Sunday, February 28, 2010

just so you know...

...there's still quite a lot of snow here!











At least we're starting to enjoy it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

in the absence of actual sunshine...

...you can always dress in yellow!



Anya picked this outfit herself at Target the other day. What you can't see in this picture is that she's wearing bright yellow leggings underneath that little dress. She's only 2 and has some pretty strong opinions about her clothes. I have a feeling this is only the beginning.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

solution?

I had this whole long post started, but I scrapped it because mostly I was just going on and on about the same stuff I usually go on and on about with the whole "long term plans" issue. Basically, it comes down to this: we aren't 100% sure about staying in Madison, but we can only last in this house as is for another year or so before it just won't work. Well, I suppose there's the option of telling our parents every time they come to visit they have to set up a tent and camp out in the back yard because there is simply no room left, but that hardly seems fair.

So we have come up with a plan that will solve this space problem of ours, at least for a few years: finish the basement. This is something we looked into after I found out I was pregnant with Daniel, but at the time our mortgage was brand-new and we simply couldn't afford it. Now we might be able to afford it, what with interest rates being lower than they were when we bought the house. It depends on what kinds of estimates we get from the contractor (we know a guy...), but it's possible we could refinance without upping the monthly payments too much. Whatever we borrow is bound to be less than the extra moola it would take to just plain buy a bigger house. Besides, the thought of getting this house ready to sell and maintaining that level of order and cleanliness when the kids and I are always around to mess it up is frankly overwhelming. We can't do it.

And before you all start giving me advice on real estate, let me say this: I am fully aware that major home improvements always cost more than you get back in resale value. That's not what's important. What's important is making this house livable for the next 3-5 years while we decide what's next, whether that be relocating to a different state or staying here and finding something really permanent.

I am happy with this plan. In fact, I am impatient and want it to happen NOW. I know better, though. We have to get estimates and make sure this is something we are comfortable with financially...but in the meantime, every time I descend into the depths to do laundry (which feels like a dozen times a day) or throw on a sweater to play with the kids down there, I daydream about what it could look like and how much nicer it would be.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

decisions, decisions, ramble ramble ramble

When Stuart and I first moved to Wisconsin nearly 10 years ago (!!) we had no idea we were going to stay this long. We knew people who had lived in Madison and raved about it, but both of us at the time were freshly out of college, ready to start graduate school, and bound - we thought - for careers in academia. We'd live here for five years, we thought, and then find jobs and professors elsewhere. As often happens, our path diverged from those original plans. After finishing my first masters degree, I decided to change direction somewhat and studied a different area of music, then continued for my doctorate. Then I had babies and became a housewife. Stuart, on the other hand, got four years into a science degree before deciding that brain research was just not his thing, and pursued a career in IT instead. He's doing pretty well with that.

So we stuck around. We even bought a house. That was a little over five years ago, and at the time, it was perfect for us. Our house is small, about 900 sq feet, though it has 3 bedrooms and an unfinished basement. For a young, childless couple used to apartment living on a grad school budget, the house felt spacious, even a little luxurious. But less than a year after we moved in, I discovered I was pregnant with Daniel, and suddenly we had a whole nuther person to think about. A baby doesn't take up much room by himself, but the crib and the diaper pail and the clothes sure do. Not to mention all the out-of-town visitors (namely grandparents) who are suddenly more willing to come and stay with you every few months, even for holidays. With one kid, though, the small house with guests was manageable enough. But then of course we had Anya, so in the last four years or so, the size of our family has doubled, while the size of our house has stayed the same. There are times it feels downright cramped.

There are many things I love about this little house. It's very well-built, we like the neighborhood, there's a large backyard (even if it's too shaded to have a good garden space), the kitchen is retro in a good way (metal cabinets painted white with metal details), there are hardwood floors, and there's a nice big deck in the back. But many things about this house also make it less than ideal for us right now. There is no dining room, so we cram in the kitchen for every meal. We have no garage; in fact, we share the driveway with the next door neighbor. There is only one bathroom. I could go on, but you get the idea. We're growing out of it. And yes, every time I bemoan these things out loud or privately, I do remind myself that we're lucky to have it, lucky to have a warm house in good condition, lucky we can afford it, and plenty of people around the world live with much, much less than we have. (Like New York. How can people with kids stand those tiny apartments?)

Even so, we're getting a little ancy for change. Daniel just turned four, so in a little over a year he'll start kindergarten. He and Anya share a room, which is working well for right now, but in a couple or few years they'll need their own rooms for space and privacy. It would be nice to have a second bathroom (or at least a half bath), and things like a dishwasher and a garage. It may be wishful thinking, but the other day, on a whim, we started looking at real estate listings online because...you never know...maybe we could afford a bigger house, if we could sell this one without losing money, if we could find one for not too much more than this one cost, if if if.

All that, of course, is contingent on our long-term plans. And just like five years ago when we bought this house, our long-term plans are up in the air. We could stay right where we are and do what we're doing. We could try and find jobs elsewhere and move closer to family. Because sometimes it is really, really hard to live so far from everyone we grew up with (and sometimes it's okay.) There are definite pros and cons for every possibility, but there is no certain answer, no clear direction to take. It's the slow shock of adulthood to me, this realization that no one will answer for us what we should do or where we should go, if anywhere. It is highly unlikely that a bolt of lightning will strike with sudden clarity and make it obvious what we should do.

I know this is kind of rambly and boring, but all this has been on my mind a lot the last week or so. Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 12, 2010

eye-candy friday: momzilla goes sledding

Thanks everyone for your kind comments about Anya. The issue wasn't that she is IN the 25th percentile for height and weight. It's that up through her 18mo check-up she was in the 75th, so she essentially hasn't gained any weight in the last seven or eight months. She did fine having her blood drawn. I mean, she didn't like it any more than the rest of us but she didn't struggle and only whimpered a little bit, even when they had to try both arms to find a vein. Stuart checked her chart online yesterday when he got home, and everything appears to be normal, no deficiencies that he could tell. So it's probably a case of genetics kicking in and her turning out to be on the small side (like me). Also, she didn't start walking until pretty late, at least 16 or 17 months of age, so her opportunities to run around and lose that baby fat came later, too.

**********

Today while Daniel was in his preschool class, Anya and I went to the library to play and pick up some new books. After we'd been there for a little while, the kids' section was suddenly swarming with small children and their mothers (and one dad and a grandma), and I overheard a couple women discussing a friend of theirs who had recently referred to herself on facebook as "Momzilla." That is a perfect description of my mood yesterday. As much as I'd like to blame the weather, blame the snow, blame Stuart for, you know, having a job to go to every day (which, incidentally, pays for things like the roof over our heads and the food we eat and all), I really have no one to blame but myself for not having more of a schedule or routine for us during the week. In any case, for no particularly good reason, yesterday we were all tired and cranky and bored and right about noon, I knew we had to do something or my head was going to explode. So I said, "PUT ON YOUR BOOTS WE ARE GOING OUTSIDE." "Nooooooooooooo I don't waaaaaaaaaant to," the boy protested, to which I responded, "I DON'T CARE WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE" and of course by the time he had changed into snow pants and was getting his coat on he was all excited about the prospect. Anya is still little enough to just kind of go along with whatever we're doing, so she didn't object.

We played in the yard a bit and then decided to take an impromptu sledding trip at the park around the corner. I'm so glad we did. The snow was too fluffy to build up any speed, and the hill itself is pretty wimpy, but none of us cared. It was fun and refreshing and definitely the best hour I had all day (the rest of the afternoon went, ahem, downhill from there...get it? get it?)

I know it's been quite a while since I've done "eye-candy Friday," so I thought I'd share some pictures from yesterday (have I mentioned that I luuuurve the new camera? It fits in my pocket! It has a snow/beach setting!):








Thursday, February 11, 2010

procrastinating

This morning I am procrastinating a rather unpleasant task. I have to take Anya to the clinic to have some blood drawn so they can test it for iron content and some other things. As far as I (and anyone else) can tell, she is perfectly healthy, but at her wellness check-up a couple days ago, the doctor noted that she had slipped considerably on the growth charts. Up until her 18-month check-up in June, she was solidly in the 75th percentile for height and weight, but now she is down in the 25th percentile. That's a significant change, enough to concern the doctor (who isn't naturally alarmist), so she is going to do another weight check in a couple of months and wants me to see a nutritionist in the meantime.

Anya eats plenty. The child almost never misses a meal, and she has several snacks throughout the day. She is picky like a typical two-year-old, but not as picky as her older brother (who, incidentally, also dropped in the growth charts around this age and we had to take him to a nutritionist, too, which didn't really do any good). Her diet is pretty well balanced except for one thing: the child will. not. drink. milk. She doesn't like it. I have quit offering it to her because when she does actually try it, she makes a face and spits it out. She has a little milk on her oatmeal every morning and she loves cheese. Sometimes she'll eat a whole bowlful for a snack and nothing else with no gastrointestinal consequences to speak of, so I think the reason she doesn't drink milk is that she simply doesn't like it. I figured it wasn't a big deal because she still breastfeeds pretty often and besides, plenty of children out there are lactose-intolerant and can't drink milk, and they do okay, right? In any case, the doctor informed me that young children are supposed to have so many glasses of milk per day, so it's supposed to be a significant portion of their caloric intake, plus they need the Vitamin D (especially this time of year when true sunshine feels like a distant memory), so even though Anya has a healthy appetite, she may be missing out on calories because she doesn't drink milk.

I was supposed to stop at the lab on the way out of that appointment to have her blood drawn to test for anemia and some other things, but Anya threw such a fit getting her coat on that I totally flaked and just took the kids home. So now I have to drag her back there just to get stuck with a needle, and I am dreading it. No one likes to have their blood drawn, but that's not the real issue for me. The real issue is that I feel like I have failed her somehow by not offering her milk early enough or often enough and now her growth will be stunted and it's ALL MY FAULT. That looks totally ridiculous in writing but it's completely rational in my head. I am also dreading the as-yet-unscheduled appointment with the nutritionist, who will in all likelihood be the same nice blond lady I met with when Daniel wouldn't eat anything but graham crackers and baby food, and she will give me all kinds of advice that won't work and go on about calories and vitamins and having a routine (like I don't know that).

It's the most random stuff that undermines one's confidence as a parent. I look at Anya and I know, I am certain, that she is fine. She jabbers on constantly, carefully puts her words together in little sentences ("Mama get it! No! ME do it! Stop it, Dan'l!"), and she likes to run around the house naked and has plenty of energy (she skips her naps more often than not, sadly) and she can drink out of a regular cup and eat with a spoon and build block towers and pull on her own pants (sometimes backwards but if you try and correct her BOY do you pay for it) and do all those things normal two-year-olds are supposed to do. Except drink milk.



ETA: Thanks for the wonderful comments, everyone! To answer a quick question that abcgirl asked: no, I haven't tried chocolate milk. I'm not really so opposed to trying it except that if Anya gets chocolate milk, Daniel will want it, too, and then I'll have to work on both of them not drinking too much sugar with it. That said, we had a quick impromptu sledding excursion today (pictures coming in a future post, I'm sure) and both kids had some hot cocoa afterwards. For Anya, this is progress.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Quadrilla

Pam asked about Quadrilla in my last post. They make wooden marble runs. Daniel and Anya got the "Try-Me" set for Christmas, and Daniel liked it so much we got him an extension set for his birthday. They are a European company (German, maybe?), and the marble runs have sturdy, good-quality wooden pieces. Daniel has been playing with his marble set (as he calls it) pretty much non-stop since he opened it up after his party on Saturday. (We knew if he opened his present before the party he would want to play with it instead of his friends, so we waited until afterwards.)

I'm one of those people who would rather have a few good toys around than lots and lots of cheap plastic crap. Our very small house makes this a necessity. In any case, high-quality building toys (like the marble set, the train set, the blocks) are things we'll keep around even after our kids have outgrown them. The little plastic toy guitar that lights up and plays the same annoying twangy country-esque tune when you push the purple buttons...well, that one is a favorite toy, too, but I personally won't be sad when it leaves the house.

Anyway, here's a little video I took of the marble set in action. (Sidebar: I was using the new little camera Stuart got me for Christmas that I lovelovelove. Also, I have never tried uploading a video on Blogger before, so it might take me a couple tries. Bear with me.) You see Anya rocking in the background; I think she was dancing to the U2 CD Daniel turned on before we put the marble run together. video

Sunday, February 07, 2010

four

My boy turns 4 today. Four! We had a little party for him yesterday with his two best buddies (plus baby sisters and their mamas; unfortunately, both other dads had to be at work and couldn't come). Those few people were enough to fill up our little house. I am going to have to rethink future birthday parties, either cough up the dough for a bigger venue (Chuck-E-Cheese, here we come!) or wait until the summer and celebrate half-birthdays at the park. Thoughts on that, anyone?

In any case, the party was nice and low-key. The boys played pretty well, the little girls stayed out of trouble, and everyone had a turn blowing out candles on their cupcakes. We had a very brief game of "Stick the Tail On the Donkey" but even four-year-olds don't have much of an attention span for organized games. I didn't get many pictures, but here are a few to share.



(There's a vide of the part with birthday candles, but someone was kind of fussy during it so I won't put it up.)

We saved Daniel's present from us for after the party because we knew once he opened it he wouldn't want to play with anything else.




(We were right about that!)

Happy Birthday, Daniel! We're awfully proud of you.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010