Friday, March 30, 2012

Decorating the Nursery: If It Can Go Wrong, It Has (or Probably Will)

After months of working on our babe's nursery, I would have expected to be posting pictures at this point. If not "After" pictures then at least "Pretty Close to After" pictures. 

Were I to climb the dozen or so steps to the room at the top left of the staircase and snap my digital camera a few times, however, all I could show you is this: white walls

That's right. No baseboards, even though we nailed them up a month and a half ago. No brown paint on the upper 1/3 of the wall, even though Brad painted three coats in January. No crib. No semi-organized closet. No dresser. No chest of drawers. No hoard of pillows. No stacks of baby clothes. Nothing nothing nothing. 


B/c we had to take it all down/out/apart and paint over it all. B/c all the clothes/pillows/pieces of furniture are sitting variously in my hallway, office, Brad's office, our bedroom.


I could recount this renovation nightmare in its painful entirity a 12th time. I could cry hysterically for a 4th time. I could become infuriated for the who-knows-how-many-eth time. But I won't, b/c I'm sick and my shower's tomorrow and I want to try to sleep for one night this week. 

So instead, I'll give the barest bones acount. In January, I spent nearly 5 hours researching VOC-free paint - the supposedly healthy, low-odor choice. We made our pick, spent a bunch o' money buying the stuff, tons of time painting, and all was well. No smell, looked pretty good. Great. As expected. 

Yeah, it's great - in theory 
Until we got back from my parents' house over spring break (a month ago) and the room reeked. Like, chemical smelling. Like bad. Except VOC-free paint ain't supposed to have those horrible chemicals. And especially not a month and a half after painting. 

Nothing worked to get rid of it - heat, air circulation, Citrus Magic. Nothing. It didn't get better. In fact, the warm weather made it worse. The customer service rep at the company was nice, but he pretty much thought I was nuts. Then the smell started going into the hallway. Then down the stairs. 

This stuff is no joke - and it ain't cheap 
That was it. We couldn't wait any longer. Last weekend Brad and I spent a nightmare day and a half clearing all the stuff out of the room and taking down every board and every batten we'd spent hours nailing up. (I pounded out EIGHTY nails.) Then his dad, my mom, and the two of us spent a nightmarish Sunday covering everything - every wall, every bit of window and door trim, every side of every piece of board and batten - with $40 a gallon Zinsser Bin odor blocking primer. 

And now, with a baby coming in 6 weeks, all the work we've done for the past three months has been undone - and we've got to do it all again. 

Any guesses as to why I got sick? The stress, as you might imagine, has been unreal. When I think about all the time, effort, money, and sheer exhaustion that went into the nursery the first time around - well, I can't really bear to think about it. Which is why I'm going to bed.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Dragging that garbage can with all that cat litter in it was like dragging a dead body"

In walks husband from taking out garbage, panting. Seriously panting. 

Me:  What's wrong? 
Him:  (Huff) Dragging that (huff) garbage can (huff) with all that cat litter (huff huff) in it was like (huff) dragging a dead body. 
Me:  I see. 
Him:  I had to like (huff) do it in shifts. (goes to kitchen) 

[a (huffing) moment passes] 

Me:  What do you know about dragging a dead body? 
Him:  Nothing. 
Me:  I see. 
Him:  I think I hurt my back. 
Me:  You've got to be sh*tting me. 
Him:  Not seriously hurt it, just irritated it. 

[a moment passes; still huffing, he enters the room with ice pack] 

Him:  Don't judge me. Better safe than sorry. 
Me:  I'm very much judging. 

[Still huffing as I post this] 


That's exactly how I feel. Sore throat, stuffed and runny nose, sinus drainage, pressure in my head, coughing. Oh, and even more exhausted than usual. 

But what really makes it crap-tastic is the fact that my baby shower is Saturday, and I've got virtually no hope of feeling even 75% by then. I know this b/c this miserable cold comes courtesy of my wonderful husband who's been sick since March 18th - that's 11 days. (Thanks, Brad.) And since I didn't get sick till Tuesday afternoon, I can only assume I'm not going to be feeling magically well by Saturday. Grrrrrrrrrrr. 

It's especially frustrating b/c I've been so healthy this pregnancy. Like, uncharacteristically not having sore throats and sinus issues for months and months. So of allllllllllllllllllll the times to get sick, this isn't when I would have picked. Ain't timing a great thing? 

For all of you non-pregnant people out there who are suffering with a spring cold: relish your Advil. Right now I miss it like my mom's probably missing the junk food she gave up for Lent. Tylenol is useless and Sudafed's taking a close second. Oh, for 2 liqui-gels right now . . . . 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"They're always pushing the alphabet"

I've been buying a lot of baby toys lately - from the likes of Goodwill, Salvation Army, a baby and children's consignment sale my mom and I went to - and one thing you quickly notice about today's children's toys is all the bells and whistles they've got. 
Seeing him again all these years 
later, he's kind of scary-looking . . . 

I can't remember having one electronic toy growing up, though I'm sure I did (I do, however, very specifically recall not having the Teddy Ruxpin that my cousin had [grumbling]). But I swear if a toy doesn't take batteries these days, I have been unable to locate it. 

Anyway, these fancy-shmancy toys are, as one might expect, geared not just toward play but also toward learning. And, of course, one of the first things a toy's going to try to teach a kid is the ABC's. 

Which led Brad to announce the other day, in a somewhat skeptical voice, "They're always pushing the alphabet." 

And this is a bad thing . . . ? 

I'm fairly sure that the Toy Powers that Be aren't out to take over our children's minds with the alphabet of all things, but I promise to keep on the lookout while baby plays with things such as the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn ToolBench (retails on Amazon for $52; I paid $2) 
or the VTech Smartville Alphabet Train Station (no longer available, but I think retailed for around $70; I paid $5). 

Maybe it's good to be slightly distrustful of all that plastic and those bright primary colors :). 

Besides, the "o" animal is missing from the VTech toy . . . so our kid's gonna be learning a slightly truncated version of the alphabet - that'll show those toy companies and their plans for world domination!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Calling all you waistlines

Once upon a time, I actually had a relatively little waistline. That time was about 7.5 months ago. Being a woman raised in the U.S. in the latter part of the 20th century, however, I did not think it was small enough. I was convinced that I had a "thick" wasit, that being able to see 5 ab muscles was insufficient ("Why don't I have a six-pack after 14 years of ab work?!"), that I had love handles. 

Wow, how one's perspective can change :). 

I saw a pre-pregnancy pic of my belly the other day and gasped, "Did my stomach ever really look like that?!" Apparently it did. And while I've finally made peace with the pregnancy weight gain (me and baby are tipping the scales with an additional 27.5 lbs here in the middle of week 33) and this huge (kicking and punching) melon protruding from the front of me, I've got to say that picture made me wince more than a little bit. 

I have faith that I will, in time, get my waistline back. The question is, Just how much time are we talking about? 

Amanda and Laura, the prof who's directing my independent study this semester, have warned me about the post-delivery flabbiness and the need to wear maternity clothes for several months after giving birth. And they have prepped me for this from the beginning. 

But then there are people like the PA at my OB's office (who's 4 days younger than me and has a little boy of her own) who asserts, "I bet you'll be one of those women who leaves the hospital in her regular jeans and I'll have to hate you!" And I'm like, Wait, do those people exist? If so, how do I become one?! 

Let's just say that my regular jeans are pret-ty tight, and I'm not that delusional. (Plus, I haven't done a crunch or a plank since the onset of morning sickness at 7 weeks.) 

But, man, it sure would be nice to head back to school in the fall comfortably wearing the clothes I haven't worn since the middle of December (and even then, I sure wasn't comfortable!). It's not like I'm begging to wear a bikini by June or anything. In fact, I hate bathing suits with a passion, so I basically hide from my bikinis whenever possible. Even so, I miss my flat belly - and I even miss those dastardly crunches - and I hope I don't have to miss it alllllllll summer long . . . . 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where Have All the Kudos Gone?!

Would somebody please just tell me what happened to those delicious chocolate-and-candy-covered granola bars? PLEASE?! 

I've searched the supermarket aisles high and low, for about a year now, to no avail. They've up and vanished without a word. And don't you even try to recommend Chewy's Dips as a replacement - those poor excuses for a poor-excuse-for-a-"healthy"-snack can't touch an M&M's Kudo bar with an 811 foot pole. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Losing the Las Vegas Seat Lottery

See those smiling faces? Those weren't ours Tuesday night 
We're here in Vegas, chillin' out in our executive suite (free upgrade, Vegas-style!) at Harrah's hotel, where the International Conference on Narrative started today. I'm giving a paper on a panel I organized at the conference - and Brad and I are seein' the sights and playin' the slots. Hopefully we'll have better luck in the casinos (after a day of slot play yesterday, we're up $20 - better than nothing!) than we did with our seat assignments for the trip out . . . . 

The second leg of our flight was a nearly 5 hr. ride from Reagan International in D.C. to the main Vegas airport, McCarren. B/c we booked our seats separately for purposes of reimbursement (that is, my university will reimburse my flight if I turn over receipts), Brad and I didn’t get seated together. Which stinks regardless, but really stinks b/c of where we ended up: in the middle seats. 

I lucked out, comparatively speaking, b/c although I got stuck in 18E, only the aisle seat was taken. So I scootched over to the window and spread my quite-a-bit-heavier-and-rounder-than-usual self out a little bit.  

Seated one row back and on the left side of the plane, however, Brad wasn’t so lucky. In 19B, he was stuck between an older guy and a woman in her thirties¾three full-sized people in three seats. The man sitting in front of him, by contrast, had all three seats to himself. My husband, as I have mentioned on a number of occasions, is quite tall, and I imagine it’s not his idea of a good time to sit squished between two people for a 4 hr. and 40 min. flight, especially when there are two perfectly good seats free in front of him. 

And I don’t think he should have to. Am I wrong? 

Well, the gentleman in front of him seemed to think I was.  

This guy started out in the aisle seat (lucky for him), but before take-off, when it was apparent no one else had been assigned the adjacent seats, he moved to the middle seat, leaving a seat open on either side of him. Which is fine and dandy, if no one wants those seats. 

When the seat belt light went off, Brad moved out of 19B¾at my urging¾only to find the spot a bunch of rows back that we thought was open had a person laying/sleeping across it. So, again at my urging, Brad asked the man in front of him if he could have one of the empty seats in his row. B/c I was sitting some feet away and the conversation was quiet, I couldn’t hear what exactly was being said; what I could see, though, told me enough: this man wouldn’t let Brad sit in his row. 

Now wait just a minute here. We all paid for our tickets back here in good ol’ coach, didn’t we? And I am nearly certain this guy didn’t pay for the three seats that compose the left half of row 18. Which means my husband has just as much of a right to sit there as he does¾and if not in the aisle seat (which was this man’s assigned seat), then in one of the other two seats. 

Brad, being too-nice as he often is, starts to turn around and move the 2 feet back to his row, when I’m like, “What? What’s the problem?” He’s shooting me the look of death, the one that says, Oh, please don’t! You’re embarrassing me! and I’m ignoring said look, thinking, There is no way we paid more than $300 for a ticket for you to be unnecessarily miserable for the next 5 hours. 

“What’s the problem?” I say again and look at the seat hog gentleman in 18B. And when I say look I mean stare. And he’s staring back at me. And I’m thinking, I’m sorry, buddy, but you obviously don’t know me and how I get when 

1.      I want something, and 
2.      I know I’m right. 

“Sit there,” I say, loud enough to be heard by a specific individual. “Why aren’t you going to sit there? Those seats are empty!” 

Well, Brad and this specific individual discuss a little more, and next thing you know, this guy is moving out, Brad’s moving into the window seat, and this guy’s taking up his original seat along the aisle. 

And now, instead of one 3-person row and one 1-person row, we’ve got two 2-people rows. I just love symmetry, don’t you? It feels so lovely :). 

What can I say? I’m nothing if not my loved ones’ zealous (if mildly embarrassing) advocate. Happily, on the flight back, I’ve got an aisle seat and my hubby is seated next to me. Phew. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

An Adorable Addition

I'm not talking about the baby, though I bet he's gonna be pretty cute :); I'm talking about the Madison 4-Shelf Bookrack for the baby's room that my oldest sister ordered this weekend as my shower gift! 

I showed her a different bookcase on Land of Nod's website, which was on sale for about $150, just to see what she thought, but then it turned out you could no longer get it in white even though it said you could - blah! So then I showed her the Madison Bookrack from the Pottery Barn Kids website and she thought it was great and said she wanted to get it for me. I was like, Heck yes! 

This one is back-ordered until May 3 (booooo!), but worth the wait, in my humble opinion. And in this case, it's my humble opinion that counts! (It doesn't hurt that she and Brad love it, too.) 

We're getting it in white to go with the rest of the furniture, and it should be super fun to fill it up with books to read to and with baby. (Any suggestions of favorites?!) Strangely enough, two people who write fiction have managed to buy not one book for their little guy just yet . . . we'll get there though. And with this awesome bookrack, we'll have even more inspiration. 

I'm so glad I held off on getting the ladder bookshelf I was thinking of. I'm not a super huge fan of the style (though I do think the ones in the Pottery Barn catalog look great - like most of what's in that catalog), but I liked the open-ness of it since the nursery's not the biggest space in the world. 

I was this close to ordering the one pictured above from Amazon when I thought, Hmmmmmm, something this open and not-so-sturdy isn't going to hold small and/or floppy children's books so well and it might not be the best idea for a baby's room where a little guy will be toddling around and shaking things in the not-so-distant months to come . . . . 

So I gave some websites a look, laid off my super cheapness for a minute :), and found the PB Kids for the not-so-steep price of $129 + shipping. Not half bad, given the fact that the Amazon one wasn't super high quality and cost $70 anyway - and especially since we didn't end up paying for it! 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What goes through their minds?!

I've skipped my share of classes in my day, under-studied for more than a few tests, b.s.-ed my way through innumerable class discussions, and certainly passed on reading a whole lot of the books assigned for my courses. 

And once I even turned in a 23-page essay for a graduate seminar whose final requirement was a 25-page minimum essay. (Because I just couldn't. think. of. one. more. thing. to. say. Not one.) That essay is being published in nearly it's original form, though, so I couldn't have gone too wrong. (And, actually, I've shortened it from its original length by about a page or so.) 

Despite all of the above things, I simply cannot understand how a student turns in a story that is 1 and 1/3 pages long when the minimum requirement is 8 pages. Eight! 

This piece is set to be workshopped by the whole class on Thursday, and that portion of the workshop is to account for about half of the class period. This draft is also 10% of the student's final grade. 

What is going through a student's head when he decides to turn something like this in? Does he expect to earn a passing grade? Does he just not care? 

We're certainly not going to workshop this story - it's barely started, let alone finished. I can't even imagine what we would say, and I'm not going to put the rest of the class through the trouble of reading, writing about, and talking about a story that so blatantly disregards the basics of the assignment. 

I just really wish I knew the motivation/thinking behind turning something like this in. He might as well have turned in nothing at all. It truly, truly baffles me.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Methodological Issue

I suspect that the ideal way of developing one's field exam list for one's doctoral comprehensive exams does not include the following Google search: 

Who are the best female British poets 

Nonetheless, I sadly just conducted said search. 

And I'm sure you can guess how much success I had since I am busy typing this post instead of adding, well, the works of the best female British poets to my list of post-1945 British texts. 

You see, it's only that I don't really read poetry. Or British writing in general. So you can see why female British poets are giving me a bit of a problem here. 

I just hope that come dissertation-writing time, I've sharpened my methodological practices. Though on the up-side, it would be hard for them to get much worse. (That's not super comforting.)

My house will never be ready to sell, will it? Will it?!

No, we're not crazy - we're not about to have our first baby and putting our house on the market. In fact, I have no desire to sell my house, buy a new one, or move anywhere else. Yet. 

But in time, as we outgrow the space and I graduate and, hopefully, find a job, we're going to be looking for a new abode. And when that time comes, is my house going to be in sellable condition? I worry it won't be, despite all the time, effort, and money we put into it on a rather regular basis. 

Perhaps I'm just being paranoid. But things seem to move at a snail's pace here - even when we're spending hours and hours a week on a project (or 3). For instance, we've been working on the nursery for-ev-ever (forever-ever? Forever-ever) and still the projects continue and pile up. I've been joking recently that we should have the room done by the time the kid's five. But as my due date approaches, I'm finding that less and less and less humorous . . . . 

There are just soooooo many projects on our to-do list. And sometimes I think of it as a to-do-before-we-could-ever-reasonably-try-to-sell-this-house-for-a-good-price list. (See? That's a really stressful list title, isn't it?) 

Brad, the babe, the kitties, and I (and any other babes and kitties that come along in the next few years) will be staying put for oh, I don't know, the next 3, 4, 5+ years. Which is a lot of time, I realize. But it's also not a lot when you consider how busy we are and how much busier we'll be with a tot on the premises. 

I really do love working on our house though (and Brad at least loves the results of working on our house) and I'm proud of everything we've accomplished so far, from installing a new sink/plumbing to refinishing floors to even just painting all kinds of walls that used to be pink or boring old white. 

So for now I'm just going to try to enjoy the projects as we do them, work to improve my renovating/DIY skills, and appreciate the upgrades and changes we make to our space. Because, ultimately, we're not making these changes for someone else to enjoy when we sell our home - we're making them so we can better enjoy the space while it is our home

Though, hopefully, when that "For Sale" sign goes up in the yard in years to come, all our work will have paid off in that sense, too. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

3/4 of the way there!

If pregnancy were 

--a marathon, I'd be at 19.65 miles 

--a cross-country drive from Pittsburgh to L.A., I'd be just shy of the 27.5 hour mark 

--the MCAT, I'd have gotten through 108 multiple choice questions and 1.5 writing samples 

Yep, that's right: tomorrow marks 30 weeks in this loooooooooooooooong process! That means baby's most likely weighing in at 3+ lbs. and stretching to as many as 17 inches! It also means my already problematic hips are killing me and making it nearly impossible to sleep which, in turn, makes my hips hurt even worse. 

I'm now at the point of every-two-week OB appts. and what I'm guessing are Braxton Hicks contractions every now and again. Plus, I felt a little foot (or was it a hand?) stuck in my ribs the other day. Ow! That was not a pleasant feeling. 

I mean, my belly doesn't look that big, right?! 
From the looks of that belly, I don't think I'll be running a marathon any time soon . . . or sitting in a car for a drive across the U.S. of A. (and trust me, I'm not planning on medical school either) . . . . though we are flying to Vegas later this month. Maybe baby will give us some luck at the slot machines :).  

7 Generations of Stink

Don't get me wrong, I think that the availability of natural, earth-friendly household products is wonderful, and I applaud companies that make it their mission to make such items. And, generally, I've been impressed with Seventh Generation products, such as their Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner and Fresh Citrus Hand Wash. Once baby comes, Brad and I will switch to even more of these types of products which are, naturally, pricier than your average brands, but also safer for sensitive little people and their sensitive systems and skin. 

The one product I cannot recommend, however - and which I will never buy again - is Seventh Generation Multi-Purpose Spray

We bought this after finding out I was pregnant b/c although I don't use cleaning products much beyond the ocassional spray of Windex on a mirror or Fantastik on a spot of cleaned-up cat puke, we figured it was best to have something sans chemicals around. 

Well, it reeks. Just plain reeks. It makes whatever you've cleaned smell so bad you're not sure you've actually cleaned anything. We tried to use it to get the old smell out of a breadbox we bought from Goodwill a few weeks ago and the stink of the spray was 10x worse - so bad that we ended up pitching the bread box. (Happily, I found a better - non-smelling one - just this past week.) 

I wanted to love this spray, I really did. It had all the promise of Fantastik without the poison. But this cleaner is just nas-tay smellin'. Once we use this bottle up (it ain't cheap, after all), we'll be giving some other natural brand's general cleaner a try. Most likely Mrs. Meyer's All Purpose Cleaner in Lemon Verbena. The scent sounds yum-tastic (and this coming from someone who generally hates scented stuff) and Mrs. Meyer's products (like Seventh Generation's) are available at good ol' Target.