Tuesday, June 26, 2007


There is a new housing development that I've been driving past lately on my way to take Charlotte to story hour at the library. Since we live in a part of town that's pretty fully developed, there aren't many new neighborhoods being built--mostly small "in-fill" cul-de-sacs of a handful of houses. This one looked a little bigger and actually had a sales office in the garage of a dedicated display home, so I was curious. Yesterday I had some time to kill while my house was being cleaned (I feel guilty being idle while other people work...normally she comes on days when we're not home). I ran a couple of errands first and then decided to go check out the neighborhood.

The "starting" price range is similar to our neighborhood's current market values, so I actually expected the houses to be bigger or nicer or have much larger yards or something. Apparently not. For those of you who have never built a house, the "starting price" includes a very bare-bones house, with none of the "upgrades" that the pretty display houses include. The display house actually had a starting price that was the same as a very recent broker price opinion on ours (obtained for the purposes of the mortgage, not because we're going to sell soon). It also had the same square footage. I would not have bought that house. Besides layout differences (which are a matter of preference), for the money you did not get the stained wood trim & railings, larger a/c unit, jetted whirlpool tub, deck, or finished basement that we have. All of the nice features in the display were "upgrades"--9ft ceilings, hardwood kitchen floor, rounded archways, etc. Also, our neighborhood has a community swimming pool and playground area, and walking path to a park--their neighborhood has 40 homesites (that's it, nothing else). To be fair, they sod the entire yard where our builder used seed for the back (that was 7 years ago...the grass has grown in fine since then). Basically, I was happy to see that our house (and whole neighborhood) would compare very favorably with this newer one, and that it's proximity and price range may do good things to our own home's value.

I had told the salesguy that I was just curious about the development in hopes of sparing myself his pitch. What I got instead was something I wasn't expecting--advice about how many people are pleasantly surprised to learn that they really can afford to buy a house. I nodded and smiled through his little speech and left amused, but didn't correct him. I was wearing a shorter jean skirt, t-shirt and sandals, no wedding ring (I don't bother wearing it around the house, and frequently forget to put it on), and I had just Trystan with me. I guess I looked like a young mother with a new baby who was thinking about buying a first house. He probably would have been shocked to hear that I'm a 30 year old, married, software developer, mother of 2, who lives in a house as nice or nicer than he was selling. If we were looking for another house (we're not, I swear), we'd be looking to move up, not over.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Productivity (how do I make that word look sarcastic, anyway?)

I'm not having a good morning, for various reasons. I just returned from a very short trip to a local car service place where there was one car being worked on and no one waiting inside, and I was told it would be almost 2 hours before they could do an oil change and state inspection. Oh, and they don't take appointments. It seems, though, that I'm actually lucky today--our once-monthly housecleaner normally gets here around 9am, but hasn't shown up yet (it's 11), so at least I can hang around the house without being in the way (and feeling guilty about watching someone else work) instead of trying to find somewhere else to entertain a baby while I wait.

When I first got home from the car place, I decided to make a phone call or two. Thursday we were told that our surgeon wanted to postpone Trystan's surgery, and that the secretary would call later that day or Friday to re-schedule. She never did. I didn't actually expect her to, as I had to prompt her to get it scheduled in the first place. I called this morning, and she said that she still needed to "communicate" with the doctor to find out when he wanted to schedule it. Great.

We also have some repairs we need made to our house. For those who have seen the front of our house, you've probably noticed the big crack in the wood over the garage door. We finally found a list of names of people to call who might be able to fix it--out of 6, exactly 1 bothered to call back and show up to even look at it--he hasn't yet gotten back to us with an amount yet (it's been about a week). Another company initially returned my call (I talked to a secretary), but no one has ever called back or just shown up to look at the problem. I started calling people over a month ago, thinking that within a week of my first phone call I might be able to just have the thing fixed (we're talking about probably one afternoon's worth of work, that's all).

I think this is why I like "managing" computers and not people-computer don't make so darned many excuses for why they don't get anything done.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

On Again/Off Again

Yesterday I spent some time trading phone calls with Trystan's surgeon's office about whether he would be in shape for his surgery tomorrow. During the routine blood test, it was determined that he is a little anemic and has a slightly low red blood cell count. I had to bring him in today to talk to the anesthesiologist, who said that the numbers were not that low, and that there is frequently a dip around 3 months of age. He gave the thumbs up for the surgery to go ahead. We got back home an hour ago, and I've been mentally preparing for the day--what time I can last feed him before the surgery, what we need to pack, etc.

I just got another phone call from the surgeon's office. Even though Trystan's been cleared for tomorrow, the surgery is being postponed. There is some emergency case that the doctor is attending to instead. I'll find out in the next day or so when the new date is.

I'm very frustrated. Contemplating surgery for a 3-month old is stressful enough, and having someone play with the date does not help. Also, I start back to work next week, which means that I will have to somehow arrange time off for the surgery later--I start back to work with NO sick time and NO vacation time as it has all been paid out as part of my maternity leave. The only upside is that I'll be working 3 days a week and will probably be able to rearrange my work days when the new date is set--my only other way to take time off again is through FMLA, and will involve a lot of paperwork. My mom and two of my sisters are coming in for the weekend to help out with Charlotte--Mom was on her way to the kennel with her dog when I called. They're still going to come and just have a fun visit instead, but she may not be able to make it back next time, which will make arrangements for Charlotte more difficult. Finally, I'll have to go through all of the anxiety that I've been feeling all morning again. That just sucks.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stress and busy-ness

Trystan has his next surgery on Friday. I think. I took him in last Friday for pre-surgical bloodwork, and was called today saying that one of the numbers was low, so they want to check him out tomorrow to clear him for the surgery. The secretary coudln't explain what the number was or what it meant, and when I called, the actual anesthesiology department nurses were out to lunch, so I don't know what exactly to think. The secretary said that it could be a lab error, as only one number was bad, and Trystan hasn't been sick. We'll see. I hope they don't want to postpone things--I'm supposed to start back to work at the end of next week. There's nothing like last minute uncertainty on top of normal parental anxiety to really put your mind at ease...

With my little "vacation" (ha!) coming to an end, I'm trying to finish a few more things. I finally got ahold of a carpenter this week who not only called me back, but actually showed up at the house to give us a bid for some repair work over our garage door (water is damaging some of the wood, which needs repair and replacement). I had called another place recommended by the guy who was the head general contractor (or whatever his title was) on our house when it was built--but his recommended place never called back--they do exterior siding work, maybe they think this job is too small. Another carpenter has never returned my call. I also am about 500 miles late on an oil change for my car, and need my state safety inspection so I can renew my license plates. I tried to set up an appointment with a Honda dealer last week, but they never called me back--seems to be a theme lately. Hmm...I don't think Jiffy Lube or Valvoline do the safety inspections, but the CarX down the street does...I'll have to check on that.

Continuing the theme of stress and general busy-ness, today has been quite exhausting. So far we've been to St. Louis Bread Co for breakfast (cinnamon bagels), to the playground, to the library, home to start a pot roast in the crock pot and play phone tag with the hospital, and to McD's for lunch and playtime with a friend. We skipped the Magic House, as we didn't finish lunch until nearly 2pm. After getting Charlotte changed (she spilled milk and carmel in the car) and down for a nap, I called and talked to my boss about returning to work. There's a homeowner's association meeting tonight too--don't know if one of us will make it or not, though we need to go--have questions and suggestions for the group. Maybe things will be calmer after I start back at work...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Stroller problem solved?

Since Trystan was born, I've been struggling with a bit of a dilemma--how to tote two children in one stroller. Charlotte is not quite big enough to walk all the time, and wearing Trystan in the sling can get hot in a hurry, especially outside at something like the park or the zoo. I haven't wanted to buy a new double stroller, like Sarahlynn did, for several reasons. First of all, they're expensive--the cheapest I've seen are around $80, and the nicer ones seem to start at $150. We already own 3 strollers--the regular "travel system" type one that came with our carseat (the one I prefer to use), a cheap but small and light umbrella stroller, and the jogging stroller (which is huge and cumbersome for regular "strolling"). If I bought a new double stroller, we'd have to find room to store the regular stroller somewhere (it's not that tiny either). Finally, the double strollers have one of two problems: either they're huge even when folded up (I drive an Accord, not a SUV), or they don't accomodate an infant that can't sit up on their own.

I had seen at Babies R Us a double stroller where teh rear seat is more of a platform for an older toddler/small child to ride on--a good compromise when your kids are 2+ years apart like mine are. Today I headed to Burlington Coat Factory and then BRU to check those out. I wasn't impressed--the storage baskets underneath were really hard to get to, they were still huge (one was the same size as a regular double stroller), and again, I'm leery of forking out $150 for another stroller.

I think I found an even better solution--a kit to attach a seat/platform onto my existing stroller. It was still somewhat pricey ($65), but cheaper than a whole stroller, and is about the size of a small stepstool (so, still eats trunk space, but not precious basement storage). The step has mounting poles that are semi-permanently attached to the stroller--no holes to drill or anything, but they screw on and off--and the seat/plaftorm snaps on and off of those mounting poles, so I can remove it when I only have Trystan. Install was pretty easy, and I've played with it in my kitchen--It drives well enough and is very stable even without Trystan in the stroller seat. With practice getting the platform on and off should be pretty easy. I think it might fit in my trunk with the platform still on, but I haven't tried that yet. Charlotte's still at daycare, so she hasn't gotten to take it for a test drive yet. Tomorrow I need to take Trystan down to the lab at Children's for bloodwork, and Charlotte's not in school, so we'll check the whole system out then.

Friday, June 08, 2007

"Not Quite"

I hate potty training. Things initially seemed to go really well--before she was even 2, Charlotte would frequently ask to use the potty. But since, oh, December or so, she's decided to vehemently oppose any suggestion that she use the potty, and when you ask her if she needs to go, you get one of the following: "No.", "NOOOOO! NO Potty!", "Not Quite", "Not Yet", or my favorite "I already did" (which means neither that she's used the restroom nor that she's necessarily wet her pants yet).

Lots of people have been telling me that having a new baby in the house will make kids rebel and/or revert to having accidents. Ok, so it's been 3 months now. She needs to get over it already. She actually has some really good days--over Memorial Day weekend, she went several days with minimal accidents (like 2-3 in a 4-day period). But as soon as she went back to daycare the next week, she was having 2-3 accidents a day. The problem is not just school--last Saturday she had like 5 separate accidents. When she was home with me on Wednesday, she was accident free all day. The next day, 3 accidents just at school. Today (another home day), she had 2 before 8:30 AM. For both of them, she claimed that she didn't have to go, and then wandered in to the bathroom while I was going, and wet her pants in front of me.

Bribes don't work with this child. Rewards don't work (I've tried candy, tv privileges, and brand new Disney Princess panties that she really likes). Threats really don't work--I think my husband's frustration (and subsequent volume level) helped contribute to last weekend's 5x a day wetting problem. Positive re-inforcement only goes so far--she seems to enjoy the praise, but it doesn't mean she won't pee on the carpet an hour later. Following some advice in one of our books, I'm trying to really downplay the accidents so she doesn't try to use them as an attention getter--it hasn't made a difference. There is no discernable difference in her behavior when she's wearing pull-ups vs underwear (though she tries to request "diaper changes" when in the pullups). About the only time where she's pretty consistent about requesting to potty and not having accidents is when she's out of the house with us--she's also generally agreeable when *we* suggest that she use the potty out of the house (she usually kicks and screams at home).

This is driving me nuts. Between the laundry (eew!), the carpet cleaning (double eew!), and the tantrums we have to endure, it's a good thing she's cute some of the time or I'd have strangled her by now (no, I'm not going to hurt her. But boy do I wish we could fastforward a couple of months...). I'm trying to forget that boys are harder in general than girls, and that with Trystan's birth defects, he could be harder than normal to potty train. Then again, we'll be pros by that time.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Little fix-up

I like to cook and I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. Many of our friends (and my husband) have been laughing at me since shortly after we bought our house when I started talking about renovating the kitchen. What makes it so funny is that we had the house built. The problem is, it was not a true custom house, and we've discovered that "builder's grade" is another word for "utter crap". Even "upgrading" certain things in our kitchen did not help us escape the inherent crappiness of our kitchen cabinetry. I've complained about my kitchen here before before, so I should not re-hash it anymore today.

Happily, we took some steps to improve things over the last two weekends. No, we're not renovating (Ok, so we did walk around the kitchen displays at Lowes and drooled over nice cabinets and granite counters, but it was just window-shopping). Instead, we got a kit to turn one of our cabinets into a pull-out trashcan, another to add a pull-out wood drawer to a different cabinet, some sheet pan dividers, and a small bookshelf. Installing the dividers and trash-can pullout required my husband to remove the existing cabinet "shelves" with a jigsaw (we're talking about the fixed half-shelves that are part of "builder-grade, industry-standard" cabinetry). The wood pull-out shelf was easier to install, and we can now actually see all of the little plastic containers that we use (before, it was a matter of emptying out the entire cabinet to find the one in the size you need). The little bookshelf fits under the short side of our island, and holds my cookbooks. With the sheet pan dividers, I can get out a cookie sheet without sounding like I'm bringing the house down--the stack of sheet pans, muffin pans, broiler pans, pizza pans, and cutting boards was a good foot high in there before. The trash can pull-out was actually cheaper than some of the standalone cans we've looked at recently, and doesn't get in the way of the door to the garage anymore--I resisted dedicating a whole cabinet to trash for a long time, but I'm pretty happy with it so far. All that, plus a little time sorting out things that we really aren't using has helped a lot. Not bad for a $200 "remodel", and less than an hour total of install time on my husbands part (Thanks!).

Ok, so I still want to re-do the kitchen. But, Charlotte keeps trying to swing on the cabinet doors, and I think there is still some finger paint on one of them that I missed the other day. Like the carpets that Charlotte keeps having accidents on (stay tuned for a potty training report), we should really wait until the kids are done tearing the place up before we spend a lot of money to make it nicer. I have cabinetry brochures to keep me company until then.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Big boy

Trystan is laying in my lap, wearing one of Charlotte's old sleepers. This week, I've been pulling all of the 0-3 month outfits out of his closet, and replacing them with 3-6 month ones. I think my little guy is around 12 pounds already--I think Charlotte hit 12 pounds around 5-6 months of age.

Anyway, he has plenty of new clothes that will fit him, but I've been enjoying seeing him in some of his sister's clothes. The first one I dressed him from this batch was a cute waffle-weave Gerber sleeper that is white with little blue and yellow turtles all over it. I actually remember the last time Charlotte wore it--around February 2005. She was sick with Roseola one weekend when my in-laws were in town, and they babysat her for that Monday so my husband and I didn't have to take sick days. I came home from work to see her wearing the sleeper, but it was unbuttoned and her feet out of it, because she'd suddenly (overnight, I think) grown too long for it.

Trystan is growing well, and slightly on the chubby side even (his sister was always a little longer and skinneir). He has the cutest smiles, good for him when he wakes at 5:30 in the morning hungry again. His next surgery is scheduled for June 22, and his third (and hopefully final for this series) will be about 6 weeks later. After that, he should have a complete and connected digestive tract, and hopefully won't need more surgeries for several years.