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February 2010

On the other side of the almost-breakdowns

After shipping the kids to the grandparents and a glass of wine with lunch, my brain activity seems to have calmed somewhat after the insanity that was this last week and weekend. Phillip and I are hanging out at the local Panera, hanging out in front of our respective laptops, waiting out the last half hour of our open house and somehow, everything feels fine. 

On Wednesday last week our agent, a maddeningly calm sort of person, called and asked us how things are going, how we were doing and maybe would we be ready to go live on Friday instead of Monday? I spent the rest of that day in a state I described to friends later that night as Tightly Controlled Panic. I think on the outside, I looked pretty capable, extremely focused and managing quite well thankyouverymuch. In my head I was going INSANE. I don't know how many times that day I stopped everything I was doing, stood still for five seconds and waited for the breakdown to happen. It never did. I got everything done, absolutely everything that absolutely needed to happen, by Thursday night. The kids woke up the next morning, I left them in their cribs while I took a shower and then we immediately drove to my parents' house. At 7:30 in the morning. 

I was a wreck all day long. I hit refresh on our Redfin page about nine thousand times, waiting for the pictures to show up. I worried about what the agents who toured our house in the morning thought of it, if Phillip left things neat in the afternoon in case anyone wanted to see it. Was the duvet fluffed? The shades up? The counters wiped down? Did I forget a baseboard or the kids' plastic water cup in the bathroom? Did I leave the Mickey Mouse stepstool in plain sight? What would people think about two cribs? What if they hated my lime green wall? What if they could tell the linen closet was too shallow? I could hardly think about anything else and I'm sure (I KNOW) my parents were sick of hearing about it and my mom kept saying things like people are looking at the HOUSE not the FURNITURE. But I know that when Phillip and I were townhouse shopping five years ago, peoples' furniture TOTALLY influenced how I felt about the house. I remember one in particular, where the paint colors upstairs were so pretty and the trinkets in the bathroom were arranged just so that I wanted to buy that life

And when I wasn't thinking about what I had to do to sell the house, I was thinking about whether we should even sell in the first place. In order to break even we can't accept an offer much lower than our asking price. There are lots of rental houses, but most of them look like dumps. And are we being selfish? Entitled? Because this house is beautiful, it's new, it's close to everything we want to be close to and still it's not good enough. The carpet cleaner was telling me about living in a 700 sf house with his wife and three kids until they were in grade school, and he was a great guy and told me this story as part of his House Selling Pep Talk, but I felt SO guilty. Why isn't this house good enough? What's wrong with me? 

The kids were up in the middle of the night (we stayed overnight) and I couldn't go back to sleep after I settled them down. And the next day my inner control freak was so anxious to get home. I drove home in record time and saw that there were messages on the phone that Phillip hadn't noticed, that the shades were down, that the sheet on our bed was hanging unattractively from underneath the duvet. THIS IS WHY I HAVE TO BE HOME!

But today? I don't know. I don't know if I just needed a few days' distance from my numerous almost breakdowns on Wednesday, or if I'm just present or I made it look as awesome as possible for the open house. Whatever it is, I feel like it's okay. I feel like it's okay for me to want three bedrooms and a fenced yard, house I can live in until Jack drives me over to the nursing home. I feel like everything will be fine. 

After the kids drove away with the grandparents and the agent set up his signs, Phillip and I drove a little bit north to check out a house we'd seen a few days earlier. We're not buying another house - we keep telling ourselves that - but this one looks like the kind of house we want, at a price just barely out of our range. We had to go see it. 

It was huge and open and sunny. Four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, an enormous kitchen, a family room, an overabundance of closets and storage space, a giant yard with garden boxes and a shed and a beautiful blossoming tree and a deck just begging to host a summer birthday party. It's also the former home of 90-year-old woman, recently deceased, in dire dire need of new carpet, new paint, new appliances and and a good weeding out of the yard, the shed and the garage. The kitchen counters are a horrible pinkish red, the master bath has dreadful tile, there are holes all over the walls in one of the bedrooms, the fixtures are hideous. It smells like an adult family home, and I know, because I used to work in one. It has one of those bathtubs-with-a-door in the half bath downstairs. There's a ramp built over the front steps. The hardwoods need refinishing big time. 

And we loved it. We stayed upstairs way too long, long enough for the agent downstairs to know that we wanted it. We talked about what we'd immediately want to fix if we moved in. Where we'd put Jack and Molly. Which bedroom we could double up if we needed to. I told Phillip that there were a million ugly things about that house, but all of them felt manageable and doable and that that was the kind of house I could live in for a long time.

We left, had our lunch out and glass of wine, and here we are at Panera and I still feel fine. I don't feel married to that old lady's house. It's priced pretty low, so it's likely it will be gone before we even have the opportunity to make an offer. And weren't we going to rent for a year or two anyway? But I feel okay, I feel like things will be fine, I feel like we're in a good place and I can sit in this limbo for a little while and maybe this IS horribly stressful and stomachache inducing, but also hopeful? And maybe a little exciting too. 

Seven quick holy cats I'm tired takes

1. At 10 tomorrow morning a bunch of real estate agents are going to let themselves into my house and snoop around. I will be long gone, having fled this entire process to the haven known as Grandparents, where I will hand over the grandchildren and go catatonic on the couch. 

2. At 1 tomorrow afternoon a photographer will show up at my house and take the Official Pictures. I will still be catatonic on the couch, only more so, if possible, since I'm sure I've forgotten to dust a baseboard or take a picture off a wall and God knows PHILLIP won't notice and fix it before our dusty baseboards and family photos are plastered all over the online listings. 

3. At 1 on Sunday my agent will be hanging out at my dining room table, snacking on my homemade chocolate chip cookies, waiting for those mysterious Buyer creatures to wander inside and fall in love. (RIGHT.) Having long awoken from my catatonic state, I'll be at a community center gym, missing my serves and hitting into the net because Holy Cats There's An Open House Going On At MY HOUSE GAK.

4. I believe at some point on Monday it will settle in that I did all this fixing and cleaning and arranging and organizing for nothing, that no one will ever want to buy my house, ever, and perhaps I should be thinking about building a fourth floor because I will be here until Jack and Molly decide to put me in a home. 

5. Yes, I've given myself all of three days before I switch from Getting Everything Ready Anxiety to This Is Never Going To Work Anxiety. And those are on top of the What Are We THINKING Anxiety. I am a multitasker extraordinaire.

6. On the other hand, my house looks like the house I've wanted to live in these five years. Fresh flowers! Sparkly counters! Shampooed stairs! A place for everything, even if that place is the garage! It's quite nice. I credit Magic Erasers, for magically erasing nearly every mark on the wall AND getting the soap scum off the shower doors. I also credit the three dollar pumice stone I bought out of desperation, because I heard it could scrape off the toilet rings AND IT DID. I also credit the lovely carpet cleaner man who was cheap, fast and entertained my kids. Also, this is the first day in many many days when I climbed the stairs without thinking, "And I have people over to my house with this mess?"

7. I just have a few more things to throw into the garage and then I'll do a quick once over on the floor. That's it. I'm sure we'll be sprucing up a couple of spots in the next couple of days, but for now I am content with turning on the Olympics and mixing up a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough (for the "Oh! Someone wants to see the house! I'll just slip a batch of these cookies in the oven before they arrive!" moments). It's been a slog of a week, people. I am certain that I am more tired and stressed out about selling the house than I ever was about buying a house, AND IT'S NOT EVEN ON THE MARKET YET. I am not kidding about the catatonic. I kind of want to sink into my parents' couch, open up that novel I used to be writing and NEVER COME OUT.

P.S. sorry to be all HOUSE HOUSE HOWWWWWSE HOUSE! I just, you know... have nothing else going on.  

Project Sell The House

Fair warning: this post is going to be dreadfully uninteresting. But I figure it's better than telling you about the hours of sobbing I have endured today (teething-related, I believe), the three (THREE!) giant puddles Jack created within one (ONE!) hour tonight, a night when his father will be home late, a night I put both kids to bed before seven (SIX FIFTY!) because I could. not. take. it. ANY. MORE.

(Oh, and also the part where Molly slipped and fell on the slick floor after I mopped up Puddle Number One, hit her head, and sucked in her breath for so long before the first wail that she - I swear - suddenly wilted sideways into my arms, eyes rolling back and I LOST MY MIND and then, thank God, fifteen seconds later we were BOTH shrieking our heads off and if my parents hadn't repeatedly told me that I did the same thing when I was a baby I would be in the LOONEY BIN right now. Worst moment EVER.)

(In other news, it appears my drama queen genes have been successfully passed down.)

So, this is what I did today on Project Selling The House:

Sat on my couch and stared at the kitchen.

Sat on my couch and stared at the built in mantel and bookshelves around the fireplace. 

Watered the plants. (I know this doesn't sound like a big deal to you, but I can't remember the last time I watered the plants. So.)

Pulled out sixteen garbage bags to fill with Upstairs Junk. Chose not to bother with garbage bags when Liz called suggesting we do something Fun. I mean, it doesn't take a lot for me to forget about Upstairs Junk. 

Sat on the couch and fell asleep during nap time because 1) my kids got me up at Five You Must Be Kidding Me Ay Em and 2) I can't do anything upstairs anyway because the kids are in both rooms.

Sat on my couch wiping drool off my chin and saying to myself, "Self? Seriously? Do you not SEE the dust bunnies?"

Swept up the dust bunnies.

Grumbled all the way upstairs when the kids woke up. Dragged the plastic tubs and bins and boxes and shopping bags and, ah, random hidden piles of too-small clothes into the center of the room. Stared at them. Shoved them into boxes, heaved the boxes downstairs, sat down and wrote pitiful sob storyish post about the first world problem of woe, too many clothes, not enough storage. Watch this space!

Washed all the cloth diapers, boxed them up, dragged them and the diaper pail into the garage. I may be used to it, but I do not want potential buyers noting the lovely Eau de Diaper drifting out of our guest bathroom.

Filtered out the good books and toys out of the toy shelf in the hallway, stuffed them into baskets that fit under the dresser, carried the toy shelf downstairs without creating any new marks on the walls. Felt rather triumphant. 

Vacuumed. I can't remember when I vacuumed last either. SHUT UP.

Tried to find a less obtrusive spot for the clothes hamper. Failed. Same thing with the potty chair. (Actually, I should probably box THAT up too, seeing as how potty training has regressed to Year One levels.)

Tidied up the shelf we keep the diapers on. I think it looks pretty cute. 

Fretted about my stupid wealth corners. 

Sat on my couch and strategized Plan of Attack for when someone calls and wants to see the house in, like, thirty minutes. I think I'm going to have a Box O' Staging Stuff which, when I receive said phone call, I will yank out of the closet and then dash about my house flinging Stuff here and there. I will do my very best to sweep as soon as something needs sweeping, to not only wash every dish but dry it and put it away, to always put away the kids' clothes and bath towels and shoes. In short, I will aim for Preparedness. I did not grow up on military bases for NOTHING.

Sat on my couch and thought about what Phillip has to do. Namely 1) mow the lawn (BOY JOB) and 2) patch holes in the walls. 

Tried out an Open House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Said recipe requires 2 sticks plus five tablespoons of butter. I think we have a winner. 

I think that's a LOT, right? Sure, I have a ton more to do, but good start, Me!

I think I'll sleep on it

Original Agent came over tonight. We talked and talked and talked and somewhere in that conversation Original Agent said something like, "Funny how all the big stuff comes in bunches." 

I don't know if FUNNY is the right word, but yes, right now it is coming in bunches. Work stuff, school stuff, sick kids (STILL!), business trips (AGAIN!), the background noise of trying to communicate our struggles with this schedule and routine and then: selling our house too? Are we crazy? 

I've had a hard time over the last two months - a really hard time - determining my role as The Wife Of A Full Time IT Guy And Part Time Student. I think the beginning of this grad school adventure was easy, mostly because Phillip was really excited about what he was learning and we were both diving into this mess with low expectations and generous dispositions. It was new and I was so proud of him and we wanted the best for each other in every situation. And this quarter it feels like things have evened out. The excitement has maybe waned, and certainly our generosity and grace for each other's hardships has dwindled. We both feel like we're doing everything we can to get through these days, but it doesn't always feel like enough. 

I thought the physical distance would be the hardest part. I thought I would really have a hard time with no help on Friday nights and Saturdays, plus all the time he'd have to spend doing homework and reading. But it turns out that isn't half as bad as I expected. I have a lot of mom friends, a pair of aunts who like to babysit and two sets of fabulous grandparents. I always have help, I always have a way to fill a long day. What I struggle with is the emotional distance. Phillip has nine thousand things on his mind and I feel like everything else is more important than all the silly details of home. I mean, he is out EARNING MONEY and LEARNING STUFF and what's so important about what we bought at Target and whether someone used the potty? And I just dread adding to his mental list of Crap He Has To Think About. So I don't want to make a fuss or stress him out even more. I feel like my job is to Say Yes. Whatever he needs to do, wherever he needs to go, I support him. The car? A business trip? A conference call from home? A meet up after classes? Yes. I can handle things at home. You go do what you need to do. I will stay here and Make It Work. Don't worry, I will figure it all out.

It's well documented on this website that I do not handled The Unexpected very well. I need time to prepare and think about how to, well, make things work. So when Phillip told me today that he is going on another business trip, this time for a week in March, I was sort of okay - he'd told me earlier that this was a possibility and I'd done the preliminary Mental Preparation work. What I didn't know (and what he didn't know until today) is that there would be ANOTHER week in April or May. 

And you know, I CAN deal with that. I am not excited about it, believe me, but I just need some time to think about it and strategize and I know things will be fine. It's the not knowing, though. The "wait, why do I feel like these things are just HAPPENING to me, like I have NO SAY IN THIS SITUATION WHATSOEVER" that is really hard. I feel like the lowly support staff, the admin who gets all the thankless details hammered out. It's not fair, because Phillip doesn't have a lot of say either, but I still feel... powerless. 

It's hard trying to figure out what to put at the end of the sentence that starts: "I need _______ ." "Chocolate" and "an expensive dinner" and "diamond earrings" are all contenders, but somehow I don't think those items quite convey what I'm trying to communicate. 

And we haven't even listed it yet, folks

It was one of those Sunday mornings when I wonder why I bother going to church. Even though the kids slept later than they have all week (six thirty!) (I KNOW!) one of them (MOLLY) was in A Mood and spent at least 75% of the Mass in the vestibule with one of her parents. We've known Molly to be a particular, demanding sort, ever since we brought her home from the hospital. We've always told each other that she'll be A Handful when she's older. At almost eighteen months she is crazy adorable and shmoopy cute, but if she throws her pacifier (or a crayon, or a coloring book, or a BOARD book, or the pocketbook of the innocent lady sitting next to us) in a display of How Dare You Tell ME What To Do! I am signing her up for permanent residence in the vestibule janitor's closet. 

And afterwards we dashed back to the house for ANOTHER realtor visit. 

(Oh wait. First Phillip took Jack to coffee hour to snag a doughnut, because JACK was an ANGEL, I KNOW, and I threw four dollars at the high school student selling fundraiser candy bars because obvs I NEEDED CANDY.)

So I ran upstairs and threw on my volleyball clothes (I'm playing again! And this time I'm, like, the third tallest person on the team! Which means they expect me to hit! Which is CRAZY TALK!) and then scurried around picking up toys and emptying trash and picking up more toys and wiping counters and picking up THOUSANDS OF TOYS and stuffing the unattractive pile of too small clothes next to the crib to a more invisible spot UNDER the crib. Phillip is all, "Um, it's just an agent coming over. Is it okay to dirty a dish for lunch?"

I loved our Original Agent, but when we called to ask more questions, he was on vacation. I know! Harrumph. And while we waited for him to return, we researched Redfin. And then a friend of mine recommended another internet-based agency, which I am not quite prepared to share here since we're still undecided. So that agent came out today and again, I loved her. Meet me and my compulsion to hope that everyone I meet will be my BFF, especially if they are wearing cute sweaters and awesome boots like today's agent. 

And we STILL don't know what we're going to do. Today's agent told us that our house would most likely end up selling for exactly what we paid for it. Which, quite honestly, would be FINE, if it weren't for pesky items like commissions and taxes and closing costs. Her listing price recommendation was similar to Original Agent, but her opinion on actual selling price was lower than we'd like to go and that has thrown us into yet Another Tizzy. GAH.

These conversations are hard for me because I am not (blawg spoiler!) a very rational person when it comes to stuff like this. I don't often make Big Life Decisions based on REASON. (Again with the INFJ!) I feel like we have made the decision to sell, I have crossed that emotional and mental line, so let's just DO IT. We are not going to get all of our down payment back, but we probably won't get it all back if we wait another year. And how long do we want to live in this house? NOT LONG! 

Phillip, on the other hand, is Mr. Super Rational and has a fancy spreadsheet to support his annoying rationality. How do I argue with the numbers? I can't. And I don't really want to. I WANT to be a grown up. But it's hard when I feel like WE'VE ALREADY DECIDED. 

The one thing that Rational Phillip agrees with is that things might not change (or not change much) between now and next year. A totally reasonable point to consider, yes?

The good news is that Original Agent "wants to work with us" which we think is code for "commission is negotiable". He's coming over tomorrow night (when Phillip's parents are here with the kids, and how is THAT going to go I wonder?) and Phillip will bust out the fancy spreadsheet and I will want to die like I always do when anything resembling Bargaining and/or Haggling is involved. 

I'm not THAT stressed about it - yet. I'm stressed about not having a DECISION. I hate limbo of any kind and it's completely irritating to me that I have to wait yet another 24 hours and even THEN we might not be decided. I think my big fear at this point is that we'll realize we can't sell (AGAIN) and I will feel stupid on the internet (AGAIN) and in front of all the people I've told that we're selling our house (AGAIN) because of course THIS is the thing to be fearful about. LOOKING STUPID. 

I am getting awfully teary about leaving this house, BUT I WANT TO LEAVE. I am ready to do this. I want it to happen. I want the money stuff to work out. I am tired of thinking about it. I want to go to the part where I am hating the world because the world wants to look at my house during nap time. Well, ideally, I want to go to the part where I am all moved into to my super cute rental house with three bedrooms and a fenced backyard and a library down the street, but I'm trying to be realistic here. And if this post has taught us anything, it's that REALISTIC IS HARD FOR ME. 

Also, there was bacon for dinner and bacon makes everything better

So Jack has been Not Himself for over two weeks now (NOT THAT ANYONE IS COUNTING) and it's... getting to me. He wasn't obviously sick until the second week, and now it appears he is going to be sick for the rest of time. And because being sick means he isn't sleeping well, I've basically got 28 pounds of Whine living in my house. 

Some days he's so clearly unwell that I have an easier time tapping my sympathy reserves (which, admittedly, I have a hard time tapping in any situation.) Like yesterday, when we met a bunch of friends at a new playground. We got there first and Jack half heartedly wandered around the big toy, kicking the wood chips and pretending not to hear me call him back. When our friends arrived he was suddenly glued to my leg. He wanted me to hold him, which I would not do, but he is more stubborn than I am (I AM DOOMED) and eventually I gave in and oh, it was so pathetic. Little Jack's head on my shoulder, a tiny voice saying, "I want to go hooooome, Mama. I want to go hooooome!" OVER AND OVER AND OVER. 

So even though I hadn't seen some of these friends in months and months, I took the kids back to the car and drove them home. I cooked a made-to-order grilled cheese, which was subsequently not eaten. I kept a steady stream of Caillou playing on the TV. I held a cranky, misbehaving, snot-nosed little boy in my lap during naptime because there really wasn't anything else to do, and I wasn't angry. He'd cough and I'd feel the vibrations rattling his ribs. Poor little guy. 

But it's not always like that, especially when his nose ISN'T running and he's NOT coughing. I try to remind myself that he's still not feeling well, that he didn't get enough sleep, but DUDE, it's like he's competing for the gold in Pushing Buttons. (Look at that Timely Reference! Woo!) I have had so many awful and mortifying moments with him over the last two weeks (and honestly, Molly isn't a peach herself.) 

The worst was probably sometime early on when friends came over in the afternoon and then stuck around for dinner. We ordered a pizza, thinking the kids would like it, we wouldn't have to make dinner and our husbands could eat as soon as they walked in. But oh, Jack was a NIGHTMARE. He stole toys, was rude to our friends and nasty to his sister. And my FAVORITE thing about Jack is that when you intervene or take something away or even just say, "No!", he erupts into pitiful earsplitting wails AND DOES NOT STOP. I mean, you'd think he wiped out on the short track! (ANOTHER Timely Reference! Am on a ROLL!)

Anyway, it was just awful. I was so embarrassed. And these were friends who are more like family - it takes a LOT to be embarrassed in front of them and I wanted to DIIIIEEEE. 

Tonight I went to their house. Phillip is working late (he's still not home) and sometimes my friends invite us over for a Pity Dinner and hanging out until it's time to go to bed. I almost didn't go, just because Jack has been so Anti-Other-People (oh, who am I kidding, he's being Anti-ALL-People) and I didn't want to spend an evening constantly breaking up fights between him and his future prom date. (Who, right now, is more like the bossy know-it-all big sister. HILARIOUS.) 

But we went, because I am more lazy than anything else, and my friend was going to make dinner. And you guys, it was wonderful. It was restful. It was the best evening I've had with my kids in a a LONG time. They played so nicely and they played together. They were cute, they were happy, THEY ATE DINNER. When Jack's godfather busted out the guitar, all four kids had a little dance party in the living room: Molly doing her patented squat and lunge dance steps, Jack finding a toy guitar and standing right next to the real thing, mimicking all his moves. I sat there watching them, singing along and thinking oh God, in this random Thursday evening you have redeemed the last two weeks.

I'm sad Phillip wasn't there. His physical absence hasn't been as difficult as the distance in just knowing what's going on in each other's worlds - the result of the physical absence, I guess. I'm grateful he's not going on that trip, even though I know it was a bummer, and it turns out he doesn't have to go to school on Saturday either. It feels like a sorely needed break. 

He just called. He's on the bus. I better go clean up the kitchen. The lack of a proper house elf is really the only thing preventing me from calling this The Perfect Evening. 

If I can't fret about this, I'll fret about that

So you know that four-day business trip I was all "Ack!" about a few days ago? Canceled! Now that's what I call a big waste of FRET. 

Bummer for Phillip but good news for me, right? Definitely. Except I am now wondering what to do with all the fun plans I rushed out and made while in the throes of feeling sorry for myself. And by "rushed out and made" I mean "conned my friends into thinking up and doing for me". Can I still keep those? What about the I'm Going To Be Alone For Four Nights, I Don't Need To Cook Dinner, Why Don't I Just Eat This Giant Bag Of Leftover Valentine Candy plan?

I wrote about staging my kitchen at Style Lush today and DUDE. People have IDEAS. I wouldn't say I am a TOTAL idiot about prettying up my house, but it's not something I feel like I have any IDEAS about. I know what I like when I see it, but I'm definitely lacking in the Things That Would Look Nice In This Spot department, hence the "blegging". (Shut up. I love that word.) 

Anyway. There were a lot of ideas and I'm a little bit overwhelmed. I went to Target this afternoon and bought a giant jar with hopes of filling it with colorful candy (THAT I WILL NOT EAT) because it was my favorite suggestion. But then, when I set it up (candy-less) in the corner I got all second guessy. The other ideas were all so good! And doesn't this giant jar of candy thing perpetuate my questionable "style", which I classify as Primary Colors Threw Up All Over My Living Room? I'm not a sophisticated, grown up, Pottery Barn kind of housewares purchaser and isn't that what your house is supposed to look like when it's staged? 

(This is a lot of what I meant to do while Phillip was gone. Clear out and set up my house in preparation for putting it on the market. Now I'm going to have to do all this Neurotic Insecure Freakout stuff in front of Phillip. Phillip: "What's new?")

AAAAAAAAANYWAY. Not that this is even IMPORTANT right now, since when Phillip called the realtor yesterday HE WAS ON VACATION. I mean, how dare he?! Fired! 

Actually, we just felt like we should talk to him first before we leap on over to Redfin. I would really really really like to have a Real Agent. I know we could do it without one, and I think Redfin is an awesome option, but with Phillip's head either in schoolwork or work work, I just really feel like I need a lot of hand holding. It will be fine either way, I know it will, but if there's a chance he'll work with us, I want that option. 

And I wonder how firm we are - I mean, we haven't settled on a price, we don't really know what all we have to do to make it official... I'm nervous we'll discover another piece of this process and have to decide all over again. I'm getting all sniffly about our house - we brought our BABIES to this house! - and sad about potentially giving up the awesome location and awesome neighbors and waaaahhhh HOW RIDICULOUS CAN I GET?

Apparently a lot - I am staging my house before we've even figured out how to put it on the market! Woo!

Also, for those of you who are all, "Her stupid house AGAIN? But I only visit this lame-o blog to hear her whine about her KIDS!" I am whining at Parenting, of course. In summary: when do you take away the pacifier?

The night before Ash Wednesday

This morning I was telling Liz that this is the time of year I most miss Italy. 

I first landed on the airstrip on That Base In Northern Italy when I was ten years old and we were slowly, oh so slowly, making our way to That Base In Sicily. The second time - at least, the second time I actually remember - I was fourteen and playing in my very first high school basketball tournament, hosted by the high school on TBINI. My high school was small and desperately untalented. We were mercy ruled out of the tournament after the first round, but that was okay, since we were there for the good times. I barely remember playing basketball, but I vividly remember one of the girls on my team trying to frame a group photo on the bleachers so that the MVP from the winning boys' team was in the background, aka The Hottest Guy Any Of Us Had Ever Seen. 

It was very cold. It probably wasn't colder than the coldest days in Seattle, but I'd been living in Sicily and another temperate island where you could wear shorts year round. It was cold. There was a very long walkway between two of the school buildings - we were sleeping in classrooms - and I remember walking back to the school after a game, my hair wet from the shower. Whenever it gets very cold I think of how cold I was then - my coldest memory. 

And TBINI had a Burger King, which was a terribly exciting feature to those of us who lived without anything remotely resembling American fast food. I sat in a booth in that Burger King flirting with a boy I more or less started dating on that trip - my first real boyfriend. 

That was sixteen Februaries ago. 

I didn't know I was going to move to TBINI when I sat in that Burger King booth. I might have paid more attention to the school and the basketball teams - both of which swept the tournament without breaking a sweat. I didn't know I would play for that team a year later. I didn't know I would walk down that walkway a million times on a million more frigid days. 

I lived there in the spring and summer and fall as well, but when I think of TBINI I think of February. I think of basketball tournaments and cold bus rides and looking out train windows. Ducking into a bar to get out of the rain and throwing back a cappuccino. I think of Carnevale, which means I think of Venice. Venice, which is hot and crowded and smells of rotting water in the summers, but is dry, freezing and empty in the winters. Walking through deserted squares, looking for that one bar with the little pizzas and the shop with the wooden puzzles. And then: Carnevale, when St. Mark's square is shoulder to shoulder and you can get your face painted under the porticos and it's faster to walk than to take a water taxi. 

I'm so thankful I was able to bring Phillip to Venice during Carnevale a few years back. It didn't seem like such a big deal then, but my family doesn't live there anymore and I have two little children and who knows if or when I'll ever be there again? We stayed in a tiny little hotel, I dragged Phillip through the crowds, we stayed out late. We stumbled back to our hotel room with shaving cream on our coats and confetti in our hair. It will never be Mardi Gras and beads to me - it will always be Carnevale and creepy masks. 

At least I'll be busy

I forgot one thing: Morgan S! You win my bag of Chinese New Year goodies! LUCKY YOU! Now if you'll email me your address I'll make sure Jack doesn't eat ALL the Pocky...


1. We have decided to put our house on the market. You can't see it from your computer, but I am barfing into the trash can over here. 

2. Phillip is going on a business trip next week. A real! live! business trip! Monday morning to Thursday night! Who wants to come over and babysit me?

Okay, before I get into all that I have to see if there are any good Olympics on. Oh yes, MORE figure skating. And just so you know, I QUITE enjoy figure skating and I do NOT root for them to fall nor do I get any ENJOYMENT out of the falling. I get all my enjoyment out of the OUTFITS. Also: the snippy incomprehensible commentating. 

Back when we were Young Marrieds and I was realizing that one of us was Rather Into His Work and one of us thought of her paycheck as something to fund thrice-yearly trips to Europe, I freaked out a tiny bit. Some of the jobs Phillip was interested in were, like, TRAVELING jobs. And I would stand atop the coffee table and throw out my arms and shout about how if I wanted to marry someone who was never home I would have broken into the barracks on one of my trips home to visit my parents and shacked up with an airman because you KNOW he was getting shipped off to Iraq and BLAH BLAH BLAH. 

I just don't LIKE to be away from Phillip. Ever! I think it has happened exactly four times: once when I went to visit my dad in San Antonio when he was helping arrange my aunt's cancer treatment, once when I went to visit my new nephew, once when I went on a girls' wine tasting weekend with friends (and he flew to Boston to hang out with HIS friends) and once when I went to Sacramento to hang out with a bunch of BLOGGERS. I guess four times isn't exactly NEVER, but still, they were big deals. I had to seriously talk myself into leaving my husband every time. I DON'T LIKE IT. 

I think Phillip got it, because usually he just acts like I'm a moron if I'm being moronic about something, but I guess the, ah, sincerity in my voice was affecting since he just shut up and agreed. 

But fast forward six years and here I am, IT and Grad School Widow, exceptionally grateful that at least ONE of us was rather into his work. And when he timidly mentioned there was an opportunity... well, what am I going to say? NO, IF YOU DON'T PUT THE KIDS TO BED EVERY NIGHT WHO IS GOING TO DEAL WITH THE NIGHTTIME POOPING?

There was also the little issue of a trip to Chicago in November, about which he gave me no hassle whatsoever. WHATEVER.

I love what I do and I want Phillip to love what he does. And if that means flying to Headquarters and meeting with Bigwigs and staying in a hotel all by himself, FINE. I'm not going to complain about it either. I am just letting you KNOW. Phillip is going away for four days, but no worries, I have plenty to do - we have an awful lot of marks on the walls that need painting over. 

Did I forget to mention the sequins?

Phillip and I are splitting the rest of what's in the vodka bottle and watching the Olympics. I think there is figure skating? I half watch this stuff and Phillip is channel surfing anyway. We are both wondering why there are no Olympics on Canada TV. (That's how I think of it: Canada TV.) Also! The kids are singing to each other upstairs - so much for the curtain.

Oh yes. Ice dancing. Snore.

We threw a party Saturday night: sequins, poker chips, gin. I think my favorite part was turning our garage (!) into a speakeasy card room, with blacked over walls and Christmas lights strung across the garage door rails. I think a good time was had? Props to my new brother-in-law who appears to have missed his calling in the casino industry. Without him, the rest of us would have stood stupidly around the craps table scratching our chins. I talked Phillip and two other friends into "working" the other games so all I had to do was walk around in my sequin dress, drinking my g & t and passing out extra chips to anyone looking especially desperate.

Phillip just said, "No one's falling," in a very disappointed voice. 

But I think I'm not going to send real invitations anymore. No one RSVPs and because I am who I am, I go around in a Neurotic Funk for weeks, worried that 1) no one is going to come and 2) no one wants to come. WOE. It's stupid, because I have a fabulous group of committed Party Attendees who always show up AND dress the part AND rent 'The Sting' in preparation for calling fake horse races. It shouldn't bum me out, but it does. 

Phillip just asked, "Could we participate in a competitive sport together?" The answer, we agree, is OMG ARE YOU KIDDING.

So I give up. You win, Evite.

Phillip just looked over my shoulder and said, "That wasn't ice dancing. Ice dancing is when there's no jumping at all, so there are even fewer opportunities to fall. Ice dancing would be: 'SNOORRRRRRRRRRRE'." 

Pairs skating? Is that what it is? WHATEVER. Okay, now we're watching skiers going over those little bumpy things. MUCH more interesting. MUCH more falling. We are happy. 

Anyway, we had flappers galore, a cop, homemade spats and mustaches grown especially for the occasion. I wore a sequin dress with a sequin headband. Phillip piped a 20s and 30s music station he found online into the garage. You can drum up a surprising amount of excitement for a "horse race" run by Jack's plastic barnyard animals. There are, as per usual, no pictures of Phillip and none of us together. And I still don't know how to play craps. 

There's always next year!

And you know what we did today? With the kids gone? For Valentine's Day? We drove around town dropping into open houses. Because, you know, there's nothing like ramping up your House Fever with open houses when you're still deciding whether or not you can sell your CURRENT house and have ALREADY decided you are not going to BUY for at LEAST another YEAR. 

WHAT IS WRONG WITH US? (We needed to finish off the vodka, OBVS.)

Oh, AND! We are ALL! SICK! Before I sign off, do I have any other tales of woe? OH! I DO! You will have to wait until tomorrow for THAT whinefest, but I'll give you a hint. It involves the dreaded phrase, "Business Trip." YIPPY SKIPPY!