Monday, February 27, 2006

I'm Tired: A Mother's Vent

I'm tired.

I'm feel very grumpy and bitchy and out-of-sorts lately. I think I'm sick of my life. I've been home with the kids for nearly 5 years now, and it's taking it's toll. I'm feeling very conflicted. All in all, I have it good. I know that. We're healthy. The kids are good kids. I have a strong marriage. I have good friends. And yet... yet... I can't help but feel a bit frustrated in my role and I'm not sure what to do about it. Hence the conflict. It doesn't help that I'm pre-menstrual, I'm sure, but the feelings are there even when I'm not.

I'm tired of my kids and the endless neediness of them. Is it wrong to admit that? Lately I'm just not feeling like I'm enjoying them like I should be. I feel like I can't wait for naptime and/or bedtime so I can finally get a break from them. I find myself finding ways to simply co-exist with them vs. truly interacting in meaningful ways. I find that I want to escape - a lot.

I'm tired of driving up to Portland so frequently. Which is nothing compared to what Mr. Chick has had to do for the past 9+ months, but still - ! It's a total chore.

I'm tired of looking at houses without Mr. Chick and with the kids. It's hard to look at houses when you have two young kids in tow. Especially houses that aren't vacant. You spend more time making sure they don't break something or touch something they shouldn't than really looking at the house itself. It's made the whole house-hunt more unpleasant than it should be.

I'm tired of housework. The endless repetition and futility of it.

I'm tired of not being able to soak in the hottub my myself. If the kids are awake, they come in with me. If they're in bed, Mr. Chick comes in with me. Sometimes, I just want to be in there alone.

I'm tired of the piles of mail/paper/general crap that accumulates DAILY on my kitchen counter. I blame Mr. Chick for most of it.

I'm tired of all the clothes in the living room. WHY must the kids and Mr. Chick shed clothes in there vs. bedrooms??

I'm tired of constantly feeling like I have weight to lose. I've been running a lot more for the past 2 months and yet no real weight loss has resulted. Of course, continuing to occasionally binge on sweets and sabotage the progress doesn't help matters any.

I'm tired of feeling like my career choices are limited. I'm educated w/ good experience in both sales and marketing, and yet I don't really want to return to those fields, despite the lure of decent money, mostly because you can't really do that successfully on a part-time basis. And I'm just not wild about working the kinds of jobs you can find PT (i.e. lame retail and/or entry-level kind of public/customer service). That kind of work would barely cover the babysitter, so what's the point? I'm not ready to leave my kids for a full-time job, yet my options for PT are sub-par, so I feel stuck. I'm tired of feeling stuck.

I'm tired of endless bad hair days. My bangs are mostly grown out now but I remain unconvinced that it's a good look for me. My curls in the front aren't as nice as the ones in the back, so overall my hair isn't working. It looks good for 1/2 - 2/3 of the day and then it goes in the dumper and I end up pulling it back. And since I don't wash my hair everyday, it looks like shit waaayyy more than it looks good. I'm tired of that.

I'm tired of feeling like I have to be miserly every minute of the day. Nicholas needed new shoes (had been wearing hand-me-down shoes that finally gave out), so we went shopping for new ones. The stores we hit? Target and Payless Shoe Source. I ended up buying him a pair that cost $17.49 at Payless - the most expensive choice - and find myself feeling slightly guilty for going with that pair vs. the pair at Target for $14.99. What's wrong with me?? Payless was having a Buy One, Get One 1/2 Off sale, and even at only $12 I couldn't justify a new pair of shoes for myself. I pretty much wear the same pair of black shoes everyday. I'm tired of that, too.

Also? Since we were at the crappy mall today for the shoes I ended up treating the kids to lunch at the food court. They each got a kids meal from either Carl's Jr. or Taco Time. I went without lunch because I didn't want to pay $5. Instead I ate some leftover rice at 4pm when we got home. The big score for the day? Taking the kids to a movie at the "cheap" theater at the same mall. Because we went to the first showing of the day it only cost $.50 per person to get in. That's right: $1.50 in total for me to take the kids to Chicken Little. I'm tired of feeling cheap.

I'm tired of Mr. Chick being gone so much. Law school was one thing, but his days are just as long or longer now as they were then. He stays overnight in Portland on average of 1x/week for convenience. I'm tired of so much solo parenting. He leaves right after we all get up in the morning, and gets home right before bed, if then. I end up having to do breakfast/lunch/dinner/bedtime by myself more often than not. That takes a toll. Maybe that's why I'm sick of my kids: too much time together.

I think I want a vacation from my life. From the drudgery of it. From the sameness. I want time for me. I don't know what I want to do per se, but I'm finding that I just want to be alone. I don't want anyone hassling me for something. I want to veg in front of the tv. I don't want to pick up a room only to come back a few minutes later and see it all wrecked again. I want a reason to look nice. I want to be selfish without the guilt. I want to be flirted with. I want an adventure. I want a job I feel motivated and passionate about. Right now, I don't feel that about my "job" (aka SAHM). I don't know that I ever have, in truth. I believe strongly in staying home with the kids - at least while they're little - because I think it's for their benefit. But I don't love it. I love them, but I don't love the sacrifice staying home requires. It's worth it in the end, and I'm good at it, but it's hard. And instead of finding it personally enriching I'm lately finding it soul-sucking. I need personal enrichment.

I'm tired of changing diapers. Lauren is nowhere near ready for potty training yet.

I'm tired of all the fucking rain we're having.

I'm tired of being in limbo. Mr. Chick is still looking for work as an attorney nearly 10 months after graduating law school, although he's very close (finally!) to an offer with a good firm. I'll believe it when I see it.

I'm tired of having no vision for my life.

I'm tired. Period. I need a break from me. Any suggestions?

Friday, February 24, 2006

The House Diet

Mr. Chick and I are on The House Diet. Which is eerily similar to The Law School Diet. Meaning, we're back to watching our pennies and spending wisely. Which we normally do, but in recent months we've been able to loosen the belt a bit, which has been nice. Really nice. But now we're back to tightening back up that belt in anticipation of making the jump to the new house and the new house payment. I'm getting tired of that damn belt already.

We (and by we I mean Mr. Chick) is pretty good with money. As a CPA he should be. He's very good about investing and keeping his eye on the prize. We aren't wasteful people. We usually pay off our credit cards each month. Our cars are paid for in full. We've never been sent to collections, and it's rare for us to see any late fees or penalties (except for the occasional late book fine levied by the local public library or the odd late fine for returning a DVD late) Essentially, we do our best to live within our means. No easy feat in today's consumerism-crazy culture. That's not to say we don't enjoy ourselves - we do. We just do it on the cheap or make it a special occasion vs. a daily indulgence. Eating out and going to movies are two big examples of things we don't do very often. We don't shop for clothes much, and when we do it's at places like Costco, Ross, Target, discount malls, or even 2nd hand places (for the kids, mostly). We brew coffee at home vs. hitting Starbucks. I shop at the "cheap" groceries where I have to bag my own to save a few extra dollars. We don't buy meat unless it's under $2/lb (chicken or ground beef), and then we buy a shitload and freeze it. We don't have cell phones (well, that's not entirely true anymore. Mr. Chick just got a cell phone thru work that has free nights and weekends, so we can use it then for personal calls) and we switched our home phone to Vonage to save on that bill, too. Stuff like that.

We've had a couple of splurges in recent months - the hottub is the biggie, and last weekend we got a new TV. We'd been using the same, small (19") tv of indeterminate age that Mr. Chick inherited pre-marriage. There is no remote (the horror!) and it's so old you can't connect a DVD player to it directly. I guess I should just be happy it was a color tv and not b&w. We only have 1 television in the house, a personal preference. Anyway, we had some coupons/gift cards to Circuit City that were going to expire soon and so we took the plunge and bought a new 27" tv. Which is still on the small side when you compare it to the huge tv's you can get now. But to us, this tv is giant! And it's HD-ready, not that we're willing to pay a bigger cable bill to jump to the HD programming, but it's there for when we do.

Anyway, the days of splurging are rapidly coming to an end. With the purchase of this new home, we need to revert back to living like law students again. Which really wasn't that bad, all things considered. It feels good to not stress about making bill payments. About not having to juggle or only able to make minimum payments. I'm ok with money, but Mr. Chick is better. It's much nicer to control your money vs. having your money control you. But I digress.... I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I will not be able to buy one single new thing for this house when we move. Not one. "Not even a sponge, MP", said my frugal spouse.

And so it begins. I'm now a pauper living in a castle. I'm just hoping that this self-imposed House Diet only lasts a year or so, not that it's a bad idea, mind you, until Mr. Chick gets his first raise or something. Because I have a lot of plans for decorating that house! I'm no Nate Birkus, but I have some ideas of my own.

And I can't wait to make that house truly my dream home.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


We got the house. They countered with a number that, while technically lower than the asking price, was higher than we were hoping it would be. $2500 higher. But - BUT - it's not worth quibbling over $2500 and we accepted the offer. WooHoo! We feel good because we got the house for less than asking (even if it IS only a measly $1500 less), and I'm sure the sellers are happy to have an offer that's essentially full price with a quick turn-around. So now the mad rush to schedule the inspection gets under way. We only have 7 days to get the house inspected vs. the standard 10 (another element of the counter-offer). Eventually, Mr. Chick will get to see the house he's dropping a fat wad of money to buy.

I'm so excited and relieved!! This is our long-term house, barring any unforseen relocations. It's not another starter/interim house. It feels like home. I just hope that the inspection reveals a clean house and nothing ugly just under the surface that would be a deal-breaker. Please please please let it all work out.

And as an added big fat bonus to my day: Mr. Chick is being asked back for what we believe to be a final interview for an attorney position. It's all coming together for us - can you feel it??

Dream House

WE FOUND IT!! The house of my dreams. Well, maybe not my ultimate dream, but a perfect house for us right now. And for potentially until the kids are grown. It's that good. I saw it yesterday and we put in an offer immediately. We should hear sometime later today if they accepted it or are countering or what. We expect them to counter - we did go in a tad low - but we'll see. The house is currently vacant because the previous owners had to relocate to Seattle, so we're dealing with the relo company, not the people themselves. We're told they don't accept contingent offers, which is fine because our offer is not contingent on anything - we've already sold our house and we're completely unencumbered. So that's in our favor. At asking price, the house is fairly priced. We're just trying to go a bit under to be more in our comfort zone and not have to stretch as far. Because getting into this house will be a bit of a stretch at first, about $10k more than the cap we set for ourselves, and that's what we were hoping to avoid. But this house is worth it! It has everything, and I do mean everything, we wanted.

For starters, it's big. Bigger than it looks. It's nearly 2700 sq.ft. That's right, 2700!! It has 4 bedrooms, 2 of which are technically master bedrooms, and 4 full bathrooms. Trust me when I say we do NOT need 4 potties, but that's what's there. That's a lot of crappers to clean if you ask me, but I can hang with it. It has a formal sunken living room, a formal dining room, a spacious family room, a huge kitchen, a decent sized indoor laundry, and a kick-ass bonus/party room. It has 2 big decks, a nice yard (if a bit shady from all the HUGE trees) that even has a tire swing for the kids and a hottub for the parents. The main floor has beautiful hardwood floors, just like I like. It has french doors - 3 sets. The house has a lot of vaulted ceilings, which Mr. Chick really likes. It was recently "freshened up" inside with new carpet and paint, so there isn't a single thing we'd have to do to get comfortable in this house. Not one. Sure, eventually we'd personalize it more with various paint color choices, etc. but for now, everything is a blank slate or something I like vs. hideous choices that would have to be remedied immediately.

Here, see for yourself:

The front view. It's a tri-level, which I'm told that some people don't care for. It's not as dreaded as a split entry, but it still turns some people off. Personally, I've always really liked tri-level floorplans, and this is no exception. The only thing I'm not wild about are the number of stairs one has to climb to get to the front door. The stairs are low and long aggregate cement, which is actually pretty, but still - there are like 10 steps.

The formal living room just as you walk into the house. The carpet is no longer blue - it was recently replaced with a light neutral. It's the only carpeted room on the main floor. Everything else is pretty hardwoods. YES! This picture makes the room look rectangular but really it's more of a square.

The family room & casual dining area (if you choose to use it for that) from the perspective of the kitchen. The paneling on the side has been painted a creamy white, and note the gorgeous floors! There is a fireplace on the far wall and built-in bookshelves. Just to the right of this picture are french doors leading out to one of the two big decks. This whole room *could* be a big family room vs. dual-use. The peek-a-boo window on the left looks into the formal dining room.

The big kitchen. It's huge! The ceilings are vaulted w/ really nice wood, and the cabinets are good quality w/ pull-outs (a woman must have had a hand in designing it). Plus, there are a TON of them - so much cabinet space! There is another pantry like the one on the left next to the fridge on the right. The lower edge of the island is table-height and you could put regular chairs around it for an eat-in kitchen, eliminating the need for dining in the family room, giving you more space for FR stuff.

The master bedroom suite, which has a separate, private 1/2 staircase up to it (different from the 1/2 staircase up to the other bedrooms), a bathroom with double sinks and a big shower w/ 2 shower heads. (sexy shower w/ hubby??!) And a rockin' walk-in closet. PLUS, french doors which lead out to a landing & stairs down to the big deck. All the wallpaper has been removed and the room freshly painted. Bonus, because I really didn't like this wallpaper and HATE taking wallpaper down, especially when the room is vaulted like this.

The downstairs party room. It's huge w/ a ridiculous amount of closet space (3 big ones). What you can't see in this picture is the wet bar tucked into a nook. Plus there is a full bathroom down here, too. OMG, this room is awesome. It's behind the garage.

The side deck off the family room. Pretty gate, yes? It's the only gate and the rest of the fencing is chain-link. Not my favorite, but you don't feel boxed in, either. There is a dog-run in the yard and a small shed as well. And many really tall trees.

The bigger deck behind the house. Note the hottub. :) The part of the house you see is the kitchen, and the picture was taken from the landing off the master bedroom.

In the upper level, above the garage, are 3 of the 4 bedrooms. The two front windows are the two "kid" rooms. They're a bit small - just 9x10 each, but at least they have full closets. The 3rd bedroom is a 2nd, smaller master bedroom. With 2 closets and a full bath. It's sort of random to have a 2nd master, but I'm envisioning Lauren getting that room once she's an adolescent and spends most of her waking hours in the bathroom. Then at least she'd have her own bathroom and the kids wouldn't fight over access rights. In the meantime, it would be used as our office/craft room. OMG - the 2 closets would give me so much storage room for craft crap! I could keep a sewing machine set up at all times. I can't imagine.... It could also be a nice guest room in that guests would then have their own bathroom. OR, we could put guests in the downstairs bonus room because they'd also get their own private bath AND a sink/mini kitchen. Choices, choices! If we get this house you can ALL come and be my guest. I'd nearly have room for all of you. :)

So that's the house. I'M SO EXCITED!! Mr. Chick hasn't seen it in person, he's just seen what you have (plus a "virtual tour"). But he's down with it, too. The street/area is nice and there are a bunch of kids in the neighborhood. This house makes the one we have the back-up offer on seem so dumpy. I have lost my enthusiasm for it after being in this house. This house feels so much more solid and well-built. And much more cared-for. Pride of ownership and all that. So keep your fingers and toes and everything else crossed for us that we can make this deal happen without breaking our bank. Stepping up to this house means our house payment, including property taxes, will essentially DOUBLE what we're paying now. Granted, we're currently living like cramped students, but it's really, really nice paying so little. Of course, we'd be doubling the size of the space we have, too, so it's all relative. Literally doubling our space. Our current little house is 1340 sq. ft. This house is nearly 2700. Plus a bigger yard. Current yard: 7500 sq. ft. New house yard: 9300. The new house feels like a house you could easily entertain in. I'm treading dangerously by getting so emotionally attached to this place when there is a chance we won't get it, but it just feels like home to me. I want to live there. I can easily envision my family in that space. Oh I hope it will be ours!

If so, we might be moving in as little as 3 weeks!! Yikes!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Pantymeister

Mr. Chick has a thing for panties. Not everyone's underwear, mind you. Just mine. He likes to know which panties I wear each day. And I don't mind telling (or showing!) him. Personally, I'm not too interested in panties. They're a functional piece of clothing that really, no one else but you ever really see, and even then, only when you snatch a few moments in the bathroom. It's not like I often parade around my house wearing only my underwear. I'm sure Mr. Chick would like that, but frankly, I'm just not into being cold in my own house. Plus, I think my figure is most flattered when I'm wearing clothes, and underwear doesn't really count as "clothes" in my book.

In the past few years I've taken a shine, to my own surprise, to wearing thong underwear. I know! I never thought I'd actually prefer a thong to say, something with full-coverage. Most of my life I've been a full-coverage kind of girl. But then the fashions went and got snugger (or did I just get fatter? Hmmm, hard to tell some days) and I became much more aware of my body. A side benefit of aging, I guess. So for certain types of jeans and "wedding clothes" (aka dresses you wear to weddings) I would don a thong. But then, I realized just how beneficial the thong really was. If you could find the right kind of thong it's almost like you didn't feel it all snug up in your butt. Really! Stuff with lacy edgings? Forget it - waaayyy too itchy. Must have super-soft fabric if you're considering a thong.

As an outcropping of my new-found appreciation of the thong, much to Mr. Chick's delight, he's started buying me underwear. For birthdays, Christmas, Valentine's - you name it. I get some new underwear. Which is cool, only he cares wwaaayyy more about the underwear I have and wear than I do. So I wear the stuff he gives me for HIM moreso than for myself. I guess it's just the kind of giving wife I am ::grin:: As you can imagine, I received a box with new thongs in it for Valentine's Day last week. Very thoughtful of him and all that. He tends to order from - which appeals to me much more than other retailers for some reason. More practical, maybe, than something from Fredericks, which would most likely be utterly useless. I'm just sayin' - (for my birthday I got a bra/panty set from him from Fredericks of Hollywood and the bra is so padded that I can rest my chin on my cleavage. ew!)

So anyway, I received a couple of thongs and one was "super-low" styling. Meaning, it barely covers your crack in back and just edges over the fur-line in front. He says they're for me to wear with my low-rise jeans. Uh-huh - because *I* wear jeans that hit that low. Sure. But whatever - they'll be added to my growing inventory and put in rotation. Another style he gave me was called "Brazilian", and I immediately think of Brazilian Wax and the potential requirement to be nearly hairless to wear these panties. With trepidation I try them on, and thankfully my fears were groundless. You don't have to be pre-pubescent to wear them. BUT, you do have to have a good butt to pull the style off well. I have plenty of curves and lots of junk in my trunk, but my ass has never been one of my best features. These panties are somewhere between full-coverage and thong. They hit right in the middle. In other words, they're what I call "a thick thong" because they end up riding right up your butt anyway. And they have strings on the sides connecting the two triangles of fabric. I'm not horribly overweight, but I look best in underwear that's a little wider on the sides than floss. It tends to cut into your hips and emphasizes any chunkiness vs. offering a slimming look. So the Brazilian style is O-U-T for me.

And then today Mr. Chick gives me ANOTHER box of underwear for no reason other than he thinks it's fun to buy ladies panties and likes picking out pretty underwear for me. What a guy. And wouldn't you know it? 2 of the 4 pairs are Brazilian. They're going back - I'm not even trying them on. The other two sheer thongs? Nice, and I'm keeping them. But no-go on the Thick Thongs - no thank you. I swear, in our next house we're going to have to build a special dresser or something for me to store all this underwear!

And speaking of under-garments, I went out to a specialty "foundations" store last week in order to be properly fitted for a new bra. Like panties, to me a bra is purely functional. It exists to provide support to the boobs and make tops/shirts look good. Like most women, I appreciate wearing a pretty bra, but I have found that there exists a disconnect between "pretty" and "smooth silhouette". I tend to favor bras that provide a smoothness to them so one can't detect seams, lace or other "decorations" underneath tops. T-shirt bras, I think they're called. And with stuff fitting tighter it's even more important. Lacy bras, while pretty to look at, make my breasts a tad more "pointy" in silhouette because of the seam that runs diagonally across the nipple. I'm not down with cone boobs. And so I gravitate towards plain-jane bras. Simple underwire with slight even padding (I do NOT need added "wonder" in my bra) in a basic color so it won't show up under light-colored tops. I know, boring, but yet practical. I have a few dressy/lacy/fancy bras that end up collecting dust at the back of my drawer because they're just not for daily wear, and like with panties, I don't just parade around in them at home because they're pretty. They're nice (and even important) to have "just in case", but I find them somewhat impractical. And for as much as bras cost - ! Give me something I can wear in my daily life.

I was down to one (1!) bra that fit those parameters. I'm a sad, sad woman. Plenty of panties, but only one practical bra. I wore the same bra nearly everyday. And so I was long overdue another one. I wanted to be sure my size was correct and wanted the assistance of a professional. Oprah taught me the importance of a good-fitting bra. I went in thinking I was a 36D and guess what? I'm a 36D. So much for needing expert fitting. But it was nice to know that I was on the right track and the girls were being properly supported. I tried on a bunch of bras (with my audience of two firmly in tow - how lovely), and walked away with a plain beige t-shirt bra. No frills - just the right level of support and smoothness and padding. And for that I paid $32. Highway robbery! But at least now I have a bra to wear when the other one is in the laundry. I was told to NOT put my bra in the dryer - which I already knew - but when you only HAVE ONE BRA to begin with you need to wash and dry your bra in the shortest amount of time. But no more! Now I have two bras - what a relief. Oprah would be proud. And Mr. Chick is happy. Pretty va-va-va-voom thongs on the bottom, boring bra on top. Check. I'm all set. What more does a girl need?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

On Deck

Good news/Bad news. The good news is that we found a house we like and are making an offer. The bad news is that there is already an accepted offer on the house. We're hoping to be the top of the "back-up" list. The listing agent has reason to think it's possible the first offer might not work out, so we stand a chance if we're in as a back-up offer. So we're not "at bat" yet, but we're on deck. We're next, so to speak.

So, about the house. There are pro's and con's (aren't there always?) The house screams 70's. It was built in 1976 and the style reflects that era. On the PRO side, I really like the floorplan. It's a one-level home with a good, flowing floorplan. The family room is big enough to actually put furniture in it, unlike many of the others I've seen. It has 4 bedrooms - 3 on one end of the house and the 4th sort of off the family room. So, a perfect playroom or office or bonus room or whatever. The point is, there are options there. Another pro is the big pantry in the kitchen. Nice to have. The kitchen is very functional. It's not huge, but the space works. I like the area the house is in. It's a nice street in a flat area with sidewalks and decent houses. Seems to be many families/kids in the area. A few sketchy homes (rentals, probably), but where this house is and beyond are all very nice. A big pro is the price - it's under $300k. And there ain't much that I like under $300k. It would give us some nice breathing room to make the upgrades/repairs to the home. Which brings me to the con's.

CON #1: the square footage is on the small/limiting side: 1707 sq.ft. At least it's all on one-level with big vaults in the LR and formal (but small) DR. That helps give it a bigger sense of spaciousness. CON #2: The small closets, especially in the bedrooms that would be for the kids. Throw-back to the 40's they're so small. One door small vs. the standard 2-door closet. That's a bummer. The master has more, but we're still not talking about lots of closet space. A huge CON is the overall feeling of neglect and shabbiness you get from the house. It feels like it's been a rental that's been lived in hard, if that makes sense. It hasn't been a rental, but there is a distinct lack of the whole "pride of ownership" thing going on. The former owners cut corners and did sub-par work. The painting is badly done.
The kitchen cabinets are original (70's), and have been (badly) painted white. So bad that you just need to replace them. They never bothered to paint the inside of the cabinet doors, so when you open them you see the dark wood they once were. The bathrooms are outdated and need overhauling. The carpet, while a decent burber (sp?), was laid OVER a section of tile (we think), which causes slight depressions where the previous underflooring ends. Crap like that. CON #4: The yard has been let go. The yard is one big project. Big. The house is on a corner lot, so the backyard is shallow but there is more space on the front and sides of the house. If you repositioned the fences you could recapture a lot of that space for the backyard. It's a project house, but nothing too major. Stuff we could do ourselves. Mostly cosmetic stuff. BUT, I think with some love, care and attention the house could be brought back to life. There is a lot of potential there to make it really nice. It will never be exceptional, but it could be really nice and comfortable.

So, wanna see some pictures of it? I thought you would.

The front. Screamin' 70's if I ever saw it. It's a 2-car garage, but a "skinny" 2-car. And why is the garage door so glaringly white as compared to the rest of the house? Yikes.

The family room from the viewpoint of the kitchen eating nook. The window on the right is actually the big slider out to the backyard. The bookcase next to the fireplace is built-in. The kitchen is around the corner to the left - in an "L" shape to this room. This room is the same size as my current living room, but in this house I'd also get a formal (but small) LR. Adult space! Oh, and the wallpaper border? Totally ugly and will have to be removed asap if we get the house. I'm so so so not a fan of wallpaper border. yuck.

The kichen. Like the 70's cabinets w/ the hardware in the middle of the doors? Nice. The ceiling has been dropped to allow for the gigantic flourescent lighting encompassing the entire ceiling of the kitchen. That would need to be changed at some point, along with the cabinets and countertops. All in sub-par condition (although they photograph better than they look in person). You can see the eating bar in front of the sink, which then overlooks the eating nook. The family room is off to the right from this picture. Thru the doorway beyond the kitchen is the formal dining room (which is carpeted - ew. Who likes to eat on carpet?). Pergo flooring in the kitchen. Also would need to be replaced at some point. I'm also not a fan of Pergo. Prefer actual hardwoods or tile. So, not big, but OK layout and functional. Good flow, especially once it's been updated and improved.

The shitty backyard. MAJOR project here, which Mr. Chick says he actually likes the thought of. We're thinking of just building a nice deck off the back instead of dealing with the cement patio, which has astroturf stuff glued to it. Nasty. It's nice that there is a cover to the patio, especially in Oregon where it rains a lot. We like to bbq year-round, so a cover is key. All the shrubbery have been allowed to get overgrown and the grass is a mess. It's need a complete re-do.

The corner side yard. Lots of space here. Would need to extend the back fence out to the sidewalk and then close it off much more to the front of the house so all this space could be recaptured as part of the backyard for the kids and dog. What kind of people put their garden compost bin in plain view from the front of a house?? Weird people, that's who.

So, like I said, lots and lots of projects. But nothing too serious that would require permits and contractors and uber-hassle. Stuff we can do ourselves over time. We could certainly live in the house as-is, and improve upon it as we go. The floorplan, price, and area are what's carrying this house for me. The potential is there for it to be nice and decent. Do I think this is THE house? No. But it could be a very doable interim house for the next 5 years or so, until Mr. Chick is making the decent money we went to law school for and we can afford to upgrade. Until that time, this might be good enough.

Keep your fingers crossed that either the deal with the guy in front of us falls apart, or we find something else we like even better.

Monday, February 13, 2006

On Top Of The World

The Chick Family went hiking yesterday. In our town there are several butte's that people hike. We chose the bigger of the two - a well-known hike in these parts - and enjoyed a GORGEOUS winter day in the Pacific NW. Truly beautiful weather -sunny and warm. What a treat after such a long, ugly stretch of rain, rain, and more rain. And on the same day as the people on the other coast were getting FEET of snow dumped on them. I'll take this anyday!

The hike is only about 1.5 miles long each way. 1.5 miles UP, and 1.5 miles DOWN. Down is trickier, believe it or not. You go on a well-marked path through tall forested sections and have to climb some rocky sections in order to emerge at the top and see this:

The view from the top. Nicholas took this picture! Stunning, yes? An impressive vista of the whole valley laid out before you.

The kids did fantastic on the hike. Nicholas was able to do the whole thing, up and back, all by himself. He really enjoyed climbing up the rocks. Lauren did better than we thought she would. She probably did 70% of the hike on her own. Mr. Chick and I got an extra workout when one of us had to carry her - an extra 32 pounds being carried up or down a big-ass butte makes a huge difference! UG! There were lots and lots of other people/families with the same idea of hiking the butte. And it seemed that most of them brought their dogs along, too. We brought Abby with us. She needed the outing almost as much as we did. Like so many, she's gotten to be fat over the years so the exercise did her some good, too. Mr. Chick says he bets there were at least 50 dogs hiking the butte at the same time we were. That's a lotta crap to pick up (or not, depending on the type of dog owner you are).

MP & kiddo's at the top of the butte. Gah! I look so fat! I'll blame it on the big fleece I had tied around my waist, but still - ! The rock we're sitting on was pretty steep and it was hard for me to perch there next to Lauren.

My two cutie kids on the way up during a brief pee break. Nicholas just got his hair cut and it's a tad shorter than usual so it's prone to sticking up like that.

After getting home from this hike I had to sit in the hottub. My butt was sore! I can run 3 miles 4-5 times per week without really feeling it, but hiking for one afternoon? Kills me. I guess I need to vary my activity so I use the different muscles more often because this is ridiculous. The kids don't seem to be feeling any after effects from the hike. No complaints about any soreness. But we obviously wiped them out because they each napped for 3+ hours that day! Whoopee!! And I got to soak in the hottub during that time without getting splashed and was able to read my entire new People magazine cover to cover. What a great day.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Lost Art

The other day Mr. Chick and I received a letter - an actual, hand-written letter - from his Great Aunt. Just out of the blue she wrote a letter to us, for the first time. It was very unexpected and surprisingly fun to receive. It's not often anymore, in this age of electronic technology (e-mail, IM, text messaging, etc), to find a bona fide letter in your mailbox. And not even one that had been typed on a computer and printed out. But one that was painstakingly hand-written. Letter writing is truly a lost art. One that I'm sad to see go out of fashion.

The woman who wrote this letter to us is 88 years old. Her penmanship is a little shakey these days. But you can tell that it was once lovely. Mr. Chick's grandmother has a similar style of penmanship. Very even and precise and pretty to look at. I have always had a "thing" for nice penmanship. I worked very hard as a girl to perfect my "cursive" writing. I insisted on the slant of my letters being exactly the same. I was taught by nuns at this point, and my teacher would actually use a red pen and draw slash lines through each letter to see if they were parallel. I have always liked to write (hence this blog?) and I think writing a good letter by hand is a very cool thing indeed. Maybe that's why I enjoy doing calligraphy, too. I've done calligraphy for several friends and family members wedding invitations. A labor of love if there ever was one.

I've mentioned before how important I believe appropriate thank you letters to be. Well, I'm finding that the concept also applies to replying to letters. Because to me? Taking the time to write a hand-written letter IS a gift. And so this morning, in the midst of breakfast chaos and between household chores, I sat down and wrote a letter back. By hand. On paper that is unlined. In cursive. And you know what? I enjoyed it! I don't know this Great Aunt very well, but I know her to be a lovely person. She has a huge family and sits proudly as it's matriarch. We are distant relatives, and me only by marriage. But she took the time to write to me, so I took the time to write to her. It only took 20 minutes to my time, but I know she'll appreciate it. I didn't have terribly much to say, but I responded to the things she wrote about in her letter to us. And yet I was able to fill 2 pages. As I addressed the envelope and put the stamp(s) on (darn postage rate increase!), I had a smile on my face. I enjoyed writing that letter to her almost as much as I enjoyed receiving the one she sent me.

If you have a spare couple of minute this weekend I urge you to write a letter. It's good for your soul. Mail a letter to a long-lost friend. Or distant family member. Or even your mother. But do it the way it used to be done. It will be appreciated - I guarantee it.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Please Oh Please - !

Finally, a glimmer of hope on the job search for Mr. Chick. He got a phone call yesterday afternoon from a partner in a firm with whom he interviewed last summer. LAST SUMMER! Mr. Chick liked them and they liked him, but they offered the job to a candidate with 10 years of legal experience. Too bad, so sad for Mr. Chick. But Mr. Chick is saavy and knew there was a connection between him and the hiring guy and has kept in touch with him over the months. E-mailing him when he passed the Bar, for example. Well, this guy has been telling Mr. Chick that they really like him and would love to hire him once they determine their needs for the coming year. It's been like an annoying broken record: We like you, we want to hire you, but we don't need you - yet. Maybe later. Well, turns out "later" is now "today" and they called him. Not to offer him a job just yet, but to let him know that they have a need and the guy has been championing him internally. He's definitely in Mr. Chick's corner and wants him for the job. They want to bring him back in to talk to everyone - again. (he already spoke with pretty much everyone during his first interview months ago, but whatever.) They want him prepared to bring in business to the firm. That's the bottom line - they want to be reassured that he can and will bring in business. They like his network and they want to know that he can tap into it to their benefit. Isn't that always the bottom line? Money?

And so we wait, very impatiently, for them to let him know when he's to go back and speak with them about the job. It feels like it's his to lose at this point, but we don't know that for sure. Please oh please let this result in a job offer!! It's a perfect fit and is what we've been waiting for.

And please don't make us wait an eternity longer than we already have. Is that too much to ask?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Greedy Bastards

As a general rule I try not to blindly vote along party lines. I vote for the candidate I like regardless of whether they're Democrat or Republican. That said, I'm usually more Democrat than Republican, and that's how I'm registered. But on this issue? Mr. Chick is calling me out as a flaming Republican. I guess my attitude about personal responsibility is a conservative one. Meaning, people should HAVE personal responsibility. Let me explain.

I'm talking about Big Tobacco. Recently in my state, a huge judgement against Phillip Morris was upheld to the tune of $80 million (MILLION!) in punative damages. The family of the guy that died of lung cancer sued back in 1999 and the settlement has been continuously appealed and bounced back and forth since then. Last week, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the judgement. Does this seem ridiculous to anyone else??! $80 million for the family of a guy who was a long-time smoker? Granted, 60% of that money will be put into a fund for crime victims compensation fund, but still - ! I think it's wrong for families of people who willingly engaged in a harmful activity, like smoking, to sue for damages like this. Like the person didn't know they were doing something harmful to their health. That's total bullshit right there. And if my opinion makes me a Republican, fine. I can live with that.

Mr. Chick and I were talking about this and he brought up some good points. He pointed out that $80 million is a tiny fraction of the revenues of Philip Morris and how else are you supposed to "hurt" a big company like that if not financially? That's how it's done. I agree that if a company does something egregious, then they should be "punished", hence punitive damages. But - BUT - in the case of smoking I simply cannot believe that someone can be a life-long smoker and now know it's harmful. Sure, I might buy that when you started smoking in your youth, back in the day, you might not have known that smoking was bad for you. That the tobacco companies might have even touted smoking as not harmful at all. Go ahead - light up! It won't kill you. But there is no way in hell that you can live in society for the past 20 years and not know that things have changed and know that smoking does, in fact, cause cancer or at the very least put you at risk. Why not quit at that point? I know quitting is hard, but c'mon - ! Why keep up your pack-a-day habit and then sue for fat money? Don't you, as the smoker, have a duty to mitigate your damages?

Mr. Chick then pointed out the asbestos litigation. Didn't I agree that the asbestos manufacturers should be held accountable for manufacturing a product that caused so much harm to the people who used it all those years? And my answer? Yes, they should be held accountable. Even though they didn't know in the beginning that asbestos was bad for you - the companies didn't knowingly set out to make a harmful product - they should be held accountable for the product they made and what it did to people. The difference between that and tobacco, in my opinion? People came in contact with asbestos through their employment or in their homes - innocently. They didn't go out and make themselves a fat asbestos sandwish and eat them everyday even after knowing it would hurt you. They didn't CHOOSE to come into contact with asbestos. It's all about personal responsibility.

Then the topic of alcohol come into the discussion. As far as I know - and I may be wrong here - but there haven't been big-ass lawsuits against Jack Daniels for making a product that causes (or contributes to) alcoholism and liver disease and DUII's. Yes, we go after the bartender who served the alcohol to already intoxicated individuals, but no one seems to be going after the manufacturers like we do with tobacco. What's the difference? Alcohol is promoted favorably in society. Sexy, cool, fun, and tasty. It has an age limit the way tobacco does. People get addicted to it (rehab, anyone?) the way they do to tobacco. But somehow alcohol manufacturers remain unscathed. I don't get it. Any why isn't Ford Motor Company sued because they make cars that kill people. People die in auto accidents everyday, but no one is going after GM. It's the operator error. I think it's the same principle with tobacco. Operator error. Smokers make a choice and it's the choice that kills them.

My parents both smoked when I was a kid. I'm not quite sure how many cigarettes a day they smoked, but it might have been close to a pack-a-day. My mom smoked Parliaments, my dad smoked Marlboro's. I remember my mom smoking the "blue" packs and dad was "red". It was common for a haze of smoke to hover over the kitchen table after dinner every night. Thankfully, none of us sisters ever smoked and my mom quit 10 years ago (she underwent hypnosis to quit). My dad has tried quitting many times, but it never seems to take for very long. He's under-the-radar with his smoking and I never can tell if he's quit or if he still smokes. He never smells like cigarettes and I never see him light up, yet my mother tells me he still smokes every now and then. I wish he would quit once and for all. But, even if he doesn't I would NEVER sue the Marlboro Man for millions of dollars because they killed my dad, because HE KNOWS THEY ARE HARMFUL AND YET HE SMOKES ANYWAY. It's his choice. It's not their fault that he chooses to smoke and take that risk. Back when he started smoking, in the early 1960's, he might not have known how harmful it is, or how addictive it is - on purpose addictive. He might even have believed a line fed to him by the tobacco companies that smoking is OK for you. But he sure as shit doesn't believe that now, and yet he willingly continues to smoke. And I don't think there is any way to truly determine WHEN someone did the damage that led to the cancer. Like if someone started smoking in the 1940's certain they weren't endangering themselves based on the positive promotion of the tobacco companies. But then quit 5 years later and never smoked again for the next 60 years but died of lung cancer anyway. Can you really prove that the person got the lung cancer from the few years of smoking they did 60 years ago? I'm not sure you can. And in the case of the Oregon guy who's family sued and was awarded $80 million, he was smoking up until the day he died, I believe. And yet his death is somehow the fault of the tobacco company? I think not.

I get so pissed off when I read about this type of thing. Yes, companies who knowingly produce and promote a harmful product should be held accountable for their product. But where does personal responsibility come in? No one is holding a gun to a smoker's head and forcing them to light up. They're doing that themselves. I agree, decades ago it was a different story, but if the "victim" has continued to smoke, even after knowing the risks, aren't they at fault, too? Don't they have some culpability here? They didn't quit and try to improve their health and reduce their chances of cancer. I think the families of these people are greedy bastards, plain and simple. Hiding under the premise that something needs to be done to protect the public from the big bad tobacco companies and that they need to send a strong message of financial pain to the tobacco companies is crap. You want to hurt the tobacco companies? STOP BUYING THEIR PRODUCT!

It's really that simple.

Monday, February 06, 2006

On the Hook

Or more aptly titled, "Glutton For Punishment". I *just* finish a grueling baby blanket (tough for the endless repetition of the same stitch without any variation whatsoever), and I decide to embark on another crochet project: an Aran sweater.

I've always wanted to try to make one of these. The intricate stitches have always had a strange fascination for me. The crochet book I bought for myself at Christmas had a pattern for one, so I started it yesterday. I "reclaimed" a bunch of heather grey yarn, just right for this sweater, from a vest I'd made for Mr. Chick. I made it as a gift for him early in my crochet days, and while I give myself an "A" for effort, we both know he was never going to wear it. Ever. Better to reuse the yarn elsewhere than let it rot in his closet. He didn't mind at all that I unravelled his sweater and bid adieu to the gift I'd given him. My sister Maureen is having a birthday in about a month and I thought the yarn could be put to better use making this Aran sweater for her. My only fear/concern is that I won't finish in time. Hence the subtitle - I must thrive on punishment for taking this on.

It's hard to see the detail given the yarn color, but it's turning out nicely. What you see in the picture is just what I'd done during the morning. I've done about 3x that now - mostly during the SuperBowl (sorry, Seahawks - you were robbed). You can see from the picture next to the swatch what it *will* look like when I'm done, albeit longer. A short-length sweater just isn't the right look for my sister. So I'll make it a few inches longer and prevent any tummy viewing, because that just wouldn't be pretty. Plus, I want her to actually WEAR the sweater, and if it's short like that she simply would not. And really, neither would I. I need my tops to overlap my waistband just a bit. I'm working hard on ridding myself of my tummy flab a la pregnancies, but it's slow going and I just don't want to offend the viewing public. You can thank me later.

Maybe keeping my hands/brain occupied with this complicated project will help me not obsess about finding the perfect house. Maybe not.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Close, But No Cigar


House-hunting is hard. The time of year makes it worse since there aren't too many houses on the market right now. Yet again, I travelled up to the Portland area to look at a few homes that had come on the market. I knew going up there that they were small. I'm not necessarily opposed to "small" if the space is used well. A functional 1500 sq.ft. home can feel bigger in many ways than a poorly designed 2300 sq.ft. home. It all depends. So, I figured it was worth the drive to take a look - just in case.

The first house I saw was big. Definitely big enough. And as an added bonus, it was all on one level. 2200 sq.ft. on one level? Yeah, it was spacious. And with a huge backyard to boot. But? The kitchen was yucky. It always seems to come down to the kitchen, doesn't it? The counters were new-ish, but the space was miniscule with shallow cupboards. I mean, it was truly a one-butt kitchen. Meaning: only one butt could fit comfortably in the space. And no pantry. And over-priced for the area. And the backyard - while totally huge - was only accessible from the house via the side yard out of the huge family room. You could not see the yard from the house at all because of the additions built onto the house which completely blocked the view. Sure, you got a ginormous master suite, but that's the only room in the house from which you can see the backyard. That's not right. You don't get the benefit of having such a huge yard if you can't even see it, much less watch the kids as they play in it. So, no go on that place.

Next up, this place:

This one is located in a nice cul-de-sac, something I like. It's cute from the front, but again, small. Less than 1700 sq. ft. We were there bright and early Friday morning just as the flooring people arrived to begin installing new vinyl in the bathrooms and utility room. So that was encouraging. They were getting ready to have an open house the next day. BUT, since workmen were at the house, so was the owner. It's hard to really tour a place when the owner is there. You don't really feel free to open drawers and comment on what you're seeing for fear of being overheard. This place was nice, but felt cramped. That's definitely a theme that's emerging in our search. Our price range doesn't afford as much space as we'd like. This place had formal LR & DR, a kitchen with eating area and big pantry, and technically a family room off the kitchen with a fireplace, but you didn't get much room for even a couch. Family room? How 'bout "nook". That would be more accurate. Upstairs had 3 bdrms. There were 2.5 baths in total. So everything we need/want, and yet too small. It was like there was one room too few. We needed one more bedroom for an office if the FR was going to be that little. There was just no extra room for us to spread out. And really, we don't have that much crap. I'm anti-clutter. But this house just wasn't going to cut it, sadly. It reminded me very much of the house we had in Portland before moving for law school. Same floor plan, same overall look. Which was fine when it was just Mr. Chick and I, and it was OK with just Nicholas as a baby. But with two very active kids? Nope.

Then our realtor took us to see this house:

Right off the bat I like the 3-car garage. We have 3 cars. Mine, Mr. Chick's, and a 1965 Mustang convertible that Mr. Chick bought in high school. It's a very cool car, but sadly doesn't get driven very much. Not that that matters - Mr. Chick WILL NOT part with it. So a 3-car garage would be extra-nice. Also, the overall "street appeal" of the place is nice. What's hard to tell from this picture is that the siding is brand new and hasn't even been painted yet. We could pick the color if we bought this house. The yard is big and blank - there has never BEEN a yard put in. It's just flat dirt in the back with a small, rotting deck. A blank canvas, which isn't bad. It's easier to put in a lawn/yard of your choosing than try to fix the mistakes of others already in place. Inside, the formal LR & DR are nice. Big enough. The kitchen is doable - there are plenty of cabinets and counter space. It's not gorgeous, but it's fine. I could live with it. It has vaulted ceilings in the kitchen and over the kitchen eating area, too. Off the kitchen/eating area is ostensibly a family room with a gas fireplace, right next to the single French door leading out to the deck. This family room is even littler than the last place. I mean, really unfunctionable. I don't get it!! This is where people live. This is where the kids congregate. If you don't have the space in the family room you would be constantly stepping over each other. It's official: I'm not a fan of "Great Room" floorplans if there isn't also another family room or bonus room or SOMETHING. Otherwise, the rest of the house was fine. The master was nice with big double-doors leading into it. And it had a huge walk-in closet. My whole life I've never had a walk-in closet, so that would be a treat. So again, this house was just missing one more room and it would have been cool. The FR was the deal-breaker for me. Unless we wanted to pay to build a big bonus/family room UPSTAIRS over the existing kitchen & FR space, it won't work. But the price was good: just $285k. That low price alone makes me want to try to make this one work. And yet, it won't. Not as-is. Bummer.

So, I'm back home waiting for more houses to come on the market. It's frustrating. I know we'll find a good home for us, but I'm impatient. I've already searched the FSBO listings and RMLS listings this morning. I can't help myself.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I'm Bored - Random Insights

So I'm bored today, people. I have nothing of interest. In lieu of anything really intelligent to discuss I offer you this silly meme and a few more insights into me.

[a is for age:]

[b is for booze of choice:]
Lately? Beer. I'm not a dude, I swear, but beer has been doing it for me. No fuss, no muss. The beer-of-choice is Lemon Lager. It's like spiked lemonade. SO GOOD!

[c is for career:]

Presently: frazzled SAHM, unofficial internet realtor, housekeeper extraordinaire

Formerly: direct marketing manager for high tech company(ies), I did a few years staffing temporary employees, and was a sales rep for a large pet food/cereal company. I was a Gap girl (cinch it!) in college, a receptionist, and I worked in grocery store and did data entry in high school. A very varied career.

Future: totally and completely unknown. Right now I'm still toying with the idea of going back to school to get my Master in Education so I can teach high school. OR, opening up my own little business catering mostly to the crafty moms with little kids at home crowd. Time will tell which direction I go.

[d is for your dog’s name:]
Abby. She's a Pointer/Heeler/Border Collie mix we got from the pound.

[e is for essential items you use everyday:]
My computer (duh!), deordorant, lip balm, moisturizer, coffee.

[f is for favorite song(s) at the moment:]
Music? Who listens to music when they have kids who demand all the stereo time? Even when I go for my runs I usually listen to Mark & Brian. I still do enjoy me some Kelly Clarkson these days, though.

[g is for favorite games:]
Cranium is always a winner during our Girls Nights when we bust out the games. Better when you're buzzed. Otherwise, I'd have to say Olympic Games rule. I love the Olympics - summer AND winter, which start soon. Yippee!

[h is for hometown:]

Portland, OR is home for me.

[i is for instruments you play:]
Well, I took piano lessons for, like, 6 years when I was a kid but it was never in my blood. I was a mechanical player vs. one who had natural talent and a good ear.

[j is for jam or jelly you like:]
Usually strawberry or raspberry, but we don't eat much jam/jelly around here. We're PB& honey people.

[k is for kids:]
Two. A boy, Nicholas and a girl, Lauren. We are very done.

[l is for last kiss:]
This morning when my husband left for work.

[m is for most admired trait:]
People who are genuinely funny without it being at someone elses expense. Also, people who can speak honestly and frankly without being offensive. Tactful. People who stand up for what they believe in, even when it's hard.

[n is for name of your crush:]
Vince Vaughn. Something about him is very appealing to me.

[o is for overnight hospital stays:]
Just when the kids were born.

[p is for phobias:]
No real phobias. I don't like looking down from high places, though. I don't mind BEING in high places (skyscrapers, tall parking structures, etc.) but I can't look over the edge. Makes my stomach flip and I feel queasy. Vertigo?

[q is for quotes you like:]
"It is not enough that we do what's best, sometimes we have to do what's required." - Winston Churchill

"You can have it all. You just can't have it all at once." - Oprah Winfrey

[r is for biggest regret:]
Not travelling more before I had kids, and a tough choice I made when I was a teenager.

[s is for sweets of your choice:]

Ice cream! My fave du jour is Breyers Banana Nut Fudge. Nothing better.

[t is for time you wake up:]

Lately, 6:20am so I can go for my run. If it's a no-run day, then about 7am.

[u is for underwear:]

Most days, yes. And usually a thong, suprisingly. Snugger pant styles = bigger chance for VPL, and we CAN'T have VPL, so thongs it is.

[v is for vegetables you love:]
cold, crisp salad, steamed broccoli, stir-fried zucchini.

[w is for worst habit:]
Interrupting others, biting my nails.

[x is for x-rays you’ve had:]
Mostly dental. I did break/fracture both of my wrists in an unfortunate snowboarding disaster and had x-rays for that.

[y is for yummy food you make:]
Kick-ass chocolate chip cookies, homemade pizza, a pasta dish involving feta cheese.

[z is for zodiac sign:]
Sagittarius on the cusp of Capricorn

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