Monday, November 23, 2015

Chit Chatty

I generally do my grocery shopping during weekday mornings when Benjamin is at school for a few reasons: 1. one fewer child, 2. grocery stores and Target are the only places open at 8:30 a.m. and we're already in the car and 3. somewhere to go! Claire particularly loves the car carts or even better, the mini ones she can ram into other unsuspecting shoppers' shins.

Leaving the first (of two) grocery stores this morning, one guy commented how Claire was "speaking a language only a mother could understand." And I suppose because I definitely understood her rattling off all the items in our cart that he was correct. But, I'd give her more credit than that. She's bold with speech. She talks a lot and has quite the impressive vocabulary.

Benjamin is at the nonstop talking and question-asking stage. If I dare talk to Elliot when he gets home from work, Benjamin will become frustrated and then say, "Mom, you're not letting me talk!" Our adult conversation time happens between the hours of 8-10 p.m. and that is all.

Claire is following suit and is definitely yapping all the livelong day. It's adorable and sort of exhausting, but I encourage those little dendrites in formation and talk to her all day. Poor husband doesn't get much conversation at night because I'm so tired from talking all day. Conversations about toys and books and not throwing food on the floor for the 683rd time, but still talking.

I don't recall Benjamin talking all day at her age. I know his speech was fine, but she's particularly chatty in comparison. I attribute much of that to having a big brother and listening to the sophisticated (for her age) conversation that takes place between us. I try not to dumb-down language, but it's so darn difficult when she refers to all treats as "paw-coles." And so I sometimes use that adorable language because she's my last baby and I can if I want to, okay?

She's also privy to knowing wonderful words like booger, of which she pronounces incredibly well. And then laughs. And if you're really lucky enough to have your face within reach, locates one and goes in for the dig. Thanks, Benjamin.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Room

A few months ago, my mom bought us a certificate for this place nearby called The Room. The whole premise is that six people (max) are locked in a room and have to puzzle, search, riddle and unlock their way out.

We booked a babysitter for 9 p.m. on a Sunday night thinking we'd totally be able to sneak away for 1.5 hours (including travel time) for this experience and the kids would have no clue we even left.

Not so. Like every seasoned parent knows, someone is going to be sick or inevitably scream your name because they lost a blanket or something. Sure enough, Benjamin woke in that little window of time and all the babysitter gave me was, "Well, let's just say I was not the person he wanted to see when the door opened."

He's an angry sick kid. Frankly, he spent the greater part of a year before this just being angry for no apparent reason. We're turning a corner, but sick Benjamin is not pleasant. This week has been pretty brutal. I'm certain there was kicking and screaming for that babysitter. Maybe even spitting. I just feel bad for the poor high-schooler neighbor girl who was in English class this morning thinking that she may never want children because of my punkass three-year-old. At least she had plenty of material for her Quick Write this morning.

But The Room.

We arrived and immediately saw the teammates who we'd be locked in a room with for an hour. Four total nerds. They were geeky. They reminded me of my LA rocket scientist friends, except those friends were also a bit wild and crazy in addition to being crazy smart. These four guys shared a compact car to the place (carpooling, how green!). For three of the four, this wasn't their first "room" experience. In fact, they referred to themselves as avid hobbyists. We even had to introduce ourselves to them before they wanted to get started. Their idea. Actually that guy in the blue shirt holding the sign. He was the ring leader.
Do you ever look at pictures and ask yourself WHY you do the stupid hand-on-hip thing? Just me? Probably.
We were given the rule spiel and then they locked us in with the geeks and set the alarm. We searched under everything, found hidden passages and locked boxes (to be unlocked), solved math problems and riddles and puzzle boxes. We used magnets and string and water and picked apart every bit in this bedroom-sized study room. I kind of felt like I was in the game Clue, in the library with Colonel Mustard. Except there were 5 of them, plus me.

It was definitely an experience. We used one of the three clues allotted to us and finished with almost 10 minutes to spare, making our escape. It was fun. It was totally weird. It was the nerdiest thing I've done in years.

Friday, October 30, 2015

So Hip

Last week, my mom came into town to watch the kids so we could be downtown from Wednesday - Sunday for a big industry association event. If you're part of the industry, you are there. Someone in your company shows up. Your fellow manufacturers, distributors and colleagues are there. Typically, I travel to the location (because it's usually awesome) with the kids and explore while the husband is out until early morning hours "networking" with industry folks.

He's been attending for the majority of his time with the company, but this was his first as president. Even more exciting, last year he was asked by the president of the association to be the chair of the planning committee for this year's industry summit. Conveniently located in Chicago and being a young and innovative guy in the industry, he happily accepted. Not a bad resume builder.

And so he planned his tush off. He changed the format of the entire summit and introduced a 3-speaker Ted Talk style event that led to breakout sessions to take in two of your favorites for a deeper dive into their talks. He was one of the speakers to introduce his speakers and be the voice of the association for this summit. One of the guys was an actual Ted speaker and artist, but the others were more on the economist side of things that the industry is used to. Reviews of the event (he planned) have been nothing short of excellent.

I was there for the whole thing. It was so awesome. In addition to matching faces with names, having a load of delicious food and cocktails, being there to take in all his hard work, and sleeping in a comfortable hotel bed without kids waking me each morning, I also got to go on a food tour of the Gold Coast and Old Town with other industry wives. I also stayed up way too late each night "networking" as well and wore heels the majority of the time (that I consider are absolutely without a doubt little torture devices for women). I feel like I'm too feminist for those stupid things. But oh do they look so good.

And guess what? We took our first Uber ride. Seriously, I'm so hip. They even sent me a summary of my first ride with a map, exact (to the hundredth of a mile!) mileage, cost, and a picture of my driver in an email invoice/receipt after. If you want to take an Uber and wanna save yourself $20 on your first ride, I'll go ahead and shamelessly share my code for you all: brandyw508ue and if you use, I get $20 to my account for future rides, too. Not a bad deal. And really, I am sold on the service and will probably never take a standard cab again.

The whole post was really to just praise my incredible husband and how awesome he was in planning a hospitality event for his company that absolutely showcased their products in the best light and shared their impressive history with their distributors. It was just awesomely cool to see him kill it at the whole thing.

Four days away from the kids also meant their Gawbee spoiled them rotten and the littlest is now totally struggling with separation anxiety. Sleep has been rough. Naps have been tough. Leaving her at the gym for that hour a couple times a week has actually gone smoother than expected, despite her reminding me "Mama, [comes] back" every single day for at least a dozen times thereafter. She's clearly anxious. Sleep regression at 21 months totally sucks. Benjamin was just never that attached to me.

We're back in the mix of things (sort of) and next week, plane flight. Savannah adventures await!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Gym Dropoff

We joined the Y last week, primarily to keep Benjamin in the water over the winter. It had already been a month and he's pretty rusty (though still plenty daring).

It was the last day for a no joiner fee, so we figured we'd be saving a month's worth anyway since we planned to join in November. (...and now there's a no joiner fee from Oct. 23-25, go figure.)

I put on my Turkey Trot 5k shirt this morning and Benjamin noticed the big Y on the front. The Pittsburgh Turkey Trot is affiliated with their local YMCA, apparently. Benjamin told me he wanted to go back to "the Y place, that Y-M-C-day place again). Today, in fact. Perfect, because it turned out our plans were lining up quite nicely.

This morning, I dropped the husband off at work because his car is in the shop and we were on our way to the gym. I wanted to keep my streak of 5 days in a row workouts going. I usually run about 2 miles to Benjamin's school for pickup with Claire in the double stroller, but Benjamin doesn't have school on Fridays.

Claire is attached at the hip to me. I prefer she weren't, but she has other interests. Benjamin, on the other hand, probably wouldn't notice I left for about a week. When we approach places she's been left before briefly (i.e. friends' houses, church nursery), she clings to me like ferocious lions are at my feet.

Needless to say, I was a little nervous about leaving her at in the free gym daycare dropoff. I chose a Friday so Benjamin, one of her safe people (never thought I'd use those words!), would be with her. I was nervous that without him there, she would be more likely to scream her lungs out for the whole hour I left her. I just didn't feel right leaving her in the arms of poor gym daycare workers, knowing how busy they were and knowing it's really not their job to engage with my kids so much as keep them safe.

Because baby, you know if I get "free" childcare that doesn't have to be re-payed in any way, I'm using it.

She cried at dropoff. I showed her the babies and she was thrilled, but that didn't stop her from looking at me with betrayal eyes as I skated out.

So guess what? I ran 5 miles on the treadmill. Sure, it was at zero incline, but I just kept running my buns off until I was left with little time for any more. I haven't run 5 miles ever in the state of Illinois. Seriously. I haven't ran that distance since living on the beach in LA about 6 years ago.

It felt good. It felt great. I could've kept going even. But alas, the clock was ticking.

When I clocked out and cleaned the machine, I went over and spied on Claire from the top railing (such a cool feature) and she and Benjamin were content playing with toys. I scooped them up, at which time Claire started her betrayal crying again, and we hit the pool, had nice warm showers and headed home for lunch.

That $79 a month is turning out to be well spent.

I'm now making tentative plans for spin classes on Saturday mornings with the hubs (I totally hate that nickname but it seems fitting for fancy moms with gym memberships) in our near future.

That kid play area just became my bee eff eff.

(After Andrew died, I would've never imagined being able to write this post. #feelinggrateful)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Claire's Dresser

Some months back, I visited my favorite local thrift shop and came out with a dresser for $45. It's solid wood and has tons of charm. And best of all, it was in really great condition. The only thing I hated about it was the huge oval and outdated, painted flowers that adorned the front. Easy, I could paint that, I thought.

I texted the picture to the husband and posted it on Instagram. Instagram response was a solid positive. The response from the husband wasn't negative. If you have been married awhile, you know any answer that isn't no is obviously yes. So I bought it. But, it didn't fit in my car. I called my friend (who has since moved to St. Louis!) and told her I needed to borrow her van. She asked if I was at that exact thrift store (she knows me...) and she told me she'd be by in 5 minutes because she was across the same street at the grocery store. She picks the dresser up and delivers it to my house. Boom.

It sat in the garage for a month or two. Gathering up the energy to get started took awhile, but I knew it had to be done before winter and no one likes working in a cold garage. So...

Before painting, there was sanding. If anyone who has ever refinished furniture knows, the prep is the worst part. It wasn't much different than the rest of my refinishing projects except NAPTIME. I did my major dresser project for our master bedroom when B was napping. Not just napping, but two times a day for 3-4 hours total. I had gobs of time. Now, I'm lucky to get a single hour to knock anything out because B doesn't nap at all (and therefore wants books and mom time) and C naps much shorter than B did at her age (1.5-2hrs a day total). By the time I would read a few books to B, set him up with a movie, drag out all my supplies, and get myself prepped and ready, I had almost no time to actually work.

Chipped away slowly and it's done. It's not perfect and there are some things I'm disappointed about, but it's done and I'm mostly happy with the results. It will look a whole lot cuter with the picture frames of colorful, artsy cards I've been collecting above it in Claire's "big girl" room, but here's the before and after:

Notice: great big oval in the middle. Be gone, painted flowers and random oval!
Detailed projects are my favorite pieces and also the hardest to work with. So. much. sanding and cleaning in grooves.
Crystal knobs were purchased on Ebay for about $20 and sold the old ones on Ebay as well. I ordered two sizes: top small drawers and big bottom drawers
I also took a picture of the top piece unattached (and covered the bottom in adhesive felt in case Claire happens to dislike it--easy removal).
Total cost of the project = ~$100
Dresser: $45
Sanding/Painting Supplies: $20-$30 (overspent here, clearly)
Knobs: $20

Blast from the past, 2.5 years ago:
First dresser project
Second dresser project