Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The big picture

We got a new TV over the weekend, to replace the one that stopped working after last week's ice storm (and subsequent power surges/flickers). My husband and I went back and forth for a couple of days about what to buy and how much to spend before we came up with a pretty good solution that (mostly) worked out.

The old TV was 32" (regular 4x3 aspect ratio...it's like 8-9 years old) and sat in a nice 3-piece entertainment center--the type with a center armoire and bookcases on either side. We bought the entertainment center unfinished and did all of the staining ourselves (mostly my husband). A couple of years ago, my husband took the bottom of the center armoire and built in drawers for DVD's and pull-out shelves for all of the media components. It looks nice, really wasn't that cheap (in time or money), and we had no budget to replace it. The problem is that it was designed for the traditional sized TV's and would fit a max of a 36" tv.

We have talked about upgrading to a larger flat-panel HDTV for 2 or 3 years now, but figured with baby #2 on the way, that we would be waiting another year or two before taking that plunge. We had kicked around moving the entertainment center to either our finished basement (and thereby replacing the 30-year old RCA tv we inherited from my husband's grandmother), or up to our bedroom, probably turning the center armoire into non-tv storage (we have no TV in our bedroom and don't feel like we need one). But then we would have to buy a new furniture piece to house the media components for a new TV--we've even kicked around having a vent-free or direct-vent fireplace installed on that wall and mounting a TV above it, with some sort of side unit to hold receiver, DVD player, etc. Grandiose plans are easy to dream up when the budget and timetable are far in the future.

So, as of last Thursday, our options were 1) Go whole-hog and replace the TV and entertainment center all at once (for a sum total of a couple thousand $) 2) replace just the TV with a flat panel that would fit in the cabinet (probably 32" or smaller), for somewhere in the $700-$1000 range or 3) Replace just the TV with another 32-36" traditional TV (for $3-500). We took door #2, and measured our cabinet.

Our plans went slightly awry when we were faced with the enormous space of a warehouse store and comparing 32" flat panels. They just looked so small. We did find one 37" flat panel that seemed like it would just fit in our cabinet and our budget, so we crossed our fingers and strapped it into the trunk of the car. We got it home, and my husband moved the old tv aside, only to find out that the new TV is about .5" too wide for the armoire. Oops. It is a really nice size, though--traditional TV broadcasts are about the size we're used to, and we can zoom widescreen movies to fill the TV for a nice big picture. Plus, this one doesn't show the glare of the room's lights, which is a big improvement over the old, shiny screen.

We have the TV currently sitting at an angle inside the cabinet, and are looking for a pull-out-and-swivel tray to mount it to (like all the hotels have)--that way, we'll be able to pull the TV out of the cabinet and set it flush against the outside so that everyone in the room can see the TV without anything blocking their view, and will still be able to put it all away and shut the doors.

A win-win situation all around. Well, mostly. If anyone has a good source for the TV tray/arm contraption that I'm talking about, let us know!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tech Support

Until Monday evening, I had been feeling pretty smug about the weekend's ice storm. Once again, despite power outages across the city (and in our own neighborhood), our power stayed on. We had only a couple of blinks, and quite a few brownouts throughout the weekend as everyone else's power was worked on.

Monday morning I tried to watch the news while eating breakfast, and had trouble getting the news to come up. Our cable service routinely has trouble when it rains, so I was guessed that it was just flaky after the weekend storms. The station did eventually come up, so all seemed well.

After work, Charlotte requested, as usual, to watch Elmo (i.e. Sesame Street, recorded daily on our cable box/DVR). The new rule is that she has to use the restroom before watching any TV--partially to encourage her to actually potty, and partially to head off any accidents while engrossed in the tube. After some grumbling and pouting, she eventually decided that she did have to go, and mostly took herself. I cheered, and attempted to turn on her precious Elmo.

Receiver: On. Cable Box: On. TV: On. No Picture
Fix Receiver to display TV instead of DVD player. No picture.
Attempt toggling Receiver and Cable Box, assuming that one or the other is probably off. No picture.

(At this point it might help for me to say that the receiver, cable box, DVD, etc are in a wood cabinet with a childproof lock on it, so I can't actually *see* whether the various components are powered on or set to the correct settings while I'm usign the remote)

At this point, while Charlotte repeats "Elmo" and points to the TV over and over again, I finally walk up to the TV cabinet and open the door to figure out which piece of electronics is turned off. The TV, receiver, and cable box were all on, and set to the correct things.

We've blown 2 cable boxes in the past, and I begin to assume that one of the power surges has killed this one as well, so I offer up an episode of Veggie Tales on DVD as an alternative to Elmo. Charlotte chose her DVD, and I tried once again to get the thing up and running, but no go. Clearly the problem at this point is not the cable box...and I soon realize that even the menu button on the TV doesn't prompt a response.

Charlotte is standing next to me at this point, trying to help me solve this problem so that she can commence her entertainment. First, she points at the remote control in my hand and tells me "need batteries". Sorry, baby, the batteries are working just fine. Then she starts pointing to various buttons and telling me to push them. Again, thanks, but I've already tried that. For a 2-year old, that struck me as remarkably good at problem solving an electronics failure. We've had babysitters who couldn't figure out how to get our tv set up the right way, and here's a toddler in diapers pointing to some of the correct buttons (power, open dvd, etc), and who even knows about batteries in a remote. Scary.

Our TV is dead. It doesn't respond to any input (even the buttons on the box itself). I had to explain to Charlotte that it was broken (which she took really well), and allowed her to watch Veggie Tales on my laptop instead. BTW, she knows how to use a mouse and log herself into an XP computer upstairs to play a limited selection of child-friendly games. Again, Scary.

If you're experiencing any technical difficulties, we have a tech support staff for hire. Her hourly rate is very reasonable, but after configuring your home entertainment center or computer for you, you are required to play Elmo until she is satisfied with the quality of her work. Changing diapers is the responsibility of the customer, while she's on the clock.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Potty Training Woes

Back in September, we had high hopes for potty training with our daughter. She was doing really well, all by herself. With very little prompting from us, she started asking to use the potty (or just taking herself, especially at daycare), and was even staying dry many nights. I was hoping that she'd be in underwear after Christmas.

Then, right before the holidays, things took a turn for the worse. Charlotte started getting defiant if we'd ask her if she needed to go to the restroom, and throwing temper tantrums if we either hauled her in or tried to change her diaper. She refused to acknowledge that she was wet or stinky. But, when we were out of the house, she generally was staying dry and asking to use the potty, just like before. We've been trying to massively back off any pressure--trying not to ask if she needs to use the restroom, or if she's wet or anything else. We've been letting her sit in a wet diaper all evening if she doesn't decide to use the potty or request a diaper change. So, she's been sitting wet for hours on end, and apparently doesn't care. We give lots of positive re-inforcement when she does use the potty (cheers and hugs and smiles, even when she just goes through the motions and doesn't actually wet). We tried buying some of the pull-ups that feel cool when they're wet--that worked only for the first time she peed in them (and told me immediately that she was wet). After that, she must have gotten used to the cool feeling, and is back to ignoring them. We've tried bribing her a bit with potty trips (you can watch Elmo if you go to the potty first)--no go. She's even addicted to an Elmo game on pbskids.org where Elmo and friends have to stop what they're doing to go to the bathroom--she tries to recite many of the words along with the game/story, but they obviously aren't sinking in ("If you get the feeling that you have to go, stop whatever you're doing and go. Otherwise, you might have an accident").

This past weekend I went to Walmart and bought some training underwear (the padded kind) and vinyl pants to go over them. I could have bought regular panties, but the smallest size they make is a "2T/3T" and she's barely in 2T...the padded kind came in 18 and 24 months, which looked closer to our petite daughter's size. She wore a pair around Friday night, and stayed dry (mostly because she did not need to pee, I think). Saturday morning, we put on another pair, and 5 minutes later she peed in them. It ran down her leg, and she got very upset about it. She got a fresh pair of panties, and also got dressed in jeans at that point. A couple of hours later, she wet her pants again, but this time tried to tell me that she was not wet (she was soaked, and it had leaked out of the plastic pants and on the back of her jeans also). Grr. At that point we had errands to run out of the house, so we put on a pullup and gave up on the underwear for the weekend. I guess we need to start over with the "back off" approach, and start letting her run around wet until she decides to complain for herself. She's been very demanding and defiant in everything lately, so I think that the potty training is just one more area where she's trying to assert control. Unfortunately, lots of time-outs in the corner, and (loud) harsh words have been working well at keeping her regular behavior in check, but we're unwilling to punish her for potty training accidents as of yet (if ever). *Sigh*

Friday, January 05, 2007

Non Stress Tests

I've had my first two non-stress tests this week. They're really not that bad at all. The OB has a small room with a recliner in it that I sit in and put my feet up. The nurse straps two monitors on my belly--one that checks the baby's heartrate, and the other I believe would measure contractions if I were having any. They're the same two hockey-puck shaped monitors that I wore during labor with Charlotte, and neither is uncomfortable in any way (no pin pricks or anything, just stretchy velcro that wraps around my middle to hold them in place). She also gives me a button (think Jeopardy) to click when I feel the baby move or a contraction. Then I relax and read a magazine for 20 minutes while baby boy does some belly dancing. They are checking my weight, blood pressure, and taking a urine sample at every test as well (I managed to drop a pound between last week and this week....maybe I was eating too much salt and retaining water over Christmas or something).

Tuesday I also had an ultrasound, which showed his growth is still right on target (estimated 43rd percentile for size....about the same as the 41st percentile a month ago). It was kind of funny that the baby was very active during the ultrasound, but tried to take a nap during the non-stress test. The doctor used a small buzzer to wake him up at the end and get him kicking. It put out a very small vibration, less than a computer with an bad power supply. Once he was awake, his heartrate responded correctly to the efforts of his kicking. Not that I was surprised after all the belly-shaking he's been doing lately.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2007. I'm not sure I know where a lot of 2006 went, but it appears to be really truely gone. The holidays went by fast. My work gives everyone the week off between Christmas and New Years, but it's not quite enough. We had a very busy week with the majority of both families in town on different days to visit. I think I counted about 24 hours of time off work where we had no houseguests and no scheduled family activities. I'm ready for my vacation now.

Although we celebrated Christmas several days last week (I think I counted 4 separate present-opening events), I do feel like I missed New Year's Eve. I believe this is the first year in many (maybe since childhood) where I haven't stayed up until at least midnight. After such a busy week, and then spending a lot of Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning attempting to clean up the house, I was ready to topple over at about 10pm. This is also the only New Year's Eve where I've been pregnant--well, pregnant enough to notice. I believe I was a few days post conception with Charlotte on Dec 31, 2003, but that doesn't count.

I did not make any actual resolutions this year. I have expectations and hopes for the year, but I'm leary of setting goals that I can't actually influence. We're hoping for a (relatively) healthy baby in March, with as easy (and safe) of a delivery as possible. Ideally, by the end of the year I should be getting back in shape, but I'm not making a goal of it. While breastfeeding Charlotte, I noticed that I was able to pump milk easier if I wasn't exercising heavily as well, so I'm not going to impose any fitness goals on myself this time either. Hopefully I will be less stressed about the whole situation this time around too, because I've been there and done that. I've considered a handful of educational goals, but all are long-term (as in, maybe starting 2008). Whether I'm talking about taking a weekly painting class or working on a masters program, it will all depend on how family dynamics with the little one work out.