Thursday, July 31, 2008

The reason I have a G&T in my hand right now

I believe M. (ahem, in his one and only post on this blog to date) called my commute "a quiet, peaceful meander toward the hills of western Maryland," one that helps me arrive "at work calm and ready to face the day." Apparently he neglected to tell Finn this, as evidenced by the loud screaming, crying, shouting, and general pain-in-the-butt-iness that issued forth from the back seat of my car during my entire 25 minute ride home today. I'd rather get groped on the Metro.

This has become way more common than I'm comfortable with. Tuesday the screams were because of the stick! The stick! The STICK!!! Why is the stick sitting on the back seat of the car, instead of trapped in my sweaty little hand??? I need THE STICK!! All said far less eloquently, of course. In fact, it was quite incomprehensible, and I was only able to decipher the meaning of the screams once I had pulled the car off the side of the road and pointed at every single object in the back seat, finally winning the coveted "yeah" after about twenty emphatic NOs. And let's not mention the fact that the stick was, indeed, out of reach because one of us (not me) threw it there in the first place.

Who me, cause trouble? Never!

To remind myself of how cute my pain-in-the-butt can be, and score some points with my grandmother, a few recent pictures:

Don't call me - I'll call you:

Ready for my close up:

Ready for a rodeo:

A new target group for The Week - toddlers??:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

When the Dust Settles

Yesterday, I composed a lengthy, passionate e-mail to M. about toilets. Why, you may wonder? No, it's not because our sex lives run to the extreme, and when we sign off from Google Blogger we hop on to the nearist "Golden Shower"fetish website. It's because we need to buy one.

I had planned to do a thorough post intro-ing to our basement remodel, including the "before" pictures, and blah de blah blah about how we're embarking on this scary home improvement project, unchartered territory for us, etc. Half of our basement is unfinished, and we are going to put in a 3/4 bathroom and an office, leaving a small portion unfinished for M.'s guy room/work room. However, I thought I had plenty of time - our contractor indicated he thought he would have time for the job around the third week of August. Flash forward to Monday, where the contractor called M. and informed him he'd be by on Tuesday and Wednesday to bring some things over, have the plumber come by, etc. I thought this was just a planning kind of visit, but M. and I scrambled to get the room cleared out (thank god we had already started the process!) anyway.

As phone calls flew around yesterday between M. and the contractor, and M. and me, it became apparent that the job has actually started. Gah!! While this makes me ecstatic, it also meant that we were going to be up shit creek if I didn't hurry out to Lowes to do some shopping on my lunch hour. M. and I had begun collecting all the "design elements" for the rooms, things like floor tile, a vanity, wood flooring for the office, etc. All the things we'd want to pick out ourselves. But we hadn't quite managed to buy EVERYTHING yet. Important things, like, say, a toilet.

Now, I am not crazy - I was not about to actually buy a toilet on my lunch hour, somehow heft it into my small car, and drive it AND Finn home a few hours later. But I did have room in my car for lighting, and said lighting was purchased - vanity light for the bathroom, overhead light and closet light for the office. Talk about pressure - it's hard to make these choices by yourself! So, if you ever visit my house and think the lights suck, I lied, M. picked them out.

It was also my job to "check out" the toilets, and pick one out so that M. could run out at night, after Finn was in bed, and buy it. It wasn't terribly hard, because we are limited in what we can buy. The bathroom will be very small, so we were looking for a round front toilet (apparently they are smaller than the elongated ones - add that to things I never used to know). Not a ton of selection. And I was determined not to go for the cheapest one available, because I am scared of toilet implosions and flying crap as punishment. So next time you visit us, and you are sleeping in the new "guest suite" down in the basement, you can park your hiney on this:

The Kohler Cimarron Comfort Height. High performance flushing, may you never let me down!

I arrived home to find drop clothes and sheetrock lining the hallway in the basement, sawdust everywhere, and all kinds of framing done inside the actual rooms. Looks like they are moving fast! I'm excited to see the rooms "done" - it should only take a week or two. That's when our work will start - picking out paint, buying furniture and accessories and, our largest DIY project yet, installing the engineered hardwood in the office ourselves. Gulp! Wish us luck, we're going to need it.

For now, I'm just going to watch the progress, and worry about what visitors will be coming to my site after Googling "Golden Shower." Sorry to disappoint, fetishists!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ants Marching

Today begins my first post/rant about commuting in the DC metro area. I’m hoping that sharing my craptastic daily ritual will be cathartic, or at least entertaining in a sick, schadenfreude way.

A. and I decided while looking to buy a home last year that we should settle somewhere between our two jobs. With her working in Frederick, MD and me in D.C, we ended up in one of the many Maryland ‘burbs along the I270 corridor. Consequently, A. migrates north in the morning and I head south. These are very different commutes. Her’s is a quiet, peaceful meander toward the hills of western Maryland. Mine is a Darwinian struggle for survival. She arrives at work calm and ready to face the day. I arrive disheveled, twitchy and pretty sure that I was groped in the Metro.

For those unfamiliar with commuting in the D.C. metro area, traffic from West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware is sucked into D.C in the morning, only to be spit back out in the evening. To combat this mass of humanity, there are basically 4 options for getting to work: 1) Drive. Under no circumstances is this recommended. If you manage to actually survive your drive to work without being run over by an SUV driven by someone texting, eating, putting on make-up, reading, etc., you can’t afford to park your car. 2) Metro. This is D.C.’s subway system, and the main way that people get around. It’s also much in need of upkeep/repairs. However, since said upkeep/repair costs are shared between the Federal government, Maryland and Virginia, there will never, ever be an agreement as to who should pay for what. It is also ridiculously expensive. 3) MARC. This is the commuter train that shuttles between the Maryland and West Virginia ‘burbs and Union Station in D.C. It’s the cheapest of the options and the most unreliable. 4) The pu-pu combination platter.

I’ve chosen option 4 as my preferred commute – combining at short drive, long MARC ride and 3-stop Metro jaunt. This is the cheapest, but most inconvenient option. Following the printed schedules, this commute should take 1 hour each way. I have never, ever, ever, made the commute in 1 hour.

For example, last night I hit the metro station at 5:15pm. With the goal of making the 5:35pm MARC train, this left me with 25 minutes to make the stated 4 minute trip. I actually got on the first Metro that came into the station, no small feat during peak tourist season. However, after pulling out of the station, we suddenly stopped…and sat…and sat some more. Finally, 10 minutes later, we started s-l-o-w-l-y c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g to the next station, only to realize that there were waaaaay more people waiting for the train than usual. Apparently, the Metro in front of us had a mechanical problem and had to completely unload. Bad words and much B.O. were exchanged during the next few minutes, as all of those people attempted to cram into our already full train. Needless to say, this took a bit of time. We finally arrived at Union Station with 5 minutes to spare before my train was due to depart. Like O.J. in a Hertz commercial, I – and 400 of my closest friends – sprinted for the escalator that would take us one step closer to home. I was going to make it! Until a really, really large man got there first, causing a 400 person pile-up as he commandeered the whole width of the escalator and slowly rode it to the top. I missed the train. Many of us missed the train. There was much swearing.

Thankfully, I was able to catch the 6:00 MARC train. Since it was running 15 minutes late, I finally arrived home at 7:15pm, 2 hours after I left my office. Sadly, this was a good day. *sigh*

Bye-low My Baby

I always have mixed feelings come "bedtime" every night. On one hand, there is no denying the urge to get Finn into bed as expediently as possible. There's always a mountain of chores to get done to prep for the next day. The treadmill buzzes in my ear like a pesky mosquito, saying "You slacker, I'm not even paid off yet." And there is the enticing prospect of some down time - planting my ass on the couch, maybe having a drink, holding an actual conversation with M., and watching a little TV (yay for the return of some of my fav shows, like Psych and Project Runway, bringing an end to the desert-like programming conditions that have been so disheartening of late). On a really good night, I can accomplish all of these things (aided greatly by M.'s assistance re: the chores).

Then there is "the other hand." The part where I just love having that warm little body, constantly in motion at all other times of the day, peacefully lounging on my lap in what could almost be called (gasp!) a cuddle. With Blankey draped over a shoulder and pacifier in mouth, Finn pays rapt attention to the books we read. If he had his way, I would read book after book after book, delaying the moment he's put in the crib and, in his eyes, leaving to start the wildly fun bike/truck/ball/balloon/insert toy-obsession-of-the-moment party we MUST be having while he sleeps.

My favorite part of the bedtime ritual comes after the book reading is (finally) done. After some obligatory whining ("mo boo, mo boo, Mommy!" which means "more book" for those of you that don't speak toddler yet), I turn Finn around to face me, reposition his Blankey just so, and let him literally collapse onto my shoulder. While he's hanging out on my shoulder like a (suddenly quiet and sleepy) sack of potatoes, we make our way to the light switch so that Finn can do the honors with one little finger, throwing the room into a comfortable dimness lit by the waning sun and his night light. Then we make our way back to the comfy Ikea chair that subs as a rocker, and sing the Bye-low song.

The Bye-low song is something the my great grandmother, Nana D., used to sing to my sisters and I. There are dim, warm memories in the back of my head of Nana D. sitting with us in the bedroom of our Cape Cod summer rental, singing us into bed after a day of sunshine and salty waves. I sing it now to Finn, knowing that I have very likely bastardized the tune to an unrecognizable form. The song changes with each rendition, because we sing about what happened that day in 2-line increments that go something like, "Bye-low my baby, bye-low my ba-aby; at school you played with play-dough and sang the ABC's." Then it's on to another verse. Typically nothing rhymes, and given that I am making this up on the spot, often there are inappropriate numbers of syllables in each verse as I try to cram a thought or activity in. For example, "Bye-low my baby, Bye-low my ba-aby; today we went to the mall where Mommy bought a really nice shirt and you played in the kiddie playland area while Daddy drank a latte." Not my finest singing moments, for sure. But Finn LOVES it, and happily listens to me while we rock together.

We always end with a couple of stanzas about how it's time to go to bed, the day is at an end, Mommy and Daddy love you very much, etc, etc. Then we sit for few more minutes before making the transfer to the crib. Lately, Finn has clamored for "Mo, mo" when we are done (reasoning he can prolong his bedtime, I'm sure). I tell him that if he wants more, HE needs to sing to ME. And over the past week, he has! His high little voice sings "Bye, baaaaby, bye baaaby" over and over again, with the occasional "Moooommmmmy" thrown in too. He and I can't help giggling together, and then it's ME wanting to prolong his bedtime. These are the moments that help me forget the way he cried and clamored for attention while I attempted to throw something together for dinner, or the THREE cups of water he spilled on the kitchen floor. They are the moments that make me realize having a child was the best thing I ever did.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Blue Steel Jr.

College is pretty darn expensive these days, so we're working on Finn's modeling career to supplement our meager savings. What say you, child model recruiter people?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Adventures in Babysitting

Before and during my pregnancy, I had many grand ideas about parenting and the role that a child would play in our lives. In particular, while I imagined an overwhelming love for my child, I vowed that M. and I would still make time to be spouses instead of just "parents." We would make time for a date night at least once a month, and we would communicate about more than just poopy diapers and speculation on whether any new teeth are popping through.

While we have managed to have the occasional conversation about non-parent subjects like the upcoming election or how work is going, we have not been so successful on the hoped-for monthly "date night." What I didn't fully comprehend was how difficult and nerve-wracking it is to find a reliable, fun and trustworthy babysitter. I mean, I babysat all the time when I was in high school - my friends and I seemed to have no problem getting people to entrust the lives of their children to us. But it just doesn't seem as simple to find a babysitter these days. Having good grades and a younger brother (my glowing qualifications back in the day) doesn't cut it anymore. You need a resume, references, CPR certifications, early childhood classes... And you pay through the nose for these things. The going rate for a babysitter in our Maryland county is apparently $15/hour. Yikes! I was all "I remember being psyched to make $5/hr for watching 3 kids," but my mom had me beat. Apparently she used to charge 25 cents an hour. Talk about slave wages! But parents these days "want the best for their children," and clearly "the best" = "Bill Gates-like wages."

Given the complexity of finding a babysitter, where does one even begin? An obvious place to start would be family, because while every family has the odd crazy or two, you can usually trust family. They already love your child, they just have to be shown how to handle nap time and where the clean diapers are kept. Unfortunately, M. and I have no family in the area, so that's out. Another place to look is through co-worker recommendations, but most of our co-workers don't have kids, and our lengthy commutes mean those who do have kids use babysitters that live too far away from our house.

After nearly 21-months of parenthood, we are reaching the desperation point. Determined to find someone, I signed us up at Not cheap ($100 for a year-long membership), but at this point I'm willing to make a few sacrifices. We arranged to meet a young college-age woman at our house this past Saturday. Her cover letter expounded on the evils of tv-watching, the childhood education classes she has taken, and her several years of experience. She seemed if anything overenthusiastic, but this can be a good quality when trying to entertain a 1-year old. We asked her to come over for about 3 hours. The first hour would be spent watching Finn while we were in the house, and for the final 2 hours M. and I would go to Lowe's for a shopping extravaganza to kick-off our planned and increasingly imminent basement remodel.

Friday arrives, and somehow the babysitter has still not managed to e-mail us her resume and references though she has contacted us several times. M. and I start to panic a little. How can we possibly leave our precious only child with a stranger without checking her references first? A flurry of e-mails follow. M. gets a bit snippy and demands her references ASAP. He actually used the acronym, which made me cringe. It irritates me that M. is treating this as a customer/supplier relationship. He doesn't seem to understand the need to make a trusted babysitter feel like part of the family rather than a lowly employee. But trustworthiness not yet verified, I did understand where his sentiment was coming from.

We finally receive some references (though no resume), and decide to move forward with the babysitting date. However, 10 minutes after the babysitter was supposed to show Saturday morning, something makes me check my e-mail. There it is, a message sent at 1:30 am the previous night. The babysitter has a "stomach bug." I choose to believe her, though I have suspicions that she chickened out because she was afraid she'd ticked us off. The bottom line, however, is that she will not be showing up. M. and I decide it is fate. Maybe we're just not ready for the corporate approach to finding a babysitter. This is not the kind of thing that can be handled adequately over e-mail and the internet. I don't want to look at resumes and training certificates. I want to do it the way my mom did it - word of mouth from a friend, someone who's already tested out the babysitter and determined reliability.

Alas, we are now stuck with a membership to, not sure yet whether we will attempt the online match-making again. We have still purchased absolutely nothing for the bathroom and office that will be constructed in our basement any week now. And worst of all, we are still babysitter-less. The desperation grows...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Long-Winded Hair Musings

Despite the fact that M., Finn and I moved to our new community over a year ago, I have yet to find a new hairdresser. Until this past weekend. Maybe. It was much easier to just let my hair grow out than go through the effort of Googling hair salons, picking one out of the blue, and crossing my fingers.

In fact, I did get one haircut in all that time. However, the experience was not great, and I have blocked many of the details, including what time of year it was, from my memory. Let’s just say that, while the haircut I received was quite adequate, the woman wielding the scissors was a complete nut job. I am convinced that she sits by the phone of the salon, waiting for unsuspecting new clients like me to call who don’t know which stylist to request, so that she can assign them to herself. It’s the only way she can make a living, because I’m sure she does not have a lot of repeat customers.

So, flash forward several months from that one haircut. My hair is now quite long, and bordering on straw-like. In sore need of SOMETHING – perhaps just shaving it off and starting all over again? Too drastic? I decide that a haircut is in order, and I want it to be on the short side. Can’t (won’t) go back to the crazy lady, so what now?

I could go to my neighbor’s salon. My neighbor in the townhouse abutting ours is very nice, and she owns her own salon in a nearby town. But, what if I don’t like my haircut? What if her prices are too high? What if I went to her a few times, and then felt the need to switch to a different salon? We don’t have the easiest rapport, and while she is somewhat obsessed with Finn in all his cute glory, I’m not even certain she knows my name. All in all, I think it would be awkward to live next to your hairdresser. But maybe I just think that because I’m a naturally reserved and shy person. Or a paranoid freak.

I decided to make an appointment at the nearby salon and spa. It’s a spa, so it should be Klassy, right? I had no problem getting an appointment for a Saturday afternoon, only a couple of days in advance, which I thought was a little odd. When I arrived, the place was not exactly hopping. There was one person receiving a pedicure, and one person getting her hair dyed. One cute, put-together receptionist, one very skilled hair washer, and my hairdresser. We’ll call her Nan. Nan, who had wild, curly long hair that could use some taming. A little “Brillo pad gone wild,” if I’m being honest. Sloppy clothes, and a minimum amount of make up on. Not exactly fitting the stereotype of your typical hairdresser. I mean, aren’t hairdressers REQUIRED to have stylish, well-groomed hair? It’s like an advertisement for their skills, right?

I had no idea what kind of cut I wanted. Nan helpfully suggested an asymmetric bob that is shorter in the back and longer in the front, with some layers throughout. Sounds great to me, and it’s apparently “in” right now, so bonus points for that.

After my marvelous shampoo experience (why can’t I wash my own hair like that??), Nan sits me down and begins. A little bit of gruff small talk is exchanged, but we are mostly silent. I actually don’t like talking during my haircuts, so this is fine with me. The hair starts coming off, and I feel 100 pounds lighter. We pause between the snipping and the blow dry/styling so that Nan can perform a bang trim on a walk-in customer. Yes! A third client! Maybe this place does see some traffic, I start thinking. The trim is free, and I’m a little annoyed that Nan has interrupted my paying experience to help this woman/Human Yeti who clearly needs much more than a bang trim. As Nan snips, the woman talks about how she’s kicked her boyfriend out of her house. She has an injured toe because she’s been cleaning like mad since he left. The impetus for his leaving? She filed a restraining order against him for assault and battery. First, waaaaay too much sharing, if you ask me. And second, yikes! What kind of clientele frequents this salon and day spa in the middle of suburbia? These are conversations that would not occur in the idyllic bliss of my New England hometown, but maybe things are different here in the Metro D.C. area.

Very long story to say, I have a new ‘do. I like it, though I may want to go even shorter with even more layers next time. But I’m hesitant to go back to Nan and her ghost-town of a salon. I feel more comfortable in a busy place with a dozen stylists with impeccable (though sometimes questionable) highlights and hair cuts, manicured nails, head-to-toe black garb and clicky impractical heels. And clients that don’t file restraining orders. Does it make me shallow? I mean, I don’t get all dolled up every day, why should my hairdresser have to? Yet I hesitate. Perhaps I’ll be back, in about 6 weeks time, or perhaps the saga of looking for a stylist continues.

Now I just have to think of a way to explain my new haircut to my neighbor somehow. Do you think she’ll believe me if I say my hair just fell out in the shower one day?