Monday, May 31, 2010

There's A Graduate in the House

It's official!  Liam is no longer a pre-schooler.

And in few years, it'll be Jamie's turn...

I'm so proud of him!  In the fall, it's off to Kindergarten.  :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Was Different About Today

Like almost every other parent in the Pittsburgh area, I read Burgh Baby. One of the things she has said about the challenge of blogging every day is that she asks herself "What was different about today?" Some days that answer is good, some days that answer is bad.

Today was one of the bad days in my house. Jamie is apparently working on another tooth and it's making him just about as miserable as he's ever been. He can't nap. He can't play. He can't eat. His whole world is revolving around the pain in his mouth. He's crabby, to say the least.

Liam isn't much better. Teeth are not his issue but I'm pretty sure the colony of bugs that crawled up his butt are causing some problems. His day can be summed up in one simple phrase: if given the choice between Devil or Angel, he chose Devil all day long. Jumping on the furniture? Check. Purposely doing things to make his brother cry? Check (as if Jamie needed any help with THAT). Sassing me? Checkity check check check.

I felt as though my whole day was spent yelling at one of them, attempting to console the other, and trying not to lose my cool.

Also different about today was the fact that I am in a frenzy of trip planning and packing as we are headed to Deep Creek for the holiday weekend. We're renting a house with my parents as well as my sister and her family. There are so many things to remember to pack that I have an entire pad of paper filled with lists and my head is regularly spinning. In between bouts of screaming, teething toddler and sassy, attitude-filled 5 year old I was attempting to take a whack at packing.

And then there were two moments, one really good and one enraging, that also made today different. I'll start with the good one just to break up all this whiny stuff.

I took the kids outside to play in the kiddie pool this afternoon. It was Jamie's first time doing so and he was pretty into it. I took a blanket out there with us and spread it on the lawn so I could sit and be comfortable while watching the kids. I took their towels and made a pillow so I could lay down and watch the fluffy white clouds drift by. I sat there listening to the wind in the trees and the laughter of my children. I thought to myself "Well, this is so much better than how the rest of the day has been!"

The enraging moment comes courtesy of a trip to the blog of Virginia Montanez. She has a post up today about Amy Ambrusko and the playground she is attempting to build in the memory of her two children who died in a car accident a year ago. Please go read the post for the full story as it's really too long to summarize here.

Suffice it to say that after I read it I was enraged. To think that some people would pull the "not in my backyard" crap when a woman who is grieving is just trying to do something to benefit others makes me stabby. Truly, truly stabby. What is wrong with some people? I sat there seething - I had such a long, miserable day with the kids and this only fed into my ridiculously bad mood. I was outraged for Amy.

Which led me to think about this: my kids may have driven me completely batshit insane today but they were here. Amy doesn't have that luxury. Who am I to let my bad mood get the best of me in the face of that? Of course, yes, I'm allowed to have a day in which I find being a parent to be the ultimate challenge. But, in the end, it's always good to remember that it could be a whole lot worse.

So there you have it. That's what was different about today.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Random Quotes

Liam spent some time with his Granddad yesterday and came home with The Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary. He is in love with his new book and spends many a happy hour perusing its pages. This evening he told me "I love this book. I could read it a million times."

I never knew it was possible to be sick of Star Wars. Thanks a lot, Liam.

Liam was having a hard time finishing his dinner tonight. Lucky me, I got to spend 20 minutes telling him to just eat his darn dinner. I think the words "Liam, JUST. EAT!" escaped my lips eleventy billion times. Finally he looked at me, sighed, and said "My life is so hard."

Excuse me while I roll my eyes all the way back into my head.

After finally finishing his meal tonight, Liam was playing in the family room with Jamie. They'd found a Williams-Sonoma bag and were fighting with each other over it. At one point Liam tried to curl up as much of his body into the bag as possible and then declared "I'm the secret ingredient!!"

If crazy were a secret ingredient, you'd have that all sewn up, kid.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Make That Bike, Not Trike

Summer is upon us and thus it is the season of bike riding. Liam has a tricycle and helmet that he's had some interest in over the last couple of years but it's never really been a big thing. However, this spring, it was painfully obvious that the tricycle is officially too small.

Well, we finally remedied that problem.

We bought him a two-wheeler with training wheels and a new helmet because he outgrew the other one. Which, as an aside, holy crap! I knew the kid had a big head (oh BOY do I know) but we bought him the 5+ size when he was three and we just purchased the 8+ size - he is five. I constantly wonder how he fits that melon through the neck of his shirts.

Without further ado - his first time on the new bike:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Walls Were Just The Beginning

You know that old adage about how bad things come in threes?  Well, it's holding far more true than I would like when it comes to home repairs.

Our house is 35 years old.  It is a veritable baby in comparison to our previous home that was 80 years old when we moved out.  I assumed that having a younger house meant less silly "oh that's really old and now you're screwed" type of repairs.  Here is where I reference the adage about what assuming does.

Anyway, the point is that in the middle of dealing with the beginning, middle, and completion of wall construction, a number of OTHER things went wrong with the house.  Money is flowing in a mighty torrent from my bank account to the repairmen of Pittsburgh.  (Repairmen of Pittsburgh -- decent band name.)

First, our garbage disposal went haywire.  It got stuck in the "on" position.  We have one of those nifty professional models that turns on by twisting the drain plug in the sink.  No switch on the wall by the sink.  Just reach down, twist, and churn away.  I'd never seen one before we moved here.  Now I know why.  That sucker got effed up somehow (I don't know how!) and it got stuck in the on position.  I'll let you go ahead and imagine the frantic attempts to shut it off to no avail until I finally cut the power at the breaker box.  As luck would have it, the thing is on its own circuit so I didn't lose power to anything else in the process.

I haven't had anyone in to fix it yet but it will probably be around a $250 job to replace the batch feed switch on the silly thing.

Then there was my garage door.  I was standing in the library one Saturday afternoon (yes, we have a library - we have too many books and the formal living room became a library) and I heard a huge crashing noise.  I ran around for 10 minutes trying to locate the issue until I decided that maybe it had happened outside and I hit the garage door button to check.

The door went up about a foot and a half.

The door opener tried to lift it further, got nowhere with that effort, and sent the door back down again.

Lather, rinse, repeat about 4 times until I satisfied myself it was not a fluke.

So, I went over and while the opener was running, I lifted that damn door all the way up so that I could get my car out.  And then I noticed that certain pulleys and wires were hanging willy nilly off the tracks of the door.  Ah.  Yes, THAT would be the problem.

I called in a repair guy who said I had bad springs.  He replaced them both for me for the low, low price of $70 (yahoo!) and also left me with a rather nice little quote for new garage doors.  If we can scrape the money together, that's a project for the fall.

So, the door was working well for a few days.

And then it crapped out again.  This time, it would start lowering, go about a foot and a half, get caught up somehow and go back up again.  Joy.  This occurred on the first day of wall construction.

I called the repairman back and he came back out and gave that opener a piece of his mind.   Really, he just adjusted the thing to accommodate for new springs and it's working fine now.  Even better, he didn't charge me.

Two days later I decided that I had better do some laundry before we went out of town last weekend.  (That's another blog post.)  I got an error on the first load.  We have a front loading high efficiency washer so those codes mean diddly-bo-jack-wop-shit to me.  I cleared it out and sent it through another rinse and spin cycle.

That crapped out, too.

Bonus.  Now I had a washing machine problem that I needed fixed immediately in order to have clean clothes to pack.  I called a local repairman and when I told him what kind of washer I had he ran away.  And told me that every other local dude would run, too.  Sigh.  So I called the next option - a large appliance repair company.  They said they'd be able to send a dude out that same day.  Hurrah!

I went to the laundry room to remove the wet clothes from the washer.  Now, this is the first time I've ever had the washer repaired - we only bought it 3 years ago.  So, I didn't really think about the consequences before I opened the door of the FRONT LOADER WASHER THAT WASN'T PROPERLY DRAINING.

Water.  Everywhere. 

I got it cleaned up the best way I could without, you know, having a working washing machine and waited for the repairman to show up.  He showed up, took the thing apart and removed a single bobby pin and some lint.  Let me repeat that.  A single bobby pin and some lint.  Then he put everything back together and charged me $134.  For a single bobby pin and some lint.

But, wouldn't you know, that washer works again and I had clean clothes for the trip.

Dear Household Fairy - UNCLE.

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's Done! Commence The Happy Dance



 has become this:

 They did a FANTASTIC job and I am really, really pleased with it.  No more falling down wall!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Construction Continues Apace

Yesterday was a washout as far as construction was concerned.  I mean that literally since it was raining like mad all day long.  The crew showed up at 7 am and started working.  By 7:45 it was pouring.  They waited it out until 9:15 or so and then gave up.   It was cold and wet and just not going to work.  I think they got about 3 blocks set before they had to admit defeat to the weather.

They had another job to complete this morning but they got here around noon today and got down to business.  They stretched quittin' time to 3 pm but in those three short hours they completed a fair bit.

I give you progress:

This section is going to be a planter, there will be one on either side of the stairway.

This is the other side of the stairway, which they haven't even started dealing with yet, but it will match the planter that is already started.

They say that they will be done tomorrow.  We shall see.  I can't wait to see it completed!

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Great Retaining Wall Project of 2010 II: Electric Boogaloo

Late last week I contacted the company that is building our retaining wall to find out if I could get an approximate construction date.  I wasn't looking for a date set in stone but I did need a general target date so that I didn't plan to go out of town while construction was underway.  I was expecting at least a six week wait.

When they called me back, they said "Well, we could start on Monday."

*blink blink*

OK, then.  I figured the sooner the better and we didn't have any reason to wait.  So I gave them the go ahead.  On Mother's Day I spent some time digging up the plants I wanted to keep and I told my neighbor to pillage anything else she might want (which she did).

At 7 am this morning, construction commenced.

To refresh your memory, the wall before demolition looked like this.  By 7:45 am they had the long part of the "L" completely demolished and pulled out and they were working on excavating back into the hill.  As they pulled the wall apart with a bobcat, fun things like this happened:

By 9 am, they had already put down the gravel footings and begun to lay the blocks:

They continued to work through the morning and early afternoon and by 1:00 pm (which, apparently, is officially quittin' time) they had this much completed:

Obviously the bobcat is blocking it, but the wall runs right into that corner.  Some of the shorter parts of the wall are already completed and just require the capping block to finish them.  I assume they'll be here at approximately Oh-God-Thirty tomorrow morning and will continue building up the higher portions of the wall.

Now that they've pulled the old wall out and piled it up to the side of our driveway, I'm about 85% convinced that the damn thing was only continuing to stand due to spit and sunshine.  The timbers are exceedingly rotted.

That, my friends, is what time and wood destroying insects will do to untreated lumber.  In case you were ever wondering.

I'm looking forward to watching the progress tomorrow.  Liam, I'm sure, will be disappointed that he has pre-school and can't spend time watching the construction but he'll live.

And, oh hey!  Guess what?  My snowball bushes are a-bloomin'!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fearless Fosdick and the Staircase of Doom

Jamie has finally learned to climb the stairs.

I knew this was coming and in some respects I encouraged it.  The kid is 14 months old and pushing 30 pounds.  He's a brute and his ability to haul his own bulk up the stairs is long anticipated.

There is a slight problem with this, however.  The configuration of my stairs and railing don't really permit me to gate the bottom of the stairs.  The best that I can do is to gate off the most direct route to the stairs, especially if I want the poor dog to have the ability to get downstairs to ask to be let out or Liam to be able to get to his room.

So, I gated off the stairs as best I could and it seemed to work out for him.  That night I was cooking dinner and he was under my feet, dogging my steps, and shoving himself between me and the counters as usual.  This is nightly behavior for him so I do my best to ignore it and work around it.  Scot came home from work and I was talking to him while I was cooking dinner, ignoring Jamie's antics as usual.

Mid-conversation Scot said to me, "Where's Jamie?"

I vaguely assumed he had toddled off to the family room to bedevil his brother but when Scot and I went looking for him he wasn't there.  We went into panic mode and starting running around like crazy people trying to figure out what he'd gotten into.

Guess where he was?  Yes.  Upstairs.

He had gone through the kitchen, the dining room, and the library to reach the non-gated entrance to the stairway.  He then proceeded to climb up and go exploring.

Needless to say Scot and I both had heart failure.  Now, I have to keep a ridiculously close eye on him and pretty soon I'm going to have to teach him how to go down the stairs safely so he has half of chance of not breaking his neck.  I think I'm going to start a betting pool on how long it's going to take before I find him hanging from the family room light fixture.

Wordless Wednesday: April Showers Bring May Flowers

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Mind, It Reels.

I invite you to go and refresh your memory regarding Liam's friend David.

All done?  On to the story then.

When I picked up Liam from daycare yesterday afternoon, a little note was waiting for him in his box.  "Oh no," I thought.  "Another birthday invitation."  We've been getting those a lot lately and he's had a birthday party to attend the last two weekends.  Me, my wallet, and my wasted time are getting mighty tired of hauling him around to birthday parties.

I opened the invitation to see who it was from and it was from David.  Swear words may or may not have escaped my lips.  Only the gods know.

Without mentioning anything to Liam, I shoved it in my purse for further inspection when we arrived home.  The envelope felt awfully thick and it seemed as though there was more than just an invite in there.  I wanted to thoroughly peruse this little gem before I made any mention of it to Liam.

Was there more in there?  Oh yes, indeedy, there was.  There was an entire typed 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper with extra information about a birthday party for a FIVE YEAR OLD.  I was a little shocked and I only got more so as I began to read.  Let's peruse together, shall we?

  1. This party runs for five, count them, FIVE hours.  Who, in their right mind, has a birthday party for god knows how many 5 year olds that runs that long?  The kids will be completely wound up before those 5 hours are over.  Not to mention the logistical nightmare of trying to figure out how to deal with siblings who may or may not be able to deal with being out during that 5 hour block.
  2. They are providing transportation.  Meet at daycare, transportation will take your child to the venue, then return them to daycare at the conclusion of the party.  Is this really some super secret wedding ceremony between David and Suri Cruise?  And if so, isn't a 2 year age difference a little much at this age?
  3. They will be providing admission and all that good stuff as well as lunch and the standard party goody bag.  Ok, pretty normal.  If your kid doesn't like pizza, they can bring money and purchase something else.  Well, my picky ass kid wouldn't be down with either of those two options so we'd have to pack him a lunch and then hope he didn't lose it.
  4. They have lined up enough chaperons that there will be one adult for every two children.  That's pretty nice of them and I appreciate it.  The problem is that I know the kind of people David is exposed to and there is not even one tiny iota of a chance that I will sanction them as chaperons for my kid.  These are the same people who took their 4 year old to see Avatar, after all.
  5. Want to bring a sibling or a friend?  Go ahead, just let them know so they can pay for them.  Bloody hell, are they made of money?!
  6. If I would prefer to come along and chaperon my kid, that's A-OK by them, but I have to pay to get myself in.  This one makes a lot of sense except that they're spending so much cash anyway I don't even know why they bothered.
  7. They used the phrase "children's' playtime."  I think the part of my brain that deals with grammar just shriveled up and died a very nasty death.
So.  Let me make sure I have this correct.  You are throwing a birthday party for your 5 year old kid that rivals the planning process and budget of some weddings?

I am gobsmacked.  I don't know how else to put it.  My kid would be happy with some presents, a cake, and a sugar high.

The good news is that it turns out the party is scheduled for a day that we will be out of town.  We've been planning this trip for at least 4 or 5 months so we're not going to drop it so Liam can attend a birthday party.  Therefore, he will be unable to make it.  Crisis averted.

I was worried about telling Liam of this little schedule conflict but when I explained to him that we couldn't make the party because of the trip his response was "That's OK, I didn't want to go anyway."

Well.  Once again, crisis averted.

Is it Graduation Day yet?