Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday Lovin': Bastille (the band not the prison)

Sometimes you hear a new song and you just have to stop and HEAR it, because it's so perfectly awesome on the first listen.  I remember exactly where and when I first heard Bastille's song Pompeii.

It was a freezing January evening at the gas station near my parents' house, where I was filling up before the daily trip back to the house to "camp out" in the living room during the remodel.

While the song was playing, I used the Android "what song is it" widget to find out who it was and hopped over to Amazon MP3 to purchase it immediately.  I should have listened to the other songs on the album and just bought the whole thing right there, but of course I was looking for instant gratification and had two kids perilously close to bedtime.

We've been listening to a lot of Pandora in the house, and after I gave Pompeii a "thumbs up", other Bastille songs started creeping into the mix.  And I loved every song I heard.  So I finally bought the whole Bad Blood album last week, and Oh. Em. Gee. It's amazing. So catchy and such great lyrics.  Any band that leaves me the earworm of "Icarus is flying too close to the sun" is A-OK.  Apparently if you buy the CD, the MP3 download is now free.  (I missed this entirely since I purchased on my phone, sigh.)

I'm noticing a pattern.  British male singers with obvious accents.  Sound reminiscent of 80s music. Thoughtful lyrics not always about lost romantic love.  Hello Passenger, The Script, Scars on 45. So I guess I've become predictable in my old age.  But at least I'm finding new music to listen to!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ready to Run

I have a love-hate, on-and-off, breakup and get back together again relationship with exercise.  When I was 24, I lost 40 pounds by combining Weight Watchers and serious exercise. That was the first time in my life I tried running. I was inspired by John Bingham's book about getting started as a runner despite being middle aged and overweight. I love that he dubbed himself "The Penguin". I went to Alaska for one of his running clinics and it was awesome.

Because this is a blog post and that was 14 years ago, I can fast forward through all the sweat and side stitches and hours on the treadmill, and say that I went from no exercise at all, to a ton of walking, to running a 5K.  It was glorious - I was thinner than I ever had been as an adult, I actually started to love running and working out and I gained some serious self-confidence in the process.

You know how the story goes. First it started with a new consulting gig where the gym wasn't so convenient and lots of dinners out.  I eventually gained some of that weight back. In 2004 after I got engaged, I got my vanity on - I wanted to look *good* in my wedding pictures.  So back to the gym I went. I got a trainer and a nutritionist and got back to running.  I ran another couple of 5Ks in Seattle and learned to love running again.

But again, the lazy won out.  I did work out fairly regularly, but stopped running.  When I got pregnant with T, I stopped going to the gym entirely because I was SO tired all the time. I dropped my gym membership and haven't had one since (5+ years now!).

Two pregnancies later, the situation is not pretty. I have about 20 lbs to lose to get back to pre-T-pregnancy weight.  And that was not a healthy weight for me, so it's more like 40-mumble pounds to get back to something actually healthy for my height.

One of my goals for age 40 (next year - arghhh!) is to get to a healthy weight for my height.  I don't have a lot of time, and I do have a lot of work ahead of me.  And yet I have been unmotivated to DO THE WORK. I can talk a good game, I can make charts and lists and motivational collages, but actually getting down to the treadmill and walking?  Naaah.

And then my friend A told me about Beat the Blerch.  It's a crazy running event hosted by the guy who draws The Oatmeal.  There will be cake, and people in costume chasing the runners. This appealed to me. Plus, I love The Oatmeal.

My first 10K, god help me

So in a fit of crazy, and encouraged by several friends, I signed up.  The shortest distance is 10K.  Which I've never run.  The last time I did any running was in 2005.  What have I gotten myself into?

I started where all new runners start these days.  The Couch to 5K walk/run program.  Now in our fancy age of smartphones, there's an app for that.  It's fantastic- it gives you prompts to start running or walking over the music you're listening to.  I really could have used this back in 2004.  Or 1998.

I completed a week of running workouts before I got this horrible cold which I've had for about 2 weeks now.  (Sigh).  This means I'll probably have to start over.  I couldn't even DO the Week 1 of that program - I'm so out of shape that even running for 1 minute 8 times was too much.  So I scaled it back to running 35 seconds and I'll add more time slowly.  

I've got 5 months before the race in September so I should be able to work up to 6.2 miles by then, *if* I can be consistent.  That's the hard part, right?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Blogging the Remodel: The Nicest Bathroom I've Ever Had

I've had a few friends hassling asking me nicely for photos of our completed home addition/remodel project. There are many reasons I haven't posted them yet, except for a few quick ones on Instagram.  I feel like the rooms need to be unpacked, or at least reasonably uncluttered, before I photograph them to post.  We're still bringing stuff up from the garage, going through bins and making weekly runs to Goodwill. Losing both dogs within two months also made it hard to focus on non-essential tasks.  We've unpacked enough to go through our daily lives, so there's less of a *need* to get the rest done quickly.

Also - we added 1000 square feet, but haven't bought a ton of furniture or decor to fill it up, by design. (Well, partly because we gave all our money to the remodeling firm.)  We want to live with the space and see what we need, and figure out what we can repurpose from the rest of the house first.  So many of the new spaces look empty.  We just got the energy to hang pictures in our living room, which was only barely affected by the project.

I'll start in the top rightmost corner of the house - the master bathroom.   In typical (horrible) 70s style, our sink and vanity were right *in* the bedroom. There was a separate TINY room with the toilet and small fiberglass shower stall.  The toilet/shower area was so small you had to be very careful about where you stood so that you could open the door.  When TJ got up for work super-early, he had to turn on the lights over the sink, which woke both me and whichever baby happened to be sleeping in our room at the time. 

Our house has a lot of recycled rustic barnboard, but in the master bedroom it was overkill - all over the vanity wall, plus the wall behind the bed.  There was also no bathtub, though we did have a (rarely used) hot tub outside on our deck, which we sacrificed for this project.

Here's a drawing of what it looked like:

Here are a couple of photos of the "before" space.  We forgot to take photos of the bathroom before demolition.

One of the listing photos when we bought the house

Our wedding day, 2005

The design for the remodel had our new master bedroom and bath being built from scratch, in the "addition" part of the house.  So we were able to design it exactly how we wanted it:
  • Fully enclosed bathroom - vanity area no longer part of the bedroom
  • Solid surface countertop - no more tile!!
  • Tile floors and shower stall
  • Larger shower area, with a bench for "stuff"
  • On-demand hot water heater (woot!)
  • TWO sinks instead of one
  • Large soaking bathtub 
  • Room to turn around and close the door
  • No barnboard or 70s stained glass

We didn't need a HUGE, luxurious spa bathroom with a seating area - we just wanted it bigger than before and to use the space wisely.  Here's the new design:

We love this one because the bathroom door can be closed, and even when it's not, the vanity lights aren't shining into the sleeping area thanks to that little "hallway" by the door.  The closet door opens to a wall in that same hallway and that also doesn't disrupt the person sleeping.

I'm not a huge fan of the "toilet closet" with a door, since we're almost never in the bathroom at the same time, but apparently that's what people do these days.  

Choosing the tile, cabinet finish, counter and paint was a painful process, and by the time we got to the bathroom, I just wanted to check it off the list.  I found this bathroom online and used it as my inspiration:

Houzz bathroom

Here are the actual photos (you're welcome, A) - click for larger versions:

I chose the wood stain color early on, and had a challenge trying to find a light colored countertop that I liked that wasn't boring.  We ended up with Cambria engineered quartz in Laneshaw, which looks sort of like Reese's peanut butter cup ice cream.  I'm usually not a fan of the "fake marble" look, but it's got enough gold and silver sparkles so that it doesn't look like it's trying too hard to be real.

Most of the choices were cost-driven.  The nice thing is that anything new was an improvement over what we were living with. We chose the same sinks for both the girls' bathroom and ours - a flat modern looking oval with a sharp inside edge by Kohler.  We splurged on the HUGE soaking tub by Mirabelle, but didn't get the version with the jets.  The showerhead and faucets were Grohe in chrome - nothing fancy but much nicer than what we had.  I decided NOT to frame the mirror like the inspiration bathroom - it was just too expensive for the size we needed.

It was easiest to paint the bathroom in the same color as the master bedroom - Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter, which is a warm grey.  I'm surprised at how much we both love the color, considering I'm not usually a fan of neutrals.  The "toilet closet" and ceiling are Benjamin Moore Morning Light - a warm cream color that we used throughout the house for ceilings and hallways.

Tile was the last thing we chose, and at that point, I was SO TIRED of all the choices.  I asked our coordinator at the design/build firm we were using to narrow down the choices to matte cream colored tile with some kind of natural texture and a very subtle pattern.  Bonus points for sparkle.  One of the choices came in a variety of sizes, so I just decided to use that for EVERYTHING.  12x24 rectangles for the shower walls and tub deck, which I love, 12x12 square tiles for the floor, and the 2x2s on the shower floor.  I love the simple, unified look.  She also found a GORGEOUS rectangular mosaic tile by Statements that we used as an accent - it brings together the different colors in the woodwork, tile and paint.  And it's got lots of sparkly bits.

Another choice I'm really happy with was the decision to use frosted glass windows.  They're really opaque and "glow" during the day to let plenty of light in.  At night you can't see *anything* from outside.  This way I don't have to mess with window treatments near the tub and it gives the whole thing a cleaner look.  I'm sure that many interior designers will disagree, but for us, simple and low maintenance is better.

It is pure luxury to take a shower in this lovely space now.  The clear glass takes some getting used to, especially right across from the (frosted) window. But I love having my own sink and my own bank of drawers. And the tub, ahhhh. This is by far the nicest bathroom I've ever had in my own place.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Just another sad love song

I have been putting off writing this post because I just can't find the words to do it.  But it needs to be written, so I can get through my grief instead of trying to circumvent it or pretend it doesn't exist.

On March 2, two months to the day that Spike left us, we had to let Peanut go too. We knew he probably wouldn't make it through the year - a 100-lb dog about to celebrate his 12th birthday - but still, I wasn't expecting it to be so soon. 

Peanut, Dec 2013

He was the first of many blessings in my life with TJ. Without him, none of the others would have happened. Realizing how much fun it was to live with a dog made us look for Spike (well, actually, we were looking for a well-behaved beagle, but ended up with Spike).  Caring for and enjoying dogs made me realize that maybe I could be entrusted with small messy lives, and that opened me up to the idea of having kids.

Peanut, Sept 2002

It's all due to this 35-lb gangly 6 month old puppy we adopted at the Tucson Humane Society in 2002. Now our hearts are full, but our house is so empty.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Temporary Solo Parenting: How Am I Going to Be An Optimist About This? Six Ways.

I would not trade my husband for anything - he truly shares parenting with me and now that BabyM is no longer breastfeeding, he is 100% interchangeable with me where kid tasks are concerned.

The one time that's not awesome is when he needs to go out of town. Fortunately it's pretty rare (2 one-week trips in the past year), but during the time he's gone it feels like an *eternity*. 12-14 hours a day of All Mama, All the Time plus random night wakings gets old fast.  

A tropical drink always helps.

I should also say that I know a lot of people are doing this on their own *every day* with no help from a partner. My hat is off to you - that is hard work. I know I'm lucky.

Here are some things that helped me get through this past week. In less than 8 hours, I'll be back to 50% Parent, so yay!

1 - Stick to bedtime.  I cannot stress this one enough.  My girls usually go to bed around 7-ish, which usually means "somewhere between 7 and 7:30". Not this week. This week, both were tucked in, Mama out the door, by 6:30pm SHARP for BabyM (who sleeps remarkably better with this earlier bedtime) and 7:00 ON THE DOT for T. I needed a bit of time to decompress at night, had to stagger bedtimes to get each one's routine done, and REALLY didn't want to deal with more night wakings than necessary. This was also true for BabyM's nap - I made sure *every day* that we were home on time and we didn't have a single day where she refused.  Small victories, yo.

2 - Minimize commitments.  This is another one of those "survival mode" things. I didn't accept play dates, volunteer work, or extra errands that didn't need to be done this week. We managed to get T to preschool, Spanish class and Little Gym on time. I took M to her toddler group, because she loves it and I don't need to entertain her for that 2 hour stretch. We bailed on T's second Little Gym class of the week today in favor of Pajama Day at home. It's been lovely. On the stressful side, I (stupidly) decided to go through with my plan to bake blueberry muffins for T's class when it was her day to bring the snack, since I had promised her I'd do it.  Next time I'll pick something store-bought.

3 - Eat simply. We did a big grocery run on Sunday so we were well-stocked for the week. Meals usually consisted of a protein, some fat, a fruit or vegetable, and a small portion of something whole grain. Super easy options, like a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and a tangerine.  Oatmeal, apples and breakfast sausage. Things I can grab from the pantry and require simple heating - no major cooking.  (Blueberry muffins not included!)

4 - Get a babysitter.  T is in preschool for a few hours a day, but BabyM is my shadow ALL.DAY.LONG. And she's in that lovely phase where she's active and into *everything* and totally not interested in logic or reason. Fortunately, we have an awesome babysitter who comes every other week for 3 hours, and this was one of those weeks.  If it wasn't, I'd ask her anyway. It was lovely to get a break just for one afternoon. I got a pedicure, went to Starbucks, had a lovely drink and dinner at a local pub, and went home refreshed just in time to put the girls to bed.

5 - Sleep when they sleep. Some people hate this one, remembering it from the newborn days. BabyM is still an unpredictable sleeper so I try very hard not to stay up too late. One or two nights this week, I put the girls to bed, spent some non-quality time vegging out online, then went to bed myself before 8:30pm. The extra sleep was heavenly. Some afternoons I snoozed on the couch while the girls had nap/Quiet Time. It felt ridiculously slothlike and lazy, but since I didn't have backup on those days, I had to be well rested or I'd be a grouchy mess. 

6 - Plan something FUN. This goes against #2, Minimize Commitments, but I planned it before TJ left, put it on the calendar and talked it up as our "super-secret BIG FUN SURPRISE field trip". This gave T something to look forward to mid-week, helped keep her mind off missing Daddy, and filled up one afternoon of this long, long week. We visited the Seattle Uwajimaya, a huge local Asian grocery and gift store for cream puffs, some Hello Kitty shopping, and dinner. We went after BabyM woke from nap, and got back in time for bed. It wasn't super-elaborate but it was REALLY fun. 

Something unexpected always happens on these weeks.  Last time, when M was 4 months old, our power went out and I freaked out about all the frozen breastmilk in the fridge.  Fortunately, the power returned before any of it defrosted.  This time, our old dog Peanut, took a turn for the worse. He's been having more problems related to his advanced arthritis, but this week has been a LOT worse, possibly due to the fact that he misses TJ. There have been more calls to the vet, but thankfully I haven't had to take him in.

Here's hoping that the next 8 hours or so stay uneventful.  I'd love to hear your tips on coping with occasional solo parenting of little kids!

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