Friday, July 31, 2009

Observations about the week

1) It's raining. Again. I haven't had to water my garden all summer. Of course, my garden has been crappy this year too. :) Jim was going to go sailing tonight with Nate, but he can sail right down our street. I've never seen lawns so green at the end of July like they are this year.

2) I just bought the new edition of Baby Bargains. It's pretty cool. It's oddly fun to read the sections about items that I've already purchased and think about whether I agree with their advice or not, to give some perspective on their advice for items I still need to purchase. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't. It's amazing how 4 months ago I had no clue. And just for the record, they now think that the Diaper Champ sucks too, for just the same reasons that we hated it.

3) I'm really glad I figured out the Baby Bjorn. It's cool and Annie really likes it, now that she can handle facing outwards. I put her in that, and as long as I'm not sitting down, she is happy as a clam. (For some reason, she doesn't like being in it when I'm sitting down). Yesterday, I went out to talk to the neighbors and I put her in it after several hours of crankiness. She settled down and was smiling at all the neighbors. They didn't believe that she could ever be cranky. So basically, Annie was trying to make the neighbors think I was a big fat liar. :)

4) I'm spending a fortune on going out to lunch. But I love it and it keeps me sane.

5) My mom and sister are on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Alaska. I wish I was on vacation too. Any vacation would do. Doesn't have to be once-in-a-lifetime.

6) Annie hates it when she gets the hiccups. I wish I knew how to get rid of them. I can't have her try all the standard remedies - drinking out of the wrong side of a cup doesn't work for babies, and it's not nice to sneak up and startle a baby.

7) What's up with the horrible music they have for infant items (like the Pack-N-Play or the nip-and-nap)? The songs themselves aren't bad, but they sound horrible! I swear that the lullaby in the Pack N Play is off key and the melody and harmony are completely out of sync. The variety of songs in the nip-and-nap are just trippy and primitive. I think the people that come up with the music variations for these things must be taking a lot of drugs. Oh, wait, they're probably the same people who write the assembly directions for these items.

8) Our 10-year wedding anniversary is next week. Sometimes I can't believe it's been ten years, until I think about all that has happened since then, and then it feels perfectly right that it's been that long.

9) We are planning a trip to Buffalo for the end of August. Then we probably won't be back for a while.

10) I have a job interview next week.

11) I'm an Isis junkie.

12) I just bought David McCullough's 1776. It looks good. I need something good to read. The current book I'm reading is too preachy.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New configurations

We have moved into our new office. Here's what it looks like now:

(Still have to find something large to put on the wall above the desk). We have a window AC unit up and running, and it's quite nice up here. For some reason, the phone isn't working yet, but Jim is going to look into that.

Here's what Annie's room looks like now:

And Jim finished the blanket chest, which is now in Annie's room. Here's a photo of the final product:

Pretty cool! And given our small closets, a great place for storage. Everything is organized and feels much less cluttered.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Attic in progress

As requested, here are some photos of our soon-to-be office, in our attic.

Some background first: We have a full attic with a full (albeit very steep) staircase from the second floor. Long before we moved into this house, someone had turned the attic into 2 small rooms. They put up dry wall, hung doors, created closets, put in pretty nice moulding, and even put some cheap carpeting and linoleum down. We think the rooms used to be very small bedrooms. In addition to these rooms, there are dormers, which are unfinished. While you can stand up and walk around with no problem in the main part of the attic, you sort of have to crawl in the dormers - the roof slopes downward there. The attic also has 2 full windows.

Before Annika arrived, we had been using our third bedroom as an office. We constructed bookcases and had our desk, computer and filing cabinet in there. Now that she's here, we want to move the office stuff out so that we don't disturb her when we want to use the computer or desk.

Our ultimate vision is to completely renovate the attic. We want to take down all the walls and turn it into one large room. With a couple of sky lights and some HVAC work, it could actually be a really nice bedroom. We would probably be able to see the Town River from the sky lights. We hope we can eventually put in a half-bathroom up there too. But this will all be more money than we want to spend right now, particularly given the uncertainty of my job right now. So until we can do this, we decided to do a quick fix-up of one of the rooms in the attic and move our desk and computer up there.

While I was in Buffalo, Jim cleaned out the front room in the attic. He patched up a couple of large holes in the dry wall that our contractors had made when they were doing duct work for the bedrooms. He also started painting the walls. Yesterday, we got an electrician to come in and put in a couple of outlets, wire a switch for the overhead light in the room, put in telephone service, and put lights in the dormers. Today I washed down the stairs and hallway floor. Tomorrow Jim is going to try to finish painting the walls and I will clean the carpet in the room. Hopefully by the end of the weekend, we'll be all moved in up there!

So here are some photos of our work in progress. Here are two views of the staircase. First, from the second floor (you can also see the very bottom of one of the attic windows):

And heading down the stairs from the attic:

The next photo is of the hallway with the 1930's linoleum. We are going to use the room off the left of this hallway for the office. On the right of this hallway is the door to one of the dormers. We are using the dormers for storage space. The door at the end of the hall (with the weird opaque glass) goes into another small room, which we are also using for storage at the moment.

Next is the view of the new office from the top of the staircase. You are looking through what used to be a window, complete with glass. We removed the window, posted it on Craig's List and someone took it away. You'll see that Jim patched the wall. We still have to paint it.

Opposite view, from the office to the top of the stairway. You can see the closet door on the right.

The room (complete with the new outlets, as well as our paint cans and drop cloth):

You can see a large patch job on the left side of the wall. There used to be a huge water stain there. When we had our house inspected, before we moved in, the inspector sort of freaked out about that until he saw that it was an old stain and it wasn't wet anymore. Still, we were glad when we got the roof replaced.

There also used to be a door to the room, similar to the door you saw above, with the opaque glass. But there was a huge crack in it from top to bottom. It looks like if you slammed it a couple of times, it would become separated from the hinges. So we took that down and also posted it on Craig's List, and someone took it away.

I'll post more pictures once it's finished and we're moved in up there.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Birthdays and Attics

Today would've been my dad's 63rd birthday. I remember that he and my mom were here for his 60th birthday in 2006 and we went to Tanglewood for a concert. We had an ice cream cake from Frozen Freddie's. My mom and I walked down there to get it (a few blocks from our house) and then had to almost run to get it home so that it wouldn't melt. Here's a photo of us from my dad's 50th birthday:
(Notice that even my usually-prim-and-proper grandma put on a party hat and blew a noise maker!) I have few regrets in my life, but I deeply regret that my dad never got to meet Annika and be a grandpa. He would've loved her.

Today we finally got the electrical work done in the attic, after trying for weeks to have an electrician even call us back. I think they did a fine job, and I'm hoping to clean the floor and stairs this afternoon in an effort to start the process of moving our desk up there. I even bought a brand new bottle of Murphy's Oil Soap for the occasion! (Jim semi-jokingly worried that the soap will make the stairs disintegrate but I have more faith in our stairs). It will be interesting to see how our AC window-unit will do up there - I'm happy that we're going to get some more use out of it. Then, all we really need to do is finish painting the walls. It's not pretty up there, but it'll do until we have the money to renovate the attic.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Neighborhood

Yesterday, we went to a birthday party for the little girl who lives across the street from us. She turned 3 years old on Saturday, and on Sunday, her parents threw a party and invited their families and all the neighbors.

Jim and I always feel really happy to be living in this neighborhood after going to a party like this. The people who live on our street are really close. For example, the two boys who live next door and the girl across the street often have sleep-over parties. They play with each other everyday. Their parents seem to be best friends. Some people on this street seem to have known each other their whole lives. They have their own culture in some ways. For example, do you know what they call those little single-serving cartons of ice cream that you often get at ice cream socials? Hoodies. Named after Hood ice cream, of course - a Boston institution. We learned this yesterday. They served Hoodies, along with a home-made sheet cake, made by our next door neighbor for the birthday girl. (Apparently she did a "test run" cake a few days ago, which she was passing out to all the neighbors, but we missed it).

For a long time, I was sad that we couldn't seem to "break in" to the clique of the street. We talk differently, we didn't grow up in Quincy, and we are often on the road, traveling to see family. But now that Annie is here, I think we are fitting in better (although I do still have my doubts about completely fitting into the clique). I think that once Annie is up walking and talking, she'll be a natural with the other kids. There will be lots of kids to play with - there are the two boys next door, the little girl across the street and her baby brother, who is only 2 weeks younger than Annie. Then, there's another little baby a few doors down who will be born in September. We got to meet those neighbors at the party yesterday.

All the neighbors love Annie. They always want to hold her and kiss her and talk to her. I remember when we took her out in the stroller for the first time, one of the neighbors ran and got his wife, who was eating dinner. She jumped up and ran outside so she could meet Annie, pizza still in hand. This is the sort of neighborhood I always hoped to live in. It's similar to the neighborhood where I grew up, which was full of kids my age and neighbors who looked out for each other.

Sometimes I'm sad that we live so far from family, but the truth is that we have a pretty established life here in Boston, and perhaps more friends than I always consider. We do our best to maintain our relationship with our family, and hope that they will put in the same effort.

And now that Annie has FINALLY gone down for her nap, I can finally clean up the house and head out to lunch with Jim!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Box

So, about a month ago when my better half went to Buffalo, I was tasked to build a Box for the little one. Needless to say my box building got out of hand. I built a blanket chest.

Unfortunately, unlike when we made the cradle, I have no time to elaborate. This time there were many fewer trials since I had done a lot of the work before. Some of it was new to me, and the joint work was a big simpler.

I started with some plans from the New Yankee Workshop which I copied at the library, then I modified generously.

The chest is mostly walnut and cherry. My goal was to use walnut and ash, but I couldn't get ash that was finished like I could walnut and cherry. Since this time there was no budget to buy thousands of dollars of tools, I figured I had to live with cherry. My only regret is that cherry is reddish, and I wanted more of a black and white look that walnut and ash would give me. Instead we get a black and red look. Still, very nice.

To the left are some walnut rails which I ripped and added tenons. The frame is all tongue and grove with tenon and mortise joints. My joints were a bit sloppy, and I worry a bit that they weren't tight enough. Time will tell.The cherry was used for panels which float on the inside of each side. The NYW called for the panels to sit in on the sides, and I ended up making them flush. Though I truly like the look of the flush panels, making them flush made it much harder to conceal errors... of which I had quite a few. The top is solid walnut joined down the center. I rejected the bread-board original design and went for a much simpler and plainer look.

The bottom was two pieces of red ceder, to keep out the moths and make it smell nice. The ceder isn't finished and can be removed when transporting the chest.

Its mostly finished at this point, with only one more coat of Danish Oil required to finish it. There are currently two coats on it. We finished the cradle with Polyurethane but didn't like the look in the end. The oil is very easy to work with and so far has produced a fairly nice look. Next project will use shalac.
There is no finish for any of these pictures. When the chest is done I will post a picture with the finish.

Friday, July 17, 2009

So around this time last year, according to this blog, we had just come back from a weekend hiking trip to the Adirondacks followed by a college reunion and a stop at our friends' house in Vermont.

This weekend, we are going to a birthday party for the little girl across the street, who is turning 3. And we are meeting up with some of the women from my new moms' group for brunch with babies and spouses.

I guess life has changed.

Annie slept EIGHT hours last night. She's been drinking down 5-6 ounces of formula at a time and we finally bought a bunch of those 8 ounce bottles. She has now given us a "hat trick" of long nights - we've had 2 nights of 7 hours, and then there's last night, in which she slept from about 10:30 to 6:30. Some of the babies in my new moms' group are apparently sleeping 10 or more hours. But I'll be happy with 7 or 8. I feel like I can think a little more clearly now. I still have 3 months of no sleep to catch up on, but it's definitely getting better.

Today we drive out to Marlboro to visit some friends.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

3 months!

Annie turned 3 months old today!!
Laurie and I celebrated by taking her on a picnic lunch at Houghton's Pond. We watched the little kids swim and play in the kiddie part of the pond and I was thinking about whether we could bring Annie there at this time next summer. Later, I made Cherry Garcia ice cream (although it didn't quite come out like the stuff you get at the store). Now I have to take Laurie to the airport for her flight back west. :(

Maternity leave and beyond

I think it might be the uncertainty of it all: the fact that life has changed completely as I know it and I don't know what happens next. And the lack of sleep doesn't help.

Maternity leave has not been easy for me. Before Annie arrived, I had a job that I usually liked, a lot of structure in my life, and I knew who I was. I spent my days doing things at work, such as going to court, filling out applications, talking to clients, answering phone calls and e-mails relating to work, interacting with co-workers and other lawyers, and spending a lot of time in downtown Boston. The structure of my life was constructed externally - my days were filled with deadlines and appointments. On the weekends, I got to rest, hang out with Jim, run errands, have dinner with friends. My goal in life was to change the world, even in a small way; to make life better for other people. I felt that I really could do this in my profession, and that in a lot of ways, I already had.

All of that went away quite suddenly. One day, I was working and going to court, and the next day I had a baby. Sure, I had about 8 months to prepare, but I thought I had another month left. Maybe I never would have felt prepared, even if Annie hadn't come so suddenly.

My coworkers and bosses stepped in and covered all my hearings, deadlines, etc. that I had left at work. I had made a case status list and they were able to pick things up fairly easily, I think. But, of course, now they've assumed control of my cases and they don't need me any more. From the looks of it, I will not have a job there in September, when I had hoped to return to work. The economy has hit our firm very badly, and they already had lay-offs earlier this year. They even cut everyone's hours back by a day starting at the beginning of the year. I find it unfair that they
have chosen to bring back some of the paralegals full-time, but are likely going to lay me off. I should be allowed to have a maternity leave without fearing that I'm putting my job in jeopardy by taking one, especially since I was bringing in more than enough revenue to cover my income and other overhead. But the truth is that they don't have any money, and I'm an easy person to lay off since they've already adjusted to my absence.

I am applying for other jobs, but all of this, coupled with motherhood, have left a lot of questions open. Who am I? Where do I belong in this world? What is important in life? I'm not used to being at home, controlling my own schedule. Sure, we all fantasize about having more free time, but now that I have some free time, I'm often at a loss for what to do with it.

For many years, I have loved living in Boston. Lately, I have been so homesick for Buffalo and family. I'm sad that Annie will never really get to know them beyond rushed visits a few times a year. I'm overwhelmed that Jim and I will be completely and solely responsible for parenting Annie, with very little input from our families.

My goal in life, to make life better for other people, remains the same, except there's a second goal too: to make sure my daughter has the best life possible. Sometimes I worry that these two goals are in conflict. If I have a job (and who knows - maybe something will work out in September), I have to put her in day care. We have found a great day care, but it is going to hurt to have to leave her there. On the other hand, I don't think she will have the best life possible if I stay at home with her all the time. I suppose that eventually I would get better at creating structure to my days, but I'm really not very good at it, and I'm sad a lot of the time. I think Annie needs a mom who is happy and involved with the world. I feel that a good role model is one who fights to meet my first goal, to make life better for other people. I want to be that role model.

The question now, of course, is what the future holds for me. Will I have a job in September? Will I be getting more sleep then, enabling me to think more clearly than I am right now? Will life ever feel "normal" again? Will I ever resolve the conflict between wanting to be close to family and wanting to live in a great city, have a great career, and have a life for myself that is of my own making and not dependent on family?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mustaches and cats

Today was a beautiful day. It was about 70 degrees and sunny with clear skies. Pretty unusual for Boston this summer. To take advantage of the great weather, we went for a walk along Wollaston Beach. Laurie shared her mustache monacle with Annie. She looks pretty good with a Howard Johnson mustache, doesn't she?

Also, since they were shooed off the changing table, the cats decided to take up shop in Annie's Pack-N-Play instead:
I had to shoo them out of there too. I'm waiting to find them in the crib. That will probably be next. We had artichokes and rice for dinner, and we might go to Frozen Freddie's later, if we have the energy.

A quick update

1) We returned to Boston on Monday. The drive seemed to go on forever, although it was about an hour shorter than when I drove in the week before. Go figure. Annie slept most of the way. She is really good in the car.

2) Laurie arrived Wednesday morning, wearing a mustache monocle around her neck. (I'll post a photo later. It's hilarious). It's great to see her and have her here! Now I just have to get over to the grocery store and purchase some coffee for the Mr. Coffee ... from what I'm told, the instant coffee we have in our fridge sucks.

3) Annie and I started our new group at Isis yesterday. Annie weighed in at 11 pounds, 11 ounces! Pretty cool. She looks about the same size as most of the babies in the group. During the part of the class where the moderator reads a book to the babies, Annie talked up a storm. The book was about the sounds that animals make. The moderator said, "The cow goes mooo... and the sheep goes baaa... and the cat goes MEOW!" and just then, Annie made a noise that sounded like a meow. No kidding. Everyone was laughing. I guess Annie was demonstrating her heritage; all the other babies were pretty quiet.

4) Last night we went to an Asian restaurant in Hingham that we'd never been to before, called "Asian C." The hostess, who had a 9-month-old baby herself, thought Annie was so cute that she brought out a complementary roll of maki for us.

5) Annie drank SEVEN OUNCES of formula last night before bed, and then slept over SEVEN HOURS (she fed at 9:40 pm and then not again until 5:25!). As I was rocking her to sleep last night, she looked me right in the eye and was trying to talk to me, making all kinds of baby noises and smiling and looking right at me. Wow. Then Jim and I were awake at 5 and didn't know what to do because Annie hadn't woken up yet. I love it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"'Goodbye,' said the fox. 'And now here is my secret, a very simple secret. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.'

"'What is essential is invisible to the eye,' the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

"'It is the time you have devoted to your rose that makes your rose so important.'

"'It is the time I have devoted to my rose - ' said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

"'Men have forgotten this truth,' said the fox. 'But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose.'"

Antoine De Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The dog and pony show

I'm tired, but I knew I would be. Being solely responsible for Annie for over a week has been pretty exhausting, and I have a lot of respect and admiration for single parents. At least I know that Jim's going to show up tomorrow and help me with the night duty. And at least I've had some help from family this week. It must be really difficult to be alone and have no end in sight.

Earlier this week, Annie and I spent a night at Jim's family's cottage in Barker, New York. It was fun to spend some time with all the family - Annie's grandma and great-grandma, her aunt Alex and uncle Rob and her cousin Madeleine. Annie had a tough night, but I think that one of the reasons for that was fixed with a tablespoon of prune juice (Annie's first non-formula food). Thank goodness for my mother-in-law, who rocked Annie to sleep in the middle of the night several times when I was at my wits' end.

We have done a lot of visiting. We have seen: Great-grandma McAvoy, Grandma Kogler, Aunt Alex, Uncle Rob, Madeleine, Grandma Donna, Uncle Al and Aunt Joyce, Gretchen and Doey, Mr. and Mrs. Heckmann, Vicky, Aunt Dode, and Aunt Clare Marie. We are still going to see my cousins Sue, Marilyn and Kathy and their spouses and kids, great-grandma Betty, Aunt Patty, my cousins Carly and Cody, Aunt Luann and Uncle Jim, Jim's cousins Kate and Carrie, and probably some more neighbors. My mom was joking that we're a regular dog-and-pony show. :) It's about right. Here are a few photos.

Annie with her grandmas:

Grandma Kogler (in front of the yarrow that matched Annie's duck outfit):
Grandma Donna (at Shakespeare in Delaware Park):
Aunts Dode and Clare Marie:
With Great-grandma Mac, Madeleine, and Aunt Alex:

Since our night in Barker, Annie has given me two good nights (both with a stretch of 5-6 hours of sleep) and is just as cute as she can be. I can't wait for Jim to get here.