Sunday, July 31, 2011

Time for my weekly no pay babysitting job

My husband plays beach volleyball in a local park district league with some friends of ours. It's an 8 week season at a beach in a town near us who's beach is normally only open to town residents (not our town). So we pack up the kids once a week and make a nice afternoon of it. The kids play in the sand and surf with our friends kids and have a great time. Sounds fun right? It is for everyone but me.

All our other friends are on the team so can't watch their own kids, so guess who does? That's right, me. I wouldn't mind as much if they had ever asked me if I would mind doing it, or thank'd me after. I mean have 3 kids of my own. One other couple that plays every week have 2 boys (6 and 4) Another couple just joined us, but they have a fairly new baby and a 4 year old daughter who is more clingy so they do watch their kids more, and the Mom did apologize last week when she saw her daughter kept asking me to bring her from the playground to the volleyball area because she wanted Daddy. So yes last week I was watching 6 kids.

We've been playing with the couple with the 2 boys all season and not once do I get a thank you. I admit it's only about an hour but the volleyball area is about 100 ft from the water, the playground about 100 yards from the volleyball area in a different direction. I have 5-6 kids to watch and have to convince them all to agree on playing in the same area.

Add to that that I can't swim so get a bit nervous when the young ones go into the water. I know my kids abilities but not theirs.

Last week luckily the water was off limits due to high bacteria levels after all the storms, but that won't be the case today.

Admittedly I could skip this week since my husband is working and so can't play but this will be the last week we can go since we'll be on our trip the next two weeks.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


We've been hit with a ton of storms this summer, but aside from one day when we were without power for 12 hours we've been lucky. Our area is notorious for having houses flood, but even as we saw neighbors bringing up carpet and other items that had been damaged by floods in their basement we'd been ok.
Until today. Another storm last night, not major, but the 7 inches of rain in night like we got on the 23rd but it was enough to cause water to seep in.

Here's how my day went
815 kids wake up. Start breakfast go check the basement. Seems fine until I go to the guestroom and get wet feet. Check the rest of the basement. Everything seems fine. Then I realize I haven't heard the sump at all after all these rains (usually I can hear the water rush through the pipes when it pumps out). A sound that freaked me out the first time, but now I find very reassuring. I assume the sump is the issue but it's in a pit with a cover so not sure how to check. Reset GFCI switches, unplug and replug, flip the breaker, no difference
Since we just finished an addition last year and they gave a service warranty on all work, first call is to them. Of course not open yet so leave a message saying sump isn't working

915 still haven't heard from service department so call back. The guy who answers the phone feigns surprise that my message wasn't responded to as he had received it. Promises to check on it. I get the shopvac put together and start trying to get the water up. At this point my older daughter wakes up. I tell her what's going on, and she asks if the garage sump is working. Thanks kid, I forgot about that one. Go to the garage and plug it in. Hear that wonderful sound of water rushing away from our house.

1015 still haven't heard back. Call again and am told all the reps are in a meeting. Guy says he'll have someone call as soon as they get out.

1045 finally get a call back. First she asks me if I checked the breaker on off switch etc. Then says she'll call plumber and someone should call me by the end of the day to schedule something for next week. Not ok. We're going on our trip in a week. Ok, she'll have someone call within 3 hours. Can I just call them and schedule it? She tells me they will respond faster to her. Fine

1050 She calls back, someone will be out in about an hour. Ok, now we're talking. I hop in the shower and just as I'm finished getting dressed, the van pulls in to my driveway.

1115 He checks the new sump, says everything is fine. I ask why I don't hear the gushing sound. He asks about other sumps. I show it to him. That's working too. Although he tells me that he doesn't really like that model as it's prone to electrical issues. $500 to replace. No thanks we have battery backup. Deal with that another time. So yes I basically just paid $100 to have a guy tell me my sumps work just fine. Ok now what?
Back to shopvacing. Then start to think that maybe the deck guys messed something up when they were working.  The wall of the guestroom is right up against the deck.  Is it possible that when they were excavating for the posts that they cracked the foundation? I left a message for the deck guy.

I decided to stop the shopvacing as I wanted him to see the problem as it was.

300 Finally got a call from the deck guy. He said he would be at our house in about an hour to see what he and his workers could do, but didn't think that they had done anything to damage the foundation as they didn't have to dig at that part of the house.

400 They arrive.  I could tell that the builder was on the defensive and I guess I can't blame him, as he probably figured he'd be in trouble if he had messed up. They came inside to see where the water was, checked the ceiling and foundation and couldn't find the source.  They went outside and looked under the deck and did see that the pitch of the dirt under the deck was causing pooling under the deck which could have caused some of the seepage. As they finished assessing the situation under the deck, the boss (who is probably 30 something, the son of the owner of the company) noticed that the latch on our access door isn't closing easily.  He looks at the builder (about 50) and just says "Fix this".  He didn't see the glare that his builder gave him, but I'm glad they noticed it as I hadn't and when I tried to close it later, it was a little tough.

The builder said that they would come back that evening and do some caulking along the wall towards the guest room, and move the dirt around underneath.

600 The builder comes back, pulls up the board before doing the caulking and finds the reason for all the trouble.  Right against the wall is a small pit that probably descends at least a foot.  No idea why it's there and it honestly wouldn't be anything the deck guys would have done, but to their credit they want to do right by us, and along with the caulking, which they took care of, they want to come back to shovel the dirt around to change the pitch away from the house, and then when done with that, they will also suspend a trap under the deck to held the waterflow more.

At that point it was too late to do anything about dinner aside from calling for a pizza.  After dinner I went back to shopvacing, but at this point I think the carpet in that room is a lost cause and will have to be pulled up this weekend.  Won't be fun since we have a big heavy dresser in there as well as a full size bed, but probably better to pull it than just leave it to fester while we're away.  Once we get back we can deal with getting the seepage fixed (I already have 3 people lined up to come and give estimates) and replacing the carpet.  Not looking forward to the cost of that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Catcher in the Rye

I read this book back in high school but didn't really remember it.  Last year when J.D. Salinger died there was a lot of press about whether the book was still relevant, and whether it should even be taught anymore.  Here's one example of one of these articles.

I saw it recently at a bookstore and figured it was time to reread it.  The thing that surprised me, was actually how relevant it seemed.  Holden is a confused teen who can't seem to find his place or purpose in the world.  People often talk about today's teens not caring about anyone or anything but themselves.  I'm not sure whether I agree with that, but to me this describes Holden Caulfield to a T.  He is a rebel without a clue who gets kicked out of school after school, mostly because he doesn't care.  He seems smart, just doesn't want to study.  He doesn't know what he wants out of life, and doesn't seem to have any passion for anything.

Holden has a hard time having close relationships with anyone except his younger sister.  And he often talks about his dead brother Allie and you can tell that Allie had a great influence on Holden, but now that he's dead, Holden uses that as an excuse to be "lost".  He spends a lot of time throughout the book trying to reach out to different people, but never lets himself actually connect with any of them.  Probably a fear of losing them just like he lost his brother.

What I found ludicrous though was when one reviewer said that they didn't feel that Catcher in the Rye should be taught anymore as the language is very different from the way people speak today. They felt that students today would have a hard time understanding it. That seems like a copout by lazy teachers. Should high school students not study Shakespeare anymore then either?  That language is certainly more difficult, but with a little effort and maybe some guidance from a good teacher, definitely understandable.

Overall I liked it, and am glad I took the time to reread it.  It may be time to revisit some other books from high school, one I finish my current read The Piano Teacher.

Gay marriage and advertisers

I usually don't pay much attention to the ads in the Sunday Style section of the New York Times, as they are usually local ads that aren't relevant to me.  These two caught my eye though.   Gay marriage was legalized in New York just over a month ago, and starting July 24th ceremonies actually started taking place.  To capitalize on this vacation spots and other wedding preparation services are starting to target this new market.  First an ad for honeymooning in Miami.

And then this one was funnier. Basically now that you're able to get married, you may want to get your ass in shape to look good for the wedding.

There were a few others but these were the ones I really noticed.  I'm all for it.  I figure if 2 people love each other enough to want to make a lifelong commitment to each other and get married they should be allowed, regardless of sexual orientation, race, color, or creed.  I am glad to say my own state of Illinois also recently legalized gay marriage, but I think a large state like New York doing it makes me feel like the tide is changing and hopefully the remaining states of the union will follow suit as well.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Katy Pewwy and finding my cloud

I have had an iPod for about 7 years and my husband has had one for about 6. Within the last year we each got iPhones and bought an iPad. As much as I love all these devices the thing that always bugged me was the inability to sync our music on everything. Every time I downloaded a new song we both wanted I'd have to save it one both of our user accounts. I could have set up one shared music file that we both pull from, but some music that one of us has the other doesn't want. I have some Barry Manilow, he has some Kanye.  Then we got the iPad which I never bothered putting music on. I tried putting songs on my iPhone but that was a pain, until now. With the latest software update we now have all our music in the "cloud". I selected home share on our accounts, turned on both computers and uploaded all the music from the various accounts among all our devices. Now theoretically any time I buy a new song now, it'll be synced to all accounts. Haven't tried that part yet, but I trust Apple to have gotten it right.

What does all this have to do with Katy Perry? My kids love Katy Perry. What Taylor Swift was for them last year, Katy is this year. Their favorite is Firework. They sing along in the car, even my 2 year old little guy likes it. I put a playlist together for them when they have to clean up of Katy Perry and Pink songs. High energy stuff that keeps them moving. It seems to work. Unfortunately up until now whenever wanted to listen to it I would have to give them my iPod, which meant I couldn't listen to it.  Our playroom is in the basement (must be cleaned up by them every night before bed).  While they do that I usually clean up the kitchen.  Then when they were ready to go upstairs and take showers and get ready for bed I'd have to bring my iPod up to my docking station in my bedroom and blast it so they could hear it down the hall in their bathroom and bedrooms. Now it's all on my phone too. Now they can listen to their stuff where they are and I can keep my iPod in the docking station in the kitchen.

I finally got everything loaded on my phone tonight right before bedtime. My daughters had gone upstairs to get ready for bed, as usual the little man was hanging out waiting for me to go up and get him in the tub. I finished syncing and unplugged the iPhone, turned on Firework and he got the big smile on his face and said "Katy Pewwy, firework!!"

It'll also be a big help on our roadtrip.  Now I won't have to bring our portable speakers with us, just the phone, and when we all get sick of the same old songs on the radio, we can take requests.

Bye Bye Borders

I went to Borders this weekend after getting an email from them that they are in fact all closing. Even though I'm not at all surprised, it makes me sad.  I know people aren't reading as much as they used to, and many of those who do read are now using Kindles and Nooks. I love to read but I don't often have the time, so end up only buying books a couple of times a year (often at Costco), and most of the kids books we borrow from the library.

I've always preferred Borders to Barnes & Noble but now with no independent bookstores in my town I guess that's where I'll have to go.  I occasionally order books from Amazon, but unless I specifically know what I want, I prefer to wander around seeing what catches my eye, and reading a few pages before committing.

So I picked up a few new things.... 

A friend had recommended The Roses by Leila Meacham, which is described as an epic story of an East Texas family.  One review calls it the new Gone with the Wind. Pretty high praise, and even if it doesn't live up to the hype I always love epic novels.

Lush Life by Richard Price was names as one of NYT's Top Ten books of the year.  The description on the back describes it as a "tale of two Lower East Sides: one a high-priced bohemia, the other a home to hardship, its residents pushed to the edges of the time-honored turf, when a cocky young hipster is shot to death by a street kid from the 'other' LES, the crime ripples through every stratum of the city in this brilliant and kaleidoscopic portrait of the 'new' New York."

I started reading one of my new books yesterday - The Piano Teacher by Janice Lee.  It's the story of a young British woman who moves to Hong Kong in 1952 with her new husband, and teaches piano to the young daughter of a wealthy Chinese family.  I haven't gotten very far in it yet, but am already enjoying it.

I picked up one movie.  The Fisher King with Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.  I only saw it once on my first date with my now husband.  The 20th anniversary of that date is coming up in September, so even though we usually don't do anything to celebrate that day anymore, I thought it would be kind of fun to watch it again.  I don't remember much about the movie, as I haven't watched it since that night.

Also to help keep the kids busy on our roadtrip, I got Madlibs for the girls, and a couple of new Virginia Lee Burton books for my son.  As I mentioned before he likes the construction part of the Little House, so I picked up Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and Katy and the Big Snow for him.  All of these books were only reduced by 10% and I'll probably go back as they start discounting more heavily.

I really am sad to see Borders close.  The selection was always good, their employees were always friendly and helpful, and I think they were one of the first to allow you to pre-reserve items on line to pick up in-store.  Key for busy parents everywhere:)

Friday, July 22, 2011


My family is way overdue for a vacation, but as all you Moms out there know, traveling with kids is not relaxing, so in many ways I've been putting it off as long as I could, figuring that the older the kids are the easier they'll be to deal with.  We'll see.

This will be our first family roadtrip, and really my first really long road trip in a long time.  I drove cross country twice with my now husband when we were in college, but that was before I had my license so he did most of the driving. I spent most of the ride playing dj (trying to keep the portable CD player balanced so it wouldn't skip with every bump), and reading useless facts out of our AAA Triptik.  To this day I still remember that Amarillo TX is the Helium capital of the world.

So where are we going?  NC, SC, FL and GA.  Here's the 10 day itinerary....

Day 1 - Chicago to Asheville, NC to visit my husband's uncle

Day 2 - stay in Asheville - we're thinking of going to check out part of the Smoky Mountain National Park.  Not sure what parts are the most kid friendly.  Our little guy is only 2 so he's the limiting factor on how far we could go.

Day 3 - in the afternoon head to Columbia, SC.  My husband has a golf buddy who lives there.  They have a couple of kids, so that should be easy enough.

Day 4 - stay in Columbia

Day 5 - head to Jacksonville - probably stop in Savannah on the way.  I have no idea where to go once we're there, but have heard it's gorgeous and since we're going right by, would be the perfect lunchtime stop

Day 6 and 7 - stay in Jacksonville visiting my husband's other uncle.  This one has 3 kids of his and tons of grandkids.  We're already planning on hitting the beach, not sure what else.

Day 8 - leave Jacksonville for Atlanta where we'll be staying with a college friend. He doesn't have any kids of his own, but the kids know and love him.

Day 9 - in Atlanta - I was looking at Stone Mountain seems like there is tons to do there.

Day 10 - Time for the longass drive home.  12.5 hours.

It's going to be crazy.  A total of 2200 miles roundtrip over 10 days.  My sister thinks we're nuts and we probably are, but the fact is the the uncles are getting older and have never met our kids.  The friend in Columbia is a golf buddy of my husband's who has kids of his own.  Finally the college friend has been to visit us a few times when in town for business, and the kids kept asking when they could visit him. Put that all together and we have a roadtrip to the Southeast planned for August - probably not the best time of year to visiting Hotlanta and the rest of them, but it's been in the 90s and 100s here the past couple of days, and at least in Jacksonville we'll be near the beach.

My oldest daughter (7) will be pretty good about keeping herself entertained.  She loves to read, so as long as we have a stack of books for her before we leave, she should be ok. The middle one (5) is starting to read chapter books as well, and still naps pretty well in her car seat.  If I get some crafty things that she can't mark the car up with, she should be ok as well. The little guy (2) also naps easily in his carseat, but he will obviously be the hardest one to keep entertained. We do have the DVD player in the car so will use that as well.

I plan on stocking up on new books and car friendly games in the next couple of weeks.  If anyone has any suggestions, beyond what I've already listed I'd love to hear it.  And if you live in/or have been to any of those areas, kid-friendly activity and restaurant suggestions would be appreciated.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Boys will be boys

I cringe every time I hear that people say that. To me it's an excuse people use when they can't control their kid, and most of the time they can't control him because they haven't tried.

Yes, boys are different. Yes, boys have more energy. Yes, boys in general are slower developing verbal skills than girls, so are more likely to express themselves physically. But if your kid hits mine to try to get a toy or get by or whatever, don't just give me an embarrassed smile and that crap line about boys will be boys. Discipline him.

I'm no expert, but I do have some experience after 7 years of this parenting gig. My now 7 year old had a period when she was about 18 mths to 2 years old, when she would bite. She only bit me. Our pediatrician assured me that was because she trusted me.  She knew I'd still love her even if she bit me.  Gee thanks kid, I'd prefer a hug :) Timeouts took care of that one pretty quick.

Her younger sister had a phase around the same age when she would hit her older sister to try and get a toy from her. Again timeouts, problem solved.

My 2 year old son will occasionally hit his sisters and gets timeouts for it, and his behavior is improving.
My point is if you nip the bad behavior in the bud early enough, they will know better. Most kids use physical aggression because they haven't learned how to express their feelings with words. Start them young and it'll be much easier to either avoid bad behavior later, or correct it. My kids have never hit anyone other than a family member, which still isn't great, but I have a feeling that if we hadn't disciplined them when they did something to one of us, they probably would think biting or hitting are ok, and then do it to other kids.

So don't give me that crap about boys will be boys. If you let the bad behavior continue, your brat will continue to be a brat, and the only one you'll have to blame is yourself.

Sometimes procrastination works

And of course that's why I still do it even though most of the time I know better. I thought we were screwed financially and was ready to liquidate my IRA. Then today I realized that part of the problem was the new Chase website. I last checked my balance the day my husband was paid and I thought we had already spent the whole thing. Didn't really make sense, but there it was, or so I thought. Problem was their running balance wasn't reflecting that day's deposit even though it was there as a line item. Not sure why, but when I went to check my balance today, it was more in line with what I thought it should be.

Still not great, but certainly better. And even though yes I still need to have that financial chat with my husband, I can put it off while I get a better plan and hopefully by hunkering down after we pay off the expenses for this backyard project, my IRA can stay put and keep growing. It's not a large amount but enough that I want to keep it. Glad I checked again rather than liquidating the IRA and then realizing the mistake.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Moment of Truth

I have a plan. It's not ideal but it will work. My husband's bonus will cover the cost of the deck and he confirmed with his office that he'll be receiving it in his paycheck at the end of the month. I am planning on closing my IRA that I rolled over from a 401k back when I stopped working, and withdrawing that money. I know I'll pay taxes and penalties but in the long run, it'll cover our monthly deficit for the next six months and then the bonus money that comes in during the rest of the year can go to paying down debt and starting a true savings account.

I'm hoping my husband won't flip out too much now that I'm finally coming clean, but since I figured out this plan this afternoon, I already feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I've been much more nice and patient with my kids than I have in the past few days. Wish me luck.

Getting ready for back to school

My kids go back to school the week of August 22, which seems early to me especially since their school does not have air-conditioning.  That means we've got 33 days til we start up again, and time for me to start getting organized.

We've already been to the pediatrician, eye doctor and dentist, and they passed all those exams and forms have been submitted.  Both kids needed backpacks and lunchboxes for camp so we're already set there.

1. School supplies
We got the school supply list ages ago, and although our school does offer the schoolpak program, I prefer to get the stuff myself.  I checked their prices and it's ridiculous.  My kindergartner needs 8 different things

1 Baby Wipes, Unscented, 80ct Tub (04-241)
1 Crayons, 8ct, Crayola©, Large (04-127)
8 Glue Stick, Small, Elmer's©, .21 oz (04-121)
1 Glue, Small, 4 oz, Wash, White (02-224)
1 Index Cards, 3x5, Unruled, White, 100ct (04-214)
12 Pencil, Primary, My First Ticonderoga© w/eraser(04
1 Tissues, 100ct (04-641)
Total price $23.76 + an extra $9 for shipping.  Ridiculous.

As with most things it comes down to time or money, what do you want to spend?  For me, I think I can get those 7 things for much less than $30.  I got a couple of things the other day at Meijer that were on sale.  I figure if I keep an eye on the Sunday circulars and buy stuff when it's on sale, I'll save quite a bit.  My second grader has a longer list, and the markup is similar, so I'll do it myself thank you very much.

I realize they're providing a service and I love the idea, but would love it more if the shipping were included in the price. Last year I brought my daughter with me, but realized quickly that that was a mistake.  I thought she would want to pick out her stuff, and she did but she wanted all the cool stuff that wasn't on her list, not just a boring blue folder but the one with the cool pictures on the cover, which was not on her list. This year I'll go solo. Also makes it easier if I want to comparison shop.

2. Start hoarding quarters and singles.

Our school has pizza day once a week as a PTO fundraiser.  $1.75 per slice.  My daughter is still young enough that one slice along with her usual fruit and treat is enough.  On pizza day, the kids are expected to bring their money in (in exact change of course) and give it to the room Moms who then figure out who gets what at lunch time.  As much as possible I try to give one single and three quarters.  I felt guilty once when I had to give 7 quarters, until one my friends who is a room Mom told me that a parent in her room, always sent the kid with pizza money in pennies!!! Yes 175 pennies.  Every week.  And they weren't in rolls, in a little baggie.  Nuts.

Then there are various things that come up throughout the year, field trips, other PTO in school fundraisers that they need $2 or $3 for, so I'm hoarding my small money.

3.  Box Tops for Education
I love free money.  Who doesn't?  I started collecting box tops before I had kids.  A woman in my office was collecting them for her son's school and had a dropbox for anyone in our office to contribute whatever we clipped.  Once I had kids of my own, I kept clipping and even before my kids started school, I would drop them off at our local grade school, which my kids now attend. On the last day of school, the kids all get a ziploc bag for keeping the box tops in over the summer and then they hand them in at the beginning of school.  Last year my daughter's class had the most in the school, so they got a pizza party as a thank you.  She was so excited cause she had contributed a lot (I think it was over 50 box tops) so she felt like she was the one who put her class over the top. All in all over the course of the school year, her school of about 600 students collected enough box tops to earn $1500.  Pretty cool. 

4.  Summer Homework packets
As I mentioned in an earlier post, my daughter's teacher gave the kids summer reading packets and book reports to fill out.  She hasn't worked on it yet, beyond keeping track of which books she has finished, and I let it slide the first part of the summer as she was attending summer school - taking a sign language class and a science class.  Now it's time to get back on track.  She's usually pretty good about doing her homework without me bugging her, and naturally hates when I do nag her about stuff, but I figure in a couple of days I'll start reminding her about it.

5. Fall activities
Next week, our park district fall brochure comes out so it'll be time to pick out activities for the Fall.  My 2nd grader takes piano lessons, and last year also took ice skating.  She mentioned that she wants to try karate so I have to do some research on that, as the park district class requires the parents to participate as well, which doesn't really work with the other two kids.  My kindergartner loves dance, and wants to try soccer.  And the little man is doing well in camp, so I think I'll sign him up for the tots dropoff playgroup.  He desperately wants to do a sports class, used to watch the classes going on in the gym in the same building as his sister's dance class.

Not too bad a list, but I know if I don't start now, it'll be a nightmare to get the school supplies as it gets real close to school starting.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The little house

The little house is one of my all time favorite children's books. I remember reading it as a kid and as soon as my oldest daughter would sit still long enough to listen to a "long" story I got it for her. She loved it too.

Recently we were reading it again, and my son wasn't really paying attention. Then we got to the middle of the book, when the pretty countryside started getting roads. Then he got all excited because now there were pictures of dumptrucks and graders. As the story progressed he started pointing out the trolley cars, subway etc.
It's funny because all the times I had read it previously I was reading it from the house's point of view, and thought of it as a sweet story that a boy probably wouldn't really enjoy. It's not that it's a "girly" but I always read it from a more sentimental point of view. He went the other way with it and keyed in on the progress and construction side. It's even become a book that he likes to look at himself (although focusing on those middle pages). Once the house has been moved out if the city and into the countryside he loses interest again. Then again, that's part of what's great about books. Different people can get different things out of them, but enjoy them just the same.