Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday with Charlotte

It's one of those muggy days where you can cut the humidity with a knife. Without any thought for weather and temperature, I put my daughter in a short sleeved sweater dress. I have this firm commitment that she shall wear every dress in her closet at least once and be photographed in it (I think this dress is from one of the baby showers - we are blessed with so much clothing we forget who gave each item).


Hey look at that! She pulled herself up on the cot and is standing! Is that a copy of Brainy Baby she's holding? Yeah that's right! She's just learned to crawl 3 weeks ago and now there's no stopping her.


Check out that awesome dress!


She can stand and crawl but still exits the bed head first, followed by a roll and she's off! She's too fast for my poky camera to provide a 3 step photo demo.


Only one way to teach Princess the playpen belongs to Charlotte - see the terror in kitty's eyes as the baby leans in for a bear hug. Notice the outfit change? We had a meltdown as baby got over heated and over tired. Will I ever learn???


Bored with being inside, we decide to sit under the tree with fallen yellow flowers. Notice the outfit change? Gezzz having an artist for a mom is tedious at times but the end result is fun. I wonder why she selected two brown leaves?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A visit with Mom and Aunty Joyce

Mom and Aunty Joyce have departed back to Maryland, Charlotte has lost her adoring audience cheering her on as she groves in time to Tick Tock Crocodile's clock sound and laughing as she plays for 45 minutes with the heater. It's quiet here.

My mom and her sister are very similar - they go to church together, teach at the same school, live one mile from each other, both have lost their husbands and now they travel together. It's a lifetime of shared experiences that have brought them close together.

They both brought their sewing kits, never ones to watch TV or sit passively, they are always diligently working on something. They fixed Charlotte's hat so it doesn't fall into her eyes and fixed her car seat's gaping hole that's been there for 9 months!

They complimented every meal we made and asked for all the recipes - the ultimate compliment!

They insisted on paying for EVERYTHING!!!

They didn't really care if we went anywhere but requested one day at the beach so they could tell the folks back home that yes they did come to Florida and went to the beach. It rained for 4 days straight so finally last Sunday presented an opportunity if not a very windy one. Charlotte spent the entire time using the cooler as a prop to stand with! Again I find the redundancy in my career as I watch my child play with random objects.


She fell on top of the cooler and I kept taking photos while my mom rescued her. What kind of mother continues to take photos as her child wobbles precariously towards a face full of sand?!?


They bought Charlotte new pajamas and because I said we were tired of pink she got dinosaur, blue butterflies, firetruck and puppy dog pajamas.

We took them to Coral Castle and on the way home intended to stop for Mexican food at our favorite, Tijuana Flats, but Charlotte had the biggest, baddest messiest diaper we've seen yet and it warranted a bath and entire cleaning of the car seat carrier. My family set about having left overs and cheerfully told us not to worry!

I had to work most of the days they were here so the last two days my husband took them to the park. Charlotte had a blast with the swings and slide.


Husband also took them to the Japanese Gardens to see bonsai plants and bamboo.


and Charlotte fell asleep holding an acquired pine cone


It was a lovely visit. Makes me want to move back to Maryland. Florida's great and I have a fun job making toys - but the pull to be near family is getting stronger.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Coral Castle

I have visitors! And when visitors come, I go see the sites in Florida. To be specific, my mom and her sister are here!! Charlotte turned 9 months old this past Thursday and she's thrilled to have grandma and great auntie to play with. Yesterday we visited the Coral Castle in Homestead, FL. In the 1950's a man built an entire castle out of coral - by himself!!! He built it for a girlfriend who he had lost and never gotten over.


This is the only photo I got of the castle garden, my camera batteries died.


Cool lizard! We chased him up and down the walls and my tall husband took the photo at the top of the wall.


Florida flower.


Awesome succulent.


Starbucks in an old gas station.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

9 Years

Recently I’ve begun to review the past 9 years of my life in contrast to other folks I meet and know. It all started in church a month ago. I recognized the guest pastor from 9 years ago when I lived in Miami and his church was 30 people. This man, Pedro, was the song leader and the Preacher. I remember being astounded at his energy as he lead the entire song service with his guitar and then leaped behind pulpit to deliver an energetic sermon. He is my age and now pastor’s a church of over 3,000 people. Made me stop and reflect on what I’ve accomplished in 9 years.

The second pause came a few weeks ago when I reconnected with an old friend. We were neighbors in Fort Lauderdale before I moved to Miami. My friend and her husband were newly weds and they are responsible for getting my husband and I back into going to church. We became really great friends that year, we worked at the same Smoothie shop, had beach side bar-b-que’s and they took me mountain biking - no we don’t have mountains in Florida but somehow we have nationally recognized trails. Go figure. It was a really fun year and it ended with my graduation from college and a move to Miami. We didn’t see them often the next year and lost touch when we moved to California and they to Savanna. Over the years we reconnected occasionally and I learned they had 3 boys. So you can imagine my shock to reconnect with my dear friend to learn she had gotten into a fight with her husband right before Christmas and was sent to jail for a month.

It’s really hard to provide context to this story so I’ll try to list a few basic details - even knowing both parties and hearing my friends story still makes this hard to swallow. My friends has serious depression and a severe case of ADD. I’d never known anyone with ADD but she definitely had it - she couldn’t concentrate on a subject for more then 1-2 minutes so our conversations were more like 10+ subjects crossed in a short amount of time. I found her funny and entertaining and incredibly joyful but always saw a touch of sadness that she tried so hard to cover up. She was a jealot for God, one of those super Christians who would post Bible verses at work and everyone hated her for it. I know - one of those! But I loved her and tried to work with her on all her issues and smooth things over with the other employees.

In our recent talk, I learned that her marriage had several major hurdles. I believe she willingly went to a mental institution to get help early in her marriage and I learned her husband had thrown her out 3 times to be taken to jail. She described the last scene to me and it sounded like her husband got the upper hand by keeping records of her institution behavior and used it against her. Even her 7 year old son told the police that his father had pushed him and his mom but they can’t take a statement from a child. So my friend was taken from her children for a month, and her husband has not allowed her home in 3 months. The youngest child was still nursing when she left, she had to ween herself in jail. I can’t tell you how much this story broke my heart. The part I cry over is the 9 years of broken communication and damage that has lead to this day, this year, this point in time. How could things get so bad? Will she ever be able to reconnect with her boys? I don’t know her husband’s side, maybe my friend was hard to live with, maybe she was too tough on her husband with her super Christian ways? I don’t know, I’m just broken to see a family, 3 boys, living in such a broken way.

Two stories - Christian families - two totally different outcomes but neither story is over yet. It just gives me a lot to ponder over how far right or left a life can go.

One of my favorite bloggers, Grit’s Day (http://gritsday.blogspot.com/), has 9 year old triplets. She’s been busy for 9 years getting those girls home educated and they are so diverse in their interests and skills which is a reflection of the care she has spent to foster their many interests. She’s done a brilliant job.

My cousin got his girlfriend pregnant when he was 16; my second cousin is now 9 years old. He's a really cool kid.

One of my oldest friends, Crazy Wild Berry (http://crazywildberry.blogspot.com/) has had 3 children in the last 9 years. She doesn’t blog much any more because her youngest is 6 months old. She’s had a fairly quiet life in a very small town in Pennsylvania. This blows my mind because how can one live in a city like Pittsburgh and then move to a tiny town??? She does it with such grace and acceptance. She’s had some challenging times in her marriage with communication but who hasn’t and I’ve never heard of anything as extreme as calling the cops and throwing each other out!

Both of my brothers have gotten married in the last 9 years and divorced. Not much to say here except both had big weddings, I was in both weddings and had to buy ugly dresses and I opted to get married in the court house - ha!

My story runs along a career path. 9 years ago I graduated college, immediately got a job at a small, start up toy firm. We convinced Hasbro to buy our Monsters plush line and sold millions that year. Enough to finance a move to CA to do a joint venture with another company that lasted 2 years. CA was amazing, husband and I really enjoyed our life there tremendously but it was too expensive to buy a home and Florida was looking like a better place to raise a family so we moved back when the boss said time was up. 2nd life in Florida was fun for two years and then it got monotonous. I tried to fill the gap by going back to school for an MBA but got bored and impatient with all the classmates with no work experience. I decided instead to pour myself into work and got to travel throughout Asia for 3-4 week stints, several times a year. I moved up to Director of product development. I had a baby last year and now my family has started. Husband and I occasionally fight about stupid things - I can’t even remember them - mostly stress related but ultimately he is a wonderful, caring and compassionate man who dotes on me - even when I really don’t deserve it.

Looking forward to the next 9 years - I’m not so excited about my career anymore. I’m wondering if there is another path that might be more rewarding in charity work or education. Standing by for direction but until then I’m going to enjoy my sassy daughter and husband.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Today is Pi Day



3/14 = Pi Day

In celebration, husband made a pie for me. Having a geek for a husband occasionally pays off.

More on my recent vacation

I'm just realizing all the wonderful things baby learned last weekend! Apparently being surrounded by 6 adoring adults does wonders for a babies development skills. That and mom and dad were not distracted with weekend chores and such.

She learned the following:

1. Crawling!!! Yeah!!! - We've had to quickly bolt down her entire room. She's fast - this morning she boogied right into the bathroom as I tried to quickly shove my contacts in. I would get one eye done, turnaround and put her in the middle of the room, finish the second eye and she was right behind me!

2. Swimming!!! - I'm a terrible swimmer so I don't have alot of confidence in letting a baby loose in the water. But my friend promised she was a lifeguard and knew how to do baby CPR and my husband was the brave one to let her go and she swam back to us!!! I got her an inflated turtle to bounce around it. This was the best part of the trip.


3. Her appetite has increased tremendously and we are extremely pleased.

I think baby needs to go on mini-weekend excursions more often!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sick, still going on vacation

Friday evening my really cool Pittsburgh friend Shelly who comes to Florida once a year and always makes me do things I wouldn't normally do like camping in the Everglades with alligators two years ago arrives at my door prepared to whisk Charlotte and I off to the west cost of Florida for a weekend of fun. I wake up Saturday without a voice. My little sore throat made major progress throughout the night. I tried to bailout because I can't be responsible for getting friend and her parents sick but she won't take no for an answer. Her mom says come on over, we will all probably get colds but it's okay. Friend cunningly adds, you will have 3 adults to take care of Charlotte!!!! I'm so there.

No voice on Saturday or Sunday and by Monday I sound like Minnie mouse. There are so many things I wanted to discuss with my friend but it hurt just to answer basic questions so I was uncharacteristically silent. It was fine because Charlotte was thrilled to shine in the spotlight. She made instant friends with the parents and by Saturday was clinging to Shelly like she'd known her for her entire 8 months. I finally learned what it means to get joy out of watching my baby have such a wonderful time. She swam in the pool for the first time, when on a nature walk with us, crawled for the first time in front of an adoring audience. It was all about her, mom didn't need to say anything.

Tuesday morning my ear starts to bleed. I've never heard of such a thing. I was supposed to return to work on Tuesday by noon, it takes 2.5 hours to cross Florida so it should be possible until I wake up at 8am, need 3 hours to pack/shower/feed baby, arrive at restaurant at 11:30. Somewhere in there I wrote in sick due to need to visit doctor for bleeding ear. I don't take sick days, the only sick days I've taken in 8 years were part of maternity leave last year. I felt compelled to write I would be on SKYPE later that afternoon due to lost voice to which got a prompt text from boss asking what time? Seriously? Someone give me a primer on how to take a sick day without guilt and continued involvement in work day.

My very old Indian doctor was not phased with bleeding ear. She assigned a cocktail of 6oz. Codeine, Antibiotics, some prescription throat lozengers, recommendation of homemade Ginger Tea and gargling with salt water. She then changed her mind about the quantity of Codeine to 4 oz and throws away the throat lozengers. I'm sitting there wondering about my ear because this all seems to deal with other parts of my head. She then gets confused and hands me the 6oz codeine and Antibotics prescription and advises me to pump and dump my breast milk until I'm done with the drugs.  She also says I can't go to work on Wednesday so there you have it.  I'm grounded.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Survey says?

When you get those receipts from Publix, Home Depot and Target that promise $1,000 for completing the survey (one winner from 958 stores) do you do it? I do now!

I have budgeted $400 per month for groceries. If I got this, it would pay for 2.5 months of groceries along with a long list of things that I'm budgeting for on a monthly basis.

I'm waiting for that pay day to roll in.

Programs designed to save money

I always ignored these programs because who really has the patience to read the fine print, log onto the website, apply for the card, etc? Now I've eagerly signed up for the following and am standing by for my savings to flow in: UPromise. I've added my local grocery store and now I just need to remember to use the card.

Sallie Mae, my student loan provider, initiated a link to UPromise. I always thought this was just a savings account for one's children to save for their college. Considering I still owe 30K - when did I graduate? 2000, yes kids it doesn't matter how much money you make post college you will not pay it off in 10 years. Anyway, UPromise also allows you to register and apply all savings to your student loan!!! Considering I owe 30K now, I'd like to get this paid off before I start saving for Cookie Monster's college bill.

Conventional wisdom would say, start a 529 savings plan for your child's college fund now but with the current recession these plans have lost 13% in the 4th quarter of 2008. My source is this website: http://www.savingforcollege.com/

My plan is to encourage Cookie Monster to get straight A's in school so she can get scholarships like all my smart friends did. I have also savings plan for her that should give her around 10K when she turns 21. That's 10K more then I had when I turned 21!

Friday, March 06, 2009

I'm getting ready for Mini Break

Going over to Cape Coral on the west side of Florida to vacation with our friends from Pittsburgh! We do this once a year and it's always a blast.

Vacation is needed more then ever due to work getting crazier every day. This past week we've finally caught up to the rest of the country by introducing furlough's - reduced hours for the entire creative team - except for me. I'm the lone warrior who gets to keep her entire paycheck but balances as the catch all on the days when others are out. The hours are getting longer, each deal more precious and I'm doing my best to remain calm and cheerful.

So it is with a bit of a sore throat and a gravely voice that I cheerful pack my bags to head off to the other side of Florida for a lovely weekend with friends. I really hope I don't get anyone sick!