Monday, January 31, 2011

Plane Tickets and Mondays...

It's that time again. Time to buy a plane ticket home. I hate looking for tickets. Do I buy now? Do I wait and hope the prices go down? Do I beg my family to come here, so I don't have to juggle Robbie on an airplane and in different airports by myself? After forty minutes on the phone with my mom, I'm still without a ticket home. But, you know, prices are supposed to drop on Tuesdays.

I dropped Robbie off at daycare this morning, since Justin had to take his dad to the airport. When I got in the door, Zhining ushered Robbie into the small office off the entryway. She looked very serious and solemnly told me there was no heat but immediately assured me that someone was on the way to fix it. When I told Justin about this via email, I could almost hear him laugh through the computer. His response was that he wished he had dropped Robbie off this morning, so he could have told her, "Baby too cold!" Exactly what she told him every morning during the winter last year when he failed to dress Robbie warmly enough for her rigid standards.

And, yes, the heat was on when I came back at 4:00 this afternoon. Zhining was quick to let me know that it wasn't cold for very long.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Boy Time

I'll be honest (when am I ever not?). It's been a long, long weekend. I'm exhausted, and I've tried to write this post about five times. Perhaps it's best to just do it in pictures... I have great video to include, but my computer is currently not recognizing my phone...

Today was a play date with Robbie's three birthday buddies.

Things got a little crazy when the Legos were dumped all over the floor. Max even started a swimming expedition in them!

Although he had a good time playing with everyone else, Rob needed a few minutes to himself to just be one with the toys.

Unfortunately, no one could go outside to play. They just licked the window and played hide-and-seek with the curtains instead.

The boys had a dance party, too. I've never seen anything quite like it... And I'll do my best to get the video of it up tomorrow, so make sure to check back!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Passports and Oranges

We've been planning to get Robbie his passport for a few months, and today was passport day. I had everything together, and we got to the post office at 11:35, leaving us plenty of time to meet the noon cut-off. Until we walked through the door and saw a sign that read, "New Passport Hours. Saturday 9:00-11:00." Great. Just great. Fortunately, I am not one to take no for an answer, especially when I haven't even asked the question.

Justin, Robbie, and I patiently waited in line (I had a very belated baby gift to mail to my cousin). When we got to the front I asked Steve (my newest postal friend) if there was any way he could still accept a passport application, explaining how hard it is to get both parents together to apply for a child's passport. Steve went to the back, found that they had not sealed up the passport applications at 11:00, and agreed to help us. Despite the line out the door of other postal customers and only one other person working the counter.

The whole process took about fifteen minutes, including the picture portion. When we went to the back to get Robbie's picture taken, I expected to see irritated people. It appeared, however, that Robbie had made a few friends in line. There were actually a few people who clapped when Robbie got the picture taken successfully on the first try. Who knew?

Roberto's day continued to get better when the mail came. There was a package from a friend who has recently moved from California to Georgia. Before leaving, she kindly packed a box of oranges from her back yard and mailed them to Robbie. He wasn't too sure what to make of the package at first, but as soon as I got the tape cut for him, he was all about getting it open.

Robbie threw open the flaps of the box, grabbed the bag of oranges, and pulled it out with a brute strength I've never seen from him. He dragged the bag across the room and immediately set to opening it. He got frustrated when he realized the bag was knotted and brought it over to me to open.

I opened the bag and Robbie dove into the oranges. He pulled one out, sunk his teeth into it, and brought it to me to peel. Since I wasn't moving fast enough, Robbie ran back to the bag of oranges, selected another one, bit it, and tried to start peeling it himself. He was not able to patiently wait for me to peel any of his oranges. He howled as I peeled one, waiting impatiently to sink his teeth into the fruit.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I'm a nerd. As soon as I heard about the show at Fenway, I knew I had to have tickets. My good friend Louisa said she wanted to come up for the show 04 June, but it was sold out before we even thought about making the plans. And then the announcement that they were going to do a show at Fenway. I had to have tickets. And I was extremely prepared to make sure that I had the tickets as soon as the American Express pre-sale began.

Too prepared. Entirely too prepared. I got through immediately and bought four tickets in the section closest to the stage. I couldn't believe my luck and immediately sent out an email to call off the other ticket purchasers. But it was too late. Thirty seconds later, I got another confirmation email for four more tickets. My friend Amy was trying to go through with our card as well. Three minutes later, Louisa's mom sent an email saying that she, too, managed to get four tickets.

So, if you did the math, you'd know that we have twelve tickets to the concert. And I was worried we might not get any! The great news is that now my friend Julia and her sister are going to go, too. And we can sell the four expensive tickets on StubHub! It's going to be a.mah.zing. So much better than the first time I saw either the New Kids (when I was ten) or the Backstreet Boys (when I was twenty and still technically too young to drink). Let the countdown to 11 June begin!

And a VERY happy birthday to my favorite little seester! I hope it's even more fabulous than you dreamed. I love you!

I am also a terrible mother for not wishing Robbie a very happy 18 months. What a day!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I pulled a novice mom move today. The doorbell rang, and I left Robbie unattended upstairs. I figured it would only take me a few minutes to get rid of whomever was knocking. I've gotten good at the "I-have-a-baby-upstairs-and-dinner-burning-on-the-stove-why-are-you-inconveniencing-me-right-now?" thing. I use it with religious people and magazine salespeople (is there a sketchier job than that?) who come knocking. But this time, they had something I was interested in: Verizon FIOS.

I took a few minutes to fill out the forms and will soon be saving $30 a month on my Internet, cable, and phone services. And I'll be getting HBO for free (I've been missing the last season of Big Love, for Pete's sake!). All of a sudden it got very quiet upstairs. I joked that I was sure I'd hidden all of the Sharpies.

I hadn't. Luckily, they didn't find the furniture. Just Robbie's Thanksgiving drawing and daycare picture. And a picture frame (he also tore what was in it). And the picture of a friend's daughter - he really got that one. He found Justin's glasses. Justin needs new glasses now. There's only one lens and the left arm bends at a funny angle.

So, I did the only thing a mother could do. I fixed dinner and called Justin to let him know we had good news and good news. The first was that we were going to save $30 a month. The second was that he could get that new pair of glasses he'd mentioned getting a few months ago. And, fortunately for me, Justin was pleased with the good news all around.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

18-Month Check-Up

I remember when it seemed like Robbie's three-month check-up would never come. It seemed like he was never going to be a big boy, just a little baby who fit in the awful denim sling that saved my life the first nine months. I would never need the umbrella stroller my mom got for me. Robbie would never be big enough to fit in all those monstrous 12-month clothes people gave me at my showers. But, slowly, it happened. Robbie started to grow up. He grew out of the sling. The umbrella stroller became a fixture in the Jeep. We bought another one for the Honda (mothers really do know best). And Robbie wore those 12-month clothes. And quickly grew out of them.

Today was Robbie's 18-month check-up. It seems like he's been here forever, but I'm not sure how forever managed to go by so quickly. He weighed in at 25 pounds, 12 ounces. For those of you with exceptionally creepy memories, you'll notice that he only gained six ounces over the last three months. I was a little concerned. Then I saw how much he grew. Right at 2.5 inches. No wonder I noticed his belly disappearing! He's back down to the 55th percentile for weight and back up to the 95th percentile for height.

Fortunately, Robbie was diagnosed as a normal 18-month-old. Particularly the screaming when Dr. Sheldon approached him with her stethoscope. And forget about when she tried to look into his eyes. I had to hold him down so she could check his ears. Three minutes later, the tears had dried and kisses were blown in an attempt to reconcile. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

So Thirsty!

Apparently I don't give my son enough to drink. You wouldn't know it by the soaked pajamas and super-saturated diapers (you know you're impressed with the science word). But, apparently it's true.

We got home around 5:45 today (I "ran" 3.5 miles today for the first time in probably three months!) and started getting dinner together as soon as we let Barkley out. I looked down while cutting my broccolini (FABULOUS stuff - thinner than broccoli) to find Robbie sucking on a paper towel. That he had soaked in the dog bowl. Really? You're so thirsty that you had to drink from the dog bowl?

Now, once I got past the gross-out factor, I had to admit that I was impressed. Robbie got the paper towels down from the counter, tore one off more neatly than I would have, and balled it up to put in the dog dish. I'm not sure if it was mere coincidence or if Robbie realized this would be a good way to get water.

You'd think we hadn't given Robbie anything to drink at dinner (he had a whole cup of water that he barely touched). As soon as he got in the tub, he started drinking the bath water. Yes. Bath water. Disgusting, soapy, luke-warm bath water. Classy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Clean House

There is nothing better than coming home to a clean house. Particularly if it's one you didn't have to clean yourself. I walked through the door and could instantly smell the clean. There was no fur to greet me in the entryway. The sled was hung up. The salt scrubbed from the floors. Furniture was put back where it belonged. Counters were spotless. The beds were made with clean linens. And I was almost at a loss with nothing to do.

But only for a minute. I went to bed early to watch The Bachelor, chat on Facebook, blog, and (if I get around to it) needlepoint. It's really just a shame that these days only come every two weeks. Of course, if they were more often, I probably wouldn't appreciate them nearly as much. At least that's what I'll tell myself to get through until 07 February.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Num! Num!

As he learns more words, Robbie is learning to express himself to get exactly what he wants. Usually, it's food. Since he doesn't know exact words for all the foods he likes, he's had to find one word to encompass everything. "Num! Num!" seems to cut it.

If someone has food that Robbie wants, he walks up, says "Num! Num!", and opens his mouth. At the table, he stares us down and says, "Num! Num!" louder and louder until he gets the bite that he wants. Tonight, it was asparagus and mushrooms. He wanted spinach once but promptly decided it wasn't worth his efforts. He surprised me a little with the asparagus, though. At one point tonight, he had pieces of asparagus in both hands.

It's interesting to watch Robbie try new foods. For a long time, he just wanted his fruit and milk. Occasionally, he'd eat a little bit of a sandwich or some ravioli. I know he's not picky at daycare; he eats dumplings, noodles, soup, and tofu there. I'm sure there are other interesting Chinese foods that he eats as well. Maybe that's why it took him a while to get started on "regular American" food...

All of a sudden, he wants to eat everything. English muffins. Eggs. Cheese. Grapes. Oranges. Apples. Oyster crackers. Ravioli. Peanut butter. Bread. Pasta. Carrots. Turkey. Chicken. Asparagus. Snow peas. Mini corn. Mushrooms. But, for the most part, he only wants the vegetables if they're on my plate. For the time being, I'm OK with that. At least he wants them!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sledding, Take Two

Robbie got his second chance at a snow day yesterday. We thought about taking him to daycare but ultimately decided that the two plus hours it would take us to get there and back in the snow (and the possibility of a terrible car wreck) wasn't worth it. Instead, we had a nice family day until Justin had to leave to go to class.

We slept late, which is always an auspicious beginning to a snow day. Robbie got up at 6:00 but was content with a bottle, some books, and some animals in his crib until around 8:00. I have no idea what he talks about in there, but I wish I knew. He sounds like he knows exactly what's going on in the conversation. I'm getting to where I can understand some words in what he's saying, but it's usually just the last one or two. Maybe he's speaking English with a heavy Chinese accent?

There was a lazy family breakfast and some work for Justin. Robbie and I played and got ready for a little fun in the snow. After forcing his body into my brother's old snowsuit, I ventured to Target Wednesday night to purchase a new one. Silly me. They don't have snow suits out in January. You know, snow season? They have bathing suits. After much searching, I found the LAST snowsuit. Fortunately, it was a size 2T. Robbie seemed to appreciate this outfit much more than the other one. He looked like he was ready to hit the slopes!

We were a little nicer to Robbie this time around; we actually waited for the snow to stop. He made it the entire way around the block in his sled and only fell out once. That was my fault... We decided it would be easier to walk in the street, but there was a pretty big snow build-up in the driveway. I was just so sure we could easily get the sled over it. And we did. It was just the baby we had a hard time with. Robbie seemed to deal with rolling into the street and getting a face-full of snow well... Well, as well as he could. There weren't any tears, so I'm counting it as a victory.

When we got home, I let Robbie escape the sled. I'm not quite sure what I expected him to do, but I really didn't expect him to take off running down the street. Which is exactly what he did. That kid's got some speed, even in snow boots one size too big (you can't be too picky when they're a quarter at a rummage sale).

You know, not that I think about it, the key to a happy snow adventure is really mittens. That's where we went wrong both times Robbie went out for the last storm. He likes picking up the snow, but it really throws him for a loop when it's not blocked by good mittens and his hands get cold. Interesting.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


For a long time, Robbie hated books. The last thing he wanted was to sit on my lap to read. We'd get through a few pages and then Robbie would start twisting and crying. However, once Robbie learned the word "book", things changed. All of a sudden, they are his favorite toys. The other day, he asked for "more books".

Every night, after he gets into his pajamas, Robbie runs to the cabinet where we keep his books. He picks out two or three and brings them to Justin or me. Tonight, he brought me three books and then went to play with his toys. I said, "Oh, you don't want to read? I guess I'll have to read these books all by myself."

Robbie turned, looked at me like I was crazy, ran to me, crashing into my legs with a big hug and a huge grin. He nearly leapt into my arms and sat through all three books. And then it was time for bed. Robbie went happily into his crib (after feeding Ish, of course). He grabbed Moo, his giraffe, and laid down. Robbie rolled over, grabbed another book, and immediately got to reading.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sharpie Time...

I've been known to make a mistake or two, and today was no exception. Justin got up early to take his shower this morning, and I had to go downstairs to get a few things ready for work. That meant Robbie had to be left alone upstairs for a few minutes. I took a page from The Extraordinary Mothers Handbook and turned on an episode of Sesame Street. I naively figured that it would keep him busy for a good ten minutes.

About seven minutes into the endeavor, something started falling from the third floor. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that Robbie was throwing Cold-Eze lozenges from the railing on the third floor onto the steps; they then bounced down to the second floor and landed near my feet. I could hear the giggles and movement of little feet and figured it was time for me to go up to investigate.

I found Robbie in the hallway with a hand full of lozenges. He offered them to me with a huge grin on his face, barely able to control his giggles. It wasn't the Cold-Eze that grabbed my attention; it was my son's blue hands. My eyes moved up his body and slowly took in his face. His bright blue face.

The entire right side of Robbie's face was covered in teal marker. I'm not sure why the first move after uncapping a marker is always the face, but it is at the Manna house. I went into the bedroom, hoping to discover what marker Robbie had used. I won't lie; I was relieved to see that the marker wasn't on my bed seeping onto my new duvet cover. Robbie had kindly placed it back in the top drawer of my nightstand. It was a Sharpie.

Permanent marker. All over my child's face and hands. I could just hear the lecture, tinged with a Chinese accent. I wondered if it would fade by the time my father-in-law arrives next week. And then I called to Justin to bring me a wet towel. And my camera. After all, what good is Sharpie all over the face if you can't get it on camera?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snow, Ice, Sleet, and Rain

It should have been a snow day. It totally should have been called. But, it wasn't. And it's one less day I have to go to school in June. That being said... The driving was absolutely atrocious today. It took me an hour and a half to get to work. That was nothing compared to Justin's commute. He never made it to work. After five hours in the car. And another two to get back home.

I have no idea how all the teachers in the world knew about the snow storm but no one in charge of snow removal knew. It baffles me. And you'd think they would have figured it out by 2:25 this afternoon when I left work. Nope. Slush and ice and snow everywhere. From the time I left work to the time I arrived (including a daycare pick-up), another hour and a half had passed. But, we made it safely.

While we were on our way home, Justin got to work shoveling (he really is the perfect husband!). Unfortunately, his bad day just continued to get worse (I don't think I can post his actual explanation for the day). He tried to pull the car all the way in the driveway, and it got stuck. Majorly stuck. Stuck to the point where it has battle wounds from the escape - scratches all over the driver's side. I don't particularly think it's terrible, but Justin's pretty upset about it.

Knowing he'd be upset, Robbie and I practiced, "Daddy, I love you." It came out, "Da-ee, I you." But, hey, it's a start!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Grapes of Robbie

Robbie has gone through so many fruits: bananas, apples, and oranges. He over-indulges in them, eating them any time he gets the opportunity to. And then he burns out and doesn't want them any more. I noticed last week that he seemed just about finished with the orange stage, and today he discovered his replacement food. Grapes.

I gave Robbie some grapes with his dinner last night, and he seemed to like them well enough. Only half of them wound up on the floor. I thought I'd try again this morning, and, as soon as he finished his bowl of grapes and oyster crackers, he brought it to me, urging, "More!" He finished the entire bag of grapes.

At the grocery store, I bought more grapes (and apples and bananas). I didn't think much about it until we got home, and I started putting everything away once we got home. I turned around, and there he was. In front of the refrigerator. Opening the fruit bin. Grabbing grapes and shoving them in his mouth. He turned around when I called his name in surprise and just grinned. And then he offered me a grape.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Hampshire or Bust

We set the alarms for 5:55 Saturday morning and were out of the house by 6:40. The GPS was set, the gas tank was loaded, and the coffee was hot. The baby was a little cranky, but we plowed on. Conversation flowed as we headed to New Hampshire, and we pulled in the parking lot at the Murphy's house at 9:03. And, by 9:40, Justin and Fran were on the road to Killington, Vermont for a day of skiing. We made it, and the weekend was not ruined.

Our bank account, on the other hand, was a different story. Just before Justin left to ski, Jack, our mechanic, called about the car. I've only met him once (I needed to meet the man who replaced our beloved George, who moved back to Lebanon; Jack told me I could call him George if it made me feel better). As I re-introduced myself over the phone, Jack reassured me that he knew exactly who I was and that he appreciated the nice note I left for him. I've learned that it is incredible important to make a personal connection with ANYONE who helps make your life easier. It's also imperative to be polite, as anything that goes wrong in my life is not their fault.

But, back to the conversation with Jack. He found that the problem was indeed the battery of the car, and he had really hoped that he'd be able to make my day with a relatively easy fix. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. It turns out that the battery had been bad for quite a while. Therefore, the alternator was working over time to charge the battery. And, you guessed it, the alternator was shot. Instead of charging 14V, the highest Jack could get it to charge was 10V. He told me that he could just replace the battery, but that would be dead within six months if I didn't replace the alternator as well. The tab? A mere $658. $221 for the battery. $329 for the alternator. $100 for the labor. And a little for the government. Great.

Justin took the news in stride. After all, we need the car to be working, and one $658 payment is a lot less expensive than 48 $350 car payments. So, my buddy Jack got to work on the car and had it ready in three hours.

After getting the blow about our car, I headed to my friend Abby's house. She has a seven-month-old little boy, James, and we figured it was time for Robbie to show him the ropes of being a little boy. Robbie definitely showed James how it was done. I'll be honest; I was concerned that Robbie would be really rough with James. He's bitten other kids (he even drew blood once...) and pulled hair frequently. But he was so gently with James! He got very excited about the "bay-bee", giving him frequent hugs and kisses. Robbie even helped James figure out crawling! OK, I'm not really sure about that one. But, James did crawl for the first time. Maybe it was all the running around Robbie was doing. Maybe it was watching Robbie crawl between furniture and under tables. Whatever it was, it worked. James officially crawled for the first time yesterday!

Fortunately, Abby and Jamie (her husband) have their choice of babysitters, since they live on Dartmouth's campus. We were able to find a sitter last night and enjoy a night out with other adults. Hillary, Fran, Abby, Jamie, Justin and I went out to dinner and didn't worry about crying or feeding anyone or entertaining anyone. We actually had conversations! We did something interesting at dinner; we made a rule that no one could sit next to a spouse. The girls sat on one side of the table, the boys on the other. It was really nice to get to talk to other people about topics you might not normally discuss. Justin and Abby talked about their love of talk radio and being the voice of descent in political discussions. Hillary and Jamie talked about reality TV. Fran and I reminisced about elementary school (we've known each other since first grade!).

This morning, Robbie had us all up at 5:30. That's the bad part about sharing a room with a kid while you're visiting people. He had good reason to be up, though. He was soaked! His onesie was wet up to his chin. His footies were wet. His blankets were wet. Probably the 27 bottles of milk he had over the day... Right now, he won't drink anything that isn't "nait nait." In fact, he'll hand it back to me, reminding me that he wants milk. Great...

When it was actually a descent time to wake up, Robbie took a bath with the company of Hillary and Fran's youngest beagle, Cooper. Well, not actually with him. Cooper was on the outside of the tub, licking Robbie's face. The two of them had a big time playing together after the bath. Cooper really wanted to help Robbie get dressed... He proved to be more of a hindrance.

I love having friends to go visit, particularly friends who live less than a mile from each other! It's even better when everyone gets along (it can be stressful combining different worlds). I'm finding that, as I get older, I'm valuing my friendships more. My friend Jill has become one of my best friends. I call her a few times a week on my way home from work, and I hate when a week goes by without talking to her. She is my sanity. Don't get me wrong, she's always been a good friend. But we'd go awhile without catching up. Something changed when we had kids; we needed other people who were in the same boat. Hillary and I were friends in high school, but we never really hung out outside of school. We lost touch for a few years. And now? She's one of my favorite people to be with. I have a blast with her and never run out of things to talk about. Abby is calm and introspective and makes me think about things in a different light.

I mention them just to name a few. There are so many more people I've gotten back in contact with after years of not seeing them (thanks, Facebook!). I guess people come into and go out of your life for a reason. It's just a really great feeling when they come back and you can fully appreciate them for who they are.

Sorry for the uber long post. Guess I just had a lot to catch you up on after 45 hours of not blogging!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Best Laid Plans

I've been looking forward to this weekend forever. Well, for at least two weeks since I made the plans. We were going to drive to Hanover, NH, tonight to spend the night with some friends. Justin was going to go skiing tomorrow morning with some other friends. Then we'd spend the night at their house and come home Sunday afternoon.

Oh. You noticed all of that was in the past tense? Robbie and I got home just after 4:00 this afternoon, and I hustled to get everything packed and ready to go. Then I got the text from Justin at 4:45 that he was still at work. No early escape. No leaving the house by 5:00. Then I got the call at 5:20 that he was still on the Pike. And the 6:30 call that he had just made it through the tolls. He walked through the door at 6:59 after four attempts to pull the car into our icy driveway.

Fortunately, I had given Robbie dinner and a bath, loaded the car, and let the dog out. We were ready to go. I just had to return a movie to the Redbox across the street and get some cash to pay the dog sitter. Justin loaded Robbie into the car. And we were ready to go. Until Justin tried to start the car. It didn't. Not even a little.

So, back inside we went. Robbie went to bed amiably. It took the tow truck two hours to get here. And it was just the battery. The very corroded battery. So, the tow truck driver followed me to the Citgo to drop off the car (easier than loading it onto the truck) and brought me home. The lovely gentleman at Citgo didn't seem thrilled that I was leaving my car there overnight and told me I'd need to pick it up in the morning. Even after I explained that I would be leaving for New Hampshire at 6:30 in the morning. He told me I could discuss it with the mechanic in the morning. Surely Jack the Mechanic will speak more English than this guy...

Justin and I are figuring that someone was trying to keep us from leaving tonight, and we finally decided we were going to listen. After all, we didn't get the message after it took Justin two hours to get home. We almost didn't get it when the Jeep wouldn't start. But, we finally understood and enjoyed a nice night at home.

Please cross your fingers and send up some prayers that we get to New Hampshire safely tomorrow (and that Justin stays in one piece while praying). Oh, and that I'm allowed to keep my car at the gas station until Sunday afternoon (or that I have good friends who will go pick it up for me). Thanks in advance, Allie!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snow Day, Take Two

Lawrence was closed again today! And, like any good wife and mother, I sent Robbie to daycare and Justin to work. What I really needed was a day to myself. After all, yesterday I spent most of the day on the couch. There was work to be done.

I actually surprised myself. Typically, I would think about everything I needed to do while sitting on the couch catching up on my DVR (see the entry from last Friday). Not today. I started in the kitchen and cleaned the refrigerator and freezer, organized the cabinets and pantry, and cleaned the counters and stove. Then I cleaned the bathroom and organized the hall closet and the living room closet. Next up was the living room, complete with organizing all the drawers in the tables. Then it was upstairs to our room and Robbie's room. All floors are vacuumed and steamed. And it feels amazing.

I did some thinking about my life while I was cleaning. About a week ago, I found a journal that I started in the fall of 2006. I didn't even recognize the person I was then. The entire journal was horribly negative; each page was a litany of complaints about what had gone wrong that day. I cried as I read it, unsure of how I was able to escape the person I had become. And I'm so far from being that person any more (I'm sure much to the relief of everyone who knows me). So, for whatever reason I was able to chance, I am grateful.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day!

Today was the first snow day for 2011! It was announced just after lunch yesterday, and I loved knowing that I didn't have to keep checking for closings all night long (you know you've done it, too!). Justin found out this morning that Bose was closed, so we were able to actually enjoy the day together without worrying about shoveling until the snow stopped or trying to drive anywhere.

Robbie's seen snow before, but he wasn't aware enough of anything to actually know what it was. Not today, though. This morning, Justin, Robbie, and I spent about twenty minutes getting ready to go out in the snow. After all, we had a new sled to break in. There were layers of clothing to put on. Pairs of gloves and mittens to find. Justin's were buried in the car, so he wore girl gloves. Robbie wore mittens from two different pairs.

And then there was the snow suit... It's one that my brother wore when he was little. Robbie put it on like a good sport, but he just looked uncomfortable in it. It was a tight fit. And it has Peter Cottontail on the front. Not very manly, but Robbie pulled it off pretty well.

Robbie enjoyed his sled ride for the most part. Until he took off his hat and threw it in the road (yes, we were in the road; the sidewalks were impassible with over a foot of snow). At that point, there was snow in his hood and snow in his hat. So it was a cold, wet head for young Robert. And then the mittens started to come off. At that point, Justin and I decided it was time to turn around and head home. We'd barely gotten to the corner. Robbie did not enjoy the ride home, as the snow was blowing into his face at that point. Oh, I didn't mention that we took him out in the middle of a blizzard? Hmm... Parenting at it's finest!

We went out again later to see what progress Justin was making in digging out the cars. Luckily, our fabulous neighbors downstairs had dug out the porch, sidewalk, and end of the driveway (even the three-foot pile left by the plow). Robbie got a big kick out of walking through the snow and tasting it. Until he took off his mitten. Then it was quickly back inside.

I'm off work again tomorrow, but Justin and Robbie will be back to their regular schedule. And I think I'm OK with that.

A few of you have asked, so I'll put a little update in here. Robbie's feeling much better. Thank you so much for asking about him! I'm wondering if this had something to do with his eye teeth coming in. There's been a little more drool and a LOT more irritability.

Stay safe out there. And happy shoveling!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


When I find someone I like, I stick with them. We have incredible people for anything we need. Roof repairs? Sewage in the basement? Call Kevin. House dirty? Mercedes is your woman. Want to get rid of junk? Call Leon. Need a bi-lingual daycare? Want to get bossed around by a crazy Chinese lady? Call Zhining. And I'll recommend these people without hesitation to anyone (as I'm shamelessly doing right now).

But I hold grudges, too. I will never do business with Bank of America after they closed all of my accounts and told me I was a "liability" to their bank. (Justin deposited a check into my new account, neither one of us realizing that his name wasn't on the account.) I tried to buy a dryer from Lowe's, which took six hours and three trips to the store. And several phone calls. And two weeks. We're Home Depot all the way. And then there's Sears.

Sears is in a category all its own. I have NEVER had a good experience at Sears. Well, there was one. At the Sears Auto Center when I bought tires. The first time I went to Sears, I tried to buy a washer and dryer (always a problem with dryers for me...). The sales guy wasted an hour of my time and I wasn't able to get the washer and dryer I wanted. A few years (and 1500 miles) later, I went to a Sears in Burlington. When it was my turn to pay, I made my way up to the cashier. She looked at me and snapped, "Move back. I'm not ready for you yet." Last year, I bought tires at Sears and received a $50 gift card, which I used to purchase a new camera. The salesman forgot to send my purchase to the merchandise pick-up, and it took an extra thirty minutes for me to get my camera. We'll come back to this momentarily. And last week, I went to get my oil changed and tires rotated (free, since I purchased my tires there). It took over two and a half hours because my car sat untouched for almost an hour. The was, fortunately, rectified by the gentleman I bought the tires from. He decreased my bill by $80 (I was also having my engine cleaned and getting a new air filter).

And then there was tonight. The camera that I bought last year has broken, but, thankfully I purchased the extended warranty. The salesman told me that I'd be able to get a new camera if anything happened to mine. Well, his bad service continued today. That's not what he sold me. He sold me the ability to mail my camera back to Canon to wait two weeks to have it repaired. In an effort to appease me, the saleslady told me she could give me $60 towards a new camera if Canon decided not to fix it. Yeah. Won't be going back to Sears. Ever. In any state.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Poor Baby Robbie

I should have known something was up yesterday when Robbie woke up from a four-hour nap and wanted to cuddle. He never naps for four hours. And he never wants to cuddle in the middle of the afternoon. But, I didn't want to ruin the moment.

Poor baby Robbie woke up around 10:00 last night and was burning up. His fever was 103.1. All he wanted was to curl up in between Justin and me and drink milk. I'm not sure milk would have sounded good to me with a fever, but he kept asking for it. I put him back in his room around 11:00, and he slept until 12:30. He woke up crying, and, I'll admit, it took me a little while to wake up enough to go in and check on him. Robbie sat up in his crib as soon as he saw me, handed me his bottle, and said, "More."

Well, the "more" came back to bite him (and us) at 4:30 this morning when he woke up in full-on sobs. Being the compassionate wife that I am, I kicked Justin and told him to get up. I believe I said something along the lines of, "Get up. I've been up twice already with Robbie. It's your turn." Justin asked if he should just bring Robbie into bed with us. I said (as patiently as I could), "Only if you don't want to get anymore sleep." To which my always-eager-to-please husband replied, "What am I supposed to do?" I'll give him that it was 4:30 in the morning and he'd been rudely awakened, but I don't know what to do anymore than he does.

I felt a little guilty about waking up Justin when I probably could have taken care of the situation by myself (but I decided about a year ago that it was better to inconvenience him for fifteen minutes than lie awake irritated that he'd slept through everything). My guilt propelled me out of bed and into Robbie's room. Justin was elbow deep in poop and soaking pajamas. Robbie, with his red cheeks, had tears rolling down his face. And his bed? Soaked through. Fortunately, after I changed the sheets, Robbie went right back to sleep and stayed asleep until I went in to check on him at 7:00.

As soon as Robbie heard me come in his room this morning, he popped up and started talking to me like we'd been in the middle of a conversation. His fever had dropped to 99.7, and he seemed to be feeling fine. In fact, he was even particular about what he wanted to drink this morning. Robbie handed me a bottle and said, "Nait. Nait." I put flavored water in, and he returned the bottle to me, insisting, "Nait. Nait." Sure enough, when Justin came back with milk in the bottle, Robbie grabbed it out of his hand and sucked it down.

I had hoped that Robbie was on the mend, but I realized this was not the case as soon as I walked through the front door of Zhining's house. His eyes just looked sad and tired. His cheeks were red. His body was an inferno. And he didn't want to be put down. I tried to take Robbie's temperature when we got home, but he wriggled away from the thermometer before it beeped. It read 102.4.

He went to sleep easily and without any dinner, and I haven't heard from him in three hours. Justin and I are keeping our fingers crossed that everyone in the Manna house will get a good night's sleep tonight and that, more importantly, poor baby Robbie wakes up all better.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Words! Words! Words!

A running list of Robbie's words:
Daddy (Da-e)
Light (an early favorite)
Ball (a current favorite)
Dog (and 'oof)
Gou (dog in Chinese)
Cat/Kitty (and 'ow)
Fish (and gulp)
More (another favorite)
Na (Chinese for "that")
Nait (Chinese for "milk")
I love you (getting closer every day!)
Light bulb
Lunch (whatever the Chinese word is for that)
Mian (Chinese for noodle)
Tang (Chinese for soup)
Fan (Chinese for lunch)
Ping guo (Chinese for apple)
Grape (gape)
Hilary (Heeaee)
Chinese for rice
Chinese for lunch
Chinese for "Don't touch the baby"

Alone Time

Today was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I spent it on the couch, under a Smurf Wrappie (generic Snuggie). Justin went skiing with our friend Allie all day and Robbie took a four-hour nap. It was bliss. There was no one who needed me. There was no one playing video games or complaining about the bad shows saved up on DVR that I wanted to catch up on. It was just me, the couch, the remote, and the cat who was curled up by my feet.

When Robbie woke up, he wasn't feeling too well. He felt warm and was entirely too cuddly. So, not one to dismiss a cuddly baby, I gave him some Tylenol, fixed him some milk, and settled in on the couch with an episode of The Berenstein Bears on the TV. It was the perfect end to my perfect afternoon.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Watering the Dog

It's been one of those days at the Manna house. It started this morning when I kicked over a bottle of Ale-8, which exploded across the kitchen, shattering glass and Ale-8 everywhere. I was, of course, barefoot. Justin broke a glass over breakfast. Robbie broke one over lunch. It was really a family effort.

This afternoon, I noticed that Robbie was going back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room with two different Frisbees. After a few minutes, I noticed that they had water in them. For about ten minutes, I resisted the urge to see where Robbie was getting the water, not sure I could stand seeing the mess that I was sure would be all over the kitchen floor. But, Robbie seemed so intent on delivering water to Barkley that I couldn't help but follow him into the kitchen.

Robbie had quite the set-up going on. Fortunately, he had not dumped the water onto the floor. He took the Frisbee over to the water dish, put it in, got some water into it, picked it up, and walked back to the living room to deliver the water to his doting dog. He then picked up the previously delivered Frisbee and did the same thing. Eventually, Barkley started turning the other way when he saw Robbie coming. I'm sure Robbie would have gone on forever if I'd let him, but, mean mother that I am, I made him go Skype with my mom.

Don't judge me too much on the video. Our house was in the process of being cleaned, and Robbie never changed out of his pajamas. Some Saturdays are like that...

In other exciting developments, Robbie said, "I love you" today! He had no idea what he said, but it still melted my heart. He was in bed with Justin and me playing this morning, and I said, "I love you." Robbie looked at me and said, "Eye. Lovu." I think we're going to keep working on this. He also said "juice", "apple", and "baby" today. I'm not sure where all these words are coming from, but I like it!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jack in the Box

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Aunt Allie and Uncle Micah brought to Robbie two fabulous books, one plush animal, one Oshkosh shirt, and a Jack in the Box.

I'll admit; I was a little concerned about the Jack in the Box. Robbie doesn't always do well with things jumping out at him. He goes into full-blown panic mode when I turn on the dust buster. But I should have known that Justin would make it fun. I'm still not entirely convinced that Robbie was originally laughing at the toy. I think it was mostly Justin's facial expressions and excitement every time the clown popped up out of the box.

Robbie proved me wrong, however, when he brought it to the dinner table after he and Justin had stopped playing. He did not want to sit in my lap; he would only sit with Justin. Within a few minutes, Robbie was cranking the box and making the clown pop out. I'm not sure which cracked him up more: making the clown come out or putting it back in.

I'm attaching pictures of the basement. I meet with the insurance adjuster tomorrow and am seriously hoping they'll pay for a dumpster or some form of junk removal. There is so much trash. I'm just thrilled that my basement is clean. Now to get it organized...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Letter B

This blog is brought to you by the letter B. You know, for book? Bubble? It was a big day for the letter B at the Manna house. While he was in the tub, Robbie said, "Bubble. Bubble." And then he handed me the baby wash to make bubbles for him. Brilliant! If that wasn't enough, after he got his pajamas on, I told Robbie to go pick out a book. He walked right over to the armoire where his books are, pointed at the door, and said, "Book!"

I was so impressed with his new verbal skills that I let him pick out three books to read. After all, how could I turn him down when he slid off my lap, walked to the armoire, and asked, "Book?"

It was a day of many child advancements for Robbie today... One I need to thank Nona for. At least I think I need to thank her; I haven't decided yet if I'm thrilled about it. When we came home, Robbie and I spent some time upstairs cleaning and organizing. Nothing major. I made the bed and Rob pulled the pillows off. I put laundry in the hamper and Robbie dragged a pair of pants out of the hamper and around the floor. You know, productive stuff. I got busy organizing Robbie's dresser, and he ran back and forth between our rooms.

All of a sudden, Robbie's little feet sounded far away. Very far away. Like they weren't even on the same floor. And they weren't. My son climbed all the way down the steepest staircase known to man. Alone. When I started down the stairs to find him, Robbie came running, clapping his hands, yelling, "Yay!" I think we're going to need to invest in a gate for the top of the stairs...

The child has also started climbing. I looked over this afternoon to find him standing on the box containing our new toaster oven, which, incidentally, is too big for our kitchen. But, as Justin explained, we won't always have a kitchen the size of a shoe box. And when we have more than three feet of counter space, we're going to want a solid toaster oven.

Now for the update I know you've all been waiting for: the basement. I decided not to worry about it. After all, Kevin was coming, and he would fix everything. And he did. He suited up and pumped out the basement. He had to empty everything on the other side of the house, pump out the water, disinfect the floor, disinfect items, and bring them back. Except most of the items in the basement couldn't be disinfected. These are sitting outside in the backyard of the other side of the house, waiting for people to go through them and take pictures for insurance. My side of the house gets done tomorrow, but we didn't have nearly as much water. And I don't know that we really have anything worth claiming on insurance.

Kevin also got a plumber out here this morning. He replaced part of the pipe (where the lid came off) and he tried to snake out the main line. But the clog was so far out that they had to call in someone else. The clog was almost to the water main. Apparently this took several hours. I'm hoping for a generous insurance adjuster... The total bill is looking to be around $2300. Not to mention any personal losses there might be... But, things could have been so much worse. And we have water. And a lingering aroma of bleach.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Stinky Situation...

I got an email from my neighbor that there was some water in the basement, I tried to to panic. I figured it was from the gutters and melting snow and all of that. Plus, it wasn't on my side of the basement. And then I went downstairs.

There was water everywhere. Granted, our side wasn't as bad as the other side. But it was still pretty rough. We have traces of water, maybe half an inch in some places. The other side? They have two to three inches in most of their basement. Stuff in cardboard boxes is ruined. And we had no idea where the water was coming from.

I called Jen, the neighbor who initially called about the problem, and asked her to turn off her washing machine. One that was done, we could hear that there was water, and I located it. Under a shelf near the floor. I looked at Jen and said, "I need an adult. I need someone to tell me how to fix this." But there wasn't anyone. Justin wasn't near his phone to answer it. The neighbors who would probably know what to do live in Indiana. The other neighbors weren't home. And my mom lives a thousand miles away.

Then it hit me. Kevin. We needed to call Kevin. So I did. Kevin is a Godsend who has replaced our roof, fixed our siding, installed windows, and repaired a toilet. He knows everything. And if he doesn't know how to do it, he knows someone who did. And, bless his heart, Kevin, who had just left our house an hour before after working on our gutters, turned around and came back. He is downstairs right now, after an emergency run to Home Depot, fixing the problem, at least until a plumber can get here tomorrow. He wanted to save us from paying for an emergency call.

Even better, Kevin thinks he might have been able to get the materials to keep us from needing a plumber at all (I'm optimistic but figure we'll probably still need one). And then it occurred to me. I don't know how to get all the crap up from the basement. I don't even know where to start. But Kevin does. He'll be back out tomorrow morning to get everything cleaned up and disinfected. He's also going to meet with plumbers (if we need them) and make sure we get a good price.

Sometimes moms feel like they need to know everything. And we don't. We just have to know the right people. If you'd like to know Kevin, let me know. He'll get glowing referrals from me!

Monday, January 3, 2011


Robbie's always been one for making noise. He loves to hear himself. We spent an hour listening to him orating (it really sounded like he was chanting, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt) in the car. He loves a microphone his buddy Pete gave him that distorts his voice. Despite all of this, we were a little concerned that he would have a language delay because of Chinese day care.

We shouldn't have been so worried. All of a sudden, Robbie figured out words. For a long time, we were stuck with hi, light, ma, da, ball, and 'ish. But something happened over the Christmas break. Now we have more, key (kitty), ow (meow, which he says whenever he sees a "key"), dog (or gou, depending on what language he feels like speaking), oof (woof), da-e (daddy), shoe, eye, nose (that's my favorite word because he sounds so sincere every time he says it), bed, teeth, car, girl, and cheese. He's made a few attempts at boy and duck, but I'm not sure he really "has" them yet. Rumor has it that he said please for my sister, but he hasn't repeated it.

I did find the talking thing to be particularly convenient around 1:30 this morning. Robbie woke up at 12:45 for a diaper change and some milk. I wasn't sure what I was going to find when I went back in there, but he made it pretty easy for me. Robbie simply sat up, held his bottle out to me, and said, "More." And that was really what he wanted. I brought him up some more milk and he laid back in bed and slept until 7:00 in the morning. Now that is clear, concise communication!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reflective New Year Post... Late!

I keep wanting to take the time to have a reflective New Year post, but it hasn't happened yet. By the time I thought about it New Year's Eve, I'd had enough wine to be reflective but was running out of time. Yesterday I had plenty of time in the car but minimal battery power after Robbie watched enough movies to put him to sleep. And today? We'll see... I'm just hoping to have enough energy to stay awake to blog, take a shower, and get my behind to bed.

I'll be honest, some amazing things happened in 2009. After all, that's when Robbie was born. But 2010 is my favorite year so far. So many amazing things happened to me last year, that it was actually hard for me to let the minutes slip by and find it over. I got a little panicked around 11:47 when I realized that I couldn't stop time and make this incredible year stop.

One of the biggest things that happened last year was graduating from Boston College. I never thought I would go back to graduate school after finishing a Master's from the illustrious Eastern Kentucky University. But I did. And it was amazing (partially because they paid for my tuition the first year!). The people. The experiences. In my first year, I pinched myself a few times as I walked across campus. On 24 May 2010, I walked at my first graduation since high school. Getting that degree was one of the proudest moments. I'm not sure I've ever worked that hard for anything in my life. And this year, Justin also started back at Boston College, making it a big year educationally for both of us.

I also got to spend a lot of time in Kentucky in 2010, something I never thought would amount to making for such an incredible year. But, things change when you have kids. For me, the change was that I wanted to spend as much time in Kentucky as possible. Before Robbie came along, I was content to go home twice a year (maybe three times). But not last year. I went home for five days in February, a week in April, ten days in July, two weeks in August, and ten days in December. I realized over the past year how much I appreciate my family and how much I really enjoy spending time with them.

It gets harder leaving them every time. Yesterday, I could barely control myself when it was time to leave. I started crying before it was even time to say good bye. And when I had to go back to the house to get the earrings I forgot? Letting go of my mom was so hard that I had to go back and hug her two more times just as hard. I don't think you know how much you love your mom until you become one. It totally changes the relationship, and you can see everything she did for you as you're doing it for your own child.

2010 was the year of so many "firsts" for Robbie, too. He held a bottle for the first time, slept on his belly for the first time (ironically the same night he held the bottle), got his first tooth (all three of these happened in Kentucky!), said his first word ("Hi!"), crawled for the first time, went swimming for the first time, took his first steps, had his first birthday, had two appearances on Good Morning America, blew his first kisses, said his first Chinese word (gou, which means dog), and survived two car trips to Kentucky.

I started a new job this year, one of the best things I've done. I'm at a school I love with incredible students and pretty fabulous colleagues. It's exactly where I want to be.

With all of these amazing things, how could I want the year to end? Surely 2011 can't possibly measure up... But, like so many things, I cannot control time. And midnight came. And 2010 went. So now it is time to embrace 2011 and do my damnedest to make it even better than 2010. So, I have a few goals (that sounds more achievable than "resolutions"):

1. I will lose 50 pounds this year (making my appointment with Jenny Craig tomorrow).
2. I will brush the cats at least twice a week (if I write it, I have to do it, right?).
3. I will exercise at least five days a week (I'm hoping to get addicted to P90X).
4. I will focus on anything positive I can find when things aren't going right.
5. I will do my best to relax and let life take me where it's supposed to, especially with things I cannot control.
6. I will take time every day to play with my son and spend quality time with my husband. I will not take them for granted.

So, now that they they are written, I have to hold myself accountable. Here goes nothing, 2011. Let's see what you're made of!