Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008

This year was epic. In many ways, the hardest year I've experienced. There were a lot of ups and downs, a ton of hard work, an inordinate amount of stress... but, of course, it was also the best year in many, many ways. Well, one way in particular:



We started the year with a lot of stress, excitement and anticipation -- about our home projects, our jobs, and about becoming new parents. We ended the year by cooking a big pot of chili and a vat of mac and cheese in that new kitchen, and watching our happy, healthy and active baby chase after a bottle of champagne (unopened). We've come full circle. Here's to 2009!




growth

I keep walking around with the weight cards we used to fill out for Kai when she was a baby -- and realized that I am going to lose it one of these days. so, I want to record those weights before I lose them forever.

Date Pounds Ounces
4/17/2008 3 1
5/28/2008 5 2
7/30/2008 10 5
8/6/2008 10 10.1
8/19/2008 11 9.8
8/21/2008 11 10.5
8/27/2008 12 4.6
9/2/2008 12 6.8
9/9/2008 13 2
9/16/2008 13 4.6
9/23/2008 13 8.2
9/27/2008 13 13
10/2/2008 14 2
10/8/2008 14 4.6
10/15/2008 14 11.4
11/18/2008 16 4
12/4/2008 16 11.8

So -- there they are! Preserved for all time. Check that off my ever growing to do list.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Top Ten

Top Ten Reasons Bring Your Daughter to Work Day Was Not Intended for 8-Month Olds:

10. Listening to bababababababababa and legal research are mutually exclusive activities.

9. The "laptop" you bought the baby keeps repeating "let's go home"... making you wonder whether your child is a genius and has figured out how to communicate with you through the new plastic piece of crap that you bought in hopes of keeping your own laptop in one piece.

8. Your participation in a conference call amounts to "yeah" "yeah" "yeah" while trying to distract the baby from the power cords, until one of the other callers says, "that is as long as Angie agrees with my definition of time period." Busted.

7. Spit up and work clothes do not mix.

6. Spit up and your colleagues' work clothes mix even less well.

5. Spit up and legal briefs and other original documents mix the least well.

4. You spend your day researching whether poinsettia leaves are poisonous rather than doing your actual work (after the baby got hold of the poinsettia plant and began munching on it when you turned your back for two minutes)... bonus: not poisonous!

3. There is no good place to bathe the baby at work after she manages to grab hold of the poopy diaper that you just removed from her body and smear it all over her legs and hands.

2. No judge will accept "my baby ate my research" as a valid reason for missing a deadline, no matter how true it is.

1. You're going to have to make up the hours anyway because no one really thinks you're doing any work when you have your 8-month old at the office with you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Places to Go, Things to See

I've written about how Kailey is a very calm, happy and generally easy baby. She rarely cries, preferring instead to grumble a bit when she is upset, elevating it to a sort of half-cry if her grumbles go ignored. Every once in awhile she breaks into this sobbing cry, as if to say "why. aren't. you. listening. to. me." But, she's pretty good at communicating her needs for someone who is non-verbal (although, the babbliest, loudest non-verbal person I have ever met), and also tends to reserve her grumbles for things that can be addressed: hunger, diaper changes, being held, or being put down. But, the fact that Kailey is good natured does not mean she is not a bit exhausting. Kai is a mover. Or a squirmer. A wiggle worm. She seems to be constantly in a hurry to get somewhere... and, if possible, she would like that somewhere to be wherever we would least like her to go.

I remember when I was pregnant at one of my doctor's appointments the doc was trying to listen to Kai's heart and she was squirming around and kicking so much that we couldn't get a read on her. The doctor said, "I've always wondered if the really squirmy ones stay that way as children, but I always forget to follow up with parents and find out." Well, doc, in our case the answer is a resounding YES.

As soon as we put Kailey down on her back, she attempts to flip over -- this has made changing her a bit challenging. It's more like a wrestling match. A wrestling match with a kitten. You put Kai on the changing table and she twwwiisssttsss her body to try to roll over, and we try to pin her down and get the diaper off, but as soon as we put a hand on her chest to try to prevent the roll she grabs onto our arm with both of her arms and does this bear hug/kitten attack maneuver complete with biting and growling. Changing her has become a two person job.

Kai's constant movement has also resulted in her slowing in her weight gain. She has been hovering just over 17 pounds for awhile now. She was 17.5 for awhile, but her recent cold resulted in some weight loss.

She is funny to watch -- she flips over and then locks onto some object and gets this sparkle in her eyes as she prepares to go after it. She likes power cords, laptops, Oscar's bowls and toys, the animals... pretty much whatever she isn't allowed to have. Once she has a lock on her desired object, she pushes her knees up under her and lunges forward with a great big grunt/growl. It's quite a production. Luckily, it's a fairly slow production and we have time to let her take a few lunges before pulling her back to safely. However, she is not easily deterred. The other day, we were in the kitchen and Eric was cooking while I watched Kai. She was squirming to be put down, so I put her on the floor and she made a bee line (or a snail's line... just doesn't have the same ring, does it?) for Oscar's bowl. When she got within a couple of inches, I pushed her back a foot. Undeterred, she went for the bowl again and when she got close, I pushed her back again. We did this over and over and over again. I think she went for the bowl 20 times, grumbling a bit more each time and then finally breaking into a cry, at which point I ended the game.

Then there was yesterday, when she decided she wanted the power cord that was on the couch and spent a good 10 minutes trying to crawl up the couch... which she couldn't figure out how to do, but oh did she try. I'm telling you, this child is determined.

It's fun watching her go after things with such gusto - but it's also exhausting to have to constantly go after her or try to find something safer to distract her with. Tonight she was crawling after the alarm clock for the whole time I was trying to put her to bed. I would flip her over on her back and lay down next to her, she'd eat a little and then flip over and head for the clock. I'd pull her back. She'd squirm away. She would roll onto her side and then turn in a circle. I'd put her back next to me. She'd flip again and try to get away as quickly as possible. We did this for 15 minutes and then, finally, I flipped her back and she just fell asleep, exhausted.

I better get to sleep. There's more exploring to be had tomorrow.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Firsts

Kailey had a lot of firsts last week when we went to Portland for a week and did the rounds. She took her first plane ride. On the way to Portland, she did pretty well. She woke up as we took off and gazed out the window, fussed a bit, and then slept the rest of the time. Easy peasy! Observe:


But, the way home was another matter all together. That's because during the course of our week, Kailey got her first cold. Poor, baby!! I don't have any pictures of the flight home, which she spent howling and writhing about. She refused to nurse - which was a first for her as well. Instead, she just cried the whole time as we profusely apologized to all of the people sitting around us. Of course it had to be a completely packed flight!!

She also took her first trip to Timberline Lodge -- which has been a December tradition for us the last five years or so (we go with Amy, Dave and the twins). We don't usually ski (much to Eric's dismay) -- we just hang about the lodge, enjoy the fires (especially when we have a fireplace room like this year), and have fun in the outdoor hot tub and pool -- there's nothing quite like swimming in the snow! A few pics:


While we were at Timberline Lodge, Kai spiked a fever of 102 (her first fever) and has had a croup-like cough the last few days. We took her to the doctor on Sunday, and they gave her an inhaler (there's this little contraption that we put over her nose and mouth that allows her to use the inhaler). It helped her sleep a bit the first night, but she is still feeling pretty crappy, and last night was pretty rough. I was back at the doctor today - they gave her an inhaler with a steroid in it this time. I haven't tried it yet. I'm hoping that she just gets better without having to use it tonight.

Despite her cold, I think Kailey enjoyed her travels. She experienced her first snow - lots and lots of snow. I lived in Oregon from the time I was 7 until I was 18, and in those 11 years we never got the amount of snow that we got during this visit (and there has been a lot more since we left). It snowed three feet while we were at Timberline and the genius people at the rental car company rented us a chains for our car that didn't fit! So, that was a fun little moment of panic. Sick baby, three feet of snow, no chains! Ack! But, luckily, Timberline sells chains and we got back down the mountain (and the rental car company reimbursed us for the chains we had to buy).

Kailey also met her first poodle and sheltie - both of whom she found to be hysterical. She loves animals so much. Any fuzzy little creature is sure to make Kailey smile and, often times, break into a full on belly laugh. It's adorable. Here she is with my dad and Shadow:




It was Kai's first time at her grandma and grandpa's as well as her grammy's house, and her first time meeting some of her cousins. You would think that after such a week, she'd be a bit of a mess -- especially with her cold. But, Kailey is such a laid back, happy baby. Even in the last few days when she has been sick, she hardly ever cries. Mostly, she just cuddles a lot more than usual and sleeps a bit more than usual. Her eyes look so sad, though... I'll be glad when this stupid cold is behind us. But, all in all, it was a jammed packed and fun week of firsts.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Deja Vu

This time last year I had just finished my first trimester of pregnancy and Eric and I were busy planning our kitchen remodel. We were steeped in layouts (which we did using IKEA design software). We probably had 150 different designs. It didn't really feel like we were ever going to get started and I couldn't really envision how it was that we were going to get from our computer layouts to an actual brand new kitchen. Just like I couldn't really envision having an actual living, breathing child in just a few short months (shorter than anyone expected, as things turned out). Fast forward 12 months and we have both of those things and have started all over again. Well, sans the pregnancy (noooo... we are not having another child!) I mean we're starting in on the remodeling again! Only this time it's the bedroom and the bathroom. Both the bedroom and the bathroom were part of the kitchen remodel, as you may recall, but we staged it in such a way as to give ourselves time between rooms. Indefinite amounts of time, really. I suppose we could just leave some of the carpet torn up in the bedroom, the closet half-finished (there's no shelving) and the walls mis-matched and unpainted in part. Or, we could leave the bathroom at it's current size and never knock down the wall in the bathroom that presently leads to an empty crawlspace. See, when we did the kitchen, we actually made it SMALLER and, at present, there is an 18" crawlspace (fully walled over at the moment) between the bathroom and the kitchen. All we have to do it knock down that wall in the bathroom and - presto - our bathroom is a foot and a half larger (larger, but with exposed pipes and no floor and no sheetrock... we have to put all that in, of course. And take out the shower. And install a tub. And move the sink and the toilet. OK... it's not exactly a presto thing. I wish.) But, you really can't tell that we have unused space at the moment - so, I suppose, we could live with the bathroom as it is (and forego the precious 18 inches!! Our house doesn't really have 18 inches to spare!!) But, as you may have gathered, we aren't exactly the sorts to sit back and wait.

No, now that we have gotten more on top of the whole working parent thing, it seems we're diving into the next set of projects. I've known it was time for phase 2 for awhile -- ever since the reappearance of the house plans and home renovation books coupled with the sound of the tape measure after 8 PM (when Kai and I crawl into bed, and Eric begins his job as house renovator extraordinaire).

After Kailey was born, we agreed to just get the kitchen done, as quickly as possible (without compromising quality, of course) and then take some time to settle into parenthood and the new juggle. And we did that. We scrambled during the NICU weeks to get ready for Kai's homecoming, and then we took a month at home together, and we've each had time at home with Kai by ourselves. For the last eight months, we have managed to keep atop of our jobs while taking turns as the primary caregiver of Kai. We've been practicing coordinating our schedules around childcare duties. At the moment, since I have been the one working FT and Eric has been at home, it's supposed to be that I take Wednesdays off to be home with Kai and, on that day, Eric goes to work to stay on top of as much of his work as is possible in only one day a week. But, in reality, the actual day that I'm home and that Eric is in the office seems to change every week. The thing is, Eric and I have been together a loonnnggg time and we've never really had to coordinate our schedules much - we've both been used to working whenever we want and whenever is necessary. Sure, we've had some issues around carpooling (because for many of those years, we've only had one car and so had to coordinate a bit to get go and from work), but there was always public transportation (if absolutely necessary... I am not exactly a fan of public transportation!) and, also, there was just the fact that Eric and I both have jobs that never really end -- so, we were both almost always willing to just stay late while the other person finished whatever needed finishing. But now, we have definite start and stop times as well as days at home. So, it's been an adjustment to look at our schedules the week before and realize, "oh, hey! I'm in LA on Wednesday this week - so I need you home with Kai." The first few times this happened, Eric was likely to reply, "ummm... I scheduled three meetings that day because I thought it was my day at work." But, we're getting better at coordinating and we're also good at being flexible and switching things around when necessary.

So come January - we start yet another chapter. Kai will be with Penny and Doug three days a week. We'll be coordinating our schedules on the other two days and also in the mornings and evenings to drop Kai off and pick her up. And, we'll be digging back into our remodeling. We ordered new bedroom furniture this weekend and it arrives January 17th -- which means we have a closet to finish, a room to paint, carpet to install and old furniture to sell in the next month. Onwards home renovators!

Monday, December 1, 2008

On the Move

Kailey has been spinning in circles for a few weeks now, but has not been able to get any forward momentum and, as a result, we have not done much about child-proofing anything, figuring we had plenty of time. Sure, she could spin -- but, what does spinning really accomplish? And then, today, she realized she could lurch. Some call it the commando crawl. Kai's is a version of lurching, grasping, grunting, rolling, twirling, spinning, more lurching -- all of which is to say, she has gained forward momentum and I fear it is only going to get faster and more efficient from here. Observe:







We're off to Target to buy all variety of things for child-proofing. More later.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Report from the High Risk Clinic

Babies who are born before 32 weeks or who are under 3 lbs are considered to be high risk and qualify for a bunch of extra services and tests, including a high risk clinic that evaluates babies at 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years. Kailey was born at 32 weeks (or, really, 31 weeks and 6 days) and was 3 pounds 1 ounce. She was on the borderline between high risk and... moderate risk? Normal risk? Who knows. Whatever - she was right on the fence for pretty much every test and service. The doctors at Kaiser decided to err on the side of caution and Kailey has received all the extra services and tests, and yesterday was her first appointment with the High Risk Infant Clinic. The point of the clinic is to make sure that premature babies are hitting their developmental milestones (for their adjusted age) and to make sure that any interventions are put in place if the baby is falling behind (e.g. physical therapy, speech therapy, etc). We met with a case manager, an occupational therapist, the doctor, and a social worker. Usually there is also a consultation with a neurologist, but that person was unable for Kailey's appointment.

It sounds very overwhelming, but, we weren't nervous about the clinic -- you can tell from watching and interacting with Kailey that she is doing fine. But, we still wanted to go -- if for no other reason than to see her old NICU doctor again and thank her for all of the care and attention she provided Kailey when she was in the NICU (and show her how well Kailey has done since being discharged, of course).

They ran Kailey through a series of tests seeing if she could grasp a ring, transfer it from one hand to another, pick up tiny objects, hold onto two objects at the same time, focus on pictures, identify a new object (they show the baby a page with two identical pictures and the baby is supposed to focus on each one for about 30 seconds and then, once that information is processed, look away. Then they show the baby another page with that same picture again and a new picture and the baby is supposed to focus on the new object), rattle something purposefully (very purposefully, in Kailey's case... she likes the rattle), roll over both directions, pivot, sit up, babble, etc. Kailey did everything (except hold onto two objects at once -- she was too interested in the little red square, and getting it into her mouth, to hold onto two at the same time. But, when we got her home, we gave her two objects and she held onto both of them just fine). The doctor, occupational therapist, social worker and case manager all ohhhed and ahhed about how well Kailey did everything and what a happy, healthy baby she is and then our NICU doctor asked us, "do you want to come for the other two high risk appointments? Kailey is doing great, so I really don't think she needs them. But, it's up to you." The next appointment is at a year, and so we decided to just wait a few months and see if we have any concerns at that time. But, it was a nice to know that Kailey has already "graduated" from the high risk group, at least as far as the doctors are concerned.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

First Tooth

Kailey has her first tooth! Chris was the first to notice it -- he was hanging out with Kailey and me today at Golden Gate Park, and Kailey decided to gnaw on his hand for a bit and Chris said, "does she have a tooth?" I had not yet noticed any teeth, although, we've suspected that she is teething by the amount of drool, gnawing and fussiness. So, I let her gnaw on my hand and, sure enough, there was a hard, sharp tooth just beginning to cut through her bottom gum. You can just barely see it (mostly because she won't let you examine her gums --she's a little squirmy, that Kailey) but, it's there. First tooth!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A few of Kai's favorite things...



Kailey definitely has favorite things now -- which is so cool. It's fun to watch her react to things and the full-body wriggle/shake/spasm thing she does when she reallllyyy likes something (that and immediately reaching her hands out for it -- "gimme"). At the moment, these are a few of her favorite things:

Book: Peekaboo Puppy

Color: Red

Real Animal: Oscar (by far. She thinks Oscar is the coolest thing ever. When he is in the room she stares and stares and then, if he happens to come within striking distance of her, she shrieks (which usually sends him running) and tries to grab onto him. At the moment, he is much quicker than she is... so he usually escapes unscathed).

Stuffed Animal: Winston the Dog

Hold: Front-facing. These days, after we pick her up, she immediately throws an elbow and twists to the front and continues to twist and elbow jab until you turn her around so that she is facing out. She has no interest in looking at us anymore. She must see what is going on. It's annoying and cute at the same time. Eric totally indulges her and walks around the house until she sticks her hands out - which is her way of letting him know that she has found something that she wants to touch - which (assuming there is no safety risk) he obliges.

Song: Itsy Bitsy Spider. This is not a song we usually sing in music class, but this week, it was the song we started with and Kailey's whole face lit up and she started squealing. She likes that song.

Outfit: Anything with polka dots or an interesting pattern.

Activities: Bathtime, storytime and singing. She loves the bath (aka the sink), but is still unsure about swimming class. We took her again this week. She continues to spend most of class sucking her thumb, which is her way of coping with something that is overwhelming her. But, I think she's getting used to the class. We'll see.

Toys: the mobile (this is an oldie but a goody -- she has been fascinated by the mobile from her first days. You would think she would have tired of it by now, but she still loves it), the elephant teether, the keychain (it's a stuffed toy that is supposed to be a set of keys), the square box, the little blue thing that vibrates when you pull it's nose (I have no other way to describe it).

And a few new pictures:





Sunday, November 9, 2008

Then and Now

Every once in awhile, I marvel at how much has changed this year -- and, nowhere is that more apparent than in watching Kailey grow, grow, grow.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Election Night

Pictures from our election night party!! I'm so excited for the next 4 years.









And a video (Sarah was cracking Kailey up for like 10 minutes.... I just caught the tail end of it):

stuff, stuff and more stuff

Apparently I've been hit hard by the baby consumer bug. I am sitting in my living room - my tiny living room - and looking at the following: an elephant teether; highchair; lime green ginormous baby saucer thing complete with flashy lights, hooks, and other noise makers; a baby bouncer chair (the old fashioned kind that you bounce yourself -- with your foot); a swing (the newfangled kind -- 5 speeds and complete with music); an activity bar with a lady bug, worm, moon, bunny, bee and turtle dangling from it; a stacking toy in the shape of a dog that rattles and comes apart into like 5 rings (each of which makes its own fun sound!); a basket full of other plush things that squeak, rattle and buzz; more teethers; a baby mirror; a baby hammock; a bunch of baby books... and then there is all of our crap taking up the rest of the space in the room. Clutter doesn't begin to describe it (have I mentioned my dislike of clutter? I am a member of the "Everything has its place club" and, in case you were wondering, very few things can call their place the middle of the living room floor!) And yet, at the end of a long week, this is what my living room looks like. And, it's not just the clutter that I find completely astounding (the old Angie would be cleaning it whilst muttering under my breath about what slobs certain people are... but, I guess, when that certain person is you... well, you learn to accept it) -- it's the rampant consumerism. And, I bought most of it! I see a cute toy and think to myself, Kailey would love that and find myself pulling out my wallet. Nevermind that we already have every variation of things that crinkle, squeak, and rattle. Or that we have small and big stuffed animals alike. Or the fact that we are not exactly swimming in cash. I see it - and it's hers. Because I want it. She's too young to care. I just think it's cute. I cannot resist. Don't ask me how much we spent on the (most adorable) winter hat today. I won't tell. It's shameful. I think I need to give myself an allowance. I'm clearly out of control.

I swore up and down that our house - our tiny little house - would not become completely overrun with baby crap. In large part, this was me thinking practically. When you live in a small space, the last thing you want is a lot of stuff. It's not that I'm opposed to baby toys as a matter of principle... it's just that I thought I could resist them as a matter of sanity, especially given my need for order. Besides, I reasoned, what does a baby really need? A toy or two, sure, but not a whole store's worth. Our baby would be fine without all the bells and whistles. And I still firmly believe that to this day. She would be, of course. She doesn't care. She loves all her toys, but she would love two as much as she loves... well, let's just call it 20. And, yet, here I sit in a living room chock full of baby toys that represent not even half of our collection. My need to control clutter has given way to my need to buy each version of Kailey's favorite toys! She has a whole room - the sole purpose of which seems to be to house baby toys, blankets, and clothes. And, as I sit here, I hardly recognize the baby consumer I've become. I'm confessing to you in the hopes that I can control myself in the future. Of course, I'm not the only guilty party here. Eric just spent the afternoon looking online for a pink chandelier for Kailey's room like the one that cracks her up in the baby store we frequent. Did you hear that? A PINK CHANDELIER. Two words I never thought I would utter, much less let within 10 miles of my house. But, here I am looking at the various products Eric found and wondering if she wants one in our room as well... after all, it's where she sleeps.

Other than making a mockery of my former self, all is well. Eric is having a grand time with Kailey during the week. Yesterday they went on a long hike, and Eric told me that Kailey loved looking straight up at the trees. They've also made the rounds of Home Depot, Ashby Lumber and Piedmont Lumber. The home projects continue, although, not at the same level of intensity as the first part of the year. I love hearing about their adventures, and it's fun to come home at the end of the day... Kailey always breaks into a great big smile and does a full-body wriggle. It's so sweet.

This morning we took her to swim class. Eric was initially against the idea of a group activity (not our group of three... the swim class group). But, at the end of it, he was planning our future weekends around swim class. It turns out, everything is fun with Kailey -- even making a fool of yourself in a warm pool with dozens of other parents and babies (warm pool... doesn't that sound gross. What do you suppose makes it so warm with dozens of infants swimming in it? But, we did it!) Who are we?! We try to contain it when we are with our friends or colleagues. Indeed, during the workweek we are still semblances of our old selves -- Eric is running an organization and I'm filing lawsuits. We both manage to talk politics and keep up on current events. I think most people think we're a lot like we were before. But, at home, we don't even try to control ourselves... as evidenced by our living room. All I can say is we're having a blast... clutter, consumerism and all.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Memories of the NICU... Fading

We are no where near deciding if we are going to try to have another child someday. We're still licking our wounds from our experiences this time around, and I say that with full knowledge of how incredibly fortunate we are that things turned out as well as they did for us. But, once you've stood on the edge and seen all that can go wrong, horribly wrong, with pregnancy... it's hard to go back. No one talks about it - and, luckily, for most, pregnancy is the mythical, wondorous experience it is billed as. Sure, people get morning sickness, swollen ankles, mood swings, cravings -- but that is all part of joining the club of motherhood. You can watch others go through the same thing on a 30 minute sitcom... in those 9 months (or two episodes) leading up to the water breaking and rushing to the hospital and a few hours of oh-so-painful labor and then... boom... beautiful, healthy baby and everyone is happy and in a day or two, everyone treks home from the hospital together to start the sleepless nights as new parents.

You never hear about that other stories -- going to the doctor when you're seven months pregnant because you've had this annoying shoulder pain for the last 24 hours that is getting increasingly worse and, suddenly, being sent up to labor and delivery, hooked up to a bunch of monitors, given magnesium and told that you won't be going home until you deliver the baby which, by the way, is going to happen in the next day or two. And, as you try to process this information while running through your mental to-do list with all the things you were going to do before the baby arrived -- finish the kitchen, buy baby products, have a baby shower, start discovery on that case, have case planning meetings with all my co-workers and colleagues and make sure everyone knows what needs to happen while I'm on leave - and you can't process having a baby, especially a baby that is going to be small. And potentially sick. And in the hospital for many, many weeks. And even as you're visited by a constant stream of nurses, social workers, high risk doctors... you still don't believe it. But the disbelief doesn't matter because 48 horus later you're on an operating table and then you have a baby on the 4th floor, in the NICU, while you're on the 5th floor wondering how all of this happened.

During those early weeks, I pumped and pumped. I spent more time with my breast pump then I did with my baby, desperate to make sure that I pumped enough milk that she could eat exclusively from me. The thought of formula for my 3 lb baby made me want to call CPS on myself. I knew, intellectually, that there was nothing wrong with formula... but, I was going to provide for this baby even as she wiled away her hours in her isolette, alone in this new world of bright lights, strangers, and other crying babies. And, every time I turned that pump on, it began squaking at me "whacko" "whacko" "whacko" or "where's Kailey" "where's Kailey" "where's Kailey". I would sit in the dark at midnight, 3 AM and 6 AM pumping and being cajoled "where's Kailey" "where's Kailey". But, at the time, I mostly thought I was handling everything beautifully. I felt numb to the world - I felt like I wasn't feeling anything, and mostly I wasn't. I would run to the hospital in the morning, hold Kailey for the requisite hour, try to feed her (recreational breastfeeding, they called it), pump, hurry home, pump some more, hurry back to the hospital... and on and on it went. And I hardly ever cried - but, I also hardly ever felt anything. I felt obligated to hold Kailey, but I wasn't in love. Where was this overwhelming feeling of love that a new mommy was supposed to feel for her baby? I felt like I was in shock. I felt like I was running through the motions. But then, in the dark at 3 AM my pump told another story -- of all the emotions I was keeping pent up inside, "where's Kailey" "where's Kailey" "where's Kailey". I wanted my baby at home with me. I desperately wanted this to all end.

It's so funny how our bodies deal with stress. People under stress often will say they are not feeling that stressed out -- but then they'll complain, "it's so strange - my eye has been twitching for the last week" or "I have this chest pain that won't go away... I think it might be my heart" or "I just can't seem to sleep anymore." You can't really hide from stress. As soon as you realize your body is manifesting stress in one way, and overcome its latest manifestation with sheer will power,it just gives way to a new manifestation. The twitchy eye becomes the chest pain becomes the sleepless nights. You can't hide, you can just deny it as best you can and cope. But, your body needs an outlet. And so it was during those NICU days with my talking breat pump, "whacko" "whacko" "whacko". Whacko for deciding to become a parent? For having the audacity to hope that my pregnancy would be like all those pregancies you hear about -- with the morning sickness, the mood swings, those last months of pregnancy when you're so big and uncomfortable and just begging to go into labor, and then, finally, the water breaking, deciding with Eric when to the hospital, labor (maybe even labor with a bit of drama) and, ultimately, delivery of a healthy, plump, screaming baby. I never really expected it to go just like that. I had been hit by a car. My pelvis is all fucked up. I expected pregnancy to be hard. I expected to have to have a c-section. I didn't expect it to end early or land us in the NICU. Life always gets you that way.

But now, 6.5 months later, it's all beginning to fade. We are delighting in Kai's every trick and sound. She is wondorous -- that baby we always thought we would have. Plump, screaming, rolling, kicking, babbling. And, all of those awful NICU memories are fading fast. Like when people ask me what it feels like to have broken so many bones. I have no idea. It's as though it happened to someone else. And now, I am beginning to feel that way about the NICU. It wasn't so bad and it was obviously worth it. But, before I sink completely into the fog, I wanted to write it down. It wasn't easy, and it could have been so much worse. We could have been those people in the middle room. The room with the really sick babies. The babies that often didn't go home. We were so lucky... but, it might be time to walk away from the table. To cash in our good fortune. Read this post, dear Angie, before trying your luck again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Six Month Check Up

Kai had her six month check up today. She has been doing great for - well, since she was born, really! But, despite the fact that Kailey has been fierce and thriving since day 1, her scary start has made me into a bit of a freak (I was sort of predisposed to freakishness over such things... the NICU was just that little push I needed into ultra OCDville) about her growth, health, etc. So, I am always excited to go to the doctor and track her progress (officially track her progress... I, of course, have my own weekly weigh-in schedule and other obsessive charts and trackings that are, ahem, more informal).

Here's what we learned at the six month check up: In her doctor's words, "she is all caught up!" Kai moved from the 6th percentile at her last visit (on the growth charts) to the 34th percentile. In two months. Ouchy tiredness. But, woo hoo!! A 16 point gain (can you tell we spend a lot of time tracking polls? Go, Obama!) She weighed in at 15 lbs, 5.6 oz and was 24.25 inches tall. Kailey did her best to charm the doctor, babbling, making faces, and rolling around. I think it worked.

Kailey was also cleared for starting solids... I loaded up on books, a food mill, a food processor, and a bunch of new ice trays and baby cubes in anticipation of this doctor appointment. Of course, the doctor said to only introduce a new food every 7 days... so I think I may have been a bit ahead of myself. But, prepared is my middle name (or should be). I have a love of the parenthetical, apparently. I'll stop. Promise.

I guess that's all we learned at the doctor -- we spent forever talking to him, but there really isn't much else to report. I love Kailey's doctor (mostly because he spends forever talking to us... even though I often ask him the same questions I've already posed in emails (and he has already answered in emails) just because I want to double confirm the information I was given). Did I say I was going to stop using parentheticals? Apparently I meant I was going to try the parenthetical within the parenthetical. I'm out of control. In more ways than one.

After her apointment, we took her upstairs to get her six month vaccinations. While we were there, Eric and I went across the hall and got our flu shots. Kailey got 4 shots. We each got one, and then complained the whole way home about our aching arms. If Kailey could talk, she'd be telling us to suck it up. Poor, baby.

Here are a few pictures and a video - I love how Kailey talks to her toys.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Half Birthday!



Kai is six months old today -- hard to believe. She's changing so rapidly now, which seems even more rapid given how little change there was in her development for the first few months. But, Kai is determined to make up for lost time and catch up to her chronological age. She has continued to gain about an ounce a day and is now closing in on 15 lbs -- five times her birth weight!! People still comment on how small she is for her age, but I have learned to ignore such comments. They have no idea. I rarely tell people of her adjusted age anymore. When they say she is small, I just shrug and say, "not that small."

Kai is beginning to really take in the world around her, in her quiet, wide-eyed way. She is her most silent in a new situation (she really isn't a quiet baby overall... she can screech and babble with the best of them). But, in a new place, she just stops and stares... you can almost see her storing away all the new information. And then, once we're back on familiar turf, she starts screeching and babbling all over again.

She is now sitting up for about 30 seconds at a stretch unassisted and working ever-so-hard to pull herself into a sitting position from the floor (baby crunches); although, she can't do it. She can rotate in a circle on her belly, but has not managed to propel herself forwards or backwards yet.

She has a very discerning sense of humor (I think I've written about this before). Kailey, unlike most babies, is not amused by repetitive humor. Every once in awhile I'll do something that completely cracks her up, and then rush to do it again and again, expecting her to find it equally funny the more I do it (I've spent ample time with babies -- repetition is their thing, right?!) But, Kailey doesn't go for the joke after the second or third time. Rather, she cocks one eyebrow and looks at me sort of warily as if to say, "is that all you've got?" Eric is more successful at getting her to laugh - but, the repetitive humor doesn't work for him either (much to his chagrin - he is a champ at repetitive humor. I can't tell you how many times over the years I've said, "it was funny once"... um.... hmmm... maybe that's where she gets it from). But, really, Kailey thinks Eric is the funniest person on the planet. She laughs just to look at him and he can do most anything and get a reaction out of her! She is completely in love and awe of him... when he carries her around the house, she just gazes at him. It is heart meltingly cute.

Another person that Kailey finds to be quite amusing is Penny (and other children in general, but she has spent the most time with Penny) -- which is terrific, since she will be spending a lot of time with Penny next year because Doug is going to be watching Kailey come January!!! We are so very excited about this turn of events. The week that Kailey spent with Doug and Penny worked really well, and so we decided to make it a more permanent arrangement. Woo hoo!! Kailey is going to have such a great time next year.

Other things that Kai is really into -- books, textures, Oscar (she thinks he's pretty funny), watching people eat, her swing, her toys (especially the elephant rattle, the chain rattle, and her little lamb).

I don't think she has a lot of dislikes... she is less fond of carriers these days, unless she can face looking out. She likes to see what's going on. So, the Ergo carrier, which was my salvation for a few weeks, is no longer getting much use. I've moved onto the Baby K'Tan in the front facing position. She loves her stroller (Penny's stroller, really) and she loves outings in general. When I put her in her carseat, she gets ALL excited and then spends the entire car ride happily babbling to herself. It's quite amusing.

Six months. Feels longer and shorter at the same time. Happy half birthday, baby!

Here are some photos (I'll add more later because I have a couple of good videos and some other photos that I need to download from the camera, but I want to get this posted).

Holding her own bottle:


Taking in a book -- I love how she holds onto Eric's chin!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Back to Work

I've been trying to think of an update for a week now -- there is a lot going on, but there's no there there... if you know what I mean. Things have been happening, but it's mostly just been the laundry list of never-ending tasks that make up most days. I want a story - but, the last few weeks have been short on stories, long on tasks. So, I haven't updated. But, we're overdue -- so brace yourself for ramblings and laundry lists!

I am now back at work, which may account for why I'm feeling more like I'm just running through my to-do list. I only worked about three days this last week, but it felt like I was right back in it. My colleagues were really terrific while I was on leave and held off on asking me to do too much... but, now they know I'm back and so they're asking. I'm not complainig. There's a lot of work to be done, and it seems that everyone would like me to know about that work... right away. So, I'm going to be digging myself out of a hole for a bit. But, I see the quick reemergence as a good thing. It's like ripping off a band-aid, doesn't hurt if you just do it right away. In any case, it feels like I never missed a beat. I don't really understand how you can walk away from a job for five months and then come back in and feel like you never left -- maybe it's just that things are soooo slow in the legal world. And, of course, in part it's that no one is indispensable -- your job goes on without you, but also is always there for you when you are ready to jump back in. When your work is to try to make social change, there is always change to be had, but progress is incredibly slow... so, you can take 5 months off and then come back to the same problems and feel like you only took a weekend. Depressing, sure. But,it does makes one feel less bad for taking a bunch of time off.

I'm really glad that Eric is going to be home with her beginning in mid-October, and also slightly jealous that his leave is going to be during some of her big months, developmentally speaking. They are going to have a fantastic time together. And, I am so glad I live in California (where leave policies are so generous) and that I got to spend the last five months at home with Kailey. I had a terrific time -- I was never stir crazy, as I feared I would be. I'm also really lucky that I am being allowed to go back to my job with some added flexibility so that I can still have some extra alone time with Kai during the week (I'll be going back on a flex-schedule... a 4 day work week). And, I'm glad that Eric gets to do the same thing at his job (with the flex schedule) after his leave is over. We're lucky people.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Laughing it up

I love Kai's laugh -- it's very Goofy like. But, I haven't figured out her sense of humor. Kailey smiles readily (if she knows you... if she's just meeting you, she'll check you out for a bit first) and is generally very happy... but, to make her laugh, that is a talent.... a talent I don't seem to possess, much to my dismay. Her dad, on the other hand, cracks her up. I'm not sure what it is -- he doesn't seem to do anything especially funny (at least not funny to me, but I am clearly missing something). Anyway, here she is, laughing at Dad:


And, a few recent photos. I LOVE the red jacket that Katie and Becca got her. I almost want it to start raining so she can wear it every day -- but, it'd be good to finish the outdoor electrical and to cover up the hole that is still in the outside of the house (looking into the crawl space that will become our expanded bathroom) before the rains really start. So, ignore that sentiment. I should have learned by now not to tempt fate with this blog...




Thursday, September 18, 2008

Music Together

Kailey had her first music class this week. Kai - like most babies - loves music, so I thought it would be fun for her to play with instruments and meet other babies while listening to music. She hasn't spent much time around other babies (unless you count the NICU, which I don't). And, since she'll be starting daycare in a few months, this seemed like a good way to socialize her and get her used to the chaos that comes with being around a lot of other children.

Kai is a little slow to take to a new situation or new people- and this was full of both. We got to class (first, of course -- this is me we're talking about) and Kai was smiling and babbling away to me. As the other babies and parents streamed in, Kai got wide-eyed and silent. We went around and introduced ourselves and said how old our child was - the other babies were: 5.5 months, 6 months, 9 months, one year, a year and a half, and two. So, Kai was the youngest - although not by much. After introductions, we started singing and playing instruments. The whole time, Kai just sat in my lap (or my arms... if we were up dancing around) mouth agape and eyes wide. The other babies were everywhere -- babbling, grabbing the instruments, banging on whatever was closest. The 5.5 month old baby went for the big drum... and when he couldn't figure out how to bang it, decided to just mouth it. The 18 month old came over to Kai and started poking her belly and calling her "doll." Her mother kindly explained to her that Kai was a real baby, but she didn't seem to believe her. Kai continued to sit still. At one point the teacher said that all children have different learning styles and went on to explain, as she looked at me and Kai, that some kids are more visual learners and take things in for awhile before acting, preferring to sit back and observe. Maybe. Or maybe Kai just was in shock... this was a totally different environment then she had experienced before and she is, after all, an infant who is easily over-stimulated. Or she's just a bit anti-social, like her dear, old Mom.

By the end of the class, I was debating if we should keep going. I find singing and dancing in a group to be a little embarrassing, but was willing to do it if Kai would enjoy it. But, I wasn't sure if Kai liked it or if she just felt completely overwhelmed and over-stimulated (I was certainly feeling a bit of both of those things!). She hadn't started crying, which seemed to be a good sign. But, she wasn't smiling or babbling the way she does when she is really enjoying something, either. I was contemplating bagging the idea of music class as we got to the last song, when Kai started grinning ear to ear. After class was over, Kai took up a tambourine and shook it around, smiling all the while. Maybe she's a visual learner after all. Or she just decided that singing with other babies and instruments beats listening to me change the lyrics to every song I can think of all day long (an example, to the tune of itsy bitsy spider, "the wiley little kailey rolled over on her mat, when she got there, she cried and then she spat, oscar came and sniffed her and kailey got real mad, so oscar went away but he was really sad." You see what she deals with?

In any event, she isn't going to be a music school drop out just yet!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Roll, Baby, Roll - Part III



I finally captured Kailey rolling over on video. She has officially mastered this trick -- every time I leave the room, she is on her belly when I return. She can even roll over in her crib. And, she mastered the trick with her thumb in her mouth while executing the roll, despite my insistence that this was not going to work out for her. She showed me.



Kailey was disgruntled for the past week while working to master this trick (or, really, the last couple of weeks). So, I thought once she could do it effortlessly, she would be content. But, no -- now she is determined to get somewhere once she is on her belly. So, everytime we put her down, she immediately flips and then starts to try to move... but, to no avail. And, after a few minutes of not getting anywhere, she gets mighty frustrated and starts crying. If we pick her up, she just squirms to be put back down and starts all over again -- flip. wiggle. remain in the same place. cry. How do you tell a baby to just relax?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sept. 11, 2008

Seven years ago today, I was just beginning law school. It was our second full week of school on that Tuesday morning. It's so strange - Eric and I have completely different memories of where we were that morning and how we found out about the planes. As I recall it, we were on our way to the train station. Eric was going to drop me off at CalTrain, and continue onto Oakland where he worked. First, we went to Molly Stone's, the grocery store across the street, to get our daily cup of coffee and the woman at the counter said, "have you heard? A plane crashed into the World Trade Center." We didn't believe her, at first, but then we headed to the front of the store - where there was a television - and saw the footage, already playing over and over again. We ran back home. Amy was in town visiting us, and was getting ready to go to the airport. We rushed back in and she had already heard. We all sat on the couch watching the television in silence and then I had a panic attack -- I needed to get to law school. It's so weird that I was worried about being at school. I was so nervous about starting law school, but I don't think that was it. I think I just wanted to run away from the news. Eric and Amy drove me to Stanford and headed back home. Of course, classes were canceled that day, so I caught a ride home with a classmate. Once I got back home, we all sat and stared at the television for many, many more hours. We were in shock, along with the rest of the world.

By late afternoon, we couldn't take it anymore and we headed to the ocean. The ocean has always been the place that both Eric and I go whenever we need peace and the space to think. The vastness of the ocean, it's incredible power, the monotony of the waves, it's hypnotic energy -- we needed that. We needed to just stare out at something permanent and something bigger than ourselves. We barely spoke - except, I remember at one point Eric said, "well... there goes 2004." He was right. And the country has suffered so dearly as a result of those attacks - far beyond the death and destruction of the actual attacks. We lost our sense of direction on that day and our ability to evaluate the political, economic and social decisions of our leaders in a reasoned matter. Our collective judgment became clouded by fear and insecurity - and it cost us an election, our economy, and the lives of thousands more people than those of the people who died during the attacks on that day seven years ago. What it really cost us, ultimately, was our country.

Here it is, seven years later and this country is no longer recognizable to me. I feel like some bizarre bystander - watching chaos unfold around me, unable to do anything. We knew it was going to change everything on that day, seven years ago. Beyond the tragedy that was unfolding, we knew the real tragedy was how we would respond and how the events of that day would be used for political gain. I wasn't afraid of terrorists after 9/11, but I was afraid of the world we would create in the wake of 9/11. I was right to be afraid, but what has happened is so much worse than I imagined.

I hope we elect Barak Obama and I hope that he can make some dent in undoing the damage that has been done. There is finally a glimmer of hope - 7 years later. Let's hope we get there.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Roll, Baby, Roll - Part 2

Kailey rolled from her back to her tummy yesterday for the first time. She's been working on this skill for the last couple of weeks, but until yesterday, she would always get to the point where she had pinned her arm underneath her belly and then discover that her thumb was right there and get distracted. She's only actually completed the roll once, but hopefully I'll capture it on video soon.

Here's a video of Kai's attempt at rolling over... she doesn't quite succeed in this video (I still haven't gotten her rolling on video). You can see here how she gets distracted by her fingers! And, just so you know, while she seems disgruntled in the video, all she wants to do lately is try to roll over - although, she spends a good deal of time complaining about it! As soon as I pick her up, she squirms and cries until I put her back down so she can try again...



And, here's a video of Kailey "talking" with Eric. She loves using her voice! I have this astrology book that gives the personality for each day of the year, and Kai's day is the "Day of Serious Purpose" and the first paragraph says, "These are definitely people who expect to be listened to when they speak. As a matter of fact, being ignored in any manner is extremely difficult for them to handle." So young, and already so true!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

2 Years of Homesteading

Two years. We've just hit the two year anniversary of when we moved into our house. I would say it's been a wild ride - which it has - but that also seems to be par for the course for Eric and me. We are worker bees -- always in need of a project. But, in the last two years, the number of projects we have taken on all at once has hit a new high. I know I've written about it before -- but, I'm about to again. This blog allows me to chronicle where we've been and where we're going - and I really like that. I used to be a big journaler. Starting after my car accident when I was 12, I became an avid journal keeper. It was my way of processing life. But, those journals were the journals of a distressed teenager trying to deal with all the emotions and turmoil of growing up. I stopped journaling when I was about 21. I didn't need that outlet anymore -- I had a good sense of myself and where I was going and how I was going to get there. And I didn't miss it. But, now I have this blog - which I started for the sole purpose of keeping friends and family informed about our pregnancy and Kailey's adventures. However, now that I have it, it's become a tool to keep track of what we've done. I'm especially glad I've had it this year because this year has been insane. A year I don't want to repeat, but I also don't want to forget. So, it's nice to have the journal.

I don't want to forget all that we've done since we got this house, either. I think buying a house kicked us into overdrive. Well, the house and then the impending arrival of Kai. It was really Kai that kicked us into overdrive. But, long before we'd decided to have a baby, we'd come up with a blueprint for the house. We had conversations about everything you could do to the house in the 11 days between our first viewing and the time when the ink dried on the papers committing us to this massive undertaking. We knew we'd be redoing the kitchen. Obviously. When you buy a house without a kitchen, you're committing yourself to building a kitchen (well, one would think that would be true... of course, this house was built in 1925 and no one in the previous 81 years had seen the need for a kitchen). But, there were many projects beyond the kitchen. We could paint the living room and add lighting (it is nice to have a light or two in the room where you spend most of your time). We could remodel the bathroom and add a bathtub. Landscape the yard and build a wraparound deck. Remodel the garage and add a second story that would serve as our office/guesthouse. Add a deck to the upper yard and a hot tub (now, why was this not our first project?!). Make the closet in our bedroom more functional. Convert the basement into something else. We had a lot of ideas; although, we were a bit short on the other two essential ingredients for massive remodels: time and money. But, we'd figure it out. We always do.

We were warned when we bought the house that we shouldn't just dive into the projects. We should live in it awhile and think about what we really wanted to do -- so that we didn't end up regretting any of our decisions and have to circle back and redo something. That seemed like sage advice, and so we moved into the house with no kitchen, no lights in the living room, depressing tannish walls, a backyard that encroached on the house making it feel like we were living in a cave despite the fact that we were up a big hill, a moldy bathroom, and a whole host of other issues. We moved in and started planning. We started visiting kitchen and bathroom showrooms and appliance stores; went to open houses in our neighborhood to see what others had done with their homes; talked to architects. real estate agents, builders, plumbers, electricians, and designers to get their advice on our space; created a blueprint of our house (here I use the royal "we" since I am not one for drawing things, particularly if they need to be to scale); and talked and talked and talked and talked about what we should do.

After all that talking -- we started working. And, I want to try to capture all that we've done in these first two years. Feel free to skip this -- it's really for us. I just want to chronicle it all before I forget.

Winter 2006
The only project we took on that first winter was the wedgewood stove. The house was advertised as having a wedgewood stove - as if that was a selling point! As soon as we moved in, we started talking about how to get it out. First of all, it was enormous. It was 46" wide, I remember that for some reason. Our house is cozy (aka tiny)... who wants a stove that is nearly 4' across in a house that is shy of 700 square feet? And, it leaked gas. A lot. In fact, about 8 weeks after we moved in, I was home alone on a Sunday. Eric was at work and I was trying to watch TV or some such thing and decided I was TIRED of smelling gas. So, I called the gas company and told them it smelled a bit of gas and wondered if they might be able to come fix it. Yes, right away, they replied. And boy, did they mean it. 15 minutes later there was a gas guy at the house. On a Sunday. I guess having your house smelling of gas is not a good thing. I didn't mention to him that this wasn't exactly a new smell. He came into the house with his little gas detector and flipped it on and the thing started bleeping and spurting -- it sounded like it was yelling "emergency! emergency!" The closer he got to the stove, the more the little gas-o-meter worked itself into a frenzy. I was promptly told that we would no longer have a functioning stove. He capped it and asked me how to get into the basement, at which point I got a little nervous. I didn't really want him turning off our gas completely. It was winter and it was cold, and the house was heated by a (very, very old) gas furnace (which was precisely why I didn't want to go in the basement). But, I didn't really see how I could keep him out of the basement, so downstairs we went and as soon as we got inside, his little meter started going insane again. He threatened to turn off the gas and I turned on my helpless female charms (you do what you have to do in some situations) and begged him to fix it, which he ultimately did.

All of that is a long way of saying that our first house project was ridding the house of the leaky gas smell. Our second project was getting rid of that wedgewood stove, which was no small task given where we live. There are 35 steps winding their way to our front door. And, as if that's not enough, the steps are uneven and take a couple of turns. It is not the easiest house to move things in and out of -- particularly 46" wide wedgewood stoves that weighs about a ton. We tried selling the thing on craigslist, and got no takers. Then we tried giving it away to anyone that would get it the hell out of our house. We had many people interested in that offer, until they came to the house and saw what would be involved. No one actually took the stove.

It was clear we were going to have to get the damn thing out ourselves (and, as you are probably used to by now, when I say "ourselves" I am including myself as a supportive observer... or, in this case, the terrified non-observer who was hiding in the office waiting to hear a gigantic crash as the stove entered the roof of our garage). Eric got the thing out single-handedly (well, nearly single-handedly) by hoisting it onto a dolly (I helped with that), wheeling it out the back door, setting up a belay system with his rock climbing gear and this pulley thing he bought, and hoisting it down the hill one agonizing click at a time. It was working beautifully until we realized the pulley system was meant for a straight-away, but it was not so good at corners. We had the stove suspended in the air, just past the first turn it needed to take and we had just decided to cut the rope and let the stupid stove go tumbling down the hill when our neighbor came up the stairs and offered to help Eric wrestle it down the rest of the way. It was a scary day -- but the stove was out!



Spring 2007
By spring, it felt like we were never going to get out of the planning phase with our house projects. We needed to start! So, in February of 2007, we decided to start small. Sort of. We decided to paint the living room. Which is to say, initially we decided to paint the living room. And then we decided that as long as we were at it, we should add lighting. And baseboards. And reroute the thermostat to the hallway because it looked ugly on the wall in the living room. And get rid of this old alarm system that had been installed into one of the walls and served no purpose. And paint the bathroom and install the bathroom fan because, well, because we needed to. It really had nothing to do with the living room. Our simple paint job became a more complicated project to transform the living room walls completely and also work on the bathroom.

Before we got started on our first, real project!!, we needed to decide on a lighting plan. Back to the planning!! We started visiting lighting stores. We visited so many lighting stores. Numerous times. The poor people that worked at the lighting stores that we visited most frequently thought we were insane. They just started ignoring us when we came in to have the same conversation, once again. Did we want recessed lighting? Wall sconces? Those cool lights that hang down from the ceiling? How many lights did we want? Where should they be placed? We would show people our plans, they'd give us advice, and we'd be back the next week to bother them again with the same questions. They hated us. But, the planning was important, if infuriating. We almost went with recessed lighting. I'm so glad we didn't. After many (oh so many) weeks, we finally decided on wall sconces. And then we took it a step further and had them custom designed and picked out hand-blown glass. Our little $200 paint job had just gotten ten times more expensive.

And that was when it became clear to both of us how these house projects were going to proceed. We would plan (endlessly) and devise a budget that we would swear we would stick to, we would start small and make sure that we only took on as much as we could finish, especially given that we'd be doing nearly all the work ourselves. And then we'd start planning and it would, indeed, be endless. And then we would derail. As soon as we got past the planning phase and into the implementation phase, we'd blow the budget, pick out the nicest things because you only remodel once, expand each project into several projects, and be completely crunched for time and panicked to finish the damn thing before the rains, baby, earthquake (fil in the blank!) hit.

So, we blew the budget on the living room and got really nice lighting, but we did manage to finish the actual work of the living room in about a month, which was consistent with biting off what we could chew. That was the last time in our adventures in house remodeling that we managed to finish our project within our timeline without some mini-disaster striking first.

By the end of the spring of 2007, we had a new living room. Well, a new color and new lights. And, we've been enormously pleased with the result in the living room. The bathroom is another story. Picking paint colors is a bit of an art - an important art. We've now painted four rooms in our house (living room, bathroom, kitchen and Kai's room) and I love all of the rooms EXCEPT the bathroom. The bathroom glows the green we picked is so bright. We thought that would be good... brighten it up a bit. We were wrong. Luckily, we will be redoing the bathroom one of these days and painting again in the process. Next time we'll pick a better color. But, the heater/fan that Eric installed in the bathroom is awesome and has prevented the odd fungus plant that was growing out of our walls from reemerging. So, the bathroom work was not a total waste.

These pics show the lights and the wall color pretty nicely:




Summer and Fall 2007
In the summer of 2007, we started debating what project to take on next: the yard or the kitchen. The kitchen seemed the obvious project. After all, it had been nearly a year of living with no cabinets or counters... and our food budget was out of control with all of our dining out. But, by the same token, we'd made it nearly a year without a kitchen and it was summertime! Why do an indoor project in the summer when we had so many outdoor projects to do, we reasoned. So, we decided to tackle the yard and undertook Operation Move the Backyard into the Front yard. Seriously. That was our idea for the yard. Not a bit of landscaping or weed pulling. We wanted to literally move the backyard into the front yard. Bucket by painful bucket.

Why? Well, we live in the middle of a steep hill, which used to mean that when you walked out our backdoor you were faced with, well, a hill. A large, unlandscaped hill. It felt like it was closing in on us. We have this beautiful window in our living room looking out to the backyard, but when we moved in all you could see was a retaining wall overfilled with dirt. We wanted a view, even if the view was only of 5 more feet of space. So, we decided we needed to bring the hill down and away from the house. Over the course of the summer, Eric and I would recall, many times, the meeting we had with our inspector prior to buying the house when he told us, "you could do a lot with this place... you just need to get a couple of shovels." As it turned out, a couple of shovels was insufficient. We also needed a pick axe. And a bucket. Or, in phase one of the project, a 32 gallon garbage can and, in phase two, a wheelbarrow.

We spent every weekend of the summer of 2007 pick axing, digging, filling the can or wheelbarrow about halfway full, and then lugging it down the steps (or hill) to the front yard, dumping it out, and repeating (and this time when I say we I mean it. I lugged every can and helped to dig every hole for those retaining walls). Over and over and over again -- I have no idea how many trips we made. We broke some of our concrete steps, we went over them so many times. We raised the front yard up about 4 feet all the way across. We also cut back the roof that covered our back porch, to bring in more sunshine and make the yard feel more open. We will probably cut it back even more, but we've had other priorities in the yard.

Of course, all that digging also meant that we needed to build some walls to hold in our new front yard and hold back our new backyard. By the summer's end, we had built the retaining walls in the front yard, which was no easy task. When you build a wall, the goal is for it to be straight and sturdy. To do that, you want to draw a line, squared to the house, that marks where the wall will go and then dig holes at 3 foot intervals about 4 - 5 feet down, which you will later fill with posts and concrete in order to hold up your wall. Sounds simple, if laborious. But, when you have a massive oak tree in your front yard with roots going every which way, it is much harder to dig those holes. We would start digging and get about 2 or 3 feet down and discover a new root, and have to start all over again. We reset the line a few times. We spaced the holes a little unevenly. We probably dug about 20 holes to get the 11 we needed, but eventually we got a row of post holes dug down and finished our first walls.

By the time we got the front yard walls built, the summer was over and the yard was far from complete. We still had a lot of digging to do in the backyard and some very important retaining walls to build before the rains started in order to keep the backyard hill from washing into our house. So, by September we were a little panicked and then we found out I was pregnant, meaning I would no longer be able to help out to the same degree as before. And then, to top it all off, the rains came early. When the first rainstorm hit, we had just finished digging the postholes for the two retaining walls we needed to build in the backyard. Those holes were insane -- we had used an auger to drill about 5 feet down, and when the rains came, they filled up with water. Eric had to rush home from work and spent the afternoon steeped in mud, using the hose to siphon out the water (and getting a good bit of it in his mouth). After that storm, we got the posts in place and then bought a massive tarp (it was twice the size of our house) and covered the entire backyard and our roof. I wish I had pictures of that thing. It was amazing. We got the rest of the walls us before the serious storms of the season hit -- but, it was stressful.

The yard still isn't done, but by the beginning of winter of 2007 it was secure and we had made a lot of progress. Some before and after shots.

The front yard before:



The front yard after:





The backyard before:





During the backyard dig (before the walls went up):





Building the backyard walls:





Winter 2007 - Spring 2008
Once the rains started, we decided to move our work indoors and start on the kitchen, which meant pulling out the ten thousand designs we had started back in the fall of 2006 and picking one. Or, drawing another ten thousand designs and, then, picking one. We spent December with our IKEA software drawing design after design. Should we move the bathroom? Pop out the house? Get rid of the backdoor? Put the living room at the back of the house and the kitchen at the front? Move the front door to the side of the house? Bulldoze the whole thing and start over? We were getting crazy... and the clock was seriously ticking. Thank goodness I was pregnant - who knows what manner of craziness we would have taken on had we believed we had unlimited amounts of time. But, with the baby coming, we knew we needed to be reasonable and stick largely to the current blueprint.

The other thing we (royal we) did while plotting out our new kitchen was clean out and insulate the attic. Our first winter in the house has been COLD. We live in California. We used to live in D.C. where it gets seriously cold. So, we know cold. OK - we know D.C. cold. We don't know New Hampshire cold. Or Minnesota cold. But, whatever -- we knew that California was, by all accounts, warm and yet our house was ICY. We needed to insulate the attic, and so while I made design after lousy design for the kitchen (lousy because the design we ultimately went with was not one of mine), Eric spent his nights and weekends up in the attic battling spiders and all matter of debris. That was a nasty project. I know it was nasty because Eric would come down from the attic covered in dust and grossness -- I never went up there. Here are some photos of his attic project:





With the attic insulated and a design selected, we dug into the kitchen. I've written at length about our kitchen remodel here, so I won't go into the details again. But, as you know, it was all manner of craziness.

Summer 2008
And today, nearly two years after we moved in, we were back out in the yard digging back into the digging (ha ha... I crack myself up). We're hoping to get the digging finished before the rains start, so that we are ready to build the decks come spring. And, this winter, if we're feeling ambitious (and aren't we always?), we'll turn to the bathroom. Kailey needs a bathtub, after all.