Sugar And Spice And Everything Nice

Here she is, our little girl. I’ll spare you (and her) the ultrasound pic of her girly parts. I think its pretty clear that you’re looking at the profile of her head (as if the caption wasn’t obvious enough). The white lines to the left of her chin? That’s a hand. And the blobby white area below the hand is the top of her chest.

Watching this ultrasound was much different than the Monkey’s: The Monkey was doing his morning cardio — he bounced around, doing flips and squirming all over the place. He totally went spread-eagle at one point, making it obvious to us all that he was a boy.

But the Peanut? This little girl is completely different. I can already tell.

She stayed curled up most of the time, with her legs together (good girl!), and knees pulled up to her chest. Every time they tried to get a good profile shot of her, she’s turn her head away, as if being coy. They actually had me gulp down a glass of ice water to try to get her to move so they could get all the pictures they needed. We were all poking at my belly, trying to coax her into moving.

The ultrasound tech actually called her stubborn at one point. So I turned to the Hubbs and laughed: “Wow. I can’t imagine one of our children being stubborn.”

But watching her like that, it made me think — she looks like a snuggler. Like one of those kids who will have a favorite lovey or blanket and will curl into your lap for a story or just to sit there. The Monkey will snuggle, but it usually involves Sesame Street or him being tired. Otherwise, he’s going a million miles a minute, and if you blink, you could get nailed in the head with a plastic ball. Just ask my brother.

Even in the womb, the Monkey was active. My stomach would routinely jump and pulsate. It was a regular occurrence to see the outline of a foot push out from my skin. I’d place remote controls, phones, and the cat on my belly to watch him kick them off. Hell, he was kicking up a storm while I was actively trying to push him out of me in the delivery room. That one caught the nurses by surprise.

But the Peanut? I get a kick here and there. But she’s mostly swishes and bubbles. I’m sure this will change as she continues to grow, but it’s definitely a change.

I wonder if she’ll be the mellow baby, if she’ll have a calming effect on her brother. Or if she’s just insanely clever and will be the real troublemaker of the duo. She will be — after all — born in the Year of the Tiger. Just like her father. Of course, the Monkey was born in the Year of the Ox. AND he’s a Taurus on top of that. So we’ll be a house with two tigers, an ox, and a monkey (me).

I feel outnumbered already.

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The Peanut Has Been Identified

The Peanut is no longer an it. The Peanut is no longer a he/she. The Peanut’s mysteries have been unveiled.

Because the Peanut is a girl.

And I couldn’t be more excited about it. While the Hubbs sat there grinning and squeezing my hand when the ultrasound tech told/showed us, I started crying. Happy tears. Very happy tears. I’ve always wanted both a boy and a girl. It always seemed ideal to me.

Ever since I found out I was pregnant, my eyes have been inexplicably drawn to girl’s clothes. Girl’s nursery decorations. Anything girlie. I already have the crib set and curtains picked out for her room. I know what color I want to paint one wall. (Shhhh! Don’t tell the Hubbs I said paint!) I’ve already picked out a rug for her room. The dresser we bought for her room has a navy blue top and drawer pulls. I’d like to paint them, change the knobs — maybe something in a lavender glass.

My nesting instincts have been going haywire the past two weeks, and now that I’ve gotten confirmation of what I’ve always felt — it feels like I’m being freed from prison.

I can talk to her now in more specific terms. I already feel more connected to her. More protective of her.

It’s a truly amazing thing.

Waiting Game

So, I’m 5 months pregnant. I have no idea what happened to the time, because it feels like Sean just turned one a month ago and that I just found out that we were spawning more craziness into the world. And then I look up, Sean is 15 months old already and I’m pushing 5 months into this pregnancy.

And time suddenly stopped.

Why? Because I’m looking forward to Wednesday. Murphy’s Law. Wednesday is when we go in for our 20-week ultrasound and find out (hopefully) if the Peanut is a boy or girl. At this point, the Peanut can hear what we’re saying and what’s going on — familiarizing itself with our voices. And this was also the point where we started bribing Sean — when he was still the Sea Monkey and not just the Monkey — to help us and the ultrasound tech and let us know his gender. 

I know, bad examples of parenting! And the kid wasn’t even born yet. And how about my claims that the Peanut can already hear. Whatever. How do I know it can hear us? I’ve got proof: When Hubbs talks to the belly? I can feel it kicking. When Sean shrieks? I can feel it squirm and jump around. Its just more proof that there is a little person in there, still growing, getting ready to bust out and turn our world upside down (in a wonderful way) around Christmas.

My kids will be 20 months apart. Hopefully, they’ll be friends for life. Buds. Confidants. In 20 years, they can commiserate about how overprotective and crazy their mother is. (For the record, I’ll be going crazy because I’ll have to pay for 2 kids to go to college at the same time.) At worst, hopefully, they’ll only think the other is a royal pain in the ass.

But honestly, I’m mostly worried about Sean and how he’ll react to this change. To not being the complete center of attention anymore. To not having my undivided attention when he needs or wants it. To having to wait for cuddles? He’s already got a bit of a jealous streak — he doesn’t like me holding other babies. AT ALL. And how do you explain to a 15 (or 20) month old that their world is going to turn upside down and things will be crazy, but to not forget that you love him? How do you explain that to him? How do you show him that your love is unshakable, even though you’re caring for a totally dependent infant at the time and you haven’t slept in 18 hours?

I don’t know.

But I do know this: My heart doubled in size the second I saw Sean. If the same thing happens again — and I’m sure it will — it will all work out. Love conquers all and all that lovey-dovey rot. And hopefully all that extra love will translate into me keeping the breastfeeding boobage that ensues.

Hey, a girl can dream.

Embarrassing Confession

My name is Michelle. I’m 30 years old, and I just read the “Twilight” books.

There. I said it. And it still hurts. I didn’t want to read the dang books. All the hype was annoying. It seems like everyone I knew had read the darn things and was in love with them. My MOTHER — the woman who took more than A YEAR to finish reading “Gone With The Wind” — devoured the entire series within a few weeks. My cousin-in-law has been raving about them for more than a year, asking me, begging me, to read them too.

I only have one thing to say: Thank the gods for the Kindle. I don’t feel like such a raging dork for reading them, thanks to my handy electronic book-toter. Also? I didn’t want to have to buy and store those gigantic books on my bookshelf. As for a library — the new Walnut Creek one just opened, I don’t even know where the one in my city is located. And did I mention not wanting to be seen on BART reading the dang things? Don’t ask me why, I usually don’t care about that kind of thing. But there was something about these books that just makes me … uncomfortable.

Anyway. About those books? The situations are entertaining and interesting. But I’m going on record to say that it’s not well-written. I had to go back several times to re-read paragraphs just to figure out what the author was trying to say — or who was supposed to be talking. That was annoying. The editor in me cringed so many times that it was painful. I wanted to bash the author’s head in with the “it/they” error stick by the end of the first book. And there were four of them. It was maddening at times. And I read trashy romance novels for fun — even THOSE had better grammar.

As for how I really feel about the actual characters? I was ROOTING for the people trying to kill Bella. That’s right. Rooting for them. Maybe it’s the first-person viewpoint that bugged me beyond distraction, but that girl … I CAN’T STAND HER. Why? Well, she’s the main character, and she’s just this … well … she’s pathetic. In an age of female empowerment and “girl power” the author has given us a wet noodle of a main character. She’s a martyr: “I’m moving to Washington — which I hate — for my mom’s happiness. And I’m MISERABLE.” Wah-wah-wah. And she has ZERO self-esteem: “Oh, Edward’s so cute, he’s like a GOD, and I’m sooooo unworthy of him.” wah-wah-wah.

And to top it all off — she’s a classic case of the Snow White syndrome: The girl couldn’t save herself from a paper bag. The boy always has to come riding in on his white horse — or silver Volvo — to rescue her. Now I know, she’s dealing with mythical creatures, blah-blah-blah. I get that. But have some freaking backbone. Stand up for yourself. The only time I actually liked her in the entire first book was at the end, when she tried to save her mom. At least she was doing something for herself. On her own. I wanted to slap her during the entire second book. The third wasn’t much better. Fourth book, she was tolerable.

I just couldn’t respect her — so I couldn’t like her either.

I found myself talking to my belly, promising the Peanut that if it is a girl, that I would raise her to have self-esteem. To respect herself. To believe in herself and her own abilities. To try to show her how to be comfortable in her own skin. Because if she ends up like the character in this book, I’ll have failed miserably as a parent. (Of course, I’d do the same things for a boy too, but I was really on a rant for a few days there.)

As for Edward — he’s too perfect. I’m 30 and I’m annoyed with the teenage Bella’s whining, adoration, and shenanigans. He’s supposedly more than 100 years old. And he’s not annoyed in the least. He acts like its endearing. I call bullshit. Major, major bullshit. She’s clingy, needy, cloying, and annoying. Seriously. What is attractive about that? Her entire sense of self-worth centers on him being with her. And that doesn’t get old? Really? Cause I was in one of those relationships — I guess I was the Edward in that one — and it got really old, really fast.

But Edward seems to have no flaws, none of his “family” really do. And that makes them feel fake. (Well, faker, I guess.) Unbelievable. I’m an optimist, but everyone has flaws: I can’t stay on top of housework, my house looks like it imploded, I’m always running behind, and have you seen the size of my ass recently? Seriously. Everyone has flaws. These “good guys” are so good that it makes your teeth hurt. The bad guys are so bad, they’re like cartoon characters who laugh with an evil “mwah-ha-ha!” while they pull on their thin, black mustaches. There’s black and there’s white and no character has any gray in them.

To say the least, I just couldn’t believe any of it. And that’s coming from a person who adored Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles back in the day. The Hubbs asked me why I was reading them when I was so annoyed by them all a few days into the books. Why didn’t I just stop? Because hope springs eternal. I was waiting for it to get better. Counting on it to get better. It kind of did in the last book. Kind of. And I had started already. I was morbidly curious to see how it all played out. Nothing to keep me up at night, but I needed reading material. (Translation: I’m in a rut in the reading department right now.)

So in the end, I plowed through the books — which I pretty much only read on BART — in about 10 days. It was like one of those “youth reader” books.

Was I entertained? Sure, I read the entire series just to see what all the hoopla was about.

Would I watch the movies? Uh … maybe. If someone let me borrow them, but I wouldn’t pay money to see them.

Would I read them again? Not unless I had a really long flight and a headache and wanted something mindless to distract me.

Team Edward or Team Jacob? Don’t make me hit you.

Picture Updates

Some random pictures of the Monkey, since I really haven’t posted any since his birthday. I apologize for the quality — they’re all from my phone.

About a month ago, we went to my aunt’s house for a graduation party. And the Monkey knows an infant car seat when he sees one. This one belongs to my niece (cousin’s kid — so … second niece? Second cousin? Whatever.) Annabella. She’s tiny and adorable. And everyone got a good laugh at the Monkey squeezing into the seat and trying to pull the canopy down. Maybe he wanted a nap … and yes, that’s an AC/DC onesie on him. I know, I heart it too.

This is arguably the Monkey’s favorite part of us taking him to the park: Either Momma or Dada will climb up onto the structure, plop him in their lap, and take him down the big-kid twisty slide. He loves it. He gets the exhilaration of the slide and we get all the rub burns and static shocks on the way down. And will you look at how LONG he is? I still can’t believe it sometimes.

This is the danger of letting small children use your phone as a toy. They want to play with it. While you’re trying to take their picture at the A’s game. Why so important? The Monkey usually rips hats off his head, and he was actually placating me for awhile this day.

Munching on crackers in the trunk of our Highlander during our tailgate before the game. See how thoughtful he looks? He was watching the big kids run around. But food was more important than joining them. That and he was trapped in his portable high chair. That might have swayed his opinion too …

A Comedy Of Errors

Its finally over, so I can write the whole story now. Also, I’m not so mad/frustrated/fed up that I’m a shaking, crying mess anymore. So that’s good news too. (BTW: Thanks a ton for that, preggo hormones — you raging jerk.)

Anyhoo.

Scene: Two weeks ago: Its Friday night and the air conditioner won’t turn off. The air conditioner that we had installed exactly ONE YEAR AGO. Hubbs came home and set it to 75 and the house is now 72 degrees and we’ve been trying to turn it off for 20 minutes so I can give the Monkey a bath without giving him hypothermia at the same time. In the end, I make the Hubbs grab a ladder from the garage and shut the bathroom vent, and the Monkey gets his bath in an enclosed, quasi-warm room. Twenty minutes after the Monkey falls asleep, the AC finally turns off.

Saturday evening: We were out all day and come home to an 85 degree house. Hubbs turns on the air conditioner and … nothing. Absolutely nothing. Zip. Zilch. The Monkey’s hair is starting to slick down to his head and his forehead has a sheen to it. We open ALL the windows in the house, turn on all the fans, open the front door and put a baby gate up because we don’t have a screen door. (Why? It’s a pet peeve of mine that the house didn’t come with one.) I call Company F — which installed the AC unit, and they say they’ll send someone over that night.

9:45 p.m.: Company F technician calls and says he’ll be out first thing Sunday morning. FINE.

7:15 a.m. Sunday: Monkey wakes up. And the power’s out. What does the Monkey do each weekend morning? He nibbles on a banana and maybe some crackers while watching Sesame Street on the DVR. No power = no Sesame Street.

7:30 a.m.: Monkey is handing me the remote control and jabbering at me while pointing to the TV. Some words: “Mo” (translation: Elmo), “Goo-Gee” (translation: Cookie for Cookie Monster), and “Naugh!” (his word of choice when he’s frustrated that we don’t know what he’s saying.) Oh, I know what you’re saying kid, but do you know what I’m saying? No power = no Sesame Street.

7:45 a.m.: The Monkey is NOT amused. Hubbs is up and wondering why our child has suddenly turned into a banshee. When it hits me. THE PARK. We’re going to the m-to the-f-ing park. Hey kid, wanna go to the park? For a walk? And see the swings? And the slide? Ever see a toddler run for the door? Priceless.

So we walk outside — in my pjs, essentially. A tank top (and yes, I wore a bra), and some pj pants with flip-flops. I didn’t even brush my hair — just pulled it into a ponytail. And we’re off. And we learn that the whole neighborhood’s power is out, since some of the neighbors are outside and asking one another if THEY have power. And apparently it should be back on by noon. GREAT. Remember the AC guy? He’s coming at 8:30. No power = no AC fixed.

8:20 a.m.: After playing on the swings, slides, and letting him run amok on the grass, we’re headed for home. The technician for Company F pulls in front of the house as we’re walking up the driveway. Fingers crossed that the power’s back on ….

And it is. Whew.

An apple, banana, pancake, and one sippy cup later: The technician has a diagnosis: We’re screwed. The drain pan is broken, and we had water spraying against the interior wall of the house where the AC connects to the furnace. A pipe is broken as well, but he can’t fix it because they need to order the parts. He does a band-aid fix McGuyver style — it involves glue, paper, and a paper towel. No kidding. He’ll talk the the bosses on Monday about ordering the parts and getting it fixed for us ASAP on Monday. Cause his fix is a band-aid and won’t hold for long.

Monday-Tuesday (Last week): I call Company F to get an appointment for the AC. And get the runaround. They don’t have the technician’s paperwork in the system yet. It was a busy weekend. Still looking. Oh, you need to talk to S in the XYZ department about it. And did you know that your 1-year warranty expired on Friday? Well, you see, the part that broke (the drain pan)? We didn’t install that. The company that installed the furnace did that. So we’re not liable. But we’ll send someone out Tuesday to give you an estimate to do the work. Well, if we’re replacing the drain pan, we have to replace the coil as well, because the manufacturer doesn’t sell them separate. How does $1,600 sound? That’s our discounted rate. Want to sign here so I can get the work going for you? What? You want another opinion first … oh … um … OK …

Tuesday-Friday (Last week): I call Company W, which installed the furnace, coil, and drain pan to see how much THEY want to charge me to fix it. They send a technician out Wednesday to look at it. She says it shouldn’t have happened, that’s so weird, yes, we definitely need to fix that. Someone will call you tomorrow to make an appointment to get this fixed right away. The part is under warranty, so they should only charge for labor. And so I spend all of Thursday on the phone getting the run around until I FINALLY talk to a manager who basically tells me that HE has to come out and look at it and that his company isn’t liable because he’s positive Company F broke it when they were hooking the AC up to the furnace. But I have a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty on the coil and drain pan. But that only covers manufacturer defects. So he wants to come out Tuesday and take a look.

This is where my head explodes.

When I calm down, I call a third company — Company H. I talk to John, the owner. He’s a small company with faboo ratings on Yelp. He comes out that night, after work, just to look at it. And he laughs. Here’s his diagnosis: Most likely, Company F broke the thing when they installed the AC unit. And they did a crappy job. Cause the pipes are all freaking wonky. But that’s neither here nor there. He gives us a snowball’s chance in hell that either company (H or W) will take a shred of responsibility, because they want to charge us for the part (plus their cut) and labor. Oh, and the drain pans? They can be bought separate. Easily. He can get it for us and install it for $550. He gives us his card, and suggests we try again with both companies and if we’re not satisfied, to call him back and he’ll fix it for us.

Friday: I call both Company F and Company W. Both of them are pointing fingers at the other, saying they are not liable for the fix. All I want is my damn AC fixed. How much for the part, and how much for the labor? Company W won’t even tell me what the cost is. Company F says its fully on Company W and that THEY need to do it, etc., etc. Just getting this far, took me 4 hours on the phone. I’m pissed in a major way. I’m totally raging, hormonal, and start crying. At work. FABULOUS. Stupid preggy hormones. So I e-mail the Hubbs, and I tell him I’m done. I can’t do this anymore, and I’m not wasting any more of my time or cell phone minutes on this. I’m calling John and he’s doing the work. And the Hubbs says “OK” and tells me to calm down. Cause stress isn’t good for the baby.

What do you think this entire week was? And so my head explodes again.

I call and leave John a message, saying we want him to do the fix and to please call me back. Then I call Company W and tell them to cancel any appointments they made to come out to the house because I’m having someone else fix it and I’m never giving them business ever again. And their receptionist has never sounded more relieved in her life and she happily says “OK, so I’ve canceled your appointment tomorrow. THANK YOU!” And so I wonder if that’s what they wanted the entire time and my brain threatens to implode again, so I go take a walk.

Thursday night: John calls back. What day is best for me? Wednesdays, since I telecommute. We make an appointment for the 7th (yesterday). He thinks the band-aid fix will hold until then. The tech actually did a decent job on that — so he’ll order the part and see us Wednesday. In the meantime, just try to go easy on the AC use.

Cut to yesterday — Wednesday: John is here! John is here! And guess what? He found a refrigerant (Free-on) leak in one of the pipes. (Am I surprised? NO.) Because of the materials, he’ll have to charge us an extra $150 for that. And he apologizes for not catching it the first time he was there. And then he starts shaking his head. The exhaust pipe? Wasn’t glued in like it was supposed to be. (Of course.) And the drain pipe to the outside? Wasn’t draining. (Naturally.) So he fixed that too. He’s amazed that our unit passed the permit process. So he fixes the leak in the pipe, glues in the exhaust pipe like it should be, fixes the drain pipe so water can … you know, DRAIN out of the system, replaces the drain pan, and then lets the system run for a good 20 minutes before going outside and inside testing everything for leaks and to make sure everything is draining properly. He checks the indoors for the refrigerant leak. And we’re good. He also fixes the pipes in the furnace closet and then cleans up and is gone.

And the Hubbs and I go around and look into the closet where the furnace is and it looks pristine. The AC is back up and running like a champ. And John went an showed us what he was doing at each step, so I’m pointing out where the refrigerant leak was and the Hubbs points to where he fixed a pipe, and he goes: “That guy has some SERIOUS pride in his work. He was out there checking and double checking things to make sure they were working properly.”

And that is the AC story. Moral of the story: Freaking call John first next time.

Negotiating 101

Hubbs and I bought a new car this weekend: A silver 2005 Toyota Camry. Now why did we need a new car?

  1. My Ponny-wreck had more than 230,000 miles on it and the inside was thrashed — as in the door panels were virtually nonexistent;
  2. The trunk leaks, which mean that not only can you NOT keep anything in it, but each spring, MOLD grows and stinks up the entire car and honestly — its a safety hazard;
  3. The rear bumper, despite being re-bolted an ungodly number of times, continued to try to fall off the car. It had permanent plumber’s crack; 
  4. The one week the Monkey had to ride in it, he would SHRIEK every time we got inside, probably because he thought he was being swallowed by a cave;
  5. It was a coupe; and
  6. Have you ever tried getting a child in and out of the deep backseat of a coupe? How about two? ENOUGH SAID. I’ve already thrown my back out once getting the Monkey in and out of that back seat and that was more than enough for me.

But probably the biggest reason for the new car was that our day care provider said she can’t keep the Monkey until 6 p.m. anymore — she needs us to pick him up at 5:30. And we completely understand. She was only keeping him until 6 as a favor to us. And she’s tired. So no worries.

But it means adjusting. It means that the Ponny-wreck — which is being held together by a wing, a prayer, some bubble gum and whole lot of duct tape — would go from being used once a week to five days a week. And the Hubbs? He was not happy about this. Because it would mean that I would be driving the death trap to and from BART. (No more being chauffeured by the Hubbs!) And I’m pregnant. And we were expecting it to die on the side of the road at any time. And the car shudders when you turn left. And he REALLY wasn’t comfortable with me driving it. At all.

We had been talking about buying a new car for awhile. But once the day care situation changed, we doubled our budget from $4k to $8k. And then raised it to $10k. That’s called spiraling. Because oh, for ONLY $1,500 more we can get a year newer and 50k less miles …

But negotiating? You need to negotiate with a car dealership? Want to know the secret? Really really? I’m serious, don’t laugh: Bring a baby/small child. And a tranquilizer for yourself.

Buying a car is an obscenely long process. After you decide you want to buy it, you go in and make an offer. And they come back and tell you there’s no way, and come down a wee bit. And so on and so forth. Enter small child. Who although has been fed, has now missed his nap time by about 40 minutes. And is PISSED about it.

And so you look at the dealer, screaming, writhing child in your lap, and say “This is my best offer.” And watch then run out of the room. And as you try to soothe your child, you close the office door, because you can hear his cries ECHOING throughout the dealership. They come dangerously close to your best offer, so you accept.

And then have to go do the paperwork, where they try to sell you add-ons: warranty, stain protection, security system. I actually wanted the security system. Again, enter screaming, writhing child. An $800 system gets whittled down to $325 lickety-split. Of course, me asking — quite impatiently — “just HOW much longer is this is going to take?” while said child cries? Kinda helps speed things along. Not fast enough, mind you, but faster than it would otherwise.

It also gives you an excuse to completely cut the dude off with “let’s cut to the chase, we’re not interested in the add-ons. Can you please just get us out OUT OF HERE?” and not feel bad about it.

And the Monkey? After all that crying? We were in the car about 2 minutes before he zonked out in the backseat. He barely woke up when I pulled him out once we got home and laid him in the crib to finish his nap. And when he woke up? Crackers, a banana, a sippy cup of water, and an episode of “Sesame Street” while cuddling with both Momma and Dada were JUST what the doctor ordered.

For all of us.