Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

I had a fun Memorial Day weekend!  I hope you guys did as well!

Friday night was a little crazier than usual...  We had dinner at my in-law's house and put Bates to sleep out there.  Then we went to Alchemy to celebrate a friend's birthday.  At the bar, we ran into other friends who mentioned an abundance of food/drink at their house from a work party the night before.  And like that, an "afterparty" was born.  We got home at - wait for it - ONE AM!  I'm not sure I've stayed out that late since Bates was born.  But it was so much fun!

Major bummer of the whole thing?  I woke up at 6:50am on Saturday (which is actually an hour later than I normally wake up, so at least I wasn't up at 5:50), but I couldn't go back to sleep, so I spent the day super tired and groggy.

But anyway, Bates was returned to us around 11am.  And when he woke up from his afternoon nap, we went to a friend's pool.  (Well, not their pool - their friend's pool who was out of town for the weekend.)  Regardless, this house and pool are gorgeous and it was a lovely afternoon swimming and hanging out.

I watched the Grizzlies game as much as I could.  But my eyes got heavy around 9pm.  I was in bed by 9:30.  (So you can imagine how sad I was to wake up and learn they lost, since they were up by 10+ when I went to bed.)  But Go Grizz - I still love you!

Nothing else major happened during the weekend.  Today we journeyed over to the Mexican popsicle/ice cream place on Summer for some awesome popsicles.  We all had one there (me: cookies & cream; Jonathan: coffee; Bates: rice pudding [kid sized]) and we brought one home (me: avocado; Jonathan: pine nut).  I've had the pine nut one before and still think it's one of the best ones on the menu.  But all the ones we had today were good.  Bates loved the rice pudding pop, which was the perfect size/texture for him.

The weather has been nice.  It has started to get warm, but temps are staying in the high 80s, which isn't nearly as oppressive as the 90s and 100s we will see soon enough.  I generally hate Summer - it's my least favorite season - but I'm trying to be more open minded this year.  Bates loves to be outside and I think we could have a really good three months.  I'm trying to focus on all the fun aspects of the season and not just dwell on the disgusting heat.  Remind me of this in a month or so. :)

Hope you guys had great weekends as well!

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Never Ending Bathroom Reno...

Fingers crossed, it will, in fact, end soon!

So the tile on the floor of our shower has always been a little strange.  It was always oddly discolored (dirty looking) in places, but no method of cleaning would fix it.  I would use a bleach product and a scrub brush and the discolored portion would not budge.  For awhile I thought it must have been so old that the stains were deep set.  Then I discovered a Magic Eraser's magical powers could do the trick.  But still, it's weird that it would get these deep, grimy stains so often and would require such an intense effort to Magic Erase.

Then, about a year ago, some of the grout split open.  That is, there was a major crack down the middle of the floor.  Then about 6 months ago, the split was really bad and I started to get nervous about what was going on (thinking, "$$$$$").  We discussed having it fixed.  But that was it, ha.

Then about 2 months ago, a few of the tiles came loose and one came completely off.  That was when we decided we needed to act.  So we called around, got estimates, etc. and realized the job was a bit more time consuming than we hoped.  (We were thinking they could just rip up the floor and redo it.)  But they actually had to rip all layers of the floor out all the way down to the subfloor.  And if the subfloor was damaged, they would need to replace that first.  They also needed to take out three levels on tile on the walls because a waterproof tarp (which is part of all tile showers) extends that high.

And so this project began last Friday.  They came and demo-ed.  Thankfully the subfloor didn't need to be replaced, but they still needed a fan to blow on the floor all weekend to get it completely dry.  Monday they put down the first layer of mud.  Tuesday the second layer.  Wednesday a waterproof sealant.  Thursday the tile itself.  And then today they're doing the gout work.  Next week, hopefully, they'll put in the new door and a plumber will come to get everything cleaned up.

So for the past week - and until next week - our house has been/will be a construction zone.  Dust settling on everything, paper on the floor leading back to the bathroom, and sticky plastic covering the carpet.  Flies in the house because the door has been opened and closed so much.  A stinky, construction-like smell in that half of the house.  The bathroom itself a mess: construction equipment back there, cords everywhere, dirt, grim...just gross.

And you can imagine how enticing all this is to a curious 15-month old.  It's been a full-time job keeping Bates out of the bathroom and away from all the mud/cement pieces on the paper and plastic leading back to the bathroom.  And you can also imagine how quiet it is when, during naptime, a shower is in demolition or a saw is cutting pieces of tile.  (Hint: not quiet.)

Have I mentioned, also, that we only have 1.5 baths in our house?  So this is the main one.  We've been taking baths now for about a month and a half (since we were worried about the condition of the subfloor) and this past week, we've just been making it work: moving around cords and equipment while we get ready in there, ignoring the large dust piles of plaster in the tub while we're bathing.

To say I'm ready for this to be over is an understatement.  We've been in the house all week because we couldn't schedule a playdate since we didn't know what time workers would be here/for how long everyday.

I guess I should've taken before pictures, except the real kicker of the whole thing is that it probably won't look that different at the end.  It will just be fixed instead of broken.  Oh joy of homeownership...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Book Review: Dreams of Joy

Remember my book review of Shanghai Girls and I said, "there must be a sequel coming because it ended on a cliffhanger?"  Yeah - apparently both the first book and the sequel were written a few years ago, ha.  So I didn't have to wait!

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

This book literally picks up the second after the first one ended.  And I was glad about that because I didn't want to skip over the logistics of how these women were going to get into communist China from America.  I should say, though, I think this book could stand on its own (ie, you wouldn't need to read the first) because any time there might be a question about the past, they explain it a little.  You would get the characters more if you read both, but whatev.

So anyway, this book is told from two different, 1st-person perspectives: Pearl (the mother/older sister who narrated the first book) and her daughter Joy.  I enjoyed having 2 perspectives this time, but I have to say, Joy was so freaking naive it drove me crazy!  Naive to the point of stupidity at times.  She does redeem herself a bit as the book moves forward, but still, there were multiple times where I wanted to scream, "you stupid, stupid child!"

But other than Joy, I enjoyed the book.  Actually, I feel really interested in reading more books about China.  This one took place amidst Mao's "Great Leap Forward" and all the consequences that followed.  It was fascinating to read about early communist China - also heartbreaking, because as we all know from history class, there were millions of deaths due to famine (which was a result of very poor leadership).  I know this book is fiction, but Lisa See did a ton of research (as noted in the foreword and afterward of the book), so it feels a little more like historical fiction.

Our library has one other Lisa See book available for e-checkout (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan), which I have on my kindle and plan to read once I finish our book club book for this month.  So I think the fact that I want to read more books by her is endorsement enough - but I would definitely recommend this book.  Like I said about the last one: it isn't "high literature," but it also isn't crappy chick lit.  And I'd say to definitely give it a shot for the historical aspect.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wonderful Mother's Day Weekend

After so many years on the giving end of Mother's Day, it's fun to now be showered with love and presents on a random day in May.

My mom came in town to celebrate with us this year, as well.  So really, the whole weekend was nice! It was great to see my mom, and she helps us so much by taking a lot of childcare duties when she's in town (including Bates' early morning wakeup so we can sleep in).

Friday night we hung out at home.  And Saturday morning we went to the zoo.  Then, after watching the 4pm Grizzlies game on tv, Jonathan and I went to the new Local in Overton Square and sat at the bar and had dinner.  It's nice to have nights out like this every now and then to remind ourselves that at one point we weren't just Bates' parents, but people with things to do and people to see.

Sunday morning I had to be at church from 9-9:30 to rehearse for Confirmation.  When I got home, blueberry lemon pancakes had been cooked up on the griddle!  Yum!  Then we went back for the actual church service/confirmation at 11.  After church my mom headed back to St. Louis and I vegged a bit while Bates snoozed.

We spent the later part of the afternoon at Overton Park blowing bubbles and flying a kite.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was about 70 degrees.  There was no place I would've rather been than right there.  Later, we closed out Mother's Day with Indian takeout for dinner and a cupcake (as my mom had bought a half dozen on Saturday).

Bates and Hank gifted me with a pedicure certificate to be used asap, as my feet look horrible.  I also got a new suitcase last week which is pretty awesome and was desperately needed.  My mom gave me this cool framed poem about a baby's hands and then she had Bates do a handprint at the bottom.  She has the same little project from when I was a toddler.

All in all, it was an awesome weekend.  I'm still loving the cold Spring and am spending every possible second outside that I can.  Also, I need to do some major detox this week after having 2.5 cupcakes, eating way too much junk food, and having a few porters at the bar.  Well worth it, though.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bates' 2-Nap Day

Everyday, my baby boy is growing more and more into a big boy.  Most recently this has been illustrated by the transition to one nap a day.  I'm sort of excited since one nap really opens up the day for activities, but it still reminds me he isn't my little bitty helpless guy anymore.  We're also transitioning him from bottles of cow's milk to all sippy cups, which some might argue should've been done at 12 months...but we didn't do that, so here we are now.

Anyway, since we hope to have another baby(ies) some day, I want to write down his 2-nap schedule while it's still fresh in my mind.  So I guess you could say this post is more for me than you, reader, but please feel free to read about our schedule if you're interested. :)

Wake up (usually 6am) - bottle first thing

Breakfast about 2-2.5 hours after wake up

Morning nap: when he was younger, right after breakfast (so he'd never be awake more than 3 hours at a time); when he was older, nap about 3.5-4 hours after wake up

Bottle right when he wakes up from nap

Lunch about 2 hours after wake up/bottle

Afternoon nap: when he was younger, right after lunch (so he again wouldn't be up for more than 3 hours); when he was older, it kept getting pushed later and later*

*This was how I knew he was ready to transition to one nap: the afternoon nap kept getting pushed later and later because he would sleep longer stretches in the morning (maybe 10-11:30), and then wouldn't want to go back to sleep.  At first I could still get him to sleep an hour (maybe 3:30-4:30), but the late afternoon nap kept getting shorter until it was often only 20 or 30 minutes.

Bottle right when he wakes up from nap

Dinner at 6pm

Start bedtime routine between 7 and 7:20 - routine includes: bath, bottle, books, rocking, and then in the crib

-He's drinking 22 ozs of milk/day (4 bottles: 6ozs, 5 ozs, 5 ozs, and 6ozs)
-Even though he often wakes up at 6am, we never get him out of his crib before 6:30

Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Reviews Up In Here!

I've been seriously slacking on my book reviews lately, but I really want to have a list of what I've read this year - so I'm going to hit you with three (and a half) today!

1) The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

This was our book club book 2 months ago.  It's the first book Michael Chabon ever wrote (in fact, it was his senior thesis [or maybe master's thesis?] in college).  And I sort of have a hard time reviewing the book not thinking about that.  Basically, this is an awesome first book.  It has little glimpses here and there of the incredible writer Chabon would become a few books down the line.  But I'm not sure I would necessarily recommend this book.  I'm not unhappy I read it - I actually really enjoyed the story - but it felt a little juvenile, maybe?  Chabon himself, when asked about the book, responded with something along the lines of, "dude, I was 22 when I wrote it."  Enough said.

One aspect of the book I really enjoyed, though, was the homosexual plot line.  I haven't read a lot (or any??) gay fiction, so this felt refreshing and new.  And fun fact: Michael Chabon, who is now married to a woman, said he's had both heterosexual and homosexual relationships in the past.

2) The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Read this book.  Go to the library/bookstore/amazon Kindle site and get yourself a copy.  This was one of the best books I've read in a long time.  The writing was great, the plot was engaging, and the characters were unique and memorable.

It's the story of a native american family who live on a reservation.  A horrific rape takes place and we see its impact on the family through the eyes of the 12-13 year old son.  It's a little bit of mystery, a little bit of coming-of-age, a little bit of social commentary on Indians vs. white men, and a little bit of a call for justice regarding laws for prosecution of on-reservation crime.  This was the first piece of native american literature I've ever read and really, truly enjoyed.  And I've read a fair amount.

Side note: in the afterward at the end of the book, the author says 1 in 3 Indian women who live on reservations are raped by white men.  1 in 3!  I'm horrified and disgusted by that number - I thought you might be, too.

3) Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

My friend Brooke really likes Lisa See and offered Shanghai Girls as an option for February book club (we decided on Mysteries of Pittsburgh instead).  But I decided to read this anyway.  Lisa See has a ton of books, so I figured she must be appealing to the masses if she keeps getting published.

I enjoyed this book and read it in the same fast way I fly through YA fiction or chick lit.  It's not necessarily chick lit - but I also wouldn't say it's "high literature" the way Michael Chabon or The Round House are.

It spans many years of two sisters' lives.  It begins in pre-war Shanghai and ends in 1950s Los Angeles.  The sisters' relationship is the stand-out aspect of the novel.  I loved getting everything from Pearl's perspective (the older sister), but then hearing what May (younger sister) had to say when the two would have arguments.  May would call Pearl out on something she was doing wrong, and as the reader (since I'd only been in Pearl's head), it was like, "oh - wait - she's right!"  I also loved seeing what the American racism against Chinese people felt like from the inside.

This book ends on a serious cliff hanger - so it's clearly part of a planned series (or at least a set of two).  And I will most certainly read the follow-up - I'll also probably check out more of Lisa See's books.

3.5) Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

This book is just a .5 because I didn't finish.  I came upon this because we've recently discovered the public library's e-book collection (which, by the way, is awesome for e-books users - check it out in Memphis or your own city).  The selection of really good literature is heavily outweighed by Harlequin romance and books like one I found called "Baby Momma."  So when I saw a title I had heard of, Swamplandia, I added it to my queue.

This is the story of a family who own an amusement-type park in the Florida Keys called Swamplandia! that is on the steady decline.  The mother (and star of the park) has just passed away, the grandfather (and founder) has been sent to a retirement home, and the dad and three kids are left to fend for themselves and try to keep the park alive.

It's kind of a weird story.  The writing is pretty good, but as hard as I tried, I just couldn't stay super interested in what was going on.  In fact, it was a little depressing in a real-life sort of way (that is, yet another family business going under and having serious financial concerns).  Couple those things with the fact it was a library book (and thus had an expiration) and I didn't finish.  I don't really have any desire to go back and finish.  But that being said, I don't necessarily suggest you avoid the book.  It's quirky - if you like quirky books this could be right up your alley.  And I definitely laughed out loud at some of the parts related to the brother - so maybe there's more of that as you continue reading?