Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Busy Bees

Mom left last Saturday. And I'm back to work as of last Monday, 26 February. So I'm super-busy and at times loose my head alltogether. I type with one hand now - slow process. Wish had more toe dexterity! Mom being here was a huge help. She basically did all the house work. Also, she'd watch the baby sometimes so I could eat lunch or even go to a store real quick. I was kind of freaking out when she left, but now I'm getting used to it. Besides, she left us a freezer full of home-cooked meals :)

Chris works full time, studies full time and helps out with house work and with taking care of Mark. Oh, and there's still kitchen remodelling to take care of. The counter-tops were installed last Friday, finally. All the plumbing was hooked up on Monday (Roto-Rooter is a rip-off). Now just the back-splash and electrical stuff left.

Mark is growing fast (tfu-tfu-tfu). Last week we went to the doctor for a check up. Mark was already 7lb and he wasn't 2 weeks old yet! Remember, he started with 5lb 15oz. The circumcision healed completely in less than a week. His umbilical stump fell off on 26 February. So now he's ready for a real bath, not a sponge bath. He sleeps a lot, but also stays awake more now, sometimes up to 30 minutes at a time. And his gaze is a lot more focused and alert. He also lifts his head a bit and can hold it for a sec or two whn on his belly. His hear is getting lighter. I think he'll be a red-head :)

We go on walks every day. It's hilly here - great butt work out. I'll have buns of steel in no time :) I'm desperate to loose weight and get back in shape. Last Saturday I walked all the way around lake Johnson pushing a stroller. It's about 3 miles and gets very hilly too. But I still have extra weight. My highest pregnancy weight was 148lbs. I'm down to 129lbs now - a far cry from my original 116lbs. But I'll start working out as soon as the doctor allows me.

With all this Xander fills a bit neglected. I hardly ever pet him and Chris has almost no time for him either. At least Xan still comes over and sleeps in our bed at night (and sometimes during the day).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

It's not DiGiorno, it's delivery

Ok, so on Friday, 9 February, I was going to stop by my doctor for a weekly check. Then I was going to get through an uneventful work day and in the evening - kick back, order some pizza (we still don't have a kitchen), and watch a movie with Chris.

Instead, at 9:30 am my doctor sent me straight to the birthing center at Rex Hospital. I was going to have labor induced after all. Both Chris and I were in shock, to say the least. After all, I was so confident that it wasn't time yet, that I didn't even bother taking my cell phone with me or eating breakfast for that matter. While I was checking in, Chris rushed home to pick up my hospital bag, call my parents, and do all the last-minute stuff. In the mean time, I realized that I might be going without any food for as long as 24 hours (and I was starving already!). My pizza night was cancelled! Mercifully, my doctor thought that it was a bit unfair for me to go through the whole day without any food. So she allowed me to order a small breakfast from the hospital's cafeteria.

Right after I was done with scrambled eggs and turkey sausage, nurse Rachel hooked me up to an IV and to all sorts of monitors. It was all rather exciting, to be hooked up to all sorts of machines. But the novelty wore off and I decided to catch up on TV viewing. Chris got back and we just spent time in the birthing room chatting, flipping through magazines and watching Discovery Channel.

I'm not going to talk about my labor in all the details. Let's just say that it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it'd be. The hours went by very quickly and next thing I knew, it was already dark outside. The pain grew steadily and at some point got pretty bad. But epidural solved this problem and once again I simply laid there and watched TV. The whole thing seemed kinda unreal. I still couldn't believe that I was about to have a baby. Even when I had to start pushing, it still seemed like just some odd procedure completely unrelated to having a baby. (By the way, I was asked if I wanted a mirror in the room so I could watch the delivery. NO, THANK YOU!)

Chris was with me the whole time and it really helped me a lot. He didn't faint or any such thing and he got to see the baby before I did and cut the umbilical cord. Little Mark was born at 11:01pm on 9 February 2007. He was 5lb 15oz and 19.5in - a perfect size little baby-boy as far as I was concerned. Immediately, he proved that he's got a great pair of lungs and that he could kick real well. Just as I was ready to be moved to the recovery room, my parents showed up (I think they set a new record driving from New York to Raleigh). Mark was taken to the nursery for some tests while I was transfered to the recovery room (in a wheelchair too!) flanked by my parents and Chris.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What It Takes to Remodel a Kitchen

When we bought this house, one of the first things that we knew we would have to take care of was the kitchen. It was ugly, unkempt and hopelessly outdated. Did I mention that this house was a rental property for quite some time? And it was rented out to a bunch of college students who apparently didn't bother cleaning up, like, ever.

So we were looking at a big project - installing all new cabinets, new counter top, sink, faucet, new stove and refrigerator, new lighting, not to mention all the painting and such. It definitely sounded like a big pain in the neck and an expensive one as well. Of course, we had no idea how big and expensive it would turn out to be. Or how long it would take for that matter.

First, we contacted a kitchen designer. I won't mention her name because what happened next was really not all her fault. We paid her $300 to come up and listen to our laundry-list of needs and wants. She make some suggestions, criticized our $10,000 budget as unrealistic, and took some rough measurements. In the end, she produced a very rough drawing of what the kitchen would look like and said that a more detailed blueprint would be available at Lowe's. At this point we decided to fire her and deal directly with Lowe's. Should've thought about it sooner - would've saved $300 bucks! And here's the thing - if you're planning on keeping the same footprint, just spend 2-3 evenings at a book store browsing through remodeling magazines and books for design ideas that can be copied. Even if you are planning on changing the layout of the kitchen, it would make more sense for me to hire a contractor, not a designer, for sound advice and estimates.

To make the long story short, we had to increase our budget to about $15,000 and try to stick to it. To accomplish this, Chris would have to do a lot of work himself - all the demolition and a lot of construction work as well. We also decided to keep the footprint the same and not move appliances or walls. All these savings allowed us to upgrade to semi-custom cabinets and a quartz counter top.

All this was ordered at the end of November. The refrigerator and the smooth-top stove arrived in the first week of December and the cabinets - shortly before Christmas. We had to use our empty living room as a staging area to a great delight of our cat, Xander, who thoroughly explored each box. With the cabinet installation scheduled for the second week of January, Chris started demolition. First, he removed ugly popcorn ceiling and worn and torn bead board. Even though he tried to isolate the construction zone by hanging sturdy plastic curtains and taping them to the floor, there was still a lot of dust all around the house.

The next step was to remove the existing cabinets and appliances. We were very nervous about it. In our old kitchen, we had a soffit going along the wall on top of the cabinets. These had to be removed as well to accommodate for the tall new cabinets. We were afraid that we'd find open ceiling joists. To our huge relief there was an existing ceiling underneath all but one of the soffits. We still had some nasty surprises. For example, we found out that the exhaust fan over the stove was simply a bathroom fan, rigged with, get this, a piece of an extension cord and vented to the outside. It was clearly not in compliance with any fire codes and Chris tore it down. He patched the ceiling with new drywall. For now we decided to live without an exhaust. The kind that we need, an island-style hood, is simply too expensive. But Chris made sure that everything was rigged right for when we do get one.

Another big thing was converting an existing under-the-stairs pantry to house a counter-depth refrigerator. Our designer made it sound like a very simple thing - just take the door down, remove the shelves and voila! In reality, Chris found out that he also had to enlarge the doorway, build additional supports, do extensive drywall repair, not to mention to wire a new outlet and connect a copper pipe for water.

The cabinets were installed in 2 days and they look absolutely wonderful. As soon as they were in place, we had the counter top templated. In the mean time, Chris was working hard on the pantry conversion, painting the entire kitchen, wiring new lights, and installing new bead board and chair rail in the dining area.

So far it's been one full month since the remodeling started in earnest. And we are still a few weeks away from completion. The reason is that the counter top installation is being delayed! Instead of 4 weeks we were guaranteed, it's taking close to 6 weeks. And of course, we have to wait for that to be done before installing a stove, a dishwasher, and a sink. And after all that's done, Chris will still have to work on installing back splash (we decided to do a bead board back splash) and hang some shelves.

In the mean time, the kitchen is absolutely unusable. We survive on hot dogs and frozen dinners. Saves on cooking time, of course. Plus in our search for the home-style frozen dinner, we have different menu every night. The other day I was flipping through "Every Day with Rachel Ray", reading through cooking instructions and just imagining myself cooking again. Pretty pathetic, isn't it?!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Happy-Happy Birthday, Chris!

How many people get depressed when they turn 30? I bet, I'll be one of them. But then you'd think it'd be a bit easier every year, until you hit 40, right? But seems like you just can't get used to getting another year older. So Chris was a bit bummed last week before turning 32. Which was a big waste of time because, as far as I'm concerned, the 30-40 age bracket is the sexiest when it comes to men (with an exception of Sean Connery). That's when their looks, brain capacity, sense of humor, and financial situation are most balanced.

As it happens, February is not such a good month for birthdays. I mean, it'd be ok if not for the cold. And this year it snowed too! Right before Chris' birthday there was a winter storm advisory. The schools got cancelled and all that. So Chris was prepared to sleep in and not go to work. At 7am on February 1 it was a beautiful almost spring-like day - sunny, few clouds, not a sign of snow - no excuse not to go to work. But by the time Chris got to his office, around 8, snow started falling. It was very light snow, nothing like a blizzard that we were promised the night before! And it didn't even stay on the ground since it was too warm. Then it changed to icy rain and finally, to just rain. Again, nothing scary or life threatening. But when Chris went to pick up his ice-cream cake at a local Carvel, the place was closed "due to inclement weather" (that was at 5pm, with not a trace of snow on the ground). Bummer!

Screw Carvel, then! Instead of munching on a cake at home, we went to an Olive Garden. Olive Garden is ok, if you ask me. Not too classy, yet a step above a diner. Plus you can eat as much salad as you want [good deal]! All in all, since the nearest Bucca di Beppo is 3 hours away, an Olive Garden will do. Their desserts are pretty good, especially if you order anything with chocolate (how can chocolate go wrong!). Chris was pretty happy about his super-chocolatie ice-cream and that's all that counted. And best of all, he took a day off from kitchen remodeling. So after all, something good always comes out from getting a bit older.