Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mess, Mess, Mess

My realtor think that our kitchen looks like this.


It actually looks more like this.... 
...on a good day.

The final clean is going along slowly. I'm focusing mostly on the conspicuous cleaning- ie, putting stuff away, so that this place can be picture-ready by the end of the week. We will be listing on Sunday, then we will not start showing until the following Sunday, so I've got a little while to get the finer details, like inside the cupboards and fridge. With these girls, though, it's sort of 2 steps forward, 1.95 steps back. They seem to follow right behind me messing up as I tidy.


 Natalie went to the dentist and did great. The kid dentist here is so amazing- their office resembles a children's museum, with a giant pirate ship and video game controllers and screens hanging off the walls everywhere, amazing murals in all of the rooms and hallways and well-planned space for maneuvering a stroller. She loved the cool sunglasses that they gave her when turning on the light to look in her mouth and she was proud to show that the Jake and the Neverland Pirates toothbrush that they gave her matched her pullup. She insisted on pulling down her shorts to show the hygenist, who giggled heartily. All the folks working there were so nice and friendly. I wish they took adult patients! Here is what Natalie chose from the prize wall.

 And here she is on time-out, where she is sent several times a day, usually for crimes of roughness against her sister.

But it's hard, because sometimes her sister eggs her on. They will be having fun and I keep telling Natalie to be gentle, but Angela just shrieks and laughs and plays along.... until she's hysterically crying and bleeding from some part of her face. I actually have this new off-white shirt that I bought and every single time I wear it, Angela gets hurt and bleeds from the mouth, getting the blood on my left shoulder. I'm almost afraid to wear the shirt, like it will curse Angela to hurt her mouth.

Anyway, when she's not roughhousing or being super clingy and crying for me to hold her, she's pretty cute. Unfortunately, both of those conditions are rarely met unless she is mischievously getting into something.

Sometimes, after listening to the two of them alternately crying all afternoon long, I just tie them down and shove a Popsicle in their fists. It usually gives me about 3-4 minutes of peace.

 Angela loves screens. She doesn't care that much about shows, but she will easily chillax, sprawled out in front of the tv, when the dvd menu is left on and the screen image starts floating around in a pattern.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Little Lions


This pride is staking out its territory, scaring away nearby food chain competitors

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Updates and Ramblings

Well, we're doing it. We're pinning down dates and making firm plans.

I have been going crazy the past few weeks, as Micah has reported that he hasn't been making the progress on his thesis that he originally had planned to allow him to be done with everything and start work on September 21. At the same time, we didn't want to push the date further because 1.) There was no way of being certain how much more it would need to be delayed, since the last steps of his thesis require cooperation from a reading committee, edits, and the scheduling of the dissertation, possibly taking 3 weeks or three months 2.) Micah's NSF fellowship stipend ends this month. His advisor has been generous in offering to pay for his tuition for the new semester and said that they would discuss what he could pay Micah for August, but the usual rate for a graduate researcher is much less than what his NSF stipend was. 3.) It's so emotionally exhausting knowing that we will be moving and not doing anything about it. I have been so anxious, thinking over and over about the process of cleaning and packing before showing our condo, finding a home in Florida, getting a second car. I am so ready to just get down to doing it.

So, Micah spoke with his manager at Harris and got the green light that he can go ahead and start on September 21 and can fly back to Atlanta and get the day off of work for his dissertation, if it is not completed in time. So, exactly two months from today, we will officially, definitely and certainly, barring any massive natural disasters or other such major unforeseen incidents, be in Florida, Micah enjoying his first day on the job.

Yesterday, I filled our living room with boxes and beginning this afternoon, we will start moving them into a storage unit so that our place looks less cluttered for selling. We plan to put our house on the market August 2 and start showing it August 9. So, everything doesn't have to be perfect until the 9th, but I want to clean up as much as possible well in advance so that we can get some good photographs for our listing. It will certainly be a slow process, packing and cleaning with the kids, but somehow I find it way less stressful to have our whole house trashed as I begin sorting and hauling out stuff than worrying about having to do it some future day. It will be especially hard because Micah will be putting in some long hours the next two weeks in order to submit his "rough draft" thesis by August 1, so I will be working hard all day and night without much relief.

In case you're wondering about our kids: they are adorable, perfect, darling little nightmares. I remember  when Natalie was about a year and a half, I felt like there was something wrong with her and I just couldn't pinpoint what it was about her that was so frustrating. Then, a lady in our relief society one day asked me, "So, is your daughter still pretty active?" That was it. Active. That's what Natalie is. And Angela, too, now. They aren't constantly bouncing off the walls or anything, but they can't stand being bored. They seem to need constant attention and entertainment and stimulation, or they are super, duper needy and hang on me and make me insane. I'm still trying to figure out whether I've spoiled them or if i's just their inborn nature, but it is certainly wearying. I haven't had a break (like, 24 hours+) from being a mom in over 2 years now. I really feel like it's time. The 3-day 2-night company paid house hunting trip will be something, but we'll be busy checking stuff out and might not have much time to relax. So, don't judge me if I spend a week over Christmastime on a cruise all alone.

In other news, you remember that leak I complained about last time? It was coming from our upstairs toilet. It was not installed properly and has likely been leaking sightly ever since we bought the place 4 years ago. The plumbing repair was $500 and he told us that the cleanup of the inside of the wall and the kitchen cupbaord affected would probably cost "a few thousand dollars", depending on the degree of mold they discover when opining up the wall. I discovered that our insurance coverage has a $15,000 deductible. So, we're just living with it and hoping that it doesn't hurt the sales price too much. It's super obnoxious because the part of the cabinet that is most visibly affected could be super cheap and easy to replace, but the cabinets are so crappy that they have no info inside any drawers or cupboards with the manufacturer's info so I can't easily order another one unless I find someone with enough specialization to be able to identify it by looking at it. Also, there is a horizontal strip that covers the top seam of all of the cupboards on that side of the kitchen and I'm pretty sure that removing it will damage it at the very least, likely destroy it, and so then we'd be left with another part to try to match. Overall, I'm just not interested in the headache. So, there it is, buyers! Water damage! Go ahead, offer less than the asking price! I'm still not that concerned. I mean, there is no way that we won't make a huge killing on this place. I'm sure that we will sell quickly and easily, we just might not get the full 100% return that I was hoping for!

Lookind at cars, we've narrowed it down to a few. What are your opinions?
We're looking for a little more trunk space (so we can throw the cooler in the trunk, along with the stroller and swimmy gear and head to the beach!). So, originally I was thinking station wagon. The Jetta Sportswagen and Toyota Matrix are my favorites, though between the two, I feel like I trust Toyota a bit more where reliability comes in. Then, liking toyota, I started looking at Rav4's. Did you know that some rav4's can come with 3rd row seating? While I don't need a van, a couple of tiny rumble seats in the back would be perfect for occasionally driving my kids and their friends. Then, we can fold them down and easily have the trunk space I want. But it is an SUV and I don't know how it would handle.  Then, I saw a friend's new Maxda5 and it looks awesome. Though the seats may be a bit small, it's got the fold-down third row and seems lower to the ground. Just not sure about Mazda's reputation (or lack of) for reliability.

Next time I will have photos. My camera battery is dead!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Recent Cuteness and Stress

Natalie uses "puzzle" as a verb to describe the act of putting together a puzzle. For example, "I need help puzzling. Will you puzzle with me?"

Angela says "uh-huh", "uh-uh" and "uh-oh". She only has a vague sense of what they all mean. It's very easy to catch her being naughty because she loudly repeats "uh-uh. uh-uh. uh-uh" as she does something bad.

Angela waves at everyone who says "hi" or "bye", and sometimes when I get her attention to take a picture.

Micah is pretty worn out these days. He passed out on the couch last Saturday afternoon and Natalie kept bringing him toys to get him to play with her, but he wouldn't budge.


He gets to spend plenty of time when he's home just being one of the kids. Pictured here, drinking juice from a sippy cup:

And here, joining the girls for their bedtime bath:

Everyone loved the fireworks on Independence Day. I had chalk and glow sticks from the dollar store to keep us entertained before they began.
We also marched in a parade, but have no pictures. It rained the whole time, which made it slightly miserable. Natalie got pulled in a wagon which we borrowed from a friend but Angela wouldn't stay sitting down. I ended up carrying Angela (who fell asleep for the middle 75% of the parade) while carrying an umbrella. Natalie made up a little nest with a quilt and the removable umbrella from our stroller and stayed tucked up, semi-dry, eating candy that we were were supposed to throw to the parade-viewers. It was a good time. Here she is a few days earlier passed out randomly on the dog bed in the borrowed wagon.
 And this is how I found her watching TV while Angela took a nap the other day. I always say, headstand is the most comfortable position for relaxing.

Angela is a bit of a picky eater and it makes me nuts. Somehow, though, she never refused a cup of warm milk or a bowl of ice cream. Especially chocolate.

After three weeks without diapers, Natalie has made no headway with potty training. Not only did she continue to have accidents, but she started deliberately peeing herself. On Friday, she wet her pants 5 times before 10am and on Saturday she registered her disdain by peeing into the toy box. I don't know what to do with her. We've tried rewards, positive conditioning, punishment, daniel tiger, appealing to her desire to be treated like a big girl, tried panties, pull-ups, diaper covers, stark naked; it seems that she just refuses to be potty trained. I am extremely not okay with this. Nevertheless, I don't know what else to do.

On another gloomy note, we have a plumbing issue. When the shower/tub is used, it leaks water downstairs in our kitchen. I had noticed the water a few times but thought that it was from water being spilled onto the floor of the bathroom and that I just needed to seal up the base boards in the bathroom better. On Saturday, I caulked up the whole bathroom floor and then we still got a big puddle downstairs when the girls took a bath. I investigated and discovered that one of our cabinets has considerable mold and water damage. Lovely. They're cheap particle board, so there will likely be no way to repair the cabinet, and I don't know how we're going to replace just one cabinet and have it match the others without replacing all of the cabinets. And that's just the tip of the iceberg: who knows what damage is behind the walls and how complicated/expensive it will be to fix the source of the leak. Our community holds a master insurance policy for our complex. A few weeks ago our neighbor on the other side of the wall had a major issue that was caused by a blockage in the main pipeline to our building and she had to replace tons of walls and flooring and pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket even though the source of the problem was clearly the community's responsibility. So I'm extremely concerned about the expense. I am also insanely upset because we were planning to put this place on the market to sell in 3 weeks, but now I have no idea if everything will be fixed and cleaned up by then. Why, oh, why, couldn't this have happened two and a half months later and been some other poor wretch's problem?!?! Add in the stress of living for who knows how long without a usable shower or tub and taking care of the girls while getting it taken care of all while Micah is gone all the time trying to finish his thesis and we are planning our move to Florida. AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! 
I'm stressed. This seems like the last thing we need right now.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sistersssss

The other weekend, I was feeling very tired of my children. I had spent 4 of the previous 10 days babysitting three different friends' kids and three of the four occasions were quite trying, with kids crying incessantly for missing mommy and a combined 5 potty accidents from kids we were watching that required clothing changes and carpet cleanup. I started thinking- maybe the reason that Natalie isn't potty trained yet is because this house has some kind of curse on it! It is so powerful, it even undoes potty training in kids who have been out of diapers for almost a year! (Side note- we took away diapers from Natalie last Saturday. So far, she hasn't gone a day without an accident. We'll see what comes first- her deciding to get with the program or me deciding I've cleaned up enough urine.)

Anyhow, when Saturday finally came, Micah was called away for about six hours in the morning while I was left with the kids and I was really at the end of my rope. So, I tried to think of a way to refresh and renew my interest and affection for my children. 

Naturally, I took eyeliner to their faces.








It was surprisingly effective. It made me laugh. And consequently, it made them laugh. 

Another battle we're fighting-teaching Natalie some body discretion. She's always liked to be undressed, but it's reaching troubling levels! Today during nap time, I put on a movie for her, left the room with a fully dressed child, and returned a few minutes later to her sitting on the couch completely naked. I asked her what was going on, and she just responded, "I wanted to see my nipples". Ugh. She's very into private parts. Last Saturday, I had to stop her running around at the YMCA pool repeatedly screaming, "Hello, penis!!!!" to nobody in particular. She asked me to help her spell "vagina and bum" on one of her pictures this afternoon. Hopefully she gets over it before we're sending her to kindergarten.

Too cool for a shirt or pants, but these sunglasses will do!

Natalie and Angela are very sweet sisters, wen they're not snatching away toys, jumping on one another's heads or making the other cry.
Natalie is coming to understand some of the perks of having a baby sister who is happy to share. Thus, Natalie gets to enjoy her own popsicle and then turn around and down half of Angela's.


We got a little $2 popsicle mold at ikea and Natalie loves making them. I love tossing in some spinach and Kale and believing that I'm helping them eat more vegetables to justify all the sugar in the juices that we add.


I've been trying to eat more salads. I'm normally not a huge fan, but I'm figuring out a few that I like. Anything southwest-ish- like corn, red bell peppers, avocado, black beans- will make greens tolerable for me to consume. And the other night, I really enjoyed cobb salads as our main entree. Here is Natalie's cobb salad "deconstructed".


I recently have been feeling very uninspired when it comes to cooking dinner- so much effort, especially with the kids haniging off of me and crying- over a meal that will barely be appreciated any more than frozen chicken nuggets. One meal that I am loving and wish that I could prepare every other night is Indian pizza:


It's naan flatbread with curry sauce and cheese topped with meats/seafood/veggies and it's amazing. I could make the naan, but it's too much effort with my kids right now, and plus I can never quite get that chewy consistency with the big, fat bubbles just right. Maybe it's the whole lack of a clay tandoori oven thing. I recently found naan pretty reasonably priced at costco anyhow. For the sauce, I like tikka masala- I've tried a couple brands but trader joe's masala sauce seems the best price with a good flavor. It wouldn't be too hard to make myself once I have time. Another beautiful thing about this is that I can just pop it in the toaster oven to melt the cheese, so I don't need to heat up the whole house using the full oven. My favorite topping are shrimp and red onions with cilantro, but this weekend I'm going to try korma sauce instead of tikka masala, and peas. I also got some really good provolone to try instead of mozzarella. So, there you have it- quick, easy, low-prep meal idea that breaks away from the boring cream-of-mushroom-soup stand-bys and and is super flavorful and delicious.


We went to the zoo yesterday and though we arrived by 9:30 am, we only saw the flamingos, parakeets and elephants before it was so hot, we had to go play in the splash pad. I expected to see more animals after, but Natalie got stung by something and we had to go home because she was in such exquisite misery.

I recently learned that Angela loves popcorn. Here she is stuffing her face with the newly-discovered favorite.


And this accidentally captured expression just cracks me up.


Natalie spread out a blanket today and asked for a picnic. I gave her a bowl of blueberries. It was very sweet- Angela went over and sat down right next to Natalie and they shared. They are finally figuring out how to enjoy one another.


 Angela is obsessed with markers. I have tried to keep art supplies away from her, but she recently realized that the box that we keep under the table is full of markers, crayons and colored pencils and she is determined to get into it. The box has closing tabs that she can't open, but she will get it down and walk around, carrying it and crying until I open it for her. I finally let her have a little freedom and set her up at the table, thinking that she couldn't reach any walls, so she couldn't do much harm. It never occurred to me that she might EAT THE TIP OFF THE MARKER!!! Angela may have some bright blue dirty diapers in the coming days.
Upset that I took away her yummy treat


Natalie is learning to do some basic commands with Sammy. His deep respect for her authority is absolutely palpable.

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Micah is busy, busy, busy. I am preparing to sell out house-trying to do one cleaning job every day. We'll be listing in the first week of August and in addition to all the cleaning, we will be moving much of our clutter to a storage unit to show the place, so I've already started packing and organizing for that. I'm looking forward to August and September when Micah will be less busy and I can work on some projects, like catching up on our scrapbook, making new cushions for our dining room chairs, learning about zone 9 gardening and mastering carpentry, to name a few.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Elevator and Escalator

Natalie was describing for me our game plan for when we hit the mall later this afternoon.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

What's Going On

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Well, thanks LeAnn/Gabby for scoring Angela her FAVORITE gift this last birthday.

My one-year-old monkey is now dead set on cracking her head open. I keep turning my back and then returning to this:
 Or this:

 Or this....

Or This....

Or, on occasion, this....

Just this morning, she fell off the table and got a big bruise across her face from where a chair intercepted her on the way down.
Fun story: the other morning, I heard sudden, frantic crying and ran out to the dining room and didn't see Angela. I dashed to the kitchen and didn't see her. I flung open doors to the bathroom, the laundry closet, and was confounded. I could hear that she was close by, but didn't see her anywhere. Did she close herself in a kitchen cupboard? Was she wedged underneath a piece of furniture? Oh, yes, that would be it. Finally found her- trying to climb onto a chair that was pushed in and she got herself stuck. 

Angela is getting a real nasty temper and when she can't have her way, she stomps back and forth screaming and flinging her arms around.

All of the sudden, Natalie does not seem like a difficult child! I guess it's all really a question of perspective...

Enjoying her new "my-size" wisk, another gift from aunt Gabby (geez, no fair- how did she end up with the gift giving talent?)


This is a funny scene that Natalie left behind after eating lunch one afternoon,
and this is a super delicious peach divinity icebox pie that I made from a southern living magazine. And it was amazing.


 While I was at Darlene's, I felt jealous that Darlene had a binder filled with her favorite recipes. I've been meaning to put together some of my favorites, but I never have a convenient moment to print them out (the computer I most use is not compatible with the printer), so I decided to just stop worrying about printing nice recipes and start neatly copying them by hand as I use them. You can see where in my transcription a child came up and began to require my attention...

And last but most significant, today is my sister Gabby's 18th birthday. On this momentous occasion, I shall share five things that I have learned in my 8 years of legal adulthood. Maybe you could find one or two of them helpful?
1.) There is no substitute for hard work. That doesn't mean that you have to like it or even value it, but some things just need to get done and it's nobody else's responsibility to take care of those things for you.
 2.) Pay attention. I have made so many stupid mistakes and wasted so many resources over problems that could have easily been avoided if I had just looked into details and been more aware. The adult world is full of so many details. And when you are an independent adult, it takes a while to recognize which ones are important. So, to start with, just pay attention to EVERYTHING.
3.) It's okay to find George Cloony attractive even though he is more than 35 years your senior. The rule about age limits and romance (the older one should half his or her age and add seven, this is the youngest appropriate age of a romantic partner) does not apply to celebrity crushes.
4.) If you really want something, make it happen. The way may be long and fraught with complication, but you can find a way.
5.) Learn to cook. I thought as a teenager that the personal progress goal about learning to cook was stupid and I am so, so glad that I completed it because knowing how to follow a recipe has taken me SO far.