Thursday, July 18, 2019

welcome to season 3

Several weeks ago, we watched the movie We Bought A Zoo. Naturally, Annabelle asked us to buy a zoo which we won't unless Matt Damon shows up to run it like he did in the movie, but we did buy a house. 

It was all recorded on season 3 of our hit show Keep It or Kick It. This season finds us visiting a home while the owners were there packing for vacation. Don't mind us! We're going to inspect your master bathroom while you fold bras on your bed. We visit a home with a very large, very aggressive dog that the owners didn't bother telling us would be on the porch. We visit a home with a "live, laugh, poop" vinyl in the bathroom. 

For those keeping track at home (and who isn't?), this will be the eighth home in our eight years of marriage. A quick calculation shows that somewhere near 7,000 boxes have been packed and unpacked, 4 miles of packing paper and bubble wrap used, and countless amounts of stress food consumed.

It's no secret that I moved here with what could be called a less-than-stellar attitude. I DID NOT want to leave New York and move to what has accurately been called "the armpit of the south." Among the plethora of reasons I didn't want to leave was I didn't want to physically pack up and move. It's so much work and I'm so tired of doing it. When we moved to our current rental home, I assumed we'd be here for several years. After a year, we became increasingly frustrated with the house and it's poor construction and decided to move before the end of the year. Things fall off the walls. Mold started growing on the ceilings after the hurricane in October and it hasn't stopped. No wonder I get headaches! The landlords did nothing for the mold other than spray paint over it. I'm no mold remediation specialist, but I know that's not the proper way to deal with it. If we're going to live in a location we wouldn't choose, being in a less stressful home would make it easier. Not to mention that mice have recently decided to become our roommates. They don't help pay rent, but they eat all our food. The entire pantry had to be cleaned out and now our food is on the built-in shelves in the kitchen for everyone to see. It looks like we're running a grocery store in here. Need Planters cashews? Shelf 4. Two kinds of cereal? Look no further than shelf 2.

As soon as we decided to buy I went straight to second-guessing the decision. What if we bought a house we ended up hating? Why would we give up a landlord who would use their own money to replace the broken ac system? Why can't we go back to my favorite house on earth where the Jim's were landlords sent straight from heaven? We looked at over 15 houses in two weeks. At first, it was fun. I love poking around houses and opening closets! It's fun to think about how I'd decorate the different rooms. After a while, it got discouraging because nothing was quite right. It's the first home we've bought and I've been so worried about buyers remorse. I fell in love with one particular house that needed a good bit of construction. Christopher liked a different one that I thought was blah, but it was cheaper and needed less remodeling. I was so conflicted about what to do I asked our long-suffering realtor to help. She hadn't given her personal opinion until that point, but she sided with Christopher. That sent us back to square one.

We had pretty much decided to take a break from looking when we found out about a house that wasn't on the market yet. We had seen pictures online from the last time it sold and several of the rooms had wallpaper and much of it needed updating. I'm not at all against putting in the work to paint and upgrade, but I didn't want to buy a house with a laundry list of items that we wouldn't complete for the next 10 years. When we got there, we saw that the current owners had done all the hard work of taking down the wallpaper, fixing the deck and most of the other issues. It's such a pretty house and the backyard is perfect for playing. It has a real driveway and is in a real neighborhood which is such a positive change from where we are now. We live on a 55mph road with a long rocky dirt driveway. There's nowhere for AB to ride her bike or play chalk. We haven't had any issues with our neighbors, but they have people in and out at all hours so I have to keep an eye on AB every time she plays outside because of how our yards are oriented. I'm sure she's perfectly fine, but it makes me nervous. It will be so fun for her to play in a shaded yard with a fence. Her little friend Sammy lives in the same neighborhood so she already has a playmate. I'm so excited to have a fireplace mantle again and start decorating. Christopher will have a dedicated area for his woodworking tools which means no more sawdust in the house. It does have a frog doorknocker which will obviously be burnt to the ground as soon as we're handed the keys.

In the meantime, this is the current state of my house. It is the sanctuary of peace and tranquility I always strive to give my family. 

I tried to organize and I made things worse.
Each move has gotten hard when it comes to Sesame. Back in the day, I could power pack while she napped. These days she's constantly asking if I'll play pioneer or make crafts with her. I feel bad that I can't play with her as much as normal but I have to get things done. I have normal daily life to keep up with on top of packing and I can't do it all. I try to give her jobs she can help with so she can work near me. She packed most of her toys, ripped up old bills and sorted the tupperware containers. It's important that she be a contributing member of the family, not just someone who eats a lot of snacks and has a fabulous wardrobe.
Speaking of noncontributors, the cats are not pulling their weight around here. All they do is sit in boxes I'm trying to pack.
 Then they have the audacity to take several naps a day after all that nothing.
The man who will be moving the furniture came by to give an estimate. His name is Jazzy which brings me joy every time I think of it. I told him the hutch is my pride and joy, second only to my child and I wasn't kidding. I have lugged it up and down the east coast and will continue to do so until I die.
I've spent less time in the new house than I spend in the checkout line during an average visit to Walmart, but I'm hoping it will be the perfect spot for us. If not, season 4 of Keep It or Kick It might be happening sooner than expected. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Mainely we ate

Of the three members of the Single Ladies Club (SLC), I am the oldest, therefore the first to reach the big 3-0 milestone. The two youngsters in the group planned a weekend extravaganza to celebrate my birthday. 

It took place on the second weekend we were visiting at home, so AB would have a weekend o'fun with Grammy while I galavanted around the country with the party animals. It was the day after Annabelle had gotten sick, and the same day she developed mysterious spots on her arms, so I hated leaving her. I didn't want to leave a sick child with Mom. Our pediatrician had diagnosed it over the phone as something more serious than HFM, and I didn't want Mom to be in the position of having to take her to the ER if needed. Mom kept saying it was fine so after many tears from Annabelle and much hesitation from myself, I decided it was ok to leave.

Autumn and Joanna wouldn't give me any details beyond that I needed to be ready to leave around 10:30. I rushed to leave Aunt Camp and make it back to Mom's house in time, but A&J didn't show up until noon. Autumn's life is always 2-3 hours behind the rest of us of it wasn't much of a surprise. They offered to let me sit in the front but I'm terrible with navigation so Joanna was the copilot. I can get almost anywhere I need to in my home state without knowing street names. I barely know highway numbers. I know where to turn based on what houses and Dunkin Donuts I drive by. It's not foolproof but for the most part, it works well. On this trip, I was kicking myself for not being better at directions. All I knew was we were traveling north/north-east. Mom and Aaron could have mapped out the whole route in their heads within 5 minutes.
Given that we were driving and would only be away for 2 nights, my main guesses about the location were Cape Cod, Maine or possibly New Jersey. I highly doubted NJ since none of us love it there, but I wasn't ruling it out completely. I would have had a great time with any location. Autumn and Joanna are a hoot anywhere we go, so we could have gone to the parking lot of Pier 1 and had a great time. To my great joy, they took me to Old Orchard Beach, Maine. They didn't know Maine is one of my very favorite places but they couldn't have picked a better spot.
Our first order of business after dropping off the luggage at our Airbnb was to get lunch. Eating was the main activity of the weekend and we started off well. We got shrimp wraps and fries and took them down to eat on the beach. For some reason, we started talking about old age and death which turned into me saying they should have living wills and make sure their affairs in order. Is this what old age is like? You get together for the weekend and spend time discussing who in your life can make your medical decisions if you're in a coma?
"Let sparty."
We spent the first evening eating our way through Portland. We started around 8 o'clock with dumplings and pork buns, then walked around town for over two miles, stopping to eat wherever we desired. At one place, we ordered a bread and cheese platter. The thin bread came with three small pieces of cheese with a dab of pepper jelly, little squares of jam and a swirl of organical sourced honey. It was all superb but tiny. Any of us could have eaten the entire plate as half an appetizer. We were still hungry after that, so we found a more substantial third course that we topped off with dessert from a chocolate restaurant.

After a spectacular brunch the next morning, Autumn wanted to visit a cryptozoology museum. She studied each and every plaque as if her life depended on it. She believed every single word. Joanna and I breezed through the exhibits in no time and rolled our eyes the entire time. It was so fake. There was even a sign that said, "Upwards of eighty percent of the data is misidentifications coming from known species. For example, a sample of sasquatch hair that turns out to be from a buffalo rug." If Jojo and I hadn't been skeptical before that sealed the deal. There was a display of sasquatch and yeti themed games, one of which was Yeti in My Spaghetti, a game we have. How ironic that the yeti from our spaghetti game has not been seen for many a month, much like the yeti that is supposedly wandering the earth.

We wanted to visit a cheese factory but ran out of time, so we went to a chocolate store and saw the worlds largest (and probably only) moose made out of chocolate. For supper, we went to a gourmet pizza place and we're still talking about how delicious it was. I CANNOT emphasis how good the pizza was. We ended the evening with gelato by the pier and a movie night.

We didn't stop talking for nearly 48 hours. We've been friends for 26 years and come from very similar backgrounds. We're VERY different in some ways now, but we all accept the differences of the others and it doesn't hinder our relationship in any way. We can talk about what we think and believe and not once get offended or feel insignificant because the others might have different opinions. 
We've come a long way from the days I wouldn't hang out with them at church because I thought they were too young to associate myself with.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The biggest takeaway is that Jimmy Carter does not sing You Raise Me Up

I have very few marketable skills, but one is the ability to draw out blogging about events for an entire month. I need to wrap up our visit north so I can get onto other events like mice invading our pantry and other such news from the homefront.

* We gave Mom a surprise 60th birthday party. She knew we were having a get-together but didn't know the real reason why. We sent her off with Annabelle and Ivy while we got ready for the "cookout." AB knew about the party and hoping she wouldn't spill the beans was putting a lot on her little shoulders, but she did relatively well. When she mentioned the party to Grammy, she immediately tried to backtrack and take the words back. "I told Grammy when we get to Uncle Daniel's for the party, but I meant when we got there FOR THE COOKOUT. We're having a cookout not a party."

* Dad took me to see Josh Groban for my birthday. In case you missed it, I said JOSH GROBAN. I spent many years hoping he'd propose to me which sadly (and obviously) he did not, but I hold no ill will towards him. I will continue to adore him all my days. I spent weeks leading up to the concert giving what I believe were beautiful renditions of his songs to Annabelle who was not appropriately thrilled. Come to find out, she had Josh Groban and Jimmy Carter confused. She didn't understand why I was singing along to a music video with Jimmy Carter.

The geriatric crowd and I enjoyed Josh very much. When Dad and I went to see Josh ten years ago, 80% of the audience was under the age of thirty. This time, I saw less than forty people my age. I was surrounded by grandparents. The others my age may have moved on, but I remain loyal and true. 

* We went strawberry picking with various cousins and relations. I babysat Zack and Molly for years and years, but now they're both taller than me and Zack was talking about how he has three years left before college. I need them to shut down that growing up stuff. I love them both, but now that Molly is older we've gone from little cousin/big cousin to friends and it makes me so happy. She's so funny and I love how her personality is still as big as ever. Annabelle has gotten quite a few hand-me-downs from Molly and this orange and pink dress is her absolute favorite. She's been wearing it for 3 summers now and says it's her "traveling dress." I wish I had a picture of Molly wearing it at this same age since it was her favorite as well. 

* I took Annabelle to a walk-in clinic. All week long she had been developing weird marks on her face. Naturally, they were barely an issue before we left home when I could have taken her to our doctor, but they took a turn for the worse as soon as we left the state. I'll keep the description of them to myself, but Sunday I decided we needed to see a medical professional because I had diagnosed her with boils. The Russian nurse said it was impetigo and prescribed an ointment to use for a vague 7-14 days. I'm sure she also wanted to prescribe shoes for Elizabeth, who unexpectedly showed up to "entertain" us as we waited and immediately took off her shoes in the very germy, very public exam room. 

* We had our 4th annual Aunt Camp. I was very popular this trip north so Aunt Camp could only be two nights instead of our preferred three or four, but I made it a priority. It's very important to me that Annabelle spend time with her cousins whenever possible and I want to see Erika as much as I can. Annabelle got a headache, fever and threw up on the first day which damped the mood but we partied on. Daniel watched the girls while Erika and I went to our favorite gift shop. We visit every year and encourage any purchase the other wants to make. When earrings are only $7-12, it makes financial sense to buy 3 pairs. 

Aunt Camp has really become a hands-off event. Besides judging the occasional chalk-water tea content and handing out constant snacks, we didn't have to do much. We gave them water and plastic dishes to play with and they were happy campers.
We never get a picture of Erika and I, but you can count on us to get a million pictures of the girls. It's in my aunt contract to supply matching clothes every year.
We encourage sharing at Aunt Camp, but sharing isn't caring when it's your child shares hand, foot and mouth with her sweet cousin. That's not the type of souvenir we like to have from camp. The spots started shortly after the headache and random vomiting, so I had to call our doctor on a Saturday for which I apologized profusely. I haven't had to call him since the quarter swallowing incident of 2018, but I still felt like a needy parent. He said it sounded like a complication of impetigo and recommended I go to urgent care if she got another fever. That brought us to urgent care visit #2 where she was diagnosed with HFM. Our go-round with HFM was so much easier than I expected but poor Ivy was hit hard. Here's hoping next Aunt Camp has less germs and more days to play. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Quirky is her middle name

Whenever I see Elizabeth, she complains about not being on the blog enough. She says she only wants to see me so she will be prominently featured and complains when I don't mention her enough. To avoid any such complaints from the peanut gallery this visit, I'm knocking out the post about her at the beginning of the trip.

(She says, "I do not complain! Don't tell the people that! I am a loyal and devoted fan!" Devoted fan she may be, but naggy nonetheless.)

Elizabeth is very quirky. She's constantly crawling through tunnels, telling strangers about her health issues and knocking on doors asking if she can have flowers from peoples front yards. In other words, she's nothing like me. Last night she went to a rock climbing gym to cheer on refugee children as they learned rock climbing. I think it's ironic refugee children were being taught to climb a wall, but that's neither here nor there.

On Sunday night she brought us to a secret garden. It's hidden in a normal neighborhood and you'd drive right by unless you're in the know. It has acres of paths through the woods with animal statues, garden figurines, fairy gardens, signs, and fountains. It was so cool.
Baby Ivy met us there. She says she's not a baby anymore but lalala I'm not listening.
If it's wet, it's raining.
If it's white, it's snowing.
If it's moving, it's windy.
If there's a leaf on it, it's Autumn.
If it's not visible, it's pretty darn foggy.
If it's dry and still, just wait a minute. It's a mistake and will change soon.

Tuesday she brought us to the town's media center to watch the taping of an interview with a town councilman because why not. I was skeptical we would be allowed in but she waltzed through the parking lot with AB in tow while I brought up the rear several feet behind. There's a fine line between being close enough to Elizabeth in case her wild ideas are well received and being far enough back that you don't seem too involved if things go south. On the slim chance we would be interviewed, I poured water on my hand and washed the strawberry juice off Annabelle's face. I don't like when kids are dirty and no child of mine will begin her television career with strawberries on her face and shoulders. I had already reapplied my lipstick because like they say on airplanes, take care of your own cosmetic needs before attending to the cosmetic needs of others. The lady in the office showed us the studio where the recording was taking place and the office where they keep the equipment. It was very interesting but sadly we were never asked to take a seat in front of the camera.

One of Annabelle's favorite games to plane with me is airplane where I lay on my back and lift her into the air on my feet. We have the regular version and the sitting version with a fancy flip landing at the end. Sesame asked me if I could do airplane with Elizabeth and yes, I can. 
The fancy flip at the end was a huge crash but that's what she gets for wearing kneehigh white socks from a package that was supposed to be given to a homeless shelter. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

our best friendship of 28 years is going strong

As has become our late spring/early summer tradition, AB and I traveled to Massachusetts for our twice-yearly visit.

The trip here was filled with quite a bit of metaphorical turbulence. 

We've flown so often we have a pretty good system down. I know I need to have extra patience and be 300% on. Not only do I need to keep her occupied for hours, I need to keep her safe. It's a lot of work but we usually make it with little to no issues (unless someone throws up in which case BIG issues). We didn't get delayed or have air sickness, but every other little thing that could go wrong went wrong. I went to bed at 10 the night before we left but didn't fall asleep until 2:30. I got up at 4am. For those doing math at home, that's one and a half hours of sleep. It was barely a nap. Annabelle had gotten up at 4:30am and by the time we were about to board the second plane, she had been wide awake for nearly five hours, eaten two breakfasts, played with all the toys we brought, rubbed her hands on the toilet seat, smelled her strawberry-scented jelly shoes 15 times an hour and flopped down on the carpet in the boarding area. I barely had the energy to correct her. She talked nonstop the entire time she wasn't sleeping. I was not in the mood to talk which presented an issue. 
We got on the plane and were settled in when two ladies said we were in their seats. I didn't realize we had seats 34C and 35C instead of seats in the same row. We moved, then the ladies moved, then their friend in row 33 moved. It was musical chairs in the crowded plane aisle. We're all going to the same place and getting there at the same time so why does it matter if the seats are wrong? Honestly, I would have been happy to hand Annabelle off to someone in row 34 while I relaxed in row 35. 

We seldom travel with a car seat but I did this time since I was renting a car. I didn't factor having to carry the car seat as well as our two bags and carry on, so I looked like a pack mule. A kind TSA agent took pity on me and asked if I needed help. I said we were trying to get to Enterprise and he looked at our mound of possessions, looked at AB and her flipped over unicorn suitcase and told us where to find a shuttle that would take us to car rental. I almost kissed the feet of the man driving the shuttle. I would have been 35 years old if we had to walk there. There were several issues with getting the rental car but I finally got on the road. I put the address in the gps and somehow ended up with directions to Greece. 

It was worth all the angst and frustration because look who we were reunited with the next day after two years apart- my very best friend Katie.
She gained a child and I gained several pounds in our two years apart, but we're just as close as ever. We picked up right where we left off and stayed up late at night eating ice cream. We had so much to catch up on. We had a rocky start with the girls because Annabelle started crying the minute we arrived to pick them up, but she recovered and they had a great time. 
It's so much fun to see them together. It was especially fun since they got to play at the same lakehouse Katie and I played at 23+ years ago. They were sleeping in separate bedrooms but had the classic sleepover conversation of "if I wake up first I'll wake you up, but if you wake up first then wake me up." Last time we visited, AB was in diapers. This time we set out breakfast on the table at night and told them to have at it and serve themselves breakfast in the morning. It was a new dawn of parenting. 

The first full day we visited the beach in the rain. We said we'd visit for just a few minutes didn't bother bringing the kids a change of clothes. What a rookie mom mistake. Of course they went in the water, rolled in the sand and got wet! We let them get as wet and dirty as they wanted. We live so far apart and never get to see them, so this was a fun memory to make. We wrapped everyone up in towels and listened to the new Aladdin soundtrack on the way back to the house.
God bless Massachusetts and God bless a Dunkin Donuts that makes good ice coffee.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Currently- the mid-June edition

Listening to: new podcasts. I've added the following to my regular rotation- 

Kind World. The episodes are all less than 10 minutes, but each one is someone telling the story of how another person's kindness impacted their life. I love it. Most of the episodes are interviews with people from Boston which is the cherry on top.


Every Little Thing is one of the educational podcasts I've started. The episodes discuss topics such as how to get paid to clap on tv or why baseball stadiums have organs. I listen to the episodes then pass along the information to my family as if I spent hours researching. 


Ear Hustle. It's produced by a man in prison with the help of a woman who works there. For unknown reasons, I have a deep fascination with prisons. It's such a foreign life and while I hope my recent life of crime never lands me in jail, I'm very interested in the goings on there.

Reading: Murder by Family by Kent Whitaker. Kent's son orchestrated the killing of his mother, brother and attempted but failed murder of Kent himself. I remember hearing about the story when it happened a few years ago and saw someone mention the book a few weeks ago. I brought it camping and while it wasn't a breezy beach read, I devoured it. The author talks about how he forgave the killers in the hospital before he knew about his son's involvement. He goes into detail about how forgiving his son doesn't mean he was any less devastated by the actions, but gave him the ability to grieve without also harboring hatred which would only bring him more pain.


On to lighter things! No need to talk about murderers anymore.


Taking: step classes. I don't recommend it to anyone. It's so frustrating, hard to keep up with and so hard.


A mom from school invited me to a class and I thought, why not? What's can go wrong? I'll tell you what might go wrong. You might miss the step and slip off the side. You might get your legs twisted up and look like a Twisler. You mistakenly face right when everyone is facing left which means suddenly you're face to face with the rest of the class. Especially don't go to the class with the two pregnant ladies in the front row. You'll feel really bad about yourself when they're doing full pushups on the floor and you're doing half pushups on the bench because it saves you from having to lower your body the additional 4" to the floor.  I thought I'd be ok at step since I'm fairly decent at zumba but no way, Jose. If you mess up in zumba you can say you were being moved by the music. If you mess up in step you're screwed AND ASK ME HOW I KNOW. 
All that being said, I've gone to five classes. My personal rule is to not do any type of exercise I don't like, but I need to get in shape and zumba and strolls around the pond aren't cutting it. So I continue to go but not have a good attitude. In fact, I was so frustrated this week that I told the teacher I had to leave 15 minutes early because I had an appointment. I didn't let her know it was an appointment to sit in my car and make myself think happy thoughts.
Misunderstanding: the Bible study book. The lady leading the study said the book was about Jeremiah, but I got to chapter 7 with nary a word being said about Jeremiah. I was so confused but since I missed the first 4 meetings I thought maybe I missed how Jeremiah tied in. I am BY FAR the least holy in the group, so I didn't want to ask for clarification and tell them I didn't understand the entire book.  It wasn't until last week that I looked at the cover and realized that it was written by David Jeremiah. It wasn't about the Jeremiah in the Bible. Drop me an email if you want me to bring my knowledge of all things biblical to your church group.

Proud of: AB's generous heart. I told her we should make thank you cards for her VBS teachers but it was such a busy week I forgot. All week at art camp she had been collecting "treasures". They were sequins, buttons, tiny pieces of paper and ribbons she picked up off the floor. As we left VBS on the last night, she said she found a treasure in her pocket and gave it to Miss Robin as a thank you. She said she thought a good way to thank her would be by sharing her treasures. She's such a little lovebug.

Giggling at: