Saturday, March 27, 2010

1100 Square foot Palace

Our house is looking gorgeous. It is such a departure from the stinky, blue-carpeted mess that I saw when I first met Ryan. All the floors are finished. Even in the bathroom. The furniture is beautiful. The trim is..well, almost all painted. I am so lucky that Ryan has dedicated himself to these projects as I have. He's actually done a hell of a lot more work on them.

Some of you living in cramped quarters in a big city like New York might say, 1100 square feet! That is the Taj Mahal compared to my 500 sqft one room hovel! Yeah yeah, I don't live in NYC. I live in a small country town, and squeezing us four people into this space is a challenge. Now that we have our w/d connection in the kitchen, we finally have a third bedroom. And once Ryan removes the old washer/dryer, we'll have a storage closet. Yes, we've lived with only two closets in this house.

All that said, I'm tired of living in a work-in-progress. I'm ready to live in a place that makes me happy. Where I can spend a day in the yard making it beautiful only because I want to. Not because I want the house to look sellable.

Anyway, the mac'n'cheese is almost ready, so I'd better get lunch ready for Katie Bel. She's gonna love it. Like usual.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

One Social Q at a Time

Every Friday, I look forward to reading the Social Q's column in the New York Times. It's found in the Style section, and the columnist answers readers' questions about etiquette. It's hilarious. But it's also scary how often it is published.

You'd think it's a whole week. Seven complete days and nights. All those hours and minutes, and yet, I feel like I blink my eyes, and it's Friday again. I spend my work days wishing away the time, praying for Friday to come. Monday morning is a chore for me, and I resent having to get up and go to work. Sure, I like work because it gives me some purpose other than being a wife and mother. Am I doing what I really should be doing, though, if I dread going to sleep on Sunday night? Winslow is going to be six months old very soon, and it feels more like six minutes. Time is passing me by while I have little to show for it. Much of that time I've spent away from my children, allowing them to spend too much time at daycare (which we call "school" to help assuage guilt). These days, it's a common reality for many of us. With depressed and stagnant wages, it is very difficult for a parent to stay home with the kids without making outrageous sacrifices. I don't mean cutting the restaurant budget from $400 to $200 a month. I mean cutting out all retirement savings. Forgoing all social activities. Sacrificing nutrition for the sake of saving a few bucks. I can't do that. It's tight enough with both of us working. For now, it'll have to stay the way it is.

As for figuring out what to do that is meaningful, i'm not there yet. I am praying to have no regrets when I look back on this time of my life.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Calgary Challenge

This past trip was a tough one. On our return home, our flight got canceled out of Minneapolis. We spend hours and hours at the airport trying to get to Atlanta, and our total travel time was about 32 hours. Exhausting. My travel companion was delightful, but I hope to never go through that again. Calgary was gorgeous, however. We'll see if I return any time soon.

The trip was tough in other ways, too. Coming home to my dear Katie Bel broke my heart. She has been so clingy. I am praying that my next trip is not soon. I'm not sure I can keep this up, especially since I don't have any hopes for more financial incentive anytime soon. Is this worth it?

On another note, Ryan is at the house right now finishing the floor work with his dad. The family is staying with his parents, and they are saints. Literally. We won't be back home for at least a few days while the wood cures and the fumes dissipate. I'm ready for the house to be finished. On Monday, I'm probably taking a day to paint the girls' room.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Housework Blitz

The house is a complete wreck! We are in the middle of some major projects...having the washer/dryer connections installed in the kitchen, refinishing the floors in the bedrooms, finishing the front porch work. The house is finally going to be the most livable it can be once the work is complete. The only problem? We have a storage unit now. I hate that.


I think storage units are for people with hoarding issues. Of course, there are exceptions. Needing to keep work files for a few years before destroying them...requiring space because of a temporary living situation...staging your home for sale. But right now, we are doing none of the above. Yes, we'd love to sell our house. Is it the right time yet? Doesn't seem so. Where would we go? Our mortgage payment is only about 15% of our takehome pay, and honestly, we can't afford to make it any higher.

So my plan for the storage unit is to see if I miss anything I've stored there. If we live without it for a couple of months, it's going to be sold or sent to charity. I will not allow my possessions to own me.

At the same time, we are in the market for some new furniture. Katie Bel is growing out of her crib, and she needs a big girl bed. Sure, I could buy something from Pottery Barn or The Company Store--there are some cute pieces there--but they're not made to last and tend to be made of pressed wood. I want something that my Katie Bel can have when she's grown. I found a matching pair of 3/4 sized beds built from solid Mahogany. Stunning. They are gorgeous and would cost about the same as a new pair, except that we'd have to get custom mattresses. Plus, where would we put the other bed? We haven't decided yet. The furniture is at the consignment shop and will be discounted 20% after March 16. Every penny counts. I'm headed out antiquing this morning to see if I find anything else.

I can't wait for the floors and the porch to be finished. Just in time for spring.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Today I had my Mirena removed. I got it a couple of months ago, skeptical that it would be okay for me since in the past, hormones have done a number on my libido and my moods. I was having pretty bad headaches and dizzy spells, so out it went. Ryan and I are going to have to just be careful for awhile because we're not quite ready to have another child. But soon, I'm sure we will be.

I had to pick Winslow up from the daycare. I'm not feeling so hot myself, so I guess we'll be grouchy and ill together. She got her shots today and really needs some sleep.

The house is a wreck, and it's going to stay that way. I'm not interested in doing one little thing today. Except nap...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Granola crumbs and moving boxes

We are getting our house ready to sell. I'm not sure if we'll wait to put it on the market or go ahead and do it, but we're working on finishing those lingering projects. De-clutter. Re-finish floors. Paint that pesky trim. It's all happening. Well, maybe not yet.

Actually, I just made Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars. They're supposed to have blueberries in them. I felt like chocolate instead. I can't wait to dig in. I didn't put in the whole bag of chocolate chips, so I think they'll provide a mood lift without setting the family up for a terrible sugar crash once we're finished scarfing some down.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups uncooked old fashioned oats
1/2 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 13x9 pan with oil, or line it with foil or parchment paper and do the same.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt until well mixed.
3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed, beat together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter until fluffy. Beat in the oil, eggs, and vanilla. With a wooden spoon, mix in the flour mixture until blended. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.
4. Use a rubber spatula to spread the batter evenly in the pan.
5. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 min. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Lift by the foil from the pan and cut into 24 bar cookies.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

We got it

Or we will on Thursday. We have a loaner right now while our van gets new tires and detailed. But we now own a Honda Odyssey. I'm pleased with our deal. No cash out of savings!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Do we truly outgrow things...or are we just used to space?

The sales manager at the Honda place called us today. He said he was looking at the fact we didn't do the deal yesterday and wanted to know what it would take for us to buy the van. So I told him that we had been lured in by the W-2 deal, and he said he'd give it to us. So we're going in to the dealership tomorrow for more negotiation. If it doesn't work out, I'm through with that place. For good! If it does go through, I'm going to be ecstatic and sad at the same time. I really do love my Accord. Had it going on 3 years and it's been good to me. But I will truly enjoy having space in my car to haul stuff.

Now I'm thinking about our house. It is too small for us. I should re-think that. It's not too small, it's just not right. We have a grand piano in the living room. It takes up half the room. Our third bedroom has the laundry connections, pretty much making it anything but a bedroom since it doesn't have a real closet now. There is space for a stackable in the kitchen, so I think that's what we should do. Put a stackable washer/dryer in the kitchen and convert the bedroom back into a bedroom. That way, we can have a guest space and when we decide to have another baby, we'll have space for him or her, too. The other issue, though, is that we have one teeny tiny bathroom. It is truly problematic. So this house is not for a large family, but it'll do for now. Any cheap ideas on how to make this place more livable?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

We'll go on another day...

Without a newer car. Today's shopping trip was not pleasant. First, we went to the dealership up the street to look at a large SUV. It was in relatively rough shape despite its low mileage. They would've really done well trading it with my car, which is in great condition. So we headed back to the Honda dealership for another look at the Odyssey. We were working on the paperwork when we discovered that the deal that would allow us to purchase it without any money coming out of our pocket was some kind of scam to draw us in. They claimed the deal did not apply to the vehicle we were buying, so we had to walk away. With those layoffs on the horizon, it would be super foolish to buy something that required a loan.

I am upset about things. It's ok that we didn't get a car today. But the fact that I feel bamboozled is just not what I need in this current state of flux. I need some good news. I need some good news soon.

Will I still have a soul tomorrow?

I ask because we are getting a bigger vehicle. My Accord, which seems fine for a small family, just doesn't work that well for us now that we have two huge car seats in the back. When I go out of town, I have to borrow a truck or something from a family member so that everything fits.

Unfortunately, that means we have to get a minivan or an SUV. Wagons are so small these days that it's almost impossible to find one that could feasibly carry 3 adults and 2 car seats, or for when we have another child, 3 car seats. Those things are monstrous! We tried out an Odyssey yesterday. It's very nice...but this one smelled like smoke. Stinky, stinky. My mom thinks we can get the smell out, and it's probably one of the reasons it hasn't sold yet. Despite my inside churning over it, I think that it's the best choice for us. It's comfortable, relatively green for its size, and versatile. I feel, though, that my soul is being torn apart. Sure, in the long run, who cares? It's a machine that is useful to me, not necessarily a reflection of my character (although some cars truly do reflect the sleezeball nature of certain people). I'm a practical woman with a desire to have several children. It just isn't practical to need two cars to transport family around when I can get one dull car that works fine. Maybe I could have flames painted down the side. Yes, that's the ticket!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Day with Family

It's gray again today. But a nice breakfast at my parents' house was cheerful enough. Katie Bel loves going to their house. They have great toys and lots of room for playing. Her cousin Alexa was also there, and even though she never speaks to adults, she seems to enjoy playing with Katie.

Right now, I'm planning for my first trip since returning to work. i'll be Huntsville for a few days, staying in a hotel room meant for a family. I'll catch up on sleep and eat a few good meals I'm sure. Be in bed by 8. It'll be great to have some time to myself, but I'm going to miss the girls and Ryan a lot. The few minutes I get with Winslow every day are precious, so it will be hard being away from that.

This afternoon, we're going to Ryan's parents' for an early supper. Katie Bel, who is supposed to be sleeping right now, is actually singing at the top of her lungs. She has been for going on an hour now. It's usually about now that she'll fall asleep for awhile, though we have no idea whether it will happen or not. Silly kid. I would love to have time for a nap, and yet she would rather avoid naps completely.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Making Muffins

Today is chilly and gray. The wind is brisk, and my bones are cold. Beyond that, my husband and I are facing much uncertainty. Our company is in the midst of a workforce reduction. My understanding is that our leadership is confident that a large number of people will actually leave the company between now and the end of the year, but they're not sure what groups are going to lose headcount through termination. I heard over the web that several people are already gone (only a couple of days after the announcement) from one of our local offices. For the time being, though, we have no clue whether one of us, or both, will be let go. The only thing we are certain of is that we won't be getting raises or promotions anytime soon. That's a real shame for Ryan because he's due for one. Maybe even past due.

At this very moment, there are twelve oatmeal brown sugar muffins in the oven. They smell delicious, and I can't wait to dig in. We've been experimenting with snacks that Katie Bel likes without giving in to the dreaded Goldfish. Muffins are a hit as is cheese. Unfortunately for Katie, cheese ain't so nice to her stomach. Neither is the yummy organic yogurt I bought for her. So for now, we're focusing on other wholesome foods. Sure, a muffin is sweet, but if I make it myself, I feel better about it. And whatever I can do to feel better about what's going on...whether at work, at home, in the world...I think it's worth pursuing.

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Muffins
1 c. oatmeal
1 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
a few dashes of cinnamon
2 eggs
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix oats, flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. Whisk eggs and brown sugar until smooth. Add milk, butter, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Fold in with a spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into greased muffin cups. Bake 15 minutes @ 400. Makes 1 dozen muffins.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The search for "nack"

We are in a snack rut. Katie starts asking for "nack" the second she gets up in the morning. And she wants junk. We don't have cookies or anything like that in the house, but we do have goldfish. While I was pregnant, it was a great "if it makes her happy" tool. Now I know we cannot continue on like this.

I really need some ideas. It appears that Katie Bel has entered her picky period because she isn't as open to new things as she used to be. She surprises me sometimes, asking for mushrooms or something else on my plate. We offer her everything we eat.

So this week, we're committed to no pre-packaged junk food. I will buy at least one convenience food, if only for portability's sake, but I'll shoot for no corn syrup at least...wish us luck!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A New Week

Today I managed to buy organic yogurt, two kinds of meat, lots of vegetables, and some other groceries for less than $70. That's for the whole week. We've got two vegetarian dishes planned this week, and I'm excited about one of them in particular. It's street food that's often served in Jerusalem. I'll have to report back on how yummy it is, but I'm expecting it to be.

Ryan has lost 10lb in the past 72 hours because of his illness. Since the rest of us have not gotten sick, it appears he got some kind of food poisoning or bacterial infection. He's at the Acute Care down the street in hopes of some relief.

The house is a wreck. And Elmo has taken over our lives, hence the photo above. Elmo pj's, Elmo videos, Elmo juice...All Elmo all the time.

I have got to do laundry. How's that for a coherent, cohesive post??

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A possible solution

Last night Ryan and I had a little conference about the future. I think we might have come up with a solution, but I have to sit tight for awhile.

In the meantime, we're looking for a cheap beater car. We can't be a one-car family. It just won't work.

It's a beautiful day. Freezing, but beautiful

Friday, January 8, 2010

Longest Week On Record

This was a terrible week in so many ways. I enjoyed returning to work, if only for the interaction with so many people. But that was the only bright spot. I got to be away from my little infant for 9.5 hours a day. I haven't seen her smile since Sunday, in part because I get about 5 minutes of play time in the morning and even less in the evening. She has to get her sleep, and I won't interrupt that.

Ryan has been very ill with some kind of gastrointestinal bug or food poisoning. I've never seen someone so sick. I hope I don't get it, but more importantly, I hope the baby and Katie Bel stay well. Katie Bel stayed with Ryan's parents last night, and although i'm grateful for the help, I missed her a lot. It's hard to be depressed around such a delightful toddler!

Every day at around 4:30pm, I consider putting in my notice since I can't leave for the day that early. I know, it sounds ridiculous.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Breastfeeding Blues

The title of this entry is a little misleading because honestly, feeding this kiddo has been easy. She started nursing within 30 minutes of birth and never stopped. The problem is that she seems to be reacting to what I'm eating.

With my first, I had more clear-cut clues, like bloody diapers, full-body rash, excessive reflux, for instance. The first thing I stopped eating was milk, and that worked like a charm. Katie has just recently appeared to grow out of her allergy, although if she has dairy at all three meals, I notice she acts out more, possibly from feeling bad. Maybe that's me being overly cautious. But I do see a difference.

Winslow, however, does not have all the same problems. Every now and then she has a bad night where she chokes and fusses instead of sleeping like an angel like usual. It appears that nuts could be a culprit. Or caffeine. I do not consume caffeine regularly--no tea or coffee--so it would have to be through chocolate. I eat it every now and then, but I can't find an obvious connection between chocolate consumption and Winslow's misery.

Tomorrow, she starts daycare and I'll be supplementing with formula. I'll pump as much as I can, but with my job requiring travel, it's darn near impossible to exclusively breast feed. Anyway, I stressed out with Katie when I couldn't pump enough--this was at 9 months post-partum. I could nurse, but not pump. I feel no need to stress out. If I keep nursing when I can, that'll be enough.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

This year, I resolve to floss every day.

More importantly, I resolve to be nicer. I am a meanie. Several friends have had babies recently and the second I read that the child is a good sleeper and is on a schedule within 24 hours of birth, I scoff. Babies are notoriously good sleepers in the hospital. Especially early babies. My own Winslow didn't open her eyes for over a week. When she woke up, she wanted to stay awake for the action. Anyway, I have this urge to bring parents back to reality and remind them that most babies are not angels. Some are predictable, but that doesn't make 'em easy. And that is mean of me to do this.

I think it stems from the fact that Katie Bel was a pretty high needs baby. She cried for months and wouldn't let me sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. She also had terrible reflux and would projectile vomit. Everyone around me had an idea of what I should do or what was wrong. Not one of them was right. Many blamed me for her moods. I was over-feeding her, I was starving her, I wasn't putting her on a schedule, i was over-scheduling her, she needed to be held more, held less, needed a paci, whatever...I finally had to tell everyone to stop it. I knew best.

And now i'm one of "them". I know best for everyone else.

So I resolve to be nicer. And really, I resolve to worry about myself more. Sure, I'm well read and pretty darn down to earth about things. But I'll wait until someone asks...unless they really *are* doing it wrong (hehe).