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Archive for the ‘First Time Home Buyer’ Category

It’s been a long, long while since I’ve done a randomosity post. But random topics still burble to the surface, so let’s get them all out in the open.

Fifty-one weeks of the year, I really enjoy living on this particular street, in this particular house. We live on a quiet cul-de-sac that is close but not too close to a main intersection in an urban-leaning suburb of a mid-size city. I feel like we get the neighborhoody aspects of living in the suburbs, but have plenty of businesses and restaurants and ice cream shops nearby. And it’s quiet. I realize I said that one sentence back, but it’s important. There’s not a huge amount of action, beyond the teenagers playing basketball across the street. The traffic is minimal.

But one week of the year, a business that resides (lives? exists?) on an adjoining street holds an event that draws people from near and far. So for the duration of the event – not quite a week, but close enough that I will count it as a full week, for complaining’s sake – our street is busy. Lots of cars driving down it, to check out the event. Or to try to leave the event, without realizing that our street has no outlet. Or to park on the side of the street before hiking back to the event venue. The event lasts late into the evening, so there are cars driving and people talking excitedly and people beeping their horns as they engage their remote locks well past ten. Is event starting to look a little wacko, as words go, or is it just me? By day two, I begin to go crazy. Carla is a fairly deep sleeper, but I get that crazed newborn-parent feel of, SHHHH, you are being TOO LOUD, there is a BABY SLEEPING, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I don’t like it, is what I’m saying. It makes me cranky. It makes me feel wary of talking to anyone while we’re outside, which we are a lot at this time of year. It makes me double and triple check the locks on the doors (because people heading to the event are super likely to be burglars/murderers) (no). It makes me feel like whispering and ducking past windows and uncomfortably aware of the proximity of my bedroom to the street.

I will be glad when this year’s event ends.

 

We have a new addition to our household. A new baby deer. Its mother leaves it in a snug little bundle of white spots between our deck and the azalea bushes.

Fawn 1

Baby deer!

This year, Carla spotted the fawn first. And, being a child who loves animals with a passion that makes her literally vibrate with the desire to pet and hug and adopt, she cannot stop thinking about the fawn. This has made it rather difficult to enjoy our backyard; she is constantly hopping out of her seat at lunch or dinner to go peek at the fawn. Or, instead of playing in the yard, she is peeking at the fawn. Or, instead of doing anything at all other than peeking at the fawn, she is peeking at the fawn.

She wants to show it a pinecone. (It won’t care.) She wants to share her ham with it. (No.) She wants to bring it up on the deck to show it an ant that is crawling as quickly away from Carla as its legs can carry it. (No.)

We have had lots of conversations about deer being wild animals, and being especially careful around baby animals, because their mothers will be protective. And how even though deer are so pretty and docile looking, they can bite and kick.

This has sunk in a bit further in some areas than others; Carla still wants to pet the fawn (no; wild animal). But she refuses to go into the backyard by herself just in case the mommy deer is there and wants to bite her or kick her or lick her (okay, good point; also it probably won’t lick you).

I don’t know why I continue to be disgruntled by the presence of baby deer in our yard. This has happened… every year since we’ve lived here? Our yard is a deer daycare. But each year, I feel annoyed at the mother deer for just abandoning her baby in my yard, where I then feel obligated to care for it. (I mean, insofar as “care for it” means peeking at it occasionally, keeping Carla away from it, and fretting about its safety.)

And I DO fret about it! We were moving some deck furniture around the other day, on the very deck against which the fawn was snuggled, and it was making a tremendous racket, and I commented to my husband that I hoped it wasn’t terrifying the poor creature. When the lawn service people arrived, I ran around in a panic, trying to replace my pajamas with clothes so that I could go out and warn them to stay away from the fawn’s azalea hidey-hole. We are having our deck refinished in a few weeks, and I am really hopeful that the fawn’s mother decides to take her on a field trip somewhere else so that the sanders and scrapers don’t scare the poor thing out of its spots.

Part of me feels so annoyed at the mother deer, for not picking a safer location to stow her offspring. But I suppose it is an urban deer, and this probably feels a whole lot safer than the corner of a busy intersection or the back of a schoolyard playground. And I suppose the fawn could always complain to its mother about the creature with the curly blond fur who keeps poking its face over the side of deck and waving pinecones at it, and suggest that they find a new daycare center.

Fawn 2

“Please stop peeking at me. You are making me very nervous/annoyed/camera shy.” – Fawn

As long as we’re talking about the backyard, we did get a playset. I loved all the comments and ideas, especially the suggestion to turn our weed patch into a beautiful garden (believe me! I would LOVE that!). Of course, being me, I continued to obsessively research and read reviews and bother people with questions. In the end, we concluded that a playset is the right decision for us. Time will tell, I suppose. To tell you the truth, I think the playset is really for ME. It will be so much more convenient to throw Carla in the backyard than to schlep her to a playground when she is overcome by the need to swing. And we can host playdates MUCH more comfortably if there is something for the kids to do outside. So I’M excited about it.

 

I’ve been on the hunt for a few very specific items of clothing lately. One is The Perfect Skirt, for which I continue searching. Let us take a gauzy look through time at one I had in college: white, a lineny blend, cut just above the knee, a-line. THAT is the skirt I am looking for. It was the ideal cut/shape for my shape/cut. It was a nice summery, neutral color. It was a casual material, which I am REALLY interested in; I have plenty of This Would Be Fine at the Office kinds of dresses/skirts; I really want some This Is Cute But Totally Casual Enough for the Playground or Library Story Time options. But I have yet to find it. I bought this skirt from Nordstrom, and despite being adorable in the online pictures, it was NOT The Perfect Skirt and I have since returned it.

Nordstrom skirt

Photo from Nordstrom.com

Another item I am seeking, in bulk, perhaps, is Rear-End-Covering Shirts. I already have a few that are dressier, so right now I am looking for casual options. I have found some good ones, I think: this one from Athleta,

Rear end shirt Athleta

Photo from Athleta.com

…and this one from Loft. (I got the Loft version for, I think, $12. But now they are on sale for two for $18!)

Rear end shirt loft

Photo from Loft.com

But I find myself wanting moremoremore because a) I enjoy wearing leggings and b) my rear end is self-conscious. My trouble though is that shirts that seem to fit the bill either don’t actually cover my rear end (I am more generous in the backyard than 99% of the models modeling the “rear-end-covering” shirts), or they make me feel shlubby. I want casual-but-put-together, not rolled-out-of-bed-and-grabbed-my-husband’s-undergarment-off-the-floor. I guess a more accurate way to describe it is that I like my tops to have some shape to them. Yet, like The Perfect Skirt and The Perfect Jeans, it seems really hard to find something matching my specifications. So I’m snapping them up when I come across them.

 

The room mother for Carla’s preschool class collected money for a year-end gift for her teachers. The gifts were lovely and generous, and I was delighted to not have to come up with ideas for something her teachers would like and not throw away. But when Carla and I were leaving her classroom on the last day, one of the other parents brought in two large bags from a fancy store and handed one to each of Carla’s teachers.

Listen, Carla and I wrote personal messages in cards for each of her teachers. They went above and beyond for us this year, in many ways, and I wanted to express my gratitude in words in addition to submitting some cash to the group gift. So I acknowledge that maybe these other parents felt similarly, and wanted to really show the teachers how grateful they were.

Or, of course, maybe they didn’t participate in the group gift. Or maybe their love language is Gift Giving. Or maybe other justifying thoughts I can’t come up with.

My worry, of course, is that this is What You Do; you give money to the room mother for the group gift, and then you ALSO buy a personal gift for each teacher. Which seems ridiculous, but what do I know? So many tiny, unimportant-in-the-greater-scheme-of-things stresses related to Having a Child in School! I had no idea!

My desktop anthurium – which you may recall was purchased purely because I was looking for a red lamp – for accent moreso than for light – and couldn’t find one – has lost its… well, I suppose they are flowers? The red pretty rooster-face looking portions of the plant. There were two to begin with, and one darkened and crumpled a few months ago, and now the second is going the same way. I don’t know anything about anthuria, outside of the fact that I fed them with ice cubes. Well, I guess I did a rather poor job of even doing that, considering that they have chosen death over waiting to see if I will remember to ice them each week. So I have no idea if they will flower again, in time… or if I need to find another one. One of the things that made it so clear I needed to buy THIS anthurium was that it came in such a lovely bright red vase. I neither want to buy a new red-vased anthurium nor replant an anthurium in this vase. So I suppose I will stare hopefully at my remaining anthurium leaves and try to remember the weekly icing.

1 Anthurium

Photo from gardenknowhow.com

That’s it for now, Internet. What’s up with you?

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Sometimes when I most regret posting something, I am most grateful to have done so later. I felt super whiny and lame and, not to mention, you know, like a crap parent, the other day. And yet you were so kind and empathetic and I appreciate it SO MUCH. Thank you.

 

Moving on, and also trying to avoid panicking thinking too hard about the state of the world, my husband and I are contemplating what to do with the backyard. And one of the options is to add a playset. About which we are dithering wildly.

So I am here to ask your advice.

We have a smallish-backyard. The back edge is occupied by what we call The Weed Patch. It’s sectioned off from the lawn by long strips of wood. I’m sure they have some sort of technical name, like 4 x 4s or something. But to me they are just wood. The wood strips make a long rectangle of approximately 25 x 50 feet. Inside the rectangle is… dirt and weeds.

The prior owners had a playset and a trampoline in the rectangle, which, at that point, was filled in nicely with dirt. They had a weed barrier between the dirt and the actual ground, so it was a nice uniform brown. But they took their playset and trampoline with them (when we bought the house we made SURE they would take both monstrosities; surely WE would never need them, seeing as we planned to remain Forever Childless), and over time the weed barrier has been breached by weather and weeds. Today, it is a wasteland of pinecones and acorn shells and dirt clods and deer excrement.

I got a quote from a landscaping company. To add a new weed barrier and fill it in with playground mulch would cost $X. To eliminate The Weed Patch and make it a seamless part of our lawn would cost $X times 3.5. After I scraped myself off the floor from shock, it was obvious, right there, that the first option is better from a purely cost perspective.

But if we were to go to the trouble (and still considerable expense) of filling it in with playground mulch, it seems like it would be worthwhile to actually add a playset.

 

Playset

Photo from costco.com                                                                                                                                               This is the Gorilla PlayMaker playset, which is the one I like the most. But is the slide tall enough? What would I do with the sandbox part (NOT use sand, that’s for clam sure)? Would this really appeal to Carla for the next… five years? Flags, really? Why is the spacing of my caption so worked up?

BUT. Playsets are ridiculously expensive. And I would want one that is a) safe and b) durable and c) small enough to fit our yard.

Our concerns are two-fold:

  1. Would Carla actually use it, and for a significant number of years that would properly amortize the cost of the thing?
  2. Would the thing need regular, irritating, and/or expensive upkeep that would make us rue the day I ever got the Playset Wild Hare?

I am also a bit worried about the cost of installation, because there is no way my husband and I are going to put it together ourselves. A quick internet search sounds like it would be at least a third if not half again as much as the playset itself.

So we’re getting pretty close to the $X times 3.5 of getting rid of The Weed Patch altogether.

I have already bothered several people I know, to gather data and thoughts. (Some of them are super lucky to have spouses who can build their own playsets OMG I am so jealous.) But I need MORE DATA.

So I put it to you, Internet.

But do you have a playset? Did your kids use it? And, if so, how long and how much? My husband and I already said that if she’s out there swinging once a month, that’s not worth the price. But to me, I am envisioning throwing her out in the yard DAILY while I make dinner (where I can watch her from the window) or while my husband and I sip wine on the porch or while I lounge on the porch and read. Is this a playset pipe dream? The other benefit, of course, would be in inviting friends over. We don’t really have a good play area in the house, so it would be nice to have a usable space for the kiddos to go.

Also, what AGES were/are your kids when they enjoyed the playset the most? When did they outgrow it? Many of the reviews for various playsets imply that we should have gotten the damn thing two years ago, why have we waited so long? Yet the playset manufacturers throw out things like, “Great for ages 3 to 11!”

Did you install your playset yourself? If not, how much did it cost (if you don’t mind my asking)?

Which playset did you choose? Has it held up to the elements? What kind of upkeep does it require? We are in an area of the country that sees rain, snow, humidity, and wind, so the thing better be tough. I am more drawn to the wood playsets than to the metal/plastic ones; they just seem sturdier, and also seem more aesthetically pleasing (if you can call a playset of any sort “aesthetically pleasing”).  But I have no idea if wood is a better choice or not.

One of the friends I asked about the playset said she’d gotten hers from Craig’s List. It makes me nervous, for some reason, to do that. Not simply because of my inherent concerns about murderers. But I don’t know, I guess I am thinking that a playset is like a carseat, in that it really shouldn’t be re-used? That sounds ridiculous, now that I type it out. And I’m not actually certain of my facts, vis a vis the carseat re-usability. Yet my face still squinches up into a curl of suspicion and doubt when I contemplate the Craig’s List option. (I have never purchased anything from Craig’s List; see above re: murderers.) Do you have experience with that? Is there a better, less-murdery place to find playsets online?

It’s SO MUCH money — even if we were to say that THIS is Carla’s gift for her birthday AND Christmas — that I really really want to get our money’s worth, you know? Especially since we just have the one kid. But it almost seems like one of those decisions you just have to MAKE.  In which case, I might dither until the weeds overtake the house and pull me down into the damp crumbly wormy-scented depths of the soil.

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This week a nice gentleman from our security service come out to test the security system and replace all the batteries in the window and door sensors. As happens Every Single Time someone comes to my house to provide some sort of service, I spent the entire time he was here in a restless panic of What Is the Right Way to Deal with This?

It begins with the Time Window. I spend the hours before the Time Window fretting about the state of my house, like the air conditioning repairperson is going to care whether there are breakfast dishes in the sink or the cable person will give a second thought to the unwashed laundry on the floor of the closet. (It’s there because SORTING.)

Then, as the Time Window nears, I begin stressing about what I should be doing. I shouldn’t make anything to eat, lest the service person arrive as soon as I have food in my mouth. I shouldn’t start a project, lest I get interrupted. I shouldn’t make a phone call. I shouldn’t work out or take a shower. So I end up kind of pacing around my house, catching up on small housework or straightening things that will neither impress nor dismay the service person. I always have the TV on, to provide background noise.

Once the person arrives, I fret about what to DO while s/he is in my house. Do I follow her around, ostensibly to answer questions? Do I guide her to the appropriate area of the house and then… leave her alone?

If I go the following-around route, do I ask questions to appear as though I care and/or will remember anything about the reason the furnace is making a weird noise?  Do I make inane small talk about the weather or the basketball finals or how it’s summer already and doesn’t time go by so quickly? Do I lurk in the background, trying to assume a helpful air? Do I find something to occupy me near wherever she needs to be?

If I go the leaving-alone route, what do I DO? I have to be available, and I have to be interruptible. Do I pretend to watch TV, while really sitting on the edge of the couch, ready to leap up and address any questions or issues? Do I continue to find small items of housework to tackle, if I even have any left after my pre-appointment fussing?

What level of hospitality is required/expected/necessary/nice? For movers, I have offered water; for the people who recently removed a bunch of junk, I offered soda (which they left behind, presumably because it was diet soda). We have a lot of beer; should I offer beer?

When is a tip required/expected/necessary/nice? I mean, I know a tip is NEVER “required,” but… I think it’s more of a given in some situations than in others. Like, with movers. I automatically build in “get cash for a tip” to my moving preparations. But with the person who replaces your faucet? The person who delivers your mattress? The person who inspects your gutters? The person who sprays for silverfish?

The tipping thing gives me GREAT anxiety. Partly because (except in the instance of movers) I only ever THINK about the tip right before the service person is expected to arrive, so I never have cash on hand (or if I do, it is like, a $50 bill that seems a bit much or a single $1 which seems very stingy). Partly because I just don’t know when a tip would be appreciated-but-not-expected or whether the service person starts bad mouthing my lack of generosity the instant he leaves. Okay, that is uncharitable. It would be worse if the service person left, tipless, and began to worry about whether the lack of tip meant she hadn’t provided great service. UGH.

And yet, one time we had two faucets installed and I planned ahead and tried to tip the very nice, very efficient man who installed the faucets, and he rejected the tip, in a semi-repulsed way that almost seemed like I’d perpetrated a Major Faux Pas or maybe offered him a fistful of dog poo instead of a $10.

And THEN, if you decide a tip is a good idea, HOW MUCH DO YOU TIP? A percentage of the service? A flat $5 per person? Does it depend on the type of service rendered? And, if so, what is the scale?

SO MUCH ANXIETY.

I would appreciate a Handbook that clearly lays out guidelines for all of the above and more.  Once I heard that if the service person is the owner of the company, you don’t tip. But if the service person is an employee, you DO tip. Or maybe the guideline was that if the service person is a contractor, you DO tip, and if an employee, you DON’T. ARRRRGH.

All I know is that Any and Every Time we need some sort of service that requires a person to come to our home, I spend the entire day fretting and fussing and worrying that I am doing the wrong thing. And when the person is in my house, I wander around – following her sometimes, other times leaving her to her work in peace – alternately wondering whether this is the day when I am murdered by a psychopath and agonizing about the tip and using phrases like “everything looking ship-shape?” and “oh goodness, that’s a stumper” and making inane statements about the weather and offering too much information about myself just to fill the air.

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Listen, to be honest with you, this isn’t really a wish list so much as it is a series of complaints/whines. But “wish list” sounds a lot more positive than “Complaint Department” doesn’t it?

(Now one of your complaints/wishes will be that people are just HONEST about what their so-called “content” is rather than getting your hopes up with false positivity. GAH.)

Wish 1: I wish that the people who were in charge of “designing” public restrooms actually tested their restrooms for usability before setting up shop. Or, barring that, that they actually had ever once USED a public restroom before in their own lives. Because it is clear that MOST public restroom “designers” have no idea what goes on in the restrooms. Or perhaps they are all sadists who get great delight in picturing women of size-anything-above-a-zero squeezing between the stall door and the stall walls in order to get INTO the stall without having to snuggle up against the – often disgusting – toilet.

To be fair, not ALL restrooms are terrible. Just MOST.

The Minneapolis airport restrooms are pretty great. They are deep and roomy, so that not only can you enter without unintentionally cleaning the outer rim of the toilet with your pant leg, but you can also comfortably co-exist with your suitcase while you do your business.

Of course, it’s not really reasonable to head over to MSP every time nature calls.

So I maintain that restroom “designers” – or at the very least, the builders/owners/proprietors of the places CONTAINING the restrooms – need to try them out to see how well they work.

Let me also say: restrooms with air dryers should a) have automatic sinks AND b) either have a door that pushes OUT or no door at all, and restrooms with doors you have to pull on the way out should a) have paper towels and b) have a garbage can – preferably one with no lid – located right next to the door handle.

Wish 2: I really wish that I were the type of person who, when faced with a New or Confusing Task, could just plow right in and get ‘er done, rather than over-thinking, and researching, and getting more confused, and finally just putting the whole thing on the back burner because it is TOO DIFFICULT and then having to face it again, at a later and possibly more urgent date. I also wish my husband were not exactly like me in this regard.

Wish 3: I wish that our home inspector had pointed out, almost two years ago, that the filter for our furnace had been installed UPSIDE DOWN, which means that every air filter we insert gets eventually sucked into the furnace and catches on fire. Then maybe we could have gotten the former homeowners to pay for a) turning the filter right side up or b) replacing the whole stupid filter mechanism to fit the cheaper and newer air filter models instead of us having to worry about and pay for it.  IT’S JUST SO ANNOYING.

Wish 4:  I wish that choosing meals for the week weren’t such a mind-numbingly frustrating experience. It seems we eat the SAME FOODS week after week, to the point that eating is no longer fun or desirable. Yet we have the HARDEST TIME coming up with new recipes that a) sound appetizing to both of us, b) aren’t going to take four hours to make, and c) are good enough to add to the normal rotation. I hope that nice weather is on its way so that we can at least have the option of throwing a chicken breast onto the grill. Boring it may be, but it’s easy and quick.

Wish 5: I wish people would drive the speed limit. My work commute is a long straight street that alternates between areas of 25 and 35 miles per hour. It seems to me that 75% of drivers get up to 27 or 30 and then put on the cruise control.  I’m not asking you to speed, I promise. Just TAKE A LOOK AT THE POSTED SPEED LIMIT AND GO THAT SPEED.

Wish 6: And while I’m complaining wishing about driving? I would also throw in a wish that people on a four-lane road would not stop to let cars turn in front of them unless the person in the next lane is ALSO AWARE that this is happening. Can you picture what I mean? Say you are stopped at a stoplight, and you are in the left lane of two lanes going east. And the person in the right (curb) lane directly next to you allows a car to pull out of a parking lot and into the lane in front of him. TOTALLY FINE. And if the parking lot person wants to turn left, and I am stopped at the light, then I am happy to let him pull in front of the right (curb) lane person AND in front of me and turn left into the west-bound traffic.

But if there are no cars in the left lane – ie, in front of me – and/or the light is GREEN instead of red, then NO, Person in the Right (Curb) Lane, allowing the parking lot driver to pull out and turn left in front of me is not BEING NICE, it is FACILITATING AN ACCIDENT.

Wish 7: I wish that Blond Woman at the Clinique counter last weekend had some freaking self awareness. You see, I have paid Careful Attention to the Internet, which is full of cautionary tales about how once you have kids, most people treat you as though you are Invisible or An Annoyance. So I have tried to change my behavior to be especially tolerant of/solicitous to mothers.  Last weekend, I went to the Clinique counter to get more moisturizer. It was evening, and I was the only one in the vicinity of the Clinique counter except for the woman who was already being helped by the Clinique Salesclerk. I waited for maybe two or three minutes as the salesclerk helped the lady with her purchase. While I was waiting, another woman came up to the counter and stood in line behind me. She had a double stroller, in which sat a toddler and an infant. The infant was getting fussy, and the mother had to push the stroller back and forth to keep the infant from crying. (Which, of course, made the toddler complain; he was eating ice cream and the back-and-forth motion was preventing him from spooning the ice cream into his mouth as easily as he would have liked.) We waited for what seemed like an interminably long time as Salesclerk helped her first customer.

Finally – FINALLY – Salesclerk sent the first woman on her way. And she looked over at those of us in line and said, brightly, “Who’s next?”

So I said, “This lady is,” and pointed at the mother. Because seriously, it was the LEAST I could do, to give up my spot in line so that she could collect her night cream or whatever and get her kids home to their dinner.

But instead of helping the mother? Salesclerk started helping a THIRD WOMAN who had materialized out of nowhere!  (Seriously – she must have JUST walked up, because the mother and I were alone in the Clinique area for a LONG TIME.)

And the interloper? DIDN’T DENY THAT SHE WAS NEXT! She just sashayed up to the counter and made her demands, which, of course, required Salesclerk to go trotting off with her to test out some new blush or something. The transaction took another ten minutes.

Listen. I get that standing in line is frustrating. But WE ARE LIVING IN A SOCIETY, PEOPLE! You stand in line! If you weren’t there first, you DON’T GO FIRST! If there’s a QUESTION about your position in the line, you look politely at the other people standing in the line and say, “Are you next or am I?” or the like. You don’t CUT AHEAD OF TWO PEOPLE, one of whom is a mom with TWO SMALL CHILDREN and the other of whom is PREGNANT AND LIKELY CRANKY.  It is UN-AMERICAN.

(Instead of just standing there, agape, as I am wont to do, I DID call after Salesclerk and say, “No, THIS woman – the one with the kids!” But she and Blond Line Cutter remained oblivious to my protestations.)

(I obviously STILL let the mom go in front of me. It was the longest amount of time I’ve ever spent trying to buy a 3-ounce tub of moisturizer.)

Wish 8: I wish I had never watched Ted.

Wish 9: I wish I could come up with enough complaints to make this list a list of 10 things.

 

Well, it seems that I have wish-listed myself into quite the Froth of Righteous Indignation here, Internet.

Won’t you please share your own complaints wishes? I hope you WILL. Because sometimes the only thing that helps rid the mind of grumbling is to hear what’s annoying the marmalade out of someone else.

P.S. Thank you THANK YOU for your sweet comments on my last post. I have a LOT to say, and will find some time to post about this whole baby thing as soon as I can. Thank you for reading and for sharing in this exciting chapter of my life.

P.P.S. Wish 10: Man, I wish that last bit wasn’t so cheesy.

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Internet, today I am going to post some pictures and give you some relevant facts/less-actually-relevant-facts about them, and you are going to tell me what to think and do about them. That’s just how this post has to go, because I am really at a loss here.

(I am HOPING that you won’t tell me I need to move, because that would… not be good. But honesty would be appreciated.)

Let’s get started.

Last night, my husband went outside to fire up the grill because we wanted to take FULL advantage of this balmy spring interlude before the snow starts falling upon us in great bulldozersfull. He came back in, rather perplexed.

“Some of our lawn furniture is broken,” he told me.

My in laws had given us a huge set of lovely Crate and Barrel lawn furniture when we moved here – second hand lawn furniture, but still. We never would have shelled out the money to buy it, so we were grateful and pleased. There are six chairs (meant to go around a table that we do not have) and an adjustable lounge chair and a loveseat and two side tables.

My husband and I – knowing nothing about the proper care and handling of lawn furniture, nor having any extra storage space indoors, nor wanting to shell out the may-I-say EXORBITANT fee Crate and Barrel was asking for covers – kind of just took the view that the furniture lives outside and will last as long as it lasts and that’s the end of it.

So the furniture – even though it is teak and probably requires weekend coddling and monthly trips to the spa – lives outside year round.

I have somehow detoured down a guilt side alley here.

ANYWAY, four of the chairs, the two side tables, and the loveseat live on our deck. The remaining two chairs and the lounge chair live with the grill on the concrete patio adjacent to the deck.

The broken chairs my husband was referring to were the concrete patio dwellers. They had been moved up against the house to protect them from the crazy winds we’d been having in Decemberish.

This is what they looked like when he found them last night.

This is both chairs. The far chair is under the laundry room window. The near chair is under nothing. Ignore the lounge chair, which is draped in the grill cover.

This is both chairs. The far chair is under the laundry room window. The near chair is under nothing. Ignore the lounge chair, which is draped in the grill cover.

Here, you can see the broken chair and its proximity to the window. The left arm is broken completely off. The left arm is split in two.

Here, you can see the broken chair and its proximity to the window. The right arm is broken completely off. The left arm is split in two.

Here's a close up of the chair under the window, so you can further inspect the damage. It was dark when I took these, which I think elevates the grim feeling of foreboding.

Here’s a close up of the chair under the window, so you can further inspect the damage. It’s kind of hard to tell that the left arm is split, but it is – any extra pressure would break it right in half. (It was dark when I took these, which I think elevates the grim feeling of foreboding.)

Here's the chair that's under nothing. It too is missing one arm and has severe damage to the other. But... it's not under anything... so why would anyone be climbing on it? I can't see a burglar breaking one chair and then swapping it with the other... These chairs aren't LIGHT - they're rather heavy.

Here’s the chair that’s under nothing. It too is missing one arm and has severe damage to the other. But… it’s not under anything… so why would anyone be climbing on it? I can’t see a burglar breaking one chair and then swapping it with the other… These chairs aren’t LIGHT – they’re rather heavy.

 

Okay, now here is where is make your first impressions, Internet. But please: hold off on running to the comments to tell me I must move immediately lest I be slaughtered in my bed.

First, I would like to tell you the related relevant facts and less-actually-relevant-facts, to help you come to a more informed conclusion.

1.  The chairs et al reside in our backyard. The yard is fenced on one side. The house is opposite the fence, and bracketed on either side by white gates of the Home Depot variety. The other two sides of the yard are hemmed in by arbor vitae – tall, thin bush-trees that make their own fence-like boundary between us and the neighbors.  So the yard isn’t impenetrable, but it looks, to the outsider, like it wouldn’t be EASY to penetrate.

2. We recently had some Major Snow – at least 10 inches, if not a full foot. Snow is heavy. (But… it’s not that heavy, is it?) And water and ice can be very destructive.

3. None of the other chairs had damage.

4. One of the broken chairs was situated (stupidly) directly under our laundry room window. That window just happens to be the only window in our house without a screen. (Let’s discuss the issue of leaving screens on year round at a later time please.)

5. But the other broken chair was situated beneath nothing.

6. Our neighborhood is typically pretty safe. But I did spend some time going through our local police blotter last night, and there was a cryptic and not particularly helpful entry about a break-in on a street that’s just a mile away from us… And another entry about a burglary just a few miles from us wherein the homeowner had left the door unlocked for her sister that day, so the sister could feed the homeowner’s cats. Both incidents happened recently – the first in the past week.

7.  Just this past week, I was upstairs getting ready for work when I heard a loudish crash. In my head, I thought, “That must be the watering can on the deck railing – it must have fallen over onto the concrete six-odd feet below.” (I don’t know how one ignores a watering can until it has filled with water/snow and been ice-fused to the deck railing, but that is what happened.)  But when I looked out the window, the watering can was still there. My brain rationalized this new information by thinking that some of the snow must have melted enough to slide off the roof in a great loud pile. But I didn’t really go looking for the source of the noise.

(And now here is where we get into the less-actually-relevant-facts.)

8. I have had several mornings in the past few weeks where I’ve heard sounds that I brushed off as typical house-creaking, neighborhood normalcy… But then my mind would start going through scenarios in which a burglar/murderer broke in and I would have to… deal with that.

9. I read an article last year about two women who were brutally attacked and one of them flung herself out of a second-story window – naked, for a reason you don’t want to know – to get away, and the other one didn’t survive, and that article has been on my mind a lot recently.  I’ve been going over in my head how I would react, and I’ve been trying to steel myself up to re-read Swistle’s post on how to deal with a home invader type (haven’t reached optimum steel yet), and I’ve been running through horrible scenarios in my head on a loop.

10.  My dreams, of late, have had to do with home invasions. One the other night was so vivid and awful that I had to write it down. (Maybe it will turn into a novel!) (One can always hope!)

11. If someone were to be watching my husband and me (shudder), he would very easily know when one or the other of us was in the house, and when we were both gone. I keep thinking that it is really pretty unfortunate that my husband and I have such an established routine. But when you have a job that starts at a certain time each morning, it’s kind of difficult to switch things up, you know?

12. When our yard was covered with a thick layer of snow, my husband and I both commented – rather jokingly – to each other that some of the animal tracks looked an awful lot like human footprints. But because of the placement of the tracks, and the ridiculousness of the idea that some human would be tramping through our back yard, we didn’t really examine them closely. And now the snow is melted and the tracks are gone. (Also, any burglar worth his salt would know not to leave to footprints in a clean sheet of white snow, right?)

Okay. That’s all I have for you, Internet.

I mean, it looks like someone stood on that lawn chair to get up to the laundry room window, right? And that the weight of that person – a burly, well-muscled man with insidious intent, I’m assuming – ended up breaking the arms of the chair.

What else could cause that kind of damage?

My husband, ever the optimist, suggested that perhaps an animal chewed on the chair… or stood on it… But I just don’t think that’s realistic.

I mean, sure, we’ve had some shady characters lurking around our back yard lately…

Like this guy…

Yes, he only has one antler but that doesn't necessarily mean he's a criminal.

Yes, he only has one antler but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a criminal.

But I can’t see him wanting anything to do with two lawn chairs.

And if snow or wind were to blame… Well, then why were only those two chairs affected, and the other four chairs – plus loveseat, plus tables, plus lounge chair – left undisturbed?

So of course I am now driven to new heights of paranoia.

I keep thinking back to the random home invasion dreams and murderer-break-in thoughts I’ve been having… And wondering if that’s my brain understanding something on a deeper level that my conscious mind is not sophisticated enough to process. That maybe I should be paying rapt attention to these thoughts, because they could be indications that something is seriously wrong.

But then again, I could be Gift-of-Fearing myself right into deeper paranoia.  (Which is the big problem with the Gift of Fear, thank you very much Gavin de Becker for making me unable to trust myself EVER.)

And it’s not like I don’t already have a murderer-thoughts proclivity.

But then again, again, what could have broken those chairs?

And what do I do?

I mean, obviously, I am now sitting in my house in the broad daylight with the alarm on. So there’s that.

But do I… call the police? It seems like such a time waster. Especially because we have no idea when the chairs got broken. Especially because any evidence (“evidence”) has surely been tainted by snow and rain and thaw.

I guess I could mention my concerns and see if they would increase their patrols through our neighborhood? I don’t know. My experience with the police is limited to Drug Abuse Resistance Education in middle school, that time I backed into the police chief’s daughter’s car in the high school parking lot (I maintain that we backed into each other), and a long history of watching Law & Order and CSI and the like. Oh. And that time I burnt the popcorn, which was more like a near encounter.

We DID move the chairs away from the house, though. No point in just straight out inviting someone to climb through your window, am I right?

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Internet, I have been lax in my blog responsibilities these days.  Things have been going on – things that take up a lot of my brain space. Things that I cannot discuss via blog. Good things. (But not the thing that you are thinking.)

I have missed you and I have missed blogging and I have a whole HEAP of blog posts for your reading pleasure. (Or your eye-rolling pleasure, I’m cool with it either way.) Of course, I have to WRITE the posts, but I am going to TRY.

Anyway, I would like to fill you in on the drama that I’ve been experiencing over the past few months.

Drama that has caused me great angst. Drama that culminated, yesterday, in an act of vengeance so vindictive, so strategic, so MEAN that I am still upset.

But, because I am a fair person, I want to give you the background before I reveal how horribly I was wronged. That way, you can judge for yourself if the retaliation I endured was merited.

A couple of months ago, my husband and I went to The Home Depot. It’s our favorite store. And it was spring, and I was in the mood to Grow Things.

So I bought lots of things: pots, baby tomatoes and bell peppers and strawberries and a variety of herbs (none of which survived – NONE). I also bought a bunch of seed packets and some of those seed-starter things. And soil – copious amounts of soil. Some insecticidal soap. Some garden implements and garden gloves.  Stuff to make the soil hold water. Stuff to make the plants grow better. A SPRINKLER. All sorts of goodies.

We also bought two hanging baskets of lovely yellow pansies.

I don’t seem to have a photo of our house with the pansies, so I have included a highly accurate artist’s rendering below.

I feel compelled to admit to you that this drawing is a lie.

Our front door is not orange. It’s black. And it has a white screen door between it and the outside.

It’s ugly, is what I’m saying.

And I so very much want to have a bright, happy door.

Someday, Internet. Someday.

Also, I don’t know why the roof is red. That’s ridiculous. My roof is… black? Brown? Brack?

Anyway, I would like you to know that the pansies normally look like this:

 

But one day, I went outside to water them…

And they looked strange.

As though, all together, each pansy had decided to leap from the side of the basket.

And, being tethered to the basket by their roots, they remained frozen, mid leap.

Like so:

 

I was… perplexed.

What would prompt them to jump ship?

Perhaps they simply needed water, I thought.

So I pulled them from their hooks.

And what should I find inside…?

 

Yes, Internet. That is a NEST.

A BIRD had made a NEST inside my pansies!

Admittedly, it was kind of adorable.

But Internet. I cannot have birds just making themselves at home inside my FLOWER POTS.

After all, I spent money on those flowers.

And I am not going to WATER A BIRD’S NEST while trying to keep the flowers alive, you know?

So I carefully pulled the bird’s nest out of the flower pot and threw it away.

It was so delicate, Internet. Lovingly embroidered with hair (uuuuuuhhhhhhhh hair *shudder*) and grass and a piece of soft brown yarn.

I watered the pansies, restoring them to their cheerful glory, and figured that was the end of it.

Certainly, even a bird stupid enough to build a nest inside a flower pot wouldn’t build ANOTHER nest in that same pot, right? I mean, clearly the flower pot is inhospitable to nests! But to be on the safe side, I hung the bird’s nest basket on a different hook.

The next day, I hurried outside to check on my pansies.

Two sparrows flew away from my front porch in a very suspicious manner. They landed in the big maple tree in my front yard and looked at me worriedly.

There was ANOTHER NEST in the flower pot. The same flower pot from which I’d pulled their original nest. The flower pot that was now on the right-hand hook instead of the left-hand hook.

 

I removed the nest, watered the flowers, and went inside.  The sparrows chirped at me from the maple.

The next day, I set my jaw and headed outside.

Again, the panicked – and ominous – flap of sparrow wings.

I yanked down the pansy basket and looked inside.

Internet.

I saw a half-hearted nest – just a few strands of grass this time…

And…

 

An EGG.

These idiots had left their OFFSPRING in the same spot where TWO PREVIOUS NESTS had been demolished!

I am a cold and heartless and horrible person. So I gently lifted the little egg from the flower pot and put it in my garbage can.

I felt TERRIBLE about it, believe me!

But Internet! Birds are messy and destructive and I didn’t want to watch two sparrows raise a family in a flower pot that would have grown increasingly DEAD.

That night, I went to The Home Depot and bought some green plastic stakes that you use to anchor mesh into the ground around your strawberry plants (foreshadowing!). They were about three inches long and one end was pointy – but not DANGEROUS – and the other end was a flat circle.

My plan was to put the stakes in the flower pots, so that the pointy end pointed up, making it uncomfortable (but again, NOT DANGEROUS) for the birds to land and/or nest in the flower pots.

So I went outside the next morning to install my rudimentary Bird Begone device…

And there was ANOTHER EGG.

 

No nest this time.

Poor birds were so desperate to get the egg part out of the way, they stopped even caring about the nest.

Which, if you think about it, makes them pretty unfit parents, right?

I mean, what kind of parents build a home in a place that can be easily destroyed… And then, after it’s destroyed, build another home in THE EXACT SAME LOCATION… And then have babies there… And then when their baby DISAPPEARS, along with their THIRD HOME, they just have another one?

Clearly not ready for babies, is what I’m thinking. (I, um, disposed of the egg again.)

Anyway, that was it. I installed the plastic stakes, which seemed to do the trick. No more nests. No more eggs.

The sparrows hung out on the front side of our house for a while.

I was afraid they would dive bomb me… using any means necessary, if you know what I mean. But they kept their distance.

(Now I know they were PLOTTING.)

Eventually, they moved around the back of house. There’s a sliding door from our kitchen to our porch, and the door has an electric awning above it. The sparrows built a nest in the awning mechanism.

When my dad visited a few weeks later, he pulled down the nest. (No eggs or babies, THANK GOD.)

But they just built a new one.

My husband and I resigned ourselves to the mess below the nest – feathers, sticks, grass, and bird goo – and the NOISE (scratching, feather ruffling, constant, un-ending chirping), and, of course, the hysterical frenzy of flapping whenever we dared to set foot onto our porch.

But we felt that we’d reached some sort of equilibrium with the sparrows. That we didn’t necessarily like each other, but we were willing to share the world for a time.

But the cease fire didn’t last, Internet.

Oh no. They were bound and determined to get me where it hurt.

But that’s a sad, sad story for another day.

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And we’re jumping right in today, Internet! Monday, bullets-style!

– Since my tentative declaration Wednesday that I had seen no silverfish since Monday’s extermination, I have seen TEN SILVERFISH.  They seem to concentrate themselves heavily in the master bath area, so you can imagine the intensive inspection process my towels go through before each shower.

The consequence of seeing so many – TEN, in four days! As opposed to one or two a week! – coupled with the exterminator’s Words of Doom hanging over my head means that I am a nervous wreck. Every time my foot itches, my heart rate jumps into the danger range and I scrape violently against the nearest surface. I feel Ghost Tickles as I imagine dying silverfish crawling up the insides of my pant legs. And every speck on my floor makes me leap onto the nearest chair or husband. And my floor has a speck every few feet, Internet. (We’re talking speck of dirt here, not the kind of speck you’d find on an appetizer plate.) (LOL – lame attempt at trendy-cured-meat humor!) Perhaps I need to invest in a robot broom.

– Before you become embroiled in this bullet, allow me to warn you: This is an “update” that you likely a) won’t care about and b) won’t remember the original “date” in order for this feel like and “up” or anything but a boring. Yes, I just used boring as a noun right there. I don’t know if the nounage is working so well, but I’m too tired for real English. ANYWAY, back to the non-update… To catch you up to speed (a slow stroll in this case), I once noticed a cat saunter through our yard and I asked y’all if a cat’s appearance in our yard meant it was our cat.

So! The cat came back! So I tried to go out in the yard to pet it, or something – I really can’t remember my EXACT motivation. I guess I just see a cat and I have to go over to it, much the way tweenagers react in the vicinity of Justin Bieber. – and it ran away.

If you are thinking, “Wow, that was TRULY the most boring non-update I’ve ever read,” just wait! It gets slightly less boring! Or not! Just please withhold your judgement! The cat came back the (very) next day – two sightings! In two days! – and I tapped on the glass door and it flopped down at the far end of the yard and looked at me. So I took it some milk in a Tupperware.

It ran away.

The next evening, I saw the cat walk right past the sliding door out to the yard. RIGHT PAST! As in mere inches from my living room! So I put some turkey out on the step to sort of, well, LURE is not the right word… let’s say ENCOURAGE it to come closer so I could pet it.

The very night that I put the bait gift turkey on the step, I looked outside and there was a BABY BUNNY just chilling right outside my living room!

Here – look at the baby:

And I suddenly realized that the cat was not interested in ME. He was interested in having a nice fresh bunny mignon for dinner.

I no longer want to encourage the cat to stay in the yard, even though I DO. Because obviously I cannot have the untimely demise of a BABY BUNNY on my hands. But I want a kitty to pet and to hold! It’s like Sophie’s Choice over here.

– They just sort of APPEAR places. And since they’re mostly dead (“He’s just mostly dead.”) I have no idea how they GOT to where I find them. Do they know how to apparate? Oh, by the way, I’m back on the silverfish.

I haven’t seen any of them MOVING, is what I’m saying. Even if I (cruelly) poke at them with the edge of a toilet paper wad before I smush them and toss ’em in the toilet. So they must be trying with their last breaths to escape the poison (gah. Now I am feeling SORRY for these buttercuppers!) and end up dying out in the vast unconquerable open space of the bathroom floor. But… I can’t see any HOLES from which they could have arrived.

Okay, here’s where I stop you Internet. If you have any knowledge of where insects DO come from, I don’t actually want to know. I SWEAR.

– You have seen this, right? The Ricky G. one kills me.  He looks like David Bowie’s non-sexy teenage twin.

– One of the best parts of moving to this house is the excuse to explore a new neighborhood. And our neighborhood has a lot to offer, especially in the way of locally-owned businesses. Well, and there’s a Dairy Queen within walking distance of our place.

One of the local businesses is a little Italian bakery. INTERNET. The tiramisu they sell is phenomenal. It comes in squares that fit into a cupcake wrapper and the mascarpone cheese part of it is so light and creamy and perfect and the lady fingers are so perfectly moist with coffee liqueur and there are chocolate shavings on top.

As if that isn’t wondrous enough, the bakery also sells homemade pizza dough for $1.50 a bag. Now, I’ve been buying the Betty Crocker kind in the bag. You know – just add water. It’s about the same price and it makes perfectly adequate pizza. But this Italian bakery dough? It’s REAL pizza dough! I can get at least two pizzas out of it, and it’s SO GOOD.

Clearly, with this bakery in my life, I am going to be needing some more generous pants.

– Speaking of pants, I went to J. Crew the other day to look for something for that horrible mid-range of clothing. You know. The stuff that’s dressed up enough for a casual workplace but not so dressy that you look stuffy. The stuff that’s casual enough to wear shopping for more mid-range clothing but not so casual that you’d feel uncomfortable doing brunch at an upscale restaurant. I have NOTHING in that category, and so always feel either over- or under-dressed and wholly inappropriate.  Especially in the shirt area.

Hence J. Crew. Just past the tables full of underwear-length shorts and Betty Draper dresses was a stack of pants. The Minnie pant, a sign declared. The pant that makes EVERYONE look fantastic, it boasted.

Ha! I thought. No way in hell this teeny pair of pants will look good on me. Skinny pants are for skinny girls.

I bought two pairs.

–  My husband’s last rotation had him doing overnight stints in the intensive care unit. Leaving me alone and, well, bored out of my skull. And that kind of boredom can turn the corner quickly into melancholy. So the best part of my weekend was reading your When I Fell in Love/When I Knew I’d Marry That Guy stories. I even got EMAILS that were long and detailed and WONDERFUL and oh! such fun. Thank you for sharing. If you haven’t done so, please do! Or at least go read the other stories. So lovely!

 
– In addition to the cat and the bunnies, we have a possum.  Do possums eat bunnies? Hot ham sandwich I hope not. I can’t deal with hosting a Hunger Games in my backyard.

 

Well, there’s no arguing that THIS is a very lackluster post, Internet. I mean, it only has EIGHT bullets. (It’s driving me crazy, too, I promise.) I am deeply sorry for disappointing you. But I must don my middle-range clothing and go forth on a business trip.

Please, tell me something random about yourself. Especially if it involves the magic Perfect for All Occasions wardrobe or possums.

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