Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm Back! And Making Curtains

Well, we finally have internet back after a week+ without it, because of the move. I must admit, it was actually pretty nice not having the constant distraction of the internet at home. I basically can't even walk past the room with a computer without going over to "check my e-mail real quick." It's bad.

So without the ability to waste hours in that way, I've been able to spend my free time unpacking, decorating, and sewing sewing sewing.

The house we moved into has fifteen windows. With nary a curtain, curtain rod, or blind. Not wanting the whole neighborhood looking in at us, we spent the weeks leading up to the move in a feverish hunt for curtains that were affordable. After much stress, and many stupid arguments, we finally came to the conclusion that there's no such thing. Curtain cost a FORTUNE! Most of the time, they are sold one panel at a time. You need at least two panels per window. Four, if you intend to put up sheers underneath with heavier colored curtains on the top. And then two sets of rods, of course. The very cheapest panels you see are around $12 for the very poorly-made ones. Up to $30-$40 for nicer ones. And I'm shopping at the "cheap" stores*! Thrift stores weren't really an option, since most of the rooms have multiple windows, and thus need matching curtains (another point on which Tom and I had to battle).

It was getting very frustrating, so we started looking for alternatives. With my newly-acquired - yet minimal - knowledge of my sewing machine (which, until a couple weeks ago, has sat untouched in the basement for the two years since I got it for Christmas), I decided I might try my hand at making curtains myself. That is, if it wasn't too expensive. So we headed off to JoAnn's...

Turns out it's WAY cheaper to go that route. It's still going to cost a lot of money for us, outfitting so many windows (a number of which needs the four-curtain deal). But it will end up being a much better deal than buying pre-made ones. Plus, there are so many more choices for fabric and patterns, length and width....I love that I can customize them however I like!

Sorry to have to write this whole post without including any photos of my work. My hope is that in another week or so, the house will be more pulled-together, and I can start a little series on here, showing one room at a time. Pictures are coming, I promise!

And on that note...Tomorrow: Halloween photos!

*Cheap stores: IKEA, Burlington Coat Factory, Big Lots, Target, etc.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Some of our New Lingo

Sly is a very clingy little baby, always wanting to be held. When he gets into one of his particularly clingy moods, following us around,whining, grapping onto our legs, we call him The Barnacle. "Watch out!" one of us will yell, "Sly's coming to barnacle you!" And we run away. haha...we're mean parents ;-)

And Tom came up with another stupid one last night, when the little man was being particularly grouchy and whiny. "Sly's making a withdrawal from his crank account."


Anyways, we're moving TOMORROW. ahhhh! So much to do! We won't have internet at the new place until Halloween (how will I survive??). Since we're one of the few remaining families who don't own a laptop, I can't just hike over to some place with free wi-fi either. I might be able to check my e-mail occasionally when stopping at my mom's or something, but I don't expect that I'll be writing any blog entries. I hope to return with some pictures of a fully unpacked and beautiful new house to show you! (ha....yeah right).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Last month when I had my appointment with the midwives, I weighed myself in the bathroom, as we're supposed to each time. I had already steeled myself for the expected increase of a few pounds, so I was especially confused when the scale was telling me I actually weighed 10 pounds less than last time. My last weigh-in had been only a month before - ten pounds is a lot to lose in that time. Not to mention that I have pretty much maintained that exact same weight (not counting my pregnancy with Sly) for a couple years. So I was incredibly skeptical. I slid the weights back to zero, and tried again. I still got the same number. When I met with the midwife, I explained that the scale must be broken! She looked over my weight chart, and agreed that it couldn't possibly be right.

Now, I've been trying to convince myself that it's just my imagination, but for the past few weeks when I look in the mirror, I feel like...I don't have as many rolls in the middle as I once did! haha. My clothes feel like they fit the way they did during college. Every day, though, I tell myself it couldn't be true. This morning, after looking in the mirror and feeling pretty convicted that I was, in fact, a bit thinner, I decided to confirm things once and for all. I dug out our own bathroom scale (which I have literally been hiding from myself for over a year, because it was always so depressing to step on it!), and stepped on. I really did lose 10 pounds!! What the heck?!

The only time in my life that I ever lost weight unintentionally was this one month when I was really stressed out all the time, and it affected my appetite. But nothing like that was the case this time. I definitely still eat the same less-than-healthy diet I always have. The only thing I can think of as a cause is the "Active For Life" competition Tom and I participated in through his job this summer. You had to set an activity goal for yourself, and try to reach it each week. My goal was incredibly modest: 30 minutes of activity, 5 days a week. Besides two 20-minute jogs, and a couple hour-long bikerides, the only activity I did to reach my goal was to go for walks. SLOW walks, with baby in tow. And most weeks, I just scraped by with meeting my goal. It doesn't make sense to me, really. I mean, there was a time when I used to go for runs. Every day. For a minimum of 30 minutes. And I wasn't dropping the pounds then!

I'm still not sure if that's it, but it's the only explanation I can think of. If I had known that walking could be so good for me, I would've started doing it much sooner! I'm definitely motivated now to keep it up!

Friday, October 14, 2011


I did it! I purchased the gorgeous LIFESIZE Christ child in manger! It's on backorder until December 15th, so I might get it *just* in time for Christmas. And it pretty much wiped out my entire stash of two-years-worth of Christmas/birthday money. But I think it will be worth it.


Now I can stop worrying about Christmas for a bit, and start thinking about the upcoming holiday, Halloween. Recently, Tom and I have been in no mood to discuss costume ideas, since the packing and moving has been pretty time-consuming and stressful. But we've been invited to a couple parties, so something's going to have to be pulled together. I like the idea of doing a themed family costume, like last year.

A family of street performers: Tom is an organ grinder, I'm a gypsy, and Sly is a performing monkey

But it's hard to come up with an idea that has "two big somethings" and "one little something." So we might just each do our own thing. But I don't know what! Anything we could pull together or make from items we already own would be ideal. I LOVE the idea of Sly being something that would require us to (or at least just give us an excuse to) draw a mustache on him. Because HOW adorable would that be?! Any ideas?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Date Night 2

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my husband and I had decided to try having more regular "date nights".

Since I forgot to report back on how our first one went, I'll just do that now. We ended up staying in, and waiting until Sly was in bed. Then we went down to the kitchen and whipped up some chocolate malts in the blender. Tom put on some records, and we pulled out the silver candelabra and several silver candlesticks. We sat down at the kitchen table, and created a "wall" of candles on either side of us, and in the middle, we set the boardgame we had chosen: Labyrinth Junior! (I found it at a flea market for a buck. It's less challenging than the adult version, but still a lot of fun.). It was a very pleasant evening, and best of all, FREE!

Last night, we had a more traditional type of date, though we still managed to do it on the cheap. We got my mom to watch Sly for the evening, and we went out to dinner. There's a great little Chinese joint we know. For $16, we each got: hot tea, soup, egg roll, entree+rice, AND dessert! How can you beat that?! We had wanted to go to the dollar theater for a movie afterwards, but the selection of movies was pretty disappointing. So instead, we bummed around town for a little while, and I dragged Tom into a couple stores as part of my recently mind-consuming search for curtains (our new house has FIFTEEN empty windows!!). Then we stopped in a dark and cozy little bar right along the railroad tracks and had a couple beers. I am not really a beer drinker, but when October comes, I can't resist the pumpkin-flavored ones!!

I have to say, I actually liked the first date better. When you have such a casual and intimate set-up, it naturally leads to pleasant conversation and good company. I found that last night, when we actually got out of the house, we felt a lot of pressure to "make the most of it." Since the movie didn't pan out, there was a lot of "I don't know, what do you want to do?" business after dinner. We felt like we had to go somewhere and do something "date-like." And I know Tom was not thrilled about the little shopping excursion.

So far, I think one of the best things about planning out dates this way is the anticipation of them. Even when you've decided on something very casual and ordinary, the fact that you know it's a "date" coming up makes you start to look forward to that time. In the days leading up to these two official dates we've had, I've noticed our relationship has been much smoother and, well, loving. So even if the dates themselves don't always turn out to be fantastic, I think that in itself is a definite positive.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vindication for Cloth Diapers

I mentioned on here a while ago that Sly has had a vicious recurring rash in his diaper area. The doctors thought at first it was herpes (it wasn't, thank goodness!) and then some sort of bacterial infection (not that either). After all three of the doctors at our pediatricians' office had failed to identify what the heck the thing was, they sent us to a children's dermatologist.

My fear was that this doctor wouldn't know what it was either, and that he would for some reason blame our cloth diapers. Cloth does hold the pee directly against the skin (unless you buy the more expensive style of cloth diapers, which wicks it away), unlike disposables. Although I've read in a lot of places that babies who wear cloth get fewer rashes, it does seem counterintuitive. Maybe the dermatologist wouldn't have heard this fact? I lamented to Tom last night that I just knew the doctor would tell us we had to switch completely to disposables forever. Noooooo!

This morning, the dermatologist took a look at Sly, and fortunately, he recognized what the problem was (I can't remember the name of the condition, but it's a recurring inflammation issue). He gave us a prescription for some cream which he was very hopeful will clear up the problem. He pointed out that the (disposable) diaper Sly was wearing (I had one in the diaper bag, and he had needed a change before the appointment) was probably exacerbating the rash, since the dyes they use in them are very irritating to the skin. "Oh! Well we usually use cloth diapers," I said, "we just use disposables when we're traveling." "Good," he replied, "if you can use exclusively cloth diapers from now on, I would advise you to do that. They're much better for the skin. And if you have to use disposables, find some without any dyes."

Sweet. I'm happy to hear further support for cloth diapers, and from a skin professional at that! Seriously, people - they're so much better for your babies, and so much better for the pocketbook!

Monday, October 10, 2011

New (To Us) Toys

I've seen a particular toy at almost every home I've visited where young kids live. It's a learning toy made by LeapFrog, and all the pieces are magnetic so they can stick to the fridge. The most common one is the alphabet set. You stick an letter into the main piece, and it will say its name, and sing a little song about it. I always thought it looked fun and educational, and the kids I've seen playing with it always seemed to enjoy it. It's one of those rare toys that isn't just electronic "for the heck of it" [like the modern version of the See n' Say, or the remake of the Fisher Price record player for example! Ugh. That really irritates me. Both of them used to work just fine with simple mechanics, not batteries!!].

Anyways, I had decided that we would get Sly one of the LeapFrog toys for Christmas this year. I know it seems early to be planning Christmas gifts, but I was guessing the price tag would make it unqualified as a "just because" sort of purchase for him (really, pretty much anything over $5 falls in that category!).

But then, lo and behold, I was at Goodwill a couple weeks ago, and they were selling the entire alphabet set along with the farm sounds set (not a single piece missing from either) for $3.99!!

I totally scooped them up!

Sly loves them, and dances along to all the songs. Although he doesn't quite grasp the "put pieces back on the fridge after playing with them" part, which means they end up all over the floor. So I usually just give him a couple letters/animal parts at a time, and keep the rest in a box.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Disciplining a Baby?

Sly is thirteen months old now. He's at an age where he's able to make a lot of trouble in a very short time, but still young enough that I'm not sure he understands which things he's "allowed" to do or not do. We've done our best to baby-proof the house, to stop most trouble and messes before they start. But there are still a few areas of the house or our routine that we can't really do much about.

For example, we have five tall bookshelves in our bedroom, and there's another one in Sly's room with all his kids' books. One of Sly's favorite past-times is ripping books out of the shelves and throwing them onto the floor. Not only does this make a huge mess, but it's harmful to the books, many of which are old. But what can we do to stop it? Block off entire shelves with sheets of cardboard and duct tape? Prevent Sly from ever going into half the rooms in our house? I'd much rather be able to just teach him not to mess with the books.

He always hurts the one cat (the other one steers entirely clear of him). Sly pulls at his fur, and his ears and tail. The cat gets mad and sometimes hisses, but is too gentle to really fight back. It's impossible to "baby-proof" a cat! And he's such a friendly cat that he always wants to be near people - even little ones who pull his fur - and so he's always putting himself right into Sly's path of destruction. On a number of occasions, I've actually had to slap Sly's hands pretty hard to make him let go of a fistful of fur. He does not yet understand the concept of "gentle", no matter how many times I've tried to teach him the right way to touch a kitty.

Another big problem is him throwing food on the ground when he's in the high chair. You think the food is on its way to his mouth, and then suddenly, he throws it triumphantly towards the floor. How do you stop that?

Tom and I have been trying to stop these sorts of behaviors, but with no effect whatsoever. We'll usually tell Sly "no ________" (no throwing food, no touching the books, etc.) while trying to get eye contact with him, and making a "serious" face. If we can, we pull him away from the "danger zone" or try to distract him with something else. But it simply doesn't work. More often than not, he thinks it's funny. I know he throws food just to get attention sometimes. And with the books...when we say no, and pull him away, he's always smiling and sometimes even laughing. He thinks it's a game!

What are we supposed to do about this? I haven't read any books or anything about disciplining. Although I'm not sure I even want to right now. But I wish I did know how old a baby needs to be to connect certain bad behaviors with consequences.

Tom and I have been talking about maybe trying a "time out" system. Neither of us were given time outs as kids, so we don't really know how it works. As far as I can gather, the effectiveness of time outs is that you put a child by themselves in a corner or something, and intentionally don't give them your attention. Because attention is often the thing they were seeking with their misbehavior, and you need to show them that that is not the proper way to get it. Is this right? Maybe there's more to it than that.

Anyways, last night at the dinner table, Sly kept throwing food after repeatedly being "reprimanded" by mom and dad. So I said to Tom, "let's give him a time-out right now. Tell him he's in timeout and turn his chair around so he can't see us anymore." Tom did, and Sly immediately started screaming. Obviously, he didn't like his punishment. But I'm not sure if he's old enough that he will be able to start connecting timeout to the things he does.

Any advice? Should we keep trying the timeout thing, or try a different tactic? Is he old enough to learn this yet?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Moving Soon

We spent the past four days up at my Cottage on Lake Erie. It was a nice little getaway, and chance to relax. Even when we did nothing but sit around, it was so much nicer than just sitting around at home. Because at home, you always feel guilty that you are sitting around, instead of cleaning something, or fixing something...

The first two days, it was just me, the hubby, and the babyman. Then on Friday, we were joined by six of our friends. The weather was pretty terrible - cold and rainy the whole time. It was pretty miserable even going outside (which is usually a big part of what we do there). But it made me feel a little better to hear that everyone back in Pittsburgh was experiencing even MORE cold and rain than us!

While up there, we got the news that our application for a house (rental) we had looked at last week was APPROVED! This means that in just a couple weeks, we are going to start the laborious and much-dreaded task of transferring our entire household across the city to the new place. Definitely exciting, but oh-so-stressful.

The new place is going to have more space. The downstairs is just a kitchen and a living room, as we have now. But the living room is definitely bigger. Upstairs is where the real room is. There will be FOUR bedrooms, instead of the two we have now. So the current plan is for us all to sleep on the third floor. Then we can turn one extra room on the second floor into an informal family room (where we can have the tv, the computer, Sly's toys, etc.), and the other one into a library (something Tom and I have dreamed about for ages). Being able to shut the door, and finally stop Sly from ripping all the books off the shelves (we have seven bookshelves. There is no way to block them all from a baby!) ten times a day will be invaluable.

But if we're to go through with this plan of having a downstairs living room (which needs a new record-player/stereo-containing piece of furniture), an upstairs family room (which needs a new tv-containing piece of furniture, at least one couch, some end tables and lamps...), and a library (which needs at least a couple lamps, a table, one or more comfy armchairs), it's going to mean that we need a lot of new furniture!! Ok, well not "new" furniture, because we don't have the money for that. It means we need to really get cracking, checking all the thrift stores, garage sales, and Craigslist for nice-enough used furniture that just happens to fit our exact specifications, while not being too expensive. A pretty tall order.