EVERYTHING done, the nasty little voices in my head are happy because they have something to pick at me about. So maybe it's not just procrastination. Maybe it's low self esteem too!

Either way, I'd better go do something useful or else risk falling below 80% efficiency.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Goal

When it comes to food, my husband has the willpower of a....something that has an incredible amount of willpower. Once he decided to eat well, he simply wasn't interested in any bad-for-you foods anymore. He happily crunches through piles of raw vegetables, downs fat free plain yogurt without so much as a flinch, and chugs gallons of water every day. He boldly marches into lunch meetings where people are scarfing down cookies and candy and sandwiches with creamy salads and fixes himself a plate consisting of a couple slices of lunchmeat with some lettuce and tomato, or else brings his own food and cheerfully declines any offers of heart-clogging deliciousness.

Then there's me. If the thought of cheesecake, or ice cream, or doughnuts, or pretty much anything I'm not SUPPOSED to eat crosses my mind, it haunts me. I obsess about it until I break down and have it. In the worst times, I try to eat other things to satisfy my cravings first, and then end up eating the thing I'm craving after all. I've tried keeping a list of things I am craving so that after a week of eating virtuously I can reward myself with something from the list, but then an angry little voice inside my head screams "Eat it all right now and just restart tomorrow". The solution, for me, is to just cut out sugar, cut back on the volume of food I eat, and pretty much stick to the straight and narrow for 2-3 miserable days until it becomes much easier and I can continue eating that way for an extended period of time.

Will is a wonderful, supportive guy, who has learned over the years to tread carefully when discussing food with me. He wants to help so much, but it's difficult for a person who doesn't have food issues to understand what motivates someone who does, and it's VERY difficult for me to tell someone else how they can help me when I don't know how to help myself. It has to be very confusing for him to come home one night to a wife who eagerly hops over and says "Guess how many points I have left for the day!?", and then the next night to a trash can full of cookie wrappers and a wife who is sugar-crashing and over-reacts to any food-related comment with a warning flash of the eyes. He has learned to veil any comments about food or dieting, but I can usually tell what he means (mostly because it's in the forefront of my mind because of my guilty conscience).

So this morning, when he casually said "So you reached your goal of getting back to what you weighed right after you delivered Emily, what is your next goal going to be?" I knew that he had been looking at the weight chart I hung in the bathroom where I log my weight every day. What it shows right now is that I did indeed hit that weight goal last week, but I have been steadily gaining since then, and the last day or so I haven't even been able to bring myself to look at my weight so the slots on the chart remain blank. So what he really meant was "I KNOW you want to lose weight and it looks like you're starting to lose control, how do I help?".

Of course, as I always do, I felt a pang of guilt and answered by reciting my ultimate goal of getting back to what I weighed before Emily was born. We had a little conversation, and I was determined to eat well today (as I have been every day this week) and right about lunch time, as soon as the thought of a cookie crossed my mind, I ate one. And not just a little no-harm-done cookie, but a whole 300-some calorie monster (although it WAS 100% whole wheat and has no processed sugars). Emily saw me and recognized the wrapper, and asked for a bite. I gave her a bite, and then realized my goal. I am NOT going to eat any food that I would not want to share with Emily, at a time I would not want Emily to have said food. She is old enough now to realize what I am doing, and I need to stop.

So I can eat those cookies, but only at night after dinner when I wouldn't mind her having cookies. I will give up diet soda, because when she sees me drinking it she wants some. I will eat only things that are 100% whole wheat, and I will only eat things that are good for me. The exceptions will be tea with caffeine, coffee/espresso, and the occasional glass of wine. I won't feed those things to Emily, but I think they're still ok for me to have :-) It's not just about me anymore, I need to set an example for my daughter so she doesn't grow up with the same screwed up food issues that I have.

So three cheers for Will, who did his job and got me re-motivated without offending me. THAT my friends, is incredibly hard to do.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Please forward all correspondence to....

....our new house!

I just found out this morning (as I was standing at the vet with Emily strapped to my chest and 2 wet dogs peeing on the floor as they got their Lyme disease shots) that the sellers accepted our offer without changes! So as long as our land deal goes to settlement on September 15th as scheduled, and as long as nothing horrible turns up at the home inspection next week, and as long as a million other things fall into place, we just bought ourselves a house!

We've already had some major drama happening, but that's what keeps life interesting, right? Let me start at the beginning.

5 years ago, when Will and I were bright-eyed newlyweds, we went to the realtor who had sold my parents' house years before (let's call her Crazy Old Realtor), and told her we were looking for some land to sit on for a couple years and then build a house on. Long story short, we were NOT happy with how we were treated by Crazy Old Realtor, but she was the only person we had had experience with before.

Fast forward 5 years, and our priorities have changed. Rather than wait until we could build our perfect house on the perfect land, we were more interested in finally owning our own house; the place where we would end up raising our already begun family. So I contacted a family friend who recently became a realtor (hereafter referred to as Family Friend Realtor) just to get some info. Well, in hindsight you can see, right there was my mistake. You should never mix friends and business, and things only became more difficult when I found out that he works for the agency owned by Crazy Old realtor :-( We decided to give Family Friend Realtor a chance anyway, more out of guilt than anything else. We were working with him, not the agency anyway right?

I can't really complain. He has been less than perfect about some things, but our land is all but sold right now, so I can't say he didn't do his job. However we knew we wanted to go with someone else when we went to build our new house at Linton. Someone who had been through the new construction process before and who was an exclusive buyers agent so we wouldn't get pushed to the back burner in favor of people listing their homes, holding open houses etc.

We have been blissfully happy with our new buyers agent (New Buyers Agent), and we planned to tell Family Friend Realtor that we would not be requiring his services in finding a new home once our land had closed and the topic was broached. It seemed unnecessarily antagonistic to just come out and say "Oh by the way, we have another agent. I know you didn't ask or anything, but we wanted to go ahead and hurt your feelings so there it is."

Everything was fine, that is until yesterday when New Buyers Agent needed a copy of the contract on the land we're selling. I thought I had a copy of it...I SHOULD have had a copy of it, but like so many other things at Crazy Old Realtor's agency, it seemed to have slipped through the cracks. I tried to get it, but Family Friend Realtor was out of the office all day and most of the next morning. I thought there'd be a copy of it in the office...there SHOULD have been a copy of it in the office, but, well, you get the picture. Their secretary treated me as a burden, and it ended up that New Buyers Agent had to call Family Friend Realtor for some info and that's how he found out about the existence of New Buyers Agent.

So he's being less than helpful, and I also got a hurt and angry email from him yesterday (i.e. day from hell) which I had to take a valuable 30 min. to sit down and answer. Thank God his commission depends on our land deal going through, so even though he's angry our best interests are aligned and we have someone to watch out for us on the other side. Closing will be fun though. You never expect real estate transactions to be easy, but somehow I still always manage to be surprised how not-easy they turn out to be.

But all that aside, we are quite pleased with how things have gone. Nothing like happening upon a house that's the best you've seen and has desperate sellers to boot. Now I just have to get my mom used to the idea that her granddaughter will now be living 26 minutes away instead of 19. You'd think we were moving to Iceland.

And rest assured in the midst of all this strife and as much as I complain, Will and I are still very excited and happy that next month we will be moving to Reykjavik...oops, I mean Frederick.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Be it ever so humble...

With an official date and time scheduled for the closing on our land, Will and I still keep our fingers crossed, but we're cautiously optimistic. We're at least a step further towards selling it than we were last time. It also allows us to make a more desirable offer on a house, as we are now "contingent on closing" vs. "contingent on sale". Come September 15th, with any luck it'll all be taken care of!

We originally thought after closing we'd run straight to Linton and get started designing and building our new house, but it's become a more difficult decision than we had anticipated (doesn't it always). We've been working with our buyer's agent, and while we wait for closing we've been checking out other houses in the area. For the most part, the other neighborhoods were built in the early 90's, and many of the houses show it! I walked into a surprising number of houses that had grey, mauve and aqua brushstroke wallpaper, white tile everywhere, pink countertops, and pickled-looking maple cabinets. Blech. The 90's were not a good decade in terms of home decor. No wonder it's the decade that gave birth to the grunge era...the teenagers were sick of living in their parents stark white and tacky houses.

But I digress. Many of the houses were nice, but we would've had to've gotten different flooring, countertops, cabinets, paint etc. before I could've stood living there.

Then we happened upon THE HOUSE. The one that gave me THE FEELING. You know, the one where you utter a wide-eyed "Wow" and start to feel giddy? It was built in '93, but the owners have updated the countertops, appliances, light fixtures, paint colors, pretty much everything so that it feels very contemporary. It has a very nice backyard surrounded by leyland cypress so it feels very private. It is on a corner, so it has a larger than usual side yard, and no neighbors looking in your window on one side. There's a huge beautiful screened-in porch off the breakfast area, a fully finished basement, a really nice master bathroom, a traditional floorplan with enough interesting angles to modernize it a bit, the people even had an upstairs rubber ducky bathroom so I wouldn't have to paint to use all of my rubber ducky themed bathroom items :-)

It has its problems too, of course. No exit from the basement whatsoever, so the super-convenient dog containment system we enjoy now (i.e. putting them in the basement with a doggie door to the outside) is not an option. There's not much storage space to speak of since the basement is finished, but the closets and such are bigger so that may not end up being a problem. The laundry room/mudroom is tiny, although we can probably do a stackable washer and dryer to make that a little better. And it's certainly not as glitzy as a brand new home in a brand new community, but it's also not as expensive.

So now we're in the extremely difficult phase of deciding what will bother us and what won't. If we build at Linton, will it really bother me in the future to have 1/10 acre vs. the 1/4 acre we'd get with the other house? What about the construction noise for the next 5 years as they finish building the community? Will they actually end up building the community pool before my kids are too old to enjoy it? If we buy the other house, will it be a huge pain in the butt to handle the dogs without a basement exit, or will we end up figuring out something that works just as well? Will I drive by Linton and sigh, regretting the fact that we didn't opt for the bigger, newer, fancier house?

There are pluses and minuses to both. Both are perfectly acceptable options. What it really comes down to is this: is the extra glitz worth the extra cost? My gut says no.

So we'll probably end up putting in an offer on THE HOUSE. Their real estate agent is a blabbermouth, and has basically told us they're desperate to sell, since they have already closed on their new house and will shortly be paying 2 mortgages. He also told us the previous contract (which fell through because the buyers couldn't sell their house) was for $20,000 less than asking price, so I think we could get a great deal on THE HOUSE.

This means we could be putting in an offer quite soon, and closing on a house by mid-September! I'm still in shock over that, since I've always thought we'd build so I'd have 6 months or so to prepare. The prospect of being finished in a month with all this real estate mess is compelling though, because it really does take over your life.

It's definitely time. We've been married 5 years, we have a family now, I want to own my own house and be in the place we plan to raise our kids. THE HOUSE seems as close to perfect as we're going to find, and although it has surprised me how difficult the decision has been (you always seem to prefer what you've seen most recently), I think it's the right one for us. Besides, if we decide we made a huge mistake, property values will most likely go up in the next couple of years and we could always sell and build a house in Linton then.

So here we go! On to the next great adventure of home ownership.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Maine-ly terrible

I'll just be honest, and say that our trip to Maine was not the best.  This was mostly because Emily was sick pretty much the whole time.  Not sick enough that we really realized she was sick, but sick enough that she was miserable, and therefore so were we. 

She had a runny nose when we set out, which we thought was due to teething issues since she was also irritable and drool-y.  On the first day of driving, she threw up all over herself in the car, and we had to pull over on the side of I-84 and scrape the barf off her and her carseat.  We chalked it up to carsickness, as she had done the same thing after eating in the car on the trip back from Ocean City.  We turned her carseat around in the hopes that riding facing forward would bother her tummy less (something I wasn't happy about but I saw it as the only option).  Our plan to drive until midnight the first day and then just carry her into the hotel while she remained dead asleep didn't pan out, as she woke up refreshed from her 4 hours of sleep in the car and ready to party.  Ugh, that night was tough.

The next couple days she was really clingy and her nose continued it's interminable flow, but Tylenol seemed to help so we again figured she was just teething.  Then on Wednesday she got a fever and threw up 3 times, once while we were in a bakery, once right after I had gotten her home, changed, bathed, and was giving her a little food again as a test, and once again in that damned carseat.  If you need to know how to take every single piece (including the straps and buckles) of a Britax carseat off, wash it, and put it back on, I have extensive experience.

So the barfing and fever made us finally realize that all the irritability, clingyness, unwillingness to EVER sit quietly and entertain herself etc. was because she was genuinely sick.  Of course we felt terrible :-(  And not just from the horrible lack of sleep.  Since we had to sleep in a squeaky bed in the same room as Emily (who herself is a very loud sleeper), no one got much rest.  Every time one of us rolled over, it would cause Emily to stir and it's difficult to fall back asleep when you're tensely listening to see if your baby is going to wake up.  You start to feel like you really need to roll over, go to the bathroom, do all sorts of loud things.  Emily also likes to shout in her sleep occasionally, I don't think I need to explain why that is disruptive to a good night's sleep.  Come 6:10AM every morning, Emily was awake and crying, except for Wednesday when she decided luxuriating in bed until the hour of 6 was pure decadence, and decided 5:30 was a much more reasonable time to get up.  Trying to wrangle a baby in a house full of sleeping people sucks, since even a happy baby is pretty loud, so I spent my mornings stumbling around Bar Harbor in the morning mist, wasting time until everyone else in the house woke up.  I admit that I did kind of enjoy walking around before it got busy during the day, and Emily and I had some fun throwing pennies in various town fountains, however there wasn't much else to do, as most places didn't open until 8 or later.  I did find some nice coffee shops, but I certainly couldn't find any healthy food at that hour to keep me going on my 1.5-2.5 hour daily trudge so my diet did suffer.  This also made me a bit sick of walking around Bar Harbor, so I didn't do it as much later when the stores were open.  I wish I'd gotten to do a bit more real shopping and less early morning window shopping, but I wish a lot of things about the trip.

Waking up at an ungodly-early hour ensured that we would be freakin' exhausted unless we went to bed at 9:30 when Emily turned in, so that meant we missed out on watching the Olympics with my family, staying up playing board games and drinking wine, going out to the bars etc.  Many of the things that make a vacation with the family fun.  Emily also flat-out refused to wear a helmet, and Will flat-out refused to allow her to ride in a baby seat or a trailer without one, so the bikes we paid to rent all week were used a grand total of twice by us, and the rest of the week my sisters and their boyfriends had fun riding them around.

Emily did allow us 2 nice days, one where we went hiking all day and had tea and popovers at Jordon Pond, and the following day when she hung out with Grammy and Grampy while Will and I dangled off a rock cliff hundreds of feet in the air.  We accidentally hiked a trail rated "Strenuous", much to Will's delight and my terror.  The only way I made it up was because I had heard that there was an alternative way down.  Yikes.  It was an experience though, and a fun day without the kiddo who had made the rest of the week so stressful.  That night I sneaked out, leaving Emily with Will and my sister's boyfriend Christian and went to see Mama Mia at this awesome theater where you can order gourmet pizza and wine (along with other more traditional movie fare) and eat it while watching the movie.  I realized I like quite a few of ABBA's songs, and I really liked the movie, especially the part where I got to drink wine while watching it.

I am glad we went, but I will certainly never be doing anything like this again anytime soon.  I'll stick to places that are closer by and more kid-friendly.  And I know it seems I am blaming Emily for everything, but I truly do feel sorry for her and I know it wasn't her fault.  

I spent a lot of the vacation feeling a little depressed about the responsibilities of parenthood.  It was hard not to, when I was experiencing the hardest part of being a parent of a young child (dealing with a sick kid) while in the other room my sisters and their boyfriends snoozed until 10 then got up to go shopping/biking/out for lunch.  I will admit I felt some jealousy, but then I realized that Will and I had those times too, and very recently (although it doesn't feel that way).  The evil side of me realized that on future vacations I will have fairly self-sufficient pre-teens when my sisters are struggling to eek out 8 hours of sleep and endlessly wiping runny noses and changing barfy clothing.  And as dorky as it sounds, a song from Mama Mia really hit me at the right time.   The song "Slipping Through my Fingers", which is about how kids grow up fast no matter how hard we try to remember each moment, set me bawling and reminded me that even though I was exhausted from holding and entertaining and shushing a sick Emily pretty much every waking minute of my vacation, there will come a time when I can't hold her anymore and she just retreats to her room and doesn't want me to comfort her when she's sick.

So from then on I tried to just enjoy being with her, and kept crying every time I thought of that song :-P  It's mostly because I was hormonal, but I certainly wasn't the only one crying, even though Krista claims that no tears escaped the confines of her eyes, and Kathleen blames her tears on an accidental elbow to the eye from her boyfriend Dylan which necessitated an eye rub with a hand that turned out to have jalapeno residue on it.

So we're back, we survived, and pictures will be up here in a day or so when I get around to uploading them.