Monday, March 30, 2009

In Good Company

This weekend we welcomed our good friends Mat and Angie to our home. They were able to come up early Friday afternoon and stay until Monday morning. We had a great time and we hope that despite a somewhat fussy weekend for Topher, they enjoyed themselves as well.
Friday night after a quick tour of the work we've done downstairs, we sat and chatted and had a delicious chicken casserole for dinner. One thing about working and getting older is we've all found we get tired quite early on in the evening. Where we used to be able to stay up until the wee-hours of the morning just sitting and chatting, we now find ourselves heading off to our respective bedrooms before 10pm... oh well, at least we aren't the only ones.
We woke up Saturday morning, ate breakfast and decided to all drive down to Jordan Creek Mall in West Des Moines. Mat and Angie were able to get a little shopping done, and Topher enjoyed the chance to get out of the house. We ate lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, which Topher enjoyed at first, but after working himself into such a tizzy with his napkin, had to sleep out the rest of lunch.
We then drove back home, and Topher put forth his best attempt to keep Mat and Angie from having children for at least another 5 years by crying all the way home, inconsolably. It was a great ride... everybody was giving ideas on what was making him cry and how to make him stop. Turns out all he needed was to not be in the car anymore, a pretty easy fix unless of course, we needed to get somewhere (which could pose an interesting problem for this coming weekend).
After quickly changing some clothes and unpacking some of our mall stuff, we headed out to Mom and Dad's to celebrate Mom's birthday. Lindsey and Jo had come over from Iowa City early Saturday morning. We gave Mom her birthday present, a concolor fir tree, and enjoyed some cake and pie that Lindsey had made earlier in the day. We also all enjoyed playing Guitar Hero: World Tour on Mat's Wii. It was pretty hilarious for all of us since for most of us, it was our first time playing. Mom and Jo both did well singing, and Mat had a very interesting rendition of 'Beat It'. I've always been sceptical of the Guitar Hero games, but I can now see why they are so addictive. Drums were definitely a challenge, apparently I haven't gained any rhythm since I was denied the opportunity to play drums in 5th grade band.
video
Sunday we watched some more NCAA basketball, but our heart wasn't in it since Mizzou finally had lost on Saturday in the elite 8. Thirty-one wins though, a pretty incredible season and hopefully a sign of better things to come for Missouri Basketball. Go Tigers! Last night we finally said our goodbyes to Mat and Angie since I was going to work very early this morning.
A very fun, and also very busy weekend.... hopefully the three of us can recharge this week before heading to the Lake of the Ozarks to see more friends next weekend. Wish us luck!
-T.J.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coming Along

Our goal was to have the basement completely finished before this weekend, but it's going to take a little longer. Still, TJ has been working hard and the progress looks great. Just for fun, I've loaded in some before/after pics.
Laundry room (we've added a water softener so it's even better than before):
Living room:
Hallway:
And bathroom:
Our friends Mat and Angie are coming to visit for the weekend starting tomorrow, so hopefully they enjoy the new lower level. I have so many mixed emotions looking at these pictures. I never thought our house would look this good again. The town seems to be serious about improving the drainage of rainwater. Just today they started digging an enormous hole right near our house to clear out tree roots and install a drain 3x bigger than the one that was previously there. We are encouraged that these improvements might make it easier to sell our home. Even with heavy rain earlier this week, our sump pump has remained dry, so we're hopeful. Happy weekend!
--KC

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Horsing Around

It has only been a few days since we introduced solid foods to Topher, but he seems to be catching on in a hurry. This morning he was even opening his mouth whenever the spoon would come at him. It's always the biggest mess in the world (how does he manage to get food in his eyelashes, down his legs, in the folds of his neck?) but it's so much fun to watch him being such a big boy.
After dinner (and a much-needed bath) I caught a video of TJ making horse and cow noises at Topher and Topher thinking it was hilarious. I love watching them together--my two little hams.
video
It's amazing to us how far he has come in 5 months (happy 5 months today, buddy!) He's laughing and eating and becoming his own little man. We're so glad he's ours.
--KC

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Importance of Backing Up

If you've ever seen the Sex & the City episode where Carrie's computer crashes (she got sad-mac'd), you know my worst fear. We've had this particular Dell for about 4 1/2 years and we've gotten the blue screen before and we had to pay Dell to fix it over the phone. But it was a good wake-up call, because it made me realize that we have pictures, journal entries, videos and music on this computer that cannot be replaced. So for Christmas I asked for a portable hard-drive and got one with 300 gb of free space. And even after transferring all our digital photos and videos (including Topher's entire life), TJ's i-tunes collection, and every document we've ever saved, it only used up 22 gb, so there's plenty of room to grow. I also routinely transfer all of our digital pictures to dotphoto, so that they are stored safely somewhere else. Now all I need is a fireproof, waterproof (and maybe bulletproof) box to keep my portable hard-drive in, and I'll feel pretty secure. I've always been this way. Before the flood, I had an emergency room under the stairs. It had our sleeping bags, tap lights and windup flashlights, blankets, extra food and water, a fire extinguisher, and our 72-hour packs that were soooo cool. Unfortunately, that room was for any and every disaster EXCEPT for a flood, and it was all ruined that night. That still makes me sad because I was so proud of that room. It was fun to go in there, tap on the lights and just look around at all our emergency gear. I didn't look the day they were clearing out the downstairs. I didn't want to see all the things I had lost. But I have to remember that they were just things. I guess it probably looks like I'm always preparing for the worst, but really I'm just trying to anticipate the worst that could happen and then eliminating as much stress from those situations as possible. Computer explodes? Darn, but at least I have everything backed up that was important to me. Purse gets stolen? That sucks, but at least I have a list of every single card in my wallet and all the numbers to call if they are lost so no one could charge things to my account. And if the lights go out, our windup flashlight is always in the same kitchen drawer and it has a wrist-strap (I remember the night of the flood I couldn't find a flashlight and then when I did I was so frantic that I kept putting it down and then losing track of it.) At some point I'll need to order new 72-hour kits. One of my favorite things to do is to empty out the backpacks, look at everything inside and think about how I would survive out in the wild, and then put it all neatly back into place. Gosh, it's almost as much fun as organizing my pencil box was at the start of every new school year (with my name neatly printed on everything--why didn't I have a label maker??). I still feel involuntarily drawn to school supplies every August. I'm such a nerd. But at least I'm a well-prepared nerd. --KC

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Busy Week, Swollen Cheek

This week has been busy. On Thursday I had to go to the oral surgeon to get a baby tooth removed, and since there was no adult tooth behind it, the jawbone had atrophied and I also needed a bone graft and an implant drilled up into my jaw. Luckily, my mom thought that was a great excuse to come stay for a few days and she watched Topher during my procedure and while I was recovering. I'm still quite sore and swollen on one side (it looks like I have a broken smile since only one half of my mouth goes up) but at least the worst part is over. Want to know the worst part? It was probably the fact that they used a little ratcheting wrench to screw the metal implant in, and they just keep turning it and turning it forever...click click tuuuuurn, click click tuuuuurn. Of course I was completely numbed but there was no mistaking that sound, even with my eyes closed. Anyway, it was so great to have my mom (Topher's "Mar-Mar") here for a couple days and to see Grandpa Larry during the drop-off/pickup times. My mom brought Topher the weirdest little rubber furry worm toy...I don't know what it is but I call it a tickle pickle. And Topher seems to think that it's fascinating. Here's some pictures of Grandpa Larry and Mar-Mar with Topher, and that crazy toy:
Today we went in search of a highchair for Toph. Walmart had the one we wanted, but only the display model and a sign clearly said the display models were not for sale. Boo. So Kathy and Terry are letting us borrow theirs until we find our own. The reason we wanted one was so we could try feeding Topher some rice cereal. We've been holding his baby spoon up to his mouth and lately he seems interested enough to try. I wouldn't call the attempt a success, but it was entertaining. The rice cereal just kind of sat on his tongue and he looked a bit disgusted by it (I tried it, it was nearly tasteless so he must just not like the texture.) When we gave him the spoon, he immediately swiped it across his face and ended up with a line of food across his cheek and near his eye. It was a good first try.
Oh, and before that, we were finishing a gigantic bottle of cream soda my mom left behind and saw Topher reaching for it, so when it was empty, we gave it to him. It was pretty adorable to see him holding it and trying to get his mouth on it.
TJ has been working downstairs on the doors and trim. I don't know that we'll be done before Mat and Angie come this next weekend, but we should be pretty close. It's hard to stay motivated when all we want to do on the weekends is lounge and recover, but we're doing our best.
--KC

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tainted House

You know what I hate about home improvement projects? They are always so much more complex than you originally think they will be. Take the bathroom sink, for example...I thought we'd just hook it up and set it on the pedestal and we'd be done in what, 30 min? Instead, you have to turn off the main water supply, open the water pipes to the sink, empty them out, set the sink brackets into the wall, realize they aren't strong enough, get anchor screws from the hardware store, set up the sink, realize the drain trap isn't long enough, go to the hardware store and get a longer one, set up the pedestal, realize that it doesn't quite sit flush with the floor and sink, get some cement and glue the whole ensemble together and then to the wall, caulk the sink, and wait for the cement to dry. That took TJ and his dad an entire Saturday. Putting the doors up was a little bit better, but still a lot more complicated than it looks. You can't just set the door in the frame and "pop some nails in to hold it in place" so to speak. Instead, you have to measure the door, saw however much off the bottom so it fits, hold it up while you put shims in about six places around the frame, make sure everything is level and that the door shuts perfectly, make endless adjustments of the shims, and finally nail and screw it into place. And every time we get one thing done downstairs, it makes us realize how much more we have to do. Putting in the doors reminded us that we needed door handles. We also need to trim out all the doors, install the closet doors, put up the closet shelves, trim out the half-wall, reattach the smoke alarms, trim out the windows, put up new blinds...it never ends. I hate that our home flooded. I am so grateful that we made it through and that no one was hurt and that we were able to somehow not go bankrupt on the house, but the damage was so complete and so uncovered by insurance that it left us permanently scarred. And even though the town has been working all winter to improve the drainage situation, and even though we lived here for 3 years without a drop of water coming inside, it will never be the same. It's tainted. We don't trust this house to stay dry. And because of that, we've decided to put the house up for sale this spring as soon as the downstairs is done. Intellectually we know that it probably won't flood again, but no one can guarantee that for us, and just the thought of watching all our hard work go underwater is unbearable. We have no idea if it will sell or not, but it will show nice with the brand new lower-level, all new appliances (furnace, a/c, water heater, water softener), a fenced backyard, the biggest garage ever, and neutral colors throughout. And at the right price, I think it will do well. It will be sad to leave this home since it's our first one together, but it will be a relief too. The only thing I wish we could take with us is the tree in the front yard that we planted when we moved in. His name is Sprout and it's been so much fun to watch him grow each year. We've already started looking at condos in Ankeny, the town where TJ's new office is located. It's not my favorite town, but it has a billion stores (imagine having a grocery store down the street instead of 15 minutes away!) and parks and I love that TJ would be so close to work. We're looking at condos for a few reasons. First, after all the work following the flood we've dreamed of "maintenance-free living." No mowing the lawn in the summer, no scraping the driveway in the winter, no worrying about having to replace the roof or siding, no basement to fill up with water. Second, Ankeny is a very rapidly expanding town and everything is so new that we really can't afford a single-family home there. The biggest things we'll be giving up are a fenced yard (we'll have to walk Sassy but she'll be sooo excited about that) and some storage space (but since the flood wiped out half of our belongings, we don't have that much to store, so it's not a huge deal). I dunno, I guess we'll just see what happens. I'm over-thinking it, like usual. We'll hope for dry weather and then we'll hope for a quick sale. One thing at a time. --KC

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Sweetest Sound

Last night as we were talking about how much we wish Topher would laugh, TJ got out Topher's elephant. TJ bought it for Topher before he was born and it's just a multi-colored elephant with dangly legs that vibrates when you pull the cord. Well TJ started pulling the cord and putting it on Topher's tummy and before we knew it we started hearing a few chuckles. The more he did it, the more it sounded like a real laugh, so we grabbed the camera (our backup camera, our regular one is in for repair so the video/sound quality isn't as good) and captured his first real laugh: video It was the most beautiful sound I've ever heard in my life. I almost started crying it was so darn sweet. And then all evening, even after Topher went to bed, I just kept saying I can't believe he can laugh now. He's like a little person! His has definitely become the pride and joy of our family. I can't even imagine how spoiled he's going to become if we aren't careful since every little accomplishment he does fills us with happiness. Happy 20-weeks Topher! --KC and TJ

Friday, March 13, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

Thanks to all for the teething advice. In the end, our doctor said we could try one dose of baby Tylenol between the bath and the bedtime bottle, and it's done wonders. Topher goes to bed shortly after 8pm (still with some whining and crying but nothing like before) and wakes up sometime after 7am. Still no teeth popping through those gums, but you can see on the bottom where the first tooth will probably be. Yesterday TJ and I were once again comparing our own baby pictures to Topher, and I have to admit it, he's all TJ. They both have the same "peanut" head whereas my head was just big and round (and insanely chubby). They both have this perpetual "dopey" look on their face which is so cute and kind of sleepy looking, and I was usually more beady-eyed. I also had a very prominent chin dimple that Topher is lacking. Somehow he got those deep cheek dimples instead that neither one of us ever had. There's also something about the eyes/eyebrow region that is identical to both boys. I guess we can both claim Topher's button nose, but the similarities between Topher and TJ are much more apparent. Sometimes I'll see a picture of TJ as a toddler and I'll think, Oh yeah, that's exactly what Topher will look like in a year. Like it's just obvious. Here are some photos we scanned in for comparison. The following are Topher/daddy comparisons: Sitting up Tummy time Bath time Smiling Sucking on the first 2 fingers And here are some Topher/mommy comparisons: Tummy time In our hats Baring big bellies Staring down the camera It's fun because we've never looked at our baby pictures so critically before. And now, for the first time, I can almost imagine what it was like to hold the little baby version of me. I'm glad that we have "billions" of photos of Topher. TJ says we will never look through all of them, but I bet Topher will someday (or at least his wife will.) And even now, looking back at his very first pictures, I'm so glad we have them because it's so hard to imagine him being anything other than what he is at this very moment. I said that when he was tiny, too. I couldn't imagine him being any bigger or being able to do anything. And now I can't imagine him being any bigger than he is right now, or being able to crawl or walk or talk. I am really loving this age. He smiles a lot and coos at us and grabs things. We feel that he's really becoming aware of who we are, and that he understands when things are funny or upsetting. We're still waiting to hear his laugh. We've tried everything, from Three Stooges antics to tickle fests to funny noises to laughing in a very exaggerated manner to singing the silliest songs we can conjure and even making him watch The Office. He startles easily, though. We were trying to do a bath time puppet show the other day and TJ was trying to be funny and have Mr. Frog appear over the edge of the tub and start talking. Topher took one look at that frog who seemed to be alive of his own accord and started screaming. (I think, at this age, Topher needs to see that the puppet is attached to us in order for it to more entertaining and less creepy-frog-is-going-to-come-get-me-when-I-least-suspect-it.) Also a loud bang, unexpected clatter, or a yell at the TV screen during a Mizzou game will send him into a screaming fit. Which is strange considering how much he likes loud, droning noises in general like the vacuum and hair dryer. Anyway, this blog has been long enough. We hope everyone enjoys it as much as we have! (You can click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.) --KC