Monday, June 30, 2014

That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles

I kept telling myself that Zuzu's party was going to be low-key and I wasn't going to stress about details. To some extent, that was true, but I should have just let myself get a little more type-A in the planning (as I did with her first birthday) because then I wouldn't have spent Saturday wishing that it didn't exhaust me to climb up and down the basement stairs as I looked for various baskets and party supplies in the storage closet because I would have had all that stuff lined up ages ago.

And I might have been able to avoid bursting into the tears over The Cookie Incident of 2014.

But probably not.

We didn't really have a theme for this party beyond "plish-plash-plash!" as Zuzu would say, but Zu was pretty excited about being "2" and is also a big fan of saying "ready, set, go!" (or sometimes "set, ready, go!" before jumping into the pool or sliding down the slide. So I got pretty freaking adorable invitations that said, "Ready - Set - 2!" and featured a picture of her splashing in the fountain at the park. Cute, right?

Since it was a morning splash party (9:30-11:30am), I decided that party treats would be breakfasty, but I was not going to go overboard. I had mini-yogurts, fresh fruit cups, and blueberry muffins. Juice boxes for kids, juice bottles for adults, and a nice big dispenser of lemon water. Instead of picking up cheap party favors that no one needed, I'd send the guests home with a lovely bakery-decorated cookie that had the number 2 on it.

I was envisioning something like this:

And while I've been very happy with Etsy purchases in the past, I was sure that I could get this made locally and save on the shipping costs. So two and a half weeks out, I went into a local bakery to get some cupcakes as a thank-you to Zuzu's teachers in the classroom she transitioned out of, and I asked about their cookie decorating. The girl working the counter gave me a card and told me to e-mail the owner with a picture of what I wanted in order to get a quote. So I did, and I waited to hear back from her.

Except I never heard back! So after giving her almost a week, I decided I'd better get a move on. But then we were in Nevada and then my brother was in town and I kept thinking about it and then it would slip my mind. Suddenly it was the Monday before her birthday and all the bakeries were closed (seriously, that's like a thing). So on Tuesday I started making phone calls.

The first place I called said their cookie decorator was out and wouldn't be back until Thursday or maybe Wednesday and didn't know if I could still put in an order for Saturday at that point.

The second place I called said they needed at least a week's notice and Tuesday to Saturday was not sufficient.

I was starting to feel panicky. I e-mailed some friends asking for advice and one of them suggested just buying predecorated cookies (instead of custom-made) from a local bakery. This seemed like a good idea, so I googled a couple grocery stores to see if they'd have photos online. A local chain close to my house said on their website that they do custom cookie decorating.

I crossed my fingers and called to ask if they could do sugar cookies with white frosting and pink 2's and if I could pick them up on Saturday. The lady assured me that was no problem. The cost was less than half of a fancy bakery, and I basically felt like I was super smart and The Best Mom and Problem Solver Ever.

Fast-forward to Saturday, when I decided to both paint a dresser for Rerun (a zillion details on that project later) AND to clean out / reorganize my closet (you think I'm nesting?). I had a very short list of things we still needed from the store, so I sent David to the grocery store to pick up the cookies during Zuzu's nap while I finished up my painting and sorting. When he got home, I was still hard at work upstairs. Zuzu napped late and by the time she woke up and I cleaned up, it wasn't until after 5pm that I went downstairs and saw the cookies.

Oh. My. Word.

Remember, I was expecting this:

And I got this:

Somehow they looked even worse in person.
I could not believe David paid money for these. Like seriously? How did he not take one look at them and declare them unacceptable? Or at least call me and text me a photo and make sure this was what I wanted. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? They 2's look like lower-case a's! The white frosting isn't even spread evenly! WTF???

(My best friend's husband said that he would have paid for the cookies, too. He says daddies just do it diff'rent.)

So David brings home a dozen cookies that look WORSE than they would have if I'd decorated them myself WHILE DRINKING HEAVILY.

I realize now that my expectations were far too high for a grocery store bakery. I don't know what I was thinking. I'd never ordered anything like that from the grocery store bakery before. I just assumed they were PROFESSIONALS. Who know that a 2 doesn't look like a lower case "a." And who can at LEAST spread frosting smoothly and evenly over a sugar cookie. WRONG AND WRONG.

And you know how you know that cookies don't really matter in the grand scheme of things, and at least I have a healthy, happy little girl whose birthday we are celebrating?

I know this, too.

And I still burst into tears.

This was the only "special" detail at the party since I wasn't decorating at the park, and I enjoy and care about details! I had totally dropped the ball and screwed it up and even though Zuzu wouldn't remember, I would remember, and so basically the party was RUINED before it even began.

David immediately started trying to problem-solve. He told me to look up a frosting recipe and said that we'd buy plain sugar cookies and frost them ourselves. I cried that I didn't have the time/energy/skill for anything like that and he said that he would do it. Then he looked at some decorated cookies online and suggested we use our duck-shaped cookie cutter and he would decorate cookies that looked like little ducks. So I took a deep, shuddering breath and told him as nicely as possible that we both know he doesn't have the fine motor skills for that shit.

Then I added that I just needed to take some time to cry about this before we started brainstorming about how to fix it.

Once I managed to pull myself together, we headed for Whole Foods to follow my friend's original suggestion to just buy pre-decorated sugar cookies in whatever shape or design they already had made. Miraculously, their bakery case had exactly 8 non-broken sugar cookies, professionally decorated to look like sea horses (or "sea creatures" as one cute little party guest called them). They weren't the cutest cookies I'd ever seen (see the "sea creatures" comment above), but they were a hell of a lot cuter than the monstrosity of sloppy 2/a's David had brought home.

seahorse in a baggie
As we were checking out at Whole Foods, David caught me eye-balling a package of organic mini blueberry muffins on a table nearby. I had planned to bake my own muffins with a delicious recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and while I am not much for cooking, I can usually bake things with moderate success (I prefer baking because the instructions are usually much more specific and exact).

David looked at me, looked at the muffins, and said, "Buy them." I started to protest, "But I was going to make homemade muffins for her party--" He cut me off. "Buy them."

And he was right. Not only was I worn out from painting and organizing, but I was also emotionally drained from the cookie saga. Not to mention the unplanned family trip to Whole Foods had taken a chunk of time out of our evening. I already had all the ingredients for the muffins, but guess what? No one but me was really going to care. The people coming to the party are my friends so it's not like they're judging me. And Zuzu liked them just fine. (If you're wondering why I couldn't have the same attitude about the cookie, please keep in mind that the muffins LOOKED just as cute as ones I could have baked at home.)

So I served store-bought muffins. But I felt better knowing they were organic! (Whatever that's worth when you're talking about mass-produced bakery items). Still, I put them in cute little paper cups! And I washed and cut the berries and pineapple for the fruit cups, which were a success (meaning, I didn't slice my fingers off and people--including the birthday girl--ate them and appeared to enjoy them). And my cute little wooden spoons arrived on Saturday (thank you, Amazon prime) so I was able to serve mini yogurts with wooden spoons which pleased me because I care about details.

(But the truth is that I enjoy painting furniture and doing projects around the house--even cleaning!--far more than I enjoy spending time in the kitchen. I keep thinking this will change as I get older but so far... not so much.)

Let my birthday drama be a lesson to you: Order bakery sugar cookies WELL IN ADVANCE. And pick them up yourself, lest your husband pays for something that you would never in a million years want to serve to party guests.

Finally, I must confess: the 2 cookies sure look like hell, but they actually taste pretty damn good.

Friday, June 27, 2014

34 Weeks 3 Days and the Wolf at the Door

You would think that three and a half years into this grief thing that I would start to learn a thing or two and, I dunno, be better prepared for grief triggers or something?

One of the the things I should know from experience and from talking to other bereaved parents is that the significant date--whether it's a child's birthday or some other anniversary--is often not as brutally difficult as the day that comes before it. Maybe it's because what we're truly grieving is the way things were that day, the day before everything fell apart and the whole world shifted forever.

But the other thing about grief is that no matter how familiar it becomes, it remains both unpredictable and irresistible. My friend Jess recently e-mailed me a link to an excerpt from an interview with Stephen Colbert (the real guy, not "Stephen Colbert" the character). He talks about grief in relation to losing his father and his two older brothers when he was ten years old. This is one of the things he says:

The interesting thing about grief, I think, is that it is its own size. It is not the size of you. It is its own size. And grief comes to you. You know what I mean? I've always liked that phrase He was visited by grief, because that's really what it is. Grief is its own thing. It's not like it's in me and I'm going to deal with it. It's a thing, and you have to be okay with its presence. If you try to ignore it, it will be like a wolf at your door.

That description of grief really resonates with me: "She was visited by grief." Not "She had a bad day." or "She was feeling sad." Grief is its own thing. And it shows up, sometimes when invited and sometimes when totally unexpected. And sometimes its presence is so familiar that it's almost comforting, offering a release of emotions that have been pent-up for too long. And sometimes it's a total bastard that just takes you out at the knees.

34 weeks and 3 days is how far along I was when I went into labor with Eliza. When, despite all my research and preparation, I had no effing idea what was going on with my body or my baby, and I could hardly believe how fast my labor progressed and how quickly my life turned upside down when that doctor looked at me with sympathetic eyes and said, "I'm sorry, but there's no heartbeat. I don't know when it happened, but your baby has died."

My baby. My Baby Duck. I had her for 34 weeks and 3 days and then she was gone. A loss completely unexpected and completely unexplained--how do we make this pregnancy go right when we don't know what went wrong?

Naturally, I was afraid today would be hard--34 weeks and 3 days into this pregnancy. Having one healthy baby has helped, but those fears aren't gone by any means. I'm not so naive that I think the worst couldn't happen again. I've dreaded this day of my pregnancy since the moment I saw two pink lines.

But of course I should have known it wouldn't be today, but instead last night when grief showed up and I fell apart. I lay in bed, feeling Rerun kick and squirm and push against me and I sobbed and wailed and bawled because how could I not have known something was wrong? How could my intellect and my intuition fail me and my baby so profoundly? How is it possible that I couldn't save her? How could I have continued to think everything was okay when it was so completely the opposite of that? How have we gone on without her? How did I ever survive losing my baby?

These questions have no answers, and my guilt and regrets have no limits. I can't pinpoint the particular moment with Eliza when everything turned to dust and ashes, but that doesn't mean that I don't wish every day I could go back and do something differently to keep her here with us.

And so grief visited me the day before I expected it (because I'm not good at learning lessons about how grief works, I guess), and it basically kicked my ass.

Today--THE day--was an easier day. I gave a midterm. I felt the baby kicking while my students took their exam. I had lunch and went to an estate sale with a friend. I came home to a napping baby and when she woke up we all walked to the park together. I did a kick count when we got home. We ate stir fry for dinner and Zuzu colored in her high chair and David and I decided to paint the kitchen next week. I cleaned up the little side table I bought at the estate sale. We put Zuzu to bed, and after being quite the daddy's girl these days, tonight when David put her in her crib and tried her pat her back, she said, "No, Daddy. Mama do my back." And so I rubbed her back and sang "Rock-a-bye" and now David's putting together her play kitchen and Cooper's snoozing on the sofa and I'm typing this and Rerun's moving around.

As days go, this was a good one.

Grief is still here, visiting. He's not kicking my ass, but he's made himself at home. I expect he'll linger for a while, probably accompanied by Fear and Dread and Anxiety--like a damn allegorical play. It's exhausting, yes, but you can't ignore grief. If nothing else, at least I've figured out that it's easier to acknowledge its presence than to try to pretend there's not a wolf at the door.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Weekend with Uncle Buck

My brother and his girlfriend arrived on Friday. My brother's name is Brandon. His family nickname is Bubs. I call him "Uncle Bubs" when I talk about him to Zuzu. Zuzu pronounces this as "Unca Buck." I think this is awesome.

So Uncle Buck and his girlfriend, Jo, came to town. We took them to dinner downtown because they were planning to go to the City Museum after dinner. Unfortunately, we got a sudden downpour while we were in the restaurant and they decided not to go to the museum until the next day because the y wanted to be able to climb on the outdoor jungle gym. Also the restaurant we chose was more of a pub and I didn't think the food was very good.

Because the point of a pub is the pints, not the food. Obvy.
On the plus side, Zuzu was well-behaved at dinner (moderate pouring of the salt shaker onto the table notwithstanding) so maybe someday I'll convince David that we can actually go out to dinner more often than once in a blue moon.

Saturday morning we let Uncle Buck and Jo sleep in and we headed to the park for a Stroller Derby and 5K put on by Zuzu's daycare. It was hot-hot-HOT by 10:00am but I got crazy and decided to walk the Stroller Derby 1K. I was slow and had to pee desperately by the time it was over, but I made it! (I also got a nice compliment on my baby bump from an older lady who was walking in the park.)

Bonus fun for those who can imbibe: We won the raffle drawing for a 12-pack of beer and a gift certificate to a local brewery!

Buck & Jo came up to the park and met us at the Farmers Market, so we pushed around a stroller with a 12-pack of beer in the basket (#keepingitklassy) and let Zuzu splash in the splash pad and kiddie pool.

The only problem was that I'd put Zuzu's swim suit, rash guard, and swim diaper in a wet bag by the back door because I am such an Organized Mom. But I hadn't actually put that bag IN the diaper bag. David grabbed the diaper bag on his way to the car with Zuzu but left the wet bag, and I walked out of the house without noticing the wet bag had gotten left behind. So we got to the splash pad and discovered no swim suit. (Fortunately her sunscreen was in the diaper bag.)

When you've promised Zuzu the opportunity "splish-splash!" you don't let something small like the lack of a swim suit prevent you from splish splashing. So she hit the splash pad in her navy-blue shorts and STL Cardinals t-shirt (which she had worn so she and David could be Cardinal themed for the stroller derby). #keepingitklassy. I said, "Maybe she won't get that wet," just as she ran to the fountain and stood directly under the streaming water, cackling with delight. She looked like a little boy (and like a total ragamuffin) but she didn't care. An old man asked David if our "little guy" was excited about the new baby. Haha.

Our "little guy" at the park.
We didn't have dry clothes to change her back into, so once we were ready to go (and I use the word "we" to refer to David, Buck, Jo, and I, because Zuzu insisted she wanted "No bye-bye! More splish-splash!"), we rinsed her off in the outdoor shower and dressed her in a clean diaper and the Youth Size Small t-shirt she'd gotten from the stroller derby, which fit like a huge night shirt. #stillkeepingitklassy

After the park, Zuzu and I both napped and then it was time for fun on the patio! David set up the playhouse that Grammy and Bops gave her for her birthday, and put the slide they got her in her kiddie pool.

Saturday night there was a concert and food trucks in our local park (the one within walking distance from our house) so we had invited a few people over for drinks before heading up to the park. We sat around sipping limeade (for me) and sangria or beer (for everyone else) and watched Zuzu throw herself down the slide over and over again, blow bubbles, and draw with sidewalk chalk.

This slide is the BEST!

She got Uncle Buck to blow bubbles with her.

Jo brought sidewalk chalk! Awesome!
Uncle Buck is super fun!
But nothing ends a patio party like someone pooping her pants!

I had gone inside to change my clothes in preparation of going the park and when I came back out, Cooper totally called Zuzu out--in fact, Uncle Buck was actually getting onto him because Coop was sniffing and trying to lick Zuzu's butt. Gag gag gag. A quick peek confirmed that both our dog and our daughter are disgusting--one for desiring to eat feces and the other for running around with it in her swimsuit. (The dog is obviously grosser, but still.)

Zuzu had a quick bath and we headed to the park for Grub & Groove. Zuzu was blown away by a Bubble Bus that was just pouring out bubbles into the air. David walked her over to check it out while I claimed a picnic spot and everyone else scattered to find the food they wanted. He said that the grass around the bubble bus was so slippery with soap that kids were falling down--Zuzu fell on her bottom and David almost did!

Zu had her first taste of blue icy, thanks to Jo, (Zuzu loves Jo. And she was shocked by the cold at first but then loved it) and we listened to a pop music cover band that was really pretty good.

David was really psyched for the classic country cover band that was supposed to start at 8pm, but by 6:45, Buck had decided that the heavy humidity and hot temperatures were too much for him, and he and Joanna headed home to get their car and go to the City Museum. The rest of us planned to stay, hoping that the breeze would pick up.

Just about that time, the breeze did pick up, and actually got nice and cool, but it was because there were ominous clouds rolling in from the west. Just as the pop music was ending, they announced that we were under a severe thunderstorm warning and that everyone should "take precautions." So that was the end of our evening the park. Everyone scattered and we were packing up our blanket and chairs as quickly as possible to get everything back home.

I wasn't worried about getting wet--it probably would have felt good at that point, but the wind was blowing so hard that small twigs and branches were snapping from trees. On our walk back home, a twig actually blew into Zuzu's face as she rode in the stroller, and then we saw a bigger branch fall on a truck. So David ran ahead with Zuzu to get her in out of the storm and I waddled as fast as I could.

Fortunately, the lightening and thunder didn't really start until we got home, and the heavy rain held off until about 8pm, so our friends were able to make a break for home in their cars before the storm really hit.

Buck and Jo's plans to go to the museum were shot and we were all a little hungry, so instead we got take out Mexican from the restaurant on the corner and let Zuzu entertain us with her antics until it was past her bedtime.

Uncle Buck reading about Baby Jesus
The weekend ended too quickly and we had to tell Uncle Buck and Jo bye-bye as they headed home. Since then we've worked on potty training (resulting in my duvet having to be laundered and the tub having to be thoroughly cleaned), we've watched Orange is the New Black, and I've started working on the dresser makeover I have in mind for Rerun's space (stay tuned for those updates!). I've also been working on plans for our splash party this weekend (HOW is it possible that Zuzu is turning 2?).  So anyway, we're doing stuff. And having fun doing it. Summer is the best.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pregnancy, Party, and Other Updates

A few updates on this hot and humid day in June:

* I'm past hump-day on the first week of my summer class! We're almost finished with Hamlet. Each day my students have to (1) read (2) take an online (open-book, open-notes, open-internet) quiz and (3) write a journal entry about an act of the play. They also get graded on participation in class discussion. So far, grades range from 100% to 35%. What can I say? QUIZZES ARE OPEN-BOOK, OPEN-GOOGLE. And participation grades are mostly based on whether you talk, not whether you actually contribute something useful to discussion. So... they are in control of their destinies is what I am saying.

* Every time I teach Hamlet, I love it more. I also love this article on grief and Hamlet. My interpretation of the play (this time around at least) is slightly different--I just don't see Hamlet quite as worked up about the death of his dad as he is concerned about whom his mother is sleeping with (incestuous, much?) but I still love everything this article says about how hard it is to grieve when the rest of the world thinks you should be moving on.

* I want a ceramic garden stool. It's my new obsession. I want to use it as a side table or occasional seat in my front room. I want it to be bright coral or yellow or maybe green. Joss & Main is having a great sale on them but I haven't pulled the trigger because instead I ordered this:

* Surprise! Zuzu's second birthday gift from Mama & Daddy is a play kitchen. Because I want to foster the feminine arts of domesticity, naturally. Or just give her something to do that involves air conditioning and me not having to run to keep up with her because (1) I'm carrying an extra 30 pounds (2) my friend sciatica is back and (3) boob sweat (see (1)).

* Somewhat related: Zuzu's birthday gift from my parents is an outdoor playhouse I found on Kansas City Craigslist. I asked my BFF and her husband to pick it up in his truck, negotiate a lower price with seller, and drive it to my parents' house in Nevada. (Although my mom actually paid for it.) Now I'm having my brother and his girlfriend drive it to St. Louis (via Kansas City, coincidentally) this weekend, on their way to visit us before they head back to Pittsburgh. Because there is no one that I won't inconvenience in the name of Zuzu's birthday bash!

* Speaking of which: We decided to have Zuzu's party at a splash pad at a local park. It's going to be super low-key--I invited only a handful of people, and only half of them can make it. I'm not stressing about food or decorations (if I keep saying it, it will magically become true). We're just going to hang out and watch the kids splash. I think it will be really fun.

* Quick pregnancy update: Going well. No news is good news at this point. I'm still having weekly NSTs and so far they have all been good. I do kick counts every day at home, but I'm not as obsessive as I was last time (they all had to be at the exact same time of day and I used the Baby Kicks app on my phone every. single. time.). I will record the kicks on the app if I have my phone near me, but sometimes I'll just count as I'm lying in bed reading or lounging on the couch watching Orange is the New Black. Last time I was SO ANXIOUS for the pregnancy to be over, and this time I have so much I want to get done before this baby gets here, and I know that a newborn + Zuzu will be a totally different ballgame. It's just a different feeling. However, coming up on 34 weeks has definitely amped up my anxiety, and the return of sciatic nerve pain made me super cranky yesterday.

* I'm 33 weeks 1 day pregnant today. I've gained more than 30 pounds, although my weight has remained the same for the past three weeks. Same thing happened with Eliza and Zuzu--I gain weight early and then it slows up (though I ended up gaining 40 total with both girls) while my belly just gets bigger and bigger. And bigger.

* Zuzu begged/demanded that she go to the park yesterday, so David walked up there with her and Cooper while I ran a quick errand. I stopped at the park on my way home and walked waddled from the car to the playground and collapsed on the bench of a picnic table (damn sciatica).

Another mom pushing her kid on the swing started a friendly conversation.

Her:  You're brave, walking! I couldn't have done it when I was at that point in my pregnancy.

Me: I have seven weeks to go.

Her: Oh! You're kidding.

Me: fake smile, shaking head no

* I also had a conversation with my doctor about this uncomfortable sensation I've had right in the center of my chest, just below my ribs.

Me: I haven't felt this kind of pain in either of my previous pregnancies. It just sort of feels like my abdominal muscles are getting ripped apart. Like I want to put an ice pack on it.

Doctor: (nodding sagely) Yes; that's your abdominal muscles getting ripped apart.

Me: Okay... great! So that's normal, right?

Doctor: Yep.

* Zuzu has officially transferred to the Big Kids' Room (also known as the Older Toddler Room, also known as Busy Bees, also known as Holy Crap How Does Anyone Work With a Room Full of Two-Year-Olds). She sleeps on a cot! She drinks out of a cup without a sippy lid! I can't even.

* Also going on this week:
- Trying to watch as many episodes of Orange is the New Black as possible.
- Considering a purchase of chalk paint for a new project! (You're curious, aren't you???)
- Planning fun stuff to do this weekend with my brother and his gf (whom we met in Nevada--Zuzu loves her)
- Catching up on laundry from the 5 days we spent at my parents (yeah... I should totally get on that)

So... any updates from my chatty readers? Anyone else experience this muscle-splitting pain? (I'd rate it as preferable to round ligament pain in the pubic region, but still not pleasant). Anyone painted furniture with Annie Sloan chalk paint? Anyone who can promise me a play kitchen is a good investment? Anyone want to talk about Hamlet?

Monday, June 16, 2014


As I mentioned, we spent the weekend at the Bushwhacker festivities in my hometown. But one of the other things we did while there was get Zuzu "chipped."

NOTE: They do not actually microchip your child.

Although I'm not sure that I would be totally against a microchip in Zuzu so I could track her at all times with an app on my phone. #mildlyneuroticmother #theresanappforthat

Anyway, the Masons were sponsoring MOCHIP, which stands for Missouri Child Identification Program. It was a simple process, and Zuzu was hilariously enthusiastic about almost every step of it.

First, I filled signed a permission form and then filled out another form with her pertinent information (parents' names, address, emergency contact, doctor's name and number) and physical information: hazel eyes, light brown hair, 2'9", 30 pounds!

That's my girl!
I would have guessed that she was 2'8" and weighed 28 pounds, but evidently girlfriend has hit a growth spurt? I can tell you from my experience with this pregnancy that different scales certainly read differently! It will be interesting to see if our 2-year-check-up at the pediatrician confirms the scale and measurements they used.

Anyway, once the form was completed and Zuzu was weighed and measured, she got her photo taken, got her fingerprints scanned, and then had her cheeks swabbed with a Q-tip for a DNA sample. Older kids get dental impressions taken, but Zuzu was still too little for that (which may have been good--I'm not sure she would have been very cooperative about it!). Still, she sat very still for the cheek swab and then asked if she could "wash" when the lady used antibacterial gel on her own hands afterward.

The whole thing went really quickly, and Zuzu was really into the fingerprint scanner (she kept going back and climbing up on the stool even after her scans were done). It's funny, because you never can tell when she'll be totally easy-going and cooperative and when she'll have her own ideas about what she should do. But she was more than happy to have strangers gently push her fingers down onto the scanner and stick a Q-tip in her mouth while she sat on my lap.

At the last station, they printed out two laminated ID cards for us and gave us an envelope with the form I'd filled out, the sealed Q-tip, and a small CD that has her fingerprints and all the information included on it. I was glad I had my parents there to help keep an eye on Zuzu while I filled out and waited on the paperwork, but it definitely would have been manageable on my own.

I have to say: it's absolutely horrifying to have to contemplate EVER using the kit. The lady who did the cheek swab said to me, "Now, I'm sealing this up, and it should only ever be opened by a police officer." She paused for a second and then added, "And I hope that you never, ever have to open it up."

It almost made me tear up just to hear her say that. To even IMAGINE having to give the police Zuzu's DNA makes me wish I could unwatch every episode of CSI and Law and Order that I've ever seen. And I wish I could believe in those superstitions like "Well, now that I'm prepared, I'll never have to use this kit." Unfortunately, my feeling of being safe from or able to control unlikely but terrifying events died along with Eliza.

At the same time, it did feel like I was taking some measures to protect Zuzu as I tucked the laminated card into my wallet. (I felt the same way when I wrote out her information on a sticker that I put on her car seat.) I'll have David put the other ID card in his wallet and the rest of the kit will be stored in our firesafe box.

They gave me my little envelope of Zuzu-info and told me to come back next year and they'd update all her information, which is an even quicker and easier process.

I wondered aloud to my mom if I could have something similar done (or have it updated) in St. Louis, and then saw that MoCHIP has a website with a list of all the dates and locations where they'll be making these child identification kits all over the state:

I think most states have a CHIP program, so I recommend a quick Google to see when and where you could take your child to get an ID kit made.

And may you never, ever, ever have to use it.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Squeaky Time!

For those of you not following me on Instagram (bythebrooke88), I thought you might want to see Zuzu demonstrate exactly how the Wee Squeak shoes work:

Amazing, right?

But seriously you should have seen her face when she tried them on in the store and realized that she was making that noise every time she took a step. It was pure delight. We'll see how long the squeakers last at home--will definitely depend on how Cooper reacts to shoes that sound just like his toys.

Anyway, in case you are looking for your own pair of Wee Squeaks, they actually e-mailed me (It's a small, family-owned company and they sent me an e-mail from a real person, not a generic e-mail) to let me know that they're having a great sale this weekend--an extra 25% off clearance prices! So you can stock up on squeaky shoes for your little ones OR to purchase as a super cute and perhaps slightly passive-aggressive gift. (Tell me I'm not the only person who would totally do that.)

You know I'm not on Facebook, but the e-mail had a link to their facebook page and that's where they list the coupon code:  CLEARANCE25. It's good until Monday night at

I will say I think they run a weensy little bit small--I bought a size 6 for Zuzu and she's still wearing size 5 in most other brands (Toms and Keens).

I like this one for girls:

marked down to $12.99 plus an additional 25% off

And this one for boys:

marked down to $18.99 plus an additional 25% off

FULL DISCLOSURE:  Wee Squeaks is hooking me up with a gift card for telling you about the sale (they did not ask me to give my opinion about the shoes--you totally get that as a bonus. YOU'RE WELCOME). I am stoked about the gift card, though, considering I'm not really that kind of blogger but I'm totally the kind of sucker who would share that sort of info for free.

Here's the other thing, though, that no one is paying bribing gifting me to say. I've been super picky about shoes for Zuzu ever since I had a conversation a year ago this month with my friend Renel who's a physical therapist. She was saying that she is really particular about shoes that she buys for her kids because it's really important that kids wear shoes with flexible soles for their developing feet. Zuzu wasn't even walking at the time, but I filed that away and ever since then I've paid close attention to the soles of shoes that I'm buying. I also notice the shoes other kids wear--it's especially obvious to me when I see little girls running in stiff-soled sandals because they have to run with flat feet--they can't do the natural roll from the heel to the ball of their foot.

I'll admit this often means spending more money on shoes, and it is not always easy to shell out $30 (or more) on a pair of shoes that I know will be outgrown in just a few months. So I am always keeping my eye out for good sales. The Wee Squeak shoes met both requirements--they were a great price at the children's clothing boutique in my home town and (I'm no physical therapist) but as far as I can tell, they have a supportive but flexible sole. Noisy as hell, yes, but also flexible!

And remember--you can totally remove the squeaker.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Countdown of Sorts

Last summer, when we were overwhelmed with the move to the new house and the failed sale of the old house, we put our summer travel plans on hold and daydreamed about this summer. This summer will mark our ten year wedding anniversary (holy moly! That's what happens when you are an infant bride--ten years goes by and you are still just a kid hanging out with your boyfriend except he's also your husband and you've been married a decade).

So last summer, as we paid two mortgages and daydreamed about better days, we decided that this summer we'd go to California, visit family and friends, and then leave Zuzu with said family for a couple of nights (assuming that we all felt comfortable with that arrangement) and head up to Napa to celebrate our anniversary.

And then a little thing called Rerun happened.

This change of plans meant that our travel plans were on hiatus because (1) no way was I missing a weekly nonstress test; (2) there's this four-week class I'm teaching now to make up for not teaching this fall; (3) OMG do you know what it costs to have two kids in daycare? More than it costs to fly three people to California!

Then David's school had a zillion snow days and ended up having to go until June 6th (the poor teachers are as burned out as the students). He has a 12-month contract anyway, but he's supposed to be able to take his generous helping of vacation days in the summer. Except he can't take vacation days on training days, workshop days, summer school days, orientation days... So there's basically like a week in July that he can take off.

I'm really not COMPLAINING about this--there's actually tons of fun (and free) stuff to do in St. Louis in the summer time, especially with kids. (Check out this local blogger's St. Louis Events Calendar and then come visit us!). But I knew that if we were actually going to get away, it wasn't going to be on a big vacation. But we could probably spend a few days at my mom and dad's. Except David couldn't because work, blah.

So Zuzu and I loaded up yesterday and headed back to my hometown to visit Grammy and Bop for the annual Bushwhacker Days Celebration.

We've been here less than 24 hours, in a town with one Wal-Mart, but it's been eventful. Here's a breakdown of what's been going on:

* Number of squirrels sacrificed to highway safety: 1
I felt terrible, but there was nothing I can do. With a car in the lane beside me, another car behind me, and the road wet from rain, it's not like I could slam on my breaks or veer onto the shoulder. So I ran over a poor little squirrel and then called David crying to his voicemail:  "I'm okay *sniffle* Everyone's okay *snuffle* but I just killed a squirrel and I'm feeling really about it *sob* so please call me when you have a minute."

* Number of bathroom breaks during the 4 1/2 hour drive: 1
I have the pregnant lady bladder of steel! Actually, as long as I stay in one position (sitting and driving), it's much easier to not pee constantly. Of course, I wasn't chugging my water, either, because I knew I'd have to drag Zuzu into the bathroom with me and I wanted her to get a decent nap in. We finally stopped near Lake of the Ozarks (a little past the half-way-point) and I said, "Okay, we're going to go inside her so Mama can go pee-pee on the potty and then we'll keep going to Grammy and Bop's house."

(We talk a LOT about pee-pee on the potty these days, but one of us is all talk and no action.)

So we walk into the gas station where two women are working behind the counter and a handful of dudes are paying for gas or filling up huge cups of pop. I'm waddling for the bathroom at record speed because as soon as I stood up I felt like I was about to pee my pants and Zuzu starts chirping, "Mama pee-pee! Mama pee-pee!" as we head for the bathroom. Yes, thank you for announcing that to everyone.

* Number of dry diapers at morning wake up: 1
I couldn't believe it when Zuzu woke up this morning and had a dry diaper. I was so excited to get her to pee on the potty. So we sat. And we looked at pictures on my phone. And then I realized that I had to get Little Mac out to the vet for her grooming appointment, so I called my dad up to keep Zuzu on the toilet until she peed and I headed out to the vet with Mac.

* Number of pee-pees in the potty: 0
Zuzu sat for a while, convinced my dad to hold her up on the big potty for a while, and then insisted she was "all done" only to pee in her diaper the minute he put it on her. Sigh. She's tricky with her "all done!" because she sounds very convincing.

* Number of trips to the vet for grooming appointments actually scheduled for the following day: 1
So my mom scheduled Mac for a grooming appointment on Thursday and then somehow we all thought it was on Wednesday. So now Mac and I get to make a second trip tomorrow. If Zuzu wakes up with another dry diaper, Bop is going to have to be more insistent about sitting on the potty until the pee-pee comes out!

* Number of minutes it took to get Zuzu down for a nap this afternoon: 105 
Zuzu naps regularly at home and at school. At Grammy's house, all bets are off. (This includes bedtime, which started out as 8:30pm last night and ended up as 10:30pm after such shenanigans as wailing, fussing, and finally climbing out of crib and walking downstairs like "Hey, what's up guys?").

Today I really wanted her to nap because last night was a late night, this morning she didn't sleep in much, and tonight we have a big night ahead of us--we're meeting up with friends, going to an ice cream social, and checking out the kiddie carnival downtown. We also might watch the Bushwhacker royalty coronation. (It's too bad I forgot to bring my tiara and sash because I think I would look awesome walking around downtown wearing them.)

So this morning we played at the park, did a little shopping on the square, took lunch to Grammy at summer school, and then came home to nap.

She climbed out of the bed, out of the crib, and basically jacked around for AN HOUR AND FORTY-FIVE MINUTES. Under normal circumstances, I think I would have given up. But I just felt like it was a contest of wills. Who is more stubborn, Zuzu or Mama?

So I sat in the rocking chair blocking the door and ignored her, straining my eyes to read a book in the dim light, and periodically offering to rub her back and sing "Rock a bye" if she wanted to lie down. (There was no putting her in the crib and leaving since she obviously can climb out and open the door.) I was thisclose to giving up, but I could tell she was exhausted. And finally she climbed up on my lap and fell asleep (she hasn't fallen asleep in my arms in almost a year--it was actually sweet, in spite of all the frustration). I lay her down on the bed, turned on the monitor, and headed out to the front porch where I sit typing this and sipping sweet tea lemon water. THE MOST STUBBORN ONE WINS!

* Number of squeaky shoes purchased at local boutique: 2 (one for each foot)
These "Wee Squeak" shoes were half off today at a cute little children's clothing boutique downtown and I couldn't resist them. I've seen them on Zulily before, but when Zuzu actually tried them out and was delighted by the noise her feet made, it cracked me up and I decided we needed to take them home. An added benefit is that I'd always know where she is, which seemed a good idea after some of the incidents we had earlier this morning...

* Number of minutes it took me to have second thoughts about squeaky shoe purchase: 6
We headed next door to a sandwich shop and Zuzu basically ran laps. Thankfully, we were early for the lunch rush and the place was pretty empty, but I imagine the woman who was talking on her cell phone while eating her sandwich really appreciated the not-exactly-melodious squeak of toddler sandals. In fact, as I paid for our sandwiches and waited for the take-out boxes to the tune of what basically sounds like a dog squeaky toy on overdrive, I started to wonder if I'd made a mistake. Zuzu, however, was delighted with her "skeeky soos!".

She bounced around the office at my mom's school, and I reminded myself that the squeakers are removable. When she went running down the hallway at my mom's school to accompany my mom in taking a note to a classroom and a lady picking up a student said, "Are those her shoes making that noise?"

I nodded and she said, "Wow. That must be annoying."

Which, yes, they are. But also really amusing. Funny thing--all the elementary-school kids loved her squeaky shoes and commented on them. Zuzu seemed to enjoy the attention.

Number of baby dolls stuck in toilet-brush holders: 1
This morning my parents were both gone when I was getting in the shower, so I made Zuzu come in the bathroom with me (it has a sticky door knob so she can't open it). She brought her doll and her stuffed seahorse and seemed to be occupied with making Baby Keya pee-pee on the little potty. I thought I was keeping an eye on her through the frosted glass shower door. But when I got out of the shower, I discovered the seahorse was in the (unsoiled) little potty. Meanwhile, Zuzu was sweeping the floor with the toilet-bowl-brush and Baby Keya was hanging out in the toilet-bowl-brush holder. Gag gag gag. The phrase "fecal bacteria" keeps going through my head.

* Number of Hershey kisses chewed up with foil still on: 2
After the Fecal Bacteria Playdate, I set Zuzu free of the bathroom while I hurriedly got dressed. By the time I'd thrown on a shirt and shorts, she had already made her way downstairs. By the time I caught up with her, she was standing on a dining room chair with this grin on her face that she gets when she knows she's being naughty.

A quick survey of the situation indicated that she remembered my mom had put the bowl of Hershey kisses up on the dining room table when she'd taken them away from Zuzu the night before. There had been four dark-chocolate kisses in the bowl. There were now 0. Two were melting in her hot little fist, and she was chewing up two of them, with the foil still on.

I dug them out of her mouth and thankfully she didn't bite me, although I do think she swallowed most of one of the kisses and its foil.

* Number of days left to solo-parent without being able to have a glass of wine: 3. Plus Sunday's drive back to St. Louis. At least my nap-time victory today has me feeling confident. Now if I can just keep her away from the toilet bowl brush. And the chocolate...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Little Firecracker Dress

I finished with work at the end of May and sort of hit the ground running with projects that have been on my list (or floating around in my head).

Keep in mind that Zuzu continues to go to school three days a week in the summertime, so that's how I find the time to do this stuff! I sometimes have mixed feelings about dropping her off at daycare when I don't have to go to work, but then I run errands or clean or prep for my summer class or work on projects around the house and my mixed feelings shift to "This is actually awesome." I really don't know how SAHM get anything done. You have my utmost respect. In our system, Zuzu gets an educational playdate all morning long (with someone else fixing and cleaning up second breakfast and lunch), naps for two and a half hours, and I get stuff done that needs to get done and then I pick her up and we are both happy with how our days went. We call that a win-win around here. I like to tell David that I could totally be a stay-at-home mom if Zuzu still went to school.

Anyway, my mom bought Zuzu a cute little Fourth of July outfit, but it's not like a red-blooded American girl can have too many stars and stripes in her wardrobe, right? Plus I like to theme-dress her for the entire week of any given holiday (tell me I'm not the only person who does this). So I decided that Zuzu needed her own version of a "Let Freedom Ring Dress."

I'd seen this tutorial on Pinterest and thought it fit my two criteria for sewing projects: (1) cute (2) easy.

I spent a total of two afternoons working on the dress. The first day was my short work day--I gathered my materials and then just cut and ironed and pinned.

t-shirt in size 24 months, then coordinating fabric. I think the largest piece was 3/8 of a yard.
The materials were inexpensive. I got the little red t-shirt at Kohls, and actually my mom bought it for me with Kohl's cash so it was free. The fabric I bought were small fractions of a yard on material that sold for $6.99/yard, plus I had a coupon to take 40% off the most expensive cut, so the fabric totalled less than $10. The most expensive part of the dress was the pom-pom trim (which you could leave off, but why would you when it's so freaking cute?) and I also used coupons on those. (Side note: I am not a coupon cutter because I cannot keep track of that stuff before expiration dates, but I freaking love coupon apps on my phone that do all that stuff for you.)

When I started sewing, I followed the tutorial for the "Let Freedom Ring Dress" on the Happy Together blog, which was great. I won't go through all the steps because you can read and follow it here. She does a great job of walking you through each step.

I will say that I ignored her measurements because I was just eye-balling my dress. I used one from Zuzu's closet as a model to give me the length I wanted, then cut three tiers all the same width so they'd make the dress the right size. I wanted it to be fuller and twirlier than the dress she made, so I made the horizontal length longer than she did. I may have gone slightly overboard, as the dress is really full--so much that when Zuzu climbs stairs in it, she tends to step on the skirt, which makes her mad. But it looks super cute on her, and she has other dresses in her closet that are equally twirly and full-skirted. (Pardon the bad lighting--it was evening and the front door was closed so the pictures look yellowy).

Being coy. Do you see her tongue sticking out?
I also didn't serge my seams because ain't nobody got time for that and also I'm afraid of my serger and haven't used it yet. I didn't even zig-zag stitch mine because no one will see them and if I'm being honest, I know Zuzu will only wear this dress a handful of times before she outgrows it and/or the seasons change. If I were making these to sell, then I'd probably need to finish it off a little more professionally. But for my purposes, shortcuts like that are fine. Looks just fine when it's not inside out!

I probably snapped a dozen pictures of her in this dress on the stairs. She had her tongue out in EVERY SINGLE ONE of them.
If you're a newbie sewer, I totally recommend this project. The most challenging part is gathering the material to ruffle and then sewing the tiers together, but it's totally manageable (trust me, if I can do it you can do it). I cursed very little while making this dress, and it really can be done in two afternoons. Using a tank top or t-shirt is a huge short-cut (you could even do long sleeves and Christmas fabric in the winter). Then all you need is a super cute girl to wear your dress!

Oh, I love this little firecracker.  #zuzutongue

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Odds and Ends Tray

I'm finally starting to "style" our bedside tables. I splurged on matching lamps (more on that later) and have been working on making the bedside tables cute as well as functional.

My side of the bed seems to gather more stuff than David's. He mostly reads on his iPad, so his beside table has a lamp, a photo of Zuzu, Eliza's crocheted blanket from the hospital, the remote control, and his iPad charger.

My side of the bed, meanwhile, has a rotating stash of books, magazines, lotions, cuticle cream, bandaids, essential oils, water glasses, Tums, and hair elastics. Plus my 5 year diary and a pen, and often another pad of paper for jotting down notes.

Our bedside tables don't have drawers because we use these cabinets from Target. They work really well since mine gets used as bookshelves and David's gets used as a cabinet for Zuzu to climb in and out of (he removed the middle shelf). It's probably just as well since my drawers tend to get crazy and disorganized anyway. This helps me keep things fairly streamlined, as I'm forced to clear off the clutter every so often before it drives me crazy. Still, I was looking for something to help me keep various things corralled on top of the cabinet.

I have a little Longaberger basket that I received as a gift for being the maid of honor in my cousin's wedding, and I use it to hold various items, but I wanted a small tray to help keep me organized. I saw this little tray on Pinterest and thought that it would be perfect:
Kate Spade tray from Nordstrom website
But paying $40 for a 6" square tray just seemed a little silly to me.

I'd seen these things on Pinterest about making your own coffee mugs with a plain white porcelain mug and a Sharpie marker (this one is cute and makes me think of my friend Molly's son Hayes):

photo from the blog Simply Anchored
So I decided that I could try to replicate this Kate Spade tray for a fraction of the cost.

Next time I was at Home Goods, I scoped out their white dishes but didn't see anything that seemed to be the right shape or size. About a month later I was back again (window shopping for a new rug for the front room) and they had the perfect square plate! It was originally $3.99 but was on clearance for $3. The price was right, so I brought it home.

After playing around with the Sharpie marker we had already, I decided it was drying up and to recreate the look of the lettering on the Kate Spade tray, I needed a marker with a flat tip. So on my next Target trip, I picked up a dual-tip Sharpie marker--a fine tip and a "chisel tip." It was $1.89. I already had rubbing alcohol and a gold metallic paint pen at home, so for less than $5 I had everything I needed to replicate my $40 tray.

I let David wrestle Zuzu down for a nap and I gathered my supplies and preheated the oven to 350:

Bloggers everywhere cringe at this photo, but whatevs. You can see the supplies I used. Not pictured: cotton ball, paper towel, Goo-Be-Gone.
I'd read on another blog that it was a good idea to wipe down the plate with rubbing alcohol before getting started. My first step was actually to use a couple squirts of Goo-be-Gone to get all the sticker residue off the plate. Then I put some rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and gave it a quick once-over, drying it with a paper towel.

Then it was time to start writing! I pulled up a picture of the tray on my laptop and practiced writing on a slick cardboard envelope I pulled out of the recycling:

There's that paper towel I mentioned! I know you needed that visual. You're welcome. 
Confession: I still screwed up my O a couple of times on the plate (nerves, I think). No worries--a quick swipe with alcohol on a paper towel took it right off and I started over.

I tried to copy the style of the Kate Spade tray to some extent, but I didn't stick to it exactly. You could also get really creative and cute with the lettering--especially if you're one of those people with artistic talent or teacher-handwriting.

Anyway, once I was satisfied with my efforts (which seriously took no time at all since I refused to let myself get crazy perfectionist about a $3 tray), I took the gold paint pen and ran it around the edges of the plate. It isn't a perfect edge by any means, but it was good enough to gilt it up a little bit.

It seriously took all of five minutes and I ended up with this:

I mean, it may not sell at Nordstrom for $40, but it will do the job, right?
Then I stuck in the oven for half an hour. It's currently cooling on my stovetop, but once it's back to room temperature I'll take it upstairs to glam up (and organize) my bedside table. Super cute and super easy!

It has inspired me to tackle another Pinterest project for David for Father's Day. That one will require Zuzu's cooperation, which can be hit or miss. I'm still taking her picture monthly in the same chair, but this is how May 29's photo session went:

So basically I'm saying, wish me luck.

Good luck, Mama!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Honey Get 'er Done List

I'm on a bit of a project kick these days. After all, this is my summer break (well, I have two weeks before my summer class starts, but still it's just one class after a semester of teaching four) and I figure that it's not like I'm going to be less busy anytime soon. And maybe I'm nesting? Anyway, I have a list of things that I want to get done, which I realize may not be very interesting reading, but here it is anyway, to keep me accountable:

* Organize upstairs closets. There are six of them. Man, that seems like a lot of closets. Zuzu's nursery, Zuzu's big girl room, the original closet in our room, the ridiculous monstrosity of an add-on closet, the small closet on the landing, and the bathroom closet-that-is-really-a-cabinet. I think it will be time-consuming, but I know it will be really satisfying, so I want to knock it out this summer. (Read: before Rerun!)

* Speaking of Rerun, s/he needs a space. I'm not ready to move Zuzu out of her nursery. I just decorated it for her a year ago, and I'm so not ready for her to be in a "big-girl" room OR bed. So far, she's still happy in her crib, and we are still happy sleeping with the Angel Care monitor beeping its reassurance at us. (I recently realized that we totally lucked out getting the Angel Care monitor with two sensor pads--makes all the difference in the world in being able to use it for a toddler as well as a newborn, since she moves around so much in her bed.) Our plan for now is to have Rerun sleep in a bassinet in our bedroom for the first few months. We did this with Zuzu and it worked really well, both in terms of keeping our anxiety in check (thanks to the Snuza monitor) and getting us the maximum hours of sleep.

Even when Zuzu slept in our room, though, she still had her room for toys and clothes and diaper changes. And while we could definitely share toy space, I don't want to venture into Zuzu's nursery for middle-of-the-night diaper changes, and (let's be honest) her closet is at capacity! So my plan is to make some kind of nursery space for Rerun in the sitting room off our bedroom. There's plenty of space up there, it's just somewhat awkward given the size/position of the windows and the fact that it leads to our closet.

I'd like to get a dresser that can double as a changing table and a small bookcase for toy and accessory storage, as well as a rocker/glider. I'm scouting Craigslist for this stuff and trying to convince myself that I can pull the trigger to do some prep work before Rerun gets here. (Oh how I envy moms who can decorate the whole nursery while pregnant and remain absolutely convinced they'll bring home a baby to put in it!) It's a bit of a battle with anxiety for me, but it's not like I'll have a lot of time in mid-August to be driving around town meeting random Craigslisters. So I'm working on it, and I actually have a lead on a dresser that I'm pretty excited about! I'll keep you posted.

So, as sub-projects under "Make a space for Rerun":
- sew/buy curtains and light-blocking blinds for windows (we're still living with the heinous beige polyester farm-kitchen curtains and the roller-shade that former owners left behind)
- purchase and paint/refinish a dresser to double as a changing table
- purchase (and possibly paint/refinish) a bookcase
- purchase some kind of glider/rocker
- area rug?
- art for the walls (something to personalize the space so it feels both like a sweet baby nursery and like it still connects to our bedroom)
- purchase/repurpose baskets for toy and accessory storage

* Paint the dining room. We painted it already, I know, but I've decided the blue is too dark for the center of our house. With the two small stained glass windows, the room doesn't get a lot of natural light, even though it's open to the living room and the back room. I also feel like the blue doesn't really flow the way I want it to. So even though David shakes his head at me, I'm pretty sure I'm going to take Sherwin Williams up on their latest coupon offer and slap another coat of paint on those walls.

* Locate a chair for the desk in the front room (I still need to post pics of this update, I guess, it just doesn't feel very thrilling yet). I want an acrylic ghost chair (David has expressed his uncertainty about this, as though he gets a say in the matter--isn't that cute?). However, I have other spending priorities right now that beat the ghost chair (like Rerun's room). So I'm keeping my eye out for a $15 chair I can spray paint (or better yet a free one sitting out in a city alley because ya'll know I'm not too proud to dumpster-dive).

* A new rug for the front room. I am SO OVER the rug in there. I've been over it for years, honestly, but I haven't known what I wanted to replace it with and damn wool rugs are expensive and if I'm going to spend money on a rug, I figure I might as well spend enough money to buy a nice one made of natural fibers. So I'm scoping out Joss & Main, Wayfair, RugUSA, Home Goods, and Craigslist, as well as a couple of local consignment shops to see what I can find. I'm pretty sure I want something colorful and bright as opposed to muted, but we shall see. Anything will be an improvement over the beige blah we've got going on in there, but I've really got to love it to pull the trigger on spending that much money. Rugs be spendy!

* Curtains for the backroom. I have a vague idea of what I want back there, but it is still lower on the priority list. One of these days...

* Plant lemon grass in pots and surround the patio with them. I'll probably assign this project to David, but I'm already getting feasted on by mosquitos and any kind of natural repellent is preferable than slathering myself in deet just to go outside.

I think that just about covers it... These are pretty much in order of priority, except the lemon grass, which needs to happen soon! It does kind of seem like a lot to do in nine weeks (holy moly NINE weeks from today!!!), but deadlines get stuff done, you know?