30 August 2008

Polka Dots

Labor Day weekend = Family weekend. Benny and I drove to Brule for one of my cousin's wedding this weekend. Nate stayed in Denver to hang with his dad and his brother. We're returning tomorrow for a reunion, of sorts.

I hate to think about how old I'm getting when one of my little cousins gets married. It was a very nice wedding. The bride, my cousin, was absolutely gorgeous. I was looking forward to watching Benny dance his little butt off, but, alas, a lack of sleep drove us home a little earlier than expected. And now I'm drinking a beer, writing on my blog, and waiting for the rest of my family to get home. I LOVE it when my entire family together. It's paradise, with a bit of chaos thrown in. Or, it's chaos with a bit of paradise thrown in. My parents moved into a bigger house and it STILL isn't big enough to contain all of us.

Tomorrow, as I wrote, we'll drive back to Denver to hang with Nate's family. Since Nate's mom passed away a year and a half ago, family gatherings are a bit subdued, but still relatively chaotic. Now it's just the three Brown boys.

HOUSE UPDATE: What you're all waiting for, eh? We're waiting to make any definitive decisions until after the inspection report. The inspection is scheduled for September 2. We'll see. We'll see.

23 August 2008

House Update

After a week of stress, excitement, more stress, more excitement, I think Nate and I have mentally prepared ourselves to buy the 1221 Bellaire house. We met with our mortgage broker yesterday and took care of all the loan information. We are pre-approved for the loan and don't anticipate any problems.

Our nerves stemmed from a quick examination of the house. We knew we liked it right away, but our tour of the house was less than thorough. It was raining - hard - last week when we saw it so we couldn't really check out the exterior condition of the house or the yard. The renters were home and packing up the house when we stopped and the whole scene was rather chaotic. Our realtor got us back into the house today to really take a good look at it. And, I think I can speak for both Nate and myself when I say that we are very comfortable buying this house. Granted, it needs some TLC, but in the short term we should get away with cosmetic improvements. On tap for pre-move-in period are refinishing the wood floors and painting. Down the line we'll have to do much more significant work.

Check out the pictures! All signs point to a NEW HOUSE for the Brown-Struckman family!

21 August 2008

The Stealth Poop

I know, I know. I said a long time ago that I would stop writing poop stories. But, as Benny's innards mature, the poop stories keep evolving. And the stealth poop really is something to behold.

When Nate prepares Benny for bed he still gives him about 10 minutes of naked time before his bath. This way his butt and bits get dried out before a long night in a diaper. Sometimes the 10 minutes passes without incident, but more often than not, Benny will leave a trail of pee or poop (or both).

Earlier this week, Benny was traipsing around the apartment while bare ass naked. I was making pizza. Nate was drawing his bath. For the entire duration of the naked period, Benny kept squatting while walking. We've noticed that he squats when he poops now. This is a huge improvement over the red-faced grunt (although that stage was a constant source of entertainment). Anyway, I was keeping an eye on Benny, but turned away for second. And in that second I noticed that he had stopped toodling and squatting and was hovering over something. That something, as you guessed, was poop. Luckily he's interested only in looking at this point.

But, here's the question: How, in less can a second, can a toddler poop on the floor without his parents noticing that he's "pushing one out." That is the mystery of the stealth poop.

18 August 2008

Full Steam Ahead

A few more house developments:

We were approved for our loan, so we're full steam ahead on this home-buying process. Nate and I are both feeling better about stuff, but I'm still a little concerned about finances. As long as I'm working by February we should be OK, but...

I should stress that I am very excited about this house. I think it's going to be fabulous. We'll have a YARD, curbside recycling, compost pile. We can paint and make improvements and not worry what our landlord will say. Because we'll be the landlord!

Check out this link to the house. The pictures aren't great, but use your imagination!

17 August 2008

Under Contract...

Imagine this scene:

It's Sunday morning.

I couldn't sleep last night for various reasons: We are considering buying a house that we can afford, but barely, on one salary. I need to get a move on on my dissertation because it's not writing itself (unfortunately). Our decisions from here on out will have a profound impact on the future of Benny and any other children we have.

I had just run six miles with a friend of mine.

Benny is up, toodling around, smiling at my return.

...and we get a call. From our realtor. She says that the owner of the Bellaire house, the one we were cautiously excited about yesterday, has reacted positively to our offer.

Mixed emotions. First, I'm exhausted from a poor night of sleep AND running in the morning. Second, I start thinking about being house poor and it scares me pretty bad. What if I can't find a job in four months? What if, what if, what if.

Deep down I think this is fabulous news. Nate and I both fell in love with this house when we saw it. We can afford it and won't have to move any time soon. But, it's still scary.

So, in an hour, we're going to sign the counterproposal from the current owner. Then the house will be "under contract." Eek!

We may be buying a house after all.

16 August 2008

Cautiously Excited

We just saw an amazing house. An amazing house that we should not be able to afford. Granted, if we get a loan for this house, we we will barely able to afford it. But we are cautiously hopeful.

Today was not the ideal house-shopping day. It's cold and rainy. We should have been curled up on the couch watching Benny toodle around the apartment. I've been watching this house for awhile and had planned to see it about two weeks ago. It disappeared from the market, so I figured it was off for good. But, when I searched for houses yesterday it was back on. And we saw it. And it was fabulous.

It's a brick two-story home on a beautiful block with other beautiful brick homes. It has a basement and a second story - with a large bedroom complete with an exposed brick wall and a deck off the side OF THE BEDROOM! It also has a deck off the dining room that looks over a large backyard. It has an attached garage and wood floors and everything we're looking for. The kitchen isn't ideal, but certainly livable. The wood floors need to be refinished, but that can be a project for the future.

I hate to jinx this house, but it's amazing. We just put an offer in. Keep your fingers crossed and we will remain cautiously excited! Man oh man!

14 August 2008

Before I Forget

Sometimes I forget that part of the reason I started this blog is to help me remember things about Benny that I would probably otherwise forget. Since he's been quite active the past couple of days, I thought I should update some mundane - but important - memories.

We spend many mornings and afternoons at a little park a little less than a mile from our apartment. It's a fantastic park with lots of shade and a kiddie swing. Benny prefers to run around on the sidewalk but he has started exploring other areas of the park. A public building sits at the bottom of a hill. On particularly hot days, the air conditioner runs quite loudly. Benny, being the little bear that he is, felt very compelled to investigate. He took my hand and we walked slowly down the hill (he didn't quite know what to make of it). He loves the sound of the air conditioner. But, I digress. He has started running, an awkward little run that looks more like a shuffle but that is so incredibly adorable, and while running on the sidewalk, he fell and scraped his knee. His very first scraped knee. He cried for a bit, waited for me to pick him up, and then he was off again, on another miniature adventure.

After signing some basic sign language to him after about six months, I think he's finally catching on. We have a very limited vocabulary: eat, bath, light, more, all done, ball. Today I'm fairly certain that he signed "all done" when he was finished eating. It was a proud moment for me. And it encouraged me to continue signing.

As I wrote in an earlier post, he has taken to an old blanket as a security blanket. The blanket holds very special meaning to us because Nate's mom made it for him when he was a little boy. As my mom says, it's like Barb is giving Benny a hug every night. And I think she probably is. Recently, Benny has also taken to a special ball. His great aunt Barb made him the soft ball out of shirts that had belonged to Nate's Grandpa Roger and Grandma Mary. Benny looks for the ball when he's upset and wedges it in his neck so he can feel it on his cheek. It's very cute. And I suppose it's like his great grandparents are giving him a kiss.

And that's it for now. Hopefully I'll have more updates soon. Benny's getting so big and doing so many incredible things it's difficult to remember them all!

12 August 2008

More Phat Pat

It seems like ages since I've posted something from my dad. There have been plenty of Phat Pat quotes, but I'll stick to a theme this time: Benny. Since my parents watched Benny while I was partying my ass off in Chicago, my dad had plenty of time to develop some exaggerations about the Bear. These are actually pretty cute since my dad is completely smitten with Benny. Benny knows that Grandpa will let him do whatever he wants, so whenever Mommy says "no," Benny wants Grandpa to pick him up. There are two classic Phat Pat moments about Benny...

Brule is home to two restaurants. The first, Virg's Bar and Grill, has been a staple on the Brule out-and-about scene for years. Virgil Hughes opened the bar years ago. His son, Mel, took over the restaurant and was its main proprietor for as long as I can remember. (Unfortunately Mel passed away recently. My dad served as a palbearer, naturally.) Since my parents have moved into town, I've noticed that they eat lunch out quite often, mostly at Virg's since the Village Cafe is a step up from garbage food - but that's for another post. Anyway, Virg's is your standard small town greasy spoon. I can't imagine that anything Benny ate there had any nutritional value. But my dad swears that Benny LOVED the mashed potatoes and gravy. As my dad was telling this story, my mom was shaking her head that, no, Benny did not love the mashed potatoes and gravy. Here's what I assume happened at Virg's. My dad tried to feed Benny all sorts of stuff. Benny spat it out. And my mom fed him a proper lunch when they returned home.

The second Phat Pat quote really illustrates how proud my dad is of Benny, even though he may exaggerate Benny's abilities. When we picked Benny up after I returned from Chicago, my uncle hosted a bbq for my cousin who is getting married at the end of the month. So, we headed out to the country. Benny loved being on the farm because he could wander just about anywhere and we didn't have to chase after him for fear of cars. My dad followed Benny everywhere. When he brought him back to the group, he had an enormous rock in his hand - a rock most five year olds wouldn't be able to pick up. My dad carried the rock and Benny back and exclaimed, "Look at what Benny picked up WITH ONE HAND!" He had a beaming smile on his face and was convinced that Benny would be able to palm a basketball and dunk it within the next few years.

10 August 2008

Forever 21

For two days this week I lived like I was 21 again. I'm paying the price now, but it sure was fun!

I was in Chicago for a conference. The University of Texas gave me $400 to attend this conference. Being the cheap ass that I am, I bought a cheap plane ticket and decided to stay with a friend of mine who had just moved to Chicago. My goal: to make money on this conference. I avoided cabs (with the exception of Saturday morning, which I will get to), ate free food at the conference, binged on free alcohol at the conference, and generally enjoyed myself.

On Thursday night I hooked up with friends from UT and the University of Iowa. I hadn't seen some of these friends for years. They've gotten married, gotten jobs, had babies, and done all the things well-adjusted thirtysomethings are doing. The conference socials were a great place to meet up and take advantage of the free bars. In fact, one social had a cash bar, so I found myself leaving every hour or so to pick up a free drink at another social, only to return and scoff at people who were actually PAYING for drinks. Yes, I'm 31 and a mother. That identity suspended itself for about four hours on Thursday night. A wise friend once said that "I'll never be mature enough for an open bar." I think that sums up my night nicely.

So, to elaborate on my housing situation. My friend, Lou, had just moved into his apartment on the Sunday prior to the conference. On Tuesday he came home to a flooded basement. The flooded basement turned into a mold-infested dungeon by the time I arrived. It wouldn't have been so bad if the first floor of the apartment hadn't been wood. Lou also opened up his apartment to Bob and Tony, two other friends from Austin in town for the conference.

When we arrived on Thursday night at around 2 a.m., we whipped out our sleeping bags and hunkered down for a night filled with stale air and sore hip bones. All in all, it wasn't a bad three or four hours of sleep.

On Friday I met up with some colleagues and my advisor (who assured me that I was traveling down the right path with my dissertation). I presented my paper. Then the 21-year-old Sara reappeared when we hit the brewery for dinner. I can't even repeat what we talked about. It was filled with vulgarities even my 21-year-old sober self would be embarrassed about. But, it was great fun to be there.

We arrived at Lou's at 2 a.m. again and a fitful night of sleep awaited me. It was mostly my fault. I wasn't sure how I was going to get to the airport. I was trying really hard not to spend too much money, so I mapped out the bus and train schedule and left Lou's an hour earlier than expected (after about three or four hours of sleep, eek). Turns out that the bus route was under construction and had many delays (thanks coffee barista), so I broke down. Called a cab. And waited. And waited. And waited at the local coffee shop. No cab ever showed up, I started to get nervous about missing my flight. Luckily, just about the moment when the cab company was going to get some of my sass, an empty cab drove by and I hailed it with my rolled up sleeping bag. Finally, I was on my way to the airport. It felt fantastic to get on the plane and sleep and sleep and sleep and promise myself that I wouldn't party like that again - at least not until next year's conference (in Boston!).

03 August 2008

Brule Day Report

Since all of you have probably been waiting with bated breath for the report of Brule Day. I must say, it was rather uneventful. However, Benny was the belle (er, beau) of the ball (er, parade) in his little bumble bee costume. He was so freaking cute!!! I fashioned a small bee hive out of big bowls and some paper bags, complete with little bees and flowers. I made a little float out of Benny's new wagon with the hive and a sign that read "'Hive' a Great Brule Day!" Not surprisingly, Benny won first place in his age category. That might sound impressive, but he was the only kiddo IN his age category.

I carried Benny while my sister pulled the wagon and threw out candy. It was actually a pretty fun morning. The poor Bear was hot and tired by the end of the parade. I was sure he would pass out for hours. Nope, no this Bear. As soon as I pulled his bee outfit off in the A/C he threw up his hands and ran around the house naked for about 45 minutes before he passed out.

Benny and I camped out in the comforts of my parents' house for the rest of the day. It was 110 (and that's no Phat Pat quote) yesterday and fairly miserable outside. Benny did take a dip in the pool and passed out for a second nap.

Since it was my 31st birthday yesterday (obviously not a priority - I nearly forgot about it), we headed to the old school, which is closed now and serves as a "community center," for the Brule Day dance and beer garden. When I was in jr. high and high school the event was held at the fire hall, which was the perfect venue. I can remember large crowds with all sorts of Bruletonians mingling and dancing. Perhaps it was my youth, but it was a great time. Last night was a great time, but with a fairly disappointing turnout. I did get to catch up with two dear high school friends. They are as entertaining now as they were in high school. I also got to drink really strong screwdrivers until the firemen (who hosted the party) ran out of vodka. I walked home with my brother and sister and was in bed by 12:30 a.m. All in all, not a bad night, but certainly not as crazy as I expected for my birthday :).

Expect a follow up post about some stories of some classic Bruletonians and their shenanigans in the near future! Not to be missed!

01 August 2008

Brule Day!

I can't go into detail right now, but tomorrow is Brule Day! I haven't attended a Brule Day in ages. This year I'll have a little tyke to tag along. Brule Day is exactly what it sounds like, a day to celebrate the tiny town of Brule. Benny will play the part of a bee in the morning parade. If I get around to it, I'll definitely post photos. Mommy will play the part of the transporter of the bee. We'll see how that goes.

Nate is off on a camping adventure with two friends this weekend. He bought to flasks of hard alcohol, so I'm hoping they come back alive and with all of their limbs. Then I'm off to Chicago next week for a conference. What a busy end to the summer.

At any rate, I'm ready to party with all the loyal Brulites (or Bruletonians, or whatever) and the faithful Brule alums this weekend!