Saturday, June 28, 2008

Arrrgh! Pirate Party!

O's birthday party (parties) were today (Saturday), followed by a family party later. We had a great time at both.

The kids' party was great. Some highlights:
  • Food. We opted to take a chance and cook for the kids. We made homemade mac & cheese, mini-burgers (they weren't really sliders since they were rounder), salad. Other snacky stuff. Went over very well with the kids and the parents. I just couldn't bring myself to default to pizza, and I'm happy we didn't.
  • Entertainment. If you live in this area, and you have a young'un that you need to entertain at a birthday party...check out Zev Haber. Kids of a range of ages absolutely love him, and the parents do too. He's kind of like a musical Ben Stiller for kids. I hope he takes that as a compliment, it's meant to be.
  • Treats. I made cupcakes (decorated with O's help), rather than having a cake. (I ordered one from Riviera Bakehouse for the family party.) The frosting was a cream-cheese buttercream which was the recipe from Martha. But what really rocked was that we decorated them with personalized m&m's that I ordered. (if you already read this, I deleted the photo.) Instead...check out how easy it is here.
The kids were so good. It was wonderful. Love the at-home party.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Blogging with Style

This one for the ladies (well, heck, could be for anyone...I don't know who everyone who reads this is...). God knows what you people are into. Hee hee.

Didi is a doll. Met her through mutual friends years ago and recently back in touch. Blogs on style and associated nonesuch on Sparkle Shelf.

Check in over on the right, enjoy. Kind of like yummy beach reading.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Renovation: Built, with Tyvek

Timeline: October 2007.

At this point it started to look like something that someone may actually live in again. The crazy thing was, we lived in it the whole time.

In this first photo to the right, you can see the roof is on, the Tyvek is on (boy, that Tyvek stayed on for a loooooong time). This is the angle that shows the entirely new space; there are two skylights intended for the first floor that aren't in place yet, and I like the way the roof angles around O's bedroom window.

This next photo shows the garage and front view of the new space (hey, and our old car!). Note how only a few of windows were punched out of the Tyvek. In case you didn't guess this already, this makes the house kind of dark inside.

Here's the side officially evolving as our "front" yard as the new porch and front door space takes shape. Our deck is still attached to the back, and the chimney is not extended yet in this photo. But, you can see the change in roof angles from this elevation.

Inside, this is our living room/sunroom area that at this point, has been connected since the wall was knocked down. Our furniture is under the plastic sheet, and we've got more plastic between us and the elements. Thank goodness there weren't that many elements and we had temperate weather. The fireplace is to the right in the photo, also covered. Like our hanging electric? Yes...we had to keep a close eye on O.

This next one is taken of the space to the left of the sunroom area...soon to become part of our kitchen. At this point, we still had functioning appliances behind the wall to the left of the photo. You can see the new triple window and the new support beam across the broadened kitchen space.

This was when the outlook was rosy, we were still relatively on budget, and the tight living space hadn't started to wear on us yet. I'll try to spare the grisly details as they come up.

G is Four Months Old

And clearly...a very girly ballerina.

Four months was actually Saturday. Fun frippery courtesy of Aunt P and Uncle L.

Monday, June 23, 2008

O Tells a Joke

We're at the dinner table.

O says, "hey, wanna hear a joke?"

"Sure pal...whatcha got?"

"Why do you pour water on a sandwich?"

"That's a good one, O. Why?"

"So the pickup truck can drive by."

I don't get it either, but I love it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Renovation: Back Inside - Living in De-construction

Now. These photos are from October--I know, I know--but I'm catching up, aren't I? It's starting to cool down, but if you recall we had a rather temperate Fall around these parts.

First I'll give you a glimpse of how lovely our exterior looked once the majority of siding came down. Mmmm. House was built in 1945. Old. It should be mentioned that the second story to the above left is the master bedroom area, which was added in the early 90s.

The next three photos are: the family room (expanded and opened up to include the sunroom, which is where our old front door entered the you see the cracks between the plywood?

...a wider shot of the now completely opened up sunroom area (our fireplace is to the right in this shot)....

And this little yellow room...what was that again?...oh yes, our KITCHEN. Still functioning. I think it was a rainy day when I took these. Cheery place to live, no? Ugh.

All I can think when I look back at this is, poor O. What a good, good sport he was.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Renovation: The Build on the Outside

Around the same time as the pictures you saw of the inside (ie: our open-air upstairs), the outside was slowly being ripped apart, too. See the gaping hole on the left? We actually cut into our dining room to create a new front door. You can see how we raised the roof on the right; this is where G's bedroom is now.

Here is the driveway side of the house...two car garage, and the second floor has taken shape. This area closest to the front of the picture is our dining/multi-purpose room, really the crux of the addition to the house.

This is the back view of the addition I was just mentioning. The space on top is O's new room. The big hole is for a set of french doors, ultimately out to a patio in the back. Note the Japanese Andromeda next to the house. Sadly, we lost it. Too big to transfer. Thank goodness we have another five or so.

Here is a view of our old deck. Note that the contractors put a temporary door in here, where they broke into our old dining room to create the porch for the new front door.

Good story (well, not really) about this lovely plywood temp wall. When they ripped the siding off initially, our outdoor light was still outside. It was a motion-sensor light, and it stayed on during the rain one night. It was kind of leaning on the wall, which was exposed rotting wood (nice, eh?) and insulation hanging out.

C was coming up to bed, and smelled something funny outside. Turns out the wall was ON FIRE and he had to run and get the hose, after slipping in the mud, to put it out. So yes, get rid of your motion sensor lights, please. I heard other horror stories about them after I told mine.

Tomorrow, more chaos. This is kind of cathartic, though.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Promise of a Patio

Our "lawn guy" is outside right now, laying stone dust for our brick patio. I could not be more excited at the prospect of having usable outdoor space again. Not being able to have dinner off the grill outdoors is such a bummer.


We have reclaimed the brick from a friends' house, as they were opting for a different look in their outdoor space. The sizes of the bricks are somewhat irregular.

He has suggested a "brick wall" type pattern (ie: like you would do with subway tile) vs. a chevron-like pattern since he thinks the irregularities would be less glaring. I'm rolling with it. We prefer the bricks over pavers because of the "older" who's to complain about irregularities?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Upgrading the Blog

I'm trying to update the blog with some of the new bells & whistles that are out there. Let me know what you think as they show up, please.

I'm going to aim to add...

1. An updated blog list to the right. It's a relatively new feature of Blogger that allows you to see the newest posts, and how recent they are. I like it because it means I know when to check in on them.

2. Flickr. I'm trying to figure out how to feed a flickr account in so I can snap pics when I'm away and post them, hopefully via cell phone or BB. Fun stuff or celeb sightings or...whatever that's interesting.

3. Twitter. Just in case anything happens that's a total pisser, you all can find out about it in real-time. No, I won't be posting "I'm in the bathroom!", "We just got to my parents' house", or "I am so tired". Promise. It will need to be far more earth-shattering than that. Like G's first step of something. (Okay, that is a while away.)

Stay tuned.

Renovation: The Build, from the Inside

Yesterday's renovation post gave a quick glimpse into how the exterior of the house looked at the beginning of the construction and demolition. Here are some shots of our interior during that period. The first photo, above, shows what you would see when you walked upstairs. Yes, you read that right. Our bedroom door jamb is to the left in this photo. Other than that area, we had no roof for a few days. And then, tarp.

The next photo, above, shows what it was built into...a entry to my son's room, with a new bath on the right.

Now, note the stairway on the right. This third photo shows what you would have seen if you looked to the right after coming up the stairs (so our bedroom door, as mentioned above, would be at your back). You can see the chimney (which we ultimately had to extend) exposed here, which was behind the wall in O's original room. Which was all of a nook, truthfully.

Lovely views, though, no?

Here is that same space, framed out for G's room. Of course, we didn't know it was G's room at the time. O decided he wanted the new room, rather than the new & improved version of his space. Personally, I think the new version here is bigger than the brand-new room, but don't try to tell him that.

More to come.

Time, Not Treasures

O's teachers would always send home a note each week to all the parents, letting us know what they did all week in class. I always loved reading it, seeing what books they read, what songs they learned, what they tried to do and of course what they learned and experienced.

Preschool ended a couple weeks ago, and we received a final note from the teachers. It contained a poem by Terry Graham, which I thought encapsulated the simple things to remember when you are trying to raise a child well. The basics, if you will. It's a little silly, but sweet.

Watch and wait and listen,
As I learn and grow.

Know when to let me have my way,
And when to tell me "No!"

Help me when I need you,
But it's ok to let me cry.

I will never learn to do things,
If I never get to try!

Give me your time, not your treasures,
Read me a story or two.

And remember that being my parents
Is a most special job to do!

As we navigate through the changes and emotions of "almost four"...this is a good reality check on the important things in both your lives. Go hug your kids and read them a book.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Renovation: The Beginning

It's time.

Here are some pictures of our house pre-renovation and early renovation. It was sold to us in 2004 as an "other"...basically an adjusted cape; one portion of the tiny top was pushed out to create a master bedroom. (Really the selling point of the house, truth be told.) The first picture is actually of a guy taking a tree down behind our house, but it's one of the few digital pictures I have of the exterior finish. Vinyl siding and plastic shutters.

Next photo, albeit blurry, a picture of two of the guys with our first wall ripped open. This was our old dining area, next to the old minuscule kitchen. Note our chandelier still intact. Which now hangs in our new foyer.

The third photo shows the driveway side of our house in the build stage. The entire area to the right didn't exist, and to the left, they had to tear down the walls of our sunroom and reconstruct them...they were a disaster (rotten, leaky, etc).

The fourth photo shows the other facing side of our house (we have a corner lot). Our front door - really the door to an old closed-in porch that became an interior portion of the house with the last owner - was where the plywood is located here. The funny thing is, this is the side of the house where our front door should be, since our address is for this elevation, not the driveway side. The pile of rocks is where the steps were...which were also horrible; they had no landing so every time I opened the door for someone I practically threw them down the steps.

I'll post some additional entries this week to bring you all up to speed. :0)

Belated Love for Father's Day

I wanted to post this shot of my husband and my son, playing catch as we watched my godson's baseball game a couple weeks back. It's a great moment caught in time.

C is going to be away for business a couple days this week. We miss him and just wanted him to know we'll all be thinking of our super Daddy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Valuation of Sleep

First, apologies for the recent lack of posts. Busy and kind of tired. Distracted.

A colleague recently pointed out a interesting report on sleep deprivation and its effects. The report by Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes was eye-opening, no pun intended.

Think about how much...or how sleep. Is it enough? I think most people like me, with two small kids, know that the evening is when I tend to get anything done that's been waiting around. And that when you get that peaceful, decadent chance to sleep in--it's heaven.

I have friends that sleep a few hours a night, relatively poorly, and some that are religious about getting 8 hours.

There is data that indicates that it is better to sleep than to push yourself to learn or memorize (sayonara, college all-nighters). That a continued short sleep cycle--say four hours or less--quickly deteriorates your speed of thought, your memory, your attention span. It makes sense...but on a continued basis, it could also mean permanent damage.

The recommended amount of sleep would be between 7 1/2 and 8 hours for us humans. Lately if I get 6 1/2 I'm doing well. Hmm. I should think about that...maybe make a better effort to get in bed sooner (as I write this at 10:17pm). Test it. See if it does make a difference.

Here's a fascinating tidbit:
The study's subjects were on the road to diabetes in just six days, and that’s not all - they were also hungry. Van Cauter has made a radical discovery: that lack of sleep may be contributing to the epidemic of obesity in this country through the work of a hormone called leptin that tells your brain when you’re full.
So beyond the diabetic connection they made in the study, I was thinking, jeez, if this is parents don't sleep well, wonder it's hard to lose the baby weight! The lack of sleep is read as stress by our body, they say. You can make all sorts of connections here.

I'm going to bed soon. You should too.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Four, Soon

O is turning four at the end of the month. He's changed so amazingly this year...I can hardly see the little 3 year old that we put into preschool so many months ago. Those are his feet, as he was sitting in my lap this past week at the end-of-school year picnic. (They were singing "Michael Finnegan" which seems to involve all sorts of stomping and/or dancing.)

It feels like he is not listening to us at all, anymore. He's so independently minded, so strong-willed. But happy. He does it in a charming way that makes us feel terribly guilty after the fact for ever appending any punishment to completely disregarding what we say.

But he's happy. So he's testing us. Right? Sometimes I wonder if we let him get away with too much. We try not to. But sometimes I want to stop disciplining him, to just let him run around and forget his pleases and thank-yous and just be a crazy, messy, loud boy.

Friday, June 13, 2008

On Working from Home: Seasonality

It's true that the summer makes things better in so many ways. This may not be as applicable, or perhaps even the reverse is true, if you happen to live in a perpetually sunny clime--but here in the Northeast, I feel like the quality of life increases exponentially when the warm weather arrives. Mmm. Pretty mini-roses in my yard.

It certainly affects working from home. That sounds a little odd...or perhaps even unprofessional, but let me explain.

I work from home some days, as you know if you read this. I have an "office" of sorts...where I can close the door and seal off the kids/nanny/playdates/etc. With that said, sometimes it gets a little loud; I can still manage to block it out mentally, but I have to give the high sign to J when I have a conference call so I can make sure I have peace and quiet. Usually they will go upstairs to play (now a viable option since we actually have human-size bedrooms up there).

But spring, summer...the options multiply. You can all go outside. Oh, the benefits. You get the much needed focus-time, and your kids get fresh air...or, you get fresh air: take that conference call outside on your patio if you have a quiet neighborhood.

Mandatory for option maximization: wireless for your house to tote that work-issued laptop around, and an outdoor outlet to plug in when the battery is dying but the weather isn't.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Waking Up Not at Home

Today was the first day, being away for work, that I've woken up without my kids. Weird!

Feels like any other business trip but it's still hard, particularly being away from first time without her overnight. I weathered it much more successfully than I expected, both emotionally and from an organizational perspective.

Meetings this morning and then heading home. I'm ready. It's funny. I'm the only female here, with 11 guys. (Not that I haven't encountered this before in my's a little like deja vu.) All of the daddies are just psyched to be at the casino, roll some craps. It's not that these guys aren't good dads--I think they all are, for sure--but it's just different.

I don't think I'm simply chest-beating when I say that my husband hates being away from the kids, too. O gave him a hard time because he was traveling this week too, and it clearly got to him.

I'm going to try to enjoy the drive home. Enjoy the beautiful weather if you're local!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Begin the Day with the Thought that the World is Good

I can attest to that. You hear enough crud out there that it's not...but I do start the day with, and teach my kids the idea that people are generally good. (Ok, I do make sure they know that bad people are out there too, but most likely something made them like that.)

First, let me let those who've checked in on us know that we HAVE gotten A/C on the first floor. The top floor is steamy, but getting better (as I write this immediately following some major thunderstorms). So it is tolerable living here, and during the day the kids are with J and stay downstairs. Cool.

A lovely new neighbor--I shouldn't say new, she lived here before I did!--who has been introduced to me by a friend, reads this blog (and I, hers). We haven't met yet, but I expect to soon, and we typically correspond through postings and email.

She called me out of the blue and opened her home to me and my family in the heat. Welcomed us to come over to enjoy her A/C. It was so thoughtful and generous of her. And the reality is...she is not the only one. We've had a good handful of friends that know the situation offer to take care of us...we even got treated to dinner in our friends' A/C'd house this weekend.

I don't know if we're just lucky, but that can't be true as often as I think it.

Thanks everyone, it really means so much.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

HOT as H-E-Double Hockey Stick

With most of the renovation behind us, one would think that there was little risk of complete discomfort and/or displacement at this point.

Nope, as O would put it.

We're having record highs today...likely tomorrow, the next day. It is supposed to reach 100 degrees tomorrow. We have no AC in the house.

Our seemingly useless contractor's project manager has been trying to get the HVAC guy here since February. This, from the pack of fools that gave him the final check without him finishing all the work. To top it off, our old AC unit, that we were planning to re-use for our upstairs, has disappeared from the property. Yes, you read that right. Disappeared.

How something called a "one and a half-ton unit" disappears into thin air, particularly when a brand new one is sitting right next to it, seems a bit, well, fishy, no?

We have a 3 1/2 month old baby, and C and I are supposed to go to work and leave our kids and our nanny in this sweltering house? I have too much guilt about that. I don't know what to do.

C called him Friday, asked him to step up like a professional and finish the job. He spoke with him again tonight. He should be here at 9:30am tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for us. It's brutal in here.

* Photo from No, I have no idea who that guy is.

Follow-up: The Plural of Prius

Should you have checked in to my comments on my last post, you'll note that H1202 posted a most eloquent , and investigative, response to my off the cuff question about the appropriate plural of the word Prius.

Since O tends to have a fun time with language gymnastics, as much as an almost-4-year-old can, she suggested that I ask for his thoughts.

I have to say she may be a little disappointed, though I kind of expected his response.

When he sees a bunch of grown human males, it's "mans"...I think at this age all gets the plural "s" treatment. So I will be sticking with referring to them as our Priuses.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I'm not a real greenie, but...

Check out my latest site that I've added to the right, EcoSalon.

I've recently discovered it, via one of my fave catalogs, Viva Terra, and it's not too heavy-handed about the whole green thing, which I like.

I can't be guilted into motivation. That is an enormous truth with me. But if it's cool stuff anyhow, given the option, I'll go green.

When "they" say that "if we only got every person to change one light bulb, we're saving an iceberg from melting (or whatever the reasoning)"...I figure lots of little different efforts add up over a lifetime. So that's my goal. And the strategy I try to impart to my family, too.

Have I mentioned that both C and I drive a Prius? It was a recent decision when we realized how pricey the Hybrid Highlander was going to be. So we flipped my 2004 Highlander and his 2003 Corolla and got two 2008 Priuses. (Is Priuses the proper plural? Is it Pria?)

Anyhow, we own them...we always own our cars, we're the sort that doesn't understand the concept of leasing...and we have the exact same car payments we used to, two brand-new cars, and we're totally saving on gas. C gets 48 miles to the gallon and I get around 39-40 (Freshchester has a lot of hills, and I take lots of short trips during the week).

And simply buying that car made me feel really good. I know it's not perfect, but it's better than what I was driving. Having it has actually motivated me to do more that's green, make more of an effort every day. Funny, eh?

Some Days Fly By

By the time you get everything done, you have no time to get anything done.
I know that makes no sense, but that's the point.

Tonight I had a simple chore...write out my son's birthday party invites. Simple, right?

Feeding baby, a little of this here, that's midnight. What the heck?

Today really disappeared on me, it felt like, because I wasn't overly "productive". With that said, I had some really nice moments with G and O. Which is much better than being productive.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On Working From Home: A Scary School Day

My children are too young to be in our public school system yet. Right now as a working mom, my biggest worry has been carpooling for my son's preschool, making sure we bring in a snack when it's our turn, and making time for parent/teacher meetings. Easy.

Our village's schools have always had a wonderful reputation. I subscribe to our village billboard on Yahoo! to keep posted on the village goings-on, and today's email was full of news about a scare at our middle school (so was my TV screen tonight with the local news). It seems as if a student had posted something online (a blog) that was a threat toward one or two specific children and the school in general. The middle school was evacuated. Btw, it should be noted that it's social studies state testing day.

Worse, it's the child of a school board member. As I have had no experience with any of the related parties, I'll reserve judgment until I hear more of the facts. Truthfully, no matter what your position, this must be a horrible thing to go through as the child's parent.

With that said, I am relieved that my employer is in such close proximity to our home, and I have the ability to to work from home regularly. While O isn't in the elementary school yet, I can't imagine the feelings I would experience upon getting a call about such a situation, and be far away. I know I can get to him in 15 minutes at worst.

And people wonder why parents give children cell phones at such a young age. The school couldn't really communicate with parents until they had all the facts, so many parents were upset about the lack of contact. At least the parents were getting texts from the kids...though in many cases I am sure that exacerbated the panic.

Makes me all the more motivated to figure out how to work from home as much as possible. The world has changed quite a bit since I was in middle school.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Architectural Renderings

Our almost-four-year-old son was playing with his blocks the other day and I was rather impressed by the design layout he set up in his room. First, he pulled the blocks into color sets so each "building" would be a single color. Then he started building.

It was the middle of the day so we were distracted and running around with G, and when he was done, after each one, he would call us in. Check them out. (Ignore the messy was Saturday, ok?)

I don't know...but there is purposeful symmetry, asymmetry, and balance in all of these. Some stronger than others, but I don't think I built anything like this at his age.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

While I'm Talking Fashion...

A moment of silence for Yves St. Laurent, one of those great designers who challenged what women could wear and how, and infused class into sexy. Yes, women could wear that.

A great quote from him: "We must never confuse elegance with snobbery."

Fashion Chat with the Sister-in-Law

We went to the wedding on Saturday (that one I had nothing to wear to...and if you kept reading, I did find something...I added an embellishment a la Sex & the City...I guess I was unknowingly inspired since I didn't put the flower thing together with that until after I bought it) and we had an absolute blast. It's always lovely to have someone new join the family that you really like--in this case, one of C's (many) cousins on his mom's side added a husband. We're so happy for them.

I was sitting next to my glam sis-in-law (that's her right there), who lives in DC and has a life very different from mine, and she tells me she reads this every day-ish or so, which makes me so happy. Love that. And then she told me she had her picture on a long-running blog from the DC area recently, Project Beltway, for a benefit they attended. (I've just realized it's for the Humane Society; they've got a kitty & a pup. Makes sense.) Had to look.

Of course it was all about the shoes. She is the lovely lady in red on this post with the killer shoes featured. Killer, literally...sounds like they quoted my dear bro-in-law on the blog...take a read. She said she had a max 2 1/2 hour limit in them...and they kind of rocked back and forth!? (and this is not a gal who shies from heels)

Hell, I'll do some bad-ass heels myself...I think it's an indulgence for women, the range we are allowed to get away with compared to men is a wonderful thing -- but I'm going to say she's way braver than me on this one. Would ya, could ya?