Friday, January 29, 2010

It's All About Variety

(Remember, the answer to the quiz will be on Monday)

So, we currently pay rent, a mortgage, and 2 bills for all my utilities.  And, Brian is the only one working in our family.  So, how do we do this (I've been asked)?  Some of it is due to Brian's salary, some of it is savings, and some of it is personal cost cutting.  We don't buy a whole lot of things - no new clothes, new toys, or anything else miscellaneous.  When we do need to buy things, we look for sales.

But I think the most important thing is that I cook... almost every night and almost entirely from scratch.  Before Mr. Monkey, we were going out to dinner a lot - 4-5 times a week.  We were also going out to lunch almost every day.  Then when my salary disappeared and Monkey appeared we needed to cut back and eating out was the most obvious place.

Yes, cooking dinner is easy since I'm not working.  I'm home to prep and get things ready.  And, I like to cook - a lot.  I like to see a recipe and then watch it come to fruition.  Or, I like to open my fridge and see what is in there that I can use to create dinner.  And, more importantly, cooking every night isn't odd to me - this is how I was raised. 

As far back as I can remember (which sadly isn't that far because of my faulty memory) my mom cooked dinner and the 6 of us sat down together to eat it.  I remember my Dad poking my sister in the elbow (because she was cutting with her elbows in the air), I remember my brother bickering, I remember setting the table and the song my mom used to sing to get us to set the table (Mable, Mable, Mable set the table.... Mable, Mable, Mable set it now), and I remember the clean up.  I hope that Evan remembers these things one day too... especially the clean up because I'm ready to pass that along.

My biggest challenge about cooking at home is me.  If it were left up to Brian we would have the same 7 meals every week.  Monday would be pork chops, Tuesday hamburgers, etc.  But as you may remember, I get bored easily.  I get bored with eating the same things / textures and I get bored with cooking the same things.   So, I need to shake things up.  Thank God for cooking shows, cookbooks, and the Internet.  I use all of these to plan menus.

Here is what we ate this week:

Sunday: Steaks with a blue cheese cream sauce (OMG - thank you Pioneer Woman, it was even better than you said it would be), mashed potatoes, and salad

Monday: Hamburgers (frozen patties from Whole Foods), fries for Brian, baked beans for me

Tuesday: Farfalle with the best spaghetti sauce ever (you didn't lie Smitten Kitchen), amazing meatballs (my new usual recipe but I think making it with Laura's Beef and cooking it on a rack on a baking pan made all the difference), and salad

Wednesday: Lentil Stew with Italian Chicken sausage (I owe this yumminess to Simply Recipes and to a husband who is willing to try almost anything) - if you make this one, make sure to use deli counter bacon, it makes all the difference

Thursday: Pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon, roasted brussel sprouts (mmm, burnt to veggie goodness - we had to have the window open most of the night to air out the loft), leftover mashed potatoes

On the horizon is a night of leftovers, olive oil poached halibut, pork chops stuff with spinach, feta and pine nuts (already made, leftover from when my in-laws were visiting), and easy chicken pot pie. 

So, as long as I can keep up this type of variety, I'm happier eating my cooking than going out. Saving money and being happy about it is definitely as good as it gets!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blog Quiz

Okay, so I have a quiz for my very few but very loyal readers.

Below is a picture of the toys that Monkey currently plays with (yes, he is only 5 months old and he DOES play with all of these). 

The question is... can you guess which toy is currently Monkey's favorite (and by "favorite" I mean which one does he prefer to stick in his mouth and gnaw on for hours at a time)?

Go ahead and leave a comment with your answer (or if your my mom or sister and can't figure out how to leave a comment, then email me).  I'll tell you all the answer on Monday.

Ugh - Teething

So, I think the reason my baby has been up and down all night is from teething.  I know he is teething but he hasn't yet told me if that is what is making his nights so restless so I have to speculate.  And, if his nights are restless, then so are mine (add to that a husband who has been sleeping restlessly and you have one exhausted mommy). 

And because of all this exhaustion, I'm cheating on today's post.  All I've done the least two days is cook, take care of monkey, and sleep.  None of this is that exciting to blog about.  Instead, I'm going to share with you some pictures I haven't posted yet. Hopefully I'll be more exciting tomorrow...and you never know, I'm going to the grocery store today so all kinds of stories could come out of that!

The photos:

I'm including this picture because it's actually very deceiving.  What you might see is a baby staring confused and or bleary eyed at the camera.  In fact, what is really going on is that my baby is staring intently at the camera - trying to figure out how that thing works.  Future engineer right here.  You say po-tae-to, I say po-ta-to.

And why did I include this photo here (besides the obvious fact of how incredibly adorably my baby is eating his hand)?  This is to show you how wonderfully sensitive people are.  This is at the Georgia State Aquarium.  This is a guy (no clue who he is) knocking over my baby to see in front of him.  Thanks for your kindness nameless dude - nice manners to teach my baby.

This one really doesn't need an explanation - it's just adorable.  However, there is more to this picture than you can see.  What Evan is wearing is the cutest one-piece with feetsies... it's a baseball uniform.  The feetsies are made to look like little sneakers and whoever made this went all out - they even made the "laces" to be slightly raised.  I share this information with you because my baby LOVES those raised laces.  He sits there and plays with them forever (which is approximately 10 minutes for a 5-month old baby).  I don't have a picture of that though... because that would make too much sense.

This is my baby in his swing (with the same baseball onesie on).  This is probably one of the last times you will see him in his swing.  Apparently he is too old for this and he doesn't feel the need to be in it anymore.  But if I left things up to him, he would be walking all around the house as we speak. 

And this, this is because I haven't talked about my other children in a while and I couldn't resist this picture of dumb and dumber.  This cat bed has a long history... once upon a time, this bed belong to Kitty Cat.  When Kitty passed, she bequeathed this bed to her favorite brother, Bubba Cat.  This bed was then moved to TX so Bubba could have something familiar with him.  The bed was put in the den in TX.  Incidentally, the den was where we put the kittens when we first got them and they used to sleep together in this bed.  Then we moved to GA and I brought the bed again for something familiar.  Now, these two big dummies fight over the bed (that yes, is sitting on a couch... way too long) and apparently, on occasion, someone decides they are done fighting and just get in.  Bubba was there first.

And on a final note for your entertainment, and to top off this week, last night I dropped a half gallon of milk, almost full, on the kitchen floor.  What's next... grandma's china (which thankfully is in storage so I can't break it)?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Last Night

Last night Mr. Monkey woke up at 1:00 (and apparently my husband was also up and I didn't know that until I got up), 1:45, 3:00, 3:30, and 4:00.  And yes, they were all AM.  It was difficult to get him back down the first waking, easy the next 3 (although as you can see from the times, it may have been easy but not effective) and then difficult to get him down the last time (how I'm typing I have no idea).  And I still have no idea why he was waking up so much.  I blame teething and turning over.

And this is where you say: "Turning over?  But, Ellen - you've said that Monkey doesn't turn over in his crib."

Yes my readers, I have said that and I meant it... at the time.  Last night, when I came down to find out what all the hub-a-loo was at 4:00 AM... there was my baby, wrapped in his blanket, pacifier in his mouth, rolled over on his stomach.  Like any rational mother, I completely panicked, turned Monkey over, removed his blanket and all the toys I wasn't supposed to have in his crib anyway (but I had to entertain him so I could get 15 more minutes of sleep in the morning).  I then spent a few fruitless minutes trying to convince monkey that he didn't want to sleep on his stomach.

So, he decided to sleep on his stomach, and my next rational move was to sit in our TV "room" (remember, it's a loft, it's all one room so those aren't gratuitous quotation marks) with his monitor and look at it every 5 minutes to make sure he was breathing.  And, when I couldn't tell from the monitor, I went in to his room and rubbed his back to make him move.  This lasted for about 25 minutes before I HAD to go back to sleep.  So, for safety's sake, I went in and rolled him on to his back.

I had just fallen asleep when he woke up, tried and tried and tried and was successful at rolling back on to his stomach.  Then he was out like a light again in about 5 minutes.  Of course I was watching this in my monitor, while I was in bed... on my stomach.

Moral of the story - monkey is currently a stomach sleeper and mommy is a bit neurotic about the possibility of suffocation.  However, lucky for monkey... mommy is so tied that when he next naps he could sleep hanging from the ceiling and mommy won't notice because she too will be sleeping.

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's Monday

And seriously... I hate Mondays.  Today consisted of:
  1. Scraping off skin on my thigh as a piece of furniture attacked me.
  2. Dropping an entire bottle (not even opened) of olive oil on a concrete floor.  Yes, it was a glass bottle. Yes, I used my nice white guest bathroom towels to clean it up.  And then yes, I threw out those towels.
  3. Spending 45 minutes at the post office, with an almost-5-month old baby, to mail one letter express and buy a book of stamps.
But it also consisted of Mr. Monkey Pants.  Today he tried and tried and tried and tried to turn back over again.  After accomplishing this feat once last week he seemed to not be interested in it at all, but today his interest resurfaced.

I am constantly amazed at his commitment to something that just seems so impossible.  He tried to turn over once:

Good form, but it was not going to happen.  (As an aside... look how cute his little but is... there is no way mine was ever that little).

So he tried again.

This time he actually got some air on the right side of this body.  I think if he had just pushed a little harder he would have made it over.

Still not to be beaten, he tried again:

I think he got a little excited about the possibility of crawling at this point and lost sight of his goal... forest for the trees my little man.  (Notice the different camera angle, I'm switching things up for you).

And here is his final attempt:

Sure, it's kind of half-assed but he is only almost-5-months and new tricks tire him out.  I believe after this one, he cried a little but, Mommy picked him up, offered a finger to suck and all was well with the world again.

Notice how I made it through this whole blog (almost) without mentioning how these photos highlight the lack of hair of my baby?  I'm trying to be patient (honestly mom, I'm trying).

Friday, January 22, 2010

So much to do... so few babysitters

Now that we are in Atlanta and somewhat settled, I all the sudden have time on my hands.  Why do I have time you ask?  I think there are four main reasons:

  1. I am currently not packing, preparing to pack, cleaning to pack, or doing anything that has to do with packing.
  2. Monkey sleeps better now that he is older.  He typically sleeps about 3-5 hours during the day (so 5 hours between 7AM and 5PM).  This leaves me with some free time.
  3. There is a HUGE difference maintaining a loft as compared to a 4 bedroom, 3 bath house... and I really like that difference.  It makes my life a lot easier.
  4. Brian is back at work.  While I loved having him home, he did take up some of my time.
So, what do with all of my free time - and more importantly, how to do it with an almost-5-month old and on a budget that will still allow me to pay our Texas mortgage and our Georgia rent?

Here is what I want to do:

Book Club: I am not a joiner by nature (my mother would say that is a bit of an understatement) but for the sake of my sanity and for the sake of teaching my child that the outside world is okay... I need to join things.  A book club is free and it will force me to do something I really enjoy but seem to not always do - read.  So I found a bookstore in the East Atlanta Village, Bound to be Read, that I think I'll check out.  I am too late for this month's book club, but should be able to make next month.  And bonus, the book club is scheduled for people who work so it's either at night or the weekends and Brian can watch Monkey.

Join a Food Cooperative: I have wanted to join a food cooperative for some time (for those of you who may not be familiar with this concept, the website of the place in Atlanta does a good job of explaining: Sevananda Food Cooperative - Atlanta).  There was one in Austin, but it was in Austin and I was in Cedar Park (I know, old story... but same tune).  Now there is one around the corner from me. I plan on dragging Brian there this weekend to see if I'm interested in this cooperative.  While it does cost money to join, the cost is realistic (I can do either $20/yr for 6 years, or $120 up front) and I can volunteer based on my schedule (and Brian's schedule).  This is something I would like Monkey to be a part of from day one - to truly understand more about the food we eat than that it comes from a super market. 

Take painting classes: When I was younger, my mother and father were kind enough to send me to art classes. I really learned a lot and still implement those lessons.  However, I now mostly concentrate on drawing as I find it is easier to fix a mistake in drawing than it is in painting.  My goal would be to be as comfortable with a paint brush as I am with my oil crayons (I love those damn things even if they are the poor man's drawing instrument).  I'm sure I could fit this in to my schedule, but painting classes and supplies are expensive (seriously, have you ever priced out canvas alone?).  This might be one to put aside for birthdays and Christmas.

Take cooking classes: I know, you are superbly confused because you know I am already an accomplished cook.  Yes, won't beat around the bush, I am a good cook, but I have two glaring faults in my cooking ability: 1) I find it difficult to cook from the hip.  I believe this one will get better with time (in that the more I cook the easier it will be for me to whip up something at a moment's notice). 2) I find baking to be a complete mystery.  So, I want to learn to bake... and not just sweet items.  I want to make pizza doughs, breads, muffins, all those items that need exact measurements and taste REALLY good homemade.  There is a cooking school I have my eye on (Viking Cooking School - Atlanta) and a cooking series I have my eye on, now I just need to trip over $500 and convince my husband that even though he works Monday through Friday that he should also take care of Monkey for 4 Saturdays in a row.  Hmmm... this one might be more difficult than anticipated.  Of course, I do have another alternative for this (depending on how social I want to be).  I could start my own "cooking classes."  Reach out to people in the neighborhood and see if people are willing to demonstrate something they cook/bake well in their own home - we could do one a month and make it children friendly.  I might not be ready for organizing a joining event just yet, but I'll keep this one in my back pocket.

And these are just my interests.  I also want to take Monkey to music classes, I also want to see Atlanta and do Georgia day trips, I also want to see the exhibits at the High Museum... so much to do.

Now I've put it out there.  This means people will ask me about these "to do" items and I will feel pressure to do them.  Because, let's be honest, if I don't have a little bit of pressure I'll spend the next few months watching all the HBO documentaries On Demand... and all the episodes of "Hoarders"... and all the other tempting items waiting for me just a click away.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rainy Thursday

It's Thursday... it's raining... I'm super tired... and I have a wiggly almost-5-month old baby.  Why am I tired?  My belief is that it's because this is my first time since December 1 that I haven't had a "to do" list.  Why is my baby wiggly you ask... because he is a Mr. Monkey Pants.  Why is it raining?  Apparently it has something to do with barometric pressure blah blah blah and nothing to do with God crying - go figure.

So what is a momma to do in this situation?

How about the wonderful, hands free, self-amusing exersaucer. Ta-da:

Look at all the fun things to do... he can play with lambs, cows, and even a pig.  And, when that teething moment hits, he can gnaw on the edge of the seat (I only know this because I've seen him do it millions of times... which reminds me that I need to sanitize that thing).

And the bonus is that the exersaucer is situated close to a cat (bonus for Evan not for the cat... Bubba is not so happy to have an amused Evan close by) so he can look at the cat as well.  Or, he can turn around and watch Charmed on TV (come one, it's totally appropriate viewing for an almost-5-month old).

So, how long will this joy last?  Ten minutes? Fifteen minutes?  Can I get twenty?  However long, I'm going to enjoy watching him from afar... like the couch.  And come on, who wouldn't want to watch that cute little face?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Southern Chapter of the Evan Fan Club

This past weekend, the President and Vice-President of the southern chapter of the Evan Fan Club came to visit.  These people are more informally known as Grandma and Papa (Brian's parents).  My parents, Maga and Grandpa, are President and Vice President of the Mid-Atlantic chapter. I'm the Supreme Being over all the chapters.  Occasionally we all get together and have big meetings... never mind, I'm taking this all a little too far.

So, to continue the tradition of constant stimulation whenever grandparents visit, we did some pretty fun things for Evan and the grownups.  We showed Brian's parents around our neighborhood (baby slept) and where we hope to build.  We walked around Lenox mall (fancy mall... not for shopping, more for people watching), and we visited my new love - Whole Foods (more on that later).

The thing we did that I enjoyed the most and that I think intrigued Evan that most was the Georgia Aquarium (which is incidentally, the largest aquarium in the world... yes, I said "in the world"). 

Those of you who know Brian and I, might be aware of the fact that aquariums are not my thing... they are Brian's thing.  I think aquariums are a menu (and we did have seafood before we went...yummy!), but I have to admit, watching my baby and his wide eyes as he tried to process this weird world we live in made aquariums MUCH more interesting.

This is only the entryway to the aquarium and look how big his eyes are already (although he may be distracted by the woman who chose to wear tights, 3-inch heels, and a shirt - masquerading as a dress).  I like that his Grandma and Papa dressed him in penguins for this momentous occasion.

This fish was just hanging out, watching my baby watch him.  According to the volunteer, these fish like to hang out in caves and they think that the humans are hanging out in the best cave ever and they don't understand why they can't get to it so they sit there and try to figure out how to get in.  I agree, that just sound nuts.  It's much more realistic that the fish was just astounded by how cute my baby is and needed to stop and stare... and stare... and stare...

I included this photo because my complete inability to use a camera makes it look like Brian and Evan are in the water with the fish... don't worry, they aren't.  But I like this picture.  However, my baby is teething and enjoying his hand sandwich.

And this I included to show you why I don't like aquariums... what about this is cute?  What about this is cuddly?  This just scares me half to death - I don't even want my baby seeing anything like this.  But he did... he looked and looked.  And then he passed out in the car on the way home.  I wonder what he dreamt about that night.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Short Hiatus

Evan's grandparents are visiting this weekend / week.  I'll be back with stories of our adventures later this week.

Friday, January 15, 2010

He did it!

At about 7:00 PM this evening, Mr. Monkey Pants rolled over on his stomach, teetered a little bit, and then rolled right back over on to his back... yes he did.  So far there has been no repeat performance as I think this was a complete mistake, but he still did it.

Sadly, I don't have any pictures or video of the actual event, but I went a little nuts and took some after shots.

This is Mr. Monkey Pants completely confused why his father and I are so excited:

Then, having mommy and daddy stand over him clapping and cheering him on seemed to get a little funny:

And, finally, we must have looked ridiculous:

I'm such a proud mama bear - I have even forgotten about his cute little bald head... almost.

The Loft - FAQs

Apparently my post about the loft did nothing but create more questions so I wanted to share with everyone some of the questions and answers in case you had the same questions:

Q: Are there people living above you?
A: No, the lofts are in an old warehouse building so our ceilings are the old ceilings of the warehouse.  We have neighbors on either side and one that shares our back wall.

Q: Can you hear your neighbors?
A: Yes, we can hear them loud and clear.  After a pleasant conversation with the college students that live next door, Brian has been able to let them know we have a baby and they've been very considerate.  I'm sure we sound like a circus to them - 4 cats, a baby, and 2 loud Italians.

Q: Your pictures were so bad (thanks mom) that they confused me even more.  Can you give a quick breakdown of the first floor?
A: Sure.  There are basically 4 "areas" on the first floor.  When you walk in to the loft, directly to your left is our family room.  It has 2 couches, an ottoman, and our TV.  Directly to your right is Brian's work area and miscellaneous.  It has a small desk that holds Brian's laptop, a buffet that holds miscellaneous items, a bookshelf that holds kitchen items (cookbooks, crockpot, cuisinart, snacks, measuring cups, spices, etc), monkey's stroller and car seat, and a wall unit that holds our DVDs and CDs.  In the back left corner is our round dining table (kitchen table from old house) and our secretary's desk.  Back right corner is the kitchen - pretty self-explanatory with a few cabinets and minimal counter space.

Q: Has monkey adjusted to his new room?
A: As a matter of fact, last night was the first night he slept through the ENTIRE night since we moved.  Mostly that was because his mother went all stupid and for some reason was automatically feeding him when he woke up at 3:30 in the morning so he continued to wake up.  But, then she got super smart again and reminded Monkey he doesn't need a bottle during the night.

Q: How can you be so funny all the time?
A: Really, it just comes naturally to me.  There is no secret... I'm just that funny.

Well, I think that answer all the questions (that last question came from a reader in Montana - true story).  Feel free to leave any more you have about any of my posts and I'll address them as they come.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Something to Think About

So, for the last few days I've been spending time in the loft while Brian has gone out and done things that Brian needs to do (you know, things that are work-related, things that are electronic-related, things that are car registration related since he is the only one registered for one of our cars... I did my time in TX since both were in my name).  This means that I've finally had some normal one-on-one time with Mr. Monkey Pants.  And God that feels good - I love that boy more every day.

He is one of the happiest babies I've ever known (and if you think you're baby is happier, I'm willing to a match - you name the time and place).  He has recently started to full-on laugh and it is one of my favorite sounds.  And he just laughs and laughs and laughs.  He has also realized he can scream.  And that he can scream in a loft with concrete floors - just imagine the echo.  We are still working on the inside voice and failing miserably.  Sorry nieighbors - but the boy has to express himself.  I don't want to give him some sort of complex that using his voice is " bad."

I've also had time to catch up on my blogs and Facebook.  Some of the people I follow on blogs have recently had babies (yay - congratulations) and some people on Facebook had babies around the same time Evan was born.  And here is what I've realized... my baby is bald:

As you can see in this picture (which I purposely chose so you wouldn't be distracted by his adorably cute face) he has some hair - he isn't completely bald.  This is him at 4 months - looks almost the same as when he was born. 

Some of the babies I've seen that are younger than him are already using styling products - true story (ha - that line is my sarcastic homage to the insanity of Pat Roberts... man oh man he is crazy and I crack myself up).  But seriously, I've seen 2 month old babies with as much hair as I have (and you can look at earlier posts to see how much that actually is).  And Brian is no schlub in the hair department either.  We both have bushes on our heads.

Now, I'm not saying it bothers the boy at all... as you can see:

But I have to admit... his momma is wondering when it's going to happen.  And when it does - what color will it be?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Loft

I think I've put off sharing pictures of the loft with you long enough.  I keep putting it off because I was hoping to wait until everything had a home and we were settled... but I'm beginning to think we are as settled as we will be for the next 6 months. 

Just as a reminder, the loft is where we are staying as a temporary home.  We are hoping to buy a plot of land and build on it.  Supposedly the home will be completed by July so we would move from the loft to there... and yes, pack and unpack all over again.  We meet with the builders on Friday so I can give some updates then

So, here goes... the loft:

This is me taking a picture with my back to the door.  There are 3 "areas" you don't see right now but I'll show you those areas in future pictures.  What you do see is our eating area (the coats are covering the chair and the table is hidden behind the dancing bears) and our den.  What - you don't see a den?  Take a closer look... that's right - the secretary's desk is our current den.  Listen, space is a premium so I had to get creative.

What you also see is a big white wall which isn't a wall but a giant sliding door.  Behind that is Evan's room but since he is asleep right now, there are no pictures of his space.  We fondly refer to that room as the cave because it is super dark - but that works really well for baby sleeping.  It is also the place where the heat turns on so the white noise and warmth make it a cozy den.  Now, if I can only figure out how to convince the boy to sleep through the night again all would b wonderful.

If you look up in the picture, behind that top green wall is our bedroom.  It is a room with our bed, a bathroom with a gigantic Japanese shower (at least that is what Brian told me it was - one room with shower and tub, no door or curtain), and a closet.

For the next 2 shots, I went upstairs to take pictures so I could get the best view of the loft. What you see here is my kitchen and Brian's work space.  You also see the front windows and a corner of the door.  As you can see, my kitchen is kind of small so I brought along a bookcase which serves as more kitchen storage (behind Brian's desk).  The sad part is that I only brought about 1/3 of my kitchen with me... apparently I have a lot of stuff.

My favorite part of the kitchen is the pot rack.  I would think for people who don't cook often that the pot rack would just be a dust collector.  But I've already used each one of these pots and I've only been here a week (wow, I've been here a week and in Atlanta for 2 weeks - the fact that this isn't a vacation is starting to sink in).

So, apparently my picture taking skills are lacking but if you can see through the darkness at all, what you are looking at is our TV room.  The TV is on a stand behind the giant pole that I got in the picture.  This area is where we spend most of our time - playing with Evan, watching TV and whatnot.

And let me just take a moment to talk about TV.  In NJ, Brian and I had basic cable, no DVR, no OnDemand - just cable.  Then we moved to TX and got DirectTV for the NFL package.  I loved the guide and the ability to autotune to different shows.  And now... since we are in a loft and didn't want to deal with a dish on our patio, we have Comcast.  We got some insane 6 month introductory thing and so we have a DVR, HD, and OnDemand... and I am completely hooked.  What do you mean I can watch my shows whenever I want?  What do you mean I can see episodes of shows that I want to watch at 3:30 in the morning as I feed the baby?  What do you mean I don't have to decide anymore between a TV show and personal plans because I can do both... whenever I want?  Yes, folks, my name is Ellen and I'm a DVR / OnDemand addict.  If we go back to DirectTV (and after the Eagles' poor showing in the playoffs I may have to decide if I want to torture myself next year) we are probably going to have to spend even more and get a DVR.  Why are addictions so expensive?

So, to recap, the only things not pictured are the details of our second floor (bed/bath/closet) a first floor bathroom which is off the kitchen, the laundry closet off the bathroom, and monkey's room.  When he wakes up I'll try and take pictures of those things and post later.

Yes, this place is a lot smaller than our house in TX (that we still own, but it's officially on the market so fingers crossed... know anyone who needs a house close to Austin?) but Brian keeps wondering why he likes this place so much more.  I see the charm, but I wouldn't mind another door or two... and a bigger kitchen. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm a Georgia Peach - Semi-Officially

Hmm, I bet that is something my mother never thought she would hear me say.  But it's true.  Brian, Evan, and I spent 2 hours in the Georgia Department of Driving Services (DDS) and here was my consolation prize:

(Sorry for all the blackouts... but you know... identity theft and all that - and I don't really know who reads this... so - no offense)

Brian got a nifty one all of his own.  I say we are semi-official because this is our temp license for 45 days until GA does some sort of background check on us and send us our permanent licenses.

Evan didn't get a souvenir but he learned the same lesson today that I did - we aren't in Kansas anymore.  What I mean by that is that today was the first day I truly understood that I live in a C-I-T-Y (and yes, that is all capitalized for emphasis... not by mistake). 

Here's the thing - and I know this sounds naive but it's true - I don't think I truly comprehended where we were until today.  When we talked about moving here, I was all big and bad about how I grew up in Philly, lived in Boston, lived in an Italian city, and lived in Austin - cities were no big deal.  But today taught me all the lies I've been telling myself.

Lie #1: I grew up in Philly.
Truth: I grew up in a suburb in New Jersey.  As I got older I would occassionally sneak off to Philly (sorry mom) instead of ging to school to hang out on Sixth Street.  As I got even older I would drive into the city to go downtown to night clubs and then drive back over the bridge.  I even worked there for a time being.  But, I never had to use any city services, visit any municipal buildings, or leave Center City.  I think ONCE I went to North Philly.

Lie #2: Lived in Boston.
Truth: I went to school in Boston for 3 years (one year abroad).  I never even lived off-campus.  I saw Boson University, the night clubs, and downtown.  I took a bus once to go somewhere in Cambridge, but that was the extent of my city living.  I never had to use any city services as everything was done through the school.

Lie #3: Lived in an Italian city
Truth: Lived in a bubble of naivete in a small city in Italy.  This meant that I stayed within a very small radius of the American school in that city and once again, I never had to use any of the city services.

Lie #4: Lived in Austin
Truth: I lived in a suburb of Austin.  I worked in Austin, I spent every weekend in Austin, but I didn't live there.  And let's not kid ourselves, while Austin may fit the definition of a city... it really isn't.  I'm convinced I could tape a $20 bill to my forehad and walk around the areas of Austin that I know and most people would either leave me alone or tell me I had a a $20 bill stuck to my forehead.  I'm thinking in Atlanta they would jump me.

Here's the deal... up until now I've stayed in places where there were enough people to call it a city.  Now, I'm living in the city.  It's hard to explain, but it's a different vibe.  It's also an east coast city which adds it's own flavor.  I think this will bring a lot of really interesting experiences in to my life and I'm definitely looking forward to it.  I'm sure I will be shocked again and again about what living in a city really means, and I'm okay with that.  And, I am positive that Evan's experience growing up will be completely different from mine.

Speaking of... and how is Evan handling all of this you ask:

You tell me...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Not for the Weak of Stomach (AKA - if bodily fluids gross you out then don't read this post)

I will catch you up on the loft, Evan, and Atlanta soon but an event happened that I wanted to share with you all (maybe just my mom... she is my most loyal reader). This event, to me, is monumental and directly relates to the original point of this blog.

On Friday, January 8, 2010, for the first time in over 2 years, I got my period (menstrual cycle for those who need the proper name) all by myself with absolutely no medical intervention. For those of you who have never needed medical intervention I can only compare this to being taken off a respirator... as in for a while your body needed help doing something so natural that most people take it for granted.

Now, let's not get overly excited... I don't know if this means I will actually ovulate on my own (I mean, I know this means I have once but I'm not optimistic about a repeat) and I don't know if this means that February 2010 will bring the same surpise, but let's celebrate while we can - shall we?

So, all my readers - whoever you are... raise a glass of red wine in toast to me (or any red beverage you have - get the symbolism?) and raise it high. Because, at this moment, with my husband, my sleeping baby, and my tampons... this is as good as it gets!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bringing You up to Date

Okay - I'm bored of writing the events of our move in detail, so I've decided to share the highlights with you:

Packers / Movers
This went oddly smooth. At 8am three guys showed up at our house to pack. They were done by 3pm. I've never seen such efficiency.

Then the movers showed up the next day and my in-laws stuck around to "manage" them while
Brian and I got on an airplane.

The only odd thing is that we called our moving company on Monday because we hadn't heard from the driver and he said he would be here Monday or Tuesday. Turns out he had the stomach flu this past weekend and was running behind (but he made it here by Tuesday morning). This is odd because my mom always says I'm living her life (moving around America with my husband who is eerily like my Dad in some ways is one example) and on one of her movers the driver got pneumonia and went MIA for a week. Thankfully ours was only a day or two.

Flying with a Baby
Honestly, Brian and I didn't know what to expect. Evan is such a laid back baby and is so easy, flying could have gone either way. While we waited hours in the airport for our flight (we had to drop the cats off early for their flight so we were super early for our flight) Evan mostly slept. When he was awake he was just looking around.

Brian opted to have Evan sit next to him on the plane because he felt he could comfort him (I also think it was a bonus that it was a 2x2 jet so that having Evan meant that a stranger wouldn't sit next to him). We boarded (and by the way people, the next time you get on an airplane behind someone with a baby and a cat... have some patience - you have seat assignments so there is no rush), Bubba and Evan settled in and we were ready. Someone had told me to make sure Evan was sucking on a pacifier so we were good to go.

The tunnel pulled away from the airplane and as the plane pulled away from the gate, our baby woke up and proceeded to SCREAM! Brian was trying to soothe him but nothing was working. People started to look and we had no idea what to do.

Thank god for experienced parents. The gentleman in front of me was kind enough to explain to us that the pacifier would work, Evan needed to swallow to release his ears (duh). So, heeding his advice, we gave Evan a bottle... and he was wonderful. He did have a giant poopie (I know, TMI, but it was huge) which necessitated a diaper and outfit change in the smallest plane bathroom ever, but other than that he slept the entire plane ride... even landing.

Being in Atlanta
Again, things hove oddly worked out. I know I keep sounding pessimistic... but remember my ride with the moving people where I got us lost and then I burst in to tears? That is what I keep expecting.

My parents were here for 2 days so we got to show them where we will be staying for the next few months and where we hope to build. Evan has been a serious trooper with all of this chaos (although he has reverted back to getting up in the middle of the night but I'm sure that will settle down once he is back in his crib and in a more stable place). The cats have almost acclimated to the loft, and we are leaving the hotel today (the movers showed up yesterday - Brian met them while I stayed with monkey... he had no mishaps - maybe it's me?) to unpack the loft... it looks scary in there right now.

Have I mentioned that it is freezing in Atlanta... seriously freezing, like we are going to get snow. I think I am completely not acclimated to this type of weather anymore. It may take a while for me to be okay with it again. Until then, I'll have a lot to do in the loft which will keep me warm and busy.

I hope to have the Internet available at the loft by tomorrow but one never knows if our hopes will work out so I may or may not be posting soon.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bonus Blog

Since I'm trying to catch everyone up to date so I can actually blog about the present, I have time today to blog about the cats (the past) and our present.

What I want to share with you is what it has been like staying in a hotel with a baby and a cabin fever husband for the past 5 days... yes I said 5 days and we are looking at 1 or 2 more.

We are at the Residence Inn Marriott (I wasn't going to use the name but since it is in the final picture there was no getting around it). The hotel isn't so bad - once we changed rooms. Our first room had that feeling of the long-neglected room. Our thermostat was broken so that you couldn't tell what temperature it was set at, someone had stolen the smoke detector, there was a large rip in the couch, and at 4am, when monkey woke up for a bottle, there was no hot water... none. So we moved to a room with a larger living area and we've been quite comfortable. As long as I get Brian out of the hotel at least once a day we've been good.

The biggest adjustment has been cooking. With a baby, eating lunch out has been easy - dinner is much more difficult. We've tried to keep his schedule as normal as possible (which means he really has no schedule) and this means he goes to bed around 8pm - this makes eating out difficult. So we've gotten in to the habit of eating a big lunch and smaller dinner.

When my parents were here we ordered dinner in. Cooking for 4 in this place would be a nightmare. But once it became Brian, monkey and I we went to cooking.

Here is my kitchen... all of it:

I have a good size refrigerator, a decent size microwave, 2 electric burners and an itty bitty sink (with a bottle drier brought from home sitting next to it). No oven, and 4 plates. Oh, and I have a dishwasher which I think is a complete waste of space since anyone can wash 4 dishes - but that is just me.

So, after I washed all the dishes (eww) and requested new pots (even more eww) I had to figure out what to make with no oven. The first night we had soup and grilled cheese - pretty yummy. Then we had pasta with microwavable meatballs. Not bad... but I missed my meatballs that need an oven to make. I also made egg sandwiches and bacon, coffee, and peanut butter and jelly. I'm actually pretty impressed with myself. I wouldn't call myself the galloping gourmet of he Residence Inn... but I got us fed.

Tonight we are doing Chinese (again) because it's late, we need to get up early, and I can't wash another pan in that sink. Tomorrow night probably scrambled eggs with bacon (we live on the wild side).

And... to set the record straight... this is NOT funny. My pain is not humorous (okay, a little bit, but that boy can grab). This is also a decent shot of our queen bed... I really miss my king.

This, however, is SUPER funny... ahhh, my boys in front of our hotel... (have I mentioned yet that it's really cold here?)

The Exodus - Kitties (Act 2)

(Okay, baby and husband are both sleeping. Let's see what I can get done before one of them wakes up...)

I believe I left you all at the airport... Brian and I had gone to pick up my parents the Monday after Christmas and Brian decided it would also be a good idea to check in with the Delta desk about our cats just so we are prepared to any issues (this is why he is so good for me... I would have just rolled the dice and as you will find out soon, that would have been bad).

When we moved to Texas, we purposely flew Continental (even though that meant more than an hour trek to the airport at 5:30 am courtesy of my very accommodating father) since they are the "pet airline." However, this time, since we were flying to Atlanta, we flew Delta (if this is confusing for you, it's okay, just know that Delta IS Atlanta). We spoke to 3 different people at the Delta 1-800 number about the cats and we got 3 similar but different stories. All the stories agreed we could bring Bubba on the plane and put the other 3 underneath. The differences were in when to pay, how the cats fly, etc. So, we thought we would clear that up (or Brian thought... I just went along for the ride).

We spoke with a cranky woman (this took me a while to come up with an appropriate adjective to describe her - she wasn't unpleasant... but she wasn't very nice either). We told her our situation, all the stories we were told and the first thing out of her mouth is that we should have called the airport because each airport does it differently (ru-ro). According to her, for Delta out of Austin, the day of the flight we would check in at "special services", pay for the 3 cats as cargo and for Bubba as under the seat (which doesn't make sense to me because I don't have to pay for my luggage under the seat so why Bubba?). Then, we would walk over to the end of the terminals, by the exit doors, and patiently stand there while the Delta people do a security check on the carriers. Oh, and the cats can't be in the carriers at the time. And both of us had a complete panic attack on this woman (which made her a wee bit crankier).

Here's the thing you dog parents out there... when cats get scared, they choose the flight response 99% of the time. For my cats (all except Bubba who has no fear), scary things are loud unidentifiable noises, other cats in their territory, small children's hands, and mostly strange people and crowds. Hmmm... crowds, strange people, loud noises, pretty much an airport. Add to this saga that the 3 cats going underneath all still have their claws and are not afraid to use them. Brian and I envisioned chaos. I remember once, flying back from Tampa with Brian and a bird had gotten into the terminal. I wondered how long it would take for that bird to get out. In the Austin airport, I was thinking about that bird and replacing it with 3 cats, flying around the airport. And then we were supposed to get on an airplane?

Miss even-crankier-than-before Delta lady's response to our collective meltdown... "those are the rules." Well now, thanks for that little reminder. Since she made me feel like I was in kindergarten, I so wanted to retaliate in a really mature way, like blowing my nose on her sleeve - the little bully. Then she said we could talk to Delta cargo and see if they could do anything differently. She gave us some cryptic directions and that was our interaction.

So my parents arrive and we all start problem solving (all except for me since my pregnancy obliterated my problem solving skills if you remember- although some of it is slowly coming back). I pretty much sat back and had my own little panic attack when I started to think about all the things to do back at home.

We went to cargo (got lost once or twice) and actually ended up at Continental's cargo. Brian, being brilliant, went in and talked to them. He was able to book our 3 cats tickets to Atlanta (via Houston) on Continental. They would leave a few hours before us and arrive in Atlanta earlier but they wouldn't have to leave the carriers and we trusted Continental. Phew - problem solved... and I didn't have to do anything.

So... now we need to get the cats in carriers for the big day. We locked them in the litter room (which took a little bit to get them in there because, if you remember from my previous post, cats are only smart when they need to be and all of them remembered the treats in the litter room trick so we had to be sneaky) on Monday night so that they would be out of the packers way. We kept them in there until Wednesday when we had to pack them all up. After getting Evan ready, Brian and I made it into the litter room to deal with them.

And... apparently the cats had some anger issues that they dealt with by destroying things.

They had opened the closets and ripped apart carpet remnant, litter was everywhere, plastic bags had been shredded... it looked like a massacre. It was no surprise then, that when opened a carrier to put Lucy in - Bella took one look around the room and walked right in to the carrier. Bubba and Lucy knew what was going on and they were trying to get out somehow... but nothing doing. At some point, in the chaos, Socks got out of the room. Brian cornered him in the master bath and we decided to come back to him later. We had all 3 cats almost in carriers when we heard Brian's dad calling us from downstairs.

As far as we can tell, at some point, Socks had had enough and hurtled himself out our bathroom doors. They were the kind that shut with pressure from a button up top (no handle lock) so if you hit them hard enough they will open. I guess he used all 15 lbs, because he was out. According to Brian's dad, Socks was running around downstairs. When he heard Brian's voice, he went running upstairs and we were able to get him in his carrier.

We started to pack the cars. I took a moment to get this fuzzy shot of Bella and Socks. I wish I had a video for you to hear the howling that was happening. They are NOT happy.

While Brian was showing the movers around ('cause of course they showed up during this fiasco) I got a close-up of Socks. See those yellow eyes... be afraid - be very afraid.

Then Brian realized I was taking pictures instead of helping out and he got a little annoyed with me.

We took the 3 clawed-ones to Continental and as we were filling out paperwork the employees were petting our cats through the carriers. Man, I love that airline for the way they treat pets. Even though the 3 cats cost as much as Brian, Evan and I... it was so worth it!

And where was Bubba you ask? With me... being cranky since he couldn't get out and explore EVERYTHING. I also think he was annoyed because usually he is the center of attention, but Evan has taken over that role Although 2 women did say he was cute... because he is.

And now they are all at the apartment waiting for us to come and be with them. We let them all out today to investigate. Of course Bubba has been out already and has smelled the entire place from top to bottom. Bella came out and smelled a 4 ft square area, Lucy followed me around, and Socks would come out, get freaked and run back into the safe zone and then start all over again. They will be okay... and I think 4 is the limit for this traveling family!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Exodus - Kitties (In 2 Acts.. this is act 1)

As you know from other posts, we have 4 cats. And since we decided to ignore my mother's advice (leave a few behind - not so much an animal lover my mom) we had to figure out how to transport all 4 to Atlanta.

When had already moved cats previously (from NJ to TX) so we had some experience. We knew we had to get health certificates for each cat (trip to the vet - woo hoo), tickets for each cat, and a carrier for each cat. Sounds simple... doesn't it? Well, maybe if you aren't a Castrucci it would be... but we never do anything "simple."

Being the one who organized a lot of the "to do" lists for the move, I made the vet appointments. I knew we could only take 2 cats at a time, so I made 2 separate appointments - Bubba & Lucy together, and the sister/brother duo of Bella and Socks together. When I made the appointments we didn't have an actual moving date so I made a guess of January 4 (the moving date is important because your health certificates can't be issued more than 10 days in advance and we were playing with Christmas, New Year's and weekends. Well... turns out our moving date was actually December 30, so I changed the appointments. So far this all sounded good.

As the appointments approached, my old boss reminded me that her friend was a traveling vet... I kid you not. This man comes to your house and takes care of your animals in the comfort of your own home. What a genius idea... especially for people with more than one animal. We decided we should give him a shot. Brian called him and left a message. While we were waiting for his return phone call, the other vet appointments I made were fast approaching. Knowing we needed to have the health certificates, we decided to keep our other vet appointments unless we heard from the traveling vet. Monday comes and we nee to take Bell and Socks to the vet.

For those of you who don't have cats let me share one little detail with you... cats are smart when they need to be. What I mean by this is our cats lived in relative freedom for almost 4 years in our TX house - we don't take our indoor cats to the vet unless they need to go. We don't believe in preventive medicine for indoor cats because... ummm... they are indoors. So, Bella and Socks had no reason to believe something was up when we called them into their litter room with the promise of treats even though they NEVER get treats in their litter room. They were completely trusting at this point.

Earlier that week, Brian and I had hypothesized that since Bella and Socks were litter mates, slept intertwined, and were always together that it might lower their stress to travel together in a large carrier. This was the perfect opportunity to test this theory. We got both cats in a carrier (not as easy as it sounds - the figure out very quickly that things were going bad and they both have claws - this is the smart part of them... they know if something smells fishy then it is), and went downstairs to ready Evan (yes, the whole family was going).

While I was getting Evan in to his carrier we all the sudden heard some seriously bad hissing. It took us a minute to realize what was going on. And here is what happened... you know how if an animal gets caught in a trap they will supposedly gnaw off their own leg to get free... well Bella decided to gnaw on Socks to get free. She was attacking him in the carrier and poor socks had nowhere to go. So, back upstairs, maneuvered one cat out, kept the other one in, put the one out in another carrier, finished strapping in the baby and off we went. The vet visit was uneventful (even though we were 10 minutes early and it took them 40 minutes to get to us and no one even apologized).

That night, as we were thinking about when we needed to get the other cats in their carrier, the travel vet called. For this one time (because we lived in Dallas practically and he was in south Austin) he would come out to see our two cats (mostly as a favor to my old boss and his friend - thanks Margaret!). This travel vet thing... it was wonderful. We locked Bubba and Lucy in their litter room (again, lured with treats) and he sat right on the floor and administered to them. The funniest part was that while the vet was taking my sweet Bubba's temperature (rectally of course) Bubba made an attempt to smack the man. The big bad Bubba cat...

And now we had the health certificates for all 4 cats. All we needed to do was get them to the plane - right? Well that was what we thought too, until we decided to make a stop at the Delta desk when we picked up my parents from the airport. A few small questions led to some quick thinking on the part of Bubs...

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Exodus - Overview

Even though Brian and I were coordinating a move that only included ourselves, a 4-month old baby and 4 cats - it sure felt like we were the masterminds behind the Jewish Exodus. Here is an overview of our move - details to be posted later:

Most of December - sorted belongings into trash / give away / place in storage / bring to apartment

Christmas Day - Brian's parents arrived to help us babysit with Evan

Day after Christmas - packed miscellaneous items, sorted through items for storage or apartment, saw Avatar with good Texas friends, watched improv (and participated in it), and then dinner

December 27 - more sorting, preparing for my parents to arrive the next day

December 28 - more sorting, getting my parents at the airport, family dinner at The Olive Garden, trying to figure out what to send with my parents (driving our car across country) what to bring on the airplane, and other small details

December 29 - packers arrive, trash day (goodness - there was a lot of trash), my parents leave to drive our Prius to Atlanta, other car gets picked up by transport, get rental car to bring us to the airport the next day

December 30 - gather 4 cats in to carriers (too many stories for this blog), pack up baby, pack up ourselves, movers arrive, give direction to movers and Brian's mom, Brian's Dad takes us to the airport, 3 cats go on Continental in cargo, Evan, Brian, Bubba and I fly in an itty bitty jet to Atlanta, we learn secrets of experienced parents about flying with a baby, land in Atlanta, get rental car, get 3 cats at cargo, drop off all cats at apartment, we go to hotel, meet up with my parents, order Chinese, pass out

December 31 - Meet with Atlanta real estate agent, show parents around our new neighborhood in Atlanta, visit with cats, eat at good seafood restaurant, come back to hotel for baby to sleep, eat pizza, pretend am going to ring in the New Year but pass out at 10:30 PM

So, how did monkey handle all this? Thankfully he is still young and fairly adaptable... he slept a lot:

Monkey sleeping on the floor in Texas (sometimes he just had to sleep where he was because his room wasn't available).

Monkey and mommy at the airport in Austin (yes, I travel in the height of fashion).

Monkey and Daddy at airport in Austin.

Just writing this stressed me out all over again. I'm chime in with details throughout the week...