March 24, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Spring always puts me in the mood to organize. I guess it’s the need to start fresh to match everything green and blooming outside. But my mind these days is overflowing with ideas for projects, new furniture (to better organize), better storage space, cleaner spaces. Unfortunately my wallet is not overflowing with cash for all of these projects.

We’re starting with the master bathroom out of necessity. While bracing my hand against the shower wall, the tiles collapsed under my hand. Unbeknownst to us, we had some water leaking through the grout and now have water damage in the walls. This is what we currently live with.

So while a new shower was definitely an unplanned expense, I’m looking forward to the nicer and larger one we’re going with. Since we’ll have a new shower, I’m taking the opportunity to spruce up that bathroom. Since we’re the only ones who ever see that bathroom, I’ve never really taken the trouble to add an pretty touches (other than a shower curtain and mats). It’s been a fairly utilitarian room except for the massive lack of organization. The counters are covered with hair products, prescriptions, and assorted ugliness. I’m posting the before picture in an effort to shame myself into fixing this space. Don’t judge!

Additionally we’ll be adding a new shelf and bringing in some decorative baskets to store some of that unsightly mess in, some fresh new rugs, and some pretty decorations. Yes, no guests see that room, but Rob and I see it on a daily basis. And I think we deserve to have a fresh and serene bathroom to enjoy.

Bathroom after photos coming in May.

Other projects I’m currently planning: new vanity and makeup organization, and the great closet cleanout part 2. You may remember the great closet cleanout of 2008.

March 22, 2011

The moments that make us fat.

Last week CNN helpfully posted an article designed to make you feel shameful about pretty much every bite of food you put in your mouth: The moments that make us fat.

Luckily, awesome blogger extraordinaire Lesley Kinzel of Two Whole Cakes has re-worked that article into something useful: Helpful Tips: How not to be a boorish body-policing jerk.

Trust me, you will never lie on your deathbed thinking, “I wish I’d berated
myself more for not looking like a photoshopped-to-perfection model in a
lingerie ad,”

March 04, 2011

The Kid's Speech

My son Cooper will be four years-old next month. He has blonde hair and dimples, with his daddy’s eyes and his mama’s eyebrows. He’s bright, funny, shy, and testing his boundaries on a daily basis. He loves cars, superheroes, Pixar movies, and macaroni & cheese. And he stammers.

It’s very common for toddlers to stutter as they’re learning to speak. They often get so excited over new discoveries that their mouths can barely catch up with their brains. We read up on it and talked to his pediatrician and then didn’t worry about it. Early childhood stuttering usually disappears within six months.

In Cooper’s case, it’s been going on for over a year. So we made an appointment for him to be evaluated by a speech pathologist. She was very impressed by his vocabulary, but even I could see that he became reluctant to identify items on her flash cards, once he realized that we were focused on his speech. And for days afterward, his stammering became much more pronounced and he would refuse to say words that he’d said a hundred times before, as if afraid of stuttering over them. It was heartbreaking.

Then the diagnosis came: moderate fluency impairment. It’s very hard to not think “wow, we screwed him up fast”. The King’s Speech aside, most experts don’t seem to think that parents actually cause stammering. But what if it is our fault? Was it our repeated insistence to “use your words”? Or the many times we’ve tried to instill better manners by having him repeat himself so as to ask for snacks and TV shows instead of demanding? Was it the genetic combination of my mild OCD and Rob’s anxiety?

And here we are now. Paying $75 a week (which insurance doesn’t cover, since his impairment is not the result of a birth defect - see? The insurance company thinks it’s our fault too!) for Cooper to meet with a speech therapist. She’s made suggestions for behavior modification we can try at home. She thinks we should speak more slowly, pausing for 1-2 seconds before responding to a question or a comment from him, and decrease the amount of questions that we ask (instead of directly asking questions like "Which color do you want?", she suggests rephrasing them as a statement like "I wonder what color you want.") The idea is that these modifications will help to create a more relaxed conversation environment, and decrease time pressure to communicate. This is a very difficult challenge for people who choose to speak in 140 characters or less.

So my precious, beautiful child, who is pretty much perfect in every way (except for the occasional epic toddler meltdown) is learning that it’s okay to communicate more slowly. And mommy and daddy are endeavoring to do the same.

March 03, 2011

January and February Reads: 50 books for 2011

Below are the books I've read so far this year. I probably won't be doing individual book reviews anymore. It seemed to just be setting myself up for failure since it requires a lot of time. Which, I don't know if you've noticed this yet, but I don't have a lot of time.

#1 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) by JK Rowling - Didn't really miss the lack of Quidditch matches in this one. Could NOT help picturing Robert Pattinson as Cedric Diggory despite not having seen any of the movies.

#2 - Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix (Book 5) by JK Rowling - This was the beginning of the series turning much darker. The Umbridge character was truly horrifying and there's an overwhelming helplessness about the entire story.

#3 - Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner - I was attracted to this book due to the plus size heroine (though repelled by the $9.99 Kindle price point for a 10 year-old book). It went the usual chick-lit path and then veered off in a direction I hadn't anticipated. Fairly long for the genre, but enjoyable.

#4 - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) by JK Rowling - Reviewers claim this to be when the series turned dark, but I disagree of course (see above). It's without a doubt building on the darkness, with a truly traumatizing ending.

#5 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) by JK Rowling - The series came full circle and yet it's a fitting adult end. And war is hell.

#6 - For a Few Demons More (The Hollows, Book 5) by Kim Harrison - I was becoming apathetic about this series (the main character has never really clicked with me) and then Harrison blew the whole thing apart and everything has changed. I feel re-invested in the series.

100 Books for 2010... or not quite

I really haven't even come close to reading 100 books a year. So I've decided 50 new books a year is a more realistic goal. I definitely read more than 50 books a year, but I love to re-read favorites all the time, and that cuts down on time left for new books. Like right now, I'm re-reading Charlaine Harris' An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connelly #3) while simultaneously reading Brenda Joyce's brand new Deadly Vows (Francesca Cahill novels, #9). So in order to be more practical, I'll be resetting my annual goal to 50 new books.

Below is a wrap-up of 2010 books read. You'll notice it's heavy on the urban fantasy series and YA books. I guess that's my new thing. Can't recommend Stacia's Kane's Downside Ghosts series enough. She's built a fascinating world and created a compelling and yet deeply flawed heroine. I'm breaking up with the Anita Blake series. She's gone off the rails and I've taken it as far as I can, which is further than most people would. Most advice I've read online is to stop at Obsidian Butterfly. Wish I'd stopped before then. Oh, and if you haven't read The Hunger Games series, you must.

#12 - Narcissus in Chains (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 10) by Laurell K. Hamilton
#13 - The Vampire and the Virgin (Love at Stake, Book 8) by Kerrelyn Sparks

#14 - Incubus Dreams (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 12) by Laurell K. Hamilton

#15 - Every Which Way But Dead (The Hollows, Book 3) by Kim Harrison

#16 - Cerulean Sins (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 11) by Laurell K. Hamilton
#17 - Micah (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 13) by Laurell K. Hamilton
#18 - Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts, Book 1) by Stacia Kane

#19 - City of Ghosts (Downside Ghosts, Book 3) by Stacia Kane

#20 - Unholy Magic (Downside Ghosts, Book 2) by Stacia Kane

#21 - Danse Macabre (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 14) by Laurell K. Hamilton

#22 - Fantasy in Death (In Death series, book 31) by J.D. Robb

#23 - Personal Demons (Megan Chase, Book 1) by Stacia Kane

#24 - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1) by J.K. Rowling

#25 - Demon Inside (Megan Chase, Book 2) by Stacia Kane

#26 - A Fistful of Charms (The Hollows, Book 4) by Kim Harrison

#27 - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) by J.K. Rowling

#28 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) by J.K. Rowling

#29 - Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins

#30 - Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins

March 02, 2011

It's Pouring

Today I wrote a letter to a Republican senator. No, I didn't call him any rude names. And no, I haven't hit my head.

See, Texas is on the verge of an economic crisis. Many would argue that we're already there, but really, it can get worse. The state is broke, and there are budget shortfalls in every branch of government. The state will likely have to lay off 9,000 employees. And many teachers are going to lose their jobs (1,500 in Austin Independent School District alone). They may even have to close schools. And it's not because we don't need the teachers and the schools. Even though Texas is like 49th in Education in the country, we can't even afford to maintain that level of abysmal quality.

We have a despotic governor that has been driving the economy into the ground for years because he refuses to consider raising taxes, for fear of alienating his donor base. We're a diverse state, but less than half of the population votes, and the ones who do vote tend to be conservative. And we have no term limits in Texas.

I'm not pretending to know how to fix this problem, but it seems like common sense that when you're out of money, and you have no way to pay for the necessities in life, that you need to do whatever is necessary to raise money.

Dear Senator Deuell-

I wanted to thank you for your stance on raising taxes in order to address our current economic crisis. It's time to spend the Rainy Day Fund and it's time to raise taxes. These are hard times, and cutting education and firing teachers and state employees wouldn't have to happen if we were willing to pay a little more in taxes. As a parent who can only afford public education, I'd like my child to get a better one that what's being offerred in this state right now.

My mother is a state employee and my step-father is a teacher and neither of them is ready to retire. It's shameful that they could both be unemployed, due to no fault of their own, by Summer.

Your constituents expect you to defend education and public service and to be realistic about how it needs to be done. I hope you'll continue to support raising taxes and I hope the Democrats I voted for will stand with you on this issue.

Thank you-
Kandis S.