Saturday, May 26, 2007

5/26/07 More open houses

Friday, we met with a realtor who claims to be an expert in our area, to get a feel for how much our house is worth. This is necessary information for the "remodel v. move" debate.

It was a productive meeting, and we really like this realtor. He's straightforward and informative. Indeed, my awful kitchen seriously depresses the value of our house, but he did say there were many positives of our house, and many unusual features.

The realtor came prepared with "comps," meaning, comparable houses for sale in the area. Comps for our house are challenging because there really are no houses quite like it, but some are more dissimilar than others. Two of the "comp" houses he showed us (on paper) had Open Houses today, so for fun (??), I took Julian and Katrina for a look.

(Dave took Gabriel to the
Watsonville Fly-In and Air Show, getting a preview of what it's like to spend a day being with your kid instead of primarily taking care of your kid, as one does with toddlers and babies. Julian had a mega-meltdown as Dave and Gabriel were leaving without him, disappointed beyond control about being left behind, poor thing. I did my best to make it up to him, though open-housing isn't exactly a fun kid-centered activity.)

Anyway. We got to see what $1.5M in Sunnyvale buys you, which is a larger house than we have, but still, some of the same old problems. A fridge on the other side of a too-small island from the sink. Bathrooms that need upgrading. Major landscaping maintenance. For-show-only bathtubs in master bathrooms. Crummy aluminum windows.

And then there's this. In a $1.5M master bedroom, here's your cable and phone:

In our master bedroom, and entire upstairs, and entire downstairs if we remodel, here's your cable, phone (2), and ethernet, in a single outlet:

Our master bedroom has 5 such data/phone/cable outlets alone, with the intent of not having to string wires around doors. All 9 upstairs data/phone/cable outlets are wired back to a subpanel in the attic (pictured), and homed to a master panel in the basement. Our garage and office also have such outlets, and the rest of the downstairs is poised to. (Yes, of course we can say "wireless," but so far it's only served to augment, not replace, good old land lines.)

Our house has all sorts of customizations that are, in some cases, a little over-the-top. But I like them. That's why I (even we in some cases), made them happen. I like my master bath with two showerheads and perfect bathtub and thermostatic valves (even if the bathroom is too small for a master). I love our underfloor hydronic radiant heat downstairs. I like our funky tilt-and-turn-hopper dormer windows. I like our upstairs wood floors, wood trim and doors; now that I've been open-housing, I see that it really stands out. I like our beautiful, bright, huge, if sorely under-utilized, garage. And I like our ultra-handy data/phone/cable outlets upstairs.

But I also know what I don't like. Open-housing with a three-year-old ranks right up there.

In fairness, Julian can be quite cute and charming too, when people address him directly. But he's mostly resoundingly irritating when I'm trying to talk to someone, and he's pulling on Katrina's feet or winding around my legs and just being a general nuisance, as only a 3-year-old can be.

Realtors, however, adore smiley petite baby Katrina. Still, she's some work too, as she makes it hard to hold things in my hands, lunging for everything with both arms outstretched, throwing her entire not-quite-14-pounds into the effort like a desert-crossing horse crazed with thirst. It's amazing how much damage such a tiny little person can do.

Ah yes, another thing you get in a $1.5M kitchen:

A range-top on an island, but underneath it is the same exact mess of exposed pipes and vents in a barely-usable prime-access space, with crudely cut contact paper to cover the bare wood on the bottom, as is in the nasty kitchen you're trying to leave behind.

I don't necessarily need a brand-new kitchen, but I also don't need a painful move (painful for the whole family) and leaving behind many things I like, only to get the same sorts of problems. I'm feeling entitled to an upgrade, and am rather cranky about the stunning price tags on these so-so houses.

In fairness, in a $1.2M brand-new house in Willow Glen, you get actual drawers under the range-top, in about the handiest place possible. This sort of uber-function gives me butterflies in my stomach.

And I just love the farmhouse-style sink.

In completely unrelated, far more cheerful news, I went running at Rancho San Antonio tonight, my first run of the week. And what do you think I saw at the end of Coyote Trail? An actual coyote!


Friday, May 25, 2007

5/25/07 Ikea Day!

It's hard to imagine in my life, but I made two trips to Ikea today! Possible only because 1) kids in daycare this morning; 2) Dave back from business trip early this afternoon; and 3) I brought along a carpool-lane decoy, in the form of a skinny 5-year-old boy.

Two trips to Ikea.

Three trips to Tonyas: Dropoff, pickup, and then sleepover dropoff.

One trip for takeout dinner.

And very soon, one trip upstairs to bed.

Mmm, that yam-n-turkey dinner sure was fun!

Katrina was downright joyful today. This is why people have babies.


Thursday, May 24, 2007


Late lunch today, and it was so nice we had a "picnic" out back. The boys said, "Yayyyy!" when I said, "Let's have a picnic!" then, "...what's a picnic?"

Gabriel chose the spot and spread out the blanket (perfectly, of course -- square to the lawn border and without a wrinkle). I reprieved a genuine picnic basket from a get-rid-of pile, since I haven't used it in years, and filled it with sandwiches, watermelon, carrots and chips.

Someone couldn't wait for food and started eating the picnic basket instead!

We talked about part of trees, since Gabriel likes our next door neighbors' big redwood tree (which was once part of our property until the last subdivision in 1979), and about ants and bugs. Katrina very happily ate her baby food sitting on the ground, enjoying this change of pace. Our picnic was a nice little twist on the usual lunch. For once, Mom gets more than a D-!

A marathon of afternoon naps: Julian and Katrina slept until 6pm, when I finally woke Katrina up out of a sound sleep after 3 hours! Dinner was completely ready for them, useless as it turns out, since the boys barely touched it and Katrina was too busy wiggling and smiling and making goofy baby sounds to eat.

So I took the kit'n'kaboodle to the Y and gave the kind Childwatch ladies a turn with my little darlings. A 3-hour nap ending at 6pm should have put Katrina in good shape, but she was wasted when I picked her up at 8:30. She cried the whole way home and I put her right to bed when we got home. The boys were tired too -- while I was nursing Katrina before bed, they actually brushed their teeth!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

5/23/07 Swim registration

Today was registration day at the Y for swim lessons! I got there just after 8am when they opened, took a number, then anxiously waited for my number to come up before Katrina's morning nap did. I was bouncing her around, hoping to keep her happy for a few more seconds. Then, finally! My turn!

"Oh, you're a Facility Member -- you could have done this at any time, starting two weeks ago. You didn't need to wait on line today!" Boy, did I feel dumb. "New Basic Member" registration referred to YMCA members, not swim program members as I'd assumed. Wake up, Mom! At least the boys will get some formal swim instruction this summer; I've really putzed it this year.

I managed to keep things under control all afternoon and evening, despite the fact that Dave left for a business trip in Dallas this morning.

A great way to get the boys to cooperate with the bath-bedtime process is to do something different, such as take a shower in our absurdly oversized Jacuzzi downstairs. They had a great time playing in the shower -- so great that I had a hard time getting them out. A sure-fire way is to turn the water on full cold. Amazing how these boys can hustle sometimes!

Katrina has been truly, thoroughly delightful lately. She loves sitting up and playing with toys, making all sorts of crackly squeaky happy sounds. She's still very smiley and often very silly, and welcomes new situations with a bright, fascinated face. If she cries, it's almost always for an obvious reason -- hungry, tired, needs changing. She's been sleeping through the night more often than not, though "sleeping through the night" means she wakes up at 6am, full of wiggles and kicks and grins. And so the party starts! It's a fun party, but I sure wish I could be fashionably late.


p.s. Day 16 of hives! Now you have to look around for them, but the tiniest scratch still swells up.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

5/22/07 Wacky dinner night

Make-up swim lesson at Water Babies today. Julian was invited into the pool to play too, which he agreed to do only after Katrina and I were in the water and it was maximally inconvenient to get him dressed. Then he rudely informed me that I'd forgotten to get his goggles. OH WELL!

The wrapped-up-in-towels-after-swim-class-photo legacy lives on!

We went to Memorial Park in Cupertino today. It's a very, very nice park, except for two things. One, the parking is scarce and far away. But that's nothing compared to....

...Two, if you're busy feeding your baby, then look around for your 3-year-old, he might be happily sitting at the edge of an unfenced water hazard, poised to stumble into the water and quietly slip beneath its surface, terrified as water floods his lungs and he desperately gasps for air then struggles in terror, blacks out and slowly meeting a painful, invisible, silent end. Then there's the panic his mother is stricken with when she realizes she can't find him, to be replaced with paralyzing horror; agonizing guilt and deep, intense, life-changing grief when his helpless little body bobs to the surface, his face still contorted with his futile underwater screams for her.

Julian sitting peacefully by the water looks like a sweet scene, but the hair on the back of my neck stands up when I see it. Watching him while he looks at the ducks, fine. But shame, shame, shame on me for finding him here. He was chasing another boy, both running and paying attention to the ducks on the land, not to the edge of the water. Swim lessons since 3 months old mean absolutely zilch, he can drown just as easily as a kid who's never had a lesson. This terrifies me.

Shaken and filled with fearful guilt, I herded my errant son back to our blanket and got back to the business of minding my children. He enjoyed sitting with his baby sister, each munching their respective munchables.

Katrina got to show off her adorable new hat today. I love the flower detail on the side -- I know Bonne Maman had fun shopping for this one! The sun was strong today, so I'm glad for its wide brim.

She had fun in a swing at the park too. If I didn't know better, I'd have said she was pumping to get swinging, but it was probably just random wiggling that somehow converged into a rhythm.

Why bother with lunch when there's a perfectly good rubber swing to chew?

Hives still alive and well!

Another mom today at swim class said that her 2-year-old broke out in hives mysteriously also, and they didn't go away for 5 months!! Pediatric allergists threw up their hands and said it was just something in her system that had to work its way out. In Katrina's case, since she's so much younger and hasn't been exposed to as many things, it's probably something more detectable. But now we're going on 15 days of these hives, and while they have improved, they're not improving fast enough to go away for another few weeks, if even. I wish our allergist appointment were sooner, it's not until June 21st, and I'm told we were lucky to get one that soon.

(Just like Gabriel...Katrina's ultra-skinny legs really show up in shorts. She used to have skinny ankles, but now her thighs are about the same as her ankles!)

Tonight Gabriel suggested having scrambled eggs for dinner, so I went along with the game of how silly it was to have breakfast for dinner. I asked "what else?" and he said "Shredded Spoonfuls!" So, that was part of dinner. I stuck in some leftover tater tots (OK, organic "spud puppies" from Whole Foods, but let's face it, they're tater tots), and the ubiquitous broccoli. Then it became funny that we were having dinner food (broccoli) for breakfast. Suckers!!

Monday, May 21, 2007

5/21/07 Opening gifts

I took Gabriel to an ear doctor today, an appointment made long ago regarding his hearing loss. He hasn't shown signs of it lately, but he still does have fluid in his eardrums that almost certainly compromises his hearing. Really, the only treatment is "watchful waiting" -- waiting for him to outgrow it -- or tubes. I think we'll wait until the end of the summer, when the inconvenience of tubes is lower (he'd have to use earplugs swimming) and the necessity of accurate hearing is higher (kindergarten!).

Tonight we opened some little gifts from Bonne Maman. What fun!

First, Gabriel and Katrina played with the mail bag itself.

Looking at the nice wrapping:

Julian got a little baseball outfit (HOW CUTE!) and Gabriel, a shirt with a truck on it (HOW PERFECT!). Wow! Thank you Bonne Maman and Papa Paul!!

Best of all, Katrina got exactly what "she" asked for: an adorable white hat with a nice wide rim. Yay! Katrina is my first baby who didn't pull hats off as soon as she could grab things, as her brothers did at 3-4 months old...though now she is starting to pull hats off:

Gabriel and Julian think it's no end of funny when she pulls her hat off. I'm not sure she thinks this is such a funny game, but as so often happens, as soon as I put a stop to it, she's smiling and acting like it was the bee's knees.

Gabriel had to sample the hat himself. The tough part was keeping a straight face as I goaded him: "Noooo laughing! Laughing not allowed! "

His shirt is a fabulous color on him, who'd have known he was an orange guy. It's a high-quality Gymboree size 5, so Mr. Little here will wear it for years.

Julian claimed he didn't want pictures, but I nailed the little stinker anyway.
The boys are SO excited about Bonne Maman's upcoming visit over July 4th -- as well as Aunt Stephanie, Uncle Andreas, and of course, cousin Aidan and cousin Remi! I'm really excited to show off my delightful, outgoing baby, well past her fussy period and instead showing signs of a serious attention span, like her brothers. As I suspected, sitting up has gone a long way toward improving her outlook, though of course now, the bar has been raised -- now she wants to get to things. Will she crawl before her brothers (9 months, 9-1/2 months), and better yet, completely walk before her brothers (17 months, 18 months) ?! Oh yes, PLEASE, baby! Show those boys! You go girl!

Errrgh. Another migraine today. This time, I'm trying Imitrex, my first prescription migraine medication. It wasn't looking good at first, but this evening, the pain is lessened, though not all the other symptoms. Migraines are about a lot more than just pain, which is what makes them migraines instead of "normal" headaches. In fact, to call them a "headache" is almost a misnomer, like calling a bullet wound in the torso a "stomach ache." It fills me with frustration again. Why am I cursed with this? What did I do to bring this on? Did I eat something wrong? Was I too impatient with my children? Did I snort with scorn at the wrong letter-to-the-editor in the newspaper? Did I pay our PG&E bill late? Clearly, I'm being punished for something.

At least my children were relatively rewarding today, all three of them. Three. Let's get this straight: three. THREE. (And I wonder why I have headaches?!)


p.s. DAY 14 OF HIVES!!!!! OK, now we're past the "two weeks is within normal limits for an allergic reaction." Looks like another trip to the pediatrician is in order.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

5/20/07 Another house day

I wanted to do some more open-housing today, but it took until 3:30pm to make it happen! In the end, we only got to see one house, in Los Altos, that I didn't like much anyway. I should have known. $1.5 million is bottom-of-the-barrel in Los Altos. Of course, I'm not actually shopping to move yet; more, to decide if we want to move. Seeing other houses helps remind you of what you like about your own house, as well as adding items to a wish list.

Katrina has a slight cough, which wakes her up out of naps muuuch too early. Incredibly, she's been in a really good mood despite that: cheerful, laughing, sweet. I've also found a way to keep her busy for a while if I'm making dinner: give her pieces of cereal. She sits in the high chair, picks up cereal, very carefully puts it in her mouth, chews it a little, spits it out, then repeats the process until she has a gooey heap of half-chewed cereal on her bib. But she does this for over half an hour at a time, so I'm all for it!

I took this video of Katrina yakking the other day, just got around to posting it:

Tonight the boys got to watch Wallace and Gromit (after cleaning up the family room of course), and Katrina joined them for a while. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV for children under the age of 2, but there's my 7-month-old, happily nestled between her brothers, watching claymation.

Headache coming, overall unproductive day, bedtime.


p.s. oh yes, how could I forget: DAY 13 of hives!!! Every day it improves a tiny bit, but it's never hard to find red splotches or raised welts on poor baby's skin.