New Mama Musings

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

New Year's is probably my favorite holiday, so it's ironic that when midnight rolls around I'll most likely be passed out with a toddler kicking me in the ribs.

Still, the cool thing about New Year's for me is the possibility of starting fresh. In that spirit I'd like to list a few resolutions for the upcoming year:

  • Continue menu planning. Yeah, you're probably sick of hearing about this. But I think I really have it down now. I'm up to about sixteen recipes my husband and I both like, and I've started freezing most of the leftovers for use another time instead of subjecting us to them for days and days, screwing up plans for the rest of the week in the process.

  • Get back to living frugally. I used to be very, very frugal, and while I hope to never have to resort to some of the tightwad ways that helped us survive in the past, being more careful with our money is always a good thing. I feel so lucky to be able to stay home full-time with Henry. My husband works hard at his job and as the family CFO I want to respect the money he brings home to us.

  • Continue decluttering, organizing and packing. I started in on this with a vengeance when we first decided to move but have since lost steam. We have about six weeks before we close on the new house (if our current house sells...fingers crossed), so this should definitely be doable. I have to work on this after Henry's in bed at night or contend with Henry undoing my efforts, but mostly I just need to do it.

  • Put limits on my time online. This is especially important when Henry is awake, as I find myself taking advantage of his increasingly independent play by dinking around on the computer. This is not behavior I want to be modeling for him. But I also waste a lot of time on the internet after he's asleep and at the very least I could be reading for pleasure again (imagine!).

  • Finally, next year I would like for us to do something together as a family to celebrate the beginning of a new year. Nothing crazy, like the year I fell over into a snowbank on the way home from a bar (in another lifetime, the details of which shall never, ever be disclosed), but maybe a small gathering of friends with other kids over the dinner hour. Maybe it will be with people we haven't even met yet. Who knows what 2007 will bring?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Just Like Mom

The other day, needing a moment to finish lunch, I handed Henry the Sunday Kmart ad to look at. He was busy pointing to the pictures of plastic toys, particle board furniture and other Kameapart items when I got up and went into the kitchen to rinse off my plate.

He suddenly started in with the noise that means, "Look what I noticed! I'm going to keep making this noise until you come see!" so I told him I'd be there in a minute.

His "AH! AHH! AHHH!" continued until I went back into the dining room to see what he was so excited about.

He was pointing to the full-figured ladies wearing bras on sale.

Now there's a story to share at his wedding reception.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

And Now the Fun Really Begins

Looking for a house this time around has been a lot more difficult. This is partly because the area we're looking in is much smaller than the other places we've lived in, so there are fewer houses on the market. It's also a much more coveted area, so if something is desirable and priced well it moves fast.

Part of it, though, is that I'm being choosier, since I'm hoping our next home is our Forever House. Cheesy, I know, but I want Henry to have stability. Okay, fine, I want me to have stability. I also want to know that any improvements we do are for our enjoyment without having to worry about recouping the cost when we sell.

That being said, I was all over the place in my thought process. We can't afford the houses we really, really love in the part of town we hope to move to, so we discussed the idea of buying a very cheap, very simple (aka "crap box") house there to tide us over until we could afford our dream place. This idea doesn't appeal to me very much (see above paragraph), but I was just so anxious to start my new, fabulous life in a cooler part of town that sometimes I got to feeling a little desperate.

I walked through about twenty houses -- some of them more than once -- and looked at numerous others online. We put a bid in on two of them.

One, the very first house we looked at, we lost to an earlier bid. The second house was actually in the more coveted part of town but needed a lot of work and had very small bedrooms. We put in a lowball bid and the seller tried to pit us against another couple. We just didn't feel comfortable going any higher, so we let it go.

Some of the other houses were pretty close, but had goofy deal-breaking qualities: a staircase to the second floor leading directly into a bathroom; an upstairs with two oddly-shaped bedrooms at the top of the stairs and a looong hallway to the master bedroom; a too-close-for-comfort proximity to a block of apartment buildings; and a Cape Cod with the tiniest bathroom imaginable and a huge cold-air return grate in the middle of the hallway floor.

On one of our many Sunday drives through the area my husband and I saw a really boring-looking colonial that was for sale by owner. My husband said, "Yuck," but I pulled over and grabbed a flier from the box.

We close on it February 15th.

I should mention here that I grew up in a 1960's colonial -- red brick on the bottom, white siding with black shutters on the top -- and the place lacked character and charm and love. Hence my prejudice against this style of house, an aversion I apparently transferred to my husband.

This place, though, was built in the 1930's. And although it needs work it has good bones -- wood floors (under wall-to-wall carpeting), two fireplaces, corner built-ins in the dining rooom, an entryway with an open staircase, a living room and family room, three decent-sized bedrooms and a basement that could be finished off someday. It also has a newer two-and-a-half car garage with a nice flat driveway -- perfect for little tricycles and chalk drawings.

It's within easy walking distance of a park, Lake Michigan, a charming shopping district, the library, a CVS Pharmacy and Dairy Queen. And although I'm considering homeschooling (I still have much research and convincing of the husband to do on that front), it's very close to the grade school, middle school and high school.

My source in the area has already hooked me up via e-mail with two women who live on the block. They tell me there's at least one block party every summer, a book club for the women on the block and lots of kids ranging in age from two to sixteen.

The seller was asking way too much -- a typical case of a FSBO priced too high because the owner doesn't have anyone telling him his house isn't nearly as valuable as he thinks it is. But our realtor was able to show him, with recent comparable sale listings, that about twenty or thirty thousand less would be more reasonable.

Betting on the seller's lack of savvy, we threw everything into the deal that we wanted: a home sale contingency (so we'd have an out if our current house doesn't sell), a lower-than-normal amount of earnest money and a later-than-usual closing date. He countered our price a bit, but overall we got what we wanted.

Our current house has been on the market for a little over a week. We had an open house on Sunday, to which a couple who lives one street over came, looking for a bigger place. They seemed interested, but who knows. We're hoping after the holidays people start looking again and someone will bite.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Snow What?

We had a huge blizzard a few weeks back and it was finally warm enough last weekend to take Henry outside to play in the snow. (Of course, it warmed up so much that now all the snow is almost gone.)

Henry wasn't too sure about the whole thing. It's not that he was scared of the snow; it was more that he was thinking, "Okay, I'm outside with this white stuff. Now what?"

We did get a few smiles out of him. He was amused by his big sister throwing snowballs onto the sidewalk.

And he was mildly impressed by the snowman Daddy built for him.

But seriously, can we go in now?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Five Things You Probably Don't Need to Know About Me

I was tagged by Gearhead Mama to write Five Things You Don't Know About Me.

So here goes:
  1. When I was in fifth grade I went to a birthday party at my best friend Sara Mellish's house. Since it was close to Halloween, Sara's mother decided it would be a good idea to give a bunch of ten-year old girls sharp knives and let them carve their own pumpkins. I sliced my right pinky finger at its base, near my palm, and needed several stitches. Oddly enough the boy I had a typical fifth-grade flirtation with (read: he teased me and I pretended to hate him) also cut himself carving a pumpkin that weekend. Only he cut two fingers and needed more stitches than I did, as he liked to point out. I had a cast to immobilize my finger; his was bigger. Mine hurt; his was excruciating. I wonder what ever happened to Rob Villesenor?

  2. I keep my fingernails very, very short. If I can see white at the tip, they're too long, and I feel all ooky until I cut them.

  3. I was carjacked when I was twenty-one (on the day I moved out of my parent's house into my first apartment, no less) as I was going to a company Christmas party. My white Geo Metro was recovered a few days later.

  4. I hate chocolate and mint together in things like Thin Mints or Peppermint Patties, but I love mint chocolate chip ice cream.

  5. When I was a junior in high school Mike Shibilski became my new Rob Villesenor. We met in speech class when our seating assignments required us to interview one another on the first day. I knew Mike was cool when he chose the lyrics from "Dear God" by XTC to recite for an assignment. (I think mine was something by The Cure.) Although I never went to any formal dances in high school, I got close: Mike told me later that he came up to me in the hallway to ask me to prom, but when I made some smart-assed, insulting comment to him he chickened out. So I wonder what ever happened to Mike Shibilski?

Bahama Mama

Over Thanksgiving my husband, Henry and I went on a cruise to the Bahamas, which wasn't nearly as glamorous or relaxing as it sounds. It was a gift from my parents, who treated my entire extended family (three sisters, two brothers-in-law, two nieces, two nephews, and us). My parents' gifts aren't normally this extravagant, but my dad isn't doing very well and my mom wanted to have us all together for a few days.

I like most of my family and I like to travel, but a four-day cruise with a toddler and my relatives is not exactly the vacation I would have chosen. Still, it was free and it was important to my mom, so we went.

Thanksgiving morning we got up at 4am, drove to the airport, and met my family at the terminal. Here's Henry with his twenty-year-old cousin, comparing a wooden toy airplane with the real thing:

I was mostly worried about Henry having a tough time with all the changes and stress of travel. (I also worried about Henry getting snatched at the airport, the plane crashing, a contagious illness spreading through the ship, us all getting sea sick, Henry falling overboard, and the boat sinking.)

But he was amazing. We brought his stroller along and he rode in it the majority of the time, content just to be out and about. He was fine on the plane and bus rides to and from the ship and fine on the ship itself. His fear of elevators evaporated to the point that he was signing "more" when he spotted one.

He napped wherever and whenever he needed to, and at night he slept about the same as he does at home. Which is not to say he slept well. At bedtime, nursing didn't work, so I resorted to narrating a typical day at home, talking about all his toys, what we eat, the errands we run, etc. At one point my husband jumped up to turn off the overhead fan, saying, "I can't hear the story." Expecting a heartfelt "well done" when Henry was finally asleep, I instead heard gentle snoring from both of them.

Our cabin was not designed with toddlers in mind. Not only were the light switches all within Henry's reach, the one for the bathroom was outside the bathroom door. He could also open the door to the hallway, because even when it was locked a turn of the knob from inside unlocked it. The only outlet was also at Henry level, making using a curling iron a tricky proposition for me.

One nice feature of our room that Henry loved was the window above our bed. We pushed two twins together and up against the wall to make one big family bed, and he liked to stand on it and check out the view.

We spent most of our time out of our cabin, though. The main action was on the top deck, and when we were near the railing we put Henry in a harness:

(Yeah, I put my kid on a leash. I told you, I had fears.)

Henry wasn't allowed in any of the pools since he isn't potty-trained, which is probably just as well since he's recently developed a fear of bathtime. But he was pretty happy just running (or strolling) around. There was lots to see.

Every night we ate dinner in the formal, sit-down restaurant, which was sometimes challenging with Henry. Our servers, however, were incredibly nice. The people who worked on the ship were from all over the world, and several of them told us that they had kids back home. One of our waiters, who created a mouse out of a napkin and made it scurry and squeak for Henry, also had a son born in August of 2005, and said he only got home two months out of the year. If I ever whine about needing a break from Henry, remind me of this, okay?

One of the nicest things about the trip, in fact, was how friendly everyone was to Henry. Employees and other passengers all smiled at him, or patted his head, or talked to him constantly. When we came home and went to Target it felt strange that no one commented on how cute he was or tried to get him to smile.

Friday was our day off the ship in Nassau. The weather was perfect. Naturally, Henry slept through most of our walk around the island.

It wasn't as picturesque as I thought it was going to be, and there was a lot of traffic, but it had some charm.

Henry woke up as we were making our way to the ship. He loved taking his time going down the pedestrian walkways.

The toughest day was Saturday. It was the "Day at Sea" and unless you enjoy sitting by the pool drinking, gambling, shopping, or watching things like "The Hairiest Chest Contest," there's not a lot to do on a cruise ship.

Sunday was a bit trying as well. We had to clear out of our cabin by 8am and wait in the lounge for our luggage tag color to be called, which took about two hours. Clearing customs also took some time, though luckily Henry fell asleep right in the middle of it. This was followed by another 45-minute bus ride to the Orlando airport, which Henry continued to sleep through. He woke up at the airport and had fun running around while we waited to board our plane.

There were a few other kids waiting at our gate. Two of them, little boys age maybe three and five, strengthened my resolve to keep Henry away from television and movies for a while. They ran around with toy swords threatening other kids and their parents clearly had no clue how to deal with them. Ironically, when another passenger asked if the boys were playing "Pirates of the Caribbean" their mom said, "No, it's Pirates of the Caribbean TWO."

All in all, it was an experience, and it was nice to know that Henry can really roll with things, but it's good to be home.