Friday, December 31, 2010

Tiny chef

We gave Nico a really cool play kitchen for Christmas. It was supposed to be the main gift for his first birthday in January, but we ended up giving it to him early so that he could share it with my friend Tamsyn's toddler when they visited us this week. Then it turned out Nico liked the kitchen so much that he didn't want to share it.

It's a great kitchen, though. We got it from CSN Stores, online purveyors of everything from modern rugs to martini shakers and I posted about it over on my review blog.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the CSN Stores Preferred Blogger program, I will receive a $100 voucher in exchange for posting a linked keyword selected by CSN Stores. The choice of product as well as the words and opinions in the review are my own.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dead Reckoning

Originating with Linda at All & Sundry.

Here are mine from years past:

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before? I had a baby! And I started cardio bootcamp classes at the gym and surprised myself by loving them.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
 Last year, I said: "For 2010, I'm keeping it simple. I just want to be the best wife, mother, and friend I can be." I guess I did an okay job with that. For 2011, there are things I hope that will happen (like finding a new full-time job) that are somewhat out of my control and things that I hope to do that I probably don't need a resolution for (like being a good mom), so I've decided to make one main goal for the year and leave it at that. I want 2011 to be the year of the Great Decluttering, in my house, my professional life, and maybe my personal life, too.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
 One of my message board friends had a lovely little boy in June.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
 My friend Danger's brother passed away.

5. What countries did you visit? None

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? Job security

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? January 15

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
 After coming very, very close to not being able to breastfeed at all, I'm extremely proud that I have been able to nurse Nico for almost a year now. It was a lot of very hard work, but it was worth it.

9. What was your biggest failure? Even before my hours were cut at work, I was pretty jaded. I shouldn't have let the bullshit interfere with the parts of my job that I love, but I did.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I can't decide if I should say "Just a C-section" or "OMG a freaking C-section!"

11. What was the best thing you bought? Maybe Nico's Little People barn. It cost me $2 for the barn and $15 for the replacement animals and he has played with it every day since I gave it to him.

12. Where did most of your money go? Other than the mortgage, our biggest expense was probably the bundle of hospital bills from Nico's birth.

13. What did you get really excited about? Finally getting to meet our kid

14. What song will always remind you of 2010? Anything from Mumford & Sons' Sigh No More

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder?
So much happier.
– thinner or fatter? Thinner, but only because at this time last year I was epically pregnant. I'm fatter than I've ever been while not pregnant.
– richer or poorer? Poorer, for certain.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
 Exercised, commented on blogs

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
 Watched TV

18. How did you spend Christmas? We visited MB's family the weekend before Christmas, had Christmas Eve dinner with my mom's extended family, and then spent Christmas Day with my parents and sister at their house. It was really nice.

19. What was your favorite TV program? Burn Notice, I think. Or Deadliest Catch.

20. What were your favorite books of the year? Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Half Baked by Alexa Stevenson, Room by Emma Donoghue (whole 2010 book list here)

21. What was your favorite music from this year?
 Mumford & Sons, hands down

22. What were your favorite films of the year? I can only think of two movies I saw in the theater, and I enjoyed them both - Inception and Legend of the Guardians in 3D

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I had friends over for cake and Chinese checkers, and I turned 29.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Suddenly coming into a lot of money and adopting a new life as a stay-at-home mom

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010? maternity-clothes-way-after-the-baby chic

26. What kept you sane? friends (especially online friends), lots of TV on DVD, naps with my kid

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010. I may not be a perfect mother, but I'm a good one.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Twenty days ago, I wrote this. Since then, I have come to realize that I was probably a little too kind to myself. I may not be a full-blown hoarder, but I definitely have hoarder-like tendencies. So that was kind of scary. But! I also did this:

I wish I had time to dig up the photos I have showing each room at its worst, but these will have to do for now.

(PS I steam-cleaned the playroom floor using a Bissell Shark that I borrowed from the bibliophile and I think I am fond of it to an inappropriate degree.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a truly wonderful holiday! xoxo

Monday, December 20, 2010

This little light of mine

I think I've mentioned before that upon my return to work after maternity leave, I arranged to work 36 hours instead of 40 and work longer hours on weekdays so that I could take Mondays off with Nico. Surefire cure for hating Mondays, let me assure you. Today didn't start out so well, though. I cringe to even type these words, but Nico had his first Poo Up The Back incident, and it was really bad. Really, really bad. He was wearing two-piece pajamas, and my shirt-removal technique was clearly completely useless, because he ended up with poop smeared up his back to his shoulders. He sat there mostly oblivious as I howled in horror and scrubbed him down with baby wipes. Once he was finally clean, I lifted him up to do a last butt / leg check and when I turned him to face me, I discovered a huge smear of shit ACROSS HIS CHEEK. As in the one on his face. As in oh my God, kill me now. The bath I was going to put off until Wednesday night became an immediate priority, and I suppose it was almost worth it since I got to spend the rest of the day with a sweet-smelling curly-haired baby.

The Universe must've felt a little guilty about the Poopocalypse, because the rest of the day was really stellar. I'd put off the last of our Christmas shopping until today, after a hastily aborted attempt to go to Walmart on Saturday morning. (No. HELL no. I don't know what we were thinking. Luckily we came to our senses as soon as we saw the long line of cars waiting to turn into the parking lot.) Nico is usually a good shopper, but today he was an amazing one. We went to Goodwill to buy an end table for the guest room so my friend Tamsyn has a place to put her glasses when she comes to visit us for three days next week (squee!). Nico rode in the cart and didn't try to shove the table off the back when I balanced it across the basket part. He fell asleep in the car on the way to Toys R Us and I almost bailed on going in, but I needed "something to build with" for my cousin's son, whose name we pulled in the kids-only family gift exchange. (We ended up getting these Trio things from Fisher Price that look really cool, since I felt like at three years old he's on the upper end of Duplos and maybe a little young for Legos. Plus, holy hell, Legos are expensive.) Nico slept in his stroller during that entire endeavor, and then miraculously stayed asleep through the transfer back into his carseat and the drive out to Walmart.

Once we got there, he woke up and proceeded to be as charming as humanly possible for the duration of our visit. He was bright-eyed, he grinned and chatted with me, he sat politely in the cart and did not try to lick it. My kid magically made a trip to Walmart four days before Christmas something fun. Crazy, right? We had two more stops after that, and on the way over Nico suddenly began crowing happily in the back seat, clearly immensely pleased about something. When I looked in the mirror to check on him, I discovered that he'd somehow figured out how to remove his hat while his hood was still on, and he was very proud of himself.

Obviously I had great hopes that having a kid would be enjoyable. I knew when I signed on that of course it wasn't going to be fun and games all the time, but I don't think I expected it to be this fantastic. My friend bibliophile81 said not too long ago that Nico is the kind of baby that fools people into thinking they want a baby, and she was totally right. I'm not sure how I ended up with such a wonderful, easygoing kid, but I will definitely take it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Handmade holiday

I signed up for Jett Superior's fantastic internet ornament exchange this year, and I'm so glad I did. My ornament arrived yesterday courtesy of @angi33 and I love it:

The ornament is from Designs by Wesley and the technique was inspired by an old Japanese decorative process called Mokume Gane. (I'm suddenly kind of nervous about the way-less-fancy ornament that I sent out in the exchange!)

The only downside to my ornament is that I can't put it on our tree this year. With an almost-toddler in the house and an actual toddler visiting us the week after Christmas, I decided to decorate our tree only with non-breakable ornaments this year. I was worried it would look skimpy or lame, but once I got my decorations out I realized I actually have dozens of really nice non-glass things.

My favorites are the ornaments that were handmade by someone, so I thought it would be nice to show off some of the best ones. The first one is a beaded spiral that my sister made. I can't quite articulate exactly what it is that makes me love this ornament -- maybe the beads, which we used to make bracelets as children -- but it's one of my favorites of our entire selection.

She also made this one, a cute owl picture decoupaged onto a CD. It's a bit big, but worth the space on the tree.

A friend brought this ornament from Nepal, where it was handmade from what appears to be gum wrappers in a sustainable co-op set up to allow women to earn a living wage from selling their work. I think it's really beautiful.

My mom made bundles of these beaded icicles when I was a kid and used to sell them at craft fairs. I have four or five on my tree that I inherited from my grandmother.

The bibliophile made the next two from plain papier mache ornament balls. She used yellow as the base because it's my favorite color. I like them both, but the second one, with the little bits of tissue paper, is my favorite of the two.

Norahs1213 made paper cranes for our annual Thanksmas ornament exchange one year. It's such a simple but lovely idea.

Teacher Incognito painted snowman faces on plastic ornaments for another year's exchange.

Evilducky knitted "stockings" from a baby bootie pattern one year, though my favorite ornament-like items she's made have to be this year's adorable owlies.

Just for kicks, I'll include some that I made. These all came from the sets I made for the ornament exchange, except for the reindeer. The first one was based on a Chinese paper lantern pattern that I got from a girl at work. I had MB replicate the pattern in AutoCAD and shrink it down to miniature, then printed the patterns on Christmas-appropriate scrapbooking paper, cut out oodles and oodles of tiny pieces, and glued them together. It was a lot of work, but these are probably my favorite of all the ornaments I've ever made.

I think I made these the first year we did an ornament exchange at Thanksmas. They're from a kit, but I really liked the results.

This little spool / pipe cleaner reindeer was from a kit my mom bought when I was in middle school. I vaguely remember wrapping the thread around the spool, and I'm sure it was a bit tedious, but the end result is pretty darn cute.

I made this type of ornament for Thanksmas this year. Another kit, but it's exactly what I wanted. I love these not because I have a thing for sequins, but because my mom made a set of these for her tree when she and my dad first got married and they couldn't afford fancy store-bought ornaments, and they were always among my favorites of all the things on our family Christmas tree.

Do you have a favorite ornament, handmade or otherwise?

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I'm still (really) worried about how my impending job cut will affect our financial situation, but I have two happy updates since the bummer post I wrote the other night. First, BoMB brought back my laptop, patched up with a replacement screen, so I'm writing this from my very own slightly busted but beloved computer. Secondly -- and I'm still a little gobsmacked by this one -- Nico may get to continue his swimming lessons in the Spring after all. Ever since we started our second seven-week round of lessons, the assistant director of the aquatics program has made a special effort to say hi to Nico each time we see her. For a few weeks, I thought we must've met her somewhere else since she knew his name and it was driving me crazy that I couldn't place her. Finally I decided she just knew his name because he was the only boy in the class.

At the second-to-last lesson, a week ago yesterday, she asked us if we were coming back for another session. I told her that I was planning to take the January / February session off because it's so cold out, but that I'd like to bring him back in March. I explained that our coming back would depend on me finding another job, though. Last night she approached us before the class started and handed me the aquatic director's business card, then told me that the director wants me to fill out a financial assistance form and send it directly to her attention. Even though this particular YMCA usually only offers minimal financial assistance for programs to people who have memberships, she will be happy to make an exception and offer us direct program assistance. Apparently they're very pleased with how Nico is progressing in his lessons and they really want to see him continue to learn and grow.

Just writing about this makes me feel a little verklempt and choked up, I have to be honest. I didn't even know they were aware of my little boy, other than noticing him in the hallway and saying hi, and it turns out that they're as proud of his progress in the pool as I am. And as if to prove that their faith in him was not misplaced, Nico had his best lesson yet, spending the entire half-hour kicking his legs and paddling enthusiastically with his arms and showing more confidence in the water than ever before. I wish I had a photo of him in his little swimming trunks to share with you, but you'll just have to imagine's really stinking cute.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I'm in a funk today and hoping if I write down the things that are bumming me out, they'll stop bothering me so much.

1. I found out the week of Thanksgiving that my job will be cut to half-time starting in January. We can't afford for me to only work part-time, so I am looking for a new job. I hate job hunting.

2. I may have lined up a second part-time job, but even if they pay me the highest possible wage they quoted me, I'll still be out $250 a month.

3. Because of this, I won't be able to sign Nico up for another session of swimming lessons. I'll have to stop going to the gym in January. I'm really hoping we can avoid going into debt just to pay our basic bills.

4. I'm pissed off at the shift in priorities that led to my job being cut.

5. I'm pissed off that after years of work and years of education, I'm back to scraping to make ends meet.

6. I feel bad about the commitments and holiday plans I made before finding out about my job. It's too late to back out of most of them without feeling like an asshole, but I have terrible guilt about spending the money.

7. My laptop is still out of commission and is holding most of my photos and all of my documents hostage. Obviously a new computer is completely out of the question.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


1. tiny colorful beads

2. Christmas decorations

3. animal cookies

4. nice soap

5. a great day with my kid

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Room & Hoard

I am a packrat. I think it stems from a handful of factors. First (and probably most) of all, I was raised by a packrat. My mom is a crafter and thrift store shopper, a reader and a puzzle-worker. We never had a lot of extra money, so it was often prudent to hang onto stuff that we might need someday, because it seemed ridiculous to throw something out and then later buy a replacement. My parents' house isn't dirty, but it's definitely brimming with stuff. Then, because I worked at a craft store for almost two years, I have a closet full of craft supplies bought on clearance and with my employee discount. Our CD and DVD collections were similarly bolstered by my years working at the music store. I'm a little bit over the edge, probably, when it comes to trying to keep things out of the landfill. Mostly I can get by thanks to recycling and freecycling, but sometimes I still get stuck with stuff that I don't want but no one else seems to want either. I should just throw it out, right? But it's so hard. I've spent years chipping away at our contribution to the waste stream. And sometimes I watch Hoarders when they've got someone on who doesn't want to throw stuff out because someone else might be able to use it,'s kind of uncomfortable.

Two moves ago, back in 2004, we relocated from the little bitty one-bedroom apartment we had shared for two years to an 1100-square-foot two-bedroom place about a mile away. I wanted to crack down (on myself...MB is almost blameless when it comes to clutter. Almost.) and weed out stuff before we moved, but we didn't have time. By the time our new place was ready, we had two days to get packed and moved, while we were both working and I was still in school full time. So we threw stuff in boxes and laundry baskets and garbage bags and just took everything over to the new apartment. I'd clear stuff out as I unpacked, I told myself. But let's be serious. First there was work and school, then there was work and planning a wedding, and we actually never got around to unpacking everything. And while we were not unpacking, not purging, we were getting more stuff. Like a carnival goldfish in a 20-gallon aquarium, we grew to fill our new environment.

By the time we moved out three years later, that apartment was packed full of stuff. Good stuff, junk stuff, middling stuff. As I boxed it up, I was stunned at just how much we had accumulated. We didn't even have much money, so I really don't know how we had so! much! stuff! to move. I culled as I packed that time, having learned my lesson the time before. I gave away several boxes of stuff on freecycle, took an entire SUV-load plus a whole pickup-load of stuff to Goodwill, and threw out / recycled more stuff. It was really, really satisfying, and against my expectations, I don't think that I miss or regret any of it. But after all that work, we still have tons of stuff. For a few years I just kind of ignored it, but now that we have Nico, it's time for a change.

Our house has three bedrooms, a just-big-enough living room, and a small enclosed side porch that the previous owners converted to an office. We were very good with Nico's room, and it's entirely his. We aren't storing any of our crap in there, just his toys and his clothes and space for him to grow. But all the bedrooms are upstairs and it occurred to me a while ago that it would be nice to have some dedicated space for Nico on the main floor as well. Since we have laptops and no desk, we really don't need an office, so it was a natural choice for a playroom. Unfortunately for me, it's been our catch-all room since we moved in, so it's been a process. I've been very slowly trimming down and moving things out, but I keep getting stuck with stuff I don't want to throw out but can't figure out what else to do with. Some of it I could recycle, but it would cost a substantial amount to ship it off to an appropriate facility. Some of it truthfully no one needs but I just hate to throw stuff away. I don't like to admit it, but really, I kind of get where some of the hoarders are coming from. Not the really, really out there ones, not the one with 35 creepy pet birds, but the ones who just kind of let it get out of hand. I think sometimes it just happens.

But I am committed this time. I'm really excited about getting the office cleared out and cleaned and set up for Nico. I'm motivated to condense and thin my book collection so that by the time we have a second child, all my books can be on two bookcases in the living room and however many shelves I can cram into my own bedroom, instead of spilling over into every other room in the house. I want to give MB the clutter-free house that he wants and needs to function at his best. And I'd really like to have less stuff to dust, pick up, and think about. It's a little early for New Year's resolutions, but I think I'm ready to declare 2011 the year of the Great Decluttering. I kind of can't wait to get started.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sad baby is sad

After a week's grace period during which I thought he might've dodged it, Nico came down with MB's cold. At first it was just a slightly wet-sounding cough, but since it wasn't slowing him down at all I hoped he'd shake it off and be fine. But on Thursday night, the snot arrived. And poor Nico, he couldn't or wouldn't sleep. So for most of the night, I tried feeding him, singing, rocking, and just when he'd start to seem ready to sleep, he'd wake up and start screaming again. He didn't have a fever and his nose wasn't totally blocked, but I figure he was probably uncomfortable and annoyed. He finally, finally went down at 3 AM, and I can tell you without equivocation that I am officially too goddamn old to function on 3 hours of sleep. When morning arrived, I seriously contemplated skipping work even though all of my sick days were applied to my maternity leave against my specific (written) wishes. Luckily (or unluckily), I remembered that I had a program scheduled at 10 that no one else would be around to cover, so I dragged my zombiefied ass in around 9:30.

Even though he looked pretty pitiful upon waking, Nico seemed chipper enough by the time I dropped him off at my parents' house, so I guessed he felt a little bit better than I did. And if not, I supposed his six sharp little teeth would come in handy when he got a hankering for brains.

Sick baby is sad

I keep getting surprised all over again that it's December, now. We had to start wearing winter coats for the first time this week, and I keep going, WTF, winter coats? and then remembering that yes, moron, it is almost Christmas. How did this happen?