28 June 2013

5 Minute Friday: In Between


Five Minute Friday



Today's topic: In Between

GO

I feel like we're always "in between" goals in life. We see our family and MI friends once a year and everyone asks the same question, "So what are you guys up to?" The answer is always somehow related to a goal we're working on reaching.

"Well, Matt graduates law school next year, so we'll be looking for a job!"

"Well, Matt graduated law school now and has a job in Chicago. But it's only a one-year-long position!"

"Well, Matt got a job in Michigan, but it's only for 1-3 years, so we'll move again for a bit, then see where life takes us after that!"

Most of our friends aren't doing the gypsy-thing and they have stable lives and homes where they don't switch doctors a few times a year and they have more than one 1.5 person couch because they don't move much, and they don't use upside-down milk crates as nightstands because instead of renting U-hauls, they spend their money on nice furniture.

We're always in between, but I honestly sometimes like it. We're always working towards something big and grandiose. We're chasing our wildest dreams in an on-the-road adventure. We pack light (except for our books, cough, cough), and we don't get attached to material things. Sometimes I awkwardly ask my stable friends, "So...what are your, like, five year goals and stuff?" I want to know what people who aren't moving every 9 months strive toward. One day, that will be us. When we aren't so in-between.

STOP

Dang, five minutes is fast.

27 June 2013

Cue Boxes

I want to begin by assuring any and all readers that product from my Etsy shop is bed bug free. I seal my product after making it to keep pet dander from getting to it, and a pet dander seal is a bed bug seal. It is completely safe.

That being said, this is my life now!


So, bugs. Contrary to my wildest dreams, Joe the bug guy was not planning to eradicate my problem, only diagnose it. Surprise, surprise, my bed bug is a bed bug. While Joe was inspecting the place, the maintenance man showed up. He also confirmed that my bed bug is a bed bug. He also indicated that the complex manager would be upset to know I'd hired my own bug guy. Joe diagnosed me with a super new, super small infestation (he said he wouldn't even use the word "infestation," which made me very happy). He did find one other bed bug lounging around on my couch, but found no other evidence of bugs. No droppings, no nests, nothing. He agrees with my theory that we probably picked a few up while we were out in the city (like Matt on the train) or from some recent guests who did a stint in a Chicago hotel. He told us there was no need to toss any furniture. It took several phone calls, but I finally got something set up through the apartment complex-approved bug guy for tomorrow. He'll actually spray this time. He wanted to send out another guy to do another diagnosis, but I insisted that we skip that step.

Bed bug spray downs are worse than roach spray downs. With roaches, all we did was empty the kitchen, clear off the counters in the bathroom, and put away Abigail's teething toys. Then we took her and the kitties to a friend's place for four hours while they bombed the joint. But with bed bugs, let me tell you...

They sent over a 21-point checklist of things I need to do before and after the treatment. It includes sealing in plastic bags all fabric items, including bed sheets, pillow cases, curtains, towels, all the clothes in everyone's dresser and closets. Including Abigail's baby clothing that is boxed up on the top shelf of her closet. It needs to be taken out and everything needs to be washed and dried on high heat. Remember that we don't have a washer or dryer in our apartment. If we wash before the treatment, they will need to wait in new plastic bags until the apartment has been cleared. We need to empty all nightstands and furniture in the rooms "where the residents normally spends [sic] time in the home." That means I should clear all bookshelves, the desk, everything. Completely empty everything where I put stuff. This also includes all closets, even the ones that don't have linen in them. All frames need to be taken down from the wall. All furniture needs to be moved one foot away from the baseboard.

Are you kidding me?

As long as I'm packing up for the bug guys, I might as well pack up for moving. So bed-bug free things that I can live without until Michigan are being boxed up. So much for fun project week. As boxes pile up in the dining room, my smart cat (the black one) has already launched into panic mode. Using this check list right here, I'm going to be through week two by the end of week one, which means we're going to be living in a sea of boxes for way more time than necessary. Ugh. The best laid plans...will I ever learn? Anyway, the cats love the boxes as a way to escape from Abigail as she can now reach most surfaces in the house on which they are allowed to be.


I don't yet have enough boxes to create more than one window seat and the cats have already gotten into three fights so far today about who's Kitty of the Box.


Well that's all the resting time I get today. I have more packing/prepping to do, plus Abigail has therapy today and there is a showing scheduled for this afternoon. Because my apartment complex is the type to show the actual unit for rent instead of a model. Even though I'm living here.

25 June 2013

I Got A Bug Problem

Before I begin this post, I should probably warn you that it contains pictures of bugs. Ew.

So when I said I was going to have lots of time on my hands this week, I wasn't anticipating that I'd be spending it ridding myself of bed bugs.

You read that right, bed bugs.

You see, Chicago in general has a bed bug problem, and the nasty little buggers have been marching to my neighborhood in order to give us a nice send off before we leave. I'm pretty sure our woes began when we got back from Father's Day at the park. Remember when I said I had 8 mosquito bites? Yeah. So then over this most recent weekend, I noticed a few spots popping up on Abigail's arm too, but as she hadn't spent much time outside, I didn't know what to make of the spots. Then last night, I got up off the couch to grab something and I noticed a bug on the pillow behind me. Matt and I corralled him into a ziplock bag and I did some quick Googling.

The apartment complex manager assures me it doesn't have to be a bed bug and urged me to call maintenance and schedule an appointment to have it confirmed.

Screw that shit. I called a professional. Joe will be here at 1pm.

Without further ado, here he is! WARNING! BUG PICTURE COMING NEXT!


He's kind of small as far as Google pictures of bed bugs go, but I don't want to give him the opportunity to break any records.

Living in the Bug Bed Ritz reminded me of the time we stayed at Roach Motel and even did a stint in Bug Super 8 Hell. So here you have a history of my bug problems.

The Beginning
My foray into the world of bug roommates began when I lived in a seedy apartment complex in East Lansing during college. There is a bit of space under the front door, which lead directly outside, and I had a fair number of bugs parading through. The complex manager failed to act, so I decided to let a spider move in to the space behind my door. He did a good job of stemming the tide of bugs, but he hated when I swept near his web. So we had this agreement that he killed bugs and I wouldn't clean within two tiles of his web. That worked out well until one day my cat found him and tortured him to death.

Too Many Legs
That same complex also delivered my next headache: long, hairy centipedes. By this time, the complex finally sent a bug guy out, who confirmed the bug with that technical name you just read. Faster than superman, these bugs are super ugly, but mostly keep to themselves. Whenever I'd kill one, all the legs would fall off and twitch spastically for a few minutes.



A few days before graduated and moved out, I found a giant spider living under my fridge. Whenever it'd come out of hiding, I'd spray it with Windex or 409 or whatever I could get my hands on, but it never died. One day he came out of hiding long enough for me to soak him. He slowed down and curled up, giving me enough time to dump some bleach on him. I continued to dump one chemical after another on him, until Matt (who was just my boyfriend at the time) made me stop for fear I was creating some sort of uber toxic mess. We let him sit until we were sure he was dead, then Matt bent down to scoop him up and he sprang into action and attempted to run away.


Thankfully he didn't make it.

Florida, Part I, or, The Ants
Matt and I escaped our first year of marriage unscathed, thankfully, in a nicer complex in a suburb of Ann Arbor. But our first winter in our first apartment in Florida was inundated with ants. They preferred cat food and each morning, I would find a solid stream of ants leading from the cat food to a crevice in the floor. I had to move the bowl of food around the apartment twice a day, otherwise the ants would find it. The apartment complex was so loathe to do anything that I actually got into a cussing match with them one time over it. I'm not proud and I did call to apologize later. The problem never fully cleared up until my parents came to visit us and my dad showed me a few other places the ants were coming from and how to caulk them up.


A big pile of ants on the right and a broom on the left.

Florida, Part II, or Roach Hell
When we relocated back to Florida for Matt's third and final year of law school, Abigail about 4 months old, we found an apartment with a good reputation and pest service included in the rent. Little did we know, it was also infested with roaches.

We started seeing a few roaches right away, but I just assumed they had stowed away in our boxes which had spent the enture summer in a storage unit. But after we were unpacked, washed, cleaned, and put away, the bugs kept coming. Abigail was still getting up once a night, and as I stumbled into the kitchen to prepare a bottle, I'd see a handful of tiny beetles scurry away under the toaster. Sometimes a roach on the floor would scuttle away, always too quick for my blurry-eyed, sleepy self to kill. I called the complex to complain and they started sending the bug guy out more frequently, but after a month with no relief, I finally corned the technician one day and explained the two-month long situation. He did a thorough check of our kitchen cabinets, pulling out pots and pans and pointing out roach droppings and shaking roach egg casings out of the crumb trays of the toaster, identifying the little beetles as baby roaches. I. Was. Horrified. He heavily treated the areas where he thought the bugs were stashing their eggs and scheduled us for a bug bombing.


A medium-sized palmetto bug, aka, cockroach.

The bombing was a big pain; we had to empty our entire kitchen, move everything off the bathroom counters, put away all of Abigail's things, and find a friend's house to crash with the kitties for 4 hours, but after the bombing, we only ever saw a handful of roaches in our apartment during the rest of our time in Florida.

PS, The apartment complex bought us a new toaster.

The Summer of Spiders
The place where we stayed over the summer was located in a very forest-y area and had a random contingent of fishing spiders in it. We found them both inside and outside and they nearly always elicited a scream from me. As huge as they were, they were scaredy cats and easy to kill. So easy, in fact, that my husband felt bad for them. I didn't.

Chicago Bed Bugs
And that brings us back to now. After we found the bug last night, we went on a witch hunt, overturning the couch and our mattress and scouring through every blanket, towel, and bedsheet we could find. We only found one other bug, but we have enough bites to prove a larger bug colony somewhere nearby.

Joe my savior technician just called and is running ahead of schedule. He should be here within the next few minutes. Alleluia.

24 June 2013

The Countdown Begins

We're back from Michigan. As we lugged duffle bags, a high chair, and three water bottles to and from the car, Matt commented that he couldn't wait until we could use our vacation days to take a vacation.

Amen.

We arrived in Michigan late Wednesday night and, as you may have read at the end of my 5 Minute Friday post, the next morning, we finally heard back about the house. Rejected. The seller's bank requested our highest and best offer before they moved on, but the offer we first submitted was our highest and best (we weren't messing around). We aren't in love with the house and do have concerns about buying a house at the same time we're starting a new job, so we're okay with loosing the house.

We browsed apartments, townhomes, and houses for rent and ended up exactly where I didn't think I wanted to be again: a traditional apartment.

When we factored in feelings of neighborhood security, size, and overall price, we found ourselves charmed by a stable complex in a suburb of Lansing. The two bedroom, two bathroom unit is laid out in typical-apartment style. There is no patio/balcony, but we do have a washer and dryer off the kitchen, and the bedrooms are massive enough to have an additional two kids. The complex feels incredibly safe and a majority of their residents have lived there upward of three years. It is only about 15-20 minutes for Matt to drive to work (or me to drive him on days when I need the car). We turned in our application on Friday but haven't heard back yet. I know our background and resources will check out, but that's not my worry. Matt and I have been wondering if we'll get rejected because he's a lease-reader.

You heard me, a lease-reader. He's a new attorney, so as you can imagine, he insists on reading every contract he signs. And if you actually read contracts, they'll make you sick. So he reads the lease, then wants to discuss the lease, and the orange-skinned, mini-skirt wearing tramp who works in the main office kind-of freaks out when Matt starts discussing the inappropriateness of the whole "this is in your lease, but we don't actually do it that way anyway, so don't worry, but sign on the dotted line anyway" thing. Ugh. I'm just want to get this over and done with so we can know where we'll be living. And we're outta time for another trip to Michigan.

In the meantime, I booked the U-Haul this morning. I'm not going to start packing until July 1st (next week) and I've finished developing new product for my Etsy shop until we get settled in Michigan, so I'm treating this week as my fun/random project week. I've got a few t-shirts to turn in to tank tops, some of Matt's shirts could (desperately) use ironing, some random bags of beans in the cupboard I need to pre-soak so we can use them up before we move, and an adorable two-year-old who would probably love one last trip to Chicago's (free) zoo before we leave for good.

21 June 2013

5 Minute Friday: Rhythm


Five Minute Friday



Today's topic: Rhythm

GO

We all get into rhythms in our daily lives, the routines that get us through the doldrums of February and that awkward time in early July where it is wicked hot and no one wants to do anything. With our pending move, we're abandoning our comfortable rhythm for the stress of house hunting (out of state, mind you), and as I look ahead to packing, I know that I shouldn't make any plans for the month of July or expect any comfortable routines. In five short weeks, we'll move to Michigan, and have to begin the process of setting new routines and falling into new rhythms. Sometimes it'll be awkward and I feel really homesick, I know from past experience, for roots that I don't have. But as the time passes and the new rhythms set in, we'll start to feel more comfortable.

And then, knowing us, we'll probably move again.

STOP

Yesterday morning we found out that our offer on the house was rejected. The seller's bank requested our highest and best offer. Which is the one we submitted (we weren't messing around). Anyway, so we applied for an apartment in a suburb to the south of Lansing (where Matt will be working). We had high hopes about this place until we showed up this morning to turn in the paperwork and discovered that this office staff, like all apartment office staff, makes me want to live in a cave. It's like the owners mosey on down to the local employment office and say, "I want to hire all your staff who can't hold down jobs. The ones who haven't worked in 5 months and got fired from their last job. And PS, the dress code for their new job will be short skirts and shirts low-cut enough to make future tenets blush." And then they put them in charge of the front office.

Ay-yi-yi. But now the hard work is done and we're going to spend the rest of our time in Michigan playing Euchre and eating steak.

17 June 2013

Celebrations

I love celebrating things. Be it a birthday, Father's day, Matt passing the bar, it being a Friday, I love finding something to be excited about, casting aside the daily grind, scrounging up some delicious food, chocolately dessert, and making it a "thing." I told Matt that we need to time our babies so that each one  is born during a different month when we don't already have a celebration. This means we'll need to have 5 more kids, assuming each one is born according to plan.

Father's Day was, as usual, was heavily dictated by nap time and a rigid budget. We grilled food (paid for out of our regularly scheduled food budget) at a nearby free park on Lake Michigan.


Grills, picnic tables, and shade trees were plentiful and planning the grill-out around lunch meant that we had most of the park to ourselves. Matt and I had never grilled at a park with a child before, so I made sure to overpack to my heart's content. We schlepped about a half dozen tote bags, full of food, paper dinnerware, blankets, balls, sunscreen, bubbles, and other assorted goods across the soccer fields to get to the "good spot," thankfully bringing our hearty jogging stroller, which handled the terrain as if it were paved.



My husband and I are big fans of delicious food, so I prepped a fruit salsa, made entirely with fruits on sale at Aldi last week. Pasta salad, grilled corn on the cob, grilled burgers with the fancy onion buns...ahhh, we love grilled food.




We were in official "IT IS SUMMER" mode and acted very much like sun worshippers who were recovering from their first winter in four years.



Which means we went swimming. Please someone remind me why I used to think there was anything great about a great lake that is still cold in mid-June.


I assure you, nothing above my knees got wet, but Abigail was pretty sure the water was the greatest thing since pudding cups and chocolate milk and bee-lined toward the water the second her feet hit the ground. She headed straight into the water, giggling as each icy cold wave washed over her legs, pulling to go in deeper. I'm pretty sure she would have swum all the way to Michigan if we'd let her.



I let her splash around until her toes wrinkled and she started shivering, but she never stopped trying to head back into the water once we let her down. Apparently you can take the girl out of Florida, but you can't take Florida out of the girl. Someone remind her that she wasn't actually born in Florida.


Not everything went smoothly, like how I forgot the bug spray (counting 7, no, make that 8, mosquito bites) and a lighter with which to start the grill, but we still had a great time. We drove around with the windows down and the radio up, sticking hands out the window to play with the breeze and stopping by an ice cream shop for dessert.



It was a super-fun, relaxing, family-building day. As the shadows stretched longer and longer in our urban neighborhood, we reminded ourselves that we can have fun without spending a lot of money. And we need to do more of this memory-making stuff. Way more.



15 June 2013

Photo Dump - Cute Face

Sorry for the lack of updates this week, my friends. We had some last-minute visitors and Abigail had a rather long hearing exam/consultation, combined with her usual dose of 4 therapies per week, my cranking out some new product for my Etsy shop (look for its appearance next week), and us doing some prep work for our upcoming trip to Michigan next week to look at apartments "just in case." I don't have much time for a lengthy post today (much to your delight?) so we're going to keep things light with a photo dump.

Abigail's a big fan of books. She has about 45 board books. Yet she perpetually wants "big girl" books. She'll pull books off our bookshelf and look at them ever so gently, well, as gently as a two-year-old can. She'll study books with pictures and books without. She gets very mad if she thinks you're going to take her books from her and has started to sneak away to her room when she gets her hands on a forbidden one. Big girl books can keep her entertained for up to an hour. May I remind you she's two.










Happy weekend, my friends!

10 June 2013

Abigail Walking

Promise fulfilled.

We've been seeing a lot of this around the apartment lately:


That's Abigail standing. It's impressive because she's not pulling up on anything to get into a standing position. She's going from sitting to standing using nothing but her own muscles. If you'll join me for a trip down memory lane, Abigail first started pulling up to stand at 14 months of age in July of 2012. 10 months ago.


I'm neither joking nor exaggerating when I tell you that I work with Abigail nearly every day (I'd say 85% of days either I or PT works with her) to help her advance. Sometimes we do formal 20-30 minute sessions where I imitate things she does in physical therapy, sometimes I do super informal things where I just creatively modify playtime to help her work on a specific muscle group. Once a month from months 1-5, then every week since she was 5 months old, she's gotten an hour of physical with a physical therapist (excusing a brief hiatus from months 12-15 when we were in Michigan, whose early intervention services are sorely lacking!). The PT gives me plenty of ideas to use with Abigail during the 6 days a week I have her alone and I combine them with tips I read on other people's blogs and things I read in books. I briefly explain on the Down Syndrome 101 page why kids with Ds are physical delayed: "People with Ds have low muscle tone. This just means that the person’s muscles take longer to respond to stimuli than high muscle tone muscles. For example, a person with low muscle tone might have to do 15 bicep curls where someone with typical muscle tone would only have to do 5 to get the same size biceps. This is why it takes kids with Ds longer to sit up, crawl, walk, etc. They have to work a lot harder in order to reach the strength level it takes to move n' groove." Of course, there are other factors, like heart conditions that can slow growth and strength, etc, but that is a very brief, simple answer.

After 10 months of diligent work, this is how she stands up now:


So. Frickin'. Proud.

You know those times when your toddler breaks down in tears because she didn't get something she wanted and you sigh, turn around with your hands on your hips and exclaim sarcastically, "Being two must be sooo hard!" Whenever I have those moments, I always guiltily cut myself off mid-sentence.

For Abigail, it is really damn hard. It's like we're all standing at the starting line to the race that is life and each of us has a path to follow. Of course we each have our own different obstacles, maybe some prickly bushes, a sand trap, a water hazard, that we have to tackle, but Abigail...her path sounds impossible. She has to run up rocky mountains and swim across ranging rivers with dangerous currents. She has to battle torrential down pours and winds so strong they knock her down. Her path curves left and right, switch-backing down steep hills. It's twice as long as my path and she has to take each step in discount-bin canvas shoes while I lace up brand new Nikes. Just to get to the same finish line.

60 years ago, parents who gave birth to a child with Down syndrome were told their children would never walk. Likely never talk. Probably not even live, as the average age was 10 for our grandparent's generation. A majority of such children were packed up and sent away to institutions.

But not today.


Our two biggest goals right now are to get Abigail standing for longer stretches of time and taking more steps without falling or needing to grab onto something. Her biggest obstacles include core weakness (which we strengthen through exercises) and ankle weakness (which we strengthen through orthotics). We'll need to work on turning while standing, running, jumping, and all sorts of things I didn't know took so much effort, I'm sure.

After two years spent in the high-needs phases, I'm looking forward to the day I can unstrap her from her car seat and let her walk herself to the front door so I can grab a load of groceries. Or the day she can walk while holding my hand or at least a purse strap so I can use both hands to fumble with a package at the post office. I'm looking forward to experiencing the day I can stand in the front yard and yell "Get back here right now, young lady!" instead of nursing two sore muscles, torn from carrying my daughter everywhere for the two years. In the meantime, we stumble, we stand, and we take three toddling little steps with wobbly knees and death-grip toes.

07 June 2013

5 Minute Friday: Fall

I'm back to the 5 Minute Friday link up after an attempt a few weeks ago. I get 5 minutes to write - no edited.

Five Minute Friday

Today's topic: Fall

GO

The first thing I thought when I saw this topic was: Abigail falling. She's learning how to walk and even though she took her first steps nearly 6 weeks ago, she is still only taking 4-5 steps at a time and usually the last 1-2 are half falling.



I get so caught up in my world, the world of my firstborn, that I forget what she does is not normal. We work so hard, put so much blood, literally, sweat, literally, and tears, literally, into each step that when she is successful, I'm so overcome with joy. Then I hop online to Facebook and see videos and pictures of friends' kids, half Abigail's age, talking their first steps, standing on coffee tables, their posture confident, their steps filled with pride. Then I remember: we're not normal. And it hurts.

It's that balance that I walk everyday. Usually I'm so ensconced in my own world that I forget she's delayed. Then something from the outside comes in, smacks me in the face, and I remember.

STOP

5 minutes is really damn short when you're counting. I know that I never took nor posted videos of Abigail walking last weekend, but this time I promise that I will take some this weekend for another post on Monday.

04 June 2013

Stress

The top five highlights of my Saturday through Monday:

-We began the weekend by having a serious discussion about money/the budget. Every couple knows that's a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

-We ended the weekend by having a serious discussion about buying vs. renting. No final decisions were made, which always makes you feel good after an entire weekend spent having a discussion.

-I got jalapeno juice in my eye which caused a long-lasting burning sensation in the eye and surrounding skin, about the size you'd expect if someone gave you a black eye.

-Abigail dumped over several gallons of water in her bedroom while she was supposed to be napping. Gallons. She soaked the rug, a bunch of moving boxes that I was storing under her crib, most of her stuffed animals, and a few electronic toddler things. She's currently locked out of her room as I have three fans going trying to dry everything, and being locked out, of course, pisses her off.

-The vomiting returned, at the grocery store, no less. Cause nothing says "efficient grocery shopping trip on a busy day" like stopping in every aisle to sop up vomit with a travel size package of tissues.

A photo from February because statistically speaking, people prefer blog posts with photos, and, as a designer, I'm ethically opposed to generic stock photos. 

I'm whipping out all the tricks: thanking God for my blessings, silently counting to 10, praying, going for a walk, eating an entire package of cookies in a day. I usually manage to pull myself together just in time to meet another stressor. But throughout the last few days, apologies were made when needed, family prayers were said daily, and kisses, hugs, and "I love yous" concluded each stressful day. I may have had epic failures in every other department, but at least all my relationship bank accounts ended with more money than they started.

And that, I think, is the Ultimate Parenting Strategy. And relationship strategy in general.

Admitting when we're wrong, when we screwed up, and saying sorry. Like when you realize mid-heated discussion that you're wrong. Or that what you're accusing your husband of, you're guilty of doing. Or when you're yelling at your child, and her little lower lip puffs out, her forehead crinkles, and the tears start to fall. Nothing burns more than stepping down, as the adrenaline is pumping, quieting your voice, making eye contact and saying, "I'm sorry."

We all want to be perfect. I want to be this eternally patient and loving mother with firm-but-gentle discipline. I want Abigail to want to please me because I am so fair and loving, and with just a "look," she corrects her ways. I never want to admit that part of me wanted Abigail to cry because I wanted her to feel bad about what she'd just done. I hate that part of being perfect is recovering gracefully from mistakes because I'm terrible at recovering gracefully from mistakes.

So I think the Ultimate Parenting/Relationship strategy is doing what you think is best, but when you realize that it wasn't, apologize.

This strategy isn't all rainbows and unicorns, though. It's really damn hard to apologize and it you don't always know if it works. Sometimes you apologize to a random person on the street, but they still yell at you for your mistake. Sometimes you apologize, but the lasting consequences of said mistake don't disappear - like if you punch someone, but apologize, the sting of the punch still remains.

I didn't learn that lesson over the weekend, like some perfect Saint, completely stressed out, but still able to humbly right all wrongs. I didn't learn it until I sat down here at the computer and refused to publish a blog post that was purely complaints. I had to find a way to turn it around, to spin it in a positive direction. I guess the second lesson I learned is that necessity is the mother of all invention.