Monday, July 30, 2007

Damp Cardboard Is Icky

I was considering posting an official blogging hiatus for the next couple months... but I decided to keep trying, despite my total lack of energy.

So here it goes. My weekend, by Cheryl.

While so many of you are partying hardy at the BlogHer conference, I stayed home to be productive. This means taking a three-hour nap every day and reading no less than three paperback novels. The Cat Who Could Read Backwards and The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun and By The Light Of The Moon by Dean Koontz. Very different writing styles, of course, but I'm in a changeable mood. I couldn't decide whether I wanted to dig into a dense Ken Follett, a freaky Koontz, a summertime-reading Rosamunde Pilcher or as-light-as-they-come Braun. Can you tell that I finally unpacked my book boxes? It was an exciting time to unpack all of my old friends... only to find out that we really need more bookshelves. My paperbacks are actually double stacked in double depths right now, but at least they aren't in boxes.

Can I now tell you how much I hate cardboard boxes? Holy cow, I hate them. They are a really bad idea for anybody who lives in a climate susceptible to flooding, humidity and damp basements. A seriously bad idea.

When we bought our house in January, we marveled at how dry and free from water damage the basement was. We even had a receipt from a local dry-basement company to prove that our basement had once passed its rigorous tests. As spring came and the snow melted and the rain happened, we re-evaluated our opinion. Our basement floods. Not deeply, just a half-inch of ground water that seeps in from at least two sides. And though we had put all of our boxes in the center of the basement, they still got wet. And you wouldn't believe how quickly damp cardboard grows mildew and other colorful types of mold. It's really amazing. For the record, we should have noticed that the dry-basement receipt was from seven years ago, and our basement hadn't been serviced since then.

We dedicated two hours each day this weekend to going through boxes. There were about thirty tv-sized boxes down there. Some were ruined, all were dank and damp. And most contained clothes, blankets and pillows. A large majority of the clothes went straight into the wash piles, some were totally ruined and just tossed. We did manage to fill three large duffle bags full of clothes that were clean and didn't totally reek and could safely be donated to our local shelter. It'll be a week-long process, though, as the rest of the items go through the wash and get sorted into winter bins or donation boxes.

Wow, we have lots of junk. We did a cursory sort-through of stuff before we moved, but really, most of the stuff went straight into big boxes to be sorted later. I don't really regret that, but I do regret the use of cardboard boxes... and putting those boxes into the basement instead of our huge totally dry attics. (Plural because it's one-and-a-half stories. The upstairs living area is only the center of the house, twelve feet wide, to avoid having really steep ceilings on the side. The rest of the space is all attic, not insulated, but dry and relatively clean. Two separate areas.)

Going through boxes was interesting. Found lots of thrilling items.
- Tupperware that we still can't figure out the purpose of.
- A ziploc bag with a Darth Vader t-shirt in it ("We can't get rid of that. It's never been worn. It's Darth Vader. It's a collectible. It'll be worth like five bucks someday.")
- My exercise/birthing ball, deflated.
- Various pieces of computer/technological hardware. Odd random items like the face plate to a VCR, pieces of motherboard, etc. Can you tell I married a tech packrat?
- At least a dozen items that could be labeled as protective gear. Shin/elbow guards for Tae Kwon Do, knee braces, jock straps. Who needs three jock straps?
- Lots of embroidery thread. I used to be an avid cross-stitcher. So was my husband. When we married, we combined our treasure trove and promptly gave up the hobby.
- About a hundred pages of "how to write a novel" information I printed from the internet. That all went into the recycling bin.

It was a fun weekend. Lots of bending over to dig in boxes for me, so I had to rest for hours after our sessions, but it was worth it.

In other news, we priced out dehumidifiers for our basement, and totally got sticker shock. Oh my god, those babies are expensive. Especially after we realized that our tires are totally bald and need to be replaced before the snow flies. It's all very depressing to contemplate when we realize that I'll only be working for another five weeks.

My dear HR department made me cry last week. Although I was easily approved for my intermittent family medical leave so I could lie down more and rest when I have contractions, after two weeks, I found out that they weren't really expecting me to use it. In nine days, I used 9 hours of leave, and was given a strict warning. If I keep using the leave as often as I had (about two partial afternoons a week), I'd have to start getting re-certified by my doctor with each "event." 15 dollar co-pay to see my doctor and I'd still be taking the time unpaid. It was very depressing, and I was very upset. I don't really know what I'll do if I keep feeling so awful. I should be going home to rest, but instead, I try holding out here at work and keep downing Tylenol to dampen the pain (but it doesn't help). My husband is mad, and I'm tempted to re-adjust my termination date to something a lot sooner. Oh well. That's life. Only five weeks left.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Newsy Post with Giant Nephew, Boy Wizard and Shaking Belly Syndrome

I participated in an important civic duty this morning. Yup, folks. I didn't try to get a medical exemption from jury duty. I showed up. The fine people in our county clerk of courts office summoned 68 people for a jury trial... and by random luck, I was number 68 of 68. I knew for most of the morning that there was almost no chance in hell I'd get chosen to be on the jury. And of course I wasn't. Shortly before lunch, prospective jurors 27 and above were dismissed.

To tell you the truth, I was mostly annoyed at listening to my fellow citizens bitch and moan about being summoned and how inconvenient it was. Hell yeah, it's inconvenient. And I hope that more employers are like mine and fully compensate employees for time spent on juries. But I was proud to be randomly selected to serve, and I would have been proud to serve the whole 12 days even if it meant that I'd be uncomfortable sitting for so long without breaks and water. I'm done preaching now.

My Anna belly is really active now. She's kicking and punching and squirming a lot. It's even gotten to the point that I can see the movement. My dear husband has only felt a few nudges and some moving from side to side, but even those brief encounters have made him much more interested in my belly. He'll come over by me and start petting my belly to say "hi" to the baby. It's quite sweet, really.

Ben is... well. He's a toddler. What can I say? He's a toddler who is cutting four molars at one time. Just one tip from each molar has cut through so far, and I'm sure his gums are very sensitive and swollen. Not one to complain, he expresses his frustration and bitterness by being naughty and easily annoyed. Last week, he had a meltdown when we came to pick him up from daycare. He wanted to stay there and play with his friends some more. Yesterday, he had a playdate with my boss's son, and he had a total meltdown when we came to pick him up and take him home. This morning, he refused to hug us goodbye at daycare, instead running to hide behind the legs of dear Amber, his caregiver.

Really. We're not getting worried about that. Nope. Not at all. Sure, it seems like he prefers pretty much anyone else over his mommy and daddy, and I've rarely heard of toddlers who do that... but we're not taking it personally. Really. Do you believe me? Or am I not laying the sarcasm on thick enough?

I know it's just a phase and he still loves us. When we finally do get home, he shows us affection. It's just that given the choice right now, he'd rather be elsewhere. Oh well.

Our weekend was fine. My sister and her son came over Saturday afternoon. My dear nephew Gage is 8 months old and 24 pounds. He's already cruising on furniture and is wearing the same size clothes as Ben. He's huge. And Ben loves him dearly. He kept going over to give him hugs, and while Gage was in his walker, Ben enjoyed pushing him around the house. Later, we all went to the public pool to let the kids play... and I actually scored a tan line.

The purpose of my sister's visit was to bring over all of the baby stuff she had at her house. Lots of it was stuff I had given her before Gage's birth. Some was stuff she had acquired at her baby shower. And totes and totes full of baby clothes and opened packs of diapers. A couple of the totes were full of items she's picked up at rummage sales this summer. Lots of stuff for Anna and stuff for Ben this winter. It's nice to have a sister like that.

Chester accused me of glowing and beaming while I went through the stuff for Anna. I couldn't help myself. I'm really excited to have a daughter.

Yesterday we left Ben at my boss's house while we went and saw Harry Potter at the movie theatre. I ate a huge bucket of popcorn and had to get up and pee no less than six times. Despite the constant up and down, I enjoyed myself, and Chester enjoyed having me to himself for the "date." We aren't able to be intimate like we would normally be as a young married couple, if you know what I mean, and while our relationship remains strong, it's easy to forget that we're man and wife when we're not partaking in the pleasures of the flesh. Whoa. TMI. Time for me to stop typing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pity Post

A short post today because I feel guilty for neglecting my blog and it's better than nothing.

Nothing very exciting has happened... unless you count our trip to the library last night after an absence of almost eight months. It resulted in me borrowing audio books to listen to at work while I proof. Conveniently, proofing uses a different part of my brain than needed to follow along a narrative. It also resulted in a rather long chase of Benjamin as he delighted in how quickly he could lose Mommy and Daddy in the maze of books.

Ben's black eye was bit hard by a precious little girl at daycare on Saturday. It makes him look horrible, but he doesn't seem to mind.

There's lots of details to think about when it comes to quitting your job with no intention of finding alternative employment. Like what to do with my 401K. My CPA brother has solved that for me, but it was kind of exciting to have problems like that for a few minutes.

In other news, I'm on intermittent family medical leave now which basically means that I can leave work and go home at any time I need to lay down from the tortuous effects of carrying this precious baby inside of me. Sure, it's unpaid, but at least I won't lose my job on those terms. We can consider it partial bed rest.

Ah well. That's life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The End Date

Well, I kind of did it. I gave my boss a tentative end date. September 7th. I'll give her an official letter of resignation in a couple of weeks, but she's my friend, and I wanted to let her know what I was thinking. I cried.

Anyway. Chester still says I don't have to quit, that we could work something out... but. Well. I have more reasons to leave than I have to stay. My brain is telling me to stay, but my gut and my heart is telling me to leave. So I'll leave. And I'll move on to the next phase of my life where I get to dedicate my life to raising my babies.

If it doesn't work out, I can always come back in another position or find a brand new company to work for. But I don't see that happening.

In other news, Ben got his second black eye last night. He climbed onto his bed and ran, not crawled, up to the head of the bed. And he tripped over his pillow and slammed his face down on his headboard. It was not a happy experience for this small boy.

He learned how to give raspberries (or zerberts, as we call them). He spent about five minutes this morning soaking my bare knee is saliva. I was laughing uproariously. It escalated his excitement so much, though, that he started squealing and biting. So the whole experience ended in a time out and a big old "OWIE" from me.

We had a nice weekend, by the way. We went up north to my parents' house in Minocqua to avoid the heat. Saturday night, we went swimming at a local beach I know of that a lot of other people don't know about, so we were one of three families. Ben got dunked several times. He loved playing in my parents' yard as well.

The work week has been dragging for me. I'm just not feeling "right" emotionally; it's probably just hormones. So yesterday morning I made the decision to take the afternoon off to nap. And I did. And it felt good. But now I have to get back into the whole swing of "work." And knowing that I only have a couple of months left... well. It just feels weird and rather frustrating.

We finally were able to hire someone into the other position in our area... but it wasn't the guy who was a shoo-in to replace me. I'm thrilled that someone will be in the position to take a load off of my boss, since she's been doing 80% of the extra work, but I still wish we had gotten our first choice. He wanted a starting rate of more than what I make, and that's against company policy since I'm above him, so we had to go with our second choice. She's great for the department as a whole, but she doesn't have any background in proofreading.

What makes a good proofreader? An insanely devoted attention to detail and a disgustingly thorough proofing method. I didn't make a lot of friends as a proofreader, since I basically point out everything they do wrong, but at least I made a difference for the company for every "catch" I made.

Friday, July 06, 2007

An Evening At The Park With Ben

I took the afternoon off yesterday. And I napped hard. We also had the pleasure of my mother's company in the evening. My niece Alisha has been spending the week with her. We were going to go to the park to have a picnic, but of course it rained around the time we wanted to leave. So we picnicked in the living room and went to the park later after things had a chance to dry.

And Chester got a new phone from work yesterday. A blackberry pearl that takes decent pictures. So I figured now was a good time for a Benji Photo Essay.

This is a close approximation of Ben's classic "oh" face. Yeah. I know. He's adorable. He was getting very excited about getting to climb up and go down the slides.

Can you taste the excitement and determination?

Oh yeah. That's what I call fun.

Again? Please? More Mamma? Swings?

Here's some more of Ben's joy if you can handle it.

We had a terrific time. This is definitely my favorite age so far.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Facing the Fourth

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to me to be part of a community. My first instinct was to feel guilty because I don't volunteer or participate like I did when I was in college.

Then, because I don't like guilt, I redirected my focus towards not what my ideals are but what my reality is.

I live in the town I was born in. I haven't stayed here my whole life, but I chose to come back and raise my family here. For the most part, the people are friendly and stable. There's a thriving art community and lots of local bands. Plenty of factories and plenty of corporations means that there's a nice cross section of people, both blue collar and white collar.

We're also a community who welcomed Hmong refugees from Laos in the eighties and nineties. Now the Hmong make up ten percent of our population, something I'm proud of. Not many small Midwestern communities would do what we did. And while a lot of the white folks complain about them, I sympathize with the refugees and their families. And I wish I knew their language so I could do more than smile warmly when I see them.

But on a more personal level, I'm looking forward to going to the festivities at the big park in town tomorrow. It'll be fun to show Ben the animals I've been imitating for months. The cow says "moo" and the duck says "quack." The chicken says "cluck/bawk" and the rooster says "cock-a-doodle-doo." The pig says "snort/oink" and the sheep says "baaa-baaa." I never told him how smelly the animals are, so he might actually enjoy them. Goodness knows he likes dirt and stink, being a boy. If ever there was a town-raised young'un who would love some time on a farm, it's my boy.

I don't like crowds and loud noises, but I'm taking Ben to the carnival. On purpose. Without getting drunk. I might shove him on a couple rides with Daddy. I might let him taste the crunchy-gooey heaven that is cotton candy, fresh from the spinner. There might even be a funnel cake in his future.

I want him to see the tradition that we Americans have of gathering together on ridiculously hot days to spend stupid amounts of money on chaotic rides and junk food. I want him to see the mess of people of all kinds and how they interact with each other in the sticky craziness of fairs. I want him to see how proud the 4H kids are of their animals and their produce and their crafts.

I don't expect to enjoy myself, but I do expect to enjoy the look of amazement and curiosity on my son's face. It'll be years before he feels the urge to become housebound hermits like his Mom and Dad.

And to be honest... I really like fair food.