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Sunday, February 23, 2020

But, seriously, they're not resolutions

There are several things I've mentioned lately that I'm working on, and thought I'd take this time, as I'm waiting in the Walmart automotive department to get a brake light changed out (more accurately at the moment, waiting for other people's auto repairs so they can get to my car to change out the brake light), to provide a couple of updates.

First: environmental stewardship.

I wanted (vs. needed) one new shirt, and coincidentally got a sales code in the mail from a company I frequent. I had loaded my basket with several things, which made the average price per item $7 including shipping. Then I thought better of it. I know a lot of people who use PoshMark to sell their used clothes, and that's easier for me than sifting through stuff at Goodwill (where you can't set parameters like brand and style).

Shipping on each individual item seems to be about $7.25. I don't know if that's a site standard (eBay started mandating some shipping prices several years ago, but I don't have any experience selling on PoshMark so couldn't say for sure), but it made the price of the shirt higher than I wanted to pay. I made an offer that was significantly lower than the listing, and the seller accepted it.

I ended up paying $22 including shipping for a shirt I could have gotten for $6 on clearance at the store from whence it came. Furthermore, it had tags on it. I get that sometimes people buy clothes they end up not wearing, so if I kept a new shirt out of a landfill, cool. But if people are just snatching up clearance clothes to sell for a profit on PoshMark, that's not disincentivizing churning out fast fashion, so it kind of negates the whole point.

I'd try ThredUp, about which I've heard positive things... but I rarely need an "outfit" or a clutch or shoes that aren't Crocs.

I guess I'll just do Goodwill next time?

In better news: I filed our taxes about a week and a half ago and already got the refund! Woo hoo! The solar panels are PAID OFF! That's a huge relief, and I'm still so glad we got them. This was the cloudiest, coldest month so far, and our bill was still just $55, compared to $120 last year (and $20 of that is the flat delivery charge, which we'll have even if we don't use any power... which won't happen, because night).

And in very personal better news, I'd decided to be more mindful about my albuterol usage. I was often using it six times per day, and there's no doubt that each time I used it, my chest was tight and my breathing was labored... but it wasn't always a full-out asthma attack. I wanted to see if I could put off using it until later, and maybe at all.

I have two main triggers for my asthma: allergies and stress (I am also reactive to certain combinations of humidity and cool air when I'm outside doing cardiovascular stuff, but that's not super common). Since we have 3 cats, to which I am allergic, I use the inhaler more at home than anywhere else.

The stress thing is often when my sweet son is being super "interactive" and either keeping me from getting something done that I need to do, or just encroaching on my space in a way that makes me claustrophobic and anxious. I figured that maybe during those times, I could wait it out and see if it passed when the stress passed.

I would never pass on using my inhaler when I was on a walk, or doing something that was strenuous enough to require deep breaths, from which I could not take a break to see if I could head off an attack.

I don't know whether it's that delay or just circumstances, but it's been 3.5 days since I've used my inhaler at all. That's a HUGE deal! I did have to hit it pretty hard when we got back from the weekend in San Antonio, while my body got used to being home again. But after that first day and a half or so... it's been smooth sailing! Hopeful that I can continue to manage it like this! (And don't worry: I'm not going to put myself in danger. I'll use it when I need it.)

Finally, I spent a good part of the week culling books from various rooms (not James's, of course), trying to consolidate and get rid of two rickety bookshelves in our living room. Mal and I made a Half-Price Books run and earned a whopping $13 for our full cart of books. That was enough to buy him a set of modeling clay that he wanted, pizza pretzel bites that I wanted, and macaroni and cheese at the mall food court for Mal (I had a free drink as a loyalty reward).

We actually recycled books I'd decided not to take to Half-Price Books because they were chewed up, or just so old as to be irrelevant (a book on space travel from 1983, etc.). Then I moved some books into Mal's room, some into our living room shelving, and was able to put the old shelves out on the curb yesterday morning. They were gone by this morning!

Good riddance!
Now we're just waiting for our carpet to recover from three years of being mushed by the trim. I hope whoever took them does something amazing with them!

The truth is that we could get rid of this much stuff twenty times and only start to see a dent in the "extra" crap we have. I'm ruthless, but live in a house full of people who develop emotional connections to items with which they have a history. I have a theory that we could empty D's closet and it would not impact anyone's life ever, but... alas. I even know that there's an old iPad that's sticky from maybe melted Silly Bands? iPad doesn't work; case is useless due to the melted rubbery garbage, and the hamper in which it rests is full of stuff D hasn't touched since we moved into the house.

But, it's not my stuff so I'm not in charge of that. Feel pretty good about what we've gotten done so far, though! Early spring cleaning, I guess.

James just messaged me that they're heading my way for us to meet for dinner across the parking lot. Have a great week!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

My Annual Physical

For the majority of my adult life, I have not had health insurance. It's expensive, and even when there was a mandate... the tax/fee was cheaper by far than insurance premiums would have been. And I'm fortunate. I have few health issues, rarely require a doctor, and have not been severely injured (except for my spine, when charity was remarkable and I received top-notch care).

Now, I've had insurance for so long, I was able to attend my SECOND annual physical with my doctor! (Thanks, honey; keep workin' hard!)

When I checked in, I was given a handout to sign that was basically "what to expect at this physical." I had to turn it in, so can't quote it, but it basically said that it would NOT cover new health issues. It was basically to follow up on last year's stuff, and to assess my general health state. One thing it told me we might cover was "weight management."

Except that we didn't because, as usual, I did not weigh. I told the nurse, and she looked puzzled. I said, "There should be a 'patient refused' option." There was. When she looked at my chart, she said, "Oh, you didn't weigh last year, either." No. No, I didn't. I explained that after 30 years of eating and exercise disorders, and feeling like crap about myself anyway, I was in recovery and that knowing that number was not conducive to my continued well-being.

One interesting thing is that I was given an initial pneumonia vaccine. I'd never heard of it; apparently it is de rigueur for the 65+ set. But because I have asthma, I'm more susceptible to it. I will get the second shot next year, and that should do me for the rest of my life. I also got a tetanus shot since I cannot remember ever having one in my adult life. Bring on those rusty nails!

I have to do some bloodwork to compare to last year's, but basically, the doctor said I'm probably going to live forever, so that's cool.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Weekend Getaway

Friday, James worked from home as we planned to drive to San Antonio as soon as he got finished with his day full of meetings.

Mal was restless and ready to go, so we went to Urban Air for their weekly Homeschool Jump. Unfortunately, when we walked up to the building, there was a sign that said, "Sorry; we are closed until noon. Sorry for the inconvenience." They usually open at 10 on Fridays, and it was 11:30. Mal was very upset and didn't feel like waiting half an hour. He didn't want to go to Jump Street, and he didn't want to go to Little Land. I asked if he wanted to go to Altitude in Round Rock, as we've never been there before and it was fewer than 15 minutes away. 

We've just bought an "unlimited play" membership to Urban Air, and as long as we go once a month, it pays for itself. But I was still annoyed that I was going to have to pay money to jump on a trampoline because they were closed when they should have been open!

Anyway, we got to Altitude, and fortunately they also have "Toddler Time" on weekdays from 10-1, wherein 6 and under jump for $8.

Mal jumped for about ten minutes... then said his stomach hurt and he was ready to go home. So we left, and he spilled a soda in his car seat and the actual car's seat. Fortunately, we got home in plenty of time to clean that up, and it was a sunny day so both seats dried quickly.

James finished up at 2:30, and we drove west through Marble Falls and down, because we drive east so much, I needed a change of venue.

We got to dinner at Blanco BBQ at about 4:30. I picked the restaurant because it had an outdoor playground, but the food was also top-notch.

Mal had mac and cheese; I had chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and white gravy; and James had their ribs and brisket plate with beans and macaroni. We were right under the flight path to the airport, too, so we got to watch a lot of planes coming in.

Because it was Valentine's Day weekend, all of the hotels we could afford were booked up. I usually prefer not to use AirBnB because of the hit-or-miss nature of staying with private owners, but this one ended up being a winner. We had plenty of room and there was a low cleaning fee.

Saturday morning, we'd planned to have breakfast at L&L Hawaiian Grill, but even though they serve breakfast, they don't open until 11. So we did Taco Cabana drive-through and got to the San Antonio Zoo right as they were opening.

It was hairy parking and getting in, but once we were inside, it wasn't crowded at all... which probably can't be said for the people who got there when we were leaving three hours later. Then, the line to get tickets backed up into the street, and they had six or so windows open. We noticed as we were making our way out that navigating became a lot more dicey. So, yay for getting up and out and being some of the first people there!

A roseate spoonbill was glaring at me from its perch in a tree.

This jaguar had already had enough of the admiration.

These are basically African grackles... If ours were this iridescent, maybe I wouldn't mind them so much.

An Australian bird whose name I forget. 

Running on the Great Lawn.

There was an actual turtle this size nearby.
We tried to ride the train to the Japanese Tea Gardens, but after we'd bought our tickets and waited 10 minutes, they announced that there was an issue with the tracks. We waited another 5 or 10 minutes for maintenance to come out and they said it would take half an hour or so to fix. The whole circle ride is only 20 minutes, so we took a refund and went to lunch.

We went to Tycoon Flats, which has a bunch of signature burgers. They all looks so fabulous, James nor I could decide... until we saw on another page of the menu that you can get three "sliders" for just a little more than most whole burgers. We went whole hog.

Monte Cristo, Benedict, and feta with cranberry sauce and spinach.

Fried apple with bleu cheese, fried avocado, and signature garlic burger.
They were all so good. James's favorite was the Benedict, and mine was the feta and cranberry. The apple bleu cheese was pretty amazing, though. We also upgraded from fries to fried mushrooms and red onion rings. 

Mal enjoyed the play area and ate his chicken nuggets back at "home" later.

Oh! Four years ago, I tried going without shampoo. It lasted six weeks but my scalp got so oily and my hair was just gross. For James, however, it really "took" (I guess he just decided to do it because why not?), and he hasn't used shampoo in almost four years. Until we got home home tonight. Why? Because as we were enjoying this cool outdoor cafe, this happened...

Ahh, birds. Our friends and also the ruiners of a good carwash as well as scalp hygiene. 

We laid low the rest of the evening, and Mal really liked watching multiple episodes of Puppy Pals on Disney Jr. This morning, we took our time getting up and around, got packed up, and drove by something I'd seen in our neighborhood on a map: The Robber Baron Cave!

It's a cave, the entrance to which is in a sinkhole on a small lot in the middle of a neighborhood. Apparently someone who owned it near the turn of the 20th Century made up stories of a robber baron to drum up interest in it, and then it was a speakeasy during prohibition. Now it's a nature preserve, and it was kind of cool... a little like our own back yard, but with a longer history and slightly more fun backstory.

Ready for breakfast, we ended up at La Panaderia at apparently the worst possible time. James waited in line for more than half an hour, while Mal and I played outside.

However, the wait was so worth it.

James had one of their breakfast sandwiches with a side of a smokey, satisfying black bean soup. Mal and I shared a pan dulce and chocolate croissant. We brought the rest home, including that limited-time Amor Cruffin you see up there. It was easily not the worse thing I've ever eaten.

Before saying "au revoir" to SA, we gave the Japanese Gardens another try. Again, parking was bonkers, and there were a lot of people there, but it was beautiful. This used to be a quarry, and I can easily see the quarry where I went to check out the cemetery down the road turning into something like this. It's already quite lovely.

Anyway, when the quarry in San Antonio was finished, the city decided to turn it into a sunken garden. Prison labor was used to build the stone bridges and walkways. After a few years, a local Japanese-American artist, Jingu, was invited to live on-site and open a restaurant. When he died, his family continued to run the tea garden. Unfortunately, after Pearl Harbor, that family was forced out (though not, I believe, interred)  and the city brought in a Chinese family and changed the sign at the entrance... such a sad chapter in our country's history.

See? The entrance says "Chinese Tea Gardens." They just left it up.
Fortunately, the city moved in the 1980s to right this wrong, and changed the name back to Japanese Tea Garden (also seen as "Sunken Gardens" on the drive in). The rededication ceremony was attended by Jingu's family. In 2008 when the park reopened after infrastructure renovations, one of Jingu's children who was born in the house on-site attended the reopening ceremony.

It's still beautiful, and it's free to explore.

On our way home, we stopped at the Disney Outlet in San Marcos, but didn't get anything. We got home around 4 and I've caught up with laundry. I think James is switching over to "work mode," as he does most Sunday nights.

We had a great, leisurely time and D enjoyed a couple of days in a quiet house. Okay, week, we're ready...

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Educational Development

Lately, Mal has been reading (or attempting to read) everything in sight. He asks how to spell words, and he asks what things say if he can't figure it out on his own.

When I was in the restroom at Urban Air, he stayed outside to wait for me. "What does, 'Get up! Get fly!' mean?" he asked about a banner when I rejoined him.

In our bathroom at home recently, he pointed to the hand soap and said, "That's the name of the princess in Mario!" The soap said "Life is a PEACH."

The other day, he was playing with his write-on/erasable "workbook" and there was a list of about 15 three-letter words at the bottom. One by one, I pointed toward them and he read all of them. When he was done, I got my camera out and asked, "Can you do that again so I can get a video to show Grandma?" He started, "Eeep, ep, blorp, ahct," etc. So I guess not.

Sometimes, he sees letters that aren't there or gets things a bit wrong in a very cute way. We ate at Blanco BBQ yesterday, and he looked on the cup and asked, "What does buh-KWAH mean?" So we have to call barbecue "buquoi" now.

Anyway, he's trying. That's pretty exciting.

Monday, February 10, 2020

When You're a Disappointment on Every Front

There are many ways in which I feel like I've failed my parents over the years, not living up to the way in which they raised me. This is no more visible than in this example:

My parents, and my dad in particular, taught me how to make hospital corners. It was an expectation when I made my bed as a child.

Actually, I spent the summer before my 9th grade year volunteering at the hospital as a candy-striper. Among other duties, I made beds in empty rooms. There were two things that they stressed: 1) You can't hold a pillow under your chin to put the pillowcase on because that's not sanitary. There's a secret to it that would better be explained in a video I'm never going to make, so you'll just have to trust me. 2) Make crisp hospital corners or people may die.

So I know how to do it. I am sure it's how I used to make my beds. Somewhere along the line, however, I was broken of it.

First of all, I HATE having sheets "tucked in." It makes me feel like I'm being restrained and I do not like it. Secondly, D had a trundle/bunk combo, and those don't play nicely with hospital corners. Finally, Mal's bed is up against the wall, and, frankly, there are only so many hours per day... few enough that I cannot spare 18 seconds per bottom corner to assure that the horror you see above does not occur.

What can I say? I'm the worst.

AND, as a parent...

This weekend, we ate at a Thai place -- that was wonderful -- near the movie theater, which also happens to be near a Baskin Robbins. James said that as long as we were in the area, we should get ice cream... even though we were both pretty full.

As we walked across the parking lot, Mal declaimed, "I don't want ice cream; I'm stuffed! I just want to go home!" We agreed that James and I would get our ice cream in cones and eat it on the drive (fortunately, it was cool enough that that wouldn't be a messy proposition).

James and I placed our orders as a line formed behind us. I asked Mal if he was sure he didn't want anything, and he yelled, "I AM STUFFED! I don't want any ice cream!"


They handed me my cone and were finishing James's when Mal said, "That looks good." He was pointing at something on the back wall, through the glass. We couldn't figure out what he meant. On the menu? On the wall? Eventually, we realized that he was pointing at a "squishy" ice cream cone with one bright yellow and one hot pink scoop.

I pointed out that that wasn't food, nor was it available for sale, and asked if he wanted anything from the freezer. He declined.

James stepped forward to pay, and we scooted down. There were probably a dozen people in line, and the first couple had started their orders. Mal noticed the sprinkles and said, "I want sprinkles on my ice cream." I reminded him that he hadn't ordered any ice cream.

He burst into tears. "But I want some vanilla ice cream!" I told him it was too late; that we'd paid and we couldn't "cut" in front of the other people, and that would be it, but then we walked outside as a big group was approaching the store.

YOU know what happened but what they saw was this: Two parents walking out of Baskin Robbins, each starting on a double-scoop waffle cone, with an empty-handed 5-year-old wailing, "I WANT SOME ICE CREAM!"

And they gave us a World's Best Parents trophy right then and there.


Thursday, February 6, 2020

Lots and Lots of News

Looking back to reference the post I did about not coloring my hair anymore, I was a little shocked to find it was all the way back in June! Can one be "a little shocked"? Anyway, I was surprised. It's been six months! And my hair wasn't awful; the red had washed out and I was left with just some kind of inoffensive orange. It wasn't bad, but it was also noticeably darker than my new growth.

Typically, this wasn't a huge problem. But sometimes, mostly when I was with my parents and so one of them took a picture in which I was bent down talking to Mal, so that all of my hair fell forward... well, there was a lot of roots going on.

I LOVE THE ROOTS. It is this sable brown with the occasional silver strand. I did not love the contrast of the colors, which most people assured me was not grotesque. I think I've been helped by the fact that dark roots are in fashion right now (I even noticed that in the final Descendants movie, the kids with purple and blue hair also had... black roots. They did not in the first two films; it was all color all the way.)

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to get some input from my neighborhood on NextDoor and found Megan at Hair's to You.

A hair salon in an RV, you say? Perfect for me! Long story short, here's the final product. Hopefully the brown will stay with me for months to come. We just used a color-depositing dye, no stripping, and she didn't color ALL of the top layer, so my washed-out color kind of acts as highlights.

Here's a picture of me last week versus today. Again, not looking at the crown, it's not as dramatic as the reality; you'll just have to trust me.

Also, because I think the second picture, which has a noticeably-darker under-layer (which I dig), is still a little light, here's another angle. The one above was taken during daylight, and the other later at night. You get an idea of how much darker it is here.

Okay! Enough pictures of me!

In other news, our heater gave up the ghost last night.

That's not entirely true. It works-ish. What happened was that it got VERY cold (and snowed!) and after cycling nonstop between the heat pump and auxiliary heat, it froze up and shut down. When that happens, apparently our stupid Nest "smart" thermostat doesn't charge because its charging relies on the heater or a/c to be functional (??!!). SO we woke up in a cold house and with no thermostat. I quick-charged it a few minutes with a USB cable, checked the breakers (they were fine), and then plugged the thermostat back in.

It was 58 degrees in the house, and the heater came on when the thermostat was back in working order. It stayed on so long, though, that it drained the battery of the thermostat very quickly, and so I started doing a little routine. I'd set the heater to one degree above whatever it was. When it caught up, I'd take the thermostat off and plug it in a few minutes. Then I'd put the thermostat back on and raise the temperature another degree.

Doing that, I got it back up to 68 in a few hours. I could tell, too, that the heater had gone out at about 2:00 AM, so it did work part of the night.

We've known that we needed to replace the unit. It's had an inordinate amount of problems since we bought the house (like the a/c guy shouldn't need to come out twice a year... something I learned after we replaced the inside unit of our heater in Sherman, too... we'd sunk SO MUCH money into repairs), so last December, we'd gotten an estimate to replace it and had budgeted to do it in November.

However, I did not want to repair what happened last night, because I don't think it's fixable long-term. Additionally, the unit is old enough that the refrigerant can no longer be sold as of January, so if we got a leak, we'd be at the mercy of hoping someone had some left over in their inventory. Also, there's some questionable repairs already done, like someone installed some kind of jumper that is only supposed to be there temporarily, but since it works, the serviceman hasn't wanted to mess with it. I'm pretty sure it's original to the house, which was built in 2007.

So, on Monday we're getting a new heat pump. Hey, did I mention spending a ton of money recently? Oh, and the company has a 12-months-same-as-cash finance deal going, so we can actually pay for it in November and that will be cool. I know a lot of people caution against "same-as-cash" offers (and the interest rate is 18% after that!) but we WILL pay it off within a year.

Finally, I've been thinking a lot about a vacation we're taking later this year in which we'll be flying. We don't fly often; I think we've averaged once a year since we've been married, and I had only flown once in five years or so before that. I understand the environmental impact of flying is high, even though I've never seen a breakdown of how it differs from driving if you have to top two nights and stay in a hotel where linens have to be washed, etc. I always just see a gas comparison.

Anyway, when I was trying unsuccessfully to find a comparison of ALL of the associated factors, I came across an article on how to lower your impact if you do "have" to fly. One tip was to take a nonstop flight, which we are doing. I basically will not take a trip, especially with a kiddo, if I have to layover. I realize that if we ever want to go to Montreal, we'll probably have to (or we could drive, but that seems like torture). But, anyway. So we're good on that front.

The person who wrote the article also mentioned that you can go online and calculate the carbon footprint of your flight (ours is just under 2.5 cubic tons -- YIKES). I found a couple of reputable places where you can buy carbon offsets for different projects, and I did that. They have a lot of them that recapture methane from landfills, but a lot of those were fully funded. We did one that helps clean up boreholes in Rwanda so that water doesn't have to be boiled before people can drink it.

I heard on the radio today, specifically regarding airlines, that they're going to have to change how they operate. The lady said, "They can't just buy carbon offsets and continue to do business as usual..." And I realize this about our lives, too. It maddens me beyond belief when politicians point to the economic impact of things like the Green New Deal as a reason not to support it. Reversing the climate impacts we've wrought on the earth will take sacrifice from people like myself who are imminently accustomed to being comfortable. I get that. I'm willing to do it. Our economy is not more important than the poorest of people who cannot deal with increasing temperatures. They don't deserve to die so our GDP stays high.

All of THAT to say that we will be looking more seriously at future trips and might forego flying at all (though we did put a deposit down on a vacation in 2022 that requires a flight... and we might just forfeit the deposit? We'll have to see), but the carbon offset is a way to mitigate it a bit for the time being.

Also, the new heat pump is more efficient, so even though we're on all green energy at the moment (even with the stuff we buy from PEC), in case the next owners aren't, that'll be something, too.


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Mal Adjustments

This weekend, Mal was doing something funny/irritating and I jokingly told him never ever to do it again. He immediately repeated it, and I said, "That's it. You're fired. You can't be in the house anymore; you're going to have to live on the streets." Alarmed, he immediately wailed, "But I can't live on the streets; I'll get hit by a car! Can I live in the grass?"

Then he decided that the grass would also be a bad choice because once the grass dries out later in the spring, we get stickers that last until the fall. I assured him that he can live wherever we live as long as he wants, and even if I joke about kicking him out, I never will.

He had a very "opinionated" weekend, and he tends to voice his negative opinions with much sturm und drang. A couple of times, I had to ask him to just stop what he was doing because I couldn't handle it anymore. At one point, I asked him to stop whining, and he whined, "I'm not whining! This is my normal voice!"

Later, he'd wanted to go to the lake. He introduced his idea by saying, "It's the perfect day to go to the lake!" And he was right. It was in the low 70s and full sun. Again, one of the perks of living in the Austin area.

These days, we're all Sonic all the time.

When it was time to come home, he was suddenly very exhausted. He wanted me to carry him... which, thank goodness, I can no longer do, and he's big enough to understand this.

As we walked away from the park, he kept whimpering that he was so tired, and he couldn't stand to walk all the way home, and he needed a short cut. After a couple of blocks of this, I said, "I need you to stop complaining. We have to walk home, it's a beautiful day, and I don't want to hear complaining the whole way." He insisted he wasn't complaining, similarly to how he'd said he wasn't whining.

I started just stopping in my tracks when he'd start back up. "Oh my gosh, this is taking forev--" Then he'd notice I wasn't moving. After a few times of this, he said, "Mom, I'm NOT complaining! That was someone else!"

Eventually, we got to the top of the hill and he took his shirt off (we'd dressed in the morning when it was cooler, and ended up being inappropriately warmly dressed for the middle of the day) and once he could see our house, he perked back up.

Drama aside, Mal got a lot of vitamin D last week. It was gorgeous and we spent a lot of time outside.

I want Mal to feel comfortable talking about his feelings, even the really big ugly ones. I just need to help him understand when a situation is immutable and he just has to plow through it... preferably, for his own sake, with a good attitude. It's a tough one. Wish us all luck!