June 29, 2012

D*mn the virus, full steam ahead!

We've definitely had a snot nosed kid this week. And a hot babe!

Poor little guy had a temperature when I picked him up Tuesday from day care. It just kept going up and up (to 103.3 at it's worst). I've been working all week while having him home with me (talk about juggling!). Much as I love his little chubby hands, I don't love keeping them occupied and happy while trying to work.

Today the temperature finally broke, but he was fussier than normal and screamed  when I tried to feed him on the left side. After days of being super Mom ("it's just a virus, the pediatrician can't do anything for him. Diluted Pedialyte and Tylenol at night and he'll be fine."), the screaming while feeding convinced me to call the pediatrician.

Who said, "It's just a virus." Sigh. In fact, Roseola has been going around, so he might break out in a rash tomorrow. Of course, tonight, Jrex and I both feel queasy and tired. Here come the germs!

The thing is, we don't have time to be sick! Our house is the meeting place on Sunday for one cousin who is bringing up her two children from Austin, my Aunt A (what name did I give you/her?!), Uncle D, their two ferrets and my cousin from Denton. Austin and her husband will drive back home after dropping the kids off and the rest of us will hang out that afternoon and overnight. I'm really excited to see my family so we can't go into quarantine! Stay back, virus!


In other news, our bro-in-law, Writer, actually had his throat surgery after all. The pathology from what was in his neck showed it was "just" a benign result of the radiation he had earlier on his neck. So they've removed his voice box and hopefully all of the throat cancer. We'll find out sometime soon if the tumor had clean margins (which would mean they got all the cancer out). It's SUCH a relief to go from thinking he might die in the next 6-months to thinking he might be fine and see his daughter graduate from high school (or even elementary school!). As a teacher, I'm not sure how the lack of voice box will affect him, but I'm sure there are creative work-arounds. His bigger 'call' is as a writer anyway, so either way, he'll have more time for writing.


I visited a church Sunday that I've been to twice before. An older couple caught my eye when I went up to get prayer after the service.I gave the guy a quick overview, "Busy/overwhelmed/depressed husband, new baby, old house that's been overwhelming and just feeling tired."

The guy started out praying for the house, that what's been cursed would turn into a blessing. It was cool/freaky because that's what I've been praying the last couple weeks. It's really felt like God brought us to this house and intends it to be a blessing to us and others, but it's felt like a curse instead. There's been a lot of bad mojo in the house, so it was encouraging that the guy praying for me also heard that and prayed about it without me telling him anything specific.

The other stuff they prayed was all good and very personal and applicable. I've been feeling better since then (well, except for juggling little sicko). A big part of why I couldn't keep going to the Methodist church was that I'd go and leave and mostly feel like I'd checked off a box in a to-do list. I've had the privilege of going to a number of churches now where I get to have encounters with a God who is so much bigger than me and who is working and active. I couldn't get a little, tidy box version to work. It was so refreshing to be reminded that I'm not alone and that we aren't just trying to sweep the ocean back over and over.

June 25, 2012

The great gate dilemma

OK, first of all, any past/present parents of creepy crawlers (he's not there yet, but he's figuring it out!), are gates essential on stairs? We didn't have them in our house growing up, but the stairs were past a closeable door. In our current house, it's a lovely open floor plan with access to a tempting stairwell.

You can see the stairs in the background of this picture. Note that wide open triangle as you head around the landing toward the 2nd floor... (I think I just answered my first question as I typed this out...)

I'm assuming we do need gates. However, the opening there at the landing is 43.5 inches. Most wooden gates I can order online only go to 41 inches.

I'm thinking of making these instead [link to site]:

If I stain to match what's in the hall, I think these would hit my preferred 'simple but elegant' note. It's more 'modern' in style, so that's my first question: too modern? Does it clash?

There's a great lumber yard near our house where I can get project advice, but I thought I'd check in with you as well. The other option is to buy a sheet of oak plywood (to match what you can see on the landing), add some molding and stain to match. That would give us a solid gate there instead of the slats. I like that it matches the style better, but worry about cutting off the sunlight that comes through those northern windows in the stairwell.

Even if you don't have kids, I'd love your aesthetic opinions.

June 20, 2012

My brain is exploding

I waiver between tossing up posts that just say that we're alive and give you some tidbits of our lives, however shallow, or taking time to delve into my emotions and write from a deeper, more emotional place.

Frankly, it's hard to find time to delve. Of course, for me, it's also hard to find the motivation.

Here's the list of things I need to think about (but usually avoid instead):
  1. My brother-in-law, Jrex's sister's husband has been battling throat cancer. They went in Monday morning to try to remove the tumor, as well as his voice box, and closed him back up. The cancer has spread to his neck bones. Their daughter is 7-years old and I just don't know how to wrap my head around it. I don't know what to do for them except pray. While I'm doing it, it brings up arenas of doubt and disappointment. YJ calls and talks with Jrex for an hour or so multiple times a week. When I've answered the phone, she's quick to ask for him. I remember not having emotional energy for most people when my Mom was sick, so it doesn't feel personal, but it limits how much direct involvement I can have. I don't know what they've been telling Sogna and she's a little young for me to be able to call just to chat with her. I'd love to go visit, but Jrex is also stressed about finances, so that doesn't seem doable either. 
  2. Finances. We're both making very good salaries, yet feeling strapped. A lot of it is the house. It's beautiful, but takes a lot of maintenance and help to keep it that way. Plus, gas/electric/water here costs almost as much as the mortgage payment, and we didn't anticipate that. I'm doing what I can to try to be even more frugal, I'm open to selling this house in a couple years and down-sizing, I've raised the thermostat, I'd love to plant drought tolerant plants and cut down on watering, but there's only so much I can do in the meantime.
  3. Finding a church. Sundays have become really emotional for me. It's hard not to have a 'home', to not have a sense of at least beginning to be rooted somewhere. I'm totally freaked out about raising a son in the midst of all my searching around. I want a community who will have known him all his life and it's already passing so fast. It's hard that Jrex isn't part of the process. If I find a church where I really encounter God, I come home excited to tell him and he just listens tight-lipped and silent. It breaks my heart to not be able to share our faith walks in any profound way together. It's become so private for each of us. Part of the ache for me is that I've usually had a group of women to talk and pray with at least every other week. I love the women that I've met with, but we don't really dive into active prayer together and I'm craving that. I've got three possible churches that I'm thinking about, but it's often easier to stay home and avoid the emotional journey (which doesn't help in the long run).
  4. This one feels less emotional, but I do keep debating whether or not to do  freelance. If so, I need to crank out some design work, make phone calls and start attending area design networking events. It seems like WAY too much hassle at the moment.
  5. Vacations. Jrex is desperate for a vacation. We haven't really had one since we did Vancouver and Whistler three years ago. After that, his Dad fell off a ladder and we dealt with all that, then Jrex went into publishing his paper, applying for jobs, deciding on a job, moving, and now starting up his lab. He's FRIED (understandably!) and that's part of his bitterness about the house. Because we can't easily drive to any mountains, our vacations now inherently involve flights, car rentals, hotels/cabins/etc, kennel for the dog, and food costs. We're used to driving somewhere, bringing our own food and sleeping in a tent. Budgeting a few thousand dollars for a vacation is disheartening when it's hard to get money into savings. 
Our current cheap vacation thoughts: We're thinking of doing a staycation in October and then maybe driving to Big Bend for Christmas week. We could  bring food, the dog and all the baby gear. I found a little solar powered cabin with toilet and shower that would be as close to camping as we could get. We can't bring the dog into the national park with us so no lodge for us... plus, Jrex needs mountains, hard hikes and solitude for recharging. It's "only" a 10.5 hour drive through flat, stale and yellow desert. If we were younger, we might try putting the baby in the car seat and driving all night.

I think that's it. Nothing much, right?

No wonder my blog posts have been shallow and infrequent!

June 14, 2012

Bad wife: example #2,476

In honor of Jrex's very first Father's Day, to celebrate his manhood, his studliness and all around great guy status, we are...

...letting him cook dinner; for us and for our friends M & J and their son, Way.

They had us over to their place a couple weeks ago for spur of the moment grilled steaks. We ended up eating at 8:30 pm, which is normal for us. I forget if I've mentioned M & J before, we went to see The Hunger Games with them as well as checking out a new local restaurant named Dr1ftwood. Their son is in daycare with ours and they've been wonderful about inviting us to neighborhood events and just being super friendly.

So, without thinking about the significance, when Jrex had an idea for creating gazpacho soup and fajitas, we thought of inviting them to head our way.

They were the ones who said that Sunday would work if we didn't mind that it was Father's Day.


I wasn't thinking about it (obviously). Jrex said he was OK with it. In addition to him having to cook, the other irony is that since M and J are both women, he'll be surrounded by estrogen on a day meant to celebrate men.

Sorry, babe! I'll make breakfast and lunch to try to offset your dinner obligation.

[hangs head in shame...]

All that said, I do have three cool birthday presents to give him and an event I'm treating him to tomorrow night that I think he'll enjoy. I don't think it's fair that he gets two big events within 10 days of each other! Here I was feeling virtuous for remembering his birthday so well... Sigh.

June 13, 2012

Free at last!

On Friday, Brex had his first 'graduation' ceremony, complete with a cheesy certificate (sorry, kid, I already trashed it...): he finished with his helmet! 

As you may remember, we had trouble deciding to do the helmet [story here]. Since the insurance covered 75 percent of the cost, we went ahead with our first official baby torture. Of course, Mr. Mellow was fine with the helmet. In fact, it made me fairly casual about him learning to sit up. 

One evening soon after he was starting to sit up, but was still teetery, I was working in the kitchen and Jrex had just come home from work. All of a sudden, we heard a big THUNK, a pause and then Brex started crying. I kept working and Jrex ran into the living room where our startled son was on his back in the classic 'dead bug' position.

Jrex tenderly picked him up and called to me, "Why did you leave him alone?"

I called back, "What's the big deal, he's got a helmet and won't fall far enough to hurt himself!"

Jrex jokingly shook his head and looked solemnly at Brex who'd stopped crying as soon as he was picked up, "Somehow, son, you WILL survive your childhood. Despite your mother."

Just starting to sit up at 6-months
Well, he's sitting up with confidence now and starting to squirm around on the floor. Our doom approaches... Everyone says your life changes with a baby and there's some truth to that, but I suspect that life will really be different once he can walk and assert his will. Thus far, we just drag him along and live our lives fairly similarly to what they were before.

Well, now that summer is truly here (the temperature is usually in the high 90's), I'm SO glad he doesn't have the extra heat/sweat source. The irony is that I think he's had a harder time with the helmet going away than he did when we added it to his life. He cries whenever I lay him on his back (changing table!) unless I give him something to distract him.

For our part though, we are ecstatic to be done with daily baths and a stinky head. It's so fun to be able to play with his downy little head. Plus, I can now sign up for the parent & child swim class at the neighborhood pool! (gotta find a swim suit for me this weekend...the next two-week session starts Monday.)

Only three weeks ago. He's getting ready to MOVE.
Of course, to make it feel like we got our money's worth, we get to see his before and after pictures. I'm still not convinced it wouldn't have resolved itself once he started sleeping on his stomach, but his head is definitely a better shape now. The left column is his before, the right is after.

We've been fairly good about doing his neck stretches so that his head doesn't pull to the right anymore. His shoulders look better, too. 

So, phew! First significant parenting hurdle accomplished. Now let's see what learning to walk without the helmet is like!

June 4, 2012

After a good weekend, it's really hard to find my motivation

After a week where each day felt like a sprint to finish by 5 and pick up Brex, I finished enough stuff that I could take the weekend off. Phew! Jrex was similarly slammed with a big grant due Friday and then having to be in the hospital for the afternoon seeing patients. Of course, he had 6 consults and 3 family meetings that day (the norm is 2-3 consults), and therefore arrived home at the early hour of 10:30 PM.

While the baby napped on Saturday, I went to a neighborhood mom event. It was an info session on a company that does freeze dried food. BPA-free cans and a LONG list of ingredients that can be eaten straight, or rehydrated to make easy dinners. Sounds like backpacking food to me, but that's not a bad thing.

When I arrived, I noticed an Asian woman with her baby on her back. He had on a huge sunhat and sunglasses, so I couldn't see what he looked like. Since north Oak Cliff tends to be either Hispanic or Anglo with some African-Americans, seeing an Asian is rare though not unheard of. As much as I wanted to run over and chat her up, I played it cool. Everyone was talking in a circle so I joined in. Of course people were discussing the stupid Time magazine cover and mostly agreeing that it was designed to fuel the mommy wars and sell magazines. As the Asian woman (J-Mom) said, and the rest of us agreed, "We're all doing the best we can, judging each other isn't helping anyone!"

Talk wandered along and I don't know how it came up, but someone else said something and all of a sudden, J-Mom said, "Are you OTRgirl!? I've seen your last name on some of the neighborhood emails and wanted to meet you. Someone told me it was your husband who's Korean and that's why the K-last name."

I smiled back, "Yeah. I've walked into job interviews and caused many double-takes, especially in the Bay Area where they know what K-last name means. Are you Korean, too?"

She nodded, "I've got a Hapa baby back here." We kept chatting until the info session started and when it was over, exchanged contact info. We're going to try to get together next weekend. She's a little far for an easy walk, but definitely within an easy bike ride. Of course Jrex is a bit uncomfortable with me getting a bike seat (why? It's not like I crash or fall of my bike more than a couple times a year? Sheesh.), so I might have to wait a few years to bike over there. She's hoping we can get together regularly. Both of us agreed that we'd been nervous our kid would grow up feeling like the only one in the area.

We didn't really bond with the other couple (Phillipina/Anglo) that we met after we moved in. She's a bit shrill and he's much older. Plus, they moved far enough that we have to drive to see them, and it's much less enticing to overcome the social stuff if we have to put too much effort into the experience.

I'm well aware that I get excited by new relationships, the fun thing was to see that we both seemed mutually excited. She was so happy that she could refer to eye-fold issues without having to explain. I had fun being able to refer to her baby's HUGE cheeks as perfect Korean baby cheeks without having to explain. I thought Brex had some Korean cheeks, but he looks gaunt compared to B-boy. Her son also has a Korean name in the house and an American one outside the house. We didn't talk about it, but something that occurs to me now, Korean food is labor intensive, but we could potentially make it together and split it.

So, I'm sitting here with my to-do list glaring at me, my poor beleaguered Father outside in 100-degree heat staining the door and I'm writing a blog post instead of working.

If I left my motivation at your house, could you toss it back over the fence?

June 1, 2012

Buried alive!

My work was slow a couple weeks ago. Instead of just enjoying it, I got nervous that they'd forget about me and I'd get fired (though that would be ok, too!). Anyway, I sent out a 'Got Work?' email and have been buried alive ever since. Now it feels like they're all just dumping stuff on me since they can't see me bleed.

Mostly kidding.

Dad is here visiting and has already been a big help. Here in TX we have to file a Homestead exemption. We also received a $3000 jump in our property taxes. I haven't had the brain space to deal with any of that and Jrex certainly doesn't! The other day I realized, 'wait! Dad has a Real Estate license and went to Harvard law with a focus on contract law (I think. He'll correct me if I'm wrong. And ask me why I couldn't get off my balance ball in the office to step out and ask him as he sits/sleeps/works in the living room.) He went through all the confusion, pulled it together and mailed it yesterday (the final day to register a tax protest with the city). He came up with a very simple, elegant solution on the tax protest. If I have to go to a hearing, I hope I can articulate the defense as well as he did in the letter he wrote in our names!

We're going to stain the front door tomorrow. Yesterday was his birthday. We gave him a book and a card at breakfast (which we all ate separately at different times). Then for his birthday dinner, I'd given him three options: we make a fancy dinner at home, we take him out for a fancy dinner, or we go to worship and dinner at The Well Community. The Well is run out of a local church, it's a gathering place, a work environment (community garden and other projects) and a safe haven for adults in the neighborhood with mental illness.

Let's just say, we fit right in! After picking up Brex from day care we headed over. Lots of people came by to say hello to the baby. He took it all in stride. He rarely grins at strangers (he warms up slowly), but he wasn't at all nervous. The worship was genuine and completely not slick. The normal worship leader had an emergency so the guy who normally plays drums picked up a guitar. He couldn't quite handle playing and singing so a few of the community members jumped up and went to the mike to sing or do movement with the songs.

In any case, just letting you know we're alive and life is good.