Archive for March, 2006

Toddler-To-Be

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Hat Collage, originally uploaded by Koog Family.

I’ve been sort of extra mystified by my beautiful daughter, recently. Somewhere, somehow, she’s crossed a line. She’s not an infant anymore. She’s an interactive little person with a full range of vocal, facial, and physical expressions. She delights us with new sound combinations every day, and she is very good at conveying her wants, needs, frustations, and especially joys. She has two short, little teeth that are starting to show when she smiles, and she’s just on the verge of being mobile. Look out, world…

Free Retirement Planning Booklet

Thursday, March 30th, 2006


I guess this day was bound to come sooner or later – the day that my work bled over into my blogging…

I learned today that the EBSA (that’s a branch of the Department of Labor called the Employee Benefits Security Administration)* has published, and will send anyone who wants it, for free, a booklet called “Taking the Mystery Out Of Retirement Planning.”

Promoting awareness of retirement savings options (and the power of compounding money, even on small savings) is a topic near and dear to my heart.

One of my heros in this area is Economist and part-time Actor, Ben Stein (he was the teacher in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off who kept saying “Bueller…”, and he does the “Clear Eyes” commercials). He may be a republican, but he’s a superstar in the area of promoting personal financial literacy. Someone has to do it. Our schools and society in general do a lousy job at preparing anyone on these topics. One of my long-term plans/dreams is to put together a college class (or maybe just a book or collection of articles) on the topic of the history of the safety net, and how the philosophy about society’s obligations to its weaker members has changed and evolved over time, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. Another pipedream I have is to promote changes in high school curricula to add more info on basic financial literacy skills. That topic is mostly absolutely ignored now, which is horrible.

Anyway, call up the old EBSA (toll free), at 1.866.444.EBSA (3272), and they’ll send you a copy of this booklet, if you’re interested, especially if you are a “Baby Boomer” and/or within 10 years of retirement. That’s actually the target audience for the booklet. I ordered one (but then I’m a retirement nerd). It will be shipped to me in a couple of days.

*And for those of you still reading, I’ll explain my use of an asterisk after the name of the EBSA, above. You see, until three years ago, the EBSA (Employee Benefit Security Administration), which is the government body responsible for enforcing many employee benefits law violations, was known (and had been known since 1974) as the PWBA (the Pension and Welfare Benefit Adminsitration). In my line of work, and according to the Department of Labor, all employee benefits are either 1. a “Welfare Benefit” (i.e. a health plan or other, non-retirement benefit), or 2. a “Pension Benefit” (a retirement benefit). So maybe the name sounds weird but that’s the law. That is, until George W. Bush came along and changed it. He doesn’t like the word “welfare,” you see. That’s it. No other reason than that. So in February 2003, he changed the name of the PWBA to the EBSA (to eliminate the word “welfare” in the agency’s name). Consquently, every single document or law or website or plan document that referred to the PWBA was suddenly incorrect and had to be updated. Just thought you’d like to know that. We benefits practitioners thought it was strange, indeed. But oh well. Now it’s the EBSA. (If you ask me, it’s strange how often politicians bash lawyers (or, if you’re Dick Cheney, shoot them) and then turn around and give us plenty of work to do, keeping up with all of their law changes – this is only a tiny, easy, example). I shouldn’t really complain. It keeps me employed. But it’s interesting to learn where your tax (and benefit plan dollars) go.

Sweet Aching Baby Love

Monday, March 27th, 2006

November 2005 – She’s about 3 months old here
Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

It’s true what people say. . . and what I knew when I was pregnant. . . That you just don’t know what to expect until that baby finally arrives.

Some friends of ours will be having a baby soon, and we (Emma too!) had dinner at their house a couple of weeks ago. The mother-to-be was eight months along when we were there – as pregnant as the day is long. But when I was talking about having a baby, she told me that she just doesn’t know what to expect. How will it be? It being life with a baby.

I remember that feeling. That months-long, sometimes happy, often anxious wondering. The not knowing.

It was a relief to finally know what it felt like to hold my little baby in my arms. By the end of the third trimester, it was a physical relief as well as an emotional one. And I’m now convinced that the labor and delivery process stirs up a cocktail of love hormones that carry you through a blissful high for about three days.

It’s on about that fourth day that you start to notice that you’re exhausted. And that this baby is crying a lot and needing attention almost more often that you can give it. But you wake up every time. You come groggily and willingly to her side because you have to. You have to for her, and you have to for you. There’s no other choice.

I’m very happy for our friends who will be having the baby soon. Part of me feels sorry for them, though. I know that they’re in for a very steep learning curve. If things go in their house like they did in ours, they won’t get a full night of uninterrupted sleep for months and months to come. And then there’s the not knowing. The not knowing yet how to give a bath. How to nurse. How to prepare a bottle, when it’s time for that. Is this normal? Is that normal?

We were addicted to baby books for at least the first four weeks straight. Actually, I can’t remember when we stopped reading the baby books. At some point, we found our confidence and the books fell away. And then the baby helped by eventually learning to hold up her head, which meant that she could be carried around the house sometimes in one arm, instead of always two. And later, just when we thought our hearts would break from the lack of reciprocity, she learned to smile at us and reward us for all our nurturing and mush. Then she learned to sit. And finally, to play with toys on her own while – get this – we can actually take care of something else for a few minutes. And she becomes more independent, in her still very dependent way, each day. We’re out of the woods now. I started feeling that way as soon as she was five months old, or earlier, but I feel more and more that way every day – that the hardest part of her tiny infancy stage is over.

And at our friends’ house, soon, together with all that joy and new-found love, there will be the tiny, high pitched cry. The literally sleepless nights. The rocking of the baby in the dead of night for hours. The looking at the watch and knowing that it’s 3:00 a.m., and you’ve already been rocking for two hours. The wondering when he’ll just fall asleep. Just sleep. The not knowing.

We’ve come a long way already on our parenting journey. And our friends will travel the same road. They’ll arrive in the same place we have. But they’re going to look and feel like they’ve been hit by a truck at least a few times before they get there.

And so I’ll do the only thing I can do. I’ll do the only thing that anyone can do. And people do it all the time. Now I know why. I’ll give them a baby gift, and keep them in my thoughts. Their sweet aching baby love will pull them through.

Woo Hoo! New Tenants!

Monday, March 27th, 2006


ALRIGHT!!!!!

As of May 1, we’ll have some new tenants living upstairs from us. I was worried that we’d go much longer without anyone to help us out with our mortgage payments (one of our previous tenants moved out last December, and the other one is done at the end of March).

These new people are both college grads. One is currently a Master’s Student in Theology. They know that the place isn’t the Ritz, but they said they picked it both because the price is hard to beat AND because they appreciate the care that Paul puts into taking care of the place. (Awwwww.)

Apparently on his tour with them he showed them how he’s currently repainting and wainscoting the bathroom, how he’s painted nearly every room in the place, and, yes, ladies and gentleman, how he added a primo deluxe toilet model known as “The Champion.”

Our last tenants were a family member and his buddy, respectively. This is our first experience with new people. But they’re great, and I’m excited!! (We’re going to have an actual written lease this time, too – a month-to-monther, just to keep it as flexible as possible on all sides).

Lately, I’ve been a little bummed out about the house. I think it might be the fixer-upper-two-year-itch. That is, we moved into our place (a nearly 80-year-old Bungalow) about two years ago. It needed lots of work, but that’s part of why we got a great price. Like all buyers, we were optimistic. We immediately pulled up carpet, had hard wood floors refinished, had the lower level (inside) painted by professionals, and Paul painted most of the upper level inside. We installed new carpet upstairs, and put in new kitchen flooring (just vinyl) in the downstairs and upstairs kitchens. Paul installed new toilets upstairs and down, and we also bought kitchen appliances for the place (stove, fridge, dishwasher), since neither kitchen came with any.

The amount of improvement after just those things was astonishing. Over time, Paul replaced a few light fixtures. We had ugly wallpaper removed from our bathroom. We had the common stairwell painted. I had some shelves installed in my closet. When the furnace broke, we replaced that, too.

But after all that, it starts to sink in how much MORE there is to do, how much we don’t want to spend much money doing it, and how little time we have for this kind of thing now that there’s a baby around! I’ve been wondering if we shouldn’t just have bought a tiny place for ourselves, and paid a mortgage that is half the price of ours, instead of paying double, and having the landlord and extra fix-up obligations.

And now that we’re thinking we’ll move on in a couple of years, I’ve been looking around with a pessimistic seller’s eye. Would someone actually buy this place? Paul is more optimistic on that front than I am.

But oh, well. I guess it will all work out. Actually, I already feel better after listing all the things we HAVE done. We’ve got new tenants for now, and we’ll get to some other things as time unfolds…

Cute Weekend

Sunday, March 26th, 2006

It was another busy weekend. But between a little of this and a little of that, we managed to get some cute pictures of our girl.

(These two pictures look really neat side by side, but I coudn’t get them to fit that way on this page)

She is up to some sweet tricks these days. These include:

  • Making eeh-eeh-eeh-eeh sounds like a little monkey
  • Kicking her mobile while laying in her crib, so that she can watch the stuffed bears spin around
  • Making a screechy seal noise (at first I thought she was horribly hoarse, but now I realize she does this noise on purpose)
  • She bit daddy’s nose (when he stuck it into her mouth) with her short little sharp tooth
  • Turning around in her highchair, for no good reason, just after taking a bite of food, and licking the back of the highchair. Of course, this necessitates wiping the food off of the chair before it gets into her hair.
  • Smacking her lips to let us know its bottle time.
  • Pivoting around the floor on her tummy.

She also likes to pull hats off of her head (even hats that fit her properly). The hat she’s wearing (and then about to not be wearing) here is Mommy’s hat.

And bath time is more fun than ever, now that she sits on the ‘big girl’ side and plays with toys! Kicking in the water is fun, too!

Today, for the first time, I noticed after the bath that her toes were “prune-y”! I tried to take a picture of her wrinkled toes, but I learned that our camera functions much better on macro mode when the target stays still – not something we achieved today.

After her bath, she got back to her playing, squealing, and babbling. She’s quite a happy girl!

 


And the winner is….

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006
Minnie!
Well, I’ve informed Minnie that she’s famous now. And I guess I got what I wanted. Now all these crazy people who visit the StuffOnMyCat.com site are posting comments about her, about cheese, and about football in general. Hmmmm….¬†

But, YAY!
Everything’s working and I’m able to post pictures on here again! That means I’ll soon be able to get back to the important work of bragging about the cute little (human) girl that lives in my house!

One Cat About To Be Famous After ALL!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

Breaking News! – Read this e-mail exchange, below. Can’t wait to see which little Cheesehead Cat of mine is about to be honored on StuffOnMyCats.com. I’ll keep you posted. And I WILL turn than frown upside down, Thank you very much!!

From: Mario Garza [mailto:stuffonmycat5@gmail.com]

Sent: Wednesday, March 22, 2006 5:10 PM

To: Kelly Kxxxx

Subject: Re: Cheesehead cats

Turn that frown upside down! Actually, one of your pictures is about to be posted. Due to the overwhelming amount of submissions sometimes it can take a while for images to be posted…in this case about 5 days. Thanks for the great submissions, I’ll talk to you soon. Take care., – Mario –

***************

 

From: Kxxxx, Kelly

Sent: Wednesday, March 22, 2006 4:44 PM

To: ‘stuffonmycat5@gmail.com’

Subject: Cheeseheads Cats

Sigh. The pictures I sent in haven’t been posted, so I presume that my cheesehead cat pictures (I e-mailed them on 3/17) didn’t meet the rigorous stuffonmycats.com standards. I moved to Wisconsin and was trying to get the cats in the spirit of being Green Bay Packer (cheesehead) fans. If the reason the pictures I submitted weren’t posted was based purely on formatting, let me know and I’ll try again. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll sadly conclude that my cats being humiliated didn’t pass the stuffonmycats.com scrutiny. I guess my cats won’t get to be famous.

Thanks, anyway.

-Kelly

Cuties THEN and NOW

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Look at this picture of Emma and her adorable Daycare Homies in February 2006.

Compare it to the picture of the same group from four months earlier!

Cats Not Famous Yet

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

So far, my submission of Jimmy’s and Minnie’s pictures to StuffOnMyCat.com’s site has not yet been accepted. Perhaps this is just not the stuff of great photography. I can accept that I may have been a little biased in thinking that these were cool. (But Thank You, Nicole, for your kind words!)

Also, the promised pictures of Paul and his Daddy’s Girl are coming soon. She’s less anxious when he’s not around, but is still breaking into tears if he comes into the room and then leaves again. That girl loves her Dad!

Cheeseheads On My Cats

Friday, March 17th, 2006

Whew. I learned today that I am not the only person in the world who likes to “decorate” her cats from time to time. Some of you may recall the picture we included in Holiday cards some years back, of our felines sporting mini-Santa hats.

And then there was the supreme effort that went into
these –>
lovely images that document Jimmy and Minnie as official Green Bay Packer Fans and Cheeseheads.

I took these shortly after we moved to Wisconsin. I worked so hard, at the time, to make the little hats. And I worked even harder to get them each to sit still during the numerous attempts at capturing their images on a green background, with a tiny football prop during their respective photo sessions.

My goal at the time was to submit their pictures to a the Page-a-Day Cat calendar for consideration (they offer a contest). I never heard from the calendar folks. Hmmmph! But, finally, I have submitted these pictures to a site that will appreciate them. A site for people like me who like to put “stuff” on their cats!

The motto of StuffOnMyCat.com is Cats + Stuff = Awesome. 
Silly as it is, I have to agree.
A peek around the StuffOnMyCat.com site indicates that a lot of people who submit pictures to the site take the word “on” quite literally, however. They just seem to set as many loose items onto their cat as the creature will permit, and then take a picture. Forgive me if I’m being immodest, but fashioning and/or applying an actual hat seems to be taking this art to a higher level.¬†
Well, anyway, we’ll see if Jimmy and Minnie finally achieve the recognition they deserve for their humiliation by having their cheesehead pictures published on StuffOnMyCat.Com.
And even if they don’t, I suppose they’ve already gotten some good enough feedback. Someone left a comment on Minnie’s cheesehead picture on Flickr recently. They called her the “World’s most beautiful mousetrap.” Yes. If Minnie could get a mouse out of the deal, I’m sure she would enjoy that.