Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Decisions Are the Worst*

Hi all. I seek your advice.

This morning, driving in my car on my way to work, I lamented the stupid humid weather that has been messing with my hair and sweat glands and wardrobe choices to my sister on the phone (hands-free bluetooth, por supuesto). I mentioned that I was trying to encourage crisp fall weather by wearing a sweater/skirt/boots combo for the first time this season. I thought it was a harmless comment.

My sister paused, and squeezed out the response, "Well, I kind of think 34 is to old to be pulling off the skirt/boots look."


Am I too old to wear high-ish boots with skirts to work?

For reference, I work in an office on an Army post in a rural-ish area, where many people wear Army uniforms (as befitting their status as Army personnel), and the rest of us are instructed to wear "business casual" dress. And our handbook (yes, we have one) has lots of helpful hints on what defines business casual, such as "does not include blue jeans, but colored rinse jeans such as black jeans, or denim skirts, are allowed." That's not a verbatim quote, but it's very, very close. I have seen much in the way of "business casual" in my office that indicates to me that our definition of "business casual" likely differs from the definition other organizations might use. With our group falling on the more "casual" end of the "business casual" spectrum, clearly.

But the setting doesn't really matter, does it? It doesn't get at the heart of my question, which is "Am I too old to wear boots and a skirt to work?" Should a 34-year-old professional (can I call myself a professional?) with two children retire this look? My sister seems to think so.

For reference, this is the outfit I wore today:

I'm too lazy to figure out how to create some sort of poll, so please, answer me in the comments section. My fall/winter wardrobe is depending on it.

I am not too lazy to post a bonus video for you, where M. and I try to get our cat to take a little jog on our treadmill. Enjoy. Spoiler: It didn't work.

*Can my sisters and childhood friends name the movie referenced in this blog title? You'd better be able to...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Look! Pictures! So Many Pictures!

I have been remiss, not just in blogging (I've noticed over the years that I struggle to blog in September for some reason), but in posting photos of the kids. It's been all home improvement, all the time, the last few posts I've managed to eke out.

That's allll gonna be rectified right here. You've been warned. Let's just jump right in, shall we?

On Tuesday, Lucy was sent home sick late in the day from daycare. It was "picture day." She did not take good pictures (so I've been told). I'm sure the illness didn't help (fever, sore throat). But she was wearing this:

A plaid skirt/jumper (there are attachable suspender-type straps I had to take off because they kept falling down) that was mine when I was little. And an Aerosmith shirt.

This is what she does when we ask her to pose for the camera. I think we are in trouble.

This is what Finn does. Less trouble expected there.

Blue eyes

Sick, but still happy.

I pulled the "stay home from work with sick child" straw for Wednesday, and spent some quality time with Lucy. This is my attempt to turn the TV off and try something enriching - painting. A budding artist at work. I tried not to get upset at her total disregard of my instructions to wash her brush in between each color. Big of me, no? I painted, too. I made a rainbow-striped whale. It was headed toward "legendary" status as far as construction paper paintings go. Lucy insisted on painting in the tail for me, and, well... not exactly the stuff of legends anymore. I'm not upset about that or anything.

This is our self portrait. I'm happier than she is, as you can see. Also healthier.

Now we move in to the weekend, with a brief stop on Friday. A day where M. was invited to go see President Obama give a speech. Here is the proof:

I swear on the Bible that the blurry figure at the podium is Obama, and that M. took this photo. I swear that if I was the one taking the photo, it would have been in focus.

Saturday was a busy, fun day. We started the morning with a photo shoot with a friend of ours, Julie Blum. She is setting up shop as a photographer, and was kind enough to "practice" on us (if you ask me, Julie clearly needs no more practice!). We all traipsed around a county park, Brookside Gardens, saw lots of beautiful flowers and ponds and bridges and wildlife, and Julie effortlessly took some excellent photos. She has a blog post on her website up about it, and I'm sharing a few of my favorites below:

Just awesome, right? I'm still pinching myself that we had such opportunity. Thanks, Julie! And beware, family, if you are looking at these photos, you are probably looking at your Christmas presents.

The middle part of the day was filled with house stuff (more attempts to whip the dining room to shape, an effort I'll blog about more fully later), struggles to get Lucy to take a nap, and some outside play time with scooters and bikes:

Done with scooting, time for a lift inside.

A bonus video of Finn on his bike:

And one of Lucy on her scooter - she's scooting like a pro, now!:

Saturday was finished with a wonderful fly-by visit from my friend Jen, her mom Cathy, and Jen's adorable baby girl, Carmen. Carmen is just 8 weeks old, and one of the cutest babies I have ever seen. See for yourself (next two photos courtesy of Jen):

All the hair! The bright eyes! She is perfect!

I realize it looks like I am quite possessive of Carmen here. In truth, I thought about staging some sort of coup to keep her forever. But I'm done with all that, remember? The baby stuff? Plus, and most importantly, Jen is just GLOWING with all this motherhood business. I love how happy it seems to be making her - she deserves it.

By the end of the visit, it was way past bedtime, and the kids were acting like total goofballs in an attempt to show off:

Bedtime may have been a bit of a struggle, but the busy day was worth it, both in photos and memories. And early Christmas shopping :-).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ta Da! Like Magic, But Sweatier.

Just popping on to share some pictures of the playroom makeover I mentioned in my last post before I run out to fill some sandbags or something (oh my god will it ever stop raining?!). M. and I crave validation and credit for the hard work we did to create this playroom, a playroom that M. is convinced will never actually be used by the kids.

So, to set the stage, we have been living in our house for over 4 years. We moved here when Finn was a mere 7 months old, possessing of a jumperoo, an exersaucer, and a few odds and ends to entertain the bambino. Because we spent all our time on the main level of the house (kitchen and combo living room/dining room) with a child who could not be left unsupervised for any length of time, we opted to keep his meager toys scattered about in various places of the living room. No big deal, because, as I mentioned, he only had a few toys.

Then the first birthday happened. The large baby toys (exersaucer and jumperoo) disappeared, but the small- to mid-sized toys grew exponentially. We eventually purchased a shelving unit of sorts with storage bins to contain the toys, and placed it near the dining room. This worked well, and yay, forsooth, our living room/dining room still felt somewhat adult-like. But then came Christmas. And a second birthday. And another Christmas. And then another BABY, necessitating the reappearance of all those large baby items once again. By now our storage system had grown to include a toy box as well as several other large bins scattered throughout the house. AND YET THE TOYS COULD NOT BE CONTAINED.

Enter Lucy's birthdays and Christmas for two children, and it became VERY apparent that our living room/dining room? Was no longer an adult space. In fact, it quite resembled a daycare. But what could we do? We spent all our time with the kids on the main level of the house. This was where we ate with them, this was where we watched TV and movies with them. This was where they ignored their toys and complained that they were bored and irritated the crap out of us every weekend.

We have a basement. And in this basement is a family room, with our (only) fireplace, a comfy red sleeper sofa, a treadmill, and our largest TV. The basement is where M. and I retreat after kid bedtime has been achieved and all nightly chores are done.

Also in the basement is an office. This office was unfinished when we bought the house - concrete floors and framing and nothing else. We thought we needed an office. Before Lucy was born, we had this unfinished space finished so that we could create an office (and full bath) and move our second floor office downstairs, thus freeing up a bedroom for Lucy AND maintaining the existence of said office.

We never use the office.

Really, never.

I pile things in it that I need to file (but don't file). We have a printer in there that doesn't work, that we occasionally try to MAKE work. And when it doesn't, we go in there and curse at the printer. So that is how we use our office. We pile "to be filed, but never actually GETS filed" crap in it, and we curse at the printer. And sometimes we have guests sleep on the futon that resides in it.

So, the kids are a bit older now. Not very old, of course. Lucy's not even 2.5 yet. And I will admit that not even two years ago, when I saw that our neighbors had a basement playroom for their children, who were perhaps 2 and 4 at the time, I was MAYBE a little critical and incredulous. I could not fathom how they thought it was appropriate to let their young children out of their sight to play together - not just in another room, but on a whole different floor of the house. I was maybe a bit judgy. I had my newborn baby, and my two-year-old-who-has-never-been-out-of-my-sight-at-home-for-more-than-2-minutes-unless-he's-sleeping, and I was judgy.

But now, I totally get it. I get why some people would be OK with having their young children play in a room that is on a whole different level of the house.

Sometimes, I want to let my kids kill each other when they are a flight of stairs away from me, rather than 6 feet from me. They're going to do it anyway, I can't stop them or save them. That much has become clear to me.

Sometimes, I want the mess to be NOT IN MY LINE OF VISION.

Sometimes I want nice things. And I want those nice things to not get messed with.

I am a more relaxed parent than I was at one time. The old me would probably judge the now me.

But the old me does linger a bit. Not the judgy one (OK, maybe the judgy one a little), but the safety conscious one. We are considering moving a baby monitor down to the playroom so we can at least keep an ear on the noise and mayhem. You know, if it gets used. We also bought a large hook and eye latch to keep the door to M.'s workroom (also in the basement) closed enough to keep the kids out, but open enough to let the cat get to her litter box.

Wow, that was a far longer "setting the stage" intro than I meant to write. Good god, let me just get to these pictures already, the ones that were supposed to be posted and live 45 minutes ago...

But first, another note - we do not have "before" pictures of the office. Just know that there was a futon, and a desk with some random little objects on it, and two filing cabinets. And an end table and a couple lamps and a console table (that we did not move) and piles and piles of crap.

Also note that the room has no windows so, yeah. Lighting is not great. Sorry.

These are pictures of our living room on Monday morning. After our yard sale emptied out our dining room of furniture. I had already started sorting the kids' toys into various piles and bins for eventual transport downstairs, an improvement from what we started with on Monday morning, but nothing had actually been brought downstairs yet. This includes the bins of toys that had previously been scattered about the house (one in each kid's bedroom, one in our bathroom, two in the attic/storage-y area), so a few more toys than we typically had on a daily basis on the main level.

(Carseat not normally stored in the living room, just cleaning up a bit of a potty accident from the weekend...)

This is actually much less organized than it appears, as there is stuff hiding behind those chairs.

And here are the "after" photos of the new playroom:

View from the door looking in (play kitchen used to be in our kitchen)

The shelving/bins used to be in the dining room, and the futon used to be on the wall where the play kitchen is now.

Looking from the wall where the play kitchen is toward the door/console table. The pictures on the wall are left over from the "office decor" and will eventually be replaced with something more fun and kid friendly. We are thinking maybe fun, large decals and/or maps.

View from the futon toward the closet.

View of inside the closet. So. much. more. room. for. stuff. We will eventually (once we finished sorting through all the crap that has been displaced into our bedroom and the family room) put some of our own random crap up in the top shelves of the closet, since the kids can't reach them anyway.

View from the closet out into the room.

And here are some pictures of what our living room/dining room look like now.

Spacious. Empty. Mostly because we need to get that dining room furniture I ordered. In the back by the window is a TV stand that is not normally located there. We are trying to sell it. Want it?

Here is the living room part of the room. We are still hiding stuff behind those chairs. It is not as clean as it looks.

And this is what the kids want to do all the time. Wrestle in the big, empty room.

Time spent wrestling? Much.

Time spent in new playroom? Eh. A little. But it's still early.

Monday, September 5, 2011

He Makes An Excellent Salesman, Too

This was perhaps the busiest, most expensive weekend of my life. Except for maybe my wedding, but I wasn't footing the bill for that one. I am leaving this holiday weekend desperately in need of another weekend.

These things happened on Friday:
1) Full day of work (from home) with urgent project due by end of day. Lots of e-mailing and usage of various Microsoft Office programs.
2) Windows were replaced in the kids' bedrooms.
3) Discovered the new windows don't allow for re-installation of Lucy's room darkening blinds, so undetook last minute trip to Target to purchase new curtains.
4) Contractor came and replaced $1300 worth of rotting wood on the front of the house.
5) Entire HVAC system of house was replaced.

Four workers from 3 different home improvement businesses in our house at the same time. With the A/C off. Not distracting at all.

And, after all that money spending, we opted for carry out for dinner despite our severe need to go on a money diet because....

Saturday was our yard sale. And we needed time to finish prepping for it on Friday night, not time to cook or clean the kitchen. We priced and piled and sorted a shit-ton of crap (or "treasure", if you will), and I slaved over four signs for carefully plotted road posting.

Saturday morning we woke up at 6 a.m. to get started. M. went out to place the signs, while I finished bringing a few things up to the living room, our staging area, and cleaned off a few of the egregiously dirty items (see: children's tricycle with handle that has lived outside for the last year). The kids were up nice and early, of course, as is the way every time we want them to sleep a little late. Finn insisted on helping us schlep things outside for a little while, while Lucy just crabbed and cried about the whole process. Girlfriend was not sure about this whole "selling our stuff" thing.

We scrambled for a solid hour or more to get everything outside and displayed in a way that made it relatively easy for people to see what we had to offer. We suffered from a lack of tables, despite the fact that we had a folding table, our dining room table, a console table, and a TV stand to display things on. We ended up having to drag out our super heavy back up dining room table so we'd have somewhere to spread out the kids' clothes. We also had to spread out from our yard and take over a couple of common area spaces just across from our house:

Not our yard
Not our yard
Our yard

The yard sale officially started at 8:30, though there were a couple of early birds that came by. From around 8:50 until 10:00 or so, the sale was hopping. We had several customers - a few bought only one or two items, but a couple of people really cleaned up. Some of the big movers were picture frames, books, super dusty luggage (!), and random kid items, among others. We even managed to sell Lucy's changing table and our high chair. We thought we were on our way to a total sell out.

And then by 10:00 a.m., it was pouring out. Thunder, lightening, the works. A neighbor was kind enough to let us borrow a huge tarp, and so for a solid 2+ hours, our stuff looked like this:

A few other items were dashed inside, and the rest were just left there to collect rainwater. They looked sad:

I don't want to belittle the damage others suffered from last week's hurricane, but it's possible this weekend actually dumped more rain on us than Irene did. It really, freakin' poured. Kind of hard to sell stuff when it's all wet and/or covered up, as you might imagine. We eventually sent our babysitter home (oops, forgot to mention we had a sitter come at around 8 to entertain the kids and keep them out of our hair) because we were all trapped inside - we didn't actually need anyone to watch the kids because we were stuck in the same room with them.

We sold a bit more in the late afternoon once the rain finally left. Including a last ditch sale of our dining room set to a neighbor, who surprised us by coming out for it as we were packing up all our unsold stuff at the end of the sale.

Which means now we have no dining room furniture. We knew this was a possibility when we put the set outside for the yard sale. We have been planning to replace our dining room furniture, and took the "well, let's just see what happens approach" by including it in the yard sale despite the fact that we hadn't actually bought new replacement furniture yet. I think M. and I both thought it wouldn't sell, maybe? I don't know, I certainly WANTED it to sell. And I am glad, despite our current problem of where to eat meals, that it did sell.

The plan is now to eat as many meals as possible out on the deck until the new furniture (which I promptly ordered Saturday evening) arrives. But have I mentioned the rain? The rain was not restricted to just the day of the yard sale. It has rained every single day this weekend. Poured, really. We have been making use of the kids' Pottery Barn craft table, because we don't have enough regular-sized chairs to sit at our spare dining room table. It looks something like this:

After we declared the yard sale over, we took two car loads of unsold stuff to Goodwill and a box of books to a separate charity. M. made a trip to the dump with the stuff we deemed not worthy of charity on Sunday morning, the one day of the weekend that was somewhat "relaxing." I only say that because I had slightly too much red wine on Saturday to celebrate the completion of the sale (and all the work leading up to it!) and didn't feel up to dealing with the mess that was our entire house. But I was exhausted the whole day, so it didn't actually feel relaxing. And we still went grocery shopping, took a trip to Home Depot, watched Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone with Finn, cleaned up a pee accident in the living room, cleaned up one of the car seats from Saturday's pee accident (remind me to vent a little about this whole potty training adventure sometime soon), and gave the kids a bath. I skipped the wine on Sunday night in preparation of the busiest day of all - today!

The day where we completely re-organized our living room, dining room, and office to create a playroom for the kids. It took all day, and there are still a few things we need to do (like install outlet covers and door stoppers) and buy for the playroom to be finished. But it looks great, and I promise I'll tell you all about it. Just not tonight. Tonight, I need to go to sleep.

But not before leaving you with a little insight into the male mind. There were, as you can imagine, many, many things we needed to do to get ready for this yard sale and for moving the kids' toys into the office. While I sorted through closets and drawers, placed ads online, made spreadsheets, and priced items, M. revamped our music collection. He spent countless hours burning every single CD we own onto an external hard drive, creating a new super library of music. Admittedly, there was some reasoning behind this. The CDs have been stored up in a closet in our bedroom - the closet where we are moving the filing cabinets that used to reside in the office, filing cabinets we needed to move in order to create a playroom. So I did ask M. to do something with our CD collection. His solution, which I agreed to, was to burn all the CDs to the drive, put the discs and liner notes in 3-ring binder storage pages, and ditch all the plastic cases. A large job? Certainly.

I just didn't imagine that that would be ALL he'd do in the days leading up to the yard sale. He really, really got in to it. Like, really. I can't tell you how many obscure or random musical artists I've listened to over the last two weeks. And he keeps trying to have conversations with me about "routers" and "spare computers (hah!)" and the like to perfect our access to this library.

I shouldn't say that transferring our music collection was ALL M. did before the sale, though. He did create a "Yard Sale Boogie" play list.