31 August 2012

My Joint was Cased.

Yesterday morning at 6am, my alarm went off and I dragged my particularly tired self out of bed, slipped on some running shoes, and went out to enjoy a sunset along the beach. I was feeling more tired than usual and it was a bit tough to convince myself to exercise, but I knew I'd be glad if I did. As I jogged, I planned out my day and wrote this blog post, which I had envisioned I'd post yesterday as well.

Today was a sleepy day. I wrote in my head. Abigail and I ran to the store this morning before the heat became too intense to score a good deal on back-to-school colored pencils. That's right, colored pencils. The last few times I need some and didn't have any, I had to use crayons and markers instead. It just wasn't the same. A few craft ideas I'd been brainstorming would look best with colored pencils.

The water was so calming, the pink sky a good start to my tired day.

We got home from the store before Abigail's 10am nap. She went down fairly easy. I dove into Day 1 of my read-the-whole-Bible-in-three-years plan that I decided to start. I picked off another article in my most recent National Geographic magazine. Abigail was still napping, so I decided to join the club. I grabbed a pillow and curled up on the couch and was just starting to drift off. Warm sleep enveloped me and I slept until I heard Abigail's soft "Dub dub" announcing that she had rejoined the world.

But before any of that happened, I heard a knock on my door.

Strange, I thought to myself. We have a buzzer system in order to get into the building. No one had buzzed me. I peeped through the peep-hole.

I opened to door to the-man-I'll-call-Vladimir, the maintenance man. He made clear to me in his choppy English that the storage unit in the basement, the one I wanted really badly and finally got, had been broken into last night. Everyone's units were broken into. I needed to file a police report. The unit is part of my building, but only accessible outside, so I ran out the backdoor, and down the fire escape to the room where the storage lockers are located. The door to the basement had been busted up. Someone had wretched away a few pieces of wood and reached inside to open the locked door. I pushed open the destroyed door. All the lights were on. Everyone's storage locker doors were wide open. Clothes and boxes were strewn across the middle of the floor. My eyes immediately went to our locker: empty. Perfectly empty. Just as clean as the day we first stashed our bikes, bike trailer, bike computers. The lock on our unit was perfectly intact. The thieves had just ripped the metal pieces right off the door.

I ran back up to my apartment and called Matt. He sat in stunned silence, so I hung up with him and called my mom. I needed someone to express to me that they understood my loss by freaking out. When I got off the phone with her, I posted a status on Facebook. My friends rallied around me with freak-outs. It was as if everyone else panicking gave me the ability to think clearly. I called the police to file a report and called my auto insurance company to add some renter's insurance to the mix. (Matt and I have carried such insurance from the day we got married and moved into an apartment together, but after surviving three years in hurricane-prone Florida without ever needing it, we opted to save the money and didn't renew when it expired last December.) I dug through old receipts and finances and created an excel spreadsheet to determine the extent of the damage: just under $850. I called Matt again to report how much the robbery had cost us. He freaked out.

When the adrenaline of the afternoon started wearing away, I tried to put Abigail down for a nap when my phone rang. I was hoping it would be quick call, but yesterday wasn't the type of day where I got "quick phone calls." It was an agency we've been dealing with in trying to switch care for Abigail from Florida to Michigan to Illinois. Apparently the person I was dealing with in Florida had no idea what they were doing. The phone call lasted 40 minutes. 40 long, painfully minutes most of which I sat quietly through while the lady who had just received our paperwork read various bits of it aloud to me in an attempt to process it herself. "So, hmmm. Okay, she did have private health insurance during surgery. Hmmm. Okay. No, shit. Shit. What is this? Why didn't she put that in the right spot?!" (Seriously, she was swearing on the phone. How professional.) Meanwhile, Abigail screamed bloody murder in her crib. I finally rescued her from the evils of playing quietly with her toys and sat in the play yard with her while she desperately tried to scale me to grab my phone out of my hands. When the 40 torturous minutes were up, the lady on the phone decided this would be easier if I could just come in to discuss things in person.

Now imagine that while all this is taking place, it's 95 degrees outside and we have no air conditioning. We had slain kitties all over the apartment, sprawled out in areas where there was somewhat of a breeze.

My short-tempered child gets very clingy and irritable when it gets really hot.

And after she made a giant mess of her toys, which took her all of 5 minutes, she just wanted to climb over me and pull my hair. She also wanted to do this instead of letting me make dinner.

And just to make sure I give you all way too much personal information, let's throw in some that-time-of-the-month-girl-issues. And then Matt texted me to let me know he'd be home late. This is a really good summation of how I felt:

The pink rug being my sanity and the hair being a pretty accurate depiction of my hair.

After I'd handled all the responsibilities and let my freak-out buddies return to their regularly scheduled lives, I started realizing the gravity of the robbery. Last night someone scaled the locked fence, busted down the locked door, tore off the locking mechanism to my storage unit and stole $850 worth of my stuff, I thought to myself. I was angry at the thieves as I pictured them wheeling my bike down the alley to a get-away truck. I pictured Abigail's 5-month-old bike trailer sitting in some beat-up garage to some run down house, waiting to get pawned for drug money. I felt the injustice and the unfairness of the entire event. They were the bikes we bought with leftover honeymoon money. It was the bike trailer I spent months saving for - with my Christmas and birthday money. No more biking to Adoration. No more biking to the store when we just need a quick item. The 40 mile bike trail we were training for will go un-biked and the two biking trail maps I downloaded over the weekend will just sit in a file. On top of stealing our bikes, they also stole the storage locker from us. There is no way I'll ever put anything in it again. I just stood there and stared at the empty space where just a day earlier, our bikes had been. 

Sorry the pictures are blurry. The cased joint:

Our unit and lock:

After Matt got home, Abigail went down for the night, and I curled up with a crochet hook, a ball of yarn, and a Hulu.com, I wondered what kind of injustice people must feel if they've had their house robbed, or their car stolen. Or even when someone close to them dies, taken from them in a sense. We are charged with teaching our kids that life isn't always fair, but as adults, we have a hard time dealing with feelings of injustice ourselves.

I'm thankful that they didn't get into any apartments. I'm thankful that of the three places where storage lockers are kept, only one was robbed. I'm thankful my stroller wasn't in the locker and that none of the things they stole were necessities.

Today, Abigail and I are hitting the "re-do" button. God agreed to re-create the oppressively awful heat, Abigail agreed to cling desperately to my while I blog, the kitties have already taken up their sprawling positions, Matt has assured me that his boss will give him some feedback on a project today that needs to be done before he leaves so he'll probably be late again, it is still that time of the month, and I'm still having a bad hair day. So we'll cue another tired day. I'll draw some things with my colored pencils. I'll brew another homemade iced mocha. Abigail will burst into tears when I try to take a shower. But today will be better than yesterday for three reasons:

1. We won't get robbed.
2. I won't answer the phone.
3. Tomorrow is a 3-day weekend.

27 August 2012

I Love Mondays

I really do love Mondays. I'm not what you'd call a "fun loving" person; I prefer to work. I love that productive feeling of a clean kitchen, a finished blanket, a filled-out form. Don't get me wrong, who doesn't like a good board game or a relaxing trip to the beach, but I get a high off of a completed to-do list. Like most people, my schedule tends to fall apart on the weekends, since my husband is home. I tend to overlook the dishes and the cat-hair tumbleweeds blowing across the living room floor. But then Monday comes, and I manage to put away the dishes, work out, take a shower, re-organize Abigail's closet, put Abigail down for a nap, go through all of my emails, crank out some design work, order Matt's birthday presents, and sweep the floor. All before lunch. My Mondays always follow this script. In the midst of everything I suck at, like staying in budget, not binge-eating the entire package of cookies, or being patient when Abigail screams her lungs out because she's tired, I'm good at getting shit done. 

Tuesday looks startlingly similar to Monday, so I try to prioritize all the important stuff to the beginning of the week. Wednesday and Thursday are a bit looser, so I plan my domestic projects on these days, like making hair clippies and getting creative in the kitchen. Friday is anyone's guess, and usually involves me doing nothing productive all day, then panic-idly cleaning everything in the one hour before Matt gets home.

But anyway, today is Monday and I'm productive and happy.

* * * * *

The heat appeared to return over the weekend and we've been living in front of the fans over here. It is so hot that the cats end up in the strangest places trying to keep cool. Sometimes I'll find Emma just sprawled out on the floor in the hallway, which is hugely disconcerting since finding an epileptic cat laying on her side in a weird location could indicate bad things. I whisper to myself, Please don't be dead, please don't be dead, until I have confirmed three times that she is breathing or she "hears" me coming and wakes up (by feeling the vibrations in the floor boards). Lately, though, she's just been hanging out in an empty square of my display shelf.

Even though it's sticky inside, we ventured outside during the day to take a tour of the McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum. I found a deal on Groupon and happened to have a "1st time purchase" coupon that gave us the tour for free, but it's certainly inexpensive enough to take friends and family when they visit. Anyway, we toured an old Bridgehouse and got a brief history lesson on the Chicago River, then we walked along a few of the bridges and learned about the history of each one and the battles between the engineers and the architects. Matt wore Abigail this time, in our Bjorn knock-off, and she perfectly timed her naps to coordinate with our train rides and was contentedly awake during the tour.

It was really interesting to learn how what we prefer to see in a bridge has changed. Plus along the way, we also stumbled across a store and a restaurant that we added to our "Things to do in Chicago" list that we're making for visitors. 

Above: Looking east from the bridgehouse toward Lake Michigan. I am really starting to love Chicago, especially being downtown. There is so much to see and do and the possibility of discovering hidden gems of shops to show off to family and friends makes for an exciting hunt. There are so many strange and bizarre people, I could make an entire blog just about the characters I see, like the woman whose hair was so long it almost touched the ground. Or the man with a neon pink button-up shirt that was so tight, you could see his chest bursting out between the buttons. Or the man, presumably schizophrenic, who was fingering the statues and the plaques trying to decipher secret messages. Or the man playing a drum and making up songs for money outside the train stop who made Abigail the subject of his songs while we waited, and my music-loving girl smiled and waved and clapped and made the drummer laugh and play harder. I also really love riding the L-train, even though it takes an hour. We always pass Wrigley Field on our way south and there seems to be a game every weekend. As we get closer and closer to the Field, more and more excited people climb aboard the train, eager to compliment Abigail and embarrass their own kids with baby stories. We see people grilling burgers and drinking beer on the tops of the roofs that are tall enough to see over the walls into the stadium.

Above: looking west from the DuSable bridge. As we walk, get lost, and try to find our way, Matt and I talk about the things we've learned about the city, You know that one curvy building? Yeah, that's the Trump building! the things we want to do as a family, Look a Turkish fest with free admission! I've never been to a Turkish festival!, and things we'll do if we can con visitors into watching Abigail for a night I pass a cool-looking Monk Tavern on the way to work that I want to take you to.

Above: looking south from the north side of the river. There are still plenty of hard parts about our new life, but more and more, there are fun things too.

* * * * *

Lots of people have been asking how Matt likes his new job, so I think an update on him may be in order, as well. He does like his job quite a bit, and he's picking things up really quickly. He said he's surprised by how much he knows about the things he's working with, and it's a lot of fun to be able to apply some of the things he learned in law school. He often comments on how good it feels to have real responsibilities instead of just processing things the boss sends his way; he has turned in a few projects already, and he boss said very good things about them. The company has more desk space than employees, so Matt actually has his own corner office with windows from which he can see the Sears Tower and the Chicago River. Not to diminish his awesomeness, but the office is apparently small and a bit removed from the other offices, which is why they parted with it. Today he brought in some of our extra office supplies to fill his desk at work (he could have used some from the supply cabinet, but I was all too happy to part with some of our 3 opened packages of highlighters, gigantic box of file folders, and the extra paperclips and binder clips I bought on sale when I forgot about the other one's I'd bought on sale the previous semester that we hadn't opened). The company has made clear that Matt has quite a bit of flexibility with regard to taking time off for job interviews, to take care of his family, etc. In sum, he likes it and they like him, so we're all quite happy. There is no chance this could become a permanent position, though, which is why I'm always talking about what we're going to do come next August.

* * * * *

You may have noticed that I've been updating those tabs underneath the cover picture. I'm going to continue to tweak them over the next few weeks and implement a few new features that will make it easier to search for old posts. I am also trying to figure out some ways to angle my blog now that I'm no longer a "law school wife." Nothing major, just re-organizing a few closets and sweeping out a few tumbleweeds. In the meantime, my friends, stay cool, dry, and have a Happy Monday.

24 August 2012

Better Said with Pictures

I have tried three times over the course of four days to write this post. Everything I write comes out frustrated and depressed; anxiety plagues me at every turn, and I let it. I've journaled quite a bit more than usual this week, but I finally got something out worth posting for everyone to read. I wrote it in the style of a magazine article because sometimes stepping into a different character makes it easier to put aside the inhibitions and say what needs to be said.

I'm a total sucker for lists, steps, anything that plays into my love of organizing and belief that I can try just about anything for one week. So I wrote this and when we get ink for our printer, I'm going to print it out and stick it to my mirror.

Even while I was complaining journaling, I made sure to take a lot of pictures because after a string of picture-less posts, I wanted to keep things interesting. When I re-read the initial posts, I realized that it was really whiny sounding and it directly clashed with the pictures I'd taken of all the things we'd done! It was a good reminder that there is always another way to look at things, and I need to count my blessings more often. A while back, I started this thing where I tried to end all my posts by mentioning one thing for which I was grateful. Note to self: Do that again.

So, because I complain too much, I am going to minimize the words and maximize the pictures.

Bye-bye kitty.

  Open windows.

Peeping tom.

The hairclippie extravaganza of ought twelve.


She smiles with her eyes.

A Mama's cat

 Pretty Kitty.

Practice makes perfect.

Breakfast for two.

What am I grateful for right now? How about my top three:
1. It's nap time.
2. Even though things have sucked at times, we've yet to literally be broke.
3. Matt and I talked last night and he's making a point to give me some me-time tomorrow morning, which is really two: I'm getting some me-time and I have a caring husband.
Bonus grateful point: It's Friday.

22 August 2012

One Year Later

Two week ago was the one year anniversary of Abigail's open-heart surgery. I reminded myself a few days before August 8th that the day was fast approaching. I had hoped to commemorate the day in some way, but I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do about it. Life distracted me and I forgot all about it until one evening when I was feeding Abigail dinner.
"What is today?" I asked Matt. "The 7th?"
"No," he responded. "The 8th."
"Today is Abigail's one year anniversary!"
Matt looked down at Abigail, surprised. "Happy Anniversary, Baby."
I reminded myself out loud that I wanted to take a picture of the scar one year later, but I forgot about that too and the photograph (see the bottom of the page) wasn't taken until days later.

When we were going through everything last summer, all the emotions, the decisions, the drama, was so very real that I thought I would never forget a thing. The day was burned in my brain. The post-postponements, the depression, the frustration. I thought August 8th would live on in infamy. I am sad that I missed August 8th. That we didn't celebrate the conquering of the struggles or count our blessings or look at pictures and read journal entries, breaking out the teeny-tiny hospitals gowns a friend made for her and shed tears over the sufferings of the tiny baby who wore them. I'm embarrassed that such an intense event doesn't make me stop in my tracks the way birthdays and anniversaries do. August 8th is over and we're off and running and I don't know what to think about that.

To be completely honest, I don't really think about her heart issues anymore. There are no lasting side-effects from surgery, save the scar. Perhaps one could argue that her petite size is somewhat to blame on the heart prior to its repair, but her light weight and short stature don't affect her daily life. I am always a little surprised when people ask, "How is her heart? Any complications?" It was such a long time ago, it seems. The occasional trip to the cardiologist and a white scar are all that remains.

And to be even more honest, heart surgery is a more pleasant memory to me than is the birth story! With her heart surgery, every thing went right - surgery went twice as fast as expected, her diagnosis was changed to something less severe, she recovered at record-breaking speeds, we had better nurses than we'd had two and a half months prior. Plus her doctor, the same doctor who did Abigail's very first echocardiogram the day she was born, who followed her throughout the days leading up to surgery, happened to be on rotation in the PTCU during the week we were there! Rest assured, we had our rough moments, but when I look back on it, I do so without pain.

But even so, I am still a little sad that I missed August 8th. Maybe in the future, we'll play things closer to the chest; I'll bake Abigail a little heart-shaped caked, tell her the story of that day, and just the two of us will share a little moment, just like we did on that fateful, infamous day. The two of us on one little bed in one small space of a very large room in a very large hospital in a very large city. Two tiny specks of life humbled by the giant, busy world around them; humbled, but certainly not diminished.

20 August 2012

Confessions of a Neurotic

Every four months, I dive through Abigail's dresser and pull out all her old clothes and I replace them with ones a size bigger that I've been storing up in an empty diaper box. I pack the old clothes away in that same diaper box and dream of the day when I'll put them in a clean-looking tote with a pink lid and label it "6-9 months." This time around I also went through her toys and packed away all the ones she's outgrown. I haven't really done a thorough clean-out, since we are usually moving soon, I just throw it in a box. But this time, I put away the newborn hair bows and the rattles and the Pat the Button cloth book because these are the things we haven't used in many months. The nostalgia of the old is tempered by the excitement of the new. Both Matt and I and my parents waited to get Abigail's birthday presents until we settled in Chicago, that way we could buy her big girl things. So this week, I have a rocking horse, activity table, and large order of clothes from Carters coming. (Note to self: find a reasonably priced used kids' clothing store. Recommendations, my Chicago readers?) So I do what I can to cram the old baby clothes in the small closet full of flattened boxes and unopened diapers and suit cases and cat carriers and dream of the day we stop moving.

If I had to describe myself in one word, I would have a hard time passing up the word "neurotic." Neurotic is an adjective, which means it is a word that describes. It means, "abnormally sensitive, obsessive, or tense and anxious," according to the dictionary on my computer. Over the summer, a friend of ours administered to us one of those personality tests. I scored incredibly high in the "perfectionist, organized, planning" category. My friend summed up the behavior in this personality category by saying, "these people tend to create problems that don't exist and then get depressed about them." When he first told me this, I thought to myself Pshaww! Maybe other people, but not me! I don't get depressed about problems that don't exist! But the truth is, I think I do. I'm "abnormally sensitive" - I take everything personally and read really far into the simplest of things. I'm "abnormally obsessive" - I have counting rituals and repetition rituals and I don't let things go until they are so resolved that I find myself beating a dead horse. I'm "abnormally tense and anxious" - I worry. A lot. About everything. I worry about when I'm going to take the trash out and people leaving the gate to the alley open and that guy sitting in the gray car across the street. I worry about the new blade in the blender not fitting right. I worry about having enough money to take care of Abigail when she's older and how we're going to pay for private health insurance and what we're going to do about the car. I've been like this for as long as I can remember. And do you know how it ends? With feelings of hopeless, despair, and depression. Even though things usually work out on their own. Even though my life is far happier when I pray more and obsess less.

Last night Matt and I were scrolling through our old text messages when I came across one I had sent him while I was in Michigan with Abigail and he was in Florida after classes started. It said, "TARGET JUST SENT ME A 160 PAGE BABY CATALOG AND ABIGAIL IS STILL SLEEPING! I'M IN HEAVEN!" I was too. I flipped through that catalog day after day, studying each page, imaging what I wanted my life to be like with "everything I needed to have a nurses station at home" or "the perfect sheets for sweet dreams." I finally made myself throw it away when we moved to Michigan in May because Abigail had long outgrown it and I try not to be one of those people who holds on to outdated catalogs. Then just last Friday, I went to check the mail and found a stack of Ikea catalogs addressed to "current resident." I texted Matt to let him know he could plan on nothing else productive happening on my end for the rest of the day. I gave Abigail the stack of fliers that had come in the mail to keep her distracted and curled up with my new catalog, pretending I had my own house and could decorate it to my heart's content.

We have 11 months left in this place of residence, and I have no idea where we are going to go afterwards. Maybe Matt will get a job in Chicago? We could either stay here to avoid packing and unpacking, or we could try to find a place closer to cut down on this 1 hour 15 minute commute. Maybe Matt will get a judicial clerkship in Michigan? We'd move, but that would only be a one or two year stint, and then we'd be on the road again. What if he gets a judicial clerkship in Michigan and then a federal clerkship? Two 1-2 year stints following a 1 year fellowship? It is possible that we could continue to move every year or so for the 3-5 years. Of course, the opposite could be true. Matt could find a permanent job and we could rent for a few years to pay off some debt and save a down payment. But either way, we realistically will not be buying a new sofa or kitchen table or handy shelf-organizer-closet thing in the foreseeable future. I worry a lot about where we'll go and how we'll get there. How many times I'll have to transfer medical records and find a new cardiologist, pulmonologist, opthamalogist, otolaryngologist, and physical therapist. I don't need to, but I do.

I obsess and worry in spurts. I'll get distracted by a holiday or a project, but then time will pass and the event will be over, and as boredom sets in, so does the anxiety. I need to rebalance, refocus. I need to create a life in-between the moves. Schedule some me-time. Find a Ds support group. Establish a few routines so that I stop forgetting to clean the litter box. Find someway to have a regular date night without a babysitter. Meet some people so that we have a babysitter.

Journey Narrative: Confessions of a Neurotic Gypsy with Too Many Books, eh?

It is a never-ending battle, my biggest struggle. To stop worrying. To just trust. I'm totally the Martha in the Martha and Mary story in Luke 10:38. I'm in the kitchen, fretting, preparing, stressing. Abigail's growing up and we're living in an amazing city and I'm obsessively Googling "radiator covers."

I could go on forever in this stream of consciousness blog post of mine, but I fear I should probably tie up the ends and clean the kitchen or make lunch before Abigail wakes up. I will think and pray and make lists and organize myself out of this neurotic mess. And I will take a long walk and think  only about here-and-now things, like how wonderful the weather is today. Make Monday awesome, my friends. Unless it is midnight, there is still time let to salvage it.

16 August 2012

A Week's Worth of Posts in a Day

Long time no see, my friends! I hope that you didn’t think I abandoned you, caught up in the big city life. Certainly not. I still think the big city is more romantic in the movies than it is in real life, but what is not?

If you can believe it, we lost the Internet again. I’m not sure what happened, we had it from Friday at about 9:45pm until Monday at about 9:30am. The entire ordeal was very frustrating as the person who lived in this unit before us had the very same Internet with the very same provider, but for an ever-changing excuse, we didn’t. It took 3 technicians, 4 days, and about a dozen phone calls on my part, but we finally got it back – at least, for now. A lack of service really puts a kink in my freelance design style and it prevents Matt from applying for judicial clerkships for next year, which he needs to be doing right now in order to be competitive. It is also incredibly difficult to get settled in a new city without Internet. For example, we’re driving around with Illinois licenses and Florida plates (FL has electronic titles and Illinois refuses to accept anything but a paper license). Our apartment lease requires renter’s insurance, for which I can’t hop online and find quotes. Matt’s birthday is coming up, and I can’t buy him presents. I’m experiencing all these new things, and I can’t blog about them. I am floored at how many things require Internet nowadays. When we were staying with my grandmother last summer while we were in Michigan for an internship, I watched my grandmother fight long, uphill battles to do everything via traditional mail and telephone. I remember thinking, wow, life without the Internet is difficult! But watching it and imagining it are one thing, living it is another. There is always the option to take my laptop to a restaurant with wifi or go to the library, but such is easier said than done with a small child in tow, especially with the Internet provider continually saying things like, “we can assure you that the technician scheduled to come out tomorrow will be able to resolve the problem.”

Ugh. But the lack of Internet postponed a lot of my to-dos and daily tasks, which meant I had a fair bit of time on my hands. It has been raining more days than it’s been sunny, so we’re often stuck indoors.  I’ve been cruising through books, doing a lot of writing, and stocking up the freezer with homemade baby food. We corralled off a baby-proof section of the living room, put down foam floor tiles and a pile of toys, and Abigail plays independent for incredibly long stretches. We even put a footlocker trunk in the play area so that Abigail can practice standing up, which she does often.

Our being stuck brings me to my latest car drama. You may recall my odd obsession with my cars. Well, parking my neighborhood is just street parking, and usually, we can find a spot on the road in front of our building, even if it’s at the other end of this block. On rare occasion during the two weeks that we’ve been here, we’ve had to park around the corner or even a block up and when this happens, I’ll usually wait until around 1-3pm the next day (when the most spots are open), then move the car into a front-and-center spot. I absolutely despise not being able to see my car from my window. Who knows if it’s getting keyed or sideswiped or jolted by a parallel parker! So when notice was posted that street sweepers would be coming through on Thursday to sweep the north side of the street, I made sure to find a good parking space on Tuesday, then refused to touch the car for two days. No grocery shopping, no running to the bank to get more quarters to do laundry. Nothing. If it hadn’t been raining, I could have just walked to such destinations, but rain and waiting for Internet technicians kept us at home. I figure that the south side of the street will be swept soon, so I’m preparing myself to re-start the stress. I hope I mellow out once we get more accustomed to city life. Either that or we sell the car. One of the two.

Aside from rain and car drama, this week is all about getting back into routines and schedules. The schedule that makes time for dishes and sweeping and laundry and reading books and playing with blocks and taking walks. It has been a harder adjustment than I thought it would be, complicated further by Abigail’s finicky nap schedule. She’s trying to transition from two shorter naps to one long afternoon nap and just when I think we’ve got it all figured out, she proves me wrong. By the time Matt gets home, usually around 6pm, I’m ready to run out the door to the nearest spa. But it’s raining. And the car is in the most perfect parking spot. And I don’t have the money for a spa. And it’s only day 3. I know things will get easier once we get used to our new surroundings and I get some routine established, so I take deep breaths and try to be patient.

Lately all the times I am impatient have been pointed out to my by Abigail’s latest development. She is starting to show interest in what I’m saying and communicating herself. She has understood the words “kitty,” “eat,” and “bad” (as in, “the kitty was bad,”) for a while, but she now also knows, “Abigail,” “Chica,” “shhhh,” “daddy,” “no,” and “yucky.” Sometimes, sometimes, I can even get her to stop and turn around when I say “no” as she crawls toward something she knows she’s not allowed to have. We have been trying to teach her sign language for months now and I think yesterday and today she attempted to make me sign "eat." She also understands certain sounds. Like, whenever I gasp in pain or anger, for example, if I stubbed my toe or she dumped her bowl of eggs on the floor for the second morning in a row, she looks at me to see how I react. If I get mad, she looks scared or starts to cry (unless she’s really tired, in which case, all bets are off). Anyway, it’s really making me think twice about the way I react to things. And times when I do get frustrated, I feel pretty guilty afterwards. I am a pretty impatient person by default, so it is definitely difficult for me to try to overcome the feelings of anger and aggression when things don’t go my way. Patience is a virtue and virtuous people aren’t patient people being patient, but impatient people being patient. To quote a few true clich├ęs. I definitely feel like we are entering crucial social learning and development stages and I want her to feel super loved and secure.

Don't cha know the best way to catch a sunspot is to attack it directly?

With each day that goes by, I am introduced to new quirks about my 90-year-old building, some of them I have to learn how to appreciate, others I need to figure out how to overcome. Some of these challenges include the radiators located in every room of the house, except the kitchen. I haven’t done too much research yet since I still have some time before they turn on, but I do know that they will get very hot and a brief smartphone search has revealed that covers are expensive. I can isolate Abigail from every radiator except for the one in her room, which should mean I only need to purchase one cover, but I am not sure if kitty #2 is smart enough to stay away either. Once when Emma was young, she tried to climb in the hot oven while I was pulling something out, so I’m not sure how good her ability to sense heat is. She also gets very cold when the temperature drops below 70*, curling up in blankets and snuggling up with me whenever I sit down. It is possible that she was just reckless as a kitten and adjusted to the Florida weather, but I don’t want to find out the hard way that she can’t tell the radiators are too hot.

The other challenge my new home presents is unceasing paint flakes chipping off of everything. Like most apartment complexes, this one just paints a thick coat of white over everything in between residents. The Internet cables that run underneath the molding are painted to the wall, the bathroom cabinets were painted shut, the locks on the windows are covered so thickly in layers of paint that getting them locked is quite a battle. Abigail’s closet door and the windows above our bed are particularly trying, sending down a blizzard of little white paint flakes whenever we open or close the door/window. I need to keep Abigail’s trash can and laundry basket in the closet so that she can’t get at them, so just leaving the door open/shut isn’t an option. But I also can’t leave paint flakes everywhere since she puts everything in her mouth. I have also noticed the radiators shedding giant silver paint flakes, and I can only imagine how healthy those are, with their metallic, heat-proof finish. I think once I develop a schedule that includes daily sweeping and weekly dusting, I’ll be significantly less frustrated by the paint flakes since they won’t pile up.

There are good things about my new place too. Like the genius window set-up. Our apartment, and therefore the bulk of the windows, faces north: ie, no direct sunlight. And the windows off the bedrooms face west, but the other half of our horseshoe shaped building blocks most of the direct sunlight too. It doesn’t get too hot in our apartment until the temperatures hit the upper 80s, and our Florida blood doesn’t mind the hotter temperatures as much as it could. Two of Abigail’s windows are directly opposite one another and situated in the courtyard to receive all the benefits of the funneled air. If you stand in-between them, it feels like you’re standing in a river of air. Her room definitely stays the coolest throughout the day. The best part is that two windows are very small, so we can close the big ones when she naps (blocking the most amount of noise), and she doesn’t get too warm.

Even though the sunlight is almost all indirect, with 16 windows, it is pretty bright in the apartment during the day – I don’t even turn the lights on, sometimes even when it rains. I’m also really enjoying the extra space in the apartment. The two bedrooms and bathroom are off a hallway that leads away from the rest of the apartment, making it feel more like a house. It’s also really nice to have a huge dining room/office (finally getting the desk out of the living room!) and a separate living room. The two are joined by a large archway, but they are distinct enough so that it feels like two rooms. If we were going to stay here long-term, I definitely think this would be the perfect size. I could toss all the cardboard boxes and invest in a few storage solutions specifically for this place. Although, if we did stay here for a while, I do have to say that coin-operated laundry at $2.25 a load that you have to go outside to access would get old pretty fast.

I don’t know if I’m a morning person or not, but I’m definitely not a night owl. I get tired around 9pm or so and am ready for bed by 10pm at the latest. If I stay up much later than that, I’m pretty lethargic. I am not the type of person who wakes up super early naturally, but I am not usually tempted to hit the snooze button and I don’t need a cup of coffee to get going. All week, my husband and I have been getting up nice and early at a bright 6am, which is plenty early enough for Matt to get ready for work. We have enough time to comfortably complete all our morning tasks, like showering and packing lunch, without running around, and we even have time for a few niceties, which affords me time to squeeze in a workout! Matt can change Abigail’s diaper or start her breakfast with his cushion time if she wakes up early. I’m trying to get back on the running bandwagon after a summer away, and we conveniently live very close to a modest beach-front park on Lake Michigan with a decent trail. From our front door down to the end of the park and back is about 2 miles, so Wednesday at 6:30am, I found myself pounding the pavement and watching the sunrise behind the clouds over a lake so big it might as well be the Gulf of Mexico to those standing on its salt-less shores. I neglecting to bring my iPod, much to my initial dismay, but the sound of the water lapping the shore was so calming, I found myself glad I wasn’t wearing earbuds. Maybe because it was supposed to rain that day or maybe all the hardcores were already home by 6:30am, but the entire time I was out, I only saw about a dozen people and that includes the three or so who were doing tai-chi at the water’s edge. This trail is particularly advantageous because I can make it harder by running in the sand or make it a 5K by running the trail twice. I love my morning me-time, and I really do enjoy working out, although my love of food ensures that you won’t be able to tell by looking at me. I have been trying really hard to stick to my diet, though, and I am actually excited about tomorrow’s weigh-in and this week I was able to resurrect two more shirts from the wardrobe of my previous life.

My kitties are doing well, and willing to pose for the camera, so here are a few of them:

Nobody here but a couple of alley cats:

How can I still have things to talk about, you ask? Well! I guess I will reserve a few ideas for future blog posts! And I think my excessive reading of Sherlock Holmes is playing a role in my funky writing style today. Anyway, have a wonderful TGIF followed by a spectacular weekend. I will return on Monday if my Internet connection permits.

11 August 2012

Stay-cation in the Big City

We finally have Internet! I'm pretty excited to be done surfing on my husband's smart phone and while sitting in people's parking lots. Doing the finances was a nightmare. Matt and I were plugged in while he tried to get the wireless set up. "Wanna unplug and give wireless a try?" he asked me. "I can't," I responded, "I have 18 things in my cart." Yes, that's right, we had only had the Internet for about an hour, and I was already buying things. Baby things: fruit snacks, wet ones, wipes. Prices in stores out here are outrageous and the obscene sales tax only makes things worse. I haven't exactly figured it all out yet, but from what I can tell, I think it's 16% on restaurants, hotels, entertainment, 11% on most non-food items, and 3% on food. I have no idea what it is on alcohol, cigarettes, etc. I have been doing everything possible to avoid buying things that I could buy online once we got the Internet. In my defense, I checked out with 17 things totaling less than $100. No tax, free 2-day shipping.

In the days since we last spoke, we were hit. Our car that is. We saw it with our own eyes! The maintenance man, whom we’ll call Vladimir, is a known car-hitter. I’ve watched him hit a car twice in one morning. So when Vladimir pulled up along side our car, eyeing the parking space in front of us, I broke out the camera. Vladimir wised up, though, and searched for a new space. But when a minivan pulled up a few minutes later, the camera was still out. We videotaped her pulling in and narrowly missing us. When she left a few minutes later, I told Matt, “There’s too much space; she won’t hit us.” So I didn’t grab the camera. And she hit us. No damage, though, this sort of thing is very common in the city. I check the car every time I get in it and have not seen any evidence of a tap, but I would put money on this not being the first time our Focus has felt a little jolt. Here’s the shot of the lady pulling in and narrowly missing us:

Before we left Michigan, we tried to sell the car, but we had no takers. We didn’t try very hard because we weren’t sure we wanted to sell it, but both Matt and I had the same concerns: what if it gets side-swiped in Illinois and the value plummets? And how will we deal with things like grocery shopping without a car? We wanted to save money on gas and car insurance, and we got such an amazing deal on the car when we bought it new in March 2011 that it’s only lost $2000 in value. We haven’t even been here a week and we are already so dependent on it. We have free street parking and we live far enough away from downtown that traffic isn’t too bad. But with gas being $.70-.80/gallon more in the city, the increased insurance costs, and the $86/month bus pass Matt needs to get to work, we could really save some money if we sold it. And so the debate rages on.

The other day, I felt like I owned the city. Why? Because I figured out how my shower works. It’s the little things, my friends. So our shower, like the rest of this quirky apartment, is a bit odd. You have to turn the middle dial two times to the left, once to the right, then do the hokey pokey on one foot in order to get the water from the spout to the head. Okay, slight exaggeration, but that’s what it felt like. But yesterday, yesterday I discovered how the darn thing actually works and I thought to myself, “one half turn to the right and it should be coming out of the shower head full blast!” I turned, and it worked! I showered with feeling blissfully high.

Because of the hardwood floors, Matt and I purchase an on-sale, low-taxed rug in Michigan for Abigail's room. It's very cute, pink with white stripes. Anyway, we laid it out in her room and discovered that it didn't much soften the blow of the solid floor. That meant I had to troll Amazon on Matt's smart phone, trying to find inexpensive foam tiles that shipped with Prime. We also needed a baby fence since the doorway between the living room and the dining room is too wide for a baby gate and I can't baby proof the living room, dining room, and kitchen. The last of it arrived today, plus we finally got a desk off Craigslist, and Vladimir, after much prodding, finally hooked us up with a free storage unit on the garden level, which only has three steps to the main floor instead of the 13 from our "1st floor" apartment. Plus we got Internet today. SO, our apartment is finally done! Just in time for Matt to start his new job!

Yesterday we went out and did some normal city things. Like taking the route Matt will take on Monday, making sure to iron out all the kinks. We got off the train and turned south, and since our destination was to the south west, we were headed in the right direction, but I thought we were headed west, so it was a bit frustrating. With the help of a polite gentleman at a bus stop, we figured out which way we wanted to go. We also found a paper copy of the electronic version of the train map I’d been using, which should prevent all future screw-ups. I also have a head for maps and suspect that I’ll get the hang of things pretty quickly once we get Internet up and running and I can study some street maps. It should take Matt about an hour to get to work from our apartment, about 35 minutes of that is on the train, the rest is walking and waiting for the train. Chicago is a huge city and even through we’re technically in Chicago, it still takes a while to get anywhere. Anyway, after we zig-zagged across The Loop, we made our way toward a bus that could take us to the Field Museum, our fun-destination for the day. I decided to wear Abigail in a sling instead of pushing her in a stroller so that I 1. wouldn’t have to take the stroller on and off the train and the bus and 2. wouldn’t have to deal with a stroller with crowds of people. It turned out to be a good call, also because ramps and elevators are an after-thought in these old buildings and we often find ourselves at a staircase. But wearing Abigail (my low-muscle tone child who does not use her own abs to hold herself up whenever possible) from 8am until 5:30pm with my only rest being our train/bus trip was exhausting. I wonder how many calories I burned. The museum was a lot of fun though. We spent the first half of the day at two exhibits: ancient Egypt and Ghengis Kahn. The ancient Egypt exhibit was incredible, as part of it was a tomb built according to the floor plan of the Pharaoh’s tomb in Egypt. They even imported some of the very stones that made up the entrance to the pyramid. The smell of those stones was incredible. One could close their eyes and walk blindly through the halls and know they were somewhere special. Matt was particularly intrigued by Ghengis Kahn, going from someone who only knew him as an old ruler in Asia to a huge fan. He thought the trademark Ghengis feign-retreat-while-backward-horse-riding-and-shooting-arrows-on-the-flank move was brilliant. They had python skeletons and a gem stone exhibit with a 5,900 carat stone (I can’t remember what it was made of, but it wasn’t a diamond) and the most complete t. rex skeleton in the world. We ate lunch next to taxidermied narwhals and elephant seals, which are so much bigger and not as cute as I thought they’d be. Abigail slept off and on in the sling and never once did she have a blow-out or a meltdown.

If you are reading this, Host and Hostess, that is a man eating lion! We also got pictures of the man eating lions, but they are on Matt's phone. He plans to send them to you, I think.

Those stones on the black display (faceted achorite tourmalines) are my favorite stones in the entire display.

Abigail is growing so quickly, I almost don’t even recognize her. She now puts blocks inside a container, instead of always taking them out. I know that sounds incredibly small, but it’s actually a big deal in the world of child development. I’m not even sure what it means, exactly. I know organizing things has something to do with brain development, but the reason I know it’s a big deal is because everyone with a medical background asks me if she’s putting blocks away yet: child development psychologists, the pediatrician, the physical therapist. She’ll confidently pull up to stand on just about anything, she takes little steps and sways when she is standing, she tries to call on and over everything, and her face is starting to gain those unique adult features as the baby chubs fade away.

We had to put a pillow between her high chair and the dining room chair. When Abigail would get frustrated, she would slam her head backward against the chair - this way, she hits a pillow instead. She looks like she's sitting on a throne.

I’ve often wondered if Abigail would grow up to be a typical “first born.” You know those articles that argue birth-order affects a personality? Well I’m very much a bossy, responsible eldest child and Matt is very much a peace-making middle child, so I tend to give them some credibility. I do wonder how Down syndrome will affect the typical birth order course of events. Will she follow in my footsteps, or will our second born take that roll? I have only met one other person in my life for whom their child with Down syndrome was not their youngest child, so I feel kind-of alone sometimes in my situation. (I do know someone whose youngest has Down syndrome and she’s pregnant, but we’re more of acquaintances, and that other mother I mentioned and I didn’t have anything else in common). She's certainly starting off bossy and stubborn! I wonder how her little personality will change as she gets older. Sometimes I study her little face and wonder what she'll look like as an adult. Also, I do want to get involved in a support group up here (it is so weird not saying “down here” anymore!) and all that jazz, but I’m getting settled into this city one day at a time. 

A rainstorm yesterday and last night plummeted the temperatures down to the low 70s, which is pretty chilly for us, so we’ve enjoyed spending the day wrapped up in cozy sweaters and printed socks.

Being the goal-obsessed person that I am, Matt and I have set some goals for our time here in the city. Like to pay off as much debt as possible. And to lose weight. And to bike 41 miles by the time we have to put the bikes away for the winter. There is an 18 mile trail that runs along the lake and we live about 2.5 miles from the trail head. Matt and I really enjoy biking, but weren’t really able to do much in Naples, so we were excited to find the very activity-friendly trail so close to us. We made it about 10 miles round trip on Tuesday (1/4 of the way!) and we decided to see if we could make the whole thing in one go by the time the snow strikes. The biggest problem with our goal is the fact that Abigail vehemently hates biking. Despite our plush trailer with toys, a spill-proof straw cup, bug screens, and shade, every time we hit a bump, she whines. She bursts into tears or melts down on a seemingly quarter-mile basis. The only time she’s ever accepted biking was the first time we ever did it. We need to try it again on a perfectly-timed day well-spaced away from naptime, when she is full, it is not too hot, and not too sunny. If she still hates it then, I may contemplate selling my bike and trailer, as I can’t see carting them around with me for the next few years while Chica holds such a grudge. 

Okay, it is late (11:52pm CST) and I need to go to bed, so I am just going to post this without proof-reading it. I apologize for the lack of standards. Tomorrow we do one more fun thing on our little vacation: we go to the Hershey's store downtown. We were hoping to try some biking, but a high chance of showers is keeping us indoors. What a better choice than to swap exercise for chocolate? I'm pretty excited : )