Saturday, February 26, 2011

Living Easy in the HoCo

Howard County is a really pretty place to live, the schools are excellent, the population is wonderfully ethnically diverse, there is too much snow for my taste and homes are really expensive, er, valuable.

I don't think HoCo is perfect, but honestly, there are so many positives that it really astonishes me when people show such crazy outrage over something like subsidized housing. (Sun article here)  There are plans in the works to demolish the Hilltop housing development (which is 43 years old) and build a new community of mixed-income rental units as well as a new community center.  Concerns about the project include fears for property values, obstructed views and the certainty that the idea of mixed-income housing can't work and will lead to gangbangers and drug-addicts taking over Historic Ellicott City (this was in one of the comments on this article).  There is also concern about whether the new housing will be available to the current residents at the same rates (the deputy housing director assures that they will be).

I do sympathize with those people who are worried about looking out their back windows at a parking garage, but from what I understand from the community meeting held last Wednesday, the developers have that in mind and have plans to build the garage into the hill and add trellises to the roof so that it isn't such an eyesore.  I don't have sympathy for those worried about property values.  The subsidized housing already exists there; it seems to me that a vibrant new community center and new, prettier, mixed-income housing can only help values.

I was doing a little research and I found out that there is a Moderate Income Housing Unit Program in Howard County.  From the website:
Looking for high-quality, yet affordable, housing options in Howard County? Howard County Housing offers new, quality homes and apartments through its Moderate Income Housing Unit (MIHU) Program.
That sentence alone tells me that housing is not affordable in Howard County.

The national median household income (as of 2008) is $52,029.  The median income in Maryland is $70,482 and in Howard County it's $101,867.  Now compare those numbers to what the MIHU chart (below) says is the maximum permitted income to participate in their program.  The national average number of people per household is 2.59 - so really, a giant portion of the nation would qualify for this program if they moved to HoCo. 

It's great that something like this exists in Howard County, but those numbers are really indicative of how affluent our county is and how much of a disconnect there seems to be about what options there are for the truly poor in our county. 

I know there are also concerns about the amount of money that would be spent to build the community center ($15 million) and the project as a whole (around $50 million).  I'll admit to not knowing much about how this falls into our county budget or what it costs to build stuff, but I assume that the Housing Department wouldn't be making these proposals without that information or where they are going to get the money.  And I think the center is important - what I've read about mixed income housing and it's success says that the effort has to be more than just housing, that there has to be other support for the people living there.  I think the revitalized community center would provide some of that - not only for the people in the mixed-income housing, but people in the entire surrounding community (my family included).

The current Roger Carter Center offers the only public pool in the county.  It's a decent pool, it's the only one we've ever used since moving here.  The Center also has an outdoor basketball court, an Early Learning Center preschool (my oldest attended it and my middle daughter goes there now), an after school homework program and there is an exercise room that you can buy passes to.  I'm not sure what classes might be offered there now, but my guess is not many because there isn't really much space.  The new center that was described at the community meeting sounded really exciting - an indoor pool that can be opened to the outdoors during the summer, indoor and outdoor basketball courts, an indoor track, meeting rooms, an exercise room and the preschool will also remain.  I would love to have this place so close to my home!

The fact is, subsidized housing already exists in Historic Ellicott City, it is needed and improving it and the community center, really only seems like a win-win to me. 


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No more chillin' in the crib

We've had this crib for more than 9 years!
It's the end of an era.  No more babies in cribs at our house.  Oddly, I don't feel sad.  When Violet was an infant I felt sad and nostalgic about every passing milestone because I thought she was going to be my last baby.  The universe had another plan in store for me and I've been very happy about it - but I definitely don't have those same feelings of sadness or nostalgia.

Greg put together the big girl bed while we were in North Carolina for the long weekend.  Zoey (and Violet) were super-excited to see it and she slept in it our first night home.  Even though she doesn't really look happy about it in the photo.   

She was just mad because she wanted me to take a picture of her in her chair.  Yes, my children are little divas - but check out that cute little smile and those toes outstretched in pleasure as she sits on her little blue chair.
That first night she slept all the way through the night for the first time in two months.  Last night wasn't quite as good - she came to our bed about 3:45am.  But it's progress and I guess that's all I can ask.  

If anybody needs a really old crib, it's free to a good home.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The New Suburban Militia

I've been visiting my family in NC this weekend.  It's always interesting to go back home, I never know what I might see.  When I pulled into my sister's driveway the other day there were two middle school age boys cutting through her backyard.  One of them was carrying a large handgun.  I did a double-take and realized that it was a toy, a paint gun I think.  It was pretty disconcerting, though.

Today I was driving down her street and there were two different boys walking along the road carrying three large assault rifles, equipped with scopes and everything.  They also turned out to be paint guns or something like that - but still, I felt sort of like Marshall Law had been declared and I was grossly under prepared.

Since I have girls and thus far they have shown little interest in guns, I'm probably not going to run into this problem, but I really don't think I'd ever buy my kids these kinds of toys.  And I definitely wouldn't let them roam the neighborhood playing war games and scaring out-of-town visitors.  Although, I suppose that might be there plan - keep the outsiders out!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Don't call social services on me....yet

Violet says she wants to be a Mommy like me when she grows up.  When she tells me this I always silently hope that learns from my mistakes.  But I'm not so sure she will...

The other day she was playing with her baby dolls.  I heard her tell one of them she was bad and was going to have to go to jail.  Why, you ask?  Because the baby threw up on her shirt.  Wait, what?  I asked her why she was sending the baby to jail just because she threw up.  "Because Diego [of Dora fame] and I DO NOT like that."  She then proceeded to the trash can and pretended to shake the barf off of her shirt into the trash.

So I'm racking my brain thinking about Violet's most recent barf incident, which was just last week.  It was lovely, she cried out "Daddy" but I answered the call.  She didn't even seem to be really awake when I went in, but then the bed barfing happened.  I got her to the bathroom and called out to Greg for help.  Meanwhile, she coughed more and barfed on the bathroom floor.  I have greatly improved in my ability to handle vomit over the last 3 years, but I guess some of my disgust must still register to her if she's playing these jail games.  But I swear - I've never ever sent her to time out for throwing up.  Although at one of the more traumatic school drop-offs I did tell her to cut it out and stop trying to make herself throw up.

My Mom says that when I was about her age I was playing with my dolls in the back seat of the car and they heard me say, "Shit shit shit, damn damn damn.  I'm gonna beat the blood out of you, Baby."  I'm pretty sure my parents never said anything like that to me - so I guess Violet's play doesn't necessarily reflect my parenting.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Little Cookie Monster

Recently Violet's most-asked question has been, "Cookies aren't candy, are they Mom?"  The easy answer to this is, of course, "No, cookies are not candy."  But that opened up to a whole new set of problems.  Turns out the reason she was asking is because she wanted a post-lunch cookie, but didn't want it to be counted against her when she was later planning to ask for candy after dinner.  So I to started answering the question with, "Well, cookies aren't candy but they are BOTH desserts."  Stubborn Violet, "BUT, they AREN'T candy."

It's not that I'm super-strict about the cookie and candy intake at our house, I've just been spoiled by Lorelei's insane self-control.  We're generally over-flowing with Halloween candy for months because Lorelei only eats one piece a day, if that.  When I was a kid I had terrible cavities - this story made an impression on Lorelei, she has been religious about not chewing hard candies or eating too many sweets. 

Violet is a whole different story.  She constantly asks for candy, cookies, whatever sweets happen to be in the house.  But she eats so little, has always eaten very little - we've had to beef up her milk with Instant Breakfast for a couple of years just to make sure she's getting enough calories and stuff.  I just can't justify giving her cookies after lunch and candy after dinner when those meals probably consisted of three bites total of whatever she was offered. 

I can just imagine what she's going to be like when she goes off to college - every meal will end with candy and cookies and she'll be a star because she can barf on cue, then go on with her life like nothing ever happened.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Memories of Dad

My dad died nine years ago tomorrow.  It was an accident.  It was unexpected.  It was a little surreal.  I hadn't seen him in exactly a year - when he and his wife had come out to California to visit us.  I had talked to him, exchanged emails and had offered to buy him a plane ticket to visit our newly born Lorelei.  But he kept putting me off saying he was going to get a ticket himself even though I knew they were seriously struggling financially.

Growing up I was Daddy's Girl, but in the end we did not always get along so well.  My parents started going through their divorce saga when I was a junior in college.  It wasn't a nice divorce, but they rarely are.  It was official a year or so later.

During our first Christmas after that, Dad and I got into an argument - it was about our family dynamic, but probably wasn't really my business.  I was mad and I guess he was mad, but it never occurred to me that we'd gone beyond a breaking point.  My birthday was two weeks later, I didn't hear from him.  I was hurt.  Two weeks after that I moved to a new state without saying goodbye.  I'm sure he was hurt.  The next thing you know 8 months had passed and I'd gotten engaged.  I sent him an email saying that our fight was stupid, I wanted to just move past it.  I told him I was engaged and I wanted him to be at my wedding.  He never responded.   

Again, I was hurt but I mailed an invitation to him.  I was out of the loop and didn't know he'd moved so he never got the invitation.  Somebody gave him the details because as I walked down the aisle I saw him there.  I started crying - I whispered to the minister to add his name to the parents portion of the speech.  He stayed around long enough to congratulate us, kiss me and appear in a photo.  That was it.

I didn't hear from him again for years.  We crossed paths at my grandfather's house one Christmas.  More years passed.  We ran into each other at an extended family beach trip.  He took me and my sisters out for dinner and told us he was getting married.  I ended up in the emergency room that night with gall stones.  He sat in the ER waiting room and drove me and my husband back to the beach condo when I was discharged.  The next day we drove back to our home in Florida where I had my gall bladder out.  Two months later we went to a reception in Nashville celebrating his recent marriage.

A month after that we moved to California and he asked if they could come visit us.  They came out in February 2001.  It was a nice visit, they were there for Valentine's day.  We had a nice celebratory dinner together.  That was the last time I saw him alive.  I have that nice visit to remember, but I still wonder what happened to us and it makes me mad that I will never know what he was thinking. It's even more puzzling since I've had children of my own.  I can't imagine ever just abandoning one of my girls even as an adult.

Despite it all, I miss him.  It makes me sad that he will never know my girls. 
Dad & Elgin, Pt Loma, Feb 2001

Monday, February 7, 2011

I'm not a doctor, I just play one on TV

Turns out the neti pot may have changed my life.  I never did make it to a walk-in clinic, but this sinus stuff seems to be almost gone.  I started out with pressure and pain across my left cheek; after two days of neti-potting it had moved to just the bridge of my nose.  After three more days the afternoon sinus headache quit showing up.  And now on day eight, the pressure is gone - just feel a little stuffy.  Very happy about this!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

We can sleep when we're dead, right?

Last night, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard Zoey crying.  I ignored it - well, I was just so tired that I continued to drift.  A short time later (really no idea how much later, but couldn't be much because it was only 11:45pm) I heard Violet and Zoey crying.  So I dragged myself out of bed, shocking Greg because I actually got up instead of kicking him.  Violet said she had to throw up - GAAH.  Grabbed her, ran to the bathroom - Greg was already there so he took over and I went back for wailin' Zoey.

I took Zoey back to bed with me and settled into the six inches she allows.  Greg took care of Violet and then she asked to come to our bed, too.  So it was me, Zoey, Violet, Violet (the Leapfrog toy that needs new batteries so it randomly makes noise and flashes its red collar light), Pig Pillow Pet, and Greg.  Violet was sniffly and asked for a tissue about every 45 seconds, Zoey was her usual shifty-movey-hair-pully-self and then when I was finally drifting off to sleep again, she headbutted me. Ouch!

Thankfully Greg decided to carry Violet back to her bed agreeing to "sleep" with her there.  I say "sleep" because even though Violet's bed can be twin size, right now it's in the toddler size configuration so even us shorties can't lay in it with our legs outstretched.  At some point she fell asleep and he was able to sneak back to our slightly less crowded bed.

It's no wonder we never feel rested.  Violet never slept through the night consistently until we put her in a big girl bed (which was right around age 22 months).  Zoey is 21 months now and I am really hoping that a big girl bed is going to change our lives for the better once again.  If only we can find the time to get to Ikea and buy the damn thing. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sisterly rivalry

Sibling relationships are so hard sometimes.  My two littlest get along so well - they are five days short of two years apart.  They play together, they have similar play styles - lots of imaginary play with dolls and all that (nothing like Lorelei, who was never really interested in dolls).  They fight every once in a while, usually because Violet has taken something away from Zoey or vice versa.  But generally they get along really well and are really loving with each other. 

Lorelei gets along with Zoey and plays games with her and is very sweet with her.  Lorelei and Violet are a different story.  If Lorelei is in the right mood she and Violet get along great, but a lot of the time she isn't interested in getting along with Violet.  She picks fights (fights the Violet doesn't even understand), she corrects Violet unnecessarily, she's mean and sometimes even cruel.  I've talked to Lorelei about it over and over, but it always happens again, sometimes just minutes after the conversation.  I've tried punishing, I've tried making her feel guilty.  But she just keeps doing it. 

I know, it's a part of the way kids are.  My mom says that I was the same way - I was the oldest and I was much kinder to my youngest sister than my middle sister.  But that isn't really very reassuring.  My middle sister had a lot of problems that she never really grew out of.  I'm not saying I caused those problems, but I probably didn't help them either.  I don't want that kind of dynamic for my girls. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The long goodbye

We've entered month two of Violet crying when I take her to school.  At least there hasn't been any more barfing.  I've worried and worried that it was something about school, something happening there that she couldn't articulate, something dangerous.  It's scary being a parent, worrying about what the big wide world has in store for your kids.  That's why I was actually relieved when Violet started crying every morning when Greg left for work.  That relief has pretty much worn off since she also cries when I leave to go to PTA meetings or for errands on the weekend.  Or when she threw a fit about the babysitter coming for a rare date night. 

Now whenever one of us leaves the house (and mostly it's Greg leaving for work in the morning) Violet requires a hug, a kiss, a fist bump and a high five.  And then you have to be called back after the door closes for an additional hug and kiss.  Hence today's title, provided by Greg.