Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The ups and downs of househunting

This past weekend we went out twice with our agents - who we really adore. I was thrilled when they reported to us that their afternoons didn't feel like working - felt like hanging out with friends instead. We picked the right agents.


Before we were truly househunting - just browsing - we met them at an open house and immediately fell into a good rapport with them. It is a husband-wife team and they have four kids ranging in age from a month older than Skadi to 16 years old. Lucky for them they also have a good support network locally since they both grew up in the area.


So far (crossing my fingers) our real estate agents are just superb. When we moved here 6.5 years ago we hooked up with a woman who we considered firing a number of times.

KayJay.

My MIL found her through her referral network in a boom time. That should have given us a hint there. Houses were moving like hotcakes - we lost out on a few - and here was an agent who was willing to give up a portion of her fee to my MIL for the referral. And then we discovered she was NOT a go-getter. She didn't listen and was determined to find us some awful little house in a neighboring town. She would get us in her car and "yes we will go look at this house over here, but first..." and then she would drive us across the river and exclaim about the virtues of the town. Great place, I am sure. I know now that it is a nice place, but I still won't live there if only for the long drive to work. And she would just drive around, and drive around. She wouldn't call first before showing houses - we walked in on people more than once - and her reply was "well they want to sell their house don't they?" (It is agents like her I fear when we eventually list our house.)

And in the end, we found our house and asked her to show it to us. She said as she showed us that she had skipped over the MLS listing because it didn't have pictures. (Rolling my eyes.)

This time around we opted to skip the referral. We had met a number of agents throughout the last 6 years through a variety of interactions from friends and from open houses and the Parade of Homes. We met Kevin and Therese and instantly knew we could easily work with them. And like they said the other day, it is nice when you look forward to "hanging out looking at houses" with a couple instead of dreading getting in some old ladies Caddy that stunk of perfume to drive around imprisoned.

We hit five houses this last weekend. The first we walked in and loved. Loved the house completely. AB pointed out minor things - the enclosure that holds the fridge limits you to that size of fridge and we would like a slightly larger one. AB wants a double fridge... *sigh*. And there was no cable outlet in the library for those of us using cable internet. Things that a home sold by a builder could be remedied. The house was on a nice view lot in a neighborhood I am quite fond of and was about 4200 square feet, rambler with a walk out basement on a large lot with about 1200 sq ft of the basement unfinished. It was exactly what we are looking for.
At about $25K higher than our highest end price we think we can stomach. Therese suggested an offer at that highest end price. But even then we are talking $75K more than the house we are looking to build, for essentially a very similar home. That house still looms out there... but the price just was a show stopper.

Another home that we wanted to love was also a rambler with walk out basement and similar in size with 5 bedrooms on an extraordinary view lot. The one problem with that house could not be remedied. The kitchen was smaller than the one we have now. The kitchen made the house a no go for us. Everything else about the house we loved and would have probably been willing to make an offer on our high end for this home. But that kitchen... nope, couldn't do it.

We hit three others - a funky geriatric smelling three level (most likely custom designed) house built to take advantage of views in a great neighborhood at a great price. But the stairs. The stairs that never ended. And the stairs that my daughter tumbled down while there. The stairs killed the house. As well as the geriatric smell.

Another house on a fabulous lot across the street from one of our favorite parks and at the foot of a great hiking trail. But the house was too small at 3 bedrooms with a bonus room. The last house was a really fantastically finished rambler on a large view lot - though little of the house took in the views. It had a fabulous kitchen and family room and the finish work was truly amazing. But it had two rooms that are a waste of space for our family - a formal formal living room and formal formal dining room. Sure I have these now but we have worked with it and changed their purpose - the formal living room is our office and formal dining room a playroom. But the layout of these rooms in this other house was just not great for dual purpose. Loved the finish work, but not the right house.

Where are we now?

It is interesting where your mind goes when you are talking about such a large chunk-o-change.

We have both had our waffling periods. AB admitted he was in one last night.

"What are we doing? We just got to a point financially where we can do and buy extra things, where we can take off for a long weekend for skiing or swimming and buy nice things that we want. Why are we going down this road now?"

I understand. I have been there too. I still love our house much of the time. I really love our patio and pergola and the thought of leaving that makes my heart ache. The thought of leaving the house I brought my babies home to tears me up. Of leaving that wall that has the kids height marks written. I told AB that all I have to do to remedy that is open the pantry. Or look at Skadi's "bedroom". Or think about where we would put our guests who visit.

I waffle in what a good house for us is. Do we take the path suggested by many who have made money in real estate to buy the biggest and best house you can afford? Or do we go the economical route and go with good enough to get us by. Do we build and get *exactly* what we want - gourmet kitchen and all. Or do we listen to what everyone has told us about the headache that is and wait and wait until we find our dream home? What if we never find our dream home? Is a dream home realistic? What are we doing?

Leif also decided the other day that he isn't sure he wants a new house. One of the houses we saw this past weekend had lots of very neat toys for a boy just older than Leif. He was sure we would buy the house based off of this. When we told him no, this house wouldn't be ours a switch went off and he has since decided it wouldn't be a good idea to get a new house. Even he has started waffling.

I am hoping that by the end of the day Friday we will have gathered enough information to start narrowing down our path forward. We are looking at about six houses - two of which AB and I are both very interested in based off of size, styles and locations. Others we feel probably aren't for us, but that we need to see to check off the list. And really... who knows - maybe they are for us - a few photographs only say so much. After we look at houses we have a meeting with the builder of the Parade Home.

I am really hoping that by the end of the day Friday that AB and I have decided on a direction to go with regards to a new home.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Sunday after Christmas

I probably should be removing the ornaments from the Christmas tree and making an attempt to put stuff away. But after standing in the kitchen most of the day so far making chicken pot pies I think I will take advantage of the last half hour to hour that Skadi is sleeping.

Christmas was great. This year and last we made the decision to stay in our home for Christmas. As our kids approach that age where Santa is a big thing, we want them to 'wake bright and early and rush for their toys' (and the noise, noise, noise, noise) in our own home.

This year there was no disappointment with this. We finally woke Leif at 8am after his sister had already located her gift from Santa. Leif came out and jaw dropped open when he saw his Legos Coast Guard set with the "saving helicopter" and he said, "that is EXACTLY what I asked Santa for, EXACTLY and I love it!" He was so very excited and it was so funny hearing his squeaky little tired voice exclaim his excitement.

I started shopping early this year and while it was convenient to spread out the damage... I am not sure it was really the best idea since I started pulling out stuff that I had forgotten about and my kids had freakish sized mounds of presents to open.

Leif's highlights: his Santa present - the "saving helicopter", and two foam bow and arrow sets. He enjoys the ice cream shoppe Play-Doh set from N (I *can't* believe we didn't have anything like this to this point!), a set of walkie talkies from grandma, a charades game from C (why does everything he imitates look like a tree?) and a number of books to add to his huge collection.

Skadi's highlights: her kitchen and loads of plastic food to go with it, her easel and ALL the accessories (she has been begging to paint, but we keep relegating her to the chalkboard side for now), a new baby doll from her cousins, Nina Ballerina (bought after she flipped out over it when we gave it to one of her friend's for her 2 year old birthday) and lots of new books for her too.

I am seeing a side to Skadi that after raising a boy, is hard to register with me. Her girl side. Her use of the word "pretty" is frequent - "pretty Skadi", "pretty dress", "pretty jimmies"... everything is pretty. Sure I love the girly clothes, but to this point a lot of the toys she has enjoyed playing with are her brother's toys. Nina Ballerina was one of the first stereotypical "girl" toy that isn't a doll that I have bought for her.

Anyways, back to Christmas.

My highlights were a pair of foot duvets from Restoration Hardware that I am loving as well as a point and shoot camera! I love my Canon SLR, but I really want to be able to slip a camera in my pocket when we are doing something active. My husband bought me an 10.1Mp Olympus that is shock proof (I can drop it and it won't break!) and water proof (as in I can actually take pictures underwater with it (up to 10 feet underwater). Very nice. And I will also give huge kudos out for my brand new orange silicone rolling pin - I just made 6 chicken pot pies and my rolling pin didn't fall apart!

Leif bought me a pair of red satin pajamas covered in hearts. ;-) AB said he tried to steer him to a different color, style and fabric - but Leif was sold on them! I love them because Leif loves them. Leif also found a rainbow striped scarf for me from - as AB put it - some teeny bop store. Apparently he saw it, was drawn to it and insisted he buy it for me.

AB scored a lot of tools and random small things. I think his favorite present - or the one seeing the most use right now - is the mug/bowl that Leif painted yellow for him and stamped with red monsters.

We had a VERY white Christmas, which was thoroughly awesome. But we have had a quick warm up and our formerly white Christmas is now a flooded backyard. Seeing the disappearance of white put me in a little bit of a funk this morning. I really was enjoying the snow.
Our Christmas meals were great - AB smoked a prime rib and I made a pumpkin cake that was good. My cinnamon rolls were a flop this year - I am blaming the yeast I bought that was an unfamiliar brand and didn't let my rolls do their second rise in the fridge overnight like they usually do. Instead we ate cinnamon rocks for breakfast and my family was a good sport and never mentioned them being anything less than delicious!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Cold turkey

I am not, will not, can not go shopping tomorrow.

I do not want to hear about great deals at stores. No deep discounts. No 75% off. No way no how.

Can't do it.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the night before Christmas...

And all through the house a couple creatures were stirring...

-AB is assembling a little red kitchen set right now. All 36 wooden pieces of it. I haven't heard one curse word yet, it must be Christmas!

-I noted that toy makers *might* have gotten the hint this year when I opened Skadi's so far favorite toy from Auntie V and family. The twist ties holding the items in perfect place were actually somewhat easier to remove than previous years. This took how long to figure out?

-Leif asked yesterday for a menorha (I had to check the spelling on that since I kept thinking I was typing something that would easily be interpreted as something else). I told him that yes, we could get a menorha for next year. I will be looking for one on clearance - do they sell those on clearance? Next year I will need to bone up on my Jewish traditions - I did take a class on this and all in college - and figure out what we are supposed to do with it. In the interest of cultural enlightenment for my kids and all.

-There is a little silver pole sticking up on the kitchen - AB is crusing along!

-I got a Christmas card from a long lost friend today that filled my heart with happiness for him as it had a picture of he and his fiance. And wow... I KNEW he would marry a gorgeous woman. I knew it. And a suit! My mowhawked leather jacket wearing high school best friend had a suit on. Nice suit at that...

-AB had perfect timing this evening as he headed to the garage to retrieve the kitchen (that still has 15 pieces lying on the floor over there - I could go help...) the garage door slammed as it always does at precisely the moment that Leif was listening for reindeer. Kudos for the perfect timing.

-I told Leif I hoped he gets everything he wishes for tomorrow. He won't - he has been asking for guns and I am not buying guns nor are they allowed in my house (squirt "guns" excepted). He responded to me that he hopes I get everything I wish for too. I already have sweet boy. (And I expect that my wish for good health for our friends in the coming year will be granted too.)

-AB announced he is on step 10 of 24. Those last steps are always quick... aren't they?

-I lost a present this year. Yep, lost it. I got Leif the absolute coolest YELLOW carabiner watch from Garnet Hill. I KNOW he will love it. Cannot find the thing to save my life. It either got tossed in one of the many boxes that will be broken down for recycling, or is still in my closet. In which case I am hoping we find it. It would just be ignored tomorrow in favor of the toys though - wouldn't it?

-Leif was testing Santa this evening. I used the line, "do I need to have a talk with Mina (the elf) - she is still at our house you know!" more often than I have probably used it in the last month. I don't know what came over my son. But I expect tomorrow it will be 10x worse, won't it? Don't answer that.

-Why are my hands so dry? Exactly how many times do I need to put lotion on them in one day.

-I hope my cinnamon rolls turn out. I have resorted to using yeast exactly once a year - for the most delicious cinnamon rolls ever on Christmas morning. And each year I am amazed at how easy the really are and how well they turn out and I resolve to make them more than once a year. But I never do.

-I took one for the team tonight. Leif counted out SEVEN carrots for the reindeer. I tried to get him to tell me which reindeer was getting gypped - who doesn't get a carrot? But he looked at my blankly. Anyways, I bit each carrot to leave just a bit on the plate so Leif could see remnants. I don't eat carrots - particularly uncooked carrots. They fall on my list (at least the bottom) of my three despised foods - watermelon, followed by cucumbers, collowed by carrots. Still I bit seven carrots and lived to tell the tale.

-Piece number 38 is MIA - I am on a mission. Be right back. (Apparently there are MORE than 36 pieces, I quizzed AB about this piece number a few times - until he got annoyed with me.)

-I am getting my coveted foot duvets for Christmas. A box came from Restoration Hardware today! (AB listened to me whine all last year about not having foot duvets from Restoration Hardware.)

-No luck on piece number 38. Not in the box.

-Santa is right now in Missoula, Montana! He is getting VERY close!

-"Santa may get here before I am done," AB announced.

-I suppose I could go read while AB finishes up since helping him and offering advice will not bring good cheer. Someone tell me that "Eat, Pray, Love" is really worth it, because the first few pages aren't drawing me in.

-Yes AB... she will REALLY love it.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a GOOD night.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The ice

We have had some serious snow and cold here the last week or so. And it just keeps going on and on, more snow and more cold.

I love it.

I hauled the kids and the dog out with two sleds in tow this afternoon and we had a great time even though I wondered if I was going to keel over a few times as I pulled them back to the house, both kids on one sled, carried the other sled, and hiked home (since we headed out on foot). Even with Skadi standing there shivering she kept saying, "more sled now". MUST get Leif's old snowsuit out of the attic for her.

I snapped some pictures this evening. Not of the snow. But of the ice. These are some giant icicles on our house that envelope our Christmas lights. Really cool effect.



New skis?

There is a suspicious gift under our tree - or actually leaning on the wall next to the tree. Leif and I wrapped it today. I didn't open it for him to see what was actually in there out of fear he would divulge this most fascinating gift to AB. So I knew he couldn't spill the beans.

AB was examining the gift this evening and I suggested he ask Leif what's in the package.

"Skis!" Leif exclaimed!

Much to AB's disappointment... no he isn't getting new skis for Christmas!

Santa!! (And Elmo)

video

Silent Night

Well we are working on it...
video

Monday, December 22, 2008

Our path to a new house

I gave a brief thought about starting a different blog for house stuff. Then I laughed. I am having a hard enough time keeping up with two active blogs. So if you don't want to wade through house post - click away.

Our real estate agent came back with shocking news this afternoon. The Parade Home that we would like built on the corner view lot in Badger Den? "About the same price" as the Parade Home.

I was glad this conversation was not in person as my agent would have gotten a view of my tonsils.

You see this is a view lot in a great location and the other lot was a great location, but a view of a drainage pond and neighboring houses. Sure when you think about it there are things that were probably added to the Parade Home price - like probably landscaping, most new houses around here include minimal (i.e., front yard only) landscaping. Fencing is another. The media equipment in the media room. The wine fridge in the bar. All the extras - drawer knobs and pulls, custom window coverings, basically all the things that make it a Parade Home and not just another house for sale.

AB and I rely on my FIL's advice on houses and loans a lot. He is in the mortgage loan business and has made a lot of money in real estate. He has advised us to keep our house as a rental and we have had a number of people concur with this stating it would be a great rental property. We will refinance this house and buy another.

His advice is to start talking to the builder - because another surprise is that they could have the new house built in 4 months - however, still look around. We do have about 10 more houses we need to see before making our decision. But comparable quality houses of the same style - rambler with a walk out basement are selling for $100K more in the same general neighborhood. However, we haven't seen them... yet.

And I am not kidding myself that our home probably will cost more than the Parade home once I add two walls to make a 5th (small) bedroom in the basement instead of a huge wetbar, move one wall to make a larger walk in closet (it was obviously designed by a man), have a laundry chute or dumbwaiter put in (because I am not hauling laundry from the Master across the house, down a flight of stairs and back across the house when the laundry room is below the Master to start. Sort of. Oh and the kitchen - I plan to kill the eat in area and extend the island for both a larger work area and a place to put some bar stools since the dining room is like steps away. And I don't have a cafe type table or want a cafe type table in that tiny area.

But other things we may decide to kill to save money on - no fancy wooden inlays in the bamboo hardwood. Built in office components not really necessary. AB is considering killing the deck and having his brother(s) come out and help build a deck themselves. And we *can* do the landscaping ourselves... I suppose.

One thing we are excited about with this builder is the house is Energy Star compliant and "green built". Important things!


And before I get too far down this road I do need to e-mail the list of homes we still want to see to the agent. Though my FIL did advise starting to sit down with the builder here soon.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Recent pictures

Leif sledding.


The wuss kids in the snow. They are not related to me. They whined the entire time we were outside.


Skadi's Christmas party.






















She returns!

The peppy post-doc privy to pink. Add in her horrible tendency to wear pants that were way too small.

Yes, Miss Pink!

She left a year or so ago, but one of my manager friends has hired her permanently now for... yes, you guessed it... to work on my project! I don't actually get a say in who he hires since he isn't even in my directorate. But one of the lead scientists on my project is in his directorate and needs more hands. Hence pink post-doc is back - as a scientist.

Honestly I am thrilled. It is nice to have a "known" variable as I see my project exploding. And she is a smart one.

I commented to a coworker the other day that I was embarrassed to be thrilled to have her simply because of her ability to sit down, write out a reaction, push electrons and me tell what would happen. Yes, I am just jealous. I am not an organic chemist at all and was routinely stumped with reaction diagrams. Thankfully Schrodinger appealed to my senses a little better and my math skills kicked in giving me a future in chemistry.

Good blog fodder is on deck for January! Really, I do like her a lot...

Catching up

It's been awhile since I have felt my blogging mojo. I was worried it got up and went. But seems it was just a momentary lapse and I have a whole list of things to blog about now. My biggest obstacle is time.

Since we returned from Colorado I have been very busy with work (in a good way), getting ready for that big holiday that is lurking just around the corner and just trying to keep up with the daily grind. Oh and not to mention we have undertaken a new task... finding a new home to buy.

So while the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese cooks, Skadi sleeps, Leif and AB are outside shoveling snow (Leif is trying to sled down our driveway that has no slant to it), I will get on it.

I have found my love for this time of year again. I was worried I was going to have a funk of a holiday season. This has never really happened to me, but I was seeing how easily people could slip into this. Then Leif found his love for Christmas, Skadi started screaming "SANTA", and it started snowing. And snowing.

And it's snowing right now!

So first bit of news is that we were gently nudged off the fence with regards to buying a new house. It didn't take much pushing to get us moving since this is something we have wanted/needed for a long time. We have come to know the market in the area pretty well over the last almost a year or so as we frequent open houses and drive around dreaming. We have met a number of real estate agents and this last week we picked one. Or two actually. A husband-wife team with kids our kids ages who are really nice people. And they seem to get us and understand what we are looking for.

Thursday they came over to start the market analysis on our home and Friday we went out and looked at five houses with them. We hit one more yesterday.

After seeing six houses AB and I both agreed on what needs to be done.

We needed to make an offer on a Parade Home we visited in September.

Unfortunately for us our agent told us Friday night that the house was under contract and set to close on Monday.

It was probably good that we felt the strong sense of missing out and regret for not having moved on the house because it emphasized to us what we want in a house. And we may have stumbled upon the better alternative - a view lot in a local neighborhood owned by the builder of the Parade Home. It is a most awesome lot - an end lot on a "loop" where the only people accessing the loop will be the people living there. The houses "below" are a good grade down the hill and so nobody to impair the view.

Our agent is on the case and will hopefully get us information here soon that will help us decide if we are building. In the meantime we are listing the things we would change in the Parade Home - we have no need for a wet bar in the basement of the size they built - we would rather have another bedroom. AB is insisting the theater room stays, though he is finding other places to cut expenses as we are pretty sure the price tag is going to come in higher than that of the Parade Home given the view lot.

We are on pins and needles waiting and are hoping not to be disappointed.

All in all though, we are doing great here. We are looking forward to a wonderful Christmas with a great meal (providing we don't get snowed in and have to make do with what we have in the house). Ok and we wouldn't be snowed in - AB and I are quite versatile in the snow. However, we have been here when the town was shut down due to snow. AB is smoking a prime rib, which makes me drool just thinking about it. We will have broccollini (and the kids will rejoice in their favorite vegetable - seriously), mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls, some fabulous wine and Pioneer Woman's pumpkin cake (sans raisins of course) for dessert.

Rhinos and polar bears oh my!

Leif in the car the other morning.

Leif: "Will daddy take a gun and hunt for rhinoceros?"

NM: "No honey." (Wondering in my head why he thinks AB hunts - AB has only really hunted for ducks maybe once he reminds Leif routinely.)

Leif: "I think he should hunt for rhinoceroses so I can eat rhino meat. I like rhino meat a lot!"

NM: "Do you? I have never had rhino meant."

Leif: "Well if daddy won't hunt for it I am sure he will buy some at the grocery store."

----------

At dinner last night.

NM: "What are you studying in school Leif?"

Leif: "Polar bears!"

AB: "Did you know that I have seen a polar bear Leif?"

Leif: "No! Did you have your sword or gun?"

AB: "Well someone I was with had a gun, but it shot fireworks to scare the bear away."

Leif: "Oh, polar bears are bad." (Wheels are turning... guns that shoot fireworks?)

AB: "They aren't bad, they are beautiful."

Leif: "Nope, they are bad."

Discussions to assess whether or not polar bears are bad or not.

NM: "Well what animals are good then?"

Leif: "Monkeys and they are beautiful too."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I live Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

It is a given that when we get into the car, Leif asks for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. This has gone on for a few weeks now since he knows every.single.word for it. Except of course for the names of the reindeer. His version goes something likes this:

"You know Dancer and Dancer and Dancer and Vixen, Comet and Stupid and Donner and Blitzen". And if you sing it, you better hit Donner, because 9 times out of 10 - even if you did get Donner, he's going to tell you that you didn't.

John Denver sings Rudolph on the Rocky Mountain Christmas cd in my car. So instead of getting to listen to "Aspenglow" or "Christmas for Cowboys", it is Rudolph... over and over again. (Leif did tell me he also liked "Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas" the other day, but I didn't tell AB this.)

I know. I could say no. And ensue the whining. But truth be told it is easier to hit the back button repeatedly and endure.

Leif seems to not have a problem listening to a song over and over and over and over again. He might get this from me. And like it drives Skadi up the wall and she starts whining when she has had enough Rudolph, AB tends to start whining when I play songs over and over and over and over again.

There's only one other person I know who has a tolerance for this... and I discovered it during The Vandals stage of my teenage years (wow they look old now)... when we successfully drove her boyfriend literally up the wall in a little blue VW Rabbit.

Monday, December 15, 2008

AB and the chickens

We both have our "things" that we refuse to cook. I have overcome a few of my fears in the kitchen... namely rice (amazing what moving to sea level has done for my rice cooking abilities) and pie crusts (I am now the queen pie crust maker). What I don't do is cook steak and I don't buy fish. Those fall in AB's realm.

Before dinner on Sunday AB declared once and for all that he is never cooking a whole chicken ever again. Ever. And I assured him that he would never have to cook a whole chicken again! Because I won't let him!

Roasting a chicken really is an art - cooking the entire chicken through without burning the skin, drying out the breast or undercooking the thigh. AB's fear lies in the last part - uncooked chicken seriously freaks my poor husband out.

Ok, he has a point. I certainly don't want to ingest the stuff.

I think I understand my husband's neuroses here. He cooks fabulous meat. Really he does. Roasts, tri-tip, filet mignon, every type of fish imaginable, pork loin and tenderloin and oh... ribs... the ribs...

Given this there should really be one meat out there that confounds him. You can't master everything can you?

In AB's case it is the roasted whole chicken.

(Insert chicken joke of choice.)

Recent pictures

I like this picture. AB and I were busy around the house and I happened to walk by and see Skadi by the tree. She was so quiet and peaceful sitting there examining the presents.



Then she quickly figured out the presents weren't just for decorations. You could open them. This ended the pretty photo shoot pretty quickly and made me glad I happened upon her before ALL the presents were unwrapped.



Making cookies.



The trip to see the most unfriendly Santa ever. Maybe if he had shown some interest in the kids Skadi wouldn't have melted down? Just maybe...


Leif and C at the Polar Express reading. Our kids were SO good. They were quiet, paid attention and when Hank was handing out bells they politely waited their turn instead of rushing up with their hands outstretched.



How to top a 9' tall tree...



Why does my little boy not look so little here?





My personal comedy show

Not a day goes by that Leif doesn't completely crack me up. He doesn't get this from me - I am not quick on my feet with speaking.

We were in the car driving home this evening.

NM: "Leif what did you do today?"

Leif: "I will tell you when we get home and not a moment before."

A little while later...

Skadi: "Moooommmmmyyyy, supper time!"

NM: "Skadi baby are you hungry?"

Skadi: "YES!"

Leif: "I am too, but I don't want Mexican food. We always have to have Mexican food and I am TIRED of it."

(And for the record we have tacos maybe once every two weeks and order take out Mexican about once a month.)

A little later...

Leif: "Hey mom, you know my crocodile that shoots water out of the two holes in his nostrils in the bathtub?"

NM: "Yep."

Leif: "I am going to rename him."

NM: (Not realizing the crocodile had a name to start with.) "What are you changing his name to?"

Leif: "Squirting crocodile of Hannukah."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The music of Christmas

So I promised a post of substance. And well I am not sure this will qualify, but it isn't a diary type post.

I have probably blogged about my favorite Christmas song before, but just a quick recap. I have a special affinity in my heart for John Denver. (My husband is screeching and writhing in pain.) I suppose it comes from growing up near the Rocky Mountains and either near or in Colorado much of my life. Plus, my parents played his albums (yes, vinyl lp's).

I was and am still a huge fan of the John Denver and the Muppets Christmas Together. I had it on vinyl as a kid, on tape and then about a decade ago I bought it on cd. My parents bought John Denver's Rocky Mountain Christmas when I was a kid. It was more "serious"... except for the whole "Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas" song. Which my sister and I just laughed at. Now I realize how sad it really is...

Anyways. My favorite Christmas song ever is "Christmas for Cowboys" off of this cd.



Despite the fact that I have never been impressed by anything remotely cowboy-ish, this song speaks to me. It reminds me of my childhood growing up in Wyoming and then in Colorado. It's everything to me that Christmas should be - the gift of the sky, stars, the wind singing and the snow on the plains.

Now let's jump to the flip side.

My least favorite song. AB tells me that my disdain for this song may be a little... hmmm... not wrong really... but off? The song had such intentions to be good and do good things. But to me it shows such incredible self centered views of the rest of the world and the strife in other nations and the strange notion that we know it all and can fix it all.



This song makes me nearly ill.

Aside from the images of the Georges (Boy and Michael) singing as if they have any notion whatsoever of what is going on around the world. The song just misses the mark and I am continually amazed that people actually remake this song. (Hello BNL... I was so disappointed.)

No, they do not know it is Christmas and they probably don't care because most are not Christian.

"Feed the World, let them know it's Christmastime". First off, let's not just feed the world because it is time to be generous, let's work at it year round. But even moreso, throwing food at the problem is not a solution since the main problem is getting the food to the people. But maybe we didn't know this in the mid-80's.

And the line that I have a major problem with is, "well tonight thank God it's them instead of you". This is like praying to win the lotto. Instead of thanking heaven that someone else is the one starving how about being grateful for all we have been given in our lives.

Poor AB... he knows when this song comes on (which it invariably does since I keep my XM Radio on XM Holly quite often) he gets to hear my rants and raves.

I threw in another one the other day... Bandaid... I can't believe they named the group Bandaid, because it is like putting a Bandaid on something will fix it. Wrong, Bandaids just cover it up.

Then AB pointed out that it was Band Aid and the goal was to get Bands together to provide Aid.

Ok, he may be right there. But that doesn't make me like the song anymore!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wrapping my head around it all

This is going to be one of those random posts. I really intend to get back to posting somthing more than stream of consciousness posts soon here. (I have one in the works about my least favorite Christmas song that will thrill AB because he will no longer be the sole recipient of my heated vent....) But right now stream of consciousness is about where my head is. So bear with me through this post. Or click away because I don't have anything earth shattering or profound to report.

I think I could be emerging from my holiday funk. Something about singing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" every night with Leif in the car has helped. And hearing Skadi squeal "SANTA" repeatedly on the way home helps too! I love that she points to the Christmas tree and proclaims, "pretty".

It has been a weird week and out of the ordinary things continue to pop up. Some good, some not so good.

High:
I have been nearly buried at work since returning on Thursday. Relief came on Monday at noon when my proposal was finally out of my hands. I have had a good start to FY09 with proposal writing. Four major proposals out to two agencies. All made the first cut. Two are pending thumbs up or down for funding and two are pending a second cut for full proposal - the despised format - 20 pages. If they both make it I will be seriously banging my head against the wall. All this aside from my big project that just doubled in size again. Loved hearing my client say, "I went ahead and doubled your project management budget, you are going to need it."

Low:
Skadi has seemed happy to return to school, if not a little "exuberant" about her return. As her teacher put it... "she is in a great mood, but for some reason thinks that everyone needs to be tackled, hit, pinched or bitten". Which sounds freakishly like her cousin who she spent a fair amount of time with in Colorado. I love my nephew... but wow is he rough. It would be terribly boring if everyone was raised the same, my way isn't the only way, but something is so not working there and I fear that the pending divorce isn't going to help the situation out at all. And I will leave that there.

High:
We got our family pictures! My SIL did a really fantastic job on them and I can't wait to get the prints we ordered.

Plain Weird:
I have really enjoyed recently reconnecting with old friends through Facebook and occasionally Classmates. Ever have one of those contacts though that just throws you for a loop? Yeah, I have had a few of those lately. Another statement I will just leave there - at least for right now.

High:
One funny episode today - I had my first "celebrity sighting". Ok, I am boosting myself up by calling it that. But I actually met a guy whose first statement to me while shaking my hand is, "I love your blog, we have a three year old son and..." I think I must have had the most bewildered look on my face when he told me this.

Low:
And some bad news came this evening when we have learned that one of our closest friends in the area has recently been diagnosed with a form of cancer. We are hoping and praying for a complete recovery.

High:
Leif has turned into a really pleasant little boy this December. I am quite sure it is Mina the Elf's oversight in our house and the slight mention of Santa's pending visit. But something has clicked with him and the kids is just tops.

Plain Weird:
That would be my husband's Christmas party Saturday night. The food was abysmally bad and apparently we missed the annual drunken brawl. Darn.

High:
One of my closest girlfriend's is pregnant with her second baby which just thrills me to pieces! New baby smell on its way next summer!

Low:
I had to go to management about one of my friends. Hate that. She was assigned a task by a client. She was reminded of the task by sector management. She was reminded about the task by line management. I pinged her a few weeks ago. Dropped the ball completely. Maybe even dropped off the face of the earth as I have not heard word one from her. I hated to do it, but I presented the issue to management and they are pursuing it. Ugh. I guess it is something I need to get used to as PM. I am not always the nice one.

High:
After Charter Communications completely messed up our phone service (low, btw) we should be up and running with our same home phone in a few days. Thank you Vonage.

I am starting to feel less overwhelmed by the holiday season. Controlling it and organizing it. It is within my grasp.

This week: Secret Santa gifts will go out and I will continue wrapping.
Saturday: Trip to hear the Polar Express read by a friend, pictures with Santa.
Sunday: Christmas cookie decorating. Nanaimo bars. Christmas cards finished.
Next week: Remainder of gifts mailed and cards will go out.

I think I have decided to take the week of Christmas off (unless those two proposals make the cut). My plan is to work on getting stuff done around the house, buy groceries for a Christmas feast, and take one day to devote it to spending with Leif. We are going to go see a movie and hang out together. When Skadi is older I will plan to do this with her too - one day for each kid completely devoted to them on their day. I can't wait!

Monday, December 08, 2008

A caroling we will go

Every year the primary classes from Leif's school go around to a few of the buildings near their school and they carol. The parents tag along and crowd in for pictures.

Up until this year I have never had an idea of what songs Leif is learning at school until I actually get there. Skadi is a little more transparent and tends to completely freak out waving her hands wildly when "Jingle Bells" comes on.

I knew that Leif was learning "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" since the other day he told me he needed help to learn the song. So we have been singing it and reciting the reindeer names.

Tonight on the way home I asked him what other songs he is learning. He immediately launched into "Must be Santa".

You know, "Who's got a beard that's long and white? Santa's got a beard that's long and white!"

My favorite line though was, "Who wears a suit of bread? Santa wears a suit made of bread!"

All I want for Christmas

I am normally one of those happy go lucky holiday nutty people who can't get enough Christmas.
This year things seem a little off.

When I get in my car it is miles before I realize that I have been listening to XM Radio's ads instead of pushing the button to get the Christmas music. (Since for some stupid reason the temporary stations don't save and come on when you turn the car off and on again. Leif would have told me I said a bad word using "stupid" above.)

Our decorations went up this weekend.

AB hauled the tree out of the garage and set it up before we got home on Friday. We have decided to leave the 1990's and ditch the icicle lights in favor of a slightly more sleek look. I have had a thing for big colored lights for the house since I was a kid and my dad would put up our one string of big lights on the house (that would start burning out a week after installation). So AB went to Costco in search of my request. He found zip for lights and decorations there.

We hit Lowes after swimming lessons and found a single box of LED lights - already opened - for $19.95.

I don't think so.

I was about ready to give up and suggest a return to 1990 for this year only - with a resolution to buy lights early next year when directly in front of me at the grocery store were boxes of big LED colored lights for $5. I cannot believe I bought our Christmas lights for the house at the grocery store of all places. But I stocked up because whenever we buy lights invariably one of us ends up heading back out for a second pass since we can't seem to add.

AB and Leif spent a fair amount of time outside this weekend putting lights up while I worked on the inside.

And worked.

And worked.

We have a problem. The formal dining room, turned play room is just not big enough for our 9' tall tree, other Christmas decorations AND my Christmas village (not to mention all the other stuff in there... buffet, fish tank, shelves with games, rocking chair, boxes of books and cases of wine).

And I just don't have anywhere else in the house to put stuff.

I thought about ditching the village this year. But the trip to Lowe's defeated that idea. Leif is freakishly excited about the village and even "bought by himself" a lobster boat to go with the set. He was adamant that he was buying the lobster boat for the whole family for the village. Hearing him declare this made me beam inside.

Of course the $9.95 came out of our checking account. Minor details.

So instead of the weekend of decorating being a time of joy and happiness, I felt rushed (feeling so behind this year) and frustrated by either the amount of stuff we have or the size of our house. Honestly, it is a little of both.

I cleared out the formal dining room/playroom and moved 50% of the toys (the Geotrax and the bookshelf of games stayed) into the living room and Skadi's room. Minor problems then ensued... I have no place to put Skadi's hamper. And my living room is covered with toys that have no other place to go.

Oh and the newly formed Christmas room? Packed. Boxes of books on one side of the room and the opposite corner has cases of wine in the other corner. Not that I am complaining - books and wine - two of my favorite things. But the lack of space is getting to me.

And where exactly am I supposed to put the containers that held the Christmas items? I suppose I could send them back up to the attic (AB says he needs to go up and retrieve our lighted reindeer he forgot up there), or put them in the garage (and relegate AB once again to driveway parking JUST when our garage was cleaned out), or leave them behind the couch.

Sigh.

What this weekend really did, aside from frustrate me, was to reinforce that notion that a new house is no longer just a luxury, but bordering on a necessity. We have a complete lack of storage space and are just plain running out of room.

All I want for Christmas is a new house.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Our Colorado Thanksgiving Vacation in Pictures










Snowballs!













My dad and sister with Leif.






Look up...

Skadi's new favorite animal.

Cousin Celeste carrying Skadi


Cousin Celeste and Skadi - check out the fish above their heads.













My grandmother and Leif

Thursday, December 04, 2008

"I want a pony."

We were driving home from the airport and had a conversation that went something like this:

Leif: "I want a fruit roll up."

NM: "We don't have a fruit roll up, wait till we get home, we will be there in minutes."

Leif: "I want a fruit roll up."

NM: "No Leif."

Leif: "I want a fruit roll up."

AB: "Yeah, well I want a pony." (Typical response.)

Leif: "You can't have a pony, nobody can."

NM: "Just like no one can have a fruit roll up right now."

Leif: "But Daddy wants a pony."

AB: "Yeah, so are you going to get me one for Christmas?"

Leif: "No, I already got you a big cup and painted it yellow."

Sigh.

I thought that once we made it past that 48 hours point, we were golden. But I guess I should be amazed that he kept the secret for two and a half weeks! I had figured he had forgotten about it.

Top Chef Sighting

So we were in line for boarding for the Seattle to home flight. I tend to see a lot of people I know given that we live in a small town - but never anyone actually "famous".

But if Stephanie from Top Chef posts on her blog that a little red haired girl screamed most of the last leg of her flight to her latest cooking demonstration this weekend, that would be my girl.

RAB told me that Stephanie was cooking this weekend in a neighboring town. And there she was boarding the same flight as us. AB and I both contemplated saying something to her. Something like "so glad you won, we were rooting for you all along!" or " which wineries are you cooking at?" or just the typical fan stuff, "hi Stephanie, I am a huge fan, do you want to come cook at my house tonight? We were going to have Top Ramen and grilled cheeses, but I am sure you could do better."

Instead we just smiled at her.

And she smiled back.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

One of my less than intelligent purchases

A few nights ago it dawned on me that Leif had grown out of 75% of his pajamas. I went and dug into some Christmas presents and magically produced two pairs of Star Wars Clone Wars pajamas. One pair was just a normal pair that we started with, but I realized later that it was either going to be a trip out to buy pajamas or pull out the "extra special" pair.

The pair with the blinking red "laser" sewn into the front that blinks whenever the pajamas move.

Leif was beyond thrilled.

Then last night he insisted on wearing them again.

And then there was the statement that he was never going to wear any other pajamas ever again.

What WAS I thinking?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ch-ch-ch-changes

My kids are changing everyday, and while it can be fun to watch, it is also scary to see time flying so quickly.



Leif asked me to measure him the other day. So we went over to the wall with tick marks and names and dates, he backed up against it and my jaw dropped open. I have trouble carrying him now. He normally wears one size an entire year - he shouldn't be growing out of his size 4's yet. I shouldn't be buying size 5/6 pajamas yet? Then I looked at where his new tick mark was - a good five inches above the one from July 6th. He is a few inches shy of four feet tall.


Leif has an extensive vocabulary (tonight he used the word "interactive"), he is learning new games (we played both Charades and I Spy last night - now really... shouldn't an "eagle" fall into the same category as a "bird" when playing Charades?) and he has started learning to read at school now that he has mastered his letter sounds.


Since moving to his new room Leif has settled down, become friendlier with kids, is keeper and enforcer of "the rules", and has hit a stride academically. The teachers have identified what he likes for rewards - afternoon visits to Rainbow Room to see his good friend, N. He was particularly proud of himself the other day when he told me that he had his third straight day of visiting Rainbow Room for good behavior. And I know his room well enough to know that this has to be STELLAR behavior from him to warrant the reward.


I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Leif still has "issues" with listening - though his very observant head teacher is pretty sure that it isn't willful defiance or him simply ignoring or deciding it isn't what he wants to do. Instead she has pointed out a few cues that are indicative that he is a visual learner and that to help him to learn we just need to modify the way we teach him a little. She explained to me that Leif is more than willing to do what she shows him and will master things very quickly, however has a lot of trouble processing being told what to do. She went on to classify him as "extremely intelligent" and expects him to be fully reading in a few months.


I keep thinking back to when Leif was Skadi's age (20 months) and AB and I found out we were expecting another baby. Yeah, so not going down that road right now. Our life is busy enough as is!


And I am enjoying my sleep.

Did you read that? Sleep!!


*Knocking on wood.*


The last two nights Skadi has slept through the night (well until 5am) in her crib. And total that is 3 of the 4 last nights she has slept through the night. We are on a good track here... just in time to totally mess her up by flying and staying in a new house on an air mattress. Wouldn't it figure?


I will be optimistic though. Here's hoping that she decides she LIKES sleeping through the night and does at my mom's house and then gets up and hangs out with grandma and Bompa giving mommy and daddy some extra snooze time!!

Skadi is such a different creature than Leif. I say that and then think of all the things that are very similar with the two of them.


One thing that warms my heart is seeing my kids interact. Skadi loves copying Leif and doing what he does. Last night while he was watching a movie, she crawled up on the couch and layed on him, wrapped her arms around his neck and planted a big wet kiss on his lips. Seeing Leif wrap his arms around her without saying a word and kiss her back on her cheek warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I hope that they will always have a close friendship.


Skadi is mastering more words and has this week learned a very important words, "cupcake". And she prefers chocolate.



Skadi asks for pancakes, she calls Winny, she requests particular "jammies" and will ask for Mahna Mahna whenever she sees me on the computer. She plays lightsabers and swords with Leif or will sit by herself playing Little People. She loves to go outside and really enjoys our evening walks. She has a distinct opinion on what should be on TV (Elmo) though she can't seem to make the time to actually sit and watch on Elmo DVD all the way through, which thrills Leif to pieces.