Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Bright Side

Yesterday we were sporting tank tops and blasting the air conditioner; today, we were wearing long sleeves and vests and fun scarves. Fall in the mid-Atlantic is a schizophrenic as ever, in a nice, comforting, expected way.

A few photos from a brief playground outing we snuck in between errands today, to remind our families what the kids look like :-):

Moments of the weekend I'd like to savor:

- Finn sneaking up to our bedroom both mornings and, upon seeing we were still asleep, creeping back down to his room quietly. A miracle.

- Sleeping until 8 a.m. today!

- Lucy waking up around 8:30 this morning to use the bathroom, and then heading back to bed for "just a little bit more." She popped out for good about 60 seconds later.

- Drinking coffee out on the deck with M., bundled up in slippers and a sweatshirt.

- Using my brand new immersion blender (an early anniversary gift that wasn't meant to be early, but I accidentally opened the shipping box - oops!) to make smoothies.

- Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkins doughnuts. All in the same day!

- Letting Lucy talk me into buying a garishly purple and oh-so-wonderful bouquet of carnations at the grocery store.

- Some excellent good night squeezes from Lucy.

- Several declarations that I'm "the best mom ever!" from Finn - I may not remember exactly WHY I earned that title, but I plan to remember he said it!

Final note: Remind me to write a post about how we just bought the kids a book of Bible stories. I have thoughts and questions and a need for advice.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Thanks for humoring my latest semi-regular freak-out about MY CHILDREN and LIFE and HOW WILL WE EVER SURVIVE?? Pretty sure that these episodes of mine track pretty well with a build-up of work stress and hormones, and things always look much sunnier after a couple of days and a good night of sleep. But thanks to all for your words of encouragement and empathy, they are very much appreciated.

I have come to the conclusion, however, that having kids is like birthing pieces of your heart on legs, that just walk around all naked (hopefully figuratively, most of the time) and beating and exposed - way more fragile than the one still in your body. I am constantly on the alert, thinking "how will these two little hearts get hurt?" Not WILL they, but HOW WILL they. Because it seems inevitable, as a parent, that something bad will happen. I can look on the bright side for myself, focus on the positives, laugh off imaginary potential dangers. But it is so much harder to let go of the fear when it comes to my children. It's a constant struggle between wanting them to be happy and wanting to tether them, encased in bubble wrap, to my body.

I see danger everywhere. Two hours of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention training last week? Gah! Torture! Before kids, I probably would have joked about my past irresponsibility with alcohol, or my fortune at having a liver transplant surgeon as a dad. Now, I think about all the drunk drivers out there, and the awful, awful accidents they cause, and I want to make us a family of shut-ins. All I can see are images of their little bodies wrapped around trees, mangled. Three hours of Suicide Prevention training (can you tell I work for the Government?), and all I can think of as I sit through it is my kids, horrified at the thought that one day they might feel so awful that suicide feels like the only solution.

I'm not consumed with worry over my kids, but the thoughts are there, they come to my mind readily. I know intellectually that many of these dangers are still pretty far off. But SCHOOL. Now that is a danger that is here, already. I think I get a little anxious about how Finn is adjusting to school because there is such a high potential for unhappiness at school. For the heart (his, mine) to get bruised, or worse. Bullying starts so young, so, so young.

So I watch, eagle-eyed and, to mix metaphors, ready to get all "Mama Bear" if I need to. But I don't, I don't. Not yet, hopefully not ever.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

(Worry) Warts and All

I haven't posted anything of SUBSTANCE lately. Weekend activities and remodeling and photos aren't exactly deep subjects, I know. But they are EASY. I don't have to think about what to share, or struggle with wording. Some bloggers, they have this wonderful ability to capture the essence of life (the good and the bad) so perfectly with their words - it can be a bit daunting.

But I don't want to just share glossy events and photos that only scratch at the surface here; I want this site to reflect our lives. So fuck the intimidation of "writing" life - here are some of my thoughts on how things are going lately.

1. Finn. I worry about this kid EVERY DAY. I worry he isn't fitting in at school. He comes home with all these stories about how the other kids won't throw him the football when he plays with them, that his "best friend" from his class didn't pick him for something special, that our neighbor won't play with him, that other kids won't play with him... just about every day there is a new frustration for him to share. This extends beyond the social realm, to just about EVERYTHING - every time I ask Finn about how his day went, he has a complaint for me. He didn't get to play on the big playground today. He didn't get a chance to use the computers today. He was sad when M. dropped him off in the morning. He wanted to tie-dye a T-shirt at the after school care program but couldn't because Gah, Mom, YOU DIDN'T SEND IN A SHIRT FOR ME. This kid never has anything positive to say, EVER. And he can't be THAT unhappy - he isn't trying to convince me he needs to stay home from school, he's not acting depressed or really any differently than usual. He is just SUCH a complainer. I worry he is destined to be unhappy, because he WANTS to be unhappy. How do you teach a kid to focus on the good stuff in life, rather than the bad? Is this something he has learned from me?

On top of that, I worry that he isn't paying attention at school. Well, I KNOW he isn't paying attention that well at school, so mostly I worry about whether he ever WILL pay attention, or whether he has a lifetime of bad behavior reports coming his way. According to Finn's teacher he "needs a lot of redirection," and "sometimes Finn just does what Finn wants to do." SHE's not concerned, but I AM. She thinks he is just bored because they spend a lot of time setting the stage and reiterating rules at the beginning of the year, and that it will get better for him as things get more challenging. And he TELLS me that he thinks everything is boring, so maybe there's some truth to that. But I know him - there have always been things that interest him, and he pays attention/does what he's told because he WANTS to. And there are other things that interest him less, or times when he thinks he has a better idea of what to do. And that's when he does whatever he damn well pleases. And I don't think that is going to change (maybe ever? I write despairingly?). There will always be things that he doesn't want to do, or things that he REALLY wants to do even though he SHOULDN'T, and good luck to the grown-up that tries to get him to tow the line. It just doesn't happen. My child appears to be missing that "fear of authority/respect for people in positions of authority" character trait. There are other kids who have never gotten worse than a "green" on the behavior chart, or easily win a blue every day (this Kindergarten follows a blue-green-yellow-red behavior rating system, where blue is akin to "exceeded expectations", green is "good", yellow is "warning", and red is... I don't know what, but something bad). My kid has had a red, two yellows, and just one green this week alone (so far).

He probably will never be the child that gets a "blue" every day. And I think the problem is that I WANT him to be the child that gets a blue every day. I see it as a flaw that he can't. And that bothers me. Who wants to think of their child as flawed? Or unfixable?

Or maybe he doesn't need to be fixed, and this is all "normal." And I just worry too much.

But at least now you know what I'm worrying about.

2. Lucy. I don't have any worries about Lucy. She occasionally throws a fit, but is generally easily distracted from it. Her most annoying traits are: A. a reluctance to let me brush her hair, and B. her insistence that she wear "swirly" dresses and skirts every day (a "swirly" dress will billow out when she spins around). Which eliminates most of her adorable, fashionable wardrobe. She is three, but a fairly mild three.

Though sometimes I worry that she's getting the short end of the stick, because her brother ends up grabbing more of my mental attention (though not physical - I do still spend more time with her, because she still has some "Mommy" preferences).

3. Siblings. Another thing I don't have to worry about. My kids generally get along (with minor squabbles), and genuinely seem to enjoy each other's company. So much so that they have devised a plan to marry each other when they are older. It involves a mythical situation where Lucy will be in a line of girls looking to get married (at the mall, of course), and Finn is there, and secretly they will have arranged that Finn will pick HER for his bride. Because bachelorettes often line up at the mall and wait for potential suitors to propose, right? But SHHH, this is a secret plan, don't tell Finn and Lucy I told you.

We've gently tried explaining that brothers and sisters can't marry each other, but it hasn't gone over terribly well. We'll wait until their a bit older to tell them about the mal effects of inbreeding in genetic terms.

4. Fitness. Blah. This I worry about. I am not happy with either my fitness (as in, it is quite poor these days) or my weight. It is affecting some of my general happiness/positive outlook, and probably making me over-react in other areas of life (see: Finn, above). I'm bored with running, and haven't been doing it, but still eating like I am. It hasn't been good for the waistline. And I hate that it bothers me, but it does. So.

Hmmm. Pretty sure Finn comes by all his complaining honestly.

I'm just going to end it there, so I can spend a few moments focusing my attention on my beleaguered husband, who has to put up with all my worrying, which he does WELL.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Floors Galore

Finally, finally, some official before, during, and after photos of our new hardwood floors - I know you've been just DYING to see them. Blogger is not working right for me tonight, so I'm going to just throw a bunch of photos up (way more than you could possibly want to see) with minimal text, and hope for the best!

Part 1: The Hardwood Floor

Before (these photos do not do justice to the dinginess/spottiness of our cream colored carpet which, thanks to lots of kid snacks and cat puke, was way past its prime):

The carpet was ripped up, along with the dingy old oak flooring that covered the entry way. The installation was a two-day process (two LONG, NOISY days. REALLY NOISY). Here are some photos M. snapped after Day 1, when I was happily sleeping in a hotel room, far from the dust and noise. As you can see, due to various "problems," the workers hadn't made it very far in the installation process (they told us afterward that they had estimated this to be a one day job, as they were cleaning up and leaving at 7 pm of the second day):

Once we had cleared up all the residual saw dust, random smudges of wood putty, and layers of rug dirt that covered everything in sight, though, the expense, hassle, and noise proved to be worth it:

The kids were so excited that they were easily conned into manual labor:

And prior to buying a new area rug to define the "living room" part of the space, we all enjoyed a few rousing rounds of bowling:

Our new area rug arrived today, so now I can show you the official "After" photos (with the caveat that we'd still love to get new curtains, a new dining room table, new kid chairs, and a new coffee table SOME DAY):

Notice that my cat is the queen of photo bombing

Part 2: The Tile

We contemplated extending the hardwood floors into the kitchen, which was blessed with this wonderful linoleum tile:

However, there was some concern that if we put hardwood in the kitchen, it would raise the floor up enough that we wouldn't be able to pull out the dishwasher if we ever needed to. Also, aesthetically, we were a little worried about having so much wood (next to the oaky, grainy cabinets) in such a small space. So instead we had a porcelain tile installed. The hardwood work finished up on a Tuesday, and we readied for the tile install two days later. As with the hardwood install, there were some unexpected surprises (a cabinet that wasn't mounted properly and had to be moved out of the way, uneven floors, etc), so what was supposed to be a two-day job turned into a three day job. BUT, the first two days were a Thursday and a Friday, and the last day was a Tuesday. So we had several days without a proper kitchen, and yet another round of construction dust to clear away when it was all over. We are VERY happy with the results, though - it came out great, and I think we made a good choice with the tile:

Next up (some day) will be a new countertop. I WILL remove all traces of linoleum and formica from this house, this I vow.

So there you have it - a bloody gazillion photos of floors. Come visit us and see them in person!!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fall and Fashion

I'm letting an early Fall bug get ahold of me today. A rain storm just came through, bringing cooler temperatures with it. Chili is cooking in the crockpot, filling the whole house with heavenly smells. The kids and I did a little baking, trying out our new doughnut pan by baking our first batch of doughnuts ever:

We also went on a nature walk/scavenger hunt today, crunching through a few leaves that have already fallen to the ground:

The kids couldn't spot an acorn or a squirrel while we were out (I hadn't realized how few oak trees there are in our neighborhood!), but found everything else, and brought many of the items home, including at least two dead worms. A simple/fun activity to do with the kids - I highly recommend!

And now I'm relaxing on the couch with my first Octoberfest brew of the season, wearing my brand new "jewel colors are trending" wine-colored chinos that I bought yesterday:

I bought a pair in mustard, too, but haven't decided if I'm brave enough to keep them.

Let's talk fashion for a moment, shall we? I'm in the mood, because yesterday I conducted a shopping outing where I tried on at least two thirds of the Kohl's inventory. Minus a lot of the Daisy Fuentes, Lauren Conrad, and J. Lo lines because really, who am I kidding? And also avoiding as much of the Chaps and Dana Buchman clothing as possible, because I'm just not that old yet.

Which in essence means I tried on just about every piece of Sonoma and Apt. 9 brand clothing in the entire store.

In my defense, I took yesterday off, and unlike other recent days off, I actually felt WELL (have been battling consumptive, coughing illness from hell for the last week). So I was kid-free, and had the time.

Anyway, back to the fashion itself, and a few things I noticed along the way. First, there is just NOT enough of a selection of clothing in the Petite section. Not a novel observation, I know - I've made it myself many times in the past. But there were a few things that, after trying on in a "regular" size, I REALLY wanted to find in the Petite section. And couldn't. So frustrating! Short people must unite and demand fairness in clothing, so none of us have to sloppily hem our own pants (or roll them up, as you can see in the photo above) or wear tank tops that show underarm/side boob ever again.

Here is a list of trends that just need to go away:

1. Shirts with banded/elastic bottoms - unless you have very narrow hips, these shirts are NOT flattering
2. Shirts with wide sleeves/sleeves with huge openings/dolman-type sleeves - prone to the whole "exposing the side boob" problem mentioned above, and also do more to make one look like a boxer than to camouflage problematic upper arm areas
3. Anything that ties in the back - shirts or dresses. Seriously, why is this a thing? This should not be a thing unless one is in the under 12 crowd
4. Animal print - this needs to go back in the fashion closet for another 30+ years

I tried finding photos of all these things to show you, but it's impossible to save photos from most clothing websites to a desktop these days (probably because they are all formatted to allow you to zoon in without opening a new window). So you'll have to use your memories and imaginations when picturing these trends. What are some recent clothing trends that you could do without? Or how are you starting to enjoy the fall season?

Next up for us - a trip to the D.C. zoo to check out the new sea lion exhibit. Should be a fun Sunday!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tile is NOT Art

I have a home remodeling post that is WAY over due, so I am forcing myself to post it before I put up an official "Before and After" post of the work we just had done on the floors of our house's lower level. I bring you:

The Redemption of the Powder Room from Hell

Yes, the half bathroom just off our living room was THAT bad. When we moved in, it was clearly the one room of the house that the previous owner had bothered to "put a stamp on." I would have preferred that he left it boring builder grade. His "stamp" involved salmon colored walls, a humongous-for-the-space light fixture, a wall of red and gold small glass tiles framed out by trim (meant to be art?), a border of squares of the same glass tiles alternating with royal green tiles, a 3-D version of chair rail painted deep red, and a mirror framed out by the same chair rail, also pained deep red.

We quickly painted over the salmon walls to a coffee color, and painted the chair rail and mirror trim to bright white. But it. was. not. enough. We lived with it for almost five years, and then made our move. Here is what we started with, in March of this year:

An overview of the teeny space, in all it's glory (along with the child's potty we were too lazy to get rid of despite the fact that Lucy used it all of once)

The overkill light fixture (this space does NOT need 4 light bulbs to make it glow), and my flabby underarm. Enjoy!

The wall of glass tiles

Up close and personal with the "decorative trim" that ran along two of the walls. Note that both the upper and lower wood trim used to be a dark red.

Finn managed to pull the upper layer of "chair rail" (seriously, this stuff was NOT meant to be chair rail, it stuck off of the wall about two inches) months ago, revealing vestiges of the salmon paint that used to be on the wall. Because it goes so well with green, red, and gold, obviously.

Another angle of the vanity, mirror, and light.

Note that I tried my best to work with the "red" overtones in the room (hand towel, kids' stool). Also, I took this photo because we had early hopes of replacing this builder grade, oak vanity with an off-white countertop and dated fixture. However, we have plumbing throughout the house that is no longer actually sold, so we decided not to mess around with pipes. That dream is dead, for now, though we may try our hand at staining the vanity a deep espresso color. Have any of you ever tried this? I found a good tutorial on Pinterest, but don't want to get myself into a "Pinterest Failure" situation.

OK, so it turns out that it is not so easy to get tile off of a wall, without actually ruining the wall. M. was able to get the tile that ran along the wall off while leaving the dry wall in "patchable" condition, but the "wall of tile" had to be cut out. This started M.'s first (but definitely not last) foray into hanging drywall. Made a bit harder because our car was not big enough to bring home a whole sheet, so he actually had to hand several small sections of dryway and do his best to cover the seems. Here are some "during" photos:

M. was able to cover most of this with mud and tape, just had to use a couple of couple of patches for the deeper areas.


Another nice, fun thing we found out was that the existing light fixture was installed directly into the drywall. Meaning, there was no electrical box. Just wires coming out of the wall. I thought this was something peculiar to the half bathroom that was the fault of the prior owner, but it turns out that NONE of the bathroom vanity lights have electrical boxes. We  know this, because we are in the process of replacing the vanity lights in the master bathroom, both of which were ALSO wired without electrical boxes. For the half bath remodel, M. did it the "hard way," and made a bigger hole in the dry wall so he could attach an electical box to a stud. He then had to put up a segment of dry wall, tape it, mud it, sand it, mud it, sand it... you get the picture. What a pain in the ass! And the previous owner SAW that there was no electrical box when he removed the builder grade light fixture, IGNORED this fact, and then installed his own ugly, heavy light fixture. I'm surprised we all never burned up in our beds. Note that for the master bathroom, M. has discovered that there is something called a "remodel box," or something like that, which lets you add an electrical box without screwing it in to the nearest stud. We are trying that now, with hope that it will save a couple of those "mud it, sand it, mud it, sand it" steps.

All in all, this "light" remodel took 4-5 weekends to complete, mainly because we weren't motivated to work on it every day. Once the initial demo was done, and the drywall screwed in, it was relatively easy to do a round of sanding and mudding every night (says the person who did none of it). But since it was M.'s first time around, he did more rounds of mudding than usual - and still didin't get the walls "perfect" (though if you ask me, it is 5 millions times better than what we had before, and thus perfect). I didn't help with much of the process - I lent my arms when it came time to (finally) hang the new light fixture, and I helped paint a little. However, the bathroom was finished up just before Lucy's birthday party, and I had my hands full baking a cake. My role came in when it was time to pick the wall paint, and decorate. I chose (as I mentioned previously) a "trendy-but-hopefully-timeless?" color scheme of grey and yellow, and went from there. I put off writing this post because of my inability to find a picture to put up over the toilet. We managed to stumble on the perfect thing at Home Goods just a few weeks ago, and now I can finally post "After" photos in comfort:

A peek in from the hallway. I don't know why the outer walls look purple, they are not purple.

Same vanity, new handtowel. And hand soap. That shit's important, yo!

New, two-light vanity fixture and smaller mirror.

The "wall of tile" is gone! And has been replaced by wee little yellow trinkets and postcards from Maine (because we want to live! in! Maine! one day!)

I decided I HAD to have cactuses for this space. Turns out cactuses do best in sunny areas. Oh well. This room has no windows. So instead, this one cactus has had to survive by growing itself AS TALL AS POSSIBLE. It used to be on the lower shelf, but I was afraid it would run out of room, so I had to move it to the upper shelf. Also pictured: bird candle (I am solidly on the bird trend bandwagon), tile from Kuwait, random glass bottle with cork stopper).
The "decorative shelves" and accompanying picture-that-was-so-hard-to-find:
Yellow! And a bird sketch!! It was like a divine intervention.
And there you have it - the end of the "Powder Room from Hell."