Friday, March 31, 2006

Jason's April Fool's Surprise

When Jason and I bought this house, it was in serious need of (mostly cosmetic) updates. The kitchen was particularly depressing, despite the fact that the previous owners had recently "renovated" it. We slapped a coat of paint on it, put up some shelves and a pot rack, and lived with it that way for two years.

Despite the fact that there is a counter that's almost 20 feet long, there never seemed to be a place to work when serious cooking was taking place. The lack of overhead cabinets meant that anytime we wanted to get out a plate, we practically had to stand on our heads to reach them in the lower cabinets. And the kitchen stuff that we don't use that often - such as the food processor and souvenir beer glasses Jason won't let me put out on the yard sale - were stored in our basement. Our nasty, damp, dusty basement, the one that Sam the Electrician has been drilling holes in and ripping insulation out of for the past few months to get to the wiring on the first floor. I went down to get something from there the other day and it was covered in all manner of foul stuff.

Adding upper cabinets in the kitchen has always been on my short list of things to do with the house, but I always figured it would cost an arm and a leg and be a real pain to do. But I got bored while Jason was away this week and decided to investigate the situation. A neighbor and I made the trip down to the surplus sales place where the previous owners bought the lower cabinets, in hopes that the same model would still be available. Really, it was more of an excuse to make a mini road trip down to Corbin, where our MapQuest directions were hideously wrong and ended up taking us past endless rows of trailers, some of which had outhouses out back (I wish I was kidding about that). We had to backtrack, call the store, then drive for another 20 minutes to get there, only to find out that they had nothing similar to our cabinets unless we wanted to buy unfinished ones and stain them to match. If I had been driving the minivan I would have been tempted, but in the Impala I would have been lucky to cram one cabinet in, much less the three that I was hoping to get, so I decided to drag Jason back there this weekend to get them.

In the interest of fully researching my options, I decided to go check out the cabinets at Lowe's to see if we were really going to save any money with the "stain it yourself" route. Nope - Lowe's had finished cabinets that coordinate with our existing ones, for less than the place in Corbin. Just goes to show, you never can tell ... and you should think twice about buying kitchen stuff from a place you have to drive past outhouses to reach.

So I e-mailed Jason on Tuesday to let him know that I found cabinets for about $500 - that's total, not just for one - and had figured out a way to use one of the under-the-cabinet microwaves that has a built-in vent fan. He sounded impressed that I had managed to find a way to get the cabinets for so little ... I think he was expecting it to cost thousands. I went ahead and bought the microwave, which just barely fit in the front seat of the Impala and led to some rather non-traditional right-hand turns on the way home. Then I realized they gave me the black one rather than the white one, so it was funky right turns all the way back to the store and home again with the proper one.

What Jason didn't know was that I went ahead and purchased the cabinets from Lowe's on Wednesday morning (thanks to one neighbor who loaned me her Suburban to haul them home while another neighbor stayed at home with the napping Liza) and had the cabinets installed by Wednesday evening. That's right, I installed upper cabinets BY MYSELF. Because I TOTALLY KICK ASS. Actually, it's more likely due to four years on the set construction crew in high school, where things like clamps and jigs were in short supply but there were plenty of arms and legs (and where I learned how to screw one-handed while holding heavy things up with the other hand and one knee while balanced on a stepladder).

Thursday I installed the microwave (thanks to a third and fourth neighbor who helped lift the sucker in place while I fastened it to the cabinet) and got the wall ready for Sam the Electrician to wire it in. I had hoped to have it wired and ready to go before Jason got home, but Sam wasn't able to come Thursday or Friday, so it will have to wait for next week.

But the upshot of this whole thing is that Jason is expecting to come home to the same old kitchen, and he's probably dreading a couple weekends of backbreaking, annoying cabinet installation. Instead, he's coming home to this:

I plan to put Post-It notes on the cabinets so he can find his coffee on Sunday morning :)

Video link that reminds me of one of our cats

Thanks to favorablyimpressed at Cooks Talk for the link - this video made my night!

heard on the radio

"We'll sell you a car, even if your credit is so bad your mama won't lend you money."

Just because I'm a SAHM doesn't mean I have to dress like June Cleaver

Some of my recent purchases, finally out of the closet thanks to the warm weather:

I love the fact that with the original file, I can zoom in on my leg in the flipflop photo and see not only my dry skin, but every hair I missed when I shaved. Love those 5.2 MP!

This is me, post-hyperthyroid-induced-weight-loss, with perkified girls, and a new shirt, too! I'd look pretty decent if I had remembered to put on any makeup before I started shooting ...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The unbearable cuteness of Liza, part 4

Yes, she is indeed the happiest baby on the planet:

She also looks like she's about seven months pregnant - look at the gut on this kid!

Liza finds it fascinating to drop things over the side of the changing table ... and then see where they go.

That right there is why someday she's going to have a hardwood-floor-shaped bruise on her forehead, and why I had my hand just outside of the frame the whole time I was shooting this series. The little stinker has already done a cannonball off of our bed a few weeks ago; the last thing we need is to follow it up with a belly flop off the changing table.

The unbearable cuteness of Liza, part 3

Ah, the dreaded bathtime photos. I figured since Liza is no longer in the baby tub, it was time for some new ones:
waiting for the tub to fill
scrubbing her (two!) teeth
obligatory crack shot
watching (and eating) the bubbles I blew
Stalking the elusive water stream
My God, look at those eyes!
My God, look at that hair!
Why I love my new camera

I think that next-to-last photo is why Liza is going to stick me in the BAD nursing home when I'm too old to object.

The unbearable cuteness of Liza, part 2

Yes, mother, you were right - it was darn near impossible to get her to keep the sunglasses on. I had to take about 15 shots before I got this one:

And here she is thinking, "If you don't stop putting these things on me, I'm going to shove them up your ..."

Oh, and here's an artsy shot from the same time:

Unbearable cuteness of Liza, part 1

On a recent bout of retail therapy at Target I checked out the gardening stuff they have for little kids, which is just as cute this year as it was in previous years. Liza isn't old enough to need gardening gloves or a wheelbarrow yet, but I was able to find a cute chair that she can use when we're out on the patio:

That blur on the bottom is Bella, who was writhing around in hopes that someone - anyone - would pet her. Looks like today was her lucky day:

The weather hasn't been nice enough to sit out on the patio yet, so we've been using the chair for playtime and when she looks at books.

I think it's fair to say that she was thinking, "What the hell is this?" when I took that photo. The kid curses like a sailor, at least in her inner monologue.

Looks like she got one of my more obscure genes

When I was in high school I was invited to go out with a friend of mine on his boat. Not a yacht, mind you, but a small sailboat he had built in his parents' garage. We drove up to the marina where he had the boat moored, and my friend hopped nimbly aboard. It was about that time that I realized that while I had been out in plenty of boats - my parents at one time had about five of them - they had all either been small enough to be launched from the beach or big enough to have a gangway ... I had never gotten into a boat from a dock before. Not wanting to end up looking like a wet, slimy, mud-covered idiot, I sat on the dock, lowered myself down with my arms and reached out for the boat with my foot.

If you've ever boarded a boat from a dock, you know that the most important tip is to do it fast. I didn't. The boat went one way, the dock stayed where it was, and I stubbornly resisted getting any closer to the nasty back basin water than I had to. My friend could sense disaster coming and started laughing uproariously, urging me to give in and let go. I was not amused. I knew the sorts of things floating in that water, and somehow I managed to actually use my foot to drag the boat close enough to the dock that I could get in. Pretty much every muscle in my entire body hurt for a few days afterward, but I did not give in and fall.

Which could explain why I keep finding my daughter in poses like this one ...

This is actually one of the less extreme versions - lately I've been giving in earlier, before the screaming starts. In one particularly memorable instance she managed to slide her legs apart like in the photo above, while sliding them backwards so that she was at a 45 degree angle to the floor while holding onto a dining room chair for dear life. That's one of the few times when I've actually seen her fall ... usually I move her legs closer together before it gets that far, but I was sweeping at the time and didn't notice until it was too late.

Anyway, it's good to see someone carrying on my tradition of avoiding falls at all costs. It's going to be interesting when it gets to be "learn to ride a bike" time around here ...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I think I'll keep her

We just got home from a remarkably productive session of errand-running, and I've been trying to catch up on my favorite web sites while holding a progressively-more-sleepy Liza on my lap. Usually I can get about five minutes of surfing done before she loses interest in the computer screen and starts attempting to write her autobiography on the keyboard (unless I'm visiting online porn sites - she likes all those pictures, dontcha know). Today she's spent the past ten minutes looking over my shoulder at the birds outside the office, then sticking her face right in front of mine so I can't help but notice her, and then laughing when I look at her. Could she get any cuter? Only if she did a repeat of what she was doing the other night, which was sticking her face about 2" away from mine, opening her eyes and mouth wide in amazement, and then bonking noses with me. She is officially forgiven for at least one month of her hideous behaviour at the beginning of her life.

PS - The only reason I can type this is because she's sitting on the floor, happily eating index cards. Cellulose counts as fiber, right?

PPS - Dad, when Mom regains consciousness, please tell her I was kidding about the porn. You can't see enough faces for Liza to be interested in it ...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I've got the malaise

When Jason and I visited Utah a few years ago on vacation, we were surprised to see warning signs saying that we shouldn't approach wildlife because of the potential to catch bubonic plague. Yeah, the one that killed 40% of Europe's population a couple of hundred years ago - that's lurking in the flea population in some of Utah's national parks. There's nothing like a plague warning to make that chipmonk look fearsome when it won't stop begging for food ...

photo credit:

Anyway, the warning signs listed some of the more prevalent symptoms of the plague, including headache, sore throat, enlarged lymph glands, and malaise. "What the heck is 'malaise?'" we wondered, convinced we probably had it, whatever it was. We started joking around about it, declaring dramatically that we had the malaise, and there probably wasn't any way to prevent it from killing us by dawn - you know, that sort of thing.

We looked it up when we got home, and it turns out that 'malaise' is the perfect shorthand for 'I'm feeling crappy, but I can't tell you why.' It's still in our official family lexicon; for example when Jason comes home from work and I've had a long day of dealing with Liza, I'm apt to tell him that we've both got the malaise, and it's his turn to deal with it.

Only he's not here right now, so I got to deal with my own malaise by myself today. Nothing definably wrong with me, I just felt blech ... so when Liza finally went down for her morning nap, so did I. What started as "I'll just sit her for a few minutes until I'm sure she's asleep" turned into "Well, I'd be warmer if I was under the covers ... but only for a few minutes" which turned into "The FedEx guy is knocking at the door and it's noon and I'm still in my pajamas with bedhead." I'm feeling much better for having had the extra sleep, but I know this is going to screw up my sleep schedule, which is going to make me feel bad tomorrow, which is going to make me want to take a nap, which will just mess things up even more. I'm hoping the schedule messup will be worth it - if I can fight off whatever illness is lurking within me, I won't have to suffer through the whole Easter vacation trip. Then again, maybe I'm just postponing it so I can be good and sick while I'm at my in-laws house ... you just never know. But, you know, I've got the malaise, so I probably won't live until Easter anyway ...

Monday, March 27, 2006

In praise of Triple Paste

Why had I not heard of this stuff before? My God, it made such a difference - Liza spent all day yesterday crying every time she peed, her rash was so bad, so I hit CVS in search of the elusive "Triple Paste" I had read about on some of the "how to fix hard-core diaper rash" web sites. I found it on the bottom (heh) shelf in the baby section, down with the enemas and lice remedies - you know, the other products that no one wants to talk about.

If you've got a baby, you TOTALLY must go out and find some of this (or buy some via the web, if you can't find it locally) because it works so well it's ridiculous. One dose, and the screaming stopped. She doesn't writhe around on the changing table, she doesn't shriek when I pull down her pants, and the bumps and redness are almost gone. That's in ONE DAY, folks. This stuff rocks ... but that still doesn't explain why the manufacturer sells it in one-pound tubs. Anybody who needs that much diaper cream is doing something I don't really want to know about.


Liza enjoyed her blueberry yogurt this morning - I gave her the blueberries to pick up off of her tray, and she decided that I wasn't feeding her the yogurt fast enough with the spoon, so she'd just lick up what was on the tray. Good thing she wasn't inhaling at the time:

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Miscellaneous topics

Topic 1: Why my husband is my hero ...
Not only is he easy on the eyes, but Jason also almost ridiculously helpful around the house. Compared to my friends' husbands, Jason is the Champion of Occasional Child Care and General Household Helpfulness, including child distraction during dinner preparation, laundry folding, dishwasher unloading and cat litter scooping. These tasks are easily taken for granted ... at least until he goes on a business trip, at which point I have to step up and do absolutely everything around here. Not only does it make mealtime challenging ("Here, sweetie, have a 14th graham cracker while Mama prays that the pasta will be done soon."), it means I have to spend valuable nap time taking care of the things I can't do when Liza's awake. I've got a lot of respect for women who do this all the time, this "single mom" thing. By the end of Jason's business trip I'll probably be a babbling, drooling puddle in the corner. Oh, and here's proof that he's a saint: When he woke up at 4:30 Friday morning and couldn't get back to sleep, he went ahead and cleaned the bathrooms for me so I wouldn't have to try to do it before everyone came over for the baby shower that evening. He cleaned the bathrooms even though he was going out of town the next day ... I am so lucky.

Topic 2: New diet plan
It has come to my attention that the Black Forest Cake I made for the baby shower yesterday encompasses almost all of the important food groups, i.e. Chocolate, Alcohol, Fruit, and Whipped Cream. Which explains why I've eaten the leftovers as part of all three meals today ...

Topic 3: Uncomfortably numb

I will post more often when my office is warm enough for me to type for more than five minutes without losing feeling in my fingers. Dude, it's like 45F out here. I need one of those portable firepits or something ... the shivering is messing up my score on Zuma.

Topic 4: You could etch glass with this stuff

Something is apparently causing my daughter's poop to have a pH of about 0.5 ... Sort of like sulfuric acid, only less smelly. Last week I chalked it up to the standard teething/runny nose/overnight poopy diaper issues, but I could only get the rash to clear up for a day or two and now it's back. It doesn't look as bad this time (no open running sores! hurray!) but it's obviously bothering her. Tonight in her bath she was scratching her butt so hard I thought she was going to spin her self completely around ... and don't try to convince an 11-month-old that she's not supposed to scratch her butt - if she can reach it, she's going to scratch it. Anyway, the only thing I can think of that she's been eating recently that's a little out of the ordinary is grapes. Lots of grapes. Like, imagine there was a swimming pool full of grapes ... that's how much Liza would eat, given enough time and someone there to quarter them for her. I can't imagine that grapes would cause the acid butt problem, and I've never heard of it doing that to anyone else, but it's the most likely culprit here. I'm going to cut off her supply of grapes and see if that helps at all. Otherwise, I guess we'll get to go and see the doctor again ("No, she's not sick - she just keeps trying to rip off her privates every time her diaper is off").

Update: I just got on the web and searched for photos of different types of diaper rashes (God, I really need to get a life ... ) and found one that looks familiar (I love how they've preserved the baby's modesty in this shot). Looks like there's some antifungal cream in our future.

Topic 5: The Continuing Adventures of Countess Clingy

A month or two ago Liza decided that my presence is essential for her continued existence. It's not too bad when we're the only ones home - she lets me wander all over the house while she plays, as long as I check in every few minutes. But if a "stranger" (i.e. anyone other than me or Sam the Electrician) is in the house, she starts wailing inconsolably as soon as I leave her sight. She even does this with neighbors who are visiting over here all the time ... even ones who haven't babysat for us in the past. Usually she doesn't do this when Jason is the other person in the house, unless he tries to take her from me when I'm holding her. At first I think he thought it was kind of funny, and then I think he started to get a little offended that she only wanted me. But the other day he watched Liza while I volunteered at the radio station, and he took her in to work to go to a baby shower for one of his coworkers. Apparently Liza decided that if I wasn't available, Daddy would have to suffice, because she clung to him like a limpet the whole time. It was probably the first time that he's ever gotten to be the one she turned to for solace ... and I think he was kind of stoked about it. The next day I took her with me to the radio station for a few minutes to show her off to all of her honorary aunts and uncles there, and Liza made every attempt to burrow back into my body. I'm going to have a bruise on my chest for weeks from where she attempted to bash her way back through my ribs in a misguided attempt to make herself invisible to all the freaky radio people. It was cute, but it took close to an hour to get rid of the cramp in my arm from carrying her around for 20 minutes ... she's not a tiny bundle anymore.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Is it just me ...

... or are there few things that say "family" more than dolls, knives and mini choppers? Ah, how I love living in a small town ... so many quaint, old-fashioned businesses:

note to self: never get a tattoo from a shop that uses incorrect punctuation on its sign

The only thing you see in town more frequently than tattoo parlors are lawyers' offices (because we're the county seat) and liquor stores (because we're the only "wet" town in an otherwise "dry" county ... which makes our county "moist," according to the official parlance). Maybe next time we get a nice day for a walk, I'll take some photos of those ... if Her Royal Highness allows me to do so ...

Jeeves, why does the vehicle keep stopping?


If you never saw the "before" version, count yourself as lucky. Imagine this chandelier, only tarnished to the point where you couldn't tell it was brass, glass that was dirty inside, regular 60-watt lightbulbs rather than flame tips, and the piece de resistance, etched glass hurricane shades that looked like the glasses the frou-frou drinks used to come in at Macado's (click at your own risk - annoying theme music alert). And did I mention that the sucker was hung only about a foot below the ceiling?

While the cleaned up version isn't my idea of the perfect chandelier, it's inoffensive and it only cost me about $40 in supplies to fix it up, which is less than 1/10th what a new one would have cost me. A few more doses of Tylenol and the ache should be gone from my polishing arm. In the meantime - anybody need five tacky etched glass hurricane shades?

Failure to thrive

"Failure to thrive" - that's the "reason for visit" listed on the receipt I got at the pediatrician's office today. I guess that's the polite way of saying, "This kid ain't quite right."

The doctor isn't convinced that Liza's development is actually delayed - he says she's borderline, and he'd be much more worried if Liza didn't sit so steadily once she got upright. But since she is borderline and we're concerned, he's referring us to First Steps, an early intervention program that provides diagnosis and therapy for developmental disorders. He says that while there's a chance there is something physical wrong with Liza, it's unlikely (and I refrained from fainting when he said that it was "highly unlikely" that it was anything serious "like muscular dystrophy." How ironic would that be, if Jason got tapped to shill for Jerry's kids a few weeks before finding out that Liza is one of them? Let's just say WAY TOO IRONIC and move on to a more pleasant subject).

So for now we're waiting to hear back from the local branch of the First Steps program, who should send someone out to evaluate Her Royal Blobbiness. In the meantime, I'm donning earplugs and ramping up the amount of tummy time she gets, whether she likes it or not. Maybe if I piss her off enough, she'll make the connection and get moving. I'll let you know if she makes any progress toward being more "thrivey" than she is right now :)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mega mouth

If my super power is being able to create breaks in traffic, my daughter's seems to be packing away insanely large amounts of food into a really tiny body. She does this in cycles, and today seems to be the start of the next round of binge eating. So far today she's had a whole banana, a huge serving of yogurt, about a dozen Saltines, most of a large bottle of baby sweet potatoes, a large serving of oatmeal, and an ounce of cheddar cheese, plus nursed lustily three times. Literally, at two meals she's eaten more than she's had all day for the past couple of weeks ... and we haven't even gotten to snack time or dinner yet.

If I sound annoyed, it's accidental - I love it when she turns into a piggy, because that also heralds the arrival of Naps That Extend For Hours And Hours And Hours. During her morning nap I managed to clean the kitchen, make cookie dough and bake cakes for a baby shower I'm having for a neighbor on Friday. And I washed all the dishes, and I had her lunch ready for her when she woke up, and I ate lunch while reading a book. Do you realize it's been 10 1/2 months since I was able to read while eating? Hooray for bingeing, napping growth spurts! Hooray for Liza choosing to have one during the week I need to prepare for the shower!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Beach baby

So far I've managed to resist buying Liza a sandbox (although the ones I've seen on the Step 2 web site are sooo tempting), but we're probably going to get one this summer. In the meantime, Liza has been enjoying Burnam Court Beach:

Yes, that's a Pyrex pan filled with cornmeal ... or at least it was filled until Liza got hold of it. I forget where I read the suggestion, but I didn't come up with this on my own - but I'm glad to report that it is an effective way to see how much "sand" the kid will eat, and whether she'll be freaked out by the feeling of it on her hands or feet.

Cleanup is fairly easy - I just pick up the rug and shake it out in the flowerbed outside the back door. It's much cheaper than getting the sandbox all set up, too, although I think I'm going to have to invest in a new container of cornmeal before I make muffins again.

(I've tried about 10 times to attach a picture of her with sand all over her face here, but it ain't happening. Darn blogger site ... anyway, the black-and-white shot I posted a few days ago shows the same thing.)


Speaking of Step 2, when Liza starts cruising, this Kangaroo Climber is TOTALLY mine ... er, hers.


And speaking of cruising, my daughter is still a blob. She sits well, but she can't get into the sitting position, we have to put her there. She stands well, but she can't get into a standing position, we have to put her there. She's starting to take some tentative steps when we hold her hands and rock her forward (it looks like Frankenstein with a leg cramp, and I keep having to repress the urge to moan "Brainzzz! Braiiiinnnnzzzz!" like a zombie whenever she steps). But she's pretty tentative about the whole moving process ... as far as we can tell, she'd be content to sit on the floor in the family room for the rest of her life, as long as we keep bringing her new toys and food and clean undies.

I can hear you all thinking, "Well, duh. Just don't bring her what she wants, and she'll get off her butt and go get it eventually." Yeah, that's what all the books say, but so far, it ain't happening. At first she used to struggle for a while, then the frustration would get the best of her and she would just sit (or lie) there and wail for as long as we'd let her. My personal best was an hour and a half ... an hour and a half of listening to her soul-deadening scream because she couldn't figure out how to roll herself over. It's not like she doesn't have the muscles - I mean, if you can do a pilates move that raises your head 6" off the floor and your feet 12" off the floor, you should be able to sit up, for God's sake (there would be a photo here if blogger would let me attach it ... grrr).

Anymore she doesn't even bother to try, she just screams. And I can't take the screaming - I'd need a lot more Zoloft to be magnificently unfazed by the screeching - so I help her. It's like she's decided that sitting up is beyond her, and she just doesn't want it bad enough to keep looking like an idiot when she fails ... kind of like me when I was trying to learn to skate backwards when I was in 2nd grade, only falling on skates hurts a lot worse than straining to sit up, kiddo.

I asked Liza's pediatrician about the situation when we were there for her 9-month appointment, and he basically gave me the "babies develop at different rates" line, and told me that the only hard-and-fast rule is that if the kid isn't walking independently by 15 months, then they need help. Well HELLO, maybe some early intervention could prevent that from happening. I've been fighting the urge to go back and ask for a PT/OT referral, hoping that she'd work some of this out on her own. But my God, the kid is almost 11 months old and SHE CAN'T SIT UP ON HER OWN. I'm going to call the pediatrician this afternoon, and if he won't refer me, I'll find someone who will. I have the feeling that an hour or two of therapy could fix the whole thing and get something to "click" in her head, but maybe that's just hopeful thinking. Or maybe I'm overreacting and she's supposed to be a lump when all the other kids her age are rolling or crawling or cruising or walking wherever they want to go. But I'll feel really bad if at 15 months someone tells me my lumpy kid could have been mobile this whole time if only we'd had an early intervention when she was, oh, 9 or 10 months old ... so I'm calling the doctor. Today. I swear.

Unexpected benefit of having the cutest baby on the planet

I've discovered that Liza, as small and generally helpless as she is, is good for at least one thing - I get much better service at hardware stores when I bring her with me. When Her Royal Highness enters the store, little old grandpa salesmen flock toward us like ducks to someone throwing breadcrumbs. Today at Ace Hardware we had four of them admiring Liza and asking if they could help me find something. By trial and error I've found that the more dottering and wizened-looking the salesman, the more likely he is to know where everything is and how to use plumbing fixtures to replicate a part that broke when Sam the Electrician was installing the chandelier. Now that Liza can wave, she can even give the grandpas something back for all their cooing and foot-tickling ... although I sometimes have a hard time convincing them to be patient while she works through the 20-second "wave delay" it takes her to figure out what we want her to do. I'm telling you, if I ever go through this whole "rewiring a house" thing again in the future, I'm going to rent a baby to bring along with me when I shop for supplies - they're just so handy!

Monday, March 20, 2006

WEKU - Hear Gretchen live online!

WEKU's fund drive is in full swing, and I'll be helping cajole listeners into forking over big bucks. Tune in online to hear me during pledge breaks on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 21-22, from 4pm to 7pm each day. Here's the link:

And please pledge, so I don't have to say embarrassing things about how cheap my blogging audience is ... and because you know it's the right thing to do, of course :)

Not much - and that's okay

Yesterday a friend I hadn't spoken to in months asked me, "So, what have you been up to recently, other than caring for the kid 24/7?" Horrifyingly enough, I couldn't come up with a single thing that would be of interest to anyone other than me and the other occupants of my house. "Cleaning a 1/4" layer of plaster dust off of every surface on the first floor of my house" just doesn't make for an interesting conversation, and neither does "Shopping for capri pants that don't make me look like I'm still pregnant." I have gone nowhere, seen nothing, and done very little that is either interesting or notable. My most exciting recent experience was bra shopping, for God's sake.

On the surface I seem like the perfect candidate to be a stay-at-home mother: I enjoy cooking, I enjoy working on home improvement projects, I enjoy sewing, I hate getting up early. But the problem with being a SAHM is that you somehow have to fit all that other stuff in around the "M" part, which sucks up most of your time and energy and will to live. Somehow in the past three years I've gone from being a successful chemical sales representative to being a person who measures her days by how many loads of laundry have gotten done and whose puke (human or cat) she's had to clean off of which pieces of furniture, and it has not been an easy transition.

One thing that has helped me keep my sanity recently is that I've noticed that my body seems to be returning to its pre-pregnancy state. It now has the same general dimensions it had before Liza was a gleam in her daddy's eye, and as far as I can tell my hormones are swinging back that direction, too. It's a nice change from the temporary hyperthyroid condition I had when Liza was a few months old (although it was nice to be able to eat as many milkshakes as I wanted and still lose weight), even if it does mean my pre-pregnancy acne issues are resurfacing. It's exciting to start to feel like my body is "mine" again ... for the last 18 months it has belonged to Her Royal Highness, more or less, and I've just been the caretaker. It's nice to look in the mirror and see something other than a baby factory or a milk machine.

But that still doesn't make for terribly interesting conversation, no matter how many graphic details I throw in. It's times like this that I wonder why I'm doing this to myself ... and then I think about letting one of the local daycare centers raise Liza, and I realize that it's not about me, it's about her. If I want there to be any chance that she doesn't end up saying "Thenk YEEEEEEEEWWWW," I've got to be the one to teach her the proper pronunciation (and we've got to move while she's still impressionable). If I don't want her afternoon activity to be sitting outside watching traffic while strapped into a giant mega-stroller with 10 other kids, I'm going to have to be the one taking her to playdates and the library and the park. And not just today, or this week, or this year, but always.

So for the next decade or so, my answer to "So, what have you been up to recently, other than caring for the kid 24/7?" is going to be, "Not much - and that's okay."

Super power you've never heard of

Thanks to a fellow blogger who inspired this post ...

Back in high school I was part of a group of friends who had the somewhat unusual habit of trying to label everyone in the group based on different tv show characters or habits or whatever. So for a while we were on a Love Boat kick, and I got stuck being known as Isaac, the bartender. I'm not sure how that happened - I think all of the other characters were claimed by the time I was in on the joke.

At any rate, the group of us used to be in each other's cars so often that we developed a schtick about how each of us was responsible for the successful completion of a different aspect of driving. I don't remember what all of the various roles were, other than I think Melissa was the Queen of Pull-Through Parking Spaces. What I do remember is that I was in charge of producing the Gretchen Frick Memorial Break In Traffic.

In heavily populated suburban Delaware, the ability to merge into moving traffic was essential, and my friends used to get anxious anytime they had to pull onto the interstate. One day I pointed out that I never had a problem with that - every time I would get on I-95, there'd be a gap for me. Soon my friends started asking me to work my mojo, even when they were driving ... and then my mother started asking for help with breaks in traffic. In my heyday I seemed to be able to conjure gaps in traffic of as much as half a mile, which in Delaware is akin to turning water into wine. My powers have diminished, though, and my married name doesn't seem to have the same amount of oomph that my maiden name carried.

So that's my super power - summoning breaks in traffic on command. What's yours?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

how on earth did I manage to produce something this beautiful?

Proof that I wasn't kidding ...

... about the steaming cauldron of lacquer removal:

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

My kitchen looks like a science fair project gone awry

When we bought our house two years ago, the first thing on my "to do" list was "replace that ugly chandelier in the dining room." Tarnished brass, ugly fake-cut-glass globes and saucers, inappropriate glass hurricane thingees around each lightbulb, and it was hung too close to the ceiling with not enough wire to drop it down any. Add to that the regular lightbulbs (not "flame" bulbs) the previous owners put in it, and it was downright hideous.

Except that I was the only one who felt that way. My mother, arbiter of all that is good taste, declared it "appropriate for the period of the house." My husband, arbiter of all that is expensive to replace, declared it "inoffensive." My father, arbiter of all that can be repaired, declared it "unable to be lowered without rewiring the whole chandelier, and I don't feel like doing that." Outvoted at least temporarily, I bided my time until the electrician we've been having rewire the whole house made it to the dining room. As long as the chandelier is down, wouldn't it make sense to replace it now?

So we went to a lighting store and found one that I thought would look nice:

And I subsequently found it online for almost $300 less than the lighting store wanted for it. But the more I thought about it, the more expensive it got, considering we already had a working light for the room. And it looks an awful lot like the one we already have, with the cut glass and the candles and such. Not nearly as ugly, but still.

So while we had the chandelier down, I pulled off one of the more accessible parts and tried polishing it. It was solid brass, and polished pretty easily in the sections where the lacquer had worn off. So I stayed up until 11:30 last night disassembling the sucker so I could polish the rest of it.

But before I could polish it, I needed to strip the lacquer. Online searches found numberous cancer-causing chemicals that were recommended for stripping lacquer, as well as a number of suggestions about using boiling water and baking soda, of all things. Today I went and bought enough chemicals to start a Superfund site in my basement, then decided to try the baking soda trick first.

I had also read that you could use any acidic liquid to help remove tarnish from brass, with suggestions ranging from vinegar and ketchup to Texas Pete's Hot Sauce. I was fresh out of Texas Pete, but I had some of the other substances, so I set up a comparison. On the stove - a pot of boiling water with baking soda mixed in. On the counter - one bowl of white vinegar to soak the de-lacquered pieces in. And also on the counter - one bowl with one piece of de-lacquered brass covered in ketchup, just to see if it would work. And finally, also on the counter, one can of commercial brass polish. With the baking soda and vinegar and boiling fuming things, it felt like a science fair volcano just waiting to happen.


- I'll be darned. Boiling the parts for 15 minutes in a mix of 1 TBS baking soda to 1 quart of water (give or take) works to strip the lacquer off of brass. I don't know where it goes, because it didn't peel off or anything - it was just gone. Woohoo!
- Ketchup does bupkis to remove tarnish from brass.
- White vinegar does loosen the tarnish a little, but you'd have to leave it soaking pretty long to get it completely clean.
- Tarnite metal polish totally rocks! On previous brass pieces we've used Brasso, which works but requires more elbow grease than I'd like. Tarnite required me to rub it with a soft cloth - that was it. Woohoo!

So tomorrow I'll be returning half of the Superfund chemicals (and the steel wool) and starting to re-lacquer the pieces I've polished so far. If I can get the right tool to disassemble the rest of the chandelier, I should be able to rewire the sucker this weekend and have it ready for the electrician on Monday. And it will have flame bulbs, and it will have a long enough chain, and it won't look like it's been festering in a dumpster for the last 40 years. I don't expect to love it, but I also don't expect to hate it, and it didn't cost me $550. Hurrah!

Drawer full o' perk

I have to believe that "first lingerie-shopping trip after having a baby" is pretty high up on the list of things that new moms would rather avoid. I managed to put it off for 10 months, dreading the thought of facing all those lithe plastic mannequin bodies with perky bosoms and thong-ready haunches. The only thing my haunches are ready for is a cellulite treatment, and "perky" fails to describe so many parts of my body that I don't even know where to start the list. I'd like to take a moment to publicly apologize to my mother for ever snickering at her "girls" when I was a teenager - you were right, Mom, mine were headed the same direction, I just didn't know it yet.

Ahem. Anyway, I'm still nursing Liza, so until recently I haven't been too concerned that all I have to wear is saggy baggy nursing bras that make me want to hide in a corner any time my shirt is off. But since she's been starting to cut back on the nursing (and I've bought some new shirts that don't look too great without some, um, support) I've needed to go shopping for new bras. Bra shopping is second only to jeans shopping on my list of Top Ten Ways I'll Be Tortured When I Get To Hell, even without a baby who tends to wail like a banshee anytime she enters a dressing room. (Also on that list: installing a whole houseful of quarter-round molding in a house with uneven floors and warped walls ... but that's another story). A couple of months ago I tried to look for bras at the local mall, but that trip was frustrating for both of us - I couldn't find a style and size that fit, and Liza's screaming made the ears of the dressing room attendant bleed.

But Liza's been doing fairly well on shopping trips recently, as long as she has been sufficiently sated with carbohydrates and plied with jangly toys. So after lunch today we made the excursion to Victoria's Secret, home of overpriced lingerie and really annoying commercials. Since I knew my time was limited - keys and crackers only buy me about 20 minutes of scream relief - I threw myself on the mercy of one of the strangely identically dressed sales associates. I swear, if she hadn't been the only Asian salesperson, I never would have been able to pick her out from the others. Anyway, she measured me and then handed me a drawer, one of about 40 in a little bureau in the dressing area. It turns out there's one drawer for each size the store carries, and each drawer has one of each of the most popular bra styles in that size. So in one fell swoop I got to try on almost all of the bras that could possibly fit me ... it was a revelation, like having a personal shopper or something.

There was an episode of What Not to Wear where the fashion victim was given a day of shopping at an exclusive boutique in Paris, and the sales associates had a dressing room set up for her with every piece of clothing in her size from the entire inventory. My trip to Vicky's wasn't quite that nice, but I have to say, those little drawers ROCK. I would have been in and out of the dressing room half a dozen times if it hadn't been for the drawer o' bras ... instead I went in once, found the styles that fit best, and went a second time to try them on in the colors I chose from the stock in the store. Two dressing room trips - that's it! Can you believe it? It almost makes up for the fact that the cheapest bra I bought was $42.50 ... actually, it more than makes up for it. The drawer o' bras turned what was going to be a horrendous pain in the butt into something that was almost - but not quite - fun. And I've got a bunch of new undergarments that sag not, bag not, and will return my girls to a shape that is reminiscent of their pre-Liza level of perk. If that's not worth $170, what is?

($10 says Jason just spit coffee all over the computer monitor when he read that last sentence)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


WEKU starts its spring membership drive this weekend. When I worked at the station I was probably the only employee who actually looked forward to the pledge drives. After all, for most of them it was a week of long hours, funky shift changes to accommodate everyone's schedules, and countless cups of coffee and stale donuts. For me it was a golden week when I was allowed to go on the air and extemporize about why public radio is so great that people should voluntarily pay for it. This is something that I'm likely to do for free any time someone mentions public radio, so to be paid to shill for them was like a dream come true.

I mean, when I was in elementary school I used to try to guilt trip my parents into pledging during the public television fund drives because I believed it when the hosts said "If you don't pledge, we won't be able to bring you this great programming." Public television pledge drives were when they ran the "good" shows that we otherwise would never have seen, things like Monty Python and The Red Green Show. Without public tv, my sense of humor wouldn't be nearly as warped as it is today, and yet my parents never sent in a dime.

From what everyone at WEKU told me, the years of begging my parents to pledge have given me a finely developed ability to pitch during pledge drives - and they must be serious, because they've asked me to come back to help fill shifts during the two drives since Liza was born. And they haven't even asked me to bring the baby, so I know they don't have ulterior motives about inviting me! I'm not that great at reading off of the prepared pitch cards that some of the hosts use, but if you want to give me ninety seconds to tell you how pledging to WEKU is a much better way to spend your Saturday morning than, say, ripping out the English ivy that's invading your front yard, I'm golden.

Jason, on the other hand, is about the last person you'd ever ask to do a pledge drive. He hates talking to strangers on the phone, hates asking people for favors, and is generally uncomfortable talking about money matters with other people. I mean, it's taken almost 10 years of marriage for me to convince him that asking him to call in the pizza order isn't some sort of punishment I'm leveling on him.

So I was surprised when he called me today to tell me that he had been "volunteered" to be his company's representative at the MDA "lock-up" fundraiser. Apparently all the people who usually do this sort of thing were out of town or otherwise unavailable, and Jason was the man of last resort. Nobody told him about it ahead of time, though, so when the police officer showed up to drive him to the holding cell at the bowling alley, he had a bunch of meetings he couldn't reschedule. Nothing like telling the cop, "I'll meet you there at 2 pm." For that matter, there's nothing like getting a call from your husband saying, "So they asked me to come down to HR, and when I get in Mike's office there's a police officer waiting for me there." Just about gave me a heart attack, that particular sentence did.

Despite a late start and a complete lack of planning and/or preparation on his part, Jason managed to raise $850 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, aka "Jerry's Kids." Or, as the lady sitting near Jason kept saying, "I'm calling to raise money for Gary's Kids." I can just imagine getting that call - "Lady, who's Gary, and why the heck should I care about his kids?" For his time, Jason received a commemorative photo, a certificate, a t-shirt, a keychain shaped like a pair of handcuffs, and a book of really crappy poetry written by one of Gary's Kids. I personally think they should have skipped the trinkets and let him leave after only $800, but that's why they don't put me in charge of these things.

Anyway, congratulations to Jason, even if he didn't have the guts to actually call any of the neighbors whose phone numbers he made me look up when he called home this afternoon. Gary's Kids would be so proud!

if only we could all be so relaxed

Sunday, March 12, 2006

tv or not tv

Jason and I are planning to cancel our cable tv subscription sometime soon. At $45 a month, it just isn't something we're getting our money out of anymore. In preparation for the cable cancellation, we've signed up for Netflix, which has been really cool (more on that later).

I'm not a big tv watcher - when Jason's not around, I usually don't even bother to turn it on. The only time I can remember having it on while he was at work was a few weeks ago when Liza was getting antsy and I turned on PBS so she could watch Caillou while I took a break from the non-stop entertain-a-child routine. But for someone who basically watches almost no tv, I'm strangely reluctant to ditch the cable. The only shows I watch - primarily What Not to Wear and some South Park - are on cable, and I'm not sure I'm ready to go cold turkey.

I find it sort of ironic that the guy who immediately turns on the tv whenever he's got free time is the one campaigning to ditch cable, and the person who generally watches whatever the other person wants is the one who's hesitating. Secretly I'm hoping that I'll call to cancel the cable and they'll offer me a few months free if I stay ... then we can save the money and the cable :)


Now, back to Netflix. You know how when you go to the video store to rent a movie and there's either nothing you want, or you want to take home 40 videos because you haven't seen a movie in ages and everything sounds good? Netflix is great because you just put all 40 of them in your queue, and they show up at your door. We can keep them as long as we want, and all I have to do to return them is open my door and stick them in the mailbox. It's like a new mother's dream. Plus, they have all of the obscure movies that never come to our local theatres, including some that I heard about when I was hosting All Things Considered when I was pregnant and then promptly forgot about until I was on the Netflix site. And if you tell it which movies you liked, it recommends movies you might like to add to your queue (see that? I used "queue" two - now three - times in one post ... and here you thought it was just for Scrabble tournaments!). If you like movies - or tv shows that are out on DVD (like Lost, which we're working our way through now) - you should look into Netflix or Blockbuster's online rental service.

PS - my god, she turned into a child (not a baby) while I wasn't looking ...

Friday, March 10, 2006

Play date

Earlier this week we spent a couple of hours over at a friend's house for a play date for Liza. She had a chance to hang out with a baby who is about her age, as well as her 3-year-old sister who is really good at entertaining babies, so Liza had a great time. And I had a chance to hang out with another mom and eat Thai food and brownies, so I had a great time.

The other baby is a lot more mobile than Liza - heck, sea sponges are more mobile than Liza - and it always amuses me to see how she gets around. She's really curious about everything, and she couldn't wait to see who was borrowing her high chair.

Watching the two of them together reminds me of a litter of puppies - if one of the puppies wants to get somewhere, it just goes, regardless of how many other puppies it has to crawl over to get there.
Liza, meanwhile, is fairly oblivious, especially when I make any attempt to point out to her that the other baby can crawl and cruise, while Liza sits there like a lump. I have a feeling that her inner monologue sounds something like, "Hey, kid, why are you wasting your energy like that? Don't you know that if you just sit still and cry hard enough, Mom will bring you whatever you want?" Ah, the things these two can teach each other ...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

My latest quilt

Made using some of my grandmother's handkerchiefs ...

And silk hydrangea petals from Bella Nonna.

Yes, it's an unusual design, primarily due to the fact that I screwed up a couple of years ago when I first started attaching the butterflies to the blue fabric. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, even if it is a little, um, hexagonal.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Easter/baptismal frock photos

I couldn't quite manage to get the photos taken before she pulled her shoes off ... I may need to bring a roll of duct tape if I want them to stay on when we get her picture taken with the bunnies on Thursday. The dress is a little on the generous side, but I suppose that beats the alternative, and maybe she'll be able to wear it again this fall.