Friday, August 29, 2008

adventures in babysitting

Well, I have finally entered the world of hiring a babysitter. Yes, it is long past time - sheesh, Katie is 2.5 yrs old already! We are totally spoiled, and we know it and totally appreciate it.

Since Oma and Opa live 30 minutes away, we have until this point gone out when they were available to watch the kids. This spoiling includes the occasional sleepover as well - which most times have been used to work on remodeling projects, as opposed to sleeping in or jetting off to exotic locations, but yes, we are spoiled and we know it.

Thursday we went to the dinner theater WITH my parents, necessitating the actual hiring of a teenager for the evening.

I was a horrible babysitter in my day. I skipped pages while reading bed time stories so that they would end sooner. I put the kids to bed as quickly as possible. I was NOT interested in playing with the kids - just making my (on a good night) whopping $1 an hour. My goal was to get the kids in bed as quickly/painlessly as possible so I could study or watch TV. And I HATED the places that didn't have anything good to nosh on. I didn't mind watching the kid across the street so much because he was an only child, and his mom would actually pay for me to take him to the movies from time to time. Free movie AND $1/hour! What a deal!

My cousin Ralin was an awesome babysitter. I went with her once on one of our family trips to Utah, and I was amazed. She played with the kids. She even seemed to like them! When the kids were in bed, then she REALLY got to work - the kitchen was cleaner than when we came! The house was spotless when she was finished. This was a whole new concept for me.

I, now being on the other side, want a teenager in my neighborhood like my cousin! I understand that I'm asking a lot here. In the negative column: two small fry, both in diapers, so they both have to actually be watched AND entertained and changed on occasion. On the positive side: early bed times, easily distracted, WAY easy to skip pages with if necessary. :) Also on the plus side, we have lots of ice cream, candy and Izze laying around. Should cover even a sitter as bad as I was.

Now, what does one pay for such service these days? I don't have a clue. I went with $5/hour. This for two kids who had already been fed, who were changed right before we left, and who went to bed 2 hours after we left. For the next 3 hours the gal got to hang out. She was not Ralin, but the house was still standing when we got home. Hopefully the pot was sweet enough that she'll be willing to come back.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

super rog vs. the evil repairman

(Thanks to Julie for doctoring up the picture for me!)

Mom's washer had some problem a few months back. The repairman came out and replaced the 'bearings.'

Another month goes by, and the washer is acting up again. This time the repairman says that the motor is shot and will cost $300-400 to fix. So, Carol upgrades to this little front-loading beauty - just the washer.

Roger was naturally intrigued. I mean, her previous washer was a Maytag. Aren't those babies supposed to last forever? And this one was only like 10 years old. His favorite kind of puzzle to solve. He poked around online and found that new motors are $125. Once he started tinkering around with it, he ended up just taking apart the transmission, greasing everything up like crazy, and putting it back together. Cost of repair: $0.

Aside from tooting Roger's 'man skills horn', this little adventure reminds me of how maybe repairmen are actually LOWEST on the 'slime list' of professions, even after realtors and lawyers - poke poke. In college, I quickly learned to take a boy along with me anytime i needed to talk to a mechanic about my VW bug, and preferably a tall one. One of these trips was particularly memorable, because I hadn't taken a boy to the FIRST mechanic. A nice tall specimen accompanied me for the second opinion - a guy who know NOTHING about cars, while by then I had a decent knowledge of how the Bug ran, just not the tools or inclination to fix it myself. The mechanic addressed his entire conversation to my friend, while I was the person answering his questions and detailing the problem. The estimate was about $1000 less than opinion #1 and did indeed fix the problem.

Since hooking up with the Rog, particularly AFTER he became convinced the Saab is indeed a fun car, I've not had to deal with mechanics. I did go to have my tires rotated once, and the guy told me I needed to replace all 4. I smelled a rat, and sent Roger back to the exact same tire store, and they rotated the tires without any fuss - or attempts at convincing him that he was risking his life every centimeter he drove further on those tires - at all. ARGH.

So what's the deal with repairmen/mechanics? Did mom's repair guy make a good faith mistake, or did he just not want to flip the washer over to get at the transmission. Did he decide the repair required was just not worth an hour of his time, or did he honestly think it was the motor - which is located in the FRONT of the machine, by the way, and which I could probably even change out without too much trouble (assuming the wires are the same colors as the existing one).

Do they get away with it because it's just not worth a lawyer's time to go after the $500-1000 difference between reality their 'estimate?' And how would you even prove your case in small claims court? So, most people just suck it up and take it, generally not having a method of recourse. Aside from hoping for an HONEST repairman the next time . . .

Monday, August 11, 2008

what's in a name?

I think now that August has hit it's fair to say the countdown is on. I have maybe 6 more weeks to go before hatching, and STILL we are almost totally blank as to what to name this mystery baby.

A friend of mine just had a baby boy, and she and her husband are at a total impasse as to his name. He'd like to name their baby after his brother, who committed suicide last year. She does not have the same rosy memories of this brother from childhood, and so primarily associates that name with the sad end of his life. And so the debate continues . . .

How much does a name affect a child's life? It's amazing all the criteria that come into play when choosing a name. Instinctively I think most parents want it to be 'cool' or 'unique' or something this new little person can feel proud of or inspired to live up to.

'How about naming the baby X?'
'Nope. That's the same name as a: former boyfriend, girlfriend, friend who went bad, loser in school, poorly made automobile, lesser State of the Union, city with high crime rate, etc.'

And OF COURSE you have to check for potential rhymes, to try and preempt and hopefully eliminate future school yard nicknames.

Katie and Alexander are both named after specific people, for specific reasons. #3 is giving us - probably mostly MOI - fits. The few names I'm coming up with that I like I am drawn to just because they sound 'cool,' and not for any other specific reason.

Does a person's name really matter for their future success in life? The authors of Freakonomics would argue no. Previous researchers attempting to measure the perception of different names sent out identical resumes, with either traditionally white names or more immigrant or minority-sounding names. The 'white' resumes always garnered more interviews. However, using regression analysis on data collected from birth certificates in CA from 1961 onward (data included obvious things such as gender, race, birth weight, name of parents and marital status, as well as zip code and method of payment - indicating socio-economic status - and education level) Levitt (Freakonomics, an economist) and Fryer (researcher who studies race) found a different result. (For a brief overview, check out this link from Slate.) While a person with a 'white' name fares better on average economically than one with a 'black' name, this is NOT due to the name itself. 'The kind of parents who name their son Jake don't tend to live in the same neighborhoods or share economic circumstances with the kind of parents who name their son DeShawn.'

The parents, or circumstances of the parents, matter, not the name. So I guess I can go with 'Tongue Depressor,' or 'Magnet,' safe in the knowledge that it's not the name that will mess my child up, but ME! :)

post script: I forgot what fun NAMETRACKER is. Just pop in the name you're curious about, and out pops a chart of popularity for the last century or so. Someone should have checked 'Alexander' and caught that total spike that peaked around 1990. If we can make the nickname transition to Xander before school starts, we'll be ok. :)

Friday, August 8, 2008

long beach recap

We spent the final week in July in Long Beach, CA hanging out with the Reese clan for Griffin's baptism/Carolpalooza. A good time was had by all. Maybe I was too tired out by Tornado Alex and Trampoline Katie, but they had a great time playing with their cousins, aunts and uncles, and I dare say the adults got along with each other as well. :)

A few highlights:

The beach is always one of my favorites. Katie had fun splashing in the waves - or is that Uncle Tom trying to drown her? :) - and flying a kite. Roger busted out his 2 m/4 string kite out on Saturday (I even learned how to fly it), which only reinforced his desire for an even BIGGER kite. The Hall cousins saw the ocean for the first time. Alex made it out the first day, and didn't even eat that much sand!

Saturday we took some family portraits in the morning, which hopefully turned out because of COURSE we want to document the existence of Shamu on dry land! Griffin's baptism was great, even though Aunt Kat got stuck in traffic and was tardy. We had time to go to the beach before a nice family BBQ, and played 'The Newlywed Game' afterwards for mom and dad's anniversary. Smarty pants Rog found some questions on line. Rog and I set it up, and ended up playing and LOSING! David and Pam won. The couple with 40 years together under their belts came in a close second.

Monday we hit Sea World. We went down early, thinking that the kids wouldn't make it all day - or that I wouldn't for that matter - but we stayed until 10 pm. Katie and Alex did great, although I think Alex was more interested in the animals than Katie was; she was VERY into the frozen lemonades, as was I. They saved me time and again. Entrance fee: $51 a person. At close to $5 a beverage, they should just let everyone in for free and count on the sun to make their cash registers sing. There was a small meltdown in the afternoon because Katie didn't get to pick out her own hat - and it wasn't even princess OR polka dotted! BAD MOM! - but other than that it was an excellent day.

(I can't believe I forgot about this! Thanks for reminding me Mag.) Tuesday morning Katie and I were hanging out at the pool, chatting with Mag, when a 5.4 earthquake hit. It was funny, because at first I was looking around for the large truck that had just rattled past, shaking the ground. Then some lady came out on the second floor with her baby, freaking out, and Mag and I looked at each other. Katie's first, mine and Mag's second earthquake. It woke Roger up, but Alex was a trooper and slept right through it!

Every morning Katie asked to go to Griffy's house so she could jump on the trampoline with him. She scored a Tinkerbell dress from her cousins - complete with sparkly ring and wings - which she removed occasionally to allow for clothing changes underneath. It's just too bad we don't live close enough together to play more often!

I need to collect pictures from others who were more snap-happy than I, but here are a few. I really need to grow a couple more arms!

In case you're wondering, this is my favorite purchase from the trip. Tuesday Mag, mom, Katie and I took a little fieldtrip to Ikea. Man, could I have gone crazy. Suitcase limitations kept me in check. I did pick up these little beauties (sans the cutlery) and I am LOVING them. They are the perfect size for the small ones and very handy for picnics out in the backyard.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

remodeling scene

We are still in the midst of the remodeling fiesta, but I did finally manage to find the cord to connect the camera to my computer. Here is some of the remodeling, almost to date. The living room is now a regular size, instead a bowling alley. I have been having too much fun painting the walls this week to actually take any pictures yet, so those will come later. I actually went with something from the 'tan' family - I'm calling it 'SAND' - and it's still making my head twist that I'm liking it. I am generally more of an actual color girl.

My favorite part is the tunnel between the bedroom closet and the hall closet. Someday, I will have a hidden passageway behind a moving bookcase! :)