Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This blog is moving!

It's a fair statement to say that my patience for tolerating for technical errors is relatively limited. So, after countless times of screaming obscenities at Blogger when my latest draft failed to publish accurately (i.e., it was fraught with formatting errors, even though I had sometimes corrected them two or three times!) I've decided to move my blog to WordPress.

For many people, it won't make a difference where it's hosted, since I link the entries to Facebook. However, if you are a reader who checks in regularly to this site, you will be able to follow the blog at this address:


Please bookmark it. And, thanks very much for taking the time to read my blog!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Big boy haircut

I watched Jonas in wonder as he gracefully shoveled his cereal into his mouth and two thoughts came to mind. “Wow! I am amazed that he can handle silverware so well for his tender age. Good for him. He’s got more dexterity than his father!” The second thought was “Geez, this kid looks like a sheep dog. I can’t even see his eyes anymore. Time for a haircut!”

I’ve been cutting Jonas’ hair since his first snip, which was just prior to his first birthday. With every month it becomes more challenging. He furrows his brow and gives dirty looks to the scissors and then to me. He insists that HE holds the clippers, which turns into a tug of war. And each week his hair seems to grow faster and thicker, while his ability to sit still has waned dramatically! Not exactly a win-win situation. It’s such a battle to cut his unruly hair, and one, frankly, that I just don’t need to fight anymore.

So, off we went to this weekend to a place that specializes in kids’ hair cuts. It had come recommended. With all of its bells and whistles, I crossed my fingers that we would not only get through the experience, but that Jonas would even like it.

As we walked toward the door, I tried to get Jonas all excited about it, talking it up and using my best you’re gonna love this! voice. I swear he knew I was buttering him up. We took a seat in the waiting area.

Jonas was intrigued. I wouldn't say that he was dying to jump in a chair, but the dog movie that was playing on the big screen caught his attention, as did the number of kids who were there getting their hair cut.

Ok, so far, so good. I think this might just work. I have to admit, though, even I had butterflies.

The little boy who was one ahead of Jonas was summoned. The minute I spotted him, I knew: this was going to get ugly. My hopes were dashed.

The boy, who I'd guess was about three, had been wandering about the place, checking out the toys and big plastic cartoon characters. But when they sat him in the chair, all hell broke loose. No exaggeration. He had a total melt down--hysterical screaming, kicking, and wailing. Jonas' body tensed up and his eyes grew large. A look of great concern came over his face, as he watched spellbound, like the way you can't look away from a car wreck.

"Jonas? You're NEXT!" The receptionist announced cheerfully. He looked at us with trepidation. I led him to his station, hand in hand. Once secured in the chair, he wanted no part of the cape covered in fun characters that the stylist tried to put around his shoulders. He gestured "down" (baby sign), "down". He was absolutely terrified.

Meanwhile, five feet behind him poor Three Year Old Boy continued to scream frantically. I noticed that his parents had his head secured in the vice of their four hands! "Ok," I thought, "if it gets that bad, we're calling it a day and going home. Half-baked haircut or not."

Jonas' mouth turned down and his lower lip started to quiver. "Oh no, Jonas. Hang in there. It's going to be ok," I counseled. I saw the tears welling up in his eyes. Joe tried to blow bubbles to distract him, but the bubble water must have gone flat. He ended up spraying bubble water all over. Jonas was not amused.

As the stylist sheared the back of his head with the clippers, he held my hand tightly. The tears fell down his little face, although he never cried audibly. My heart started to break. I started to feel frantic.

I wished for quiet. The mother bear that resides in every mother started to wake up in me. "Please END IT!! Stop that kid's crying!" I wanted to scream. "If only it were quiet, Jonas would calm down," I rationalized. (For the record, I felt very bad for Three Year Old boy, but when the "mother bear" comes out, all she cares about is her offspring. It's a survivalist thing.)

Then, all of a sudden, as if someone flipped a switch, the plaintive cries from behind stopped. The stylist kept snipping, and we continued to reassure Jonas. He loosed his death grip on my hand. From that point on, I would say he tolerated the rest of the hair cut.

I saw a spark of interest when she took out the "Peanut" clippers, but it was only for a moment.

"All done!" chirped the stylist, a few minutes later. A wave of relief passed over me. Jonas eagerly jumped down, ready to get the hell of out Dodge.

Before leaving, he got to plug a little "card" into a machine that reminded me a bit of a juke box. It made sounds like a pin-ball machine and then it spit out a little slinky toy. Jonas' eyes lit up. He strode out of the store high as a kite, slinky in hand, tears long gone, and ready to take on the afternoon.

As for us, I think it was worth it. I'm trying not to think about the 7 minutes of terror and 3 of tolerance, and focusing instead on the positives. We won't need a haircut for at least a month. No one got hurt. There was no fighting over scissors or clippers. And, maybe, just maybe, it'll be easier next time.

Proof positive that Jonas wasn't too traumatized by the experience. This is a half an hour afterward.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Liz's Pick: Milk in a bottle

I don’t know what it is about milk that’s poured right from the glass bottle into the glass, but I could chug that the way people down beers. There’s a smoothness to it that is absent in milk “bottled” in cartons, or worse, plastic jugs. No offense, if you get the jug every week. It’s just my least favorite. Joe will tell you that I have a very keen sense of smell, which as we know, is directly linked to our sense of taste. And there is just something about the taste of milk issued from a plastic jug that makes me wrinkle up my nose.

I started looking around for local dairies a few weeks ago, and I found that among the scant number that are still in existence, a few distribute their milk both in the conventional way (cartons) and in glass bottles. I bought my first bottle of milk last week at Indian Ladder Farms (they sell Meadowbrook Farms), and it was pure bliss. This week at the Schenectady Farmer’s Market, I found milk from Battenkill Valley Creamery. I’m looking forward to sampling that next!

Now, if only the milkman would start making his rounds again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First Chocolate Milk

Last Friday, to get a little reprieve from the intense summer heat, Jonas and I decided to head out and get ourselves a treat. I bought a book. He got a chocolate milk. His FIRST chocolate milk. It was a hit, as you can see.

The straw goes in. He LOVES straws, by the way. He takes a sip. "Don't SQUEEZE it, Jonas," I say. The sparkle in his eye tells me he's thinking about it.

He takes a minute to savor it...

Yes!!! It's awesome!

What do you do when you're an 18 month old to show your approval of something? You shake it! And maybe let out a few shrill squeals.

Then, finally, you can settle in and just drink it down.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tribute to our dear Ginger

We waited until he paused. "Is that it? Anything else?" We braced ourselves for the bomb to drop. "No, that's it. So, you have some good news here," said the vet. We breathed a collective sigh of relief. Everything seemed good to us. Ginger is going to be fine, after all.

Ginger as a puppy. She was about a year old here, in our old apartment in Syracuse.

It's ironic that it took a dramatic event for me to get around to posting a entry on Ginger, our dear companion of 9+ years. I've been meaning to do one on her for awhile, but just haven't gotten around to it.

We always celebrate Ginger's birthday with a cake. The cake is mostly for me, the cake fiend, but she gets her own serving.

I was afraid we were about to come close to losing our cherished pet this past week. Already arthritic, Ginger started showing signs a few weeks ago that something else was wrong. She had become increasingly weak and was avoiding putting too much weight on her right paw. We took her to the vet last Wednesday. $230 later, we walked out with a small pharmacopia to treat her newly diagnosed Anaplasmosis, as well as an ear infection and skin infection. Poor dog! We were instructed to come back in 10 days to check on her recovery. Well, "recover", she did not. In fact, she got worse. Finally, I said, we can't wait ten days. She might not even be able to WALK in ten days.

When we saw the vet again, he booked her for xrays and did a complete blood count. Turns out she has some compression of the cervical vertebrae and arthritis in the shoulders, but no cancer and no other diseases. I can't say I'm surprised about the compression. Ginger has packed into her nine years, the activities of several average dogs. She's hiked Mount Marcy in the Adirondack High Peaks, where she was the sole witness to our engagement. She used to run nearly 10 miles a day between my run and Joe's separate run with her, as a puppy. She's logged endless miles on trail runs through our favorite abandoned quarry in Syracuse, Cockaponsett Forest in Connecticut, Pine Bush Preserve in Albany, and Central Park in Schenectady. And even as she grew unable to run much, she was still climbing our stairs several times a day, especially once Jonas was born.

Our epic hike up Mount Marcy, Oct. 15, 2o02, when Joe proposed to me. Joe would be in the picture too, except that he had to take the photo. As a younger dog, Ginger LIVED for the woods. As an older dog, she still drags me down the sidewalk, some days, toward the park, where she can tromp around and stick her nose down mole holes.

We were on Cloud 9 when we heard that she should be fine. When we returned from the vet's office, she was more animated than usual. Our hearts burst with joy. But little by little over the weekend, she slowed and became increasingly stiff. We took her off her new arthritis medicine for fear that she was reacting negatively to it. No change. This morning, she was the weakest that I've seen her. She collapsed multiple times. It broke my heart.

In a panic, I called the vet's office first thing this morning. She's going to start a steroid tomorrow and finish out her course of anti-biotics for the Anaplasmosis. Tonight she gave us cause for more excitement, when she returned to the kitchen with a ravenous appetite and played with Jonas and her ball.

Ginger is such a trooper, and she's so good with Jonas. He continually pokes and prods her and she endures it all with unbelievable patience. She is protective of him and at the same time doesn't hesitate to steal food out of his hand. I guess all is fair in love and war.

Up and down, up and down. I feel like we're on a roller-coaster these days. I get one good night of sleep, followed by two bad ones, during which I'm worried and on edge as I listen for Ginger in case she trips when she's walking around at night. Sometimes she'll need to go out at night, which means I have to don the sandals and quasi-lift her down the porch stairs, all the while trying not to lose my own balance.

One unanticipated, but positive, outcome to last week's drama is that I am highly aware that Ginger's time with us may be limited. I certainly hope not, but one never knows. I am going to pour as much love as I can in these last years, because she deserves it. She has been such a wonderful companion to us all these years. And I confess I feel a little guilty that in Jonas' first months of life, I often grew impatient with her and perhaps on occasion took her for granted. Now, it's no longer a burden, but a pleasure, to take a little extra time to make sure that her bed is extra comfy, and that she has ample treats and special surprises, like impromptu car rides. These days, I take nothing for granted. It's for the best that way.

Jonas and Ginger
Christmas 2008

Jonas Update - 17 months

Gone is my little baby. Jonas is very much a toddler these days, playing with the “big kids,” actively exploring his world, and routinely testing boundaries. The rolls of baby fat have smoothed out to a somewhat more slender, little guy. I think Jonas is going to have his father’s physique. Better that, than his mother’s, I suppose. Despite some of the ups and downs, I have to say that I love this age.

Mr. Helper-man. One of the most endearing aspects of Jonas’ development is that he has become very interested in lending a hand. We are certainly happy to oblige and strive to keep him busy. It started with me asking him to go put something in the clothes hamper. Now, he loves doing anything to help. Jonas, can you throw this away? Jonas, can you pick that up and throw it to Ginger? Jonas, can you go give this to Da-da? (That’s a way for me to make him disappear for a minute.) Whatever the job is, he’s up for it. The trick is just keep those tasks coming, which is not always so easy.

Plugged-in. While in the office with Joe, one of Jonas’ favorite diversions is the cord, a cord to anything, be it a laptop, a cell phone, an ipod, you name it. Jonas sits on the floor and folds the cord in ten different configurations. When he tires of that, he walks around the room looking for good spots into which he can plug the cord. Not real outlets, just pretend ones. Sometimes he plugs into the covering of our baseboard heaters, or a drawer, the dog or Joe’s leg. He’s very creative about what will accept a cord. And the best part of the “plug in” are the sound effects that come with it.

For the record, Jonas is never permitted to play with a cord while unsupervised. Once he’s done with it, all cords are always tucked away safely in a place that he can’t access.

Favorite toys: our vacuum, ride-on toys, Fisher Price puppy that talks and sings songs, Uncle Andy’s duplos and megablocks, and the watering can for the garden. We’ve had the ride-on toys for awhile now, but he’s really gotten into them lately.

“Sound effects”. I’ve always been fascinated about the influence of social conditioning on children and the way in which they play. For example, where do boys learn all those crazy sounds they make?? Is it only from other boys? I played with both boys and girls, and I never internalized any of those sounds. When I listen to Joe talk with another guy about some motorized do-hicky, I marvel at the sounds they come up with. These from two grown men! Who taught them that?? I figured that one day Jonas would do this too, but I hardly expected to observe this a year-and-a-half.

In the last month, I noticed that as Jonas pushes around tiny trains and cars, and even other things that aren’t motorized, like a stuffed frog, he has begun to produce these sound effects. Many actions seem to “require” sound effects: when he touches his play tweezers (Animal Hospital) to the cabinet...buzz. When he pushes a toy rhinoceros face to face with his school bus… buzzzzz. I can’t help but laugh. It’s so adorable. And I just can’t believe he’s doing this already!

Tantrums. With the good, comes the bad. So, while 85% of the time, our dear boy is sweet as pie, he also has his moments of screaming, crying, and kicking hysteria. I find these moments occur most frequently between the hours of 5–7 p.m. It’s taken me awhile to get used to these outbursts, but my ability to tolerate the screaming and go on about my business has improved dramatically over the last few months. It kind of has to… it’s either that, or the loony bin.

Talking. No major pronouncements yet. Jonas seems to be wrapping up the Caveman Language Phase, the grunt and point method, and that’s exciting. He now utters strings of vocalizations that sound like words, although none that we recognize. Still, the inflection is much more language-like than anything we’ve heard before. My friend assures me there’s nothing to worry about; her brother didn’t speak until 2 yrs. and when he began, he spoke in full sentences. I know, “every child learns at his/her own pace”. That may be, but it sure would be nice if he could just muster a “ma-ma” or “da-da” every now and again.

Favorite books: Good Night Moon, Time for Bed, Jamberry

Other funny things: He likes to unload the silverware from the dishwasher, whether it’s dirty or clean, and put in an adjacent drawer. He plays in Ginger’s water and food dishes as though it’s his very own sand & water table. He loves to march around the basement with Joe’s bike pump in tow, (dragging on the ground). He thinks *he* should be able to hold the leash while we walk Ginger. Jonas = 30 pounds; Ginger = 80 pounds. Hmm.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Crib: the last chapter

This morning, we heard the sound that every parent dreads hearing: Thud! Wahhhhhhh! Jonas had either fallen or jumped out of the crib.

“Oh my God. Did you hear that?” Joe asked me in a panic. I struggled to process what he was saying. I had heard a noise, but I had been dreaming, so everything was foggy and confusing. Then, I heard Jonas wailing. This was definitely not his typical whiny morning cry. I jumped up and headed toward his room. He was already waddling out of his room and met me in the hallway. “Oh, thank God. He’s walking. He’s not bleeding. Nothing appears broken. Eye movement seems normal. He’s ok.” My mind was spinning as I considered all the ways in which this could have gone terribly wrong. I was so grateful.

Tonight, before we settled into our chair to snuggle and read our nightly books, I had to take care of something. While Jonas played with his newly inherited Duplos, I looked carefully at the mattress support brackets. There was only one more bracket to go, the last one, at the bottom. Suddenly, a bittersweet feeling washed over me. It was only this same time last year that Jonas was getting used to sleeping in his crib, at the top level. Now, he’s at the bottom level. Next thing you know, it’ll be time to move to a big bed, and I think high school graduation comes the following week, or that’s how they say it feels, anyway. How could an entire year have passed already??

I don’t really want him to stop growing, although I suppose I wouldn’t mind if he didn’t grow so fast. Every parent knows deep down, though, that this isn’t possible. This is just one of those things that makes you relish your role as a parent. You know your child’s time as a child will be short-lived. It’ll be wonderous, sweet, and fun-filled most of the time; and, it’ll make you cry and drive you mad on occasion; but, these are the things that make it all the sweeter.

So, while I lowered the mattress, I asked Jonas to select the books that he wanted to read tonight. They’re almost always the same: Jamberry, Good Night Moon, and Lullaby and Good Night or Time for Bed. We sat down in our chair and began to flip through the pages. Jonas’ drowsiness set in fast tonight. We didn’t even get all the way through Good Night Moon. But this time, instead of getting up quickly and putting him into bed like I normally do (after all, a mom has so many things to do after the children are in bed!), we stayed for a long time in the rocking chair. I rocked and rocked him, listening to his breath, and gazing down at his ever maturing face. I tried to linger in time, hoping it might just stop, even if only for a few minutes, before I wake up and realize this precious time is over.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On Blueberry Hill

'Tis the season for blueberries, and what a wonderful season it's been. I can't recall a summer during which I have eaten so many blueberries, except for when I was a kid and my mom used to take us blueberry picking at Mr. McBroom's farm. Sarah's and my method for harvesting the blueberries back when we were 5 and 8 was "one for me, one for the bucket." We'd each fill up a big ice cream bucket, but if that was our process, you can just imagine how many berries were consumed before they could be paid for!

Jonas is a chip off the old block. He LOVES blueberries. He shovels them into his mouth by the handful. It's quite a sight to see.

This summer, we have had blueberries in every which way: blueberry cobbler, blueberry pie (two of them!), blueberry muffins, blueberries in a fruit salad, blueberries in yogurt, blueberries on cereal, and my favorite, just plain, fresh, blueberries straight out of the container. Yum.

This is my first blueberry pie of the summer. It was so delicious and such a luxury, late one Saturday evening, after painting kitchen cabinets for hours and hours. Such a simple pleasure.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Home base

Throughout our trip, our "home base" was a nice little cottage that my mom had rented for us. We stayed there with my sister Sarah and brother-in-law Matt. It was so fun for all of us to be under the same roof. Jonas could really get some quality time with his aunt and uncle, and we got to hang out with Sarah and Matt, for hours and hours, which is a total luxury since we live on opposite coasts.

We had a full kitchen, which was terrific for all the cooking and baking we did. There was a cozy living room, enclosed patio, two bedrooms and a bath. When it wasn't raining, we got out for walks, took a few field trips, and at night, after Jonas went to bed, we watched Flight of the Conchords, to which Sarah and Matt had introduced us on our first night. Andy called it right when he said, "You're going to fall in love..."

Auntie Sarah and Jonas

Uncle Andy and Jonas

We had lots of visit with family. Grammie and Adrian came over often, as did Uncle Andy, (seems so funny to call my kid brother, "Uncle" Andy), and Grandpa Jack and Oma Judy.

Jonas LOVED hangin' out with the guys. Not that he doesn't like the ladies, but he is a big hugger, and the ladies are always asking for hugs and kisses. Guys, well, they don't do that kind of girly stuff. They want high-fives and make cool sound effects when you play with trucks and trains.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Accident waiting to happen

The one (rather significant) downer of our Ohio trip was an unfortunate mountain biking accident.

Joe and Matt had talked for months prior to our trip about doing some epic mountain bike rides. Monday night they pulled out the topo maps and identified a remote spot in Pennsylvania, where they would pull off the first of the great rides of the 2009 summer vacation.

All the boys looking at the topo map.

They set out early Tuesday morning and planned to return around 2 in the afternoon for a visit with my dad and step-mom. Three o'clock rolled around and still no boys. Hmm... this is curious. Unlike their wives, Joe and Matt are very punctual individuals.

3:05 p.m. My phone rings. It's Joe.

"Yeah, hey. Where are you guys?"
"Uh, well... we had a little accident."

I knew immediately that this wasn't a scrape. Either he had totaled our car or someone was going to need emergency medical services. Now, who was it?

It was Joe. His bike had slipped on a damp, moss-covered bridge and when he put his foot out to break the fall, SNAP!
He went on to tell me that he and Matt had hiked for three hours to get back to the car! Oh my God! My phone buzzed. A new picture. Joe sent me a photo of his ankle which looked like there was a tennis ball sticking out to the side. He really needed to get to a hospital fast.

I got butterflies in my stomach. I wished that I could have been there with them. Was there enough a hospital anywhere nearby?

Fortunately, by this time, my dad, mom and step-dad were all at our cottage and advised them where to go. Sarah and I jumped in the car and drove through driving rain to meet them at Grove City Medical Center. I was a bundle of nerves. What if he needed surgery? How much pain was he in? Would this have lasting effects?

Ten minutes before Sarah and I arrived, we got just the news I was looking to hear: no surgery and no cast for now, except a soft cast. Phew. I was greatly relieved, and now I could focus on listening to all the details.

When we pulled in the parking lot, we found two hangry (hungry+angry) guys, who were dying to get some food. We found a pub, had a few beers, and let them regale us with their unbelievable story.

Joe's ankle five days after the fall. His whole foot was puffy and purplish green. He has since been to the orthopedist who gave him a walking boot. The boot has really helped to minimize the swelling. It's a long road ahead, but he'll get there, little by little, day by day.

Thank God for our brother-in-law, the hero of the day. I can't imagine what would have happened, had Joe been alone. As Joe says, "if I HAD to break my ankle and hobble out of the woods for three hours, there's no one that I'd rather do it with more, than Matt." Well, it certainly wasn't the ride that they were hoping for, but it was epic.

Do you have a permit, Sir?

An hour before heading off to the Great Buckeye State, Joe informed me that he’d be "conducting an experiment" during our drive. Hmm. This sounded a bit odd, but my curiosity was piqued.

He placed a non-descript box full of metal parts on the kitchen floor next to the label maker. Then, he pulled out 5 flat metal plates, vital components to the experiment, and carefully placed a new label on each.

Did I mention that Joe is the ring leader of our local Geek Squad chapter? He LIVES to label things.

Jonas was especially interested in the label maker. We had to wrestle it away from him after an hour.

“Joe--where the hell are we going to put these?? We have no room as it is, between the car seat, the dog, the dog bed, the toys, the luggage, food...”

He disappeared down the basement stairs, mumbling something that I took to be a response, although I understood none of it.

Down below, I heard the sounds of the file, the drill, and the hammer. A half hour later, he resurfaced with all five metal plates securely fastened to a long lacrosse-stick looking thing, and headed out the front door to attach this contraption to the roof rack. I couldn’t visualize how this was going to work, but I thought, maybe once I see it finished, it’ll all make perfect sense.

Another half hour rushed by. I thought I’d better go and investigate just what was taking so long.

Oh Lord. What is that?? As Joe tightened the last bolts, I felt like I was watching Dr. Emmet Brown from Back to the Future working on our Subaru! Yes, it's true: Joe is part Emmet Brown.

Our weighted-down car looked ridiculous. Between the bike and the “coffin box”, and the perpendicular science experiment, the only things missing were streamers and some random zoo animals sticking their heads out the windows.

Knowing how serious Joe was about this, I was certain there was no point in pleading, “Do we really have to drive the whole way there and back, with this ridiculous looking contraption jutting out to the side, begging to impale another vehicle?”

Instead, I said, “Good evening, Dr. Brown…” “Whatcha got here? Do you have a permit for that?”

In case you’re curious, the experiment was work-related and it would appear that it was somewhat successful. All I know is that we caught a yellow jacket between two plates, I bumped my head a number of times, and we got a lot of puzzled and dirty looks.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jonas' first trip to the Buckeye State

We were stoked about this trip: we'd get to hang out with my brother, sister, and brother-and-law, visit with my folks, and Jonas would enjoy his first summer vacation experiences with his grandparents and relatives.

I have to admit, though, I was loathing the drive. Jonas’ longest trip to date had only been for two hours, and even that wasn’t smooth sailing. It wasn’t impossible; he did sleep. But he always woke up a half an hour from home and screamed the rest of the way, gesturing that it could be all better if he could just exit the car seat. Not that any of this should deter us from a longer trip, but I needed coping strategies, especially if we were going to make it for 7.5 hours.

Not that Wegman's is at the top of our visit list. It's not that exotic, but it was an important stop along the way. And a fun one, for lunch! This one is in Erie, PA.

Friends gave me a boat load of good advice: stop often, bring lots of snacks, get some new toys that he can play with for the first time in the car, play some kids’ music, and sit in the back to distract him easily. All of these things worked really well.

Here are a few tips that I would add to the list for the future:

  • Stop for dinner after a just few hours; and hit the road again at bedtime in pj’s, and drive that leg for as long as possible can while kid sleeps;
  • No need for a dvd player, so long as 10 minutes of Barney can be viewed on an iphone via YouTube.
  • Stay overnight in a hotel. There are endless fascinating things to explore.
  • Want a cheap option for your child to blow off some steam and play with new toys that you don’t have to buy? Schedule a stop-over at Target or favorite store of your choice and hang out in the toy section for an hour.
  • Ditto on the tip above, but substitute a big bookstore for Target. While Dad nursed a coffee, we spent 45 minutes in the children's section taking all the books down, reading a few books at the children's tables, playing with toys, and staring at the other kids.

We spent 45 minutes, alone, in the toy section, playing with every single toy that wasn't strapped down in a box. Jonas even met a "friend" in the aisle, another 18 mo. old boy. They stood face to face, starring at each other, grunted a few times and smiled. It was priceless.

Joe and Jonas outside of the Erie, PA, Wegman's. Notice that Jonas' overall short have come completely unsnapped. At a certain point, it wasn't even worth snapping them anymore. So what, if it looks like he's wearing a dress!

I would say that our car trip was relatively successful. We had a few unhappy moments, but, all in all, ample distractions and frequent stop-overs were the key.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summer Vacation - 2009

Say adios to work for a week and leave the kitchen project behind, we're hopping in the car and driving seven thousand hours to Ohio. Ok, it's not really that long. But it could seem like it, if Jonas doesn't take well to the ride. Be on the look out for several posts to come recounting the tales of our adventures.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Kitchen cabinets, step 2 of 2

Here's the next chapter of the cabinet painting. Once all the sanding's done, you're ready to begin the painting.

Uh...uh...uh... don't slap that paint on just yet, my friend. You've got to prime first.

Step #1: Prime the cabinets and doors.

You want to make sure that you tape off any area that you don't want painted, especially around the cabinets. Personally, I lay down EXTRA tape because I *LOVE* the small of 3M Scotch painter's tape! I don't know what kind of fragrance they put in it, but they should offer the scent in other media.

You might also want to give consideration to how you're going to dry all these doors. We ran into a small issue here, which we ultimately solved with saw horses, a couple of boards and some clamps.

Once the taping's done, get out that big brush and get ready to slap on that paint. That's really not an exaggeration. The primer is so thick that it often makes a funny sound when you make contact between the wood and the wide brush that is dripping with primer.

We used a primer suitable for a kitchen. I believe it has extra moisture protection, as opposed to a primer for your living room.

We found that we definitely needed two coats of primer. It says that you can apply the next coat after only 4 hours, but since we mostly paint at night, after Jonas is off to dreamland, we can really only do one coat a day.

Step #: Sand -- again?

Yes. The sanding really never goes away. We lightly sanded after each coat of primer, just to scuff up the surface a bit, for adhesion purposes. I left the sanding to Joe--too messy. I'm a details person.

Step #3: Paint. Finally!

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got to paint with the real stuff. This took some adjusting because the paint is much thinner than the primer. I had to be extra careful in the corners and recesses, otherwise the paint would pool. If allowed to dry like like that, it would make the surface of the painting look very uneven, which is something that would drive me crazy.

Tonight, I tried using a tiny craft brush in some of the corners and that worked out pretty well, so when I paint our second round of cabinets this weekend, I'm going to try that.

This is our assembly line of drying doors.

In the end the "clamp system" (see above) didn't work out so well. We bought these little gadgets called "Paint Pyramids" and they're pretty handy. You can paint the back of the door, lay it on the 4 pyramids, and then paint the front of the cabinet door. Because the door lies on the tip of each pyramid, it has minimal contact and hardly leaves a mark. MUCH FASTER than doing each door, one side at a time.

Visit with Mima

Last week, Jonas was treated to his second grandmother visit during the month of June. Mima came and stayed with us all week. She and Jonas had all kinds of fun together--going shopping, going for walks, going to the park, playing with toys... unfortunately, I was at work during much of the fun, so I didn't have as many opportunities to snap some shots. I did manage to grab a few before Mima left on Saturday.

Mima, about to slather some strawberry jam (Bonne Maman, my fav!) on Jonas' toast.

See Jonas' hand? Two seconds later, he pulled out a fistful of jam! Also, he LOVES sitting on the counter. I really need to get one of those Learning Towers, or whatever you call them.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kitchen Cabinets - Prep work, step 1 of 2

As you may have gathered, we've embarked on a great summer project--a kitchen renovation. Actually, since we're doing it almost entirely by ourselves, this project could stretch on for years! At first, I thought we'd just change one or two things, but I didn't understand the domino effect of kitchen renovations. Once you change one element, you often can't stop there. Change the floor, then it doesn't go with the counter. Change that, and next thing you know, you're ripping out the backsplash, and on and on, it goes.

We began this process with new appliances back in April. Not necessarily the best sequencing, but the time to get them on sale was back then, so we went for it. It's really nice to have well-lit, perfectly functioning appliances. They looked really out of place, though, with the rest of the 70's era kitchen. Check out this photo I found of our kitchen floor pattern! The only difference is that ours is gold and blue. Nice, huh?

We'll get to the floor replacement...and the counter, and the recessed lighting, but first... we begin with the cabinets.

We considered--for about 10 minutes--the possibility of replacing our cabinets. But, I just couldn't bring myself to it. There is nothing structurally or functionally wrong with our cabinets; they're just too dark, too oak-y, too dated. So, we're saving several thousand dollars and we're painting them. We're going from ground coffee brown (current stain color) to off-white, Benjamin Moore Acadia White to be precise.

In case you're interested, or considering the job of redoing your cabinets, you might just want to read through this post first. Painting is not for the lazy or faint of heart. This is a tedious and time-consuming project, but one that we hope will be well worth the effort.

Step #1: remove doors and label them

We saved the hardware, although we won't be using it again. Maybe it can find a new home via freecycle.

Labeling the doors was critical! For some strange reason, no pair of doors is exactly the same dimension as any other in our kitchen. Guessing their locations when we put them back would have been a nightmare.

Step #2: Clean the wood

We found a recommendation that the wood be cleaned prior to the painting. Using a 2:1 mix of denatured alcohol and water, we wiped down the doors and cabinets, then dried them off with a towel.

Step #3: Sand

Used an orbital sander on the larger flat surfaces; hand-sanded the cracks and crevices. The objective wasn't to eliminate any and all traces of grain, rather just to open up the wood so that it would take up the primer well.

Joe sanding the cabinets. My favorite part was learning that you could hook up the shop-vac hose to the sander. Ingenious!

Step #4: Remove dust

Wipe the cabinets and doors well. We used a clean cloth first, followed by tack cloth. For those of you who have no idea what that is (I surely didn't before this weekend), "tack cloth" looks like cheese cloth that has been coated with some yellow tacky, adhesive-like material. Dust clings to it immediately.

Step #5 Get rid of weird crap.

Remove any other elements that you no longer want, especially if they interfere with the painting process. Now's the time to get 'em out of there.

For us, this meant removing the 70's "apron" on the bottom of the soffit. I think this was Joe's favorite step because he got to break out the reciprocating saw.

That's all I have time for tonight. Tune in next time for the the painting.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Visit with Grammie

Jonas was lucky enough to have TWO visits from his grandmothers this month. My mom came earlier in the month, while Joe was at "summer camp." Here are a few photos.

Jonas is doing just what his shirt told him to do.

A rare moment of getting Jonas to stand still. "Ga!" he says, when we tell him to smile for the photo.

Trying on Dad's shoes. I wouldn't be surprised if Jonas really could wear these by the age of 4.

This one is my favorite. He's holding a fluffy, bright orange stegosaurus that Joe got for him while he was away for the week.