Thursday, August 30, 2012

Salt Mine

Ugh. I returned to my job as a newspaper online editor a few weeks ago, and it's a big blur.

I leave my house by 5:30 a.m., and I may have slept 90 minutes at any point the previous evening. In fact, just this afternoon at the office, in my out-loud voice, I actually sighed and said, "I hope my little bastard baby sleeps tonight."

I made the quote board.

Lots of women do this, lots of nursing mothers of infants get up at stupid o'clock and work their brains out. They do it with varying degrees of success; most of them probably more successfully than I am doing.

Well, I'm not going to do it for much longer. Through some serious serendipity and a fair amount of finagling, I am switching positions and moving my base of operations from a downtown 30 minutes away to my happy home.

I will still be caught up in the World Wide Web, feeding the hungry beast of one of our new community-focused microsites, but I'll be doing far more reporting than editing. I haven't been an actual reporter since I was a freshman in college, so it's still a tremendous challenge for me.

But I'm getting excited about it. I'm really thrilled that after Max's 4 a.m. (or 3 a.m. or 5 a.m. or whatever damn time he feels like) feeding I will be able to go back to SLEEP instead of checking email on my glowing smartphone while I brush my teeth in the dark.

I went to a county commissioners meeting today with another reporter -- where police and fire chiefs and city officials discussed centralized emergency call dispatching -- to meet the players and introduce myself. I had some initial panic that I was out of my depth, but those fears quickly dissipated as my geeky interest in protocol and standard operating procedure and, let's admit it, men in uniform was piqued. By the time I met the mayor and city administrator of Perrysburg, I had my feet under me again.

I got this.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Clothes Shopping: Department Store vs. Thrift Store

Like all good procrastinators, a crowd of us were out shopping this weekend for our children's clothes as they begin a new school year.

Gabe is going to be a sophomore and has a very no-frills style. He likes jeans and button-down shirts, with a dapper sweater vest or two for good measure. Some dress slacks for special occasions, and he's good to go.

As I do now for his baby brother Max, I shopped at thrift stores for Gabe most of his childhood. No sense in shelling out big bucks for a kid who is a different size every four months and who puts grass stains on his jeans like it's a job.

I get Gabe a piece here and there at thrift shops still, but I'll do an annual wardrobe update at a department store for him now that he's all manly. He loves the shirts his grandpa orders from western catalogs and race fan websites, too.

He's pretty hard on shoes, though. I've been trying to keep his clod-hoppers in discounted tennis shoes, but those just don't last. He's even worn through a pair of New Balance this summer. I suppose I'm going to have to go to one of those fancy sports shoes places -- like the one where my husband bought me the most comfortable pair of walking shoes I've even worn for my birthday -- and get his feet measured by a professional and then clad in an expensive pair of shoes by a marketing genius.

There are some pretty damn cute baby clothes out there in the boutique shops, and I'll pick up some here and there, but there a nice enough pieces for Max to drool all over from thrift stores. The cool thing about baby clothes is that babies rarely fit in the month sizes that match up with their ages, so people are always giving gifts that don't fit come the right season. Those clothes get donated without ever being worn and then are snapped up by savvy mommies like me.

In the end, the price tag makes an impressive difference. To illustrate, here are my purchases this weekend from a department store and a thrift store.

From JCPenney, $368.29:

For Max: A long-sleeved and -legged outfit that says "I'm the little brother"

For Gabe: three pairs of jeans, two pairs of dress pants, eight pairs of dress socks, a pair of gym shorts, a sweater, a very fancy dress shirt, nine other button-down shirts (short- and long-sleeve), and a swaetshirt hoodie that has ear bud headphones (which we didn't even know were in the hood strings there until we got it home)

From Goodwill, $32.56:

For Gabe: A Banana Republic dress shirt that looks like it was never worn

For husband Dan: a funky short-sleeve shirt

For Max: two long-sleeved onesies, a pair of long knit pants, two pairs of sweatpants, a pair of khakis, a pair of corduroy pants, a pair of denim overalls, a Gap matching sweatsuit, a thermal sleeper, a Mickey Mouse thermal lounger, a hoodie that says "Me & my Daddy," an Old Navy quilted rain jacket, a Clifford the Big Red Dog sleeper costume complete with an eared hood, and a shirt and pants set that make a skeleton

For cousin Amelia: a dress

For me: a picture frame, and three small baskets

Sooo ...

Department store: 18 pieces plus socks, about $20.50 per piece
Thrift store: 18 pieces plus housewares,  about $1.80 per piece
A young friend once turned her nose up at thrift store items. "I mean, those clothes are used," she sniffed. I replied, "Your clothes are used the minute you wear them, so what exactly is the difference?"

This weekend, the difference was $335.73.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Who's Down With OCD?

I don't have an official diagnosis, but few who know me well would be surprised to learn I'm a touch obsessive compulsive.

This may have something to do with the hours I spent as a kid planting flowers with my dad and his trusty tape measure. The little packet said to plant them 8 inches apart, and by God we did just that.

It was reinforced during the years I spent as a page designer and copy editor at a newspaper. Those lines had to even up just so, and it sure as hell does matter exactly where the word "only" goes.

As much as I like to let clutter lie around in my house, I do have specific locations for which clutter should lie where. That pile of receipts may have no business stacked on the liquor cabinet, but that's where I have been keeping them and I know where they are and so they stay there.

When it comes to Max's baby stuff, I am quite specific about where it all lives. The most anal thing I do is keep a particular pacifier in each room. I want to be sure to always have one wherever he may decide to pass out for a nap. If we change rooms or especially floors of the house, I pull out whatever plug he has in his mouth and then pop in another one once we reach our destination.

However, when other people are in your house caring for your child -- like the babysitter or my I'll-do-whatever-I-please-anyway mother -- those pacifiers grow legs and travel all over the house. My dad, the boys and I were halfway to Wauseon before I realized the sitter had not heeded my directions to leave a binkie in the car seat. (She left it in the cup holder of the stroller to which the car seat attaches after their walk, so maybe she assumed she was.)

I buy more and leave them on the tables where I like them, but they don't stay there very long. I restack books and reorganize toys only to do it all over again the next day.

I really can't complain to the people who are making my life easier in every other way. So I'll just complain to you, dear reader.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kleiboemer Clan Descends

Grandma gives Max her signature smooches.
My mother-in-law, Adrienne, and her beloved, John, as well as my husband's older brother, Adam, came into town last week to soak up some serious family time.

"Soak" being the operative word. We've been in a drought all summer, and it's been ridiculously hot nearly everywhere that Adrienne and John have been touring in the U.S. to escape the burst-into-flames conditions at their Arizona home. But of course the rain decided to show up right around the time they all did.

Eating at Biaggi's is always good to do on a rainy day.
Gabe, Adam and Max would agree.
We scrubbed plans to go to Marblehead on Lake Erie, figuring a visit during especially optimal weather could be done in the future. Since the timing matched up, we tried to go to the Flag City Balloon Fest in Findlay, where Gabe and I used to live, but the wind kept the balloons safely packed up in their trailers and all we managed to do was eat some fried concession stand food.

But nothing phases my mother-in-law. Just to be near her grandbaby was enough to keep her sunny smile going.

Brothers bundle up and bond at Balloon Fest.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Happy 16th, Gabe!

It doesn't seem appropriate to give a boy any "Sweet 16" greetings, since it conjures estrogen-images of pink cupcakes and tiaras -- unless of course he's into that.

My son Gabe is more into blow-'em-up video games and farting, so I guess we'll have to coin a new phrase. I'm open to suggestions.

He's also into being an absolutely great kid. A man, really. He spent the summer ripping up a garage roof with his bare hands and a hammer, and he cares for his baby brother as good as any other adult. He acts like he doesn't know how to do some things, but he really could clean his own living areas and do his own laundry and make his own meals if he had to. No wonder he already is dreaming about the day he'll move out and be on his own.

My congregation has a lovely tradition of singing "Happy Birthday" to folks with upcoming birthdays during the announcement segment at the end of a worship service. Gabe took his adulation this past Sunday with great humility and sincere appreciation, which alone made me beam with pride.

But as I was singing to Gabe with Max on my lap, I realized that I had another 16 years to go all over again. Made my voice choke a little.

But today is Gabe's day, and we're going to celebrate all day long. Mostly by eating. He's having breakfast with my mom, and then lunch out with me and my dad, then supper with me and my in-laws. Perhaps I should gift-wrap some antacid.

I know I need some at just the thought that my first-and-still baby grew up so very quickly.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hello, There, Sailor!

How did I let a whole week go by without blogging? Because that was the week that my husband's ship was in U.S. ports.

Everything revolves around when I might get one of those precious phone calls from him. Depending on what kind of bridge watch he had or how many hours it had been since he had slept, the calls ranged from quick check-ins to lovely chats. My job is to be available and to keep my phone charged and nearby.

Most importantly, I let one of those calls go to voice mail so that he could record a message for Max. When I play the distinctive voice of his daddy to him, his eyes get very wide and he holds very still. It's one way we're trying to help his memories connect for when they are reunited.

We had very little advance warning before Dan went out to sea this time, but hopefully by the next cruise we will get around to my idea of video recording him reading children's books. Playing those videos for Max would make a very special bedtime routine indeed.

But now it's back to my routine. Which apparently will include bathing my husband's dog, Hippo. She is filthy.