Thursday, December 10, 2009

Milk is the Enemy

Jumping right back into things here...

In late October, my little NatterPrincess was not feeling good. The usual doses of asthma- and allergy-related medications were not controlling her coughing and wheezing, so we made an appointment with an asthma-allergy-pediatric specialist. On the 30th, Nat went in for the dreaded skin-prick allergy test. They tested her for 24 common allergens, and she was allergic to no less than 18 of them. There were some non-surprises like cats, dogs, dust mites, and grass. There also some big surprises, namely milk, wheat, and egg whites. There were also some “Huhs?!” (hamsters – why do they test for that?) and some “Good to knows,” (goose down, shellfish.) Mercifully, she is not allergic to soy, pine trees, peanuts, or tree nuts, so she can eat something and go outside in Texas. Also, she has been exposed to everything on the list at least once, so we know there are no anaphylactic reactions.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

The whole thing left me very confused and conflicted. Natalie has eaten milk, cheese, and yogurt not only every day of her life, but quite possibly at every meal of her life for five years now. How serious can an allergy be if she has been exposed that much without us knowing? According to the test, her reactions were on the high end of the scale. She has never had eczema, chronic ear infections, or tummy troubles. On the other hand, I breastfed Natalie exclusively for the first year of her life, and I consume very little milk. Hindsight being 20/20, the introduction of cheese and yogurt probably DID coincide with her oxygen-tent-hospitalization episode around 10-months old, and she has had asthma-related issues off and on since then.

So do I feel guilty that I have been poisoning my kid into a life of chronic wheeziness? Or do I get angry that her pediatrician took this long to recommend allergy testing? We heard “Give her more Xopenex!” from the doc so many times that it became a household joke. Undeniably, the chest and sinus x-rays ordered by the allergist showed “very significant” inflammation and infection, most likely caused by all these allergies.

Natalie is now on a strict milk-free, shellfish-free diet supplemented with daily allergy medication. We cut back on wheat at a reasonable level (no wheat crackers, lower-wheat bread, etc.,) but we have not eliminated wheat completely. The allergist said there was no need to get rid of our cat as long as we keep her out of Natalie’s room – which kind of blows my mind. Then again, she can put her face in the cat’s fur and pet and snuggle her with no itchy nose or watery eyes. Apparently I don’t really understand allergies. I’m still looking for good literature on the subject that is not focused on how milk and wheat elimination cures autism. We have just completed 40 days on antibiotics, and the follow-up sinus x-rays show significant improvement. Natalie hasn’t needed a tissue in weeks, except for the day she played in the snow (yes, snow – more on that later.)

While I am overwhelmed with the task of handling a 5-year old who can’t eat any of her favorite foods, I am thankful that we have found a way to make our baby girl feel better that is simple and non-invasive. I’m just hoping that the path forward becomes a little clearer, because right now I feel like I am flying kind of blind.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day 56309 or Something Like That



Brief summary of the continuing saga of our house and the flood of aught nine:

1- The house is done, but we still need to repair the garage door opener that was blown up in the power surge and get some blinds on the new window that has replaced our former fake back door.

2- About two weeks ago, the FEMA people denied our supplemental claim. They said that, although we had to tear out our lower cabinets, the walls behind them, and the backsplash, the fact that our countertops did not come out in one piece that could be re-installed was “within our control” and therefore not reimbursable. They also denied our claim for our oven, which was just plain flooded out, simply because it was filed with the counter tops. Our adjuster advised us to protest the decision and re-file the oven separately, so my husband is doing that. I am just DONE with this part of the process.

3- Our MUD board did a big study on the drainage in our neighborhood. Despite the fact that they have pictures of flooding at my house showing water nearly three feet over the top of curb (which they actually put elevations on based on their own survey,) they contend that that their study – which shows that the water would only get about 1.5 feet above the curb in such a storm- is correct and complete. They have said that they think any money spent on helping our area drain properly is a waste. At the same time, they say they are going to the county to ask for money and we should not go to the county on our own because it will reduce their chances of success. They also won’t give us a timeline for their appeal to the county. I might dedicate a whole post to these shady, shady people in the future, but right now I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about them. On my own, I have spoken to someone at FEMA who wants to help, but based on the existing study we don’t qualify for help. And I can’t actually apply for such help as an individual –the MUD or county has to apply for the help.






Yet there are some sunny spots, and they are these:




Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Backyard Buggy



You were just a buggy-wuggy, buggy wuggy, buggy guy...




Now you are so beautiful, you turned into a butterfly!


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pork Chops like Grandma Used to Make

I really have nothing to say. Work is work. The kids are in one of those rare, fleeting periods of semi-static behavior. The house is finally done. That should have been a post in itself, really. My camera is missing, so that line of posting is also on hiatus.

In lieu of something deep, here is something that might be more interesting to some you: My grandmother's pork chop method. I call it a method rather than a recipe because the process is more important than the ingredients. I have modified it to make it a little less guilt-inducing, but I'll give it to you both ways here.

Ingredients:
Pork Chops - Grandma liked the bone-in kind because she liked to chew on the bones. I like the thicker boneless type.
Flour - about a cup
oil - Grandma probably used some kind of fat she saved from cooking some other meat. I use olive. Canola gives you a little extra breathing room with the temperature because it has a higher steam point.
Seasoning - whatever you like. Grandma used salt and pepper. I add garlic powder.

Technique:

Put the flour into a large plastic bag. Add the seasonings. For me, it's a couple pinches of salt, 3 or four shakes of pepper, and 5 or 6 shakes of garlic powder.

Place chops in the bag, one at a time, and shake to coat evenly with powder.

INVISIBUL SHAKE N BAKE-  I HELPED!
moar funny pictures

Next, coat the bottom of a frying pan with about a quarter inch of oil and heat to medium-high heat. Place chops into pan and increase heat to about 85% of the maximum heat.

Cook chops on this high heat for 4-5 minutes, then flip and repeat on the other side. This will result in a crispy coating that makes the chops what they are. Once this is done, you have a choice to make - your taste buds or your arteries. Grandma would turn the heat down to very low and continue to fry the pork chops in the oil for about an hour, covered, flipping them every ten minutes or so. I prefer to take them out of the oil at this point and bake them in the oven for 45 minutes at 350. Either way, you get a juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside result. If you go with the long term frying, don't use olive oil because it will burn. You probably need to be a little more generous with the oil at the beginning, too.

My husband likes these served over rice with cream of mushroom soup. I prefer something a little fancier, but I have to admit that his way is tasty.

I realize this is a really basic recipe, but it is one of those traditional things that I hope my own kids enjoy cooking some day, and it is one meal my family is always glad to see on the menu.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday with a Few Words



I didn't get this posted back in May when Natalie had her recital, but I really should have.




Friday, July 24, 2009

A Whole Lotta Nuthin Goin On

We are in exactly the same place we were a week ago.  Fortunately, it's not a bad place...but it's not a "done" place either.  Now we are back in the normal routine of life, the familiar.  We are doing all the things we did in the "before," but they are different somehow.  We're like the three little bears coming home to find our stuff not quite how we left it.  Stupid Goldilocks - you're wearing me out.

Still, things are always changing anyway, and I think the new normal will become just the normal before we even realize what we have done.  One thing hasn't changed.  My kids still seem to consider sleep (or at least my sleep) overrated.



Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 72 - The End is Near

I have been purposely, superstitiously, ridiculously refusing to blog since I got some excellent news on June 30. I have been terrified that if I wrote about it here, it would be somehow cursed and wouldn’t happen. Now it has happened- it is done- and I feel like I can finally come up for air.

On June 21st, we called in our request for the dreaded final inspection. After the allotted five business days, I still had not been contacted by the inspector, so I followed the written procedure for such an occurrence, which is to call the inspection company directly and write horrible run-on sentences about it. They told me that my second inspection had been cancelled due to “duplicate request.” They said it exactly like that – as in, “No, we don’t have any record of who did the cancelling or why other than that it was duplicate request.” It sounded like “duplicate request” was some kind of virus that must be eradicated from their system. Of course, the only way to fix this problem was to have Chase re-initiate the process and go through all the mandatory waiting stuff again. I reluctantly called Chase and explained the problem. Of course, they did not understand what I was telling them.

“Ma’am, the request for an inspection is still active in our system. You don’t need to request it again.”

“I just talked to the inspection company. They have cancelled it.”

“That’s not how it works, ma’am. We have to cancel it.”

“Yes, but they did. They said you had to re-initiate the request.”

“Ma’am, the request for an inspection is still active in our system. There is no reason to start a new one. You already had one inspection, you know.”

“Yes, yes I do know. Thank you so much. May I please speak to your supervisor?”

I went through the supervisor and her manager before I finally got someone who was not intent on locking me into the ninth circle of loss draft hell. This wonderful, helpful, angel of a woman put me on hold and called the inspection company. It turned out that they DID cancel my inspection and Chase DID need to start the process with all the waiting periods again. It turned out that I am not actually a masochistic moron and I do comprehend the English fairly well. I asked her if there was any way she could expedite the process, and she said she couldn’t but then looked into my file. She noted that my 50% inspection report had come back 85% complete, and decided that she could request that Chase waive the final inspection and just send me the rest of my money right away. Wonder of Wonders, really – and she did just that. She called me back that evening to tell me that the request had been approved and they would be sending my checks via overnight mail after July 6.

Of course, it couldn’t be that easy. The next day I got a voice mail informing me that my “request for deviation” had been declined, and I needed to request a 90% inspection to get my final draw. When I called back, I spoke to person after person trying to find out what had changed. After a solid 40 minutes on the phone, someone finally figured out that there was an error in their system or something and everything was fine. I was actually going to get my money without the final inspection.

The next day I got a voice mail informing me that someone had erroneously called me to tell me that my deviation had been declined when it had, in fact, been approved. Hey, Right Hand! It’s me, Lefty! Perhaps this process has made me a little edgy.

On July 7, I received the second third of our money as promised. On July13th, I had not heard anything about the final check and decided to call and make sure we were all still moving along. They confirmed that the check had been processed on July 10th and would be sent via overnight mail…in 2-3 business days. On July 14th, I missed the FedEx guy. Ironically, although this is the smallest of the three checks, this one will require a signature. I think the FedEx guy is secretly a Chase call center employee, though, because he checked every single box on the “we missed you” form and then wrote that the next delivery attempt would be the day prior to the day he was there. Yesterday, I obsessively watched the tracking online and waited in the house all day for the delivery. At 2:45 p.m., the Chase Loss Draft Nightmare of 2009 was officially over.

Now, if they could just finish with the house…more on that later.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 51- So close, yet so far away

We have floors! They are putting in a nice, wood-look ceramic tile all over our house. This was a major concession on my part because I loved my hardwood floors. Loved. I did not, however, love seeing them in a dumpster, and I don't think my heart could take it one more time. Ceramic makes sense for our lifestlye and for our repeat flood risk. I'll get some pictures up once they are complete.

Now, my house looks mostly like a real house instead of a construction site. Pay no attention to the dumpster in the driveway. This is both comforting and frustrating because it looks so nice, but it is really just a shell. There are still no appliances (except the fridge in the playroom), no functioning sinks, and no connections for the satellite dish and phone downstairs. It looks pretty, but it is still not usable. I have a promise from the contractor to have our appliances in on Friday, but I am not scheduling my life on that promise.

On the finance front, we did recieve the first "draw" on our insurance check from Chase. The bank put a 10 business day hold on the deposit, and the first $4000 that comes free will go to the demo dudes who have been waiting on their payment for about 50 days now. Although we completed the required "50%" inspection on Saturday, I have no hope of seeing the second check for at least 2 weeks, and the final draw will not even get started until we have a final inspection of repairs. After an inspection, the inspector has 10 business days to file his report, and then Chase has some allotted time to process the report and send the promised funds. Also, while the first draw is supposedly sent immediately upon reciept of the check (try 12 days later), the second and third draws are dependant upon successful submission of all the crazy paperwork.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chase What Matters (after allowing 2-3 business days for processing)

Friday, June 5: Received check from insurance company and called Chase to find out how to get their signature. The process includes many, many forms that have to be faxed to me to fill out. Faxing forms takes, apparently, 3-5 business days.

Monday, June 8: Received forms and 12 pages of instructions via fax. Read and followed all instructions to complete forms. Made several phone calls to Chase for clarification on how to fill out forms.

Wednesday, June 10: Mailed forms, signed and notarized, along with check via overnight certified mail.

Thursday, June 11: Called to confirm receipt and acceptance of forms and to request mandatory 50% Completion Inspection. I was informed that Chase has 2 business days to contact the inspector. Then he has 3 business days to contact me to schedule the inspection. My forms were not in the system, but they allowed me to go ahead and order the inspection.

Friday, June 12: Called Chase again to confirm receipt of paperwork. The unhelpful person on the phone informed me that I needed to write the specific words “self-contracting” in a blank on each of two forms instead of the very similar phrase that I wrote. NOTE: This is not in the instructions. The only way to make this change is to correct and re-fax the forms, allowing 2 business days for them to be processed.

Tuesday, June 16: Called Chase again to confirm receipt of corrected paperwork. The unhelpful person on the phone said that I need to write a “brief description of what happened to my home” in the blank for “…the undersigned hereby agrees to release and/or waive any and all claims of lien of labor and materials described as_,” rather than a description of labor and materials. I immediately request a supervisor. She is very sorry, but the forms must be correct. Today, I will correct the form and fax it once again, allowing 2 business days for processing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 44 - Cabinets, Crises, and Cash Flow

Things are moving along ever so slowly at our place these days. The moldy wood floor has been removed. The base, chair rail, and wainscot have been replaced and primed. The frames for our kitchen cabinets have been built. We are at a stall until the cabinet doors are complete, but then we will have a flurry of painting and staining. Once all of that is done, I will have my kitchen back and life will be much more like normal.
We hit a roadblock shortly after my last post when our house was taken over by a poltergeist. It was either that or the neutral wire from our house to the transformer failed from water plus time. Lights in part of our house were barely lit while others were too bright to look at directly. Circuits and bulbs blew, and all things electrical quit working. There was this crazy fluxing thing that happened when the refrigerator kicked on. I had to pay some guy with all kinds of meters and gadgetry who spoke to me through an intermediary a ton of money to fix it all. I say all signs indicate poltergeist, personally. The repairs were expensive and probably not covered under our policy, but our electric company and the electricians/ghost busters really came through and got us back to normal as quickly as possible.
We received our payment from the insurance company on Friday. The “contents” part of the check was made out to us, so we opened a new checking account to make the accounting easier and deposited the money there. Then we went on a shopping spree and purchased our new dryer, oven, and dishwasher, as well as a new vacuum cleaner. Everything has been delivered now and will be installed as the cabinets are completed. New everything is a definite silver lining of this process.
The “dwelling” part of the check is more complicated. It is made out to the mortgage company and has to be sent to them for endorsement. They require inspections and all sorts of rigmarole to give us the money back. I googled “Chase Loss Draft Department” in search of forms, and found out that the first twenty websites are all just people complaining about how terrible this process is. I am super excited. After filling out an insane amount of paperwork, including a document (notarized, no kidding) that I will not take a lien out against myself if I don’t pay my construction bill, I mailed the check to them yesterday morning. I’m just going to pretend that this will go well until they prove me wrong, because I really can’t take another battle right now.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 30 - We have walls!

We finally have walls! Friday, the contractors put in insulation. Then they took the holiday weekend off, and so did we. Tuesday was drywall installation day, and yesterday they finished that up with tape and float. Aside from a very hot return home on Tuesday night when they had inexplicably decided to turn off the A/C, everything has been pleasantly non-eventful on the construction front. Our adjuster “finished” our claim documents, and sent them our way, but he forgot to include the kitchen appliances that needed repair and the countertops that had to be torn out to replace the lower cabinets.

In other news, we had a great weekend escape to Galveston Island for Memorial Day weekend. Most of the island has been at least cleaned up, if not quite repaired, in the months since Hurricane Ike blasted through. There are things that are still damaged and things that are different, but the spirit of the people there is good. There are billboards that say things like, “Tough times don’t last, but tough Texans do!” I’m not sure who spent the money to put those up, but it has this feeling like the town is hella determined to pull itself up out of the muck my its bootstraps.

It was great to be in one place for 4 days straight and to cook my own food. These are the things I miss most. I hauled my commercial grade Belgian waffle maker down with us and made waffles for breakfast. We grilled and baked and napped and played Wii games – the little things we have not been able to do at home for several weeks. It was all very restorative. Our friends and family have been cooking for us and hosting us in their homes, and we have wanted for almost nothing through this time. Still, it felt awesome to be able to do some things for ourselves, even if they were “vacation versions” of real life.

It was also oddly cathartic to see the damage that was still hanging around and the evidence of how bad things really were after the storm. I’m not sure why – misery loves company, maybe? The whole weekend just felt like the beginning of a turn back to normal life.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 23

It doesn’t feel like it’s been 3 weeks, but I guess it has. Yesterday, the adjuster said he was actually going to start working on our claim today, so that is great news.
On Tuesday night, our neighbors all gathered at a homeowners’ association meeting. We established that everyone is really mad and agrees that the new retention pond is inadequate, but we aren’t sure what to do beyond letting the proper authorities understand how mad we are. We have gotten drawings of the drainage project from the developer. Basically, it revealed that they replaced the 54” lines that used to drain our subdivision into the creek with slightly smaller lines draining into the retention pond. The thing people are targeting is that the lines out of the pond into the creek are even smaller and have some baffles and grates for debris. Obviously, that means that less water can ultimately get from our neighborhood to the creek in a given time period. I think that’s why they call it a “retention” pond, though – it holds the water for a slow drain into the main arteries. The real issues, in my opinion, are twofold:
1 – The retention pond is ridiculously small for the way it actually rains in Houston. When it rains here, it pours. There is no slow accumulation. We left our house around dinner time the evening before the flood. There was no water standing in our street at that time, but the pond was completely full. Then we got 8 more inches of rain.
2 – Our neighborhood used to drain into the creek via a large, empty field. The field held some water as it slowly drained into the creek. The developers built a little office park on a small part of that field and dug the aforementioned retention pond. Then they used the material removed from the pond to compact and grade the field to drain into the retention pond as well. Now, instead of additional drainage area, the field is effectively a dirt parking lot sharing drainage space with our neighborhood and the office park.
Some people from the MUD district seem to agree, but they are dumping responsibility on the developer and the county (even though the MUD owns 50% of the retention pond.) They asked the county to re-investigate and report to them at their next meeting, which is in June. It is also in the middle of the day on a Thursday, about an hour’s drive from our homes in traffic. I guess they don’t like to have residents present.
On the construction front, we got a new back door installed yesterday. This is kind of cool because the old one had obviously been chewed by a dog some time in its history, and the new one is all pretty. We also got new, highly water resistant material to replace the gypsum board that was removed from between our stud framing and the brick outside. This is really cool because now bugs can’t fly into my house through the open weep holes.
All around, it’s been a good few days on the reconstruction front.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

itteh bitteh kitteh luvs

They didn't really do anything at my house today. We are waiting on replacement doors and a window that had to be ordered. Meanwhile, someone at icanhascheezburger has love for me and is looking out for my mental health.

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Also, I must say that I know some of the most generous and caring people in the world.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Evolution

I've decided to blog this process of rebuilding my house.  There are two reasons for this:

#1 - This is something I want to remember.  When the time comes for us to move out of this place and I become sad and burdened with nostalgia, I want to be able to look back and know what I am escaping. 

#2 - I'm kind of tired of telling the story over and over.  I don't resent anyone for asking - I'm glad you all care - but it has become one of those things that I can't escape. 

 "Is your house back together yet?" 

 "How is the house coming along?"

It's like when someone close to you dies and everyone you meet feels awkward and asks "How are you doing?" and you have the choice of lying and saying "Fine!" or telling them more than they want to hear.  Of course, some people really want to know how you are doing, but when you are broken, playing the social games that sort all that out is downright insufferable.  

I get that no one died.   This is not a tragedy.  But I do find myself worn out by trying to figure out what to say.  It wears me out to see someone who expected to hear "Great!" get a look of shock when I say "Well, they are almost done with the demo.  We have no walls."  It bites at me to inventory the details over and over in my head - to hide my emotion when I get to the parts I don't want to share and they don't want to hear, like throwing away the foosball table that we got for a wedding gift from hubby's best friends.

So here's part 1:

It rained.  It rained on Monday night and almost came in our back door.  We went to bed with the forecasters saying the worst was passed.  Around 4 a.m., the storm woke up my husband.  He went downstairs and was back up in a flash saying "It's getting in."  

The water was coming in the front and back by then.  He worked really hard to save what he could.  I tried to help, but I was really pretty useless this time.  Isaac woke up screaming, and I went to comfort him.  We prayed.  I finally got him back to sleep, but by then, the water was up 6" inside.  We took some pictures, realized that there were electrical strips under the water, and went back to bed.  We had gotten around 10" of rain in 15 hours.

Around 6:00, the water had gone down enough that we could open the doors and start getting it out of our house.  We used brooms and shop vacs and towels to get things as dry as we could. By 10:00 or so, the street was passable and friends came to help us move out furniture and start cleaning what we could.  Almost everything was wet and went to the garage, which was also flooded.  I took the kids to daycare so they could have a more normal day.  The water damage guys (demo dudes) showed up around 3:00 and started opening up walls to dry out the insulation and framing.  Some friends had us over for dinner, but hubby had to stay home with the demo dudes.  They finished around 10:00 p.m.  We went to bed amidst the dull roar of fans, dehumidifiers, and HEPA filters at 10:30., and so ended Day One.



Sunday, May 17, 2009

Even When the Rain Falls


Even when the rain falls,
Even when the flood starts rising,
Even when the storm comes...

I am washed by the water...or so the song goes. I really love that song. It's not really about a literal rain storm or flood, but for me the figurative flood is not so much a metaphor as just a whole lot of water. In my house. From rain.

It made my house (and my couch, my oven, my cabinets, etc.)really dirty, moldy, and gross. It made my kids sick with unending coughs and sneezes. It brought earthworms and mosquitos into my dining room.

There is a dumpster in my driveway, a refrigerator in my office, nothing whatsoever in my kitchen - not even the sink - and (oh yes!) a colony of carpenter bees making a new home in my garage.

The downstairs half of my house is stripped to its foundation - nothing remains but brick and studs. The whole house smells like a mixture of muggy outdoor air and the chemical treatment that is keeping the house's framing from growing mold.

So while washed may not be the exact right word to describe what is happening, I think cleansed definitely applies. It's not just my house. Watching the demolition crews tear out the beautiful new trimming from our walls and dumping precious thing after precious, now moldy thing into the trash has had a way of stripping me down to my foundation, too.


Somehow, I feel like I needed to be laid bare- to be cleansed that deep - to be reminded that my foundation is not my house or my stuff. The core of me is not this depression and anxiety that have been so huge in my life lately. It's not the nice, controlled daily routine that my kids and I have come to follow each day that requires, among other things now missing, a kitchen sink and table.


Take it away. I want to be the part of me that is flexible enough to deal with change. I want the part that is strong enough to move furniture - or mountains. I want the part that isn't tied up in couches and crown moulding our the daily routine. I want the me that is really alive.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Boys, Boys, Boys

My son is different from my daughter in every way imaginable. The two kids have exactly two things in common:

1 - Neither one has any idea what the word "shy" means or what purpose such an attribute might serve.

2 - They both obsess over shoes. I've discussed Natalie's fetishes before. Isaac is almost worse. The first thing he does in the morning is get his shoes and bring them to me, saying "toos! toos!" and trying to hold out a foot. Then he goes and finds a pair that belongs to someone else and tries to put them on, too. Once we ventured down a shoe isle at Wal-Mart, and the little guy was so excited there were tears.

The boy child never stops moving. He climbs on things only to jump off, and he goes down the stairs just to go back up them. He throws things just to make them hit the ground, and he takes things apart just to see the insides out. He loves his kitty ("ki-kee,") but somehow the kitty does not recognize all-out-mounting a show of affection.

The boy child falls asleep in the middle of the floor on his belly. He just keeps running at full speed until he crashes. He enjoys his bath until he realizes you want to wash him. He waves at every car that passes when we walk through a parking lot, but it is rare for him to wave at a person no matter how much that person waves at him.

The boy child does not speak in any language the average observer could understand - he is much too busy figuring out how everything else works to worry about his own body. It takes him exactly one time observing someone "working" something for him to figure out how to do it himself. This goes for making things vanish into the diaper champ, undoing various baby-proofing tools, and disassembling all manner of things that should not be disassembled by a baby.

The boy child gives his mama his best snot-nose kisses and wants nothing to do with daddy at bedtime. He is very careful to make sure mama is hand-fed several goldfish and some cheese each day. He always makes sure mama is wearing her best "toos" and always makes her melt when he points at her face and whispers "pitty" (pretty.)

Yes, I'm glad that this boy child has come into my life, although he has changed it so dramatically.

My daughter is also thankful for the boys in her life these days. Yesterday, walking out of the doctor's office:

Nat: Mama, there is a handsome boy behind us.

Mama: (gaping, speechless mouth)

Nat: Isaac's doctor is a little handsome, too.

Mama: uh-huh. (still kind of gapey)

Nat: Mama, when I am as old as a princess, I'm going to start looking for a husband.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

County of Residence: Save My House; NBC: Save My Chuck

Here's the deal: On Tuesday, there was nothing seven of my neighbors and I could do about the water. We got more than 6 inches inside our house for over an hour. Everything is wet. Thank God we have flood insurance. If you are one who prays, please pray for the majority of my nieghbors who did not have it. My computer was damaged, so there won't be much blogging - but you all are used to that by now anyway, right?

One nice thing about flooding is that I get to have my giant living room t.v. in my upstairs bedroom instead of the 20" t.v. we normally have there. It makes me feel very glamorous. (I don't have much to go on right now, so just give me this, OK?) Yesterday, I watched the season finale of Chuck. I have nothing to say except this: Awesome. I've only been watching the show for about 6 weeks, but I have gone back and watched most of season one on Hulu and will catch up soon. It is already my favorite thing on TV. How is this show in danger of cancellation?

That's it for now.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's Raining, It's Pouring

About that whole "maybe we fixed it" thing?  Not so much.  
It hasn't made it in the house, but it was less than 1/8" away, and we were doing everything we could to divert the water away from the house.  Once the water covers the drain outlet at the street in front, all bets are off for the improved drainage in the back, and we seem to have some trouble with the storm drains in the street.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Storms

I used to love storms.  They are, after all, the best time for a nap.

Once upon a time, the main sewer line going out from my house broke, my house flooded with sewage, and we had to replace the whole downstairs.  We had to change some things in our back yard after that, and the result was that every heavy rain brought water into our back door unless we took an active role in keeping it out.  Then, about 2 years later, this little hurricane named Ike came through and we had to replace everything again.  Now, when it rains, my husband and I enter a state of low-grade panic.  We have visions of water coming in under the walls.  We remember what the bare slab looks like in our living room.  We do not sleep through storms around here anymore.

After getting our home all fixed up after Ike, we started talking about moving.  Then the whole economic meltdown thing happened and we decided that we really needed to wait.  So we are waiting.  And today it is storming.  We have done some re-grading in the back, added a ditch to hold water when the drains are at capacity, and we have learned how to open up a drain from our porch into the sewer lines for emergency added drainage.  We had the city come out and inspect the sewers in the front for blockages.   The rain we are expecting here over the next 24 hours should put all that to the test.  If we make it through and stay dry, maybe I will be able to sleep through storms again.

Here is something I hope I never see again.  The water actually got up to the bottom of the mailbox before it started going down.  


And for cuteness sake, here is an old picture of Isaac helping us get ready for Ike last year:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Enough




Do I love them enough? Do I make every minute count enough? Is it even possible to do that? These are the questions that come to mind when I read about the wind of tragedies sweeping through the parent blogging community these past few days.  When I read about these families, what kills me is how normal their lives were just days - just hours sometimes - before they were turned upside down.  

You know, I get that life it fragile.  I do.  This stuff makes me full of this crazy panic to turn up the intensity - to somehow squeeze more something out of me that would make me able to soak up every minute.  It makes me seethe inside at the memories of the times I have been angry or harsh, and pine over the hours lost when I was just too tired or too empty to be really with them even though we were sharing space.  

What really gets me, what wedges this lump in my throat so solid that I want to spit rather than swallow it down, is knowing that some day in the near future, these feelings will fade and I will be back to life as usual.  I will be back to squandering the moments and bruising the precious times with my own short-sighted nonsense. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter

Easter is my favorite holiday because: 

#1 - I love Spring.  I hate all the pollen and the weather changes, but the all the flowers and the green coming back to the trees brighten my spirits so much that it outweighs the downside.  Spring means that Summer is coming, and soon we will be escaping to the beach every weekend that we can and spending our Friday evenings in the pool.  It means that winter and all the heavy clothes, runny noses, and hiding out from the weather is past.

#2 - Easter embodies everything that is hope and victory.  To a Christian, Easter is the day to celebrate that Jesus conquered death, rose from the grave, and gave humanity the hope of life.   This is the day that the Lord reconciled his people to himself ... the day that reminds me that He has the power to make all things new, on earth and in heaven.  Every day I need that hope, that promise and power.  I love the way things bloom at this time of year - as if nature can no longer contain its glory and is unfolding to reveal the beauty of His creation in honor of His finished work.

#3 - I really dig the candy.  


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Monday, March 30, 2009

In the Middle

There I was, lying on the floor in my office/playroom, resting my head on a stuffed frog. I was wearing my work clothes - skirt and heels - and the baby was making blow farts on the back of my knees while Natalie was busy bouncing on Rody. I was just thinking, “Why on earth am I here?” It’s not so much the existential crisis as just the musing about the chain of events that lead me to this place where I’m half-doing it all and not quite keeping up with anything. I never imagined when I went back to work part time just over a year ago that I would still be doing that today. I always saw it as a temporary situation, expecting that the day would come when I would be forced to choose a side, so to speak, and commit to being either a full-time employee or a full-time SAHM. Now the economy is what it is and the oil industry is at a crawl. My company is more than happy to have a no-benefits part-timer who does as much work as they can throw at me in as little time as I can manage. My husband’s job is secure, but not so secure that I can be as cavalier as I once was about my need to maintain employment.

So here I am, getting the best of both worlds for an extended run. I always knew that you can’t get the best of both without getting the worst along with it, but somehow it has taken me this long to figure out that I can’t be all things to both worlds. I have this crazy double life where the line between the office and the playroom is so blurry that there are matchbox cars behind my keyboard and sometimes my high heels get thrown in with my daughter’s. As I type this, I am on speakerphone for a meeting, listening to the single barely twenty-somethings at my office discuss the merits of feeding goldfish crackers to their pets while they wait for the boss to show up. In the other ear I am listening to the baby snore as he takes his nap on the Shaggy Bag in the corner. One foot is resting on my portable file cabinet and the other has slipped off into the kids’ ball basket, which lives under my computer desk. Any minute now, the meeting will start and I will pray that everyone stays asleep long enough that I can make it through the meeting.

Is this a dream situation? It feels more like one of those weird dreams where you know you need to do something but you can’t figure out what, and you know that the bad guy is coming to get you but you don’t really know who the bad guy is...and you think maybe you could fix it all by just waking the heck up but you really just want to get a few more minutes of sleep before you face the real world again.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Disney Pics

I still haven't found that camera cord, but here are some pics by others.

The elusive Snow White - totally worth it all just for this priceless shot:


Thank you, mister Magic Kingdom Balloon Man, for making this little moment possible:


Aladdin was the only "Prince" available for meet and greet.  These two were really impressive in their roles, and Natalie was so excited that she literally couldn't stop jumping for a full 5 minutes after she got her turn.

Isaac actually really loved the characters.  Here is Mama's family with The Mouse Himself at Animal Kingdom:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Of Mice and Princesses - Part One of a Bunch

We just got back from a wonderful vacation to the happiest place on earth. Hubby and I had been before, but this was our first trip as parents. Although I spent more time walking around with a sleeping baby in the stroller than most anything else, this trip was amazing. The most wonderful thing was that the kids really thought everything was real and amazing. I misplaced the cord that connects my camera to the computer, but rest assured that photos are coming. In the meantime, here are my tips for doing Disney with a preschooler and a baby:
1 – I read a lot of advice before we left, and the most common recommendation was to stay in the park. We stayed outside the park in a time share, saved a bunch of money, and didn’t really see the disadvantages. We could barely make it to the park by 9:00 a.m., and the kids were ready to go by 7 p.m., so the “extra magic hours” would have been lost on us. We found the parking to be convenient, and with Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and MGM, it was only a short (5 min) tram ride from the car to the gate. We did not go home for afternoon naps, but that is just the way of my kids. The older one skipped her nap and the younger one is young enough to nap in the stroller.
2 – Bring your own stroller if you can. The rentals are crazy expensive and no child could sleep in them. They also don’t offer much in the way of sun/rain protection. Tie something colorful to your stroller handle so you can find it in the sea of stroller parking. They move them around constantly to make things more organized, so you can’t count on just remembering the exact spot where you left it.
3 – Bring snacks. Just do it. Every bag inspector looked at our bags of goldfish, cheese, grapes, cheerios, etc., and not one said a thing about them.
4 – The height charts on the website did not line up with the height charts in the park. The park requirements were generally less strict than the website indicated.
5 – Learn to use the FastPass system. Less waiting = Good things
6 – If you have a little girl, autograph books are the big thing now. They make all kinds of books, and all the princesses and other characters can sign the books. Buy a big fatty pen so the characters with giant foam hands can actually use it. We got one with spaces for photos next to the autographs. My daughter loved getting the autographs, and it has become one of my personal favorite souvenirs (and probably the cheapest.)
7 – Make lunch and dinner reservations as far ahead as possible. We made some as we arrived at the parks (Tony’s) and some a couple months ahead (Cinderella’s dream dinner). For any meal that you plan to eat sitting down at a table, you can make a reservation. It wasn’t that crowded when we were there, but the waits for tables without reservations were 45 minutes plus, while our reservations got us in in 5-10 minutes. Also, Tony’s in the Magic Kingdom is the only place where my kids actually ate the food. It is a cute little restaurant made up to look like the spaghetti place in Lady & the Tramp. Best food in the park – Cinderella’s castle (also most expensive, but included a personal meeting with Cinderella documented with 8x10 color glossies.)
8 – Baby Care Stations. Learn about them and whether they are for you. They have little rooms with little kid-sized tables and chairs, public-use microwaves and bottle warming stuff, high chairs, and a t.v. showing Playhouse Disney stuff to keep the older ones occupied while parents feed and diaper the little ones. They also sell diapers and other baby care stuff and are attended by helpful cast members weirdly dressed up like nurse maids or something. These rooms are also billed as breastfeeding spots, but I beg to differ. If being in an approved location is what you need to feel good about nursing at Disney, then this is for you. If you need to not be touching the person next to you, to have an armrest, or to not be stared at by the kids or daddies who are standing around waiting for the mommies to finish whatever else they are doing, then you are better off finding a secluded park bench and hiding behind your family and stroller. Seriously- the “breastfeeding” area consisted of a row of wooden, armless chairs lined up along the back wall. Women were using it, but not comfortably.
9 – First Aid Stations. Bring your own. There is one per park, located next to the Baby Care Station, which is inevitably at the opposite end of the park from the kids’ playgrounds and the splash pads.
10 – You have to be a little persistent to catch the princesses. They come out for photos and autographs and immediately get a line. They really take their time with each kid- never saw anyone rushed- so a line of 10 kids is easily a 30 minute wait. BUT- the princesses have to go away before the parades and shows to keep up the space time continuum and all that, plus they do get potty breaks, so they have handlers. The handlers will close out their lines when they estimate that it is too long so that no one waits in line and gets turned away. This is all good, but what it means to you, mother of small star-struck girl, is that the line to see Snow White will be closed within 15 minutes of her appearance, even if she is going to be out for an hour. What you have to do is ask the line handler when she will be coming back and steak out your spot. It seriously took us 4 days, 6 encounters, and my husband lurking on Main Street for 20 minutes to get a meeting with Snow White. Photos will be up soon, and I’m sure you will agree that it was worth it.
*BONUS – ask to ride with the driver on the monorail. They will say yes, and it is way more fun that you would think.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Say What? Kitty Butt

Yesterday morning, I was fixing Princess Natalie’s hair like I always do when the cat came in and jumped up on the sink like she always does. I noticed a string that looked like Easter grass hanging off her back end. I did not think much of this whole situation.
Then I went to brush the string away. It didn’t go away. I grabbed the string with two fingers and tried to pluck it off.
This is when I realized that the string was not hanging off the cat’s butt, it was COMING OUT of the cat’s butt. She had eaten the string. Um-hmmm. It was like that. As I resigned myself to what was about to happen and gave a tug, the innocuous six-inch piece of easter grass became a poopy two-foot long piece of bad-dream-come-true that was making the cat very angry and mama very unhappy. That pretty much sums up my day.In case you need that image out of your head (I know I do,) here’s a little cute for the day.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

They're Coming to Take Me Away (UPDATED)

I know I have been a little...anxious these days, but it turns out that The Internets are out to get me. First, I get an e-mail/chain letter telling me that I need to go to msn whitepages and make sure that strangers can't just look me up and find out all about me.



Then, I actually GO THERE, thinking I will find nothing and prove that it is all a big conspiracy theory - and it turns out that you CAN just put in my name and find all sorts of information about me.



THEN!!!! I go to request to have my name removed and this is what I get (note the word verification):





And as if that wasn't bad enough, when I did the form, it kept insisting that my code word was wrong.

Why me, Internets?

I know there is a LOLcat out there that is perfect for this post, but I am a little afraid to leave the safety of my blogger dashboard right now.


UPDATED: Now they are just laughing at me


Friday, January 30, 2009

Meme Luv

Suzy tagged me (technically on Facebook) for a “25 Facts about Me” meme, so here it comes.

1. I didn’t actually know that you could get tagged with a meme on Facebook.

2. I have no idea how to write a meme or tag someone on Facebook.

3. I really have nothing better to write about this week.

4. Entries 1-3 are the main reasons that you are getting this meme on my blog today. Don’t you feel lucky?

5. I think that I am cheating at this meme, but I have had a quarter of a bag of chocolate chips since I got home from work an hour ago and now I'm feeling spunky.

5. I don’t consume any caffeine other than chocolate simply because I really can’t handle it.

6. Too much chocolate (like more than a regular Hershey bar) makes me jittery.

7. The few people who have seen me after a coke think I’m much more fun that way than after a few glasses of wine, although that doesn’t keep me from the wine.

8. Once I had a Vodka and Red Bull (before anybody had heard of Red Bull) at a club in Brussels and didn’t sleep for almost 40 hours.

9. I also had some mussels that time in Brussels.

10. I love the art of Rene Magritte, who also happened to live in Brussels.

11. When I am not enjoying intellectual modern art that challenges the conventions of language and human perception, I really love the movie “Dude, Where’s My Car.”

funny pictures
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12. I can’t even think about Big Mouth Billy Bass without laughing hysterically.

13. I am totally cracking up RIGHT NOW. [Taaaake me to the Riv-ER!]



14.You would never guess this from my blog, but I also love LOLcats.

15. My real cat’s name is Shadow.

16. In the future, I am determined to have a pair of some kind of pet and name them Oliver Boliver Butt and Zanzibar Buck Buck McFate. Hopefully soon, or it will be too late.

17. I can recite about 40% of everything Dr. Suess has written from memory.

18. I don’t have a special fondness for Dr. Suess.

19. I do tend to remember things I hear like they are recordings - especially things that rhyme.

2.I find it almost impossible to memorize maps or diagrams.

22. The worst grade I got in high school was in geography. Go figure.

23. I majored in kinesiology in college, but switched to engineering after attempting to take physiology and organic chemistry because there was no way I was going to be able to memorize all that information.

24. On the third day of undergrad physiology at my college, they give you a toolbox filled with bones from a dog skeleton that you are supposed to carry around with you and study.

25. I really don’t regret changing my major to engineering.

I’m really not the sort to “tag” anyone so here’s the deal: I tag you. Leave me a comment with a link to your post, and I promise to come read it and comment back.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

*Sob* Little Boy

Isaac went in for his first haircut today.  I had put this off way too long.  At the last birthday party we went to, people kept calling him "her," even though he was wearing a green shirt with a pirate on it that says "argh."  I was having a little infatuation with his golden-blonde locks, and I was not ready to see them go, even today.

Before:


After:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Princess or President?

This is not a post about Caroline Kennedy trying to get into the Senate. I just want to save you googlers some time. You're Welcome.

This Christmas was the Year of the Princess for my 4-year old daughter. Her gifts were a Disney Princess bicycle, princess Barbie-style dolls, and a craft kit with gemstones and tulle to turn her bed into a princess bed. In her stocking, she got a Cinderella DVD and a 6-pack of princess underwear.

She is obsessed with all things princess and with looking pretty.  She is so concerned with how she looks that she often fights wearing a jacket because she wants everyone to see her clothes.

Where did this little girl come from?  I am about as far from "girly" as any girl can be.  When she tells me how she wants to be a princess when she grows up, I have to fight the urge to argue with her, "Why not a scientist, or an astronaut, or an artist, or the President?  How about a ballerina?  (I would totally take ballerina over 'princess' these days) Don't you know you can be anything?" 

I try to keep my defensive reflex responses in check, though.  While I do think it's important to teach her that "beauty" is about more than her dresses and hair, I also want her to know that she really is beautiful.  "Princess" is her ideal right now, and I don't think I can argue that out of her.  I have faith that this, too, shall pass.  As long as it does last, I have resolved that I don't want to somehow give her the idea that she is less than qualified to be a princess, whatever that means to her, so I choose my words carefully.  

And put up with enough plastic high-heels, crowns, and necklaces to provide the wardrobe for our own production of Victor! Victoria!






New Year's Resolutions

I don't do Resolutions,(OK, I just did in the last entry, but not normally) but to these I say AMEN!