Monday, July 28, 2008

Life on a Change

I'm catching my breath through my stubbornly stuffy nose thanks to my persistently snotty daughter, and we've been everywhere. Fourth of July weekend we ventured to Connecticut with The Boy's sister, our dog and the baby. We rented an SUV. We finally started to understand why people drive them; everyone had plenty of space, and there was a place for everything. I made fun of The Boy for backing into parking spaces, the way SUV drivers the world over seem to do for no apparent reason. He offered excuses, but at least he managed to do it in one take each time. Then, in Connecticut, we had to stop for gas. We had to restart the pump because it maxed out at $75 the first time; we remembered why we prefer sedans. We enjoyed introducing Mirabella around New England. She was sleepy, but she fared well for most of the trip.

Two weeks ago, though it feels much farther in the past than that, we ventured to the Outer Banks with my mom's entire family. We have never traveled together or spent that amount of time together. There was apprehension, as there always is with such inclusive family vacations. But our time off is minimal-- I couldn't afford to take the whole week off-- so we were determined to have a wonderful time, and we did. We laughed that family vacations used to feel a little like a sacrifice because we knew the only time alone we would get would be in bed. Now,the only way for us to get time alone on vacation is if we travel with family. Everyone fought over Mirabella and we got plenty of time with her and to ourselves. We skipped out on a midnight showing of the Dark Knight with all the cousins because we feared we wouldn't be able to stay awake and instead spent the evening in the hot tub with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. "I don't care how good that movie is," The Boy said as we climbed into bed, "I can always see it later and I have no regrets."

Mirabella seemed to enjoy the beach, squealing when the water touched her feet and laughing as she wiggled her toes in the wet sand. Despite lots of time alone there, I did wear her baby in a Baby Bjorn to a wine tasting. I wondered if that was bad form.

The little lady is now seven months old, has sprouted her first tooth, has wild and fuzzy blonde hair, and is crawling like a prehistoric reptile all over the place. We are trying to teach her sign language. So far, she looks thoughtful and grunts when I sign "more" (for food) and laughs when I ask "where's Daddy?" and ignores me, most often, when I sign "no," "don't touch," and "stop."

Last week, over a Boboli pizza and a bottle of North Carolinian red wine, The Boy and I had our very first State of the Union: Financial Edition meeting. I dreaded it. I have always dreaded it. Because of multiple factors including unreliable income and bad decisions, we, as a couple, have never operated under a formal budget. My MO with money has always been to worry about it all the time but, in practice, to act like said worries do not exist. Don't try this at home. So now that the market has tanked and we are housepoor and stuck in it, it occurs to us that it would behoove us to change our ways. We pored over spreadsheets and a calculator and came up with a budget and action items. We now have weekly allowances that are tracked on a white board in the kitchen. I just signed up for a supermarket coupon website. I am struggling with the adjustments.

This past weekend was phase one of the Organizational Extravaganza on the homefront. The survival mode that we have been in since I can remember has got to stop. I was ducking when I opened cabinets, buying things I didn't need because I didn't know what I already had. We've been constantly tripping over Mirabella's increasing number of things. She started crawling on an uncomfortable jute rug that was not nearly as clean as it should be. So we've a long way to go, but at least the living room, with it's repurposed rug and rearranged furniture, is more functional and less cluttered.

We are learning to be better stewards of everything we've been given, the big and the small. It's not easy, but it is welcome change.
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