Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spoils of the New Garden

We have a huge rose bush in our back yard. I feel that this might be temporary, as the dog's favorite place to pee is on the rose bush.

I picked a couple of roses today and I think they look quite lovely in my Waterford vase. Anything looks lovely in Waterford, though.

Yellow roses are supposed to mean "friendship," right? It didn't feel like a very friendly bush as I tried to clip these off. That thing tried to kill me. It had more thorns than I could ever imagine a bush having!

Collin's Fiduciary Independence

We've been having lots of talks about money around here. Mainly, we have been having discussions centering around the difference between a $20 Lego Set and a $200 Lego Set. Collin spent all of his birthday money on the Lego Tie Fighter and a Genosian Ship. He was thrilled to bits to get them. Then, he realized that he was out of money and began begging for more, more, more ships.

Without means to acquire money of his own, it's hard to teach the boy about saving and spending, or about the value of one object in relation to another. So, we decided to start him on an allowance. It was kind of a hard call because 1) he's still a baby, right? He can't possibly be old enough to get an allowance! and 2) a lot of what we expect him to do, we consider being part of this family, and not really, "chores." For example, we expect him to make his bed every day, get dressed on his own, keep his room clean, feed the dog and let him in and out when he needs to go potty.

Anyway, we decided to add in the task of folding and putting his own laundry away. It was a bit of a tough sell, but he got on board quickly when he realized money was involved. It's going to take a few instructional lessons, but he folded about three loads this week and put it all away himself. He even sorted the loads himself. I was pretty proud.

Originally, we decided that $2 was an appropriate allowance for a five year old. But, after some more discussion, we realized that even if he saves it for three weeks, he won't be able to buy much of anything for $6. (In case you are wondering: Yes, I know his PJs are inside out...he insists on wearing them that way because of, you know, TAGS! Even when I cut them out, he insists that he can still feel them. So, this solves all tag problems, even it does make him look ridiculous)

So, $2 will only end up making him frustrated and it's not really going to teach him much of anything except to be discouraged about doing work for nothing. I like his lack of enthusiasm for receiving $2.

So, we decided to go with what we'd read, which was $1 per year of age. $5 seems like a lot to give him, but we'll see how it goes. He was so excited to get his first five dollars! He was especially excited to trade in his $2 for a crisp $5 bill, which he wasn't expecting.

He spent it immediately. I tried talking him out of it, but kept telling him that it was his choice because it was his money. Showing him all the things that were $10 or $15 couldn't sway him. Telling him that he has a Mommy and Daddy to buy a present for coming up  (Mother's Day and Daddy's Birthday are both in a few short weeks!) didn't sway him. He just kept saying, "I'll just spend it, just this once!" He walked through the entire store with his hand in his pocket, making sure the money was still there, until he was ready to pay. I can't say it wasn't cute.

Anyway, other than that, we went to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum this weekend. He had a blast. We saw all kinds of neat stuff. I'm not sold on the place being better than the LA Natural History Museum, but it certainly is bigger. I miss my LA Museum, I think. It was never so crowded (maybe because it's smaller and doesn't have as much stuff). Still, the Smithsonian does have the Hope Diamond, and I could get used to developing ideas and schemes for owning it. If only everyone in metropolitan DC wasn't crowding around it to get a look, right at the same moment that I want to look. I've been there twice now, and both times, that room is wall to wall people.

Anyway, he saw dinosaurs and caves and the evolution exhibit. He saw the butterflies and bugs and sea life. I think we were there about four or five hours and saw about half the place, going through at five-year-old break neck speed.

His favorite part was near the wildebeest exhibit; they had display about how difficult it is for grassland animals to digest grass. There was an animation of the grass going through their digestive system and exploding out into little gaseous clouds, labeled "POOP!" And, next to the animation screen was a little Plexiglas container of poop. He looked at it for quite a long time, and then returned to look at it again. That boy.

My favorite part was the hall of dead computer monitors.

Oh wait, I don't think that was meant for public display. the partition there, the one that's wide open, has a sign on it that says, "Please leave partition closed." Anyway, it made me chuckle.

Since we were already downtown, we took a little stroll to the Washington Monument. I figured we should start checking monuments off our list when we are down there, right? And, since it wasn't raining, and it wasn't hot, it was a good time to go.

Collin was relatively disappointed that he couldn't go inside; in fact, no one can since the earthquake. But, he was happy to run around the grass like a maniac. He kept picking it too, but I told him to stop because it's the President's grass and since he lives just down the street, he could come out and yell at him for messing up his yard. He seemed sufficiently befuddled by this explanation, so much so that he decided to stop, until Bryon told him instead, that it was actually the nation's grass and he didn't have the right to destroy something that belongs to all of us. The idea of community property confused him to no end. We may not spank our child, wash his mouth out with soap or send him to bed without dinner, but we certainly find odd ways of torturing him, don't we?

We also watched The Sound of Music, this weekend. For a boy who was introduced to Star Wars before age 3, and The Lord of the Rings at four, I was afraid that The Sound of Music might bore him to death. It never occurred to me to encourage him to watch it, but he's been pretty into singing "Doe a Deer" lately. So, I put it on and he snuggled up with me. Surprisingly, he watched about half of it in complete rapt attention. That's a long time for a 5 year old boy with a movie like that. I was impressed, and overjoyed. And, I had forgotten how much I love that movie.

Ignore the awful picture of me. Bryon takes these types of shots and thinks that I'm the most adorable thing on the planet in them. I think I look like some sort of skeleton bird with crazy eyes. But, it's sweet to have my boy in my lap.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Santa Clara and Sailing

One of the things I have get to do, as a graduate student, who is a PhD hopeful, is submit abstracts to large conferences, in the hopes that they will think my paper sounds interesting enough for me to read aloud, in front of large groups of people. The Medieval Association of the Pacific accepted just such an abstract of mine a few months back, and I got to travel to Santa Clara to deliver a paper on why representations of Beowulf in modern film make the hero appear weaker than the Anglo Saxon original, due to feminist overtones. Sounds thrilling, right?

Well, to me, it is. Plus, I get to listen to all sorts of other cool papers. I was most excited about a paleographic study that a really interesting professor delivered about the Auchinleck Manuscript. I have particular interest in this manuscript because I write a lot about a story called The King of Tars, which survives only in two manuscripts, one of them being the Auchinleck. The Auchinleck is really important to my world. When I tried to explain the paper to Bryon, or even a small summary of it, his eyes glazed over, so don't worry, I won't bore you with it.

Anyway, while I was away, Bryon sent me a picture of what he and my precious child were up to.

I was not excited about it.

The last time (and only time) that we'd decided to take Collin sailing, he was a little bit shy of two. It was terrible. The beginning of the trip went smoothly, but I think Collin was a little too young to sail. He got bored quickly and once the decision to go back is made, you still have to, you know, go back.

He was pretty good, and stayed still, but the wind picked up and Bryon needed my help to control the boat and I couldn't focus 100% on the boy, who I kept envisioning falling off the side and bobbing helplessly in the ocean. He had a life jacket, of course. So, we put him in the little cabin, where he promptly decided that he was terrified to be separated from me in such an enclosed, strange environment. He cried hysterically, and reached for me frantically, but couldn't get to me and I couldn't pick him up until the boat was under control. It was one of the worst few moments I can recall because the idea of not helping my child, when he needs me, is devastating.

Anyway, Bryon didn't pressure me to take him out on the boat again after that. We were both content to wait until he got older and was certain to not fall off the side. He's surely old enough now and I would be much more at ease. I still, truthfully, and irrationally, feel scarred by the whole thing. Trust me, it isn't like we were stuck in a squall or anything. It was a brief moment of breeze and the whole thing lasted maybe two minutes, but I'm not a sailor and I was scared by the combination of not being able to go to my baby, and the idea of his getting hurt in an environment that I wasn't comfortable in.

Bryon has been sailing a lot out here in the year that we were in California, and I know he was eager to get us all out together. Anyway, I guess the weather was good while I was in Santa Clara and, on the spur of the moment (so he says, and I believe him), he decided to take Collin.

They had a great time and Bryon says Collin got a little bored toward the end, but he stayed calm and didn't go all crazy-Collin on him. He was a good boy and followed safety rules. I'm proud of him. Collin summed up the entire experience to me as follows:

"I looked through a spyglass. I was like a pirate."

I think he was relatively unimpressed. Maybe we need a bigger boat. I guess I'm over the whole thing and I'm willing to try again.

P.S. Note that Daddy is steering with his foot. It's a little weird, a little talented, and a little gross.

Fun While Mommy Suffers

I have to take both the Subject Area and the General GRE. If you don't know what these torturous things are, they are tests that are supposedly designed to predict your potential success in a graduate program. Generally, people who have just graduated with an undergraduate degree take these tests before applying for a Master's Degree. There are a wide number of schools that have totally done away with looking at these scores because they are both not accurate at predicting a student's knowledge, and they are unnecessary. CSULB didn't require a score for admittance to its MA program, so I never took it. Everywhere I'm looking to apply for a PhD requires both the General (think: basic college level math and reading comprehension, etc) and the Subject Area (think: literally EVERY major work of literature and criticism from Beowulf to the present) test scores.

Since I have not studied anything outside of Medieval Lit, with any real focus, since I was about 21, the Subject Area is pretty much going to flay me. I only had a few days to devote to studying for it. By the way, how do you study for that? Start at the Bible, and read everything written since then? Seriously? It's really, really hard to study for. The first practice test I took, before I studied, I got a score that placed me in the 5th percentile. No kidding. You read that right: 5. I used a practice book and pure rote memorization and got up to 50th in two days, on a different test. So, hopefully, I did okay. We'll see. Anyway, I'm sure I'll be taking that bad boy again. It's notoriously hard. People usually take it two to three times to get above 50.

Anyway, that's what I did on Saturday morning. I had to go to Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg (which, by the way, is gorgeous), and sit in a stuffy room, for three hours and try to remember all of the works of every major British Author since 500 A.D (ETS--the GRE administrators-- pretends to care about American authors too, but they really don't, and only throw in a token question or two about the Harlem Renaissance or about Transcendentalism).

While I was suffering through multiple choice, this is what my darling family endured.

Looks like torture, right?

A water gun fight. Collin says he won. He also refused to put a shirt on the rest of the day.

Collin's First Thunder Storm

Yesterday, a major storm system rolled through here. Bryon really played it up. In fact, for a few days, he kept talking about how it would rain all weekend, and how we were predicted to get major storms. Then, that afternoon, he kept talking about how, at 3 o'clock, it would start to storm.

At 3 o'clock, when it was super sunny out, he corrected himself and said, that was just when it was supposed to start "rolling in." Okay.

Sure enough, about an hour later, the temperature dropped significantly, and the wind picked up enough that our curtains were blowing out at about ninety degree angles. This was it, the storm!

It started to sprinkle and by dinnertime, it was raining, but not heavily. The clouds looked very ominous and we heard about two thunderclaps. After a lively discussion about thunder and lightening, Collin seemed excited to see what it be would all about.

So, I took him outside (since it was still only lightly raining--some storm, right?), and we sat on the deck and waited to see some thunder and lightening.

It never happened. We waited for about thirty minutes. We saw nothing. We heard nothing.

We got a little wet, but we never saw a single lightening strike or heard a single thunder clap.

It was the single most disappointing storm of our lifetimes.

But, it was really awesome to just sit with the boy, snuggle in the rain and chat. Since the bulk of my thesis work is done, I'm really enjoying the fact that I can just be with my family in these moments. I've missed them.

P.S. ignore my ridiculous hair. I had just gone for a run, taken a shower and was "experimenting."

The New House - Where's Collin Edition

I know you are all dying to see the new place. Or, you don't really care. Whatever.

Either way, Collin went on a little tour of the house with me and decided to "pose" in each shot. I'm not saying he's hidden, but he is being his ridiculous self. It livens up shots of a house, which let's face it, are boring.

This is what we are calling the family room. Why? Because we have never had both a living and family room before, and the two rooms need to be distinguished from one another. Since this is the room the family hangs out in, this is the family room. These are our new "reclining" couches. I was vehemently opposed to such furniture, in the past. Why? Well, because the love seat of this particular collection was only available with a console in the middle that had cup holders. Gross. That's why we bought two couches instead. Anyway, they are the most comfortable pieces of furniture in the world. They probably won't last a lifetime, but they are good family room stuff, especially with a kiddo.

And, we got a new rug. Since the couches recline, a coffee table would be dumb. The room looked empty, so we went rug shopping. Did you know huge rugs are crazy expensive? They are. And, we should've measured. This one is a little small, but it's awesome. And we bought it from a store we went into because we were tired of walking towards Home Goods. See, the Mills Mall here is too big to walk from one end to the other without a five year old having a mental breakdown. Collin wasn't cooperating and we saw a weird looking "World" goods store. Turns out the Persian guy that owns it had rugs. Who'd have thought? No, it isn't a real Persian rug, but it's good enough for us and we love it. Bryon laid on it and rubbed it when we got home. I think he liked it.

Since we now have a kitchen eating area and a dining room, we needed another table too. See the trend of needing more furniture? I found this 50's aluminum table on Craigslist. Original chairs (pro: original chairs, con: chairs creak like you wouldn't believe). It was super cheap and it's really, really cool. It's in really good shape and leaves pull out from underneath to make it larger. I can't believe how lucky we were to grab this one up.

The dining room has a really large, cool window. It also sucks. We had to spend a fortune on draperies for this house because none of the windows had window treatments on them and, as you can see, the windows are large and both let in a bit too much light sometimes (like when you want to be asleep) and let in the peering eyes of the entire street. Anyway, this window, as you can see, is impossible to cover. The homeowners have very lovely large wooden dowels on the window, circa 1982. They are truly stunning. The joys of rental. But, the room is nice and it just fits all of our furniture, including the china cabinet, and the table with the leaf.

Collin insists that both of these pictures are keepers. We eat in here most of the time.

This is the living room. It is also where Collin was just playing with his knight Legos (see the bin in the middle of the floor?). I think movers are always grateful not to have to lug a treadmill that weighs, literally, 1,000 lbs, up or down a flight of stairs. We made the living room the de facto gym. There's a weight stand behind the point of view of the camera, and there's a TV mounted in front of the treadmill. It's kind of ideal. I love it.

This is how you get vertigo. This is the hallway from upstairs. I only wanted to show my Dad the red desk, and the sewing machine. It was too hard to take a picture from below. The house looks like it was in the process of being "fixed" up when the owners got orders (they are Army), so there are nice elements, like that light fixture, and then weird cheese-ball brass fixtures, mixed throughout (or, that awesome 1980's curtain rod in the dining room). To the right of the green picture is our half bath. It's one of the rooms that seems to have been fixed up, but you have to be standing to shut the door. It's an odd little room, but it's fixed up nicely.

Look, Fillmore and the Bird of Paradise made it too! He flew all the way up to the shelf, too! Or, I put him there. Bryon almost killed himself to get that plant up there though. And, he risks his life every few days to water it. It better flower for all that work! Surprisingly, almost all of our plants survived the move.

This is our room. It looks so barren. There's obviously furniture in there, but we don't need every angle, right?

This is the highlight of the master bedroom. It also mocks us by existing at all. This lovely soaking tub is almost useless. This house apparently has a hot water tank roughly the size of a teapot. So, you can fill the tub about two inches at a time. It's quite lovely for soaking your ankles.

This is Collin's room. Ignore that it's sheet day. It's yellow. He finds this distressing. Every few weeks, he goes into a depression about why we need to paint it blue, immediately. We promptly distract him and hope that he forgets this request because we just don't feel like painting. At least it isn't the pink room across the hall. No, I didn't take pictures of the pink room. The pink room is still "disaster" room. When we don't know what to do with something, we throw it in there. We haven't had any guests yet, so there's no reason to do anything with it except shut the door and pretend it isn't there.

He likes his bathroom. Thankfully, we only had to buy a shower curtain in here. Oh, and a toilet seat cover. There was one of those weird cushiony toilet seat covers on this toilet and it was a strange size. I would venture to say that I have a relatively small butt, and it was hurting my butt. A cushioned toilet seat!

This is my office. Yep, that makes four bedrooms. I told Bryon I wanted four bedrooms, because every family with only one child needs four bedrooms, right? I wanted Collin to have a playroom still, and since we can't use the garage anymore, I either wanted a fourth bedroom, or a finished basement. No toys in my living area(s). Bryon convinced me to take the fourth bedroom as a work space and not keep cramming my stuff into the bedroom corner. I'm glad that I agreed. I love having an office.  It's my favorite room of the house. I have my lazy-boy in the corner and my other book shelf in here too. It's like my nerd retreat.

So, where's Collin's play room. It's relegated to the unfinished basement. It doesn't look much different than the garage. He's wishy washy about it. He likes it down there if we are with him. He'll stay down there for hours--much like the garage. But, Eddie has taken to pooping down there (nice) and he rightly says it smells sometimes. So, we just cleaned the carpet. Can you tell?

I would've taken some pictures of the front of the house and the enormous yard, but it was raining. Another day! I also didn't take a picture of the laundry closet  room. While it's awesome to have laundry on the second floor, it would be even more awesome if the quality of washing machine installed didn't make it sound like the second floor was going to become part of the first floor every time we ran a load of wash. It's a little frightening. I did learn that I don't want front loaders, from this experience. They really smell bad! I have been encouraged not to leave laundry sitting around between loads, though!

Overall, this is probably the nicest house we've ever lived in. It's certainly the biggest. It might be hard to tie with the Rosamond house though. I loved that house. This one is coming close, and might be coming out ahead. I love the house...if only it were in California. (Don't worry, I'm getting used to it here)

Collin Turns Five

I know it's hard to believe, but the world's most adorable baby (most terrific toddler and perfect pre-schooler) is not quite a baby anymore. In fact, he's five, and officially a kindergartner. I was not ready for this birthday. In my head, five was a really, really big deal. It just felt like a milestone. In a way, I'm glad that I was so busy, so that I couldn't really think about it, and it just slid by without too much fanfare. Since we'd just gotten here, he was happy not to have a party because he didn't know anyone yet and we were happy to oblige not spending a fortune on a bunch of kids we didn't know, filling treat bags and all that.

Anyway, we celebrated the way we normally do. For Collin's first birthday, I filled a small area of his room with balloons, while he was asleep, and let him discover them when he woke up. I did it again when he was two, only with more balloons, and again when he was three and again when he was four.

You know how kids' memories work, right? You do all kinds of special things for them and they don't remember (case in point: I asked him the other day if he remembered Star Tours at Disneyland, and he couldn't remember almost anything about having been at the park, at all, seriously) but, they manage to remember the time that you forgot to brush their teeth. 

Anyway, I was wondering if it was worth it to carry on with this tradition that is actually, really, really hard to execute, because it takes a lot of planning and effort, especially now that he's older and I have to actually conceal surprises from him. Driving to school a few days before his birthday, we were talking about what he wanted and what he hoped for on his special day and he said, no kidding: 

"Will I wake up with a balloon forest, like I always do?" 

Well, I guess that clinched it. I'm committed to blowing up balloons and making repeat trips to and from the party supply store the night before my son's birthday until he's 18 and goes off to college...then, I'll be driving up to his dorm to sneak in, and do it there. This year, it was the worst! I had a massive migraine and there was a major wind storm. It took two trips and I lost about 65% of the balloons I bought to either popping or to the wind during the load. It was quite the trip. The things we do to make our children smile. Bryon supplemented because I called him, sobbing, saying I was in too much pain to make a third trip, but that we just didn't have enough for the "forest." Good Daddy that he is, stayed up for hours that night pumping up balloons for the floor. 

Enough about the balloons! The big deal was the Lego Death Star. The boy had been asking for it for months and months. Eye roll if you will, as it is a $400 Lego set. It's the ONLY present he got (we aren't crazy). And, since he didn't have a party, or anything else, it seemed relatively reasonable. We usually spend a couple hundred on his birthday anyway, so it wasn't outrageous. Expensive, but not insane. We are still working on it. We knew it would be hard, but it is the most detailed thing I think I've ever seen. He was thrilled to see it and I was thrilled to be able to give him something that made him so happy.

Since he has no concept of money, we were afraid he'd be disappointed by only being able to open one present, so we sent him on a treasure hunt to find his mega-gift. He loves Scooby Doo, so we got him the original series and cracked it open, put all the DVD's in individual boxes and used each one as a clue to the big gift. He had such a fun morning! Side note: that box weighs about 20-30 pounds. No kidding.

I'm not sure he even realized that we didn't even buy a cake!

He had so much fun making chocolate cupcakes with Star Wars decorations that he thought it was the most special birthday in the world. 

And, it was! Our family was all back together and there's not much more to ask for than that.

The Road Trip to D.C.

Did you know that we used to live in California?

Well, we did. It was a beautiful, glorious place. We loved it.

We drove by this sign every day. The last time we drove by it, on our way to D.C., we pulled over to take a picture next to it.

It was a little, teensy bit sunny. I'm not sure if you can tell by the look on Collin's face or not. The thing I've noticed about life out here, is that even on a "sunny" day, you can get away with forgetting your sunglasses and just squinting. Sure, you'd end up with wrinkles, and it's a little uncomfortable, but it's never so sunny that you truly, truly need them the way you do with West Coast sunshine.

Anyway, sunglasses much improved the situation (borrowed from Mommy). Shadow be damned.

The trip out here was smooth and uneventful. Collin got to see snow for the first time (that he remembers) and he enjoyed the wonder that is eating fast food for days on end, meal after gut-busting meal. Blech.

The best part was getting to see Robyn and J for one of our stops, even if we had to go out of our way to do it. It was worth it! Collin is terrible at ping pong, by the way.

The intention was to spend a little longer there and get there the night before, but someone (me) had an emotional breakdown in the car, and could not go one second further on the road. I am many things, but a good traveller is not one of them.

Oh, and Robyn and J, sorry that Eddie got confused by your patio room, and pooped on the floor. If it makes you feel any better, he is apparently confused by our basement, and has been pooping down there as well. Or, he's just becoming a pain in the ass.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Long Time, No Post

So, many of you have been asking: Where's the Laundry Fairy?

I'll tell you: The Laundry Fairy has grown facial hair and has been folding things all wrong, and sometimes puts stuff in the wrong drawers. I wore Colin's socks the other day. This was devastating on a number of levels, not the least of which was the misplaced clothes (ack! My feet fit in my baby's socks!). But, I digress. The point is, the laundry has been being done by my husband, mostly out of necessity. If he doesn't do it, it doesn't get done. Much like the vacuuming, the dusting, the cooking and everything else in this house right now.

Thus, the reason for radio silence on the blog. I know, I know. You all want to see what our house looks like. And, it would be awesome if you could see what Collin's fifth birthday looked like. And, it'd be pretty cool if you could see the new yard. I would love to show you.

Don't worry, there are some pictures. I'll get to it. I promise. I've gotten enough work done that I've progressed to dressing and showering EVERY day! It's like a small miracle, honest. Tomorrow is the subject area GRE, and then, I will have a lot more time. Well, a little more time.

I have some small revisions to do on my thesis and then it should be smooth sailing. The whole thing hit a huge bump in the last few months, and I've ben buried. In the last two weeks, Bryon and Collin haven't even seen me out of my office. It's been awful. I even ate in here. The day I came out and told Collin it was the last day for me to work all day, he screamed with joy. Me too!

Anyway, I promise to bombard you with a ton of pictures soon...and all the news that's fit to print. Besides, there'll be all kinds of new pictures too! We're going to California next month for....GRADUATION!