Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Verdant Oasis In A Sea of Snow

It's cold outside. We just got 6 more inches of snow. Everyone in the house is cranky and tired of winter. The baby just screams when I try to set him down with his toys - he's tired of them and the four walls surrounding them. Liam is all pent up energy.

We need a break from winter. Preferably in Tahiti.

Instead we took the kids to Phipps Conservatory. We're members and it's one of Liam's favorite places. We haven't been in a while so I promised Liam that we would try to get there today. We managed to make it work and I'm so glad we did.

Phipps is always green and warm and full of exotic smelling plants so it was the perfect place to shed our winter blahs. When we got to the tropical room it was heaven. Lush green plants. Warm temperatures. Waterfalls. I could physically feel the stress of the week melt into the stream and be washed away. When we got to the bottom of the room and to the pond with the fish, we let Jamie out of the stroller so he could toddle around a bit with his brother - the fish are Liam's favorite part.

It was Tahiti right in the middle of Pittsburgh and it was exactly what we all needed.

The orchid show is going on right now so every room we went in had beautiful orchids - from the very large to the very small and in all the colors of the rainbow. It was so wonderful to wander around with the kids looking at green and blooming plants. It felt like, just maybe, one day this miserable winter would finally end.

So, if any of you in the Pittsburgh area are as desperately in need of a break from winter as we were, head over to Phipps and bask in the glory of green and growing things.

This Is What Happens When I Point A Camera At Him.

He sure is a cute little bugger but I can't catch it on film to save my life.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Ballet Of The Absurd

It's finally Friday and it has been, as they say, A Week.

It was one of those weeks when someone was always wanting something from me and I felt pulled in a million directions. The house suffered from my lack of focus. The kids suffered from my lack of focus. In other words, I fell down on the job. A lot.

Jamie is working on two teeth right now and one of them is really giving him fits. During the day he screams and during the night he has trouble sleeping. He has an enormous blister on his gum where the tooth is pushing through. It hurts him so much that he even gets difficult about taking his bottles before naps and bed.

Wednesday was a particularly horrible day for long and boring reasons and in the midst of it all, I was unable to spend much time paying any real attention to the kids. I could tell that Liam was feeling it and he's been a bit clingy since. I'm hoping to spend some time with him this weekend doing some fun things to make up for it.

Anyway, I got through the day on Wednesday, got the kids fed at dinner time, and then sat down to have some leftover pizza myself. I was sitting at our kitchen table talking with Scot about the day while Jamie toddled around the kitchen getting into mischief wherever possible.

And then the chair I was sitting on collapsed.

It was just like you imagine. I had flung my arms wide in one of my grand gestures as I was talking, my weight shifted, and the next thing I knew, a leg was falling off the chair and I was being dumped to the hard tile floor of the kitchen.

Jamie started to cry because the whole thing frightened him. I started to cry because apparently I am now so corpulent that I break furniture. After the ridiculously stressful day I'd had that day, breaking a chair was just the absurd capper to it all.

In my defense, our kitchen table and chairs are over 100 years old and have been passed down through Scot's family. So, it was probably just that the chair was unstable and losing structural integrity to begin with. Still, it has delivered a blow to my self-esteem.

Here's to hoping that next week brings calm waters, tooth relief, and whole furniture. And let me just say that if Mother Nature doesn't start to curb her wrath it's quite possible that I'll be found running naked through the suburbs of Pittsburgh swigging vodka as I go.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bathroom Peccadilloes

Tonight at dinner I brought up the question of when it becomes OK for Liam to use a public restroom alone. He's 5 now and when he's out with me I always wonder if I should take him in the ladies room with me or send him into the mens room alone. I'm hesitant about sending him in alone. So, I asked Scot about it and he said he'd have to think about it.

Liam was taking all of this in as we discussed it.

Then, I mentioned that before he goes into a public restroom alone he's got to perfect a technique or two. Like not wiping after he pees. Like learning the fine art of the shake. Like not putting TP in the urinal. Like not pulling his pants to the floor in order to pee.

"I know how to use a urinal, Momma!" he said.

"I know, honey, but you can't put toilet paper in the urinal. You're not supposed to wipe when you use one. You're supposed to shake," I replied.

"I already know how to do that," he said and then proceeded to wiggle his whole body.

Scot and I giggled and told him it wasn't that kind of shake. I told him that Daddy could show him how and he kind of got this funny look on his face and I said that Daddy had to show him because I don't have a penis so I can't show him how.

"I have a penis! It's in my underwear!" he exclaimed.

Scot and I started giggling again.

"Honey, we know it's in your pants. We'd be worried if it was anywhere else," Scot said.

"Yeah. Like on my chin!"

That's my kid. Liam the Penis-Chinned Boy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

File Under: Homeowner Woes

So, about those icicles?

Problems. Big, big problems.

Icicles like that are caused by ice dams. Ice dams mean water can't get to my gutters which in turn means that the water has to go someplace. Usually that means leakage into the house. We are not the only ones in the area experiencing this problem - not by miles - and we probably wouldn't have an issue at all but for the fact that we got 24 inches of snow in 24 hours. Plus an additional 12-15 inches over the course of the following 10 days.

Generally, this problem means water running down your walls. But I got lucky, yes I did. We have been gifted with the slow seep. It appears to be coming in from the front porch somewhere. It is being sucked into the plywood subflooring thus warping the subflooring. In turn it is transferring the damp and the warp to the one and only real hardwood floor we have in the house. We have several planks buckling at this point.

Added to this joy was discovering that two of the tiles in the drop ceiling in our basement game room are water damaged. I can't move one of them because there is a light in the middle of it but I moved the other tile and saw the damp subfloor and the wet floor joist for the foyer flooring by the front door. I watched the water come down the joist and drip, drip, drip, every few seconds.

So, I moved things out of the way and placed a bucket to catch all those little annoying droplets. Unfortunately, this is the only visible water I can actually find. The rest of it is just slowly seeping into the flooring and screwing things up.

We contacted our homeowners insurance and were assured that it is covered by the insurance. But, we've also been told that there is very, very little that can be done (read: nothing) before this all thaws out and dries out. Once that happens we can assess the damage and go from there. We get to sit around for the next several weeks and watch this problem cause more damage the longer it goes on. The most we can do is mitigate the water as much as possible - which isn't much considering the slow seepage problem.

Pardon me while I pause to have a panic attack...

It could certainly be worse. We've been told of other people who have kitchen ceilings literally falling down. We don't have that problem. Yet. But, I have to admit, this is the part of owning a home that I really hate.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Icicles of DOOM

These are the icicles that have formed over the last week since The Big Storm. There's no getting rid of them until spring. They're making my front steps so treacherous I don't want anyone on them. I just hope they don't impale anyone when they finally come down.

The row of icicles along the roof/gutter line has spawned its own little babies on the window sill below.

"Baby" icicles. Yeah. More like Honking Huge Teenager.

This massive accumulation has formed at the back corner of the house above the garage. God help the dog if she's standing around when it falls.

So, who's up for 4-8 more inches of snow over the next 36 hours? Yeah. Not me either.

A Roundup of Liam Quips

Lately I've had a running list of all the things that Liam has said that I want to blog about. They're all fairly short to explain and I decided to gather them all up into one post.

1. We got Liam a Nintendo DSi for his birthday. This was his big gift from us. Ever since then he's been spending as much time as we'll allow playing the games he has and trying to get better at it. He's learning incredibly quickly. A few days ago he was sitting with Scot after dinner and working on a part of a game (Star Wars, naturally) that he was having some trouble with. Scot was helping him work through it and I was running around doing various chores. As I passed the room they were sitting in I heard Liam say:

"I'm much better than Mommy."

Ha! Too right, kid!

2. We were watching Star Wars: Attack of the Clones the other day. He's only seen it a couple of times and yes, we skip the parts that are inappropriate for him. Anyway, the words that scroll up the screen at the beginning came on and I asked Liam if he needed me to read them to him. He gave me a look that said "what, are you some kind of dumbass, Mom?" and said "Mom, the music is telling us the words!"

Maybe it's just me, but I love that my kid sees a story when he hears music.

3. We've also been going through a rough patch with Liam when it comes to his behavior. I don't know what is going on with him but he's been a disrespectful little toerag a lot of the time lately. I feel like I spend a lot of my day doing nothing but disciplining him. On one of the more difficult days I've had with him recently he popped out with the following two gems:

"I don't love you, Mommy. I only love Daddy."
"I don't like this house. It's boring."

It's going to be a long year.

4. On yet another day while viewing yet another Star Wars movie, this time "The Phantom Menace", Liam finally solved a mystery he'd apparently been working on for awhile. At the end of the movie when Qui Gon, Obi Wan, and Darth Maul are fighting, there is music in the background that has a chorus singing various non-word syllables. Click here to see a clip.

Suddenly, in the middle of watching this battle scene Liam exclaimed "I finally figured out what they're singing!"

Scot and I looked at each other and wondered what was about to come out of his mouth next. We asked him "What do you think they're singing, sweetie?"

He sang, "Qui Gon! Darth Maul!"

Go ahead. Go view the clip. Come back and tell me the kid doesn't have a point.

5. Last, Liam looked at me out of the blue this morning and asked me, "Someday, would you like sell Jamie for 29 cents?"

I think he's trying to tell us something. ;)

That Solves The "What To Get Liam" Problem

Well, this should solve all our "what do we get the kid for Christmas" woes next year.

The AT-AT Imperial Walker

This will go perfectly with his 2.5 foot long Millenium Falcon! It comes out in August and I bet we buy it then just to avoid the Christmas Rush.

Now that we have that little problem solved I should probably move on to the "what the heck do we get Jamie for his birthday?!" problem. That one needs to be solved in the next two weeks.

Monday, February 8, 2010

For My Husband

Because he worked really, really hard on it and nearly crippled himself in the process, Scot asked me to post a couple of pictures of the apron in front of our garage. It's bigger than it seems and it's a total b-i-t-c-h to dig out even when there's not two feet of snow.

Taken while standing in the corner by the retaining wall with a lovely view into my side of the garage.

Taken from the point where the driveway begins to widen out into the apron - about where the sidewalk to the front door starts. That break in the retaining wall to the right is actually the stairs to the back patio but you can't actually use them right now.

Over the next 48 hours we're supposed to get another 6 to 12 inches. Now, I'm wondering if that will actually be 6 to 12 inches or another two feet. If it's another two feet we won't get out 'til spring. See you sometime in April.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

2 Adults + 2 ft of Snow + 1 Shovel = 2 Days To Dig Out

This is what took us two days to dig out.

There are 5 ft. tall bushes under that snow. You can see some poking out but there are others that are completely covered.

This is what happens when the red leather gloves you're wearing get soaked through. 'Nuff said.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snowmageddon Is Upon Us

Well. So much for accurate weather reporting. You would think that in a place that gets snow on a regular basis, they'd be better at figuring out how much we're going to get and how freaked out we all need to be. But, alas, no. Pittsburghers are truly deranged when it comes to snow. They're forecasting a dusting to half an inch? There's a run on bread, milk, and toilet paper down at the Giant Eagle.

For this particular storm, they were predicting 6 to 12 inches total - a major snowstorm for Pittsburgh. Everyone was stocking up on food and canceling travel plans. It started snowing in earnest around 3 pm yesterday afternoon and the driving conditions were deteriorating rapidly. It wasn't unpassable but the roads were getting slick and caution was warranted. I picked up Liam from school, came home, and settled in for the night knowing that we'd be housebound for the weekend.

I neglected to shovel any snow last night - even though all the neighbors were out doing it - because I trusted that we'd get no more than a foot of snow.

That was really dumb on my part. Truly idiotic.

I woke up this morning to not one foot of snow but two feet of snow and it was still coming down. We own one snow shovel. So far, I've spent two hours shoveling and managed to get a single shovel-width path down the driveway, up the front walk, and the stairs and porch cleared. The snow is up to my knees at least. The snow plows have plowed us in.

I took some pictures so I thought I'd share.

Liam enjoying the snow

This is part of the path that took me two hours to dig.

This is the retaining wall near our garage. The corner is about elbow height on me.

This is the main road that runs past our house.

Our mailbox, or what little of it remains uncovered.

The cossack hat our front light is wearing.

The pile of snow that I found when I opened the front door this morning.

Snow covered trees with treehouse.

Liam's playhouse on the back patio. You can barely see the door.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Notes From The Dinner Table

While eating dinner tonight I yelled at the dog for the 65 thousandth time to get out of the kitchen while we were eating. I ended by saying "how many times do I have to ask you?!"

Liam piped up with, "twenty-four."

Smart ass. That's why we love him.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

He's Walking!

I was only able to catch a few steps on video but I did see him string together about 12 of them earlier today. By tomorrow he should be chasing his brother and the dog with abandon!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Look Back At Liam

I was sorting through some old pictures the other night and I ran across a ton from Liam's first year. Every parent says this, but I can't believe how much he's changed and how quickly it happened. Even more surprising is that when I look at those old photos, I can suddenly see the boy he's become in the baby he was.

I could upload a hundred pictures and not do it justice so I've limited myself to just five.

Happy Birthday, Liam!

I'm sitting here looking at a blank screen trying to find the words to sum up Liam's birthday and I can't seem to find them. He had a great day, loved all his gifts, and actually consented to speak on the phone with relatives. Wonders never cease.

Since I can't really find the right words, I give you pictures.

The Giant Cupcake Birthday Cake

"I always wanted my own one of these!"

The Birthday Spud

What's taking that cake so long, Ma?

♫Happy Birthday to you...♫