Monday, November 29, 2010

Nearly Done

I have to say that there is one fantastic thing about having a really short Christmas list this year (besides the ease on the pocket)--I'm nearly done with it. I'm one of those annoying people who wants so much to have just the right gift to give. Of course, I also want to find the bargain of the century.

I absolutely detest the Black Friday stampedes (not to mention that I am NOT and never will be a morning person). So, I buy a little of this, a little of that, and just stash it away throughout the year (with recipients in mind, of course). Being the slightly scattered person that I am, I have been known to forget that I have bought certain things. Or perhaps forget where I put them. Um, yeah...I do that sometimes, too. In fact, while I was clearing up a big closet in the attic, I found a whole collection of Christmas gifts I bought a couple of years ago. As you might imagine, that find put me ahead of the shopping curve for the year...and is not at all an indication that I am really a scatterbrained pack rat.

Nope. Not me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On Patience

It seems that our lives have become a rerun. The house has been on the market for about six weeks, and the traffic has dropped off to less than a trickle. In the first three weeks, we had six showings and an open house with 10 visits. Pretty fantastic given the time of year and the location of the house. And then...nothing. But we were encouraged by the initial flurry of visitors. Then, the house that we really want was relisted with a lower price. The price that we were going to offer in the first place if we had been given an offer on our house. So, we decided to take the gamble and throw out a contingent offer on the place at full price. They accepted with the modification that they would still be allowed to market their place. Fair enough (so to speak). So, now we wait. And wait. And wait some more.*

To give our place another kick in the shorts, our agent held another open house. Eight visits on this one, with one person so excited by the house that she made a second appointment immediately to return with her husband. Who...of course...isn't as thrilled with the house (she still loves it, BTW).

The overwhelming feedback is that we do not have a master bath (no, we don't), the people want larger bedrooms (ours are neither huge nor small), and they did not like the street (something you could check before the showing, no?). Most people have one of the three as their negative, except for one couple who wanted to have all of the above. In our price range. Laughable, unless you want to have a lot of work to do on making the house livable. Ours is move-in condition.

Part of me is really happy that we have done so much work that the only things that won't work for people are the things we cannot change. The other part of me wants to know where the 2010 version of us is hiding and when we might actually take a walk through the house and fall in love with it. Essentially, our only issue with the house was the street, and we decided that we loved it enough that the street was not a deal-breaker. Still isn't. It's the commute that is killing us slowly. So, if someone said that they really didn't like the commute, I would commend them for figuring it out from the get-go. Instead, I ponder whether placing my daughter's plastic potty in the bedroom counts as en suite facilities.

Speaking of which, the other life happening that forces me to channel much patience is Boudica's refusal to go on the potty. At home. She will happily go "pee pee potty" at school, and doesn't wear a diaper all day while she's in that building. But if I bring her home sans diaper, I get rivers of pee on my floor. No, to be more exact, on my BRAND NEW CARPETING. {sigh}

Today we may have crossed a threshold because she asked to pick out a toy at the store and told me that she can't have it until she goes on the potty at home. Ok, kid. Let's see how much you want Polly Pocket as your playmate.

*For those about to suggest that we bury a St. Joseph to sell the house, I've already done so. He's been hanging around for the last two weeks, and in that time we have actually transitioned into no showings whatsoever.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Whirlwinds R Us

Big news first--Mr. Moo came home from the hospital three days post surgery and hasn't skipped a beat (HA--*beat*) since. In fact, it took all of my energy to keep him from hurting himself as he did have a sternum that had been wired shut and all. But we are past the point in healing where he has any restrictions, and he is proud as punch to show anyone who happens to ask about the surgery his "line."

And thank you to all who sent prayers and good wishes through the whole process, it really meant the world to me.

Now the grand event du jour is that we are actually following through on those big expensive plans that I was musing about a while back. If all goes well, we will have our house on the market by the end of next week. Holy scary (and exciting) as hell Batman. The main tipping point of the whole decision was really the horrific commute that we would be able to cut down tremendously with a relocation. From 2.5 hours RT to more like 30 mins. Yeah. It's really that different. So, I will get 20% of the commuting time for the low low price of only 200% of what our current house is worth. But what's another zero between friends?

I will try to be better about posting so that I can share the whole saga as it unfolds. But for now, I have a big box of toys to sort. And tomorrow I get to ponder yet again what kind of crazy person put all of this crap in our house.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tubes and Glue

I am happy to report that Mr. Moo's surgery this morning went very well and he is recovering nicely. Not that I will relax until he's, like, 18 or something, but I should be able to sleep tonight even though my bed is only two feet from him (read: the alarms have stopped, finally). I have been warned of a 3am x-ray (although the nurse also said that if I didn't want to get up she could just "throw some lead on me"). And at 6am they are probably going to start removing some of the many tubes going in and out of his little body (he quite resembles Mowgli from the Jungle Book, except with lots of connections...).

And I was surprised to find that his incision is not covered at all because it was closed with surgical adhesive. For those who love a little trivia, that was an early use for super glue, except in a more military medic kind of way. There are stitches underneath (and some wire holding the ribs together), but the surface is really not that gory at all. Good deal.

I should probably get some sleep as it will be a LONG day tomorrow if he is actually awake and talking. Mind you, I won't argue about one little word that comes out of that precious mouth, but by the end of the day, he will have asked 100+ questions about every single device to which he is connected, talked the ear off of every hospital staff member that stops by, and probably tried to reprogram some of the equipment when we turn our backs for a moment.

It's ok, though, because he's here and he's healthy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Heart of the Matter

I've got a lot on my mind these days, but without question the biggest thing is Mr. Moo's upcoming surgery. Sorry to just drop it on you like that, but I really couldn't come up with a clever way to introduce the topic because, well, I'm a bit of a stressed out mamma at the moment.

This coming Friday, my little pumpkin goes under the knife to correct a ventral septal defect (VSD) that he has had since birth. As far as heart defects go, it's a relatively minor one. The hole is quite small, and Mr. Moo is a healthy little kid. The problem that we've run into is that the turbulence caused by the hole (so much turbulence, in fact, that one need not even touch the stethoscope to his chest to hear the murmur) is causing the heart to enlarge. Left alone, it will lead to numerous vascular, heart, and lung issues later in life, and by then it will be too late to repair anything.

So, enter scalpel, rib spreaders, and the whole open-heart parade.


Even last week, I was dealing pretty well with everything, but now that we're in the last few days before the procedure, I'm a bit of a raw nerve. Add to that the reality of a cousin in hospice (in his 60's, but still...) and a friend whose husband died unexpectedly last week, and I've become a bit of a hawt mess. I hear a song...I tear up. I read Facebook...I tear up. I refill my coffee cup...I tear up. I am not at all the weepy type, so add to the mix my brain trying to deal with All. Of. These. Emotions. So. Much. To. Process. (Read that last part in the voice of William Shatner for full effect.)

One saving factor is that my employer is being completely understanding and has only chided me for trying to figure out how soon I can be back to normal workload. "Don't you even think about work until your little guy is better," I have been told. How refreshing and welcome. I think if I were at ye olde place I would have gone postal by this point.

So, asking for prayers, good thoughts, and any other positives to get us all through this rough patch. Thanks all!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Blog Tour: You're Not the Boss of Me

I was so excited to be chosen as part of the Mom Central blog tour* of You’re Not the Boss of Me: Brat-Proofing Your 4- to 12-Year-Old Child because I feel that no matter how hard I have been trying to avoid it, we are heading down that path in our home. Sure, my oldest just turned five and his younger sister is only two, so I’m really at the beginning of the range Betsy Brown Braun talks about in the book. But my philosophy on these things is nip it in the bud.

You’re Not the Boss of Me provides a comprehensive look at some of the major issues in child rearing that, when approached in the right way, can help to tame the brat in every child. Braun discusses the ubiquitous issue of communication in its own chapter as well as throughout the book in examples of what a parent can say in certain situations to make things better (as well as how our words can make things worse). These scripted examples are quite helpful even if the exact words don’t work for your situation. Having a place from which to start a conversation, and seeing that the author really does understand our parental frustrations kept me turning the pages, anxious to see what other dilemmas she may have addressed.

One matter that has been particularly frustrating for me is being sure that my son hears and understands me when I am speaking to him. He is an energetic child, and I was often finding myself becoming exasperated by his constant motion as I would try to speak with him. Thinking that it was a good solution, I would sometimes call him over, sit or kneel down to be at his level, and gently hold his cheeks to have him face me while I spoke in a normal tone. I would often find myself losing patience as he struggled to get away from me, eyes darting in every direction but mine (for those wondering, he has no difficulty maintaining eye contact while relaying a story or in other conversations, so I’m not concerned about an autism spectrum issue—this behavior is very specific to when he knows I need to “talk turkey” with him). Braun disagrees with my method, noting that by making my son stop and focus on me, his energy is either channeled into getting away or on the fact that I am making him look at me, so the words I am saying are lost anyway. She reminds the parent that a child can hear you either way and shows other methods of ensuring that what you said is comprehended (like simply asking, “what did I say?” or even, “what does that mean?”). When children are older, eye contact can be a sign of respect or confidence, so it’s a good thing to teach, but demanding it in the course of talking to a younger child isn’t absolutely necessary. I have made this one change and it really did make a difference in communicating with my son.

The thing I liked most about the book was that information is presented in bite-sized pieces. And it really needs to be because Braun presents a LOT of information. She even tells the reader to implement ideas one at a time, slowly, to be sure that they are not overwhelming. The examples are very real and numerous, giving plenty of chances for each parent to find some steps to implement. Will every example apply to every family? Of course not. But even if you only find half of her tips to be useful, it will have been well worth the read.

As I read, I was delighted to find examples of things I was already doing well, areas with which I have been struggling (with examples I will be trying to see if I can tackle some of my frustrations), and even areas in which I flat out disagreed with the author. Why would I find that delightful? Well, it made me stop, think about why I disagreed, and still feel confident in my stand. In my opinion, any chance you have to stop and rethink an important part of life (like raising kids) is a good thing. I will give an example: In a section addressing children’s table manners, Braun states that she does not believe that young children should be taken to restaurants and goes further to state that family friendly restaurants that promote poor table behavior should be banned. I have to respectfully disagree. I gather from the way she describes the family-friendly restaurant that she is talking about the place with the big rat and games galore. Frankly, I don’t think of that as a restaurant. I think of it as a recreation place that happens to serve food (although I admit that I haven’t been there since the 1980’s). To me, a family friendly restaurant (with tables and food but no games) teaches kids how to behave in public while eating without being too restrictive. In fact, I am more likely to excuse my kids from the table early at home because I know they can run around in another room. I won’t do the same at our local diner because they will get into nothing but trouble. And I do agree with her on the note that I would never take my young kids to a fancy restaurant. They are not at all ready for that level of dining. But, overall, it’s a topic on which Braun’s response intrigued me and for which I would actually like to chat with her to see if one of us can sway the other or if we agree to disagree. Perhaps someday.

One last thing I’d like to mention about the You're Not the Boss of Me is that I really loved the two lists Braun included in the appendix: "Fifty-two Cures for AFFLUENZA: One for Every Week of the Year" and "100 Ways to Say 'Good Job!'" Both provide a host of informational “micro-bites” to digest as we run in 10 directions at once.

I often make sure that review copies of books get into other people’s hands once I have finished, but I guarantee that You’re Not the Boss of Me will stay on my shelves for many years to come—in fact, probably as long as the Precocious Duo lives under my roof.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of HarperCollins and received a copy of You’re Not the Boss of Me to facilitate my review. Mom Central also sent me a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Movin' on Up

So, after a surprisingly short discussion, we have decided that relocating to the other neighborhood appears to be a really good idea. One of the biggest factors is the dramatic reduction in our commute. Less driving = less stress + more time with the kids + more time for life. I will admit that I often find myself having to stop for a moment to work up the fortitude to stomach the commute every day when I pick up the kids at school. Knowing that I would have a 5-10 minute drive (or 15-20 min walk) will do wonders for my evening mood. And, of course, the other important factor is the kids. The new area would be a good one for them, too, in a whole host of ways. True, we love our current home and have finally gotten to know our neighbors, but the lure of walkability (and sidewalks!) is strong.

Of course, all of this means getting our current home ready for market, and I don't think the list of little things ever looks as long as when you know that they must be done and there is a real urgency involved. Given the list and our usual amount of free time, I don't see us being anywhere near ready until at least fall (not ideal, but reality trumps convenience). I think we'll see how it goes.

The other factor in the mix right now is that it appears that Mr. Moo will have to go through fairly major surgery this summer, and I don't see any way that we'll be able to get anything done while he recovers (not complaining, just stating fact).

So, I am at one time enthused about the search, overwhelmed by the selling, and misty about the surgery. That's a whole lot of emotions for the one who usually prides herself on being fairly stoic.

Not sure whether to giggle, hide, or cry.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Expensive musings

(Yes, I've been blog silent, busy busy, yadda yadda, enough of that...)

Lately I have been pondering some really expensive ideas. Like moving to a different neighborhood ideas. And I can't seem to shake it. But then it's completely illogical because we really love our house, we have really nice neighbors, and we live about five miles from my parents. All good. But then I see the many goods of the other place and my mind, she goes a wandrin'.

Here are some of the great things about the other neighborhood:

1) My commute to the kids school would be five minutes tops (versus the current 30-45) and is easily walkable.
2) My commute to work would be 10-20 minutes (versus the current 30-45)
3) We could walk to the museum (a favorite outing)
4) We could walk to see a handful of friends and have a short drive to see others
5) The kids could attend a school that includes the same extras that they get at their current out-of-the-way-from-this-house preschool offers. No such program in current school district.
6) We would spend a lot more of our time walking (healthy)
7) We would drive a lot less (I know that it's obvious from #6, but they are both worth listing as both are important)
8) We would be a lot closer and, in many cases within walking distance, of many things that we enjoy doing and usually either follow through with grudgingly while trying to commute and find parking or just skip because we're not in the mood for the hassle
9) We would be very close to two big parks each of which has multiple playgrounds

The not-so-great things about the other neighborhood:

1) There are a lot more people in a smaller space
2) We would have a much smaller yard (less mowing is a positive, though)
3) We would either have a much smaller house or pay more than twice what we did for our current house to get a similar size
4) The added expense would mean a new 30-year mortgage, and we are on schedule to pay off our current house in December 2015, which is a HUGE factor (no lovely). Of course, the current home equity is what would allow us to make the stretch, too, so it has a good side.
5) The houses are a lot closer, and we do like the distances out here
6) The local income tax is a lot higher in that neighborhood
7) We would be farther from my parents, although not more than 10 miles, so still reasonable

We can't really make a decision of this type for another year because of the uncertainty of working in biotech (Mr. D, not me), so it's not that we're packing our bags, but I think the pondering of the change might be enough motivation to start culling our many buckets o' crap. If nothing else, it will give us a lot more reason to enjoy our current place.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Snowblown Away

So, February goes on the books as the snowiest month in Pittsburgh history, and I have to say...I'm done. I am normally a polar bear at heart. Bring on the cold and snow, and then give me a mug of hot chocolate and a book by which to enjoy it (polar bears don't ski, you know). But feeling as if I am trapped in my own home by the relentless inches that keep piling up all around me? Not so much. And you would think that being trapped inside would give me plenty of time for blogging. Again, not so much. When your two preschoolers have cabin fever and the only thing that will take it away is MORE COW BELL finding the most dangerous, fragile, and permanently messy items in the house and claiming them as their own, you don't have the luxury of sitting in front of a computer to share the horror.

But, being the lemonade types (on occasion), we decided to roll with it, literally, and ventured outside to make a snowman. Here is the beginning of that effort:You will notice that there is no "after" picture because the snowman was abandoned midstream and the dog took care of the rest. That canine is the biggest fan of killing snowballs that I have ever met. Just to get a face full of snow, she will run in front of our shoveling efforts and normally ends up with a split lip.

In any case, by the time the snowman was abandoned and devoured, we noticed the neighbors sledding in their backyard by starting at the top of the hillside stairs. Normally not the best plan, but with two feet of snow, anything is possible. Even the digging of habitrails through the backyards. It was the only way to get from point A to point B, but I still expected to see giant hamsters peeking up from behind the snowy walls when I glanced outside.

Maybe next year.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I got to feed the crafy beast this morning *and* do work for my new job at the same time. Score! One of my fellow staff members will be running a knitting and crocheting class for some of our residents, and because we are a nonprofit, we reached out the the community for donations of yarns and needles.

I got an almost immediate response to my request from the lovely Jenn B. who offered a dozen skeins of yarn to the cause. And then she passed it along to some knitty friends who also came through. So, this morning I had to--twist my arm--make a stop at a really neat local yarn store, Natural Stitches. I had the pleasure of finally meeting Jenn B., meeting the extremely helpful and friendly staff at the store (with special thanks to Yvonne for making a donation of her own as well as collecting from others), and scored a lot of yarn and hooks for the ladies at the shelter and residential program. Plus, I had to get a bit of yarn for my own stash (yes, it was a necessity...shut up). And I found a sock-making class that I must attend in February. Really. Somehow in my head I'm not really a knitter until I make a pair of socks. And a project with that many needles requires more than a book with pretty pictures (for me, at least).

So, a fabulous morning overall. Many thanks again to Jenn B. for her yarn and for graciously tolerating the antics of the small one. And if any of you are ever in need of great yarn in a comfy environment with cool people, head over to Natural Stitches in the east end. I know I will be back!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Whirlwinds of change

I'm not sure if anyone is even stopping by here any more, especially given my extreme blog silence, but seeing as I don't want to give up the blog (and would like very much to start posting here more), I am adding "blogging" to the list of things I will pay more attention to in 2010.

My 2010 list is already a pretty interesting collection. To ring in the new year, I got myself a new job. I wasn't losing the old one, but I had definitely lost interest. Yes, I am grateful to be in a position to have the luxury to look for a new job out of want not out of need. There are far to many people in the "need" category these days. And with the job change comes a change in our perspectives on life, to a degree. As many of you know, I had been working in academia for years. Now, I am working in nonprofit, and the salaries are like apples and oranges. You can't compare them, really, because it's two different worlds. And, the new job gives me everything I wanted from a new job--flexible hours, a sense of making a difference in the world, doing something I really enjoy, working with a great group of people, promoting a cause that I believe in--but it can't stand up in the salary area. We are certainly not struggling--I would never take a move like that with two kids to consider. But we will have to be more careful. And I will be anxiously anticipating the removal of financial burdens--18 months till Mr. Moo starts attending public school, 2 years till the cars are paid off, and six years till we can burn our mortgage papers (that's one for which I will proably throw a party...seriously). But without question, I have made the right move for me. My stress levels have dropped dramatically and my outlook has improved immensely.

I have lots more to say about the job, but I'll save that as post fodder.

And I have more to say about 2010, but I'm in the middle of installing flooring in our basement. I've only been waiting to do something with that space for two years (and have had the flooring that long, so it's not a budget hit at all) and today's a work holiday, so off to the underground I go!