Sunday, September 30, 2007

To Move or Not to Move......

Paranoid gave me quite a bit to think about when it comes to the "build-on vs. move" debate. I'm going to try to answer her very valid questions.

1. How much do you love your house and/or its neighborhood?

We love, love, love our neighborhood. We're two miles from downtown which means a super-short commute for Ryan (20 minutes or so by bus). We have a lot of great friends nearby and the neighborhood mom's group is fabulous. It's a very quirky, diverse, artsy and historic neighborhood that favors local, privately owned businesses which makes me believe that my chocolate business could not only thrive here, but make a nice little profit in a year or so. Crime has been an issue of late due to the whole "tear down the tiny bungalows and put up gigantic houses" phenomenon, but other than my bicycle getting stolen, we really haven't had any problems.

Our house is tiny, but comfortable. It's a two bedroom, one bath and while it was perfect for the two of us or even when we added Sydney to the mix, it's just getting a tad crowded with four people. We've built a lot of memories in our tiny house and that's probably what has kept us from letting go of it before now. Plus, it has character. It's 80 years old and does not look like any other house in the neighborhood. The "cookie-cutter" housing found in other areas is definitely not a problem here.

2. Which will cost more, moving or renovating?

Ahhh.....cost. Short term, renovating will cost us more. We will need to add a second story since we have no room to build out so that's some major $$$$$. Plus, our old house is bound to have some major modern code violations that will have to be upgraded. However, in the long run, adding on will add a lot of value to the house. The appreciation on houses in our neighborhood has been crazy and despite the slowing of the housing market nationally, there really seems to be no slowing here.

However, if we move, we will have to do some MAJOR renovations before we can put it on the market. Our kitchen needs a heavy-duty overhaul not to mention about a million tiny little things to make it marketable. And I mean a million little exaggeration there.

3. If you're working on starting a business, do you really want to be dealing with contractors and living with construction, too?

The business will be in limbo no matter what we decide to do, unfortunately. If we have the major renovations done, we will have to move into an apartment for several months. There's just no living in a house without a roof. So it would be tough to keep the business going through not one, but two moves. However, I fear that if we move to the 'burbs (more on that in question #4's response), the business just will not prosper. After some research, chocolate businesses seem to be located in more urban areas. But, who knows, with some elbow grease perhaps I could make it work outside the Beltway.

4. Can you get exactly what you want in a home by renovating your existing place? How 'bout if you move?

If we move, it will most likely have to be to a suburb; the skyrocketing housing costs in our neighborhood and any neighborhood within 10 miles of downtown are just too much for our one income family. I have to admit that the suburbs (in particular, a suburb I like to call "The Land of Fruit") would be nice because we could have a yard large enough for a swing set and we wouldn't have to worry so much about the schools. We could even afford a house with four bedrooms (a guest room would be nice) or even a pool. However, Ryan's commute would be considerably longer and he would not get to see the kids for more than an hour each day if we moved to The Land of Fruit.

If we renovate our current house, our yard will not get any bigger (unless George finally agrees to sell us his property) and we've still got to sift through all of the bureaucratic paperwork to ensure our kids go to the good public schools. Depending on what the engineer and architect say, we could possibly add a master suite or even two more bedrooms and bath to our current house. So I guess it comes down to yard, schools and commute. Oh, and a garage. It sure would be nice to have a garage for our cars; that would be another plus for The Land of Fruit.

Whew!!! If you've read this far then you've got a lot of patience!

And I'm sure you've got opinions. Please share them.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I Take it Back

About six months ago, I wrote about how "The Money Pit" was the funniest movie ever. It still is a funny movie, but laughing off our own "money pit" issues has gone by the wayside. Our home's little quirks and oddities are just getting on my nerves now.

We've been contemplating either moving or building onto our little bungalow but before we do either, there are several major "fix-it" jobs that have to be done. Here's what needs to be done (soon):

1. Trim the trees.
2. "Tent" for termites (a very long, drawn out process in itself).
3. Clear out all the junk past contractors/owners have left under the house.
4. Have the house leveled.
5. Have the beams underneath the house mapped out.

So far we've managed to accomplish the first one. It took a month of dealing with tree people (getting quotes, dealing with a "no-show", etc) just to get three trees trimmed. I can't imagine how long it's going to take to get the other ones taken care of. And the termite tenting needs to be done SOON because we're now seeing evidence of the little buggers. And I rather not have our house fall down. Or maybe I would like it to fall down because then we don't have to deal with the "list".

Sometimes I hate being a grown up. I don't know how my parents made it look so easy when I was little.

Any thoughts on the move or add-on issue? This will surely be the subject of many future posts so feel free to think about it for a while.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Quest

By now you are well aware that my daughter is obsessed with all things princess. She likes to dress like them, read books about them and watch movies about them. I have no problem with this other than the fact that the only princesses that seem to be out there are the stupid Disney princesses. It seems like every one of them goes something like this: beautiful girl loves her daddy, daddy marries a horrible woman after the death of his perfect wife (usually in childbirth), stepmother treats beautiful girl horribly, prince rescues and marries beautiful girl (usually a kiss is involved). There are variations on the theme, but in general, all of the stories end in a happily ever after of marriage.

I've been attempting to expose her to stronger, more independent princesses/fairies. So far she loves the"Alice the Fairy" book she got for her birthday last year. I've also started buying some princess books for her Christmas gifts.

"Cinderedna" is about Cinderella and her sister, Cinderedna. Instead of relying on a fairy godmother to fix things for her, Cinderedna takes matters into her own hands and fixes her life by herself. She also attends the ball, but in more practical loafers instead of glass slippers. It's pretty cute.

"The Paperbag Princess" is about a princess named Elizabeth who rescues the prince instead of the other way around. She fights a dragon and her clothes become burned and tattered so she changes into a paperbag before rescuing the clueless prince. When the prince tells Elizabeth that he'd be happy to marry her once she takes a bath and puts on some proper clothes, she tells him to go jump off a bridge and lives happily ever after in her own way. It is awesome.

So I'm open to recommendations for more "strong princess" books. Is there a book you remember from your childhood that you think she (and I) might like?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sincerely Yours

Dear Afternoon Gymnastics Moms,

Why can't you be more like the moms from our morning session of gymnastics? All of us wore comfortable clothes, little makeup and got along really well. We looked forward to chatting with each other each Wednesday morning while watching our children acquire gymnastics skills. Our kids became friends and invited each other to their birthday parties. I really looked forward to Wednesday mornings.

But now, I dread bringing my daughter to her gymnastics lessons. You GapMoms really are a collective piece of work. Not only are you the snottiest women in the entire city, but when grouped together, you remind me of the cheerleader clique from high school. I enjoyed high school, but you know, I was happy when it was over. Silly me thought that the high school mentality would subside, but apparently not.

To the Yellow Polo GapMom: I saw you giving me the once over as we entered the gym and I don't appreciate it. No, I wasn't wearing the nicest clothes or makeup, but you know what, I was in my workout outfit and unlike you, I actually go to the gym to workout. I sweat when I exercise and I'm not going to wear a $50 workout outfit just to impress the likes of you.

To the Frilly Pink Shirt GapMom: Do you have nothing better to do than to sashay back and forth in front of the parent seating area waving your hot pink phone around? Just who are you trying to impress with your tight, size 2 jeans? It can't be the gymnastics coach because he is gay. You can't be trying to get the attention of the "sideline coach dad" who sits in the parent area. He's too busy yelling, "Stick and pose!! Stick and pose!!!" at his four year old daughter to notice you. Are you just too busy chatting it up on your phone with the annoying ring to notice that they have no interest in you or your tight pants?

To the Tight Green Shirt GapMom: Would it kill you to eat something? You give new meaning to adult anorexia; I could literally see the outline of your bones through your shirt. Oh, and could you have been any less original in naming your girls? They are going to grow up having four girls in every grade school class with their names.

To the Catalog Outfit GapMom: I give you credit, your outfit looked fabulous, like something straight out of the J. Crew or L.L. Bean catalog. But would it have killed you to stick around and watch your four year old daughter during her lesson? She spent the entire time looking around for you and you weren't there. I hope those errands were important.

Yes, I sound bitter, but I get tired of all the GapMom snottiness. I'm sure it's everywhere, not just in my city, but it sure is annoying. Get over yourselves. Contrary to what you think, I'm not jealous of you nor do I want to join your little group. I have friends who don't care how I dress or that I don't spend an hour every morning making myself look "casual, yet trendy." Just know that while you glance my direction, whisper to each other and giggle and judge me, I'm doing it right back.

The Average, non-GapMom

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Business Lesson #1

I am officially a business owner now. I got my state sales tax permit in the mail on Monday and am now allowed to sell my chocolates. Of course, this means I also get to collect (and pay back to the state) sales tax on everything I sell. I'm not so thrilled with that part, but I've been assured that it's much easier than it sounds. Plus, it can be paid online which is the best part of the whole thing.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake when filling out my application for my license and I am now trying to fix it. The state needed a phone number and since I do not have a separate cell phone for the business yet (no website, no cards, no need for cell number just yet), I put down our home number. BIG MISTAKE.

Every vendor in Texas is now calling and trying to sell me something for the business. Most of the calls are from vendors who want me to buy a credit card machine from them, but I've also had calls regarding bank accounts and security systems. I am hoping that the number of calls will die down soon because all the ringing is driving me crazy. And it disturbs Liam's naps which makes me even crazier.

Because our home number is now listed as a business number, the "Do Not Call Registry" does not apply. So now I'm trying to figure out how to change the number on my license to my cell phone because I can just turn that one off. Who knew this would be such a hassle?!?

So let this be a lesson to any of you considering starting your own business. Do not, under any circumstances, list your home number as your business number.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Kindness of Strangers

How many times have you seen people standing on the side of the road with a broken down car? Countless times, I'm sure. If you're like me, you feel sorry for them, but continue on your way while hoping for the best.

When I was younger (and childless), I stopped a couple of times to see if I could help. But now that I usually have small children in my car, I am quite wary of stopping and asking if they need help. Sad, but it is what it is.

Friday, I was one of those people. My car was making a funny noise and I had it checked out by the body shop who fixed it after our wreck, thinking that perhaps they missed something. It was diagnosed with having an ailing power steering pump (not caused by the accident) and was told I could wait a few days before having it fixed. I then drove to the tire store to have a flat fixed and was told that I needed four new tires, but the next available appointment was in an hour and a half. So I decided to kill some time at Target (where else?) and on the way there, my car died.

It died, people. The radio cut in and out, the transmission failed and then it just stopped. It stopped in a sunny spot while I was mid-turn on to a busy street. And I had Liam in the car. Poor Liam with the same cough, cold, congestion and pink eye that his sister gave him earlier that week.

So of course I panicked. Ryan left work immediately to help me out, but I knew it would take him at least 45 minutes to get to me since he rides the bus to work. I called our roadside assistance program and they told me it could be up to an hour before the tow truck could reach me. So what did I do? I got hysterical and told the woman that not only was my car sticking out into traffic, but the car was in the sun and I had an infant in the car. And of course I was crying because that's what I do in a crisis situation.....I cry.

Several people stopped and asked if I needed help while I was standing outside the car waving the traffic around my stalled car. I bravely smiled through the tears and politely repeated, "Thank you, but the tow truck is on it's way." Most said "OK" and drove on.

However, one lady said, "I don't believe you", and pulled up behind me and turned her hazards on since mine weren't working. She handed me a tissue and played with Liam (who thankfully was drinking cold water from his sippy cup) while I talked to the roadside assistance crew.

Two gentleman stopped in front of my stalled car and offered to push it out of the intersection. They pushed it into the shade and then insisted that I wait with Liam in the air-conditioned hospital 50 yards away while waiting for the tow truck. The lady who played with Liam waited with my car until she saw the tow truck arrive about 15 minutes later. All of them left before I could say "thank you" one last time.

So what did I learn from this? I learned 1)I'm useless in a crisis since all I do is cry and 2)there really are good Samaritans out there. I don't know if they helped me because I had a baby or because I was upset, but either way, I'm grateful.

So here's a "shout-out" to Betty, Lance and Lance's friend who helped me. They'll never read this, but I'd like to think they know how thankful I am for what they did. I hope that karma pays them back tenfold for their kindness.

In honor of Betty, Lance and Lance's friend, I want to hear about your "Good Samaritan" moments. Have you ever stopped and helped a stranger? Have you been the recipient of help from a stranger? I want to hear about it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Winner

After two days of polling and 37 votes (via blog and e-mail), the winner is:

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It was the winner by far with 62% of the vote. Ironically, it was my least favorite of the four choices I posted on the poll. But after all of your comments, it grew on me and I have decided that it is "The One."

The brown and white logo came in second with 18% of the vote. I really liked this one because the color and shape reminded me of a chocolate bar.

The green one came in third with 11% of the vote. It was initially my favorite, but I think I really liked it because it is green (my favorite color) and has tulips on it (my favorite flowers). After reading your comments, however, I realized that as a logo it probably wasn't the best choice.

The other blue one came in last with 9% of the vote. I wasn't as fond of this one as the green one, but Ryan and I initially thought that since they were so similar, they (and other variations on the rectangle/tulip theme) could be used interchangeably on the website.

A big "thank you" to everyone who voted. And thank you for stating your reasons why you chose the one you did. The positive comments made about the winner were a huge factor in my decision.

So now the real work can begin. I may just have to keep asking you guys for your opinions since you did such a great job this time.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Vote, Vote, Vote!!!

Okay - we've narrowed it down to the following four logos. Now I need your help getting it down to one. Please vote for your favorite logo. Feel free to tell me why you voted for the one you did in the comments. Thanks so much!

******Edited to say: Apparently, you can't vote on the poll unless you've registered with LiveJournal. I apologize; I did not know this when I set up the poll. So, if you'll just leave your vote in the comments section, I'd really appreciate it!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Eyes Glued Shut

No, the title is not an homage to Stanley Kubrick, director of the similarly named film. It is the state of being in which my poor daughter currently finds herself.

Poor Sydney has pink eye (aka "goopy eye") in both eyes. And she has ear infections in both ears. And she has a cough. And let's not forget the congestion. I think we'll be setting a world record for the number of prescription drugs purchased for a four year old later this afternoon. Seriously. I'll be looking for it in the Guinness Book later this year.

So, in honor of my poor baby, I thought I'd post two of the amusing conversations we had this weekend.


Sydney: "Mommy! My shoe has the number nine in it."

Me: "Yes, I know. You wear a size nine shoe."

Sydney: "But I can't wear a size nine. I'm only four. I should wear a size four shoe."

Me: "Your shoe size isn't the same number as your age, sweetheart. I wear a size four shoe, but do you remember how old I am?

Sydney: "You're 40."

I think I almost fainted.


After seeing a commercial for Disney World.......

Sydney: "Mommy! Can we go there on vacation?"

Me: "It's very expensive. It costs a lot of money.'

Sydney: "Daddy has money."

Me: "It costs a LOT of money. Like $10,000. Do you have $10,000?"

Sydney: "I know who has $10,000 - Gram and Grandad! Let's ask Gram and Grandad for $10,000!"

Ummmm.....let's not.


And in chocolate graphic designer friend has given me 11 logos to choose from. I'm going to narrow it down to three or four and ask you guys to vote for your favorite. Be on the lookout for them later this week!

Friday, September 7, 2007


Today's post is full of random topics, none of which seemed to warrant its own post.......

Liam had his 9 month checkup on Wednesday even though he will be 10 months old on Sunday. Here are the latest stats:

Height: 27 inches (10th percentile)
Weight: 18 lbs, 12 oz (10th percentile)
Head Circumference: 25th percentile
Shots: 1

He's still small for his age, but remains steady in his growth. He's reached all of his nine month milestones (crawling, pulling up, eating finger foods, babbling) and the pediatrician was impressed when I told her that he regularly uses a sippy cup at mealtime. Apparently that's not something they look for until the kids hit 12 months. She also wasn't concerned about the fact that he has no teeth. I have a feeling that he'll be getting them all at once rather than a couple at a time.

He has turned into a little boy overnight. He is into absolutely everything and laughs whenever Sydney gets annoyed with him. His current favorite activity is lifting up the rug, tearing off bits of the rug padding and putting those bits in his mouth. Anyone know how to babyproof a rug pad?

Liam also loves cats. Here he is at my parents' house the week we house-sat for them:

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Which brings me to my next random topic.

A black and white kitty seems to have adopted us. She's been hanging around our house for a year or so and in the past she has let me pet her and even went as far as trying to get into the house behind me. According to our neighbor, she was recently attacked by a dog (he was nice enough to take her to the vet for treatment) and consequently, she is a lot shier than she used to be. Another neighbor who lives across the street has been feeding her in front of our house (since she lives here) in hopes of catching her and making the cat her pet.

Should we just adopt her? How does one adopt a stray? Should we just start feeding her? How does one catch a skittish cat so that she can be taken to the vet for shots and spaying? And how do I explain this to the neighbor who wants this cat for herself? Clearly, the cat likes living in our yard, but I don't want to hurt the neighbor's feelings. Thoughts?

And random thing number three: Jerk of the Week. I think I might make this is a sporadic post topic rather than a weekly one, but I just have to award it this week to the person who stole the copper coil out of the air conditioning unit at Sydney's school. Who steals from a pre-school and renders the air conditioning system useless in September in Houston?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

One of Those Days

Did you ever have one of those days where so much goes wrong so early in the day you just want to crawl back into bed and hide under the covers? I'd like nothing more than to do just that.

6:15 am: After a night of my lovely insomnia I awoke on the couch (after a couple of fitful hours of sleep) to Ryan turning on the living room light and plopping Liam on the floor. Suffice it to say, I am not a morning person so this was not a pleasant start to my day. Ryan left for work leaving me to half-doze while Liam played with his toys.

6:20 am: Sydney decided to get up giving me an early start to my morning activities. I left the two of them alone so that I could go fix breakfast only to hear Liam wail thanks to his new found separation anxiety phase. I picked him up and set him on the dining room floor, hurried to hang up his favorite little jumper toy from Sydney's doorway and in my haste, accidentally knocked down the picture hanging above the door frame. With a broken frame and shattered glass all over the floor, Liam lunged toward the noisy, sparkly mess.

6:25 am: Liam got plopped back down in the baby-gated living room so that I could clean up the glass and he began to wail once again. So amidst the crying (and complaints from Sydney that she didn't have her breakfast yet), I ran to the kitchen to get a broom and dustpan. And what did I find, you ask? It was a kitchen full of smoke and flames leaping out of the toaster. I unplugged it and grabbed a glass of water to quench the flames when I remembered that despite being unplugged, water + electrical appliance probably still equaled a big no no. By then the fire had settled down to a flicker so I opened the smoke filled toaster oven and blew out the flame just in time to see the words, "In case of food flare-up, do not open toaster oven door" written on the appliance. Oh well.

6:30 am: So then I handed Sydney her breakfast, gave Liam his pacifier, turned on the Disney Channel and proceeded to clean up the glass. I cut my finger on one of the shards.

6:40 am: I examined the remains of my breakfast in the toaster oven and decided it didn't look too bad. I sat down to eat my very crispy English Muffin with peanut butter.

6:45 am: Liam started up with the separation anxiety fussing again and Sydney yelled that she couldn't hear her show so I scooped him up to sit on my lap while I ate breakfast and checked my e-mail.

6:50 am: I finished my peanut butter muffins and noticed that my pajama pants leg was warm. I looked down to see "poop juice" (if you're a parent, you know what I'm talking about) on the pants I had just washed yesterday. Sigh.

Skip to 9:40 am: Having gotten us all dressed and fed and Sydney to school, I took Liam to the pedi for his 9 month check-up. The receptionist asked me why we were there and when I told her someone called a month ago and rescheduled his check-up for today due to the pedi's August vacation, she told me that whoever that was didn't write down our name in the new time slot and we in fact, *did not* have an appointment set for today. I explained that Liam was now 4 days away from being 10 months and luckily they fit us in....two hours after we were supposed to see the doctor.

So now I'm home and trying to avoid everything that could possibly cause harm to me or anybody else. I will be so glad when this day is over.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Tortured Younger Brother

When we had our ultrasound and found out that we were having a boy, our friend Matt and my brother-in-law, Mike, both reassured me that they had a great time growing up with an older sister. I wonder, however, if their older sisters ever subjected them to rides in their doll strollers like this:

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Or made them dress up like a princess like this:

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Apparently, putting a hat on made dress-up more fun, though:

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I love seeing how much fun our kids have playing together. And I'm sure there will be plenty of more opportunities to take pictures that will one day embarrass them.