good luck, bad luck

October 9, 2008

So much news, so little time. The last few weeks feel like they can be gaged in good luck, bad luck terms. First there was the rejection from the Mid-Columbia Symphony I auditioned for. Bad luck. Going to the audition was tough enough. I really tried not to get my hopes up. I felt like “Lucy” from the “I Love Lucy” episode where she tries out for the part of dance girl on Ricky’s show, and all the other girls are younger, thinner, and way better dancers. The girls auditioning before me were younger, talented, and had obviously been practicing with a lot more heart (and time) than I could muster. I really knew I hadn’t spent as much time training as I should, but I wanted to go through with the audition anyway. I hope I didn’t come off like those singing wannabes on American Idol who draw the laughs but are completely ignorant of how much they truly suck.

I know I’m a good flute player, and hearing some recent flute performances have reminded me of how talented I am, but mainly of how talented I was. Or could have been. If I’d kept playing the last few years as much as I did in high school, I might be bad-ass. But I haven’t. Flute has been such an after-thought the last 10 years, that it’s a rarity I play it more than once a month.

Which led me to a big decision. I wanted to sell my flute. I really felt that some young person out there could benefit from having a good flute to kick off their flute-playing ambitions. And I sold it two weeks ago to a college student in Idaho. First year flute student, even tried out the flute in my living room.

It was rough. I got a good chunk of change for it, but now when I get that craving to whip out my flute, there’s nothing there for me to reach for. A coworker recently asked me if I was still selling it (he’d seen an ad I ran in our paper). And I said no. He said his wife has been learning, and is at a point where she could upgrade from her student flute to something more professional. And would you believe I felt jealousy? Like, wait, someone else is learning flute? I’m good at flute! Let me show you!

Anyway, I’ve decided that in a few years, when the boys are well into school, I am going to get a fancy new flute and maybe start teaching lessons. Maybe then I’ll have time to play every day again. Right now, it’s not going to happen.

So I guess the good luck with that is I got a bit of money to buy some nice things for myself and the family. We had a nice streak of good luck with money the last month. Good luck all around. Carlos finally got the money from a retirement account from his old job, and we paid off a ton of debt with it. We got paint so we can make our living room pretty. We got a (used) grill (that needs some parts). And then we both got a little bonus from work for winning journalism awards.

Now the bad luck. I hate UPS right now. A box with some nice clothes I ordered has somehow vanished. I think it got taken to the wrong house. Or it’s likely someone took it off the porch, but really really doubtful. For someone as anal as me, this type of mishap is devastating. I think I lost sleep over it. I”m trying to be humble though. I have so much more than other people. But I really, really wanted those clothes. Oh well.

Last week my grandmother died. Bad luck, although she was close to 100 and not the same abuelita. It was so painful to hear of her passing. It was also painful to see her health go these past few months, so she couldn’t walk or even talk. With her death, I am left without grandparents. But I get to fly down to LA on what would have been her 100th birthday, and see my entire family (all 200 of us) and we get to celebrate her life. That’s the way to go. My grandmother was a beautiful person. I’m glad the boys got to see her before she died. She really enjoyed them and it shows. In the end she even asked me who I was, and when I explained, she said, “oh yes, yes.”

la bisabuela, summer 2008

la bisabuela, summer 2008

i need a nap

August 22, 2008

Diego and I have been duking it out over his nap time. He thinks he doesn’t need one. I know better. Our routine right now is that we come home from day care at noon, we eat lunch, and Carlos goes back to work. Ideally, the boys would snooze from 1 to 3, or even 2 to 4, so I could rest too or get some work done. There have been times when Diego even sleeps three or four hours, because he really, really needs his afternoon nap.

But the last couple of weeks I have struggled to get him to rest. We did it to ourselves, though. For too long after we had Rafael, Carlos and I relied on a quick drive in the minivan to get Diego asleep. Diego’s over-tired? Let’s go for a quick drive. This technique back-fired on me, though, when I was home with both boys the last several months. It got too hard for me to take both sleeping kids from the car and into the house, and pray they both stayed asleep. What Diego started doing was waking up as soon as I’d put him on the bed. So I’d have wasted time driving around, and carrying them in two trips into the house, just to have to entertain them again.

I’ve tried putting videos in. I tried to reason with him that he will be so much happier, and play so much nicer, if he just rests. A few times (seriously, like maybe three times) he took his blankets and crawled into our bed on his own, and took a nap. Once I think he lay down on the floor of our bedroom and fell asleep right there. But most times I’m fighting with him that “You Need To Sleep!” and I’m taking him on several trips back into bed. When he refuses, I try to ignore him for however long it would take him to nap.

Yesterday it all came to a head. He’d been nice and quiet in our room (because he doesn’t like to nap in his own bed), and came out a while later. I knew he hadn’t slept, though, and walked him back in. And all over my comforter were his trademark swirls and lines, done in black ink. GRRRRRR!!!

So Carlos and I decided that I will encourage him to sleep, but if he doesn’t want to, I’ll just play nice and not guilt-trip him about how mommy is tried too and needs to rest too. And if he doesn’t sleep on his own before 3 p.m., he’s not to have a nap at all. Yesterday, after I rushed to the dry cleaners to see if they could get the ink marks off, Diego started asking for his “blankies.” I had confiscated them and put them on top of the fridge as punishment for doodling on the bed. He said sorry and I felt bad for the kid, so I gave them back. He walked to the couch and started closing his eyes. It was 4:30 p.m.

“Oh, no you don’t,” I said. I handed him a book. “Here, read instead.”

I felt ridiculous forcing him to stay awake when he clearly was falling asleep before our eyes. But the other day he’d napped from 4 to almost 6:30 p.m. and it totally threw off our night routine. We’re pretty good about getting Diego to sleep by 8 p.m. (after stories it’s probably a bit later, but this is our quiet down time). And the late nap days are rough, because then we’re pushing everything else back one hour.

I feel like there’s a no win situation here. If he doesn’t nap early, I have to keep playing and maybe even walk to the park to try and wear him out. If he sleeps in the stroller on the walk back but then wakes when we get home (which has happened often) I have to keep going with the entertainment. If he waits until way too late to nap, we either work to keep him awake, or work to get him to sleep that night.

In my ideal toddler world, Diego takes his blankies and stuffed tiger right after lunch, walks into mommy’s room and crawls into bed, snoozing for the two hours he desperately needs. This kid isn’t even 3 yet. I refuse to believe he doesn’t need a nap anymore. What 2 1/2 year old kid can go 14 hours without resting? Oh, that’s right. Mine.

Teens and toddlers

February 22, 2008

Having a 13 year old girl and 2 year old boy in the house makes for an interesting dynamic. Luckily teens and toddlers aren’t too different when it comes to certain things. They like apple juice and apple sauce, ice cream, Nutella…anything sweet, really. They like to explore and experiment, want to be independent but also to be taken care of, and to be guided without being smothered. Our teen and toddler can also be quite strong-willed, stubborn, temperamental and prone to overreact.

What I love about them is how intelligent they each are for their age; their silliness and confidence; their contagious energy and sense of adventure.  And how imaginative and creative they both are.

diegoitzul.jpg

Diego and Itzul.

countdown to baby: 5 weeks

February 19, 2008

I know I’m getting close to having this baby because after my doctor’s appointment tomorrow, I have to start going every week. I’m officially due March 21, but given that Diego was 2 weeks early, we’re getting ready around the house to welcome little Rafael Eduardo.

In case there were any doubts I’m with child at this point…. me-pregnant22.jpg

This is me a few nights ago, forcing myself into a non-maternity shirt. Once this baby is had I am considering burning most of my maternity wear, the five shirts and three pants I’ve worn exclusively all winter.

I got a great deal on a swing/cradle that I think will last us most of the first year. Today I put it together — all by myself! — and it’s now displayed in our living room:

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Finally there is the “nursery,” which is really our bedroom. Our room served as Diego’s nursery in Burbank until we moved to Walla Walla and he got his own room. We have a lot more room to share with this baby, though, probably twice as much. And by the time he needs his own space, we might be looking into a bigger home with a room of his own. Or maybe just a spacious room for the two boys to share. So here is Diego’s old crib and bedding, take two:

crib.jpgcrib2.jpg

There were only a couple of big-ticket items I needed this time around: a double stroller (check), a cradle swing (check), and a changing table/dresser (uh-oh).

I don’t have a place to put the baby’s clothes yet, and I think clearing out one of our dresser drawers will have to do until I find an appropriate changing table. For now, we’re going to use the play pen that we rarely used in our old apartment because there simply wasn’t any room, because it comes with a changing space!

playpen.jpg

I’d say we’re pretty close to being ready. Just have to wait for the little guy to be ready also. Hopefully one of my next posts will be pictures of our latest addition to the clan.

ode to donnie

February 15, 2008

A few months ago, the teenager showed up at our house nuzzling a tiny kitty she and a friend had come across. The cat had apparently survived a house fire, or was found under a house that had burned down. Teary-eyed, she begged us to keep him. Being a few months pregnant, I had mixed feelings from the start. We’d been talking about getting a pet, but I had hoped we could wait until after the baby was born to get one.

There we were, face to face with the question. We told her how unfair it was to put us in that situation. She and her friend wanted joint custody of the kitty, switching off every week. We said that wouldn’t work either, that it wouldn’t be fair to the cat (and would be a messy custody dispute should the girls’ friendship waiver).

So we took in little Donnie Darko, or Donnie. Diego loved him immediately, and experimented poking his face and picking him up by the tail. We saw an opportunity to teach our 2-year-old how to be “nice” to a pet and what is “not nice.” (Like the tail flinging).

diegoanddonni.jpg

As Donnie grew, Diego’s toddler influence must have taken over. Donnie became a rambunctious kitty, loving to paw at you and nibble where he could. A few times, he jumped up and swatted playfully, catching Diego’s face and leaving my 2-year-old crying and not understanding the kitty game.

Now, with several months gone, an exhaustive attempt at conditioning with a water bottle, and a good nail clipping later, Donnie is as crazy and wild as ever. Our attempt to domesticate this stray has failed completely. He’s a great kitty, but his eagerness to swat and bite to play has shot my nerves. I had to tend to Diego’s wounded face one too many times. With a newborn joining us in a month or less, I had to put my foot down.

Donnie needed a new home.

Today we’re heading to a no kill shelter where animals are placed in “foster homes” until an adoptive family can be found. The teen still really wants a cat, and we’re all sad it didn’t work out better with Donnie. I think an older, mellow cat would be a better fit for our household.  A nice cat just looking for a good home and less inclined to play with an infant or torment a toddler. I’m sad to see Donnie go, even though I complained the most about him. I hope we did our best raising him, and that he finds a home that will be good to him and let him be the wild kitty he longs to be.

stroller love

February 13, 2008

After weeks of searching for the perfect stroller for a newborn and 2 year old, I will soon be the proud owner of this:

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A friend recommended the Phil and Teds sports buggy. It’s a single stroller with an attachment for another child. So it’s two strollers in one. Diego’s been eyeing the Jeep stroller at a local store, the one with the steering wheel and  horn. I know he would have preferred that stroller, but I can’t imagine pushing Diego in a single stroller and carrying the new baby around town. Slings will only work for so many blocks before you just want the baby to learn to walk already. We’d narrowed down the stroller dilemma to looking for a tandem (not side by side) stroller…and that’s where we exhausted our list. Did we want high end, to get good wear out of it, or cheapy, since it would probably be large and complicated to push around anyway, and last us maybe two years tops? I thought about getting two strollers. I thought about doing the single stroller plus sling thing for a while.

This was a bit of a splurge for us, but we’re going to make it work if I have to velcro Diego to the seat to keep him still. I think he’ll adjust to a new stroller. The new baby won’t get much of a view, as a coworker pointed out, but he’ll be small. He’ll get over it. Either way, it’ll be an improvement from our current stroller, which has been dying a slow death this past year, is permanently reclined and catches my fingers whenever I fold it up. It should make a nice bonfire.  Or maybe I can sell its parts for cash.

I say 10 weeks, but this figure could sway between 8 and 12, depending on how early or late this baby wants to arrive. Diego joined us about two weeks early, but a beautiful healthy boy no less.

I’m amazed at the differences between this pregnancy and my first, and the different anxieties I’m feeling because of them. With Diego, I wouldn’t dream of having coffee or Cokes. This time around, I practically need a mid-day Coke fix, and my half-cup of drip each morning. I have tried the decaf thing, and only truly apply it when at coffee shops, where their drip seems to be 20 times stronger than what we make at home (or at the office).

I’m also making a lot less healthy choices. No prenatal yoga this time, no walking around with a trusty water bottle. I know I should be sipping on some water instead of finishing my coffee right now, but it’s almost like the baby craves it as much as I do now. Unlike my first pregnancy, I also have a 2 year-old constantly at my feet, or begging to be held or entertained. It’s so draining. Does that count as exercise?

My doctor assures me the baby is developing great and appears to be totally healthy. Time will tell. I’m worried he won’t nurse, and I’ll have to mess with formula. But I’m determined to make this kid nurse, and pray it goes as smoothly as it did with Diego. The thought of nursing another 15 months terrifies me. When will I get to enjoy and finish a full beer? I’m also not planning on introducing solids until the 6 month mark, if I have the pediatrician’s blessing. I’d like to make my own baby food again, but will I have the time?

Returning to work is another obstacle I’m quietly preparing for but won’t actually know the challenges until the day comes. That’s supposed to be July 28, if our finances hold. My strategy is to take both kiddies to day care half-time. That will be like 2 for the price of one, except my day will end closer to 11 or 12 p.m. Then I have the afternoons to write, probably when Carlos gets home. But from the constant rumblings in my belly, we might have another active baby boy on our hands. At least he won’t be mobile for several months after his birth.

saving energy

October 12, 2007

I’m a bit of a miser about certain things, and a spendthrift when it comes to others. Like, I won’t mind spending $300 on a coat if I think it’s going to last and fulfill it’s purpose (keeping me warm and stylish).

But if I have to spend an extra few bucks a month for text messaging on our cell phone, I flip. We recently rewarded the teenager with an unlimited texting messaging plan on our phones, for continued achievement on her grades. We did place a few conditions. At the first sign of dropped grades or bad teen attitude around the house when it comes to helping out, so goes the cell phone perk. But the only upside is that with this unlimited business I won’t have to check the phone every day to make sure she’s not texting in the 1,000s. Now how many of our “anytime” minutes she uses is another matter.

But what I really wanted to vent about is conservation. And it’s somewhat fitting, since my desire to cut back on our electricity and water consumption has less to do with being kind to the environment (which I do value, don’t get me wrong) but more to do with being cheap and wanting to save a few bucks every month.

I’ve employed the following electricity-cutting measures in our house:

Surge protectors:

Diego’s and Itzul’s rooms have all their electronics plugged into surge protectors that I turn on and off every day (or try to, if permission is granted to enter the teen’s lair). I’ve read this helps keep electronics from sucking up juice from simply being plugged in to an outlet, despite not being on. Anyway it gives me peace of mind.

those funky lightbulbs:

It’s been out with the old and in with the slightly more expensive but cheaper in the long-run and longer lasting bulbs that are corkscrewy in shape and emit the dullest light I’ve ever seen yet are supposed to save me some money somehow. So yea, we have these in almost all the light sources throughout the house. I don’t love them, but if they save me some change…

not so hot:

Don’t think I’ve ever used the “hot” function on our washing machine. Or “hot” on the dryer. We’re a cold water family when it comes to laundering, and I try to dry things on the medium (it seems kinder to the clothes). But with the energy consumption on the washer and dryer, we’re kind of screwed. We went with the second to cheapest washer and dryer, and although they are working great and serving our needs, I do wish we could have splurged a a couple thousand dollars more and gotten an Energy Star washer and dryer. Then we would really be saving water and juice (but be thousands of dollars more in dept – *sigh*).

We also finally adjusted our water heater to the suggested 120 degrees. And I’m keeping the furnace set at around 63 degrees, which I think might not be totally accurate and actually warming our house more. So maybe 60 would be more appropriate. But then would our pipes freeze?

Energy Star:

We did luck out on a couple of appliances, just not really by choice. The slick new television we did splurge on has that cute little blue sticker on it that indicates each time we sit on the couch to stare at its images, we’re saving energy! Our dishwasher, which came with the house, has the same Energy Star feature. Good thing, since we’re running that little guy every day now. Can’t say the same about our fridge, though. Like the washer and dryer, we opted for the cheapy model. With $1,000 more invested, we could have also gotten one of those blue stickers. Darn! But one thing I’m trying to do to save money on the fridge is keep the freezer well stocked, since I read somewhere that’s supposed to make it more efficient. So there.

And just for good habit, we’re doing our best to turn lights out when we leave rooms, using natural light as much as possible and unplugging things that aren’t on power strips (like the microwave, toaster, cell phone chargers).  My next goal will be to add some weight to the back of the toilet tanks so that less water is used with each flush. I learned this trick from living in California during endless droughts.

Anyone else have any tips, please pass them along.

Random

September 12, 2007

Am listening to Thom Yorke Eraser album. Counting down the minutes to head home from work. Have already depleted my brain function for the day, and am getting little to no work done anyway. The natural cycle of the end of the day. Let’s see, what else is on my mind. I desperately need new maternity clothes. And shoes. The threads I’m wearing are slightly older than my son, who turns 2 in a couple of months. Totally unacceptable. I’d try my hand at making some dresses or loose blouses if I had any energy at the end of the day. It hit me yesterday what a tough job it is to manage a home. We get home and need to unload the dishwasher and load the dirty dishes that have piled up in the sink. I need to prep for dinner, which means getting more dishes dirty and loaded. During that time, someone needs to play with Diego and give him a snack if he’s cranky or thirsty. I wish I could do it all but I can’t. I know Carlos is exhausted as well. And we don’t want to pressure Itzul, the teenager, with too much housework. We’d rather she focus on her homework and keeping her room in order. Last night the dishes got done, everyone got fed, Diego only fussed a while, got to run around outside, and then I got a glance at the spilling over laundry in the hamper by the washer and dryer. I had a vision of the two loads of clean clothes in our bedroom that still had to be folded and put away. My head started to throb. But luckily Carlos lent a hand and we got one load washed and most everything that was already clean put away. Which just leads to another day. It might be time to research a cleaning lady. I’m not sure I can stand to spend my only free time, weekends and after work, doing chores and sweeping or scrubbing.

We’ve made it exactly five and a half days of not eating out, and have exactly five more days to go to fulfill our promise (we get paid next Friday). It’s been easier and more fun that I thought, but the desire to just head to a restaurant has been strong, too.

There have been some “con”-like results of this. For one, we’re having to use the dishwasher at least once a day. Then there’s the matter of the time it takes me to prepare and cook each meal, although it’s a nice distraction for me and a good way for Carlos to interact with Diego. We’ve also been coming up with ways for Diego to help, like handing us stuff to set the table.

I think we have both missed following our cravings. Like the other night Chinese food sounded good, but I’m not about to attempt sweet and sour soup or pineapple chicken. Even if I did get all the ingredients I’m not sure it would be up to par…well, maybe I’m just being defeatist.

Breakfast has been mainly cereal or oatmeal (loaded with bananas and raisins, yum) and for lunch we’ve made sandwiches with turkey and tuna fish. A couple of afternoons we had leftovers from the night before.

Our dinners have been nice. I made stuffed peppers for the first time with ground turkey, white rice, tomatoes, oregano, onions, garlic, and a ketchup-soy sauce-tabasco sauce I concoted. It might sound gross but everything came out yummy. Another night we made a pot of pinto beans, added some chorizo and ate with “chuletas,” which is pork chops that are boiled in a frying pan with water (just enough to cover them) salted and with a bit of vinegar, then once the water evaporates you fry them until they’re crispy. Again, might sound gross but they come out really tasty and tender.

Finally, we had spaghetti with mushrooms, spinach and turkey sausage one night, a frozen cheese pizza with salad another night, and “saltado” (basically sauteed thin meat with onions, tomato, cilantro and french fries) and white rice. I get all these crazy recipes from my mom. They’re Peruvian dishes.

Diego didn’t like the saltado that much, but he ate pretty much everything else. I warmed up a corn tortilla with cheese for him that night.

Right now we’re heating up the last of our frozen pizzas (I cut us off at two). Tonight I think is tofu, squash, carrot and onion stir-fry with an Asian simmer sauce, maybe more white rice.

I hope it make it one more week!