Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What I am Into This Month: July

I apparently never took a beginning of July/end of June
picture. This is from early June, when life was green and not
one million degrees and in an emergency drought state.
I'm having a hard time believing July is over. Where on earth did this month go? It's been ridiculous--running around frantically at work, at home, and everywhere in between.

Here's what I've been up to in July, other than working, renovating, registering for baby things, etc., etc., etc.:

On My Nightstand: I'm still working very slowly through the non-fiction books that I've been reading the past few months. Summer interferes; it's simply not non-fiction book weather.

I did read Mockingjay, concluding the Hunger Games trilogy. I'm toying with writing a full review of this, though it's probably redundant. Suffice it to say, I thought it ended exactly as it should.
I also read the first book of Jane Lindskold's Firekeeper series, Through Wolf's Eyes. It's been a long time since I've read such straight, traditional fantasy. I find that I'm a little tired of some of the tropes at this point, but Lindskold treats them well, with interesting variations. I'm working on the second one now and enjoying it.

And I don't know who recommended A Discovery of Witches; it was someone in the blogosphere. Let me just say that this book, the first in a trilogy, is what Twilight should have been. Do you know what I mean by that? The books are, in some ways, eerily similar (vampire becomes obsessed with girl, girl falls in love with vampire, vampire for some unarticulated reason refuses to have sex with girl, etc.), but this heroine--the last in a long line of witches with some pretty kick-ass powers of her own--is much more likeable, relateable, and role-modelly heroine than whiny old Bella. I have the second one on hold and think a more detailed review (and a post on urban fantasy and kick-ass heroines) might be in order.

I've also been reading books on cooking: Forgotten Skills, Ratio, and a few others (most of which I checked out of the library based on Anne's recommendations in this post, which I heartily recommend). Theoretically I'd like to do more with my little ol' food blog, but if nothing else I'm enjoying learning the science behind cooking. I also made fresh linguine the other night for the first time in a long time because Ratio wants me to make all of the doughs forever.

Want to Read: Finishing the Introverts and Luther books would be pretty good right now. I also have the sequel to A Discovery of Witches on hold.

I've been collecting other recommendations all summer, but need to organize and prioritize them. Anyone have any for me?

TV Show Worth Watching: I'm half-heartedly following Hell's Kitchen (we're many many episodes behind). Gordon Ramsey would hate my food, I think. I pop in and out for other things the DDH watches: Royal Pains, Eureka, White Collar.

Of course, for the next two weeks, I'm glued to the Olympics. Much to the DDH's chagrin.

Movies I've Seen (in or out of a theater): Yes, we saw The Dark Knight Rises. The Saturday it came out, so the day after the Aurora, Colorado shooting. The theater was only half-full, and I wonder if that can be attributed to fear, the fact that we picked the less popular, cheaper theater, or just that the movie's not as popular as it should be. Because. My word. Yes. There's a lot of there there, for an action movie, if you know what I mean.
In My Ears: Even my faithful "Like a G6" station irritates me now. Somebody toss me a musical lifeline. I can't listen to anything without getting a headache and wanting to scream.

What I'm looking forward to next month: Progress on all things baby. I don't actually have any plans for August at all. I have to hire someone at work to fill in for me. And I'm sure there's a lot of work to do, at home and at work, to prep for T-Rex's arrival. But I won't complain if the world would take it quietly for a bit. I need to soak in the last of my pre-baby days.

This is the second time ever the DDH and I have faced August without it meaning back to school for someone. I freely admit I miss my own elementary and high school days. And even college. But I'm glad he's done with law school.

Goal Progress: I posted some goals for the new year, and I figured these monthly wrap-up posts would be a good chance to check my progress throughout 2012.

The Budget: Our savings got a nice boost because we switched home insurance companies but apparently had already paid for this year's coverage or something, so the old insurance company mailed us a $3,000 rebate check. Which I guess means it's money we had already paid (and eep! that's a lot of money), but hey, bonus! So that's good. I'm still on track to pay off my car, and my boss even said that, though I shouldn't plan on or expect anything, the firm might actually pay me for part of my maternity leave. God does provide, one way or the other.

The Garden: I've even managed to kill off most of my herbs, though the sunflowers are still growing. Sigh. This year's weather required me to be way more on top of the poor garden than I was. I'm hoping to do a fall planting, though if it doesn't stop being one million degrees out every day, that's not going to happen.

Food: I'm finally back onto a routine and cooking regularly after all the vacationing and visitors. Check out Reality Chef for some of what I've been cooking. I'm experimenting with fresh pastas right now in the hopes of doing a nice comprehensive series over there. Delicious, but perhaps not as healthy it could be.

The Craft Room: I have little left to do in the craft room. Some labels, some shifting around of things. Clearing off my desk. It's beautiful. But I really do need to work in the office now. And of course I've been keeping you posted on the nursery!
How was your July? What are you looking forward to in August?

Oh! Also I got a new phone. See how much nicer the pictures
are? And also how the grounds crew can't keep the grass
green? Hot time, summer in the city....

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I am dressed (don't ask much more of me)!

Sorry I haven't actually posted anything since last week's What I Wore Wednesday. It's been crazy 'round here. My boss does finally know I'm pregnant, though! So far no explosions. We'll see.

T-Rex must have had a growth spurt, because I got huge overnight. It's definitely getting to be more of a challenge to dress cutely!

First, a lesson in belting. Here we are above the bump:

Shirt and skirt: Old Navy; belt: Target.
 And here we are across it:

It makes a big difference, no? For a long time I could get away with kind of hiding T-Rex with this trick. At this point, however, 1) few of my belts fit around the baby bump and 2) belting there isn't fooling anyone anymore.

I changed into this skirt after work because it's been so stinking hot. Here's the same shirt and belt with my work pants:

Top: Old Navy; belt: Target; pants: Kohl's.
Have I mentioned yet that my maternity slacks don't have pockets and I HATE IT? Because my maternity slacks don't have pockets and I HATE IT. But they look nice and are comfy. It's sort of like wearing yoga pants to work. I feel a bit of a cheater.

Cami: Old Navy; skirt: Old Navy; belt: Target
(I'm sensing a pattern here); necklace: gift.
I'm trying to decide if the green and tan work with the gray skirt. At the time I decided I didn't care because the skirt has pockets. Now I think I wish I had a khaki skirt that has pockets.

This was a Saturday outfit--cool, comfortable, cute. Way too short a skirt. Oops.

Top: Old Navy; skirt: hand-me-down;
I haven't worn skirts to the office in a long time, for the simple and logical reason that it's often sixty-nine degrees in my office. Or less. Leggings are a must, but leggings are tolerable for about two seconds outside in the hundred plus degree heat.

I like this outfit, though. I will have to keep it in mind for the fall.

Okay. Those were still from a couple weeks ago. So to give you an idea of what I meant by "T-Rex had a growth spurt," I present you with these:

Shirt and cami: Old Navy; belt: Target;
pants: Kohl's, necklace: Target?

Hey baby!
This is today. Bam! There he is.

See what I mean about the belts not fitting over the baby bump anymore? It barely fits around my waist above it.

It's Wednesday, and that's what I've been wearing.
How do you dress for the heat? And am I alone in my fascination with belts?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I am appreciating my DIY DDH.

The DDH made some impressive progress in the nursery this weekend. It went from this:

Carpeted nursery.

To this:
No more carpet!

To this:
First sanding done.
He sanded the whole floor with the first grit of sandpaper using the belt sander. Apparently you have to sand everything three times using a progressively finer sandpaper grit.

Unfortunately, this means he'll have to sand the edges of the room (where the belt sander can't reach) by hand. Three times. Heh.

He also had to pull up the staples that had held the carpet down and the carpet strips from the edges of the room:

Lots and lots and lots of staples.

Carpet strips, aka, little boards full of tiny nails,
pointy sides up.

All gone!
He spent most of the weekend working, and I think he's more discouraged at how much he still has to do than anything else. But I'm impressed!

We went and bought a bunch of stuff at Lowe's for the painting and sanding, even though we're not ready to paint yet and haven't chosen a color, because I had a coupon. And you don't miss an opportunity to use a 10% off coupon at Lowe's when you have a big project coming up.

Here are our test patches of paint. We narrowed it down to two blues and a brown (we think). The lighter blue is really hard to see in the picture, but visible in real life. It's just really pale.


Distance view.

Evening (artificial light).
So anyway. That's where we are in the Saga of the Nursery.

The rest of the house is a total wreck, though.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I am opening a can of worms.

The internets have gotten me thinking.

So if you're having a lazy layabout weekend, I thought I'd get you thinking, too.

First, read this. It discusses a study by a couple of psychologists researching a psychological phenomenon they term the "stereotype threat."

It's an NPR fluff piece with an angle, not the actual scientific study itself. NPR's angle is that this stereotype threat is one of (perhaps the major) factor behind the dearth of women in mathematics/science careers.

I know several women in precisely those fields (including one working in the National Security Administration's cybercrimes division), but they're roughly my age, so I can't exactly speak to whether or not they'll stick it out in those careers. That's one of the article's points--women start out in those fields, doing well, with lots of academic credentials, but end up quitting sooner and advancing less than their male colleagues.

Keep in mind, too, that one of those women specifically credits attending an all-girl high school for her own success in mathematics, reinforcing the stereotype threat theory.

So in other words, for stereotypes to stop being true, we need to stop talking about them all the time. If you never know there's a stereotype that girls are bad at math, you'll never unconsciously self-fulfill that prophecy. Maybe?

Something to think about, since current feminist methods promote pointing out every little disparity all the time until you can't even enjoy a movie without worrying if it passes the Bechdel test or read a book without worrying about its conflicting feminist messages.

Yet complaining about these stereotypes may in some way perpetuate them, exactly the opposite of what we're trying to accomplish (not that I think we should sit down and shut up like good little housewives, either; it's just that the situation is a lot more complex and multi-faceted--and harder to fix--than we'd like to think).

Got all that?

Ok then. Now read this thoughtful post by Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

What do you think?

I think that the stereotype threat is the most compelling theory I've heard for discrepancies of that kind. But. It's certainly not the whole story (it never is, is it?).

Women (and men) of a certain generation worked very hard to ensure that the women of our generation had the opportunity to work in scientific fields (and business ones, and political ones, etc. etc.).

And it must be excruciatingly frustrating to see women of my generation (and the one between, to which Anne belongs) not fulfilling their dreams of total parity (in terms of numbers, prestige, pay, usw.) in the workplace.

So they look for an outside explanation. If laboratories and Senate floors are not fifty/fifty men/women, there must be some outside force preventing women from holding those positions. After all, in their day, an outside force was to blame. That's what the women of that generation know how to fight--entrenched societal norms and stereotypes. Nothing but those sorts of outside forces could keep them from fulfilling their own dreams, and they assume that younger women have the same dreams and thus the same impediments to those dreams.

That's not necessarily the case. I'm not saying a certain amount of stereotyping and pressure don't exist. Like I said, I think it's likely that the stereotype threat, as a psychological phenomenon, is real.

But. I also think that women of my and Anne's generation have different dreams, on the whole (see, there I am stereotyping, of course), than did the women of the previous generation. It's not that outside forces are keeping us from jobs as scientists or politicians or whatever. It's that we don't necessarily dream of being scientists and politicians, or we dream of being them differently than did our predecessors.

Because, as I pointed out in my comment to Anne's post, this is not just a women's issue. It's a generational one. The men of our generations don't really want to be scientists and politicians in the old mold, either. Both men and women want more flexibility, more freedom. They're more concerned with happiness and personal fulfillment than getting ahead. They want to be successful in their careers, but on their own terms, in ways that mean that their successful careers don't define them.

The DDH doesn't just want to be an awesome lawyer, or to claw his way to a partnership at a prestigious firm. He wants to be a good husband and a good father and a man who pursues other interests, from video games to church leadership. And he's willing to work at a less prestigious (and, sadly for me, a less financially renumerative) lawyering job in order to have the time to be those other things.

Which is what Anne is doing.

Which is what my friend at the NSA plans to do, to stay home with her children once she and her husband have them, at least for a time, and pursue other interests (and her husband also works for the NSA, so it's going to look, on paper, exactly as if a man and a woman, same age, began working at the same workplace in roughly positions, and the woman "couldn't stick it out" and quit while the man keeps going).

Which is what I want to do.

Which is what thousands of other women and men in their twenties and thirties are doing because it's what they want to do.

It's not what every woman wants, of our generations or any other, and it's very important that women have the opportunity to be just as successful as men in any career they choose.

But when we choose not to stick with a career or to take a slower route to the top, it's not necessarily because of the insidious pressure of entrenched societal stereotypes. It's not a problem that can be rectified with more shows like Bones or movies like Brave, though I think we could use more of those, too.

Because it's not necessarily a problem at all.

So what do you think? Am I crazy?
What is your experience with and relationship to these issues?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I am nesting (just a little).

Ok, the b key on my keyboard is being temperamental. I think I caught all the times it was missing, but please forgive me if you find a strangely b-less word.

The Roommate moved out right about the time we returned from vacation, and we have begun the process of turning his room into the nursery.

My mother-in-law bought us this nursery set (dinosaur-themed, of course!).

The picture on the bag; I think it will look even better with
a darker crib.

All the dinosaurs are different patterns and fabrics, and I am
in love with them. The T-Rex on the comforter is a green
plaid that makes me want to die of cuteness.

Some of them are different textures, too, like this fuzzy pterodactyl!
Too adorable, right? We were looking at dinosaur sets online and this one was my favorite but insanely expensive (almost $200 for a four-piece crib set (on Amazon, not the site I linked to, though still, $150 for four pieces?)? have you lost your dino-lovin' mind?), so we had sort of picked out a couple of other options.

Then we went to Babies'R'Us with the in-laws and my parents to look at the crib we had chosen. I was poking around in the bedding aisle and found this, my favorite set, on clearance! Like, $84 instead of $196 clearance! So we bought every bit of it they had, which was everything (valances, receiving blankets, crib set, changing pad cover, spare crib sheets, wall decals, wall art) but the fuzzy blanket, mobile, and lamp. No Babies/Toys'R'Usses in Tulsa had any of those, except one very beat-up lamp.

BUT! Turns out the Babies'R'Us in Albuquerque had the mobile (though nothing else) also on clearance and they kindly put it on hold until my sister could stop in the next day to pick it up for us. The mother-in-law found the fuzzy blanket and the lamp (best lamp ever ever ever. just look at it. LOOK AT IT) online and paid full price for them, but since she got all the rest so cheaply, that was no big deal.

It is all just so cute and perfect and wonderful I just want to cry every time I walk past the bag. Death by cuteness. Or hormones, whatever.

/End long boring saga of the nursery set.

My mother-in-law is keeping most of the stuff until the shower, but we borrowed the main bedding set so we could pick paint colors and the like.

The crib we plan to get is a deep chocolate brown color. We haven't ordered it yet but have picked it out; we have the bedding, and that's it. We'll probably use an old dresser we already have and will probably also get a changing table (I debate on this). The room is small, and I'd rather spend money on things other than furniture, so no fancy chairs or whatever. This will do.

But, ambitiously, we have a major DIY renovation planned. See, our house was built in the fifties, when people felt the need to only have one shower for a whole house and installed cardboard sewage pipes but also floored houses with beautiful hardwood floors.

However, sometime since the fifties, crazy people decided they liked carpet better than hardwood floors. So though our house has this nasty gray Berber carpet throughout, there's actually hardwood underneath everywhere except in the addition. Our dream is to pull up all the carpet and refinish the wood floors throughout the house...but we thought we'd start with the nursery.

So first we moved everything out of the room. I wish I had taken a picture of it furnished. We had bunkbeds in there (from the DDH's childhood, nice solid wood ones), a dresser, a very uncomfortable rocking chair, and a ginormous pile of law books destined for the trash. Though the Roommate has been living there, it was still where I was storing a lot of random stuff: throw pillows, blankets, all my old stuffed animals, some luggage. This all had to go...somewhere.

Remember that beautiful guest room I showed you a few weeks ago? Well, right now it looks like this:

Garage sale, here we come.

Yeah, you can't even close the door. Ouch.

Anyway, to make sure we weren't getting in over our heads, we decided to pull the carpet up just in the closet to start and see if it would be doable.

So starting with this:

Ok, the carpet's already been pulled up, but whatever.

We pulled up the carpet in the closet:

Shelves removed.
Sanded down a patch:

I always forget how pale wood is.
And stained it with the color we think we want:

Pretty reddish tone, medium darkness.
We also picked out some paint swatches and are trying to choose two of them (a blue and a brown; the greens are for something else):

Thinking of half and half walls, blue on top and brown
on the bottom.
We did all that Sunday. The DDH decided that it will take a long time with his belt sander, but he thinks he is capable of doing all the sanding.

I like the stain color; the DDH isn't sold on it because he thought it was matching what was already there.* I tried telling him at the store that it wasn't the same color, but he insisted it was. Now that he sees that it doesn't match the old color (keeping my mouth shut on that one), he's disappointed. But I like it better than the other color and am trying to convince him.

So that's where the nursery project stands. It could take awhile, but I'm pretty stoked about how nice it will be when it's done. And we have until the middle of November. That's plenty of time. Right?


This will be the only room in our house that's intentionally decorated with coordinating things; the rest of the house is a mishmash of donated furniture, books, and whatever individual pieces I've picked up along the way. I mean, we haven't even stripped the dining room of it's yellow plaid wallpaper, that's how little we've done with decorating this house. I am stoked to have one nice, pre-planned, thoughtfully decorated room.

(And did I mention the adorableness of those dinosaurs?!)

What DIY projects have you tackled in your home? How coordinated are your furnishings and decorations? Am I the only one who lives with hodge-podge stuff on blank white (or worse) walls? And isn't it funny how we'll do stuff for our babies (at least the first ones) that we never do for ourselves?

*The guest room and the entryway are both still hardwood and not carpeted, so he was trying to match their stain. While I would rather have that color than carpet, it's not the one I would pick if I were doing it fresh. Plus, it's hard to match new stain to old, worn stain. The DDH said at one point that it didn't matter if it matched exactly because we could always refinish those too (plus for now the nursery won't border those floors at all anyway), so I took him at his word and thought he knew the color he was picking didn't match what was already there. But apparently he didn't. Obviously we need to work on our communication skills when it comes to interior decorating.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I am dressed (don't ask much more of me): Vacation Edition!

I am one of those master planner packers, the ones with epic lists and a calendar of outfits chosen for each day and each event or activity that will occur during the trip.

I wasn't always this way. I spent my high school years in raggedy jeans and baggy t-shirts. There simply isn't any planning involved in such outfits. So long as I remembered my swimsuit, a pair of pjs, and the proper number of pairs of underwear, I was golden.

Whenever there was a vacation occasion I had to dress for, however, I inevitably forgot a crucial component of the outfit: white shoes, a strapless bra. You know the sort of thing. So I began to master plan.

Here are the results of the planning for the Michigan trip, aka What I Wore pictures in more exotic locations than in front of my bedroom mirror:

My brother Misha, the DDH, and I left Tulsa at around five on Friday evening, drove straight through the night, and arrived at my grandparents' house near Detroit about nine on Saturday morning.

Saturday afternoon was my youngest cousin's graduation party. I wore some carefully selected casually dressy outfit, but this is the only picture I have from the evening. The DDH and Misha somehow convinced me to be a passenger on a paddleboat they would paddle for me (my cousin lives on a lake).

Sunglasses: Target; life jacket: borrowed; earrings: WalMart.
Okay, so you can't see my actual outfit, and to be honest, I don't remember what I was wearing other than it must have gone with those new turquoise earrings I got at, of all places, WalMart.

Obviously the essential piece here is the lifejacket. It really ties the whole outfit together. And would have kept me from drowning if I fell off the paddleboat. Which I didn't, even though Misha at some point insisted on standing up on the thing.

Shirt: Old Navy; skirt: Sears; necklace: Target?
The DDH and I dressed up for church. My grandfather's a pastor at a Lutheran church in downtown Detroit that's on the National Register of Historic Buildings. It was Freedom Sunday, the combined celebration of Independence Day and whatever Canadian holiday falls in late June, and there were bagpipers.

I wore this outfit a few weeks ago, and while it still de-emphasizes the baby belly, you can tell I'm getting bigger!

Monday we headed up to my uncle's land near Traverse City. The DDH, Misha, and I drove separately and took a detour to Frankenmuth, home of Bronner's, the year-round magical Christmas wonderland and one of my favorite places ever.

Shirt: Old Navy; belt: Goodwill; jeans: Kohl's.
Although harder to tell in this picture, I liked this outfit for how it showed off T-Rex without making me look too big yet.

Also, that is my first pair of maternity jeans. My grandma gave us a coupon to Kohl's and Mom took me shopping. We bought two pairs of jeans, black slacks, gray slacks, and a pair of khaki cargoes that roll up as capris or down for long pants. That should cover my maternity basics, I suppose.

Shirt: Gap; skirt: Animal Aid thrift store;
sweater: Gap.

Shoes that you can't quite see: Old Navy.
Tuesday, I played DD for everyone else's winery tour. In the first picture, we're at a winery that used to be a one-room schoolhouse; in the second, a different winery with pretty gardens.

This outfit was comfortable, but still fun for a town outing. It was a little cooler that day, and the sweater was perfect. Some aunt or another made a comment about camping in a skirt when I was wearing it around camp earlier in the day, but it was cool and comfy and long enough to do things in. Plus, it cost two dollars at the thrift store, so it's not like I'd care too much if it got ripped.

Shirt and tank: Old Navy; scarf-as-belt: old; jeans: Kohl's.

Wednesday we drove up to the UP and took a ferry over to Mackinac Island. I wanted something comfortable for tramping about all day but still cute for photos.

Although the scarf belt did not stay in place as well as I might have wanted, this outfit fit the bill. The shoes you can't see are black and white Old Navy sneakers, and yes, those are maternity jeans.

The outfit must have worked, because on the ferry back to the mainland, a woman sitting near me said, "Oh, you were on the ferry out with us! I remember you because I always try the tank-over-shirt look and it never seems to work but I thought how cute it looked on you!" Fashion victory.

I don't have any pictures from Thursday, when we hung out at camp and went on a second kayak float. On the first one, Tuesday night, I fell out twice and nearly died. The second one I only fell out once and had a wonderful time. Also my mom came with us, and everyone was very impressed, though she did fall out three times.

Necklace: Target; shirt: Gordman's; capris: Old Navy?;
shoes: Old Navy.
Friday we had brunch at a restaurant owned by one of my uncle's friends in Traverse City to celebrate my grandparents' eightieth birthdays. Plus, we actually had all the cousins there who would be able to make it, so we got this picture of all of us with the grandparents (my sister, who had to work, and one other cousin, whose third baby was born the week before, are the only ones missing).

The DDH and I had to leave from brunch to head back home, so I had to do a travel-and-nice-brunch combination outfit.

I liked this shirt before, but I think I like it more now that I'm pregnant. The problem with empire waists is that they always make you look a little pregnant even when you're not. But when you are, that's a good thing!

Black cargo capris are my go-to summer roadtrip bottoms--pockets, hard to stain, comfortable, good climate control. And shoes that slip on and off are a must for me whenever I'm traveling. Cargoes are casual, but I dressed up the outfit with a pretty shell necklace from Target that I always get compliments on, and I thought I actually looked pretty nice!

So there we go! A brief summary of my vacation told through outfit photos. I have much more attractive photos of things other than me, and perhaps I'll get around to sharing some other travel snippet sometime.

It's Wednesday, and this is what I wore.

What are you wearing these days? How do you plan and pack outfits for vacations?

I am another year older.

My birthday was ridiculous. It was like one of those games of Good News/Bad News. Remember those?

Good News: Breakfast in bed! Scrambled eggs with cheese curds and ananas melon. Yum.

Bad News: I was attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets when I walked out my front door. They stung me in the neck and terrified me into hyperventilating.

Good News: I had no reaction at all to the sting (so maybe it only struck me a glancing blow). My coworkers brought me a cake and took me to lunch.

German chocolate. With candles and everything!
Bad News: In the insanity of the yellow jacket attack I completely forgot about the peach I had stuck in my purse for my mid-morning snack. It took a direct hit from something heavy. Peach ooze everywhere in my purse.

Good News: I was the last appointment of the day for my doctor so he gave me a bonus unscheduled ultrasound. T-Rex wiggled around adorably. He's growing right on track and seems to be perfectly healthy.

Bad News: Walked in the front door to discover the dogs had left no fewer than three piles of diarrhea and one puddle of pee on the carpet (never on the linoleum, of course). The carpet that the DDH had just spent hours and hours cleaning a week ago. Sigh.

Good News: The DDH bought me a big fat ribeye steak from the butcher that we decided to save for a more relaxing evening. Then he cooked some chicken instead.

Bad News: The surviving yellow jackets staked out the front door and we were all out of yellow jacket spray. We had to go in and out the back door until the DDH got more spray, and they finally seem to have dispersed. *crosses fingers*

Okay, so those don't really flow the way the Good News/Bad News game items are supposed to flow. But it was definitely a birthday to remember!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I am admitting I know nothing about baby gear.

I know I missed my What I Wore Wednesday post yesterday, but--the holiday. Post vacation catch-up at work and home. Excuses excuses. I'll treat you to Vacation Edition next week.

In the meantime: We have actually begun the long-delayed process of figuring out what baby stuff we want to buy or register for.

I am so, so sick of reading reviews for baby stuff. It all blurs together. People love and hate the same product, vehemently. They complain about the same feature over and over again in all the different models--so where's the one that gets the feature right? Apparently the whole thing is just a crapshoot.

Maybe we picked out a crib, maybe a car seat. I thought a stroller, too, but now we're thinking maybe we don't need a stroller right away so are looking at other, non-newborn or travel-system options.

It's so hard to decide what is useful and what is junk and what is absolutely necessary and what will never be used. Obviously it's not like either of us have any idea what life with a baby will be like, so how can we decide what items will help make this life more efficient and pleasant? Everyone has contradicting opinions on the matter, too.

How can you be a good steward of your money--and the money of all the people buying stuff off your baby registry--when you have no freaking idea what you're doing?

(Registries could be a whole 'nother rant, I suppose. Asking for things you want but (often) can't afford but that you somehow expect other people to buy for you. And people get so judgey about the things you ask for on registries. Could everyone who feels obligated to get me a gift just send me a wad of cash instead? I promise I'll set it aside in a special fund and will use it to buy baby things without dealing with the guilt of wondering what you think about the things I want to buy. But asking for money is so terribly tacky. Argh.)

Happily, the DDH and I tend to have similar ideas about the process: try to keep the list of stuff to a minimum, and try to find good quality items of the things you decide to get. To that end, on our Epic Baby Gear Reconnaissance last night, we happily skipped right past mountains of clothing, fluffy blankets, and gaudy, noisy plastic gewgaws, and spent way too much time looking at cribs, car seats, and bassinet-thingies.

Much simpler to buy for.
Things we're looking for:

1. Car seat. A safe one. That can be carried around so that we have that option, not because we necessarily see ourselves leaving T-Rex in it all the time. But let sleeping babies lie, y'know? Anyway, I've heard they won't let you take a baby home from the hospital without one, so I figure it's pretty much The Most Important item to have.

2. Crib. Not so much for the newborn phase but the corraling-a-mobile-baby-who-sleeps-mostly-through-the-night stage. Or whatever else you might need to have a handy baby/toddler cage around for.

3. Something for T-Rex to sleep in in our room for the first several months to a year. We're looking at pack'n'play bassinet things, just bassinet things, side-along sleeper things.

In-bed co-sleeping is simply Not An Option for us for a variety of reasons. Which, considering that I sleep violently and the dogs love sneaking into bed in the middle of the night (though I guess we could lock out of the room), is probably wise.

But I'm also not sticking the Critter in a crib in a room downstairs on the other side of the house. We want him in the room and nearby, convenient to deal with in the middle of the night.

4. Maybe another one of those pack'n'play/bassinet thingies for confining T-Rex in the living areas of the house. I'm certainly not toting the same one up and down those tiny enclosed stairs every day.

Note that as much of the concern is keeping him from getting run over by the dogs (or having Jayne drop his balls on the baby's head) as anything else. Something with a raised changing area would be nice, too, but mostly I want to be able to set him down without him getting trampled by a jealous Beagle or slobbered on by a Lab who doesn't understand why he won't throw the ball.

5. Moby-wrap/ring-sling/fabric carrier and a more structured one that the DDH would be willing to wear. I need to find some somewhere that I can try on, but this seems the most sensible (and cozy and adorable) solution for taking T-Rex out and about in the early months as well as for carting him about the house while I try to do other things. The DDH said he can't be bothered with the weird complicated cloth ones, but he'd wear one that buckles. Especially if it's camo-print. He tried a camo print one on in the store and gave it his stamp of husbandly approval.

6. Breast pump and paraphernalia (bottles, bottle-cleaning brushes, storage bags...I don't even know how these things work). I'll need a good one if I'm going back to work.

7. Cloth diapers and paraphernalia. THERE ARE TOO MANY CHOICES. But I'm determined to at least attempt cloth diapering. The DDH says he doesn't care and the day care we're looking at will use them if we provide them. So. Need a stash of those.

8. Mini high-chair thingy. We found some that will strap to a kitchen chair, including ones that recline for a newborn. I would rather bother with that than a full high chair, and it occurred to us we'll need to set the kid somewhere while we eat.

9. We're debating about a stroller. We don't think we'd use it much until he's a tad older, but if we're going to want one eventually we might as well ask for one now, yes?

10. Oh! A diaper bag. That will round out this list to ten. I don't have any particular requirements for a diaper bag, since it seems they're like purses--you'll collect new ones as they catch your eye or your needs change. I may or may not have a slight obsession with bags--backpacks, purses, tote bags...I just want a diaper bag that's reasonably sized, reasonably attractive, and doesn't cost $180 freaking dollars. Or more.

I sort of feel like other than clothes (and it will be winter so I guess we can't leave him naked all the time) and outlet/cabinet baby-proof locks and blankets and toys and books (all things, other than the baby-proofing stuff, that we're going to be given in spades and/or can buy used), that's mostly it? Oh, also clothes for me, I guess, by which I mean nursing bras/camis/nipple pads or whatever.

Am I crazy? What are we forgetting? Do you have any recommendations for any of this stuff--or for other stuff? What did you find most useful when your kiddos were babies?

Monday, July 2, 2012

What I Am Into This Month: June

Gray June morning.

The calendar turned over while I was on vacation, but here's what I was into in June:

On My Nightstand: I'm still working through Introverts in the Church and Here I Stand: A Biography of Martin Luther, both of which the DDH got me for Easter. This is still true. I did of course read and review Spirit-Led Parenting.

The DDH bought me a Kindle as a very early birthday present. So far I have only loaded free books onto it, because I have a hard time convincing myself to pony up ten or fifteen dollars for an e-book, which is what all the best-seller-type books I have on hold from the Library cost. If I'm going to shell out that kind of money, I want physical evidence to place on my shelf, y'know? However, I've been enjoying Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, which was free.

I'm also almost done with a re-read of A Wrinkle In Time, read and returned Catching Fire and am anxiously awaiting Mockingjay, and read the entirety of the last book in the Sisters Grimm series, The Council of Mirrors, on the first day of my vacation.

So I guess I've been reading a lot. I just haven't been reading the books I'm supposed to be reading.

Want to Read: Finishing the Introverts and Luther books would be pretty good right now.

TV Show Worth Watching: Still trucking along with Mad Men, but overall not watching much television, which is a-okay by me!

Movies I've Seen (in or out of a theater): The DDH and I quite enjoyed Men In Black III, which we even saw in 3-D. That was the DDH's First Father's Day wish.

In My Ears: I am weirdly sensitive to sounds lately. The radio does not play anything good, and even my faithful talk radio gets on my ears' nerves (there was a primary election while I was out of town, the first I haven't voted in, and perhaps election season repetitiveness has something to do with that). About the only thing I can stand is my failsafe Like A G6 Pandora station--something about an unapologetic dance beat soothes me when nothing else will.

On that note (ha), do yourself a favor and check out this parody if you or anyone you have ever known plays role-playing games. I freely admit that thinking of this version may be one of the reasons why I love the original so much. Please note the comments arguing about what kind of wizard the chick in the video is, and be thankful you have Real Lives.

What I'm looking forward to next month: My birthday, obviously. Though I already got my big present (the Kindle), there should be ice cream and fun times at my mother-in-law's. The step-grandfather-in-law, Bob, shares my birthday. If I must share birthday celebrations, I will admit that I do not mind sharing them with an entertaining old person.

And Independence Day. No plans, but I shall not look a gift-day-off-work in the mouth.

You will be unsurprised to hear that I am still not looking forward to telling my boss I'm pregnant. Let me just say that my one-week absence permanently scarred the psyche of my poor assistant, and no one will like me when I tell them I'll be gone for a minimum of eight weeks. Sigh.

Goal Progress: I posted some goals for the new year, and I figured these monthly wrap-up posts would be a good chance to check my progress throughout 2012.

The Budget: We impressively paid cash for the entirety of our vacation. Yes, it helped that every time we turned around parents or grandparents were paying for food, gas, lodging, and entertainment...but we bought so much fudge. And wine. But no scary credit card bills looming! Amazing.

The Garden: My herbs survived a week of no watering, as did the sunflowers out front. I still have potato bushes that may or may not harbor potatoes, but everything else...dead dead dead. I fail.

Food: I ate so much this last week. So much food everywhere. I gained ten pounds. Now it's back to having to cook for myself, which really is all for the best.

The Craft Room: I know I keep promising a post on this, but truly. I startled myself with how clean it was when I walked in yesterday. Now to tackle the office....

How was your June? What are you looking forward to in July?