Saturday, November 26, 2011


The last two months have been absolutely crazy -- with lots of travel involved!

At the end of September, I drove (10 hours each way) to Tallahassee for a couple of days to defend my prospectus. A few days later, Chris received word that he would need to be in Pittsburgh for a final all-day interview. So, less than a week later, we went to Pittsburgh for a few days. Chris and Vivian flew and I drove with Lilli (8 hours each way). Driving through West Virginia was absolutely gorgeous! The mountains were covered with so many colorful trees -- oranges, yellows, reds. WV is a beautiful state, although it gets a lot of bad press. Pittsburgh felt and looked much different than it did when we came in July. Welcome to Steeler Nation!!! It's all about football this time of year. We met with our real estate agent again to look at some additional houses. We found one we really liked, although we were hesitant to make an offer until we received an official word about a job.

A couple of days after we returned from PA, I had surgery. I did well through the anesthesia and my results came back fine.

About a week later, Chris received a job offer so we immediately put our house on the market that night. Then the real craziness began! We had to prepare for a move within a month. I had to find temporary housing for us in PA, schedule doctors appointments, schedule movers, try to find a new school for Vivian (from a distance), etc.

Vivian was a hockey player for Halloween -- complete with a Hurricanes jersey and authentic (our neighbor plays hockey) gloves and helmet. She loved it! I think she had more fun handing out candy though!

We sold our Honda Pilot so now we're a 1-car family. I wasn't sad to see the monthly payment, insurance or high gas expense go so it was a good choice. If we need a 2nd car at some point, we'll probably get a small commuter car. However, Chris will take the "T" (light rail) to work everyday so I don't see the point in having one.

A couple of days later, I left for a conference in Jacksonville (8 hr drive -- Chris had to get a rental car in NC while I was gone). I was able to present but then became very ill and wasn't able to leave my hotel room for a day and a half. I came down with a nasty cold. I drove home a day early. I would rather be sick at home than stuck in a hotel 8 hours away from home.

We had a going-away party for Vivian and her preschool friends. Vivian's last day of preschool was just a few days later. I think I cried more than Vivian did (who didn't at al). I'm certainly going to miss her school. What an amazing place!!

The following day, we moved to Pittsburgh! We spent a day in DC and went to the National Air and Space Museum Annex at Dulles. The Space Shuttle Enterprise is there, as well as the Concorde and SR-71 Blackbird (and a few hundred other planes). It's quite impressive. We also went to the National Zoo. I'm excited to be 4 hours away from DC. We're looking forward to making additional trips there in the spring!

We've been here 4 days now in corporate housing (which is a small fortune -- 2x the price of most mortgages). We had planned on renting the house we're buying from the sellers, but they kept jacking us around so we said "no thanks." (Now they're begging us to move in.) They wanted us to pay 8K up front -- 2 months rent, 2K security deposit (in additional the 3K in earnest money) and 2K for a DOG fee. Oh...and they're still marketing the house because our house in NC was on the market.

The great news: Our house went under contract the day AFTER we left NC. We were on the market for 3 1/2 weeks and had 9 showings. We got a great offer. The buyers don't have a house to sell, so everything should close in about a month. They want to be in before Christmas, which means we need to plan another trip to NC to pack the remainder of our stuff and schedule the movers. I'd like to be in before Christmas too!!

We were able to spend Thanksgiving with our family and friends in our 900 sq ft (very packed) apartment, but it was great to have the entire family together. We are planning on having many more events like this now that we're all located in close proximity.

I shopped with my friend Matt on Black Friday and then we all went out yesterday afternoon for more shopping. I had to stock up on winter gear (thank you LL Bean)! We're expecting snow later this week.

December is going to be another busy month -- Vivian's birthday, Chris's birthday, heading back to NC to pack the rest of our stuff, closing on 2 houses (hopefully) and Christmas! Hopefully January will calm down a bit.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September -- already?!

I can't believe it's already September. The summer flew by. We broke records with the amount of 100+ days we had here. The heat wave was pretty unbearable. Have I told you lately that I HATE living in the south?

July and August zoomed by very quickly. In July, I spent 2 weeks in Pittsburgh. Vivian and Chris joined me during the 1st week so we could have a vacation this year. The second week I was busy at CMU attending a week-long summer school for my dissertation research. Vivian did really well on the airplane with Chris. She still talks about it and wants to go back to Pittsburgh. During our vacation week, we hit up all the tourist sites -- the zoo and aquarium, Cathedral of Learning, Children's Museum, Carnegie Science Center, PNC Park for a Pirates game. Oh..I should mention -- Pittsburgh was also having a heat wave while we were there. It was really hot and I felt sorry for many of the people who didn't have AC! We also met with our real estate agent several times to look at houses and actually found one we really liked. Can't wait to see what the future will bring! :)

August was pretty non-eventful, although I spent several weeks dealing with Vivian's school. We're considering moving her to another school but it really depends on what happens with her current school. We're on a wait list for another school, but she technically can't start until she turns 3 even though she's starting in the 3s classroom at her current school on Tuesday.

This fall is going to go by fairly quickly too. I'll be in FL twice this semester -- once to defend my prospectus and once to present at a conference. I'm trying to schedule surgery that I've been putting off for a few months while my schedule settles down. Hoping that goes okay too.

All in all, we're just hanging in there. I'm looking forward to being done with school and getting a real job so we can have 2 incomes again, which we haven't had since before Vivian was born. I'm also excited to get out of NC and head north! :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2 1/2!!

Vivian turned 2 1/2 yesterday. I can't believe it. It's funny to think that last year she started walking and talking and now she's running around, practicing her yoga postures (she calls it stretching), and talking all the time! I'm still having a hard time comprehending that in 6 months she'll be 3. The next 6 months will go by quickly and I'm curious to see what kinds of developmental stuff she'll do. She just started asking "Why" about a week ago. Our standard answer now is "why do you think?" Sometimes she'll actually answer with something that makes sense based on the question.

To celebrate her birthday, we bought a few gifts: a doctor's outfit, a tub of Duplo blocks, and a gardening kit. She loves to play outside (even though it's almost 100 degrees with horrible humidity and a ton of mosquitos -- can you tell I'm happy to be moving in less than a year?!) and dress up in all sorts of outfits at school, so we figured we'd get her a few things for home.

We also went to the NC Museum of Life and Science. There's so much to do there. We've never seen the entire place in one visit, so it's great that we have a membership and can keep going back.

Other than celebrating Vivian's 1/2 birthday, there hasn't been too much going on. I quit my job - as in gave about an hour's notice. There was a lot of crap going on there and it was just best for me to leave. I submitted Chapter 1 of my prospectus to my advisor. Chapter 2 is not too far behind. Chapter 3 is going to need some work. Describing the methodology of what I'm doing is not hard. The problem is that I actually have to show them a fully functional intelligent tutoring system at my prospectus defense -- so that will take some time.

We've been busy planning our trip to Pittsburgh next month. I'm so excited to finally get to see the city and CMU. We're also meeting with our real estate agent while we're there. We've narrowed down our house search to a few areas just south of the city (Mt Lebanon, Upper St. Clair and Bethel Park). They have nationally ranked schools, which I'm quite pleased about. However, I'm not excited about the "school tax." It's basically like sending your kid to a private school -- about 10K a year. But, I am looking forward to seeing my friend Matt and going to a Pirates game!

Here's some pics of Ms Vivian:

Playing dress-up at school

New doctor's outfit for home

Kisses from the cow

Playing the drums

Sitting with daddy

Twirling around in the music room

Playing doctor with Tigger-Pooh. He's getting a shot.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lots of Updates

Okay, so I really need to get better about updating my blog. A lot of things have happened since February.

We ended up getting new carpet, which turned out to be the best investment ever! Our house looks brighter and newer and we don't feel congested all the time. I don't have to vacuum 3 times a week anymore either, which is a huge benefit.

We also remodeled our master bathroom. This was a much larger undertaking that we original thought due to very extensive mold growth on 2 of the walls. Chris and I did all the demo work (okay, mostly me because Chris was at work all day), including taking out the tile floor, cabinets, sheetrock, and moldy insulation. We found that the outside wall didn't have a vapor barrier on it and the wrong sheetrock was used for a moist environment. Our contractor did an absolutely amazing job and we're very, very pleased with the end result. We have two new vanities, a new tub, new tiled shower and semi-frameless door, two new mirrors, new toilet, new light fixtures, new exhaust fan (that was a bit of a complicated process to figure out how to install and vent), new door knobs, new paint, and a new beautiful tile floor. We love it!

We haven't traveled at all, although I finally made it down to FL again -- 6 months after I planned on going back down. It was a very productive week, but the drive absolutely sucks (all 10 hours of it) and it's very expensive (hotels are ridiculous, especially around graduation) to stay there, so I probably won't be back down for awhile.

We are planning a major trip to Pittsburgh in July -- our first vacation since last September. I'll be there for 2 weeks and Vivian and Chris will be there for a week.

We've been dealing with a lot of illnesses lately. Vivian has had a couple of ear infections since January. She also got pinkeye, which was passed on to me and then onto Chris. I ended up getting a sinus infection (again!) and finally took my antibiotics to get rid of it.

In March, Vivian started going to school FT. I started working then doing some usability consulting work, so the work is pretty sporadic. I worked for 3 weeks and then was off for 3 weeks and now I've been back on for 3 weeks and should be wrapping up everything by the end of this week. The biggest problem is that when I'm moderating studies (running participants), I don't get a break AT ALL. No lunch break, no snack break, no potty break, nothing. I typically run 4-5 participants back-to-back. This current study had 3 or 4 people a day, 2 hour sessions each. It's a paycheck, but it's definitely not what I want to be doing for the rest of my life (or even this year).

Vivian is doing really well, other than being sick. She went to the dentist yesterday (her 3rd visit, but first real cleaning) and had NO CAVITIES again! No surprise to us -- she loves to brush her teeth every night and we don't give her candy, sweets, juice, or any of the other typical toddler crap. Oh..and she's getting all 4 of her 2-year molars at the same time. So, all 20 teeth will soon be in.

I can't believe she's almost 2 1/2. She's such a big girl. She's really starting to use her imagination. The other day she found some cardboard and was making chairs and houses for Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Grover. She also likes to put them in her school bus and drive them around the playroom. Apparently "North Carolina" is under the table and "Pittsburgh" is near her couch. She loves to dance and run around naked yelling "naked butts." The weather is now in the 90s, so she loves to splash around in her water table. She still likes playdough and art projects and is doing extremely well at school. She recognizes a lot of letters and numbers and can spell Vivian. She's also fully potty and pooped trained! :) Way to go kiddo!!! Mommy and Daddy are soo proud!

Chris and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary on April 15th. What a crazy 3 years it's been. We've had a few more date nights. Hockey season ended a long time ago (poor Canes), but we've still been going to Broadway shows. Last week we saw Chris Botti play with the NC Symphony. He's such an amazing trumpeter! Tonight we're going to see Spamalot. After that, we have no dates planned. Guess we'll need to get something on the calendar.

I'll try to be better about updating the blog. Just have so much going on. With work, I'm not able to work on anything school related which has been really difficult. I hate going to FL and gaining all this momentum so I can come home and lose it all because I have to go back to work. I'm hoping my schedule will get better soon!

Here are some pics of Vivian to enjoy!

Vivian playing with a 1-month-old kid at Celebrity Dairy.

Wearing Daddy's hat

The Easter Bunny brought me Bunny Snacks (and books)!

Touching a chinchilla at Yash's 3rd BD party at the Durham Museum of Life and Science

Touching a bearded lizard

Posing for the camera -- 29 months

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Last 4 1/2 Months

I can't believe it's been 4 1/2 months since I last posted something. Let me try to remember all that has happened. After our trip to GA, I headed back to FL for a few more days, while Chris and Vivian went back home. A couple of weeks later we went to the NC State Fair and I ended up picking up some nasty illness, which I'm still suffering from 3 1/2 months later! We think it was the flu, then it became a sinus infection which didn't completely go away, and then I got hit again about a month ago and am still suffering. :( Unfortunately, Vivian and Chris were not immune to the illnesses. Vivian is currently on her 2nd antibiotic over the past couple of weeks. She had a sinus infection and now has an ear infection. She is also getting a 2-year molar, so we've had a lot of sleepless nights (almost every single night for several weeks).

I started a short-term PT contract in October, which was to last only 6 weeks. It ended up lasting 3 months and turned into a 40-hour + a week job. I finally had to quit before the contract was officially over (after they renewed it 2 or 3 times). Between me being sick and working all hours (including Christmas Day and New Years), I decided the job wasn't worth it at all.

I wasn't able to travel back to FL in October or to CA to present at a conference because I was sick. Unfortunately during this time, my Papa (my last living grandparent) passed away.

We took Vivian trick-or-treating around the neighbourhood this year. She dressed up as Emily Elizabeth from Clifford the Big Red Dog. My child LOVES Clifford. I think we own almost every Clifford book.

We had a quiet Thanksgiving at home. Our friend Tim came over and spent time with Vivian.

Vivian's 2nd birthday party was a lot of fun. We invited her preschool class and a couple of her other friends. A few of our friends came too. The kids enjoyed eating snacks (and gluten-free cupcakes) and playing in the playroom. I can't believe I survived a house of 7 2-year-olds!

Christmas came and went fairly quickly. Vivian got a few new things -- books, play fruits/veggies for her kitchen, and a tricycle from Santa!! We also got a White Christmas! First time in 60+ years that it has snowed on Christmas in NC! Vivian loved playing in the snow.

Chris's brother, Sam, came to visit us over New Year's. We were able to go to a Hurricanes hockey game. It was a lot of fun.

Chris started a new job at the beginning of January and we ramped up Vivian to go to preschool everyday from 9-3, so I could have a few hours each day to work on my dissertation. She's still doing really well at school. She forms complicated thoughts now and loves to sing and dance. She can count to 13 and say her ABCs. She can recognize a few letters. Her favourite activities are playing the piano, doing puzzles, playing with her kitchen, and reading books. She loves hockey games (and anything hockey related) and the Steelers! She's also pretty much potty-trained at school and is getting really good about telling us she needs to go at home.

I'm hoping to head back down to FL as soon as I can rid the sinus infection, cough, etc. I have had an apartment down there since December but haven't been able to go down because I've been so sick.

Overall, we're doing just okay. It's been a really rough few months and I'm eager to have a healthy household again!

We're getting new carpet this week, which I really think has been contributing to the illnesses. It's an old, nasty carpet that has definitely seen the end of its life after 5 kids and an old dog. I can vacuum 2-3 times a week and stuff still comes up! Probably doesn't help that I have a severe dust allergy! :(

I'll leave you with a few pics of Ms Vivian!

Hiding behind the otters at the Georgia Aquarium

Sitting with the pumpkins at the pumpkin patch

Ready to go Trick or Treating

Eating the snow flakes

Dressed up to go see Santa!

Playing with her kitchen dishes. She's eating a fruit salad.

Enjoying the 6" of snow on Christmas Day!