Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bathroom Facelift: Stuff!

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This is my new best friend. I love it. I want to sleep with it at night. Well, almost. It is singlehandedly transforming my wall from an ant hotel into a smooth, paintable, mural-receiving surface. Yay spackle!

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Look at all the other cool junk I got! See the little orange tags on the towel rods? Those are like a straight-A report card. Those mean I got quality (read: expensive) towel rods for CHEAP!!! Woo Hoo!

I also got a neat-o little paint roller, a roll of masking tape, some colors of sample paint to use for my mural, and a can of sky-blue paint. I just randomly chose a pretty color of blue. Do you think that will work?

Bathroom Facelift: Ideas

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I think on one wall I want to paint a mural. Some sort of subtle, lonely beach scene, perhaps with some dunes and a few shells, blending upward into a blue wall. Lucky for me lots of other people have done the same thing and Google Image Search finds their pictures for me to use as inspiration.

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If I can paint shells half as cute as these we'll have it going on!

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Someone even did it in their bathroom. Who did this and can I just have your bathroom? Save me the trouble?

Nah. I like the project as much as the end result. It keeps me sane to have something to do.

Next up: Shopping for paint and fixtures!

Bathroom Facelift: THE HOLE

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To keep the ants out, Hubby covered the hole with PACKING TAPE. And I have had to sit on the loo for months looking at PACKING TAPE on my wall. Poor me.

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Guess what happened when I took the packing tape off? Lots of the wall came too! It's like a bonus sale. Get some tape and get lots of the wall for free.

First thing I did was treat it with mildew-killer and let it dry thoroughly. That took a while!

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Now the spackle is going in, one layer at a time. Did you know that lightweight spackle feels JUST like cake icing? It's weird stuff and I really, really wanted to taste it. Or put it into an icing tube and make roses.

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This hole is directly opposite the toilet, right at eye level. It's been staring me in the face so long it's almost become a friend. I thought about naming it. It's kind of cute, really.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bathroom Facelift: Before

The time has finally come for me to work on our bathroom. Since we moved in here, I have endured our 1980's fixtures, the many holes in the lath-and-plaster walls where the ants travel freely in and out and the inconvenient towel hooks.

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The "bones" of the room are fine. Although it's small, it's quite functional. The fixtures have been updated sometime not too long ago, but the rest of the "cosmetics" need some help.



I set myself a budget of $150 for new paint, new towel rods, spackle and two new light fixtures. We'll see if I can keep to it!

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For fun, I'll blog the remodel project in small "up to the moment" posts as I get things done, as I work through ideas and as the inevitable setbacks loom.

For now my first priority is fixing the holes! Look for my next posts on design ideas and gathering supplies.

Hubby Snowboarding

My hard-working hubby got to take a break and go snowboarding with his Dad, brothers and sisters. It's been a while since he got to do anything so recreational, so I was delighted he had a chance to go. He came home with a sore behind but otherwise none the worse for wear.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Three Months Old!

Baby Bear with Pooh

Two Months:



One Month:

Monday, December 28, 2009

And the winner is...

What do you suppose Curly's favorite Christmas present is? Do you think it's a makeup kit or a barn for her Breyer horses like her cousins received? How about a princess dress and a crown? Perhaps a magic wand? I'll bet it's a baby doll. After all, she is a five-year-old girl with a new baby brother.

Give up yet?

Here's the present that has gotten as much playtime as every other present combined, except maybe watching the movie Up. It has the bonus of being able to be used by multiple kids at the same time, not something that can be said for most toys.

Hot Wheels race track

Guess whose cars they are using to race on the new track? (Hint: Papa dug them out of the basement storage and most of them have 1977-1984 years stamped on the bottom.)

She's her mother's daughter.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

In my ideal world I would have darling Christmas pictures of all my kids in coordinated outfits, all smiling joyfully in front of a gift-laden Christmas Tree. I would be peacefully sipping Christmas cider right now, all the chores done and everything ready, anticipating the big night tonight.

Reality, however, took a different road this year. For the past ten days I have been woefully behind and overwhelmed. Between Baby Bear's normal night-time shenanigans (he doesn't settle down to sleep until 12:30 or 1:00) and Little Mister's battle with plugged plumbing, I have not gotten enough sleep for two nights, let alone ten. The dark snowy roads trapped me in my house preventing extra shopping and the house magically barfed an extra five loads of laundry into my utility room from who knows where. The gifts I have managed to procure sit in plastic bags all over my floor, as yet unwrapped. The packing for five people to go to Grandma's house has not even begun. The piece we're playing for the Christmas Ever service which should have been arranged and rehearsed weeks ago, just got written this morning.

So although it sounds trite and cliché, especially to me who has endured so many Christmas sermons over the years, this year instead of perfectly wrapped presents with shiny bows, I choose instead to think about the most important Gift, Jesus, who was given to the world two thousand years ago. Whether He came on December 25th (or the 8th of Tevet) doesn't matter. He came. He came from Paradise to our crippled old earth to bring a message of peace. Not a message of political peace but a message of inner peace, of reconciliation with our creator that we haven't managed to bring about on our own no matter how hard we try to live perfect, tinsel-wrapped lives.

As much as I would like to have my life all together, to have shiny perfect kids and a shiny perfect house and a shiny perfect life, I'm actually grateful for the reminder that Jesus came for those of us who will stoop to admit we're not perfect. He came for the ones who don't have it all together, for the ones who have messed up, for the ones who are tired and hurting and whose lives don't make sense. He came for me, to bring to me the thing I desire the most but can never obtain on my own: inner peace. Only in Him can that moment come when I can let all of the self-loathing and stress and inner turmoil go, washed away in His forgiving love. It's when I can finally receive God's love, not by being good enough; just the opposite. It's when I am the least worthy and finally let go to receive the gift of Jesus' forgiveness that all of the imperfections standing between me and a holy God get washed away and I can stand with relief, finally able to be Loved.

This year there are no color-coordinated pictures. No easy, stress-free holiday and no Christmas baking. But perhaps more than any other Christmas, there is Joy, so deep and strong it brings me to tears. For I am loved. I am blessed with three beautiful children, a husband who cares about me and most of all, I am loved by a Savior who chose to come to earth as a tiny, helpless baby, who grew into a man and died a painful death in order to shed gallons of His own precious blood as payment for every sin I have ever committed. And He would have done it if I was the only person in the entire world in all of history. I feel like the shiniest person in the world this Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Children Are Bored

series of pictures of my kids playing with playdough

My children would really prefer that I play with them. Poor, sorrowful, neglected little beings, with no creative direction in life, they constantly besiege me with requests to entertain them.

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But I am doing more exciting things like cleaning the bathroom. And washing 467 loads of laundry, including the bed linens that the cats messed on yesterday. And finishing a bunch of computer work. And feeding the baby. And doing the dishes. And dreaming of a spa day where someone anoints my back with hot stones and lotions while soothing scented candles burn and CDs of mountain streams play in the background and where no one asks anything of me for approximately 12 hours.

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Left to their own devices my pitiful offspring have to come up with their own creative diversions, make their own frogs from purple Play Dough and feed them imaginary food all on their own.

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I recall being so neglected as a child, without even the benefit of a mind-sucking TV for entertainment. For some reason to this day I love creative hobbies, imaginative stories and even hard work. When did all of that childhood lonely misery transform itself into such positive character traits? Am I so sadistic that I would not even go back and trade it in for a more entertaining childhood? Have I come so far as to see that being forced upon my own resources for amusement might actually have been healthy for me?

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My children, convinced that such a thing could never happen in their own lives, instead try to persuade me how deprived they are. They attempt to make me feel guilty for abandoning them to such a state of boredom that they actually have to think of something to do on their own.

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Poor things.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Baby Jesus

It has always been a sort of dream of mine to have one of my babies play Baby Jesus at Christmastime. Since I was a child, I felt that it seemed somewhat like an honor or a blessing for a little one to get to represent the Perfect Baby even for a few minutes.

With the others, there was never an opportunity, but this year my sister's pastor asked us if we would play the Holy Family in their Christmas musical. Baby Bear would get to be Baby Jesus and I would sing Mary's solo in the cantata.

Although nervous to sing, I agreed to do it because of the delight in having beautiful little Baby Bear play Baby Jesus. I spent a couple of weeks carefully memorizing the (easy) solo and this morning came the big day.

In a tiny church filled with mostly elderly people, I stood hooded in Mary's blue cowl and held my precious baby boy, singing to him the miracle story. Hubby stood next to me "being Josephy" as he put it, tickling the baby's toes. Although I don't have the greatest singing voice, I managed to stay on pitch for the twenty bars or so that was my part in the song. To me the experience was priceless, a dream come true and the best part, aside from my own personal joy, was to look out and see the audience dabbing their eyes as they watched Mary sing to her baby boy.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Braille Scrabble

travel scrabble board with braille added

I made this years ago using a travel scrabble board where the letters conveniently snap into the board, making it impossible to bump them out of place while reading the braille, which I carefully drew on the tiles using fabric paint. Last night, with friends to play with and my tired eyes on strike from having no sleep, we used the braille board instead of the regular one and had a great time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Baby Crack

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A feature of Baby Bear's bouncy chair is a nauseatingly stimulating light-and-music bar that arches over him, dangling toys enticingly in front of his tiny fists. I call the bar "baby crack" because when I turn it on, he sits there mesmerized as it plays and blinks, until it shuts itself off.

Yesterday he found something else that was cool about the toy bar. If he reaches out, he can make the dangling toys swing and rattle. I don't remember my other two doing this at eleven weeks; I think they were more like 3.5 months. I continue to be impressed by Baby Bear's physical ability.

Even as I type this, the older kids sit at the table eating lunch and Baby Bear is lounging in the bouncy chair, batting his toys and laughing his head off at them. I think my day is improving, just hearing his laughter.

Dilemma

One of my biggest parenting dilemmas is how and when to ask for help. It's not that I desire to independently soldier through on my own; it's just that in the past I apparently ask at either a bad time or for something not deemed worthy of needing assistance, whereas the things that people seem glad to help out with don't really affect me so greatly. So when I do ask, I get an annoyed response that the friend or family member is busy or tireder or worse off than myself. So I shrink back into my own little safe, non-rejectable world and the next time I really wish I had someone I could call for support, I don't even try.

Today, for instance, Hubby and I were up the entire night with Little Mister who had an unexpected case of plugged plumbing. He moaned and screamed and cried all night, holding in what he knew would be painful to get out, while Hubby and I tried everything we could think of, from a warm bath to back rubs to calling the doctor, to storming the grocery store the minute it opened at 5am for suppositories and pediatric enemas.

This morning, then, as Little Mister and Baby Bear nap, I wanted to sleep too, but Curly, ever my demanding child, is miserable at being left alone and unattended. More than a worn-out Little Mister or a two-month-old Baby Bear, she is my dilemma.

Just to get a nap, I am sorely tempted to call one of our friends and plead with them to take her for a few hours. But I can't bring myself to do it since taking my perfectly healthy five-year-old who is capable of being quiet for a few hours wouldn't seem like much of a priority. Yet to me it is. Because as hard as she tries to be good, she has too much Taz in her genetic makeup. She bangs cupboard doors looking for markers. She stubs her toe and shrieks. She wanders around, bored and suffering. And I cannot nap.

How do I ask for help? Maybe she should suffer with the rest of us: Little Mister, who finally passed his giant BM at 8 this morning and fell asleep without even eating breakfast; Hubby who got maybe half an hour of sleep yet still insisted on going to work because things are so behind and stressful there that a missed day might spell disaster; me, who could fall asleep on a concrete floor right now, but not when my little girl is crying. A family together suffers together and her cross to bear is silence and solitude. If she would only bear it quietly!

So I don't call anyone. I can't bring myself to do it, to bother friends who are busy homeschooling, who have three and four children of their own who may or may not have slept last night. I almost never ask for help. I don't know how.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Shopping, Monty Python Style

It occurred to me this morning that my procrastinating on Christmas shopping was going to get me into trouble. I'd been waiting for Hubby's help, or at least his babysitting skills, but he was going to be booked solid for the next five days, almost until Christmas Eve. Between his full-time job, our ailing pellet stove, (with which he has a date on Saturday to either fix it or demolish it) and the various musical events, he won't be around to help shop at all.

My heart sank as I realized I was going to have to face the crowds of strangers alone with three young children and make all the gift-giving decisions into the bargain. I'd been unwilling to face these facts until today; we just got done with the craziness of birthdays and I simply wasn't ready to tackle Christmas.

Today, though, I decided it was time to face the inevitable. I just needed to "get tough or die" as my mom so eloquently puts it. Time to just git 'er done and if I had to take the kids, then so be it. At least I could get a Starbucks along the way.

So after lunch we began the hunt for socks and coats and boots. I changed two diapers and fed the baby. I felt tired before we even got out the door, but I doggedly pushed on. We loaded and buckled and drove to the mall where mercifully we found one of the few remaining parking spaces available. Heading in, we looked for all the world like a circus train with kids here and there, a stroller/carseat combo, coats piled, boots clomping, purse and diaper bag dangling haphazardly or stuffed in corners, with me frantically digging through my purse to find the correct glasses so I could read the signs and price tags.

It was in the first store that Baby Bear began to fuss. Although he was fed, changed, burped and snuggly warm, he still began to wriggle and fuss, drawing dirty looks from passers-by who wondered why I was not picking up my poor, hungry, crying baby. So I picked him up. I knew I would not be able to carry him for an hour and a half, along with pushing the stroller full of coats and packages. My twisty spine would protest and I'd end up in bed with a heating pad for the rest of the day. So I ducked into the bathroom and put him on my back in the African Baby Cloth sling. With him on my back rather than my front, I can carry him with relatively little pain, but the African sling (What is it? picture of us here) is so unorthodox in the States, I drew stares, whispers, and dirty looks from the passers-by anyway. Baby Bear, unaware of the havoc he was causing, promptly went to sleep. He LOVES the African sling.

Curly, meanwhile, took the task of shopping and choosing gifts extremely seriously. She walked up and down the aisles ahead of me, suggesting things like a set of Hello Kitty dishes for Hubby's brother, who is graduating from high school this year. Yeah, Curly, Uncle E can use those dishes in the school cafeteria before football practice.

Wandering after us, Little Mister mostly wanted to hold my hand or told me his feet were tired. If he got more than two feet behind us, he would freak out and yell at the top of his voice, "Mommy, wait for me! Mommy! Wait! For! Me!" Since everyone was busy staring at us anyway (yes, I have a baby in a sling on my back, people. Get over it), I figured the fact that my son was being repeatedly abandoned was just one more point for the traveling circus. We saw some friends from church and he was absolutely enchanted with the idea that friends would be here, in a store at the mall of all unlikely places. He wanted to play hide-and-seek among the glassware and cooking utensils, an activity which mean ol' Mommy promptly put to a stop.

At one point, Curly needed to use the restroom. Because she is deathly afraid of the public toilets that auto-flush, I had to go with her (meaning Baby Bear, Little Mister and my purse and other junk had to go with her) to make sure the toilet was not going to flush unexpectedly and suck her down the drain. I assured her that it wouldn't and she went, much to my relief.

Gradually we collected more and more bags of goodies and the kids got tireder and more whiny. It was long past nap-time. At last, we had found something for everyone on the list and headed for the van, at which point Baby Bear awoke and declared his hunger to the world. I was a happy and exhausted mama when we finally herded everyone inside the houses and nap-time peacefulness descended. I have never understood the joy some women find in shopping, but I did enjoy a feeling of accomplishment somewhat akin to discovering that I am actually Superwoman and didn't know it. Only Superwoman, I am sure, never feels quite this tired.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ancient Eyes

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Some babies just have that "look" in their eyes, as if they knew the wisdom of all the ages. Someone commented to me the other day that Baby Bear has it, the look of an old soul, the look of ancient wisdom in his eyes.

Winter Concert

Perpetual Motion

Curly is in the front row, second from the left (often behind the teacher). Hubby is the smokin' hot tux-wearing violin guru on the far left facing the kids. He helped lead the harmony group. Woo hoo! Tear it up, Hubby!



Twinkle/May Song Duet

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Baby's First Christmas

Both of the grandmas gave Baby Bear ornaments for his first Christmas. They are both so lovely and unique and special. I felt really blessed.

baby bear sleeping on a moon

Hubby's mom gave him a little brown baby bear with his name when she visited last Saturday. (I erased the last name on the photo using PhotoShop, just because I don't want last names on my blog. I rarely put first names on here just for privacy reasons.) I love the little sleeping baby bear!

little black baby resting in a peapod

This morning my mom came in shaking the snow off her boots and bearing her annual ornaments that she picks out specially for each person. Since I was born, she has made a ritual of giving a dated ornament to her children and grandchildren.

Baby Bear's first one seemed especially appropriate. She told me that when she picked it out, the sales clerk pointed out that she had a BLACK baby. Mom smiled sweetly at her and said, "Yep, our baby is black!" He even has a green blanket. Perfect.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Clutter

Sitting on my couch feeding the baby, I gazed at the shelves that take up the better part of the biggest living room wall. Covered with an assortment of toys, homeschool notebooks, instruments, bags, and books, they made the entire living room feel even smaller and more cluttered than the 14'x16' it actually is.

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I began imagining the shelves enclosed by cupboard doors, shutting the clutter behind cute wooden panels, swinging on ornate wrought-iron hinges that match the whimsical craftsman style of our home.

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Dreaming and browsing the internet, I found the cutest latches at an Antique Hardware site and I fondly pictured myself putting our homeschool books away and shutting the cupboard doors, leaving our living room pristine and peaceful.

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I researched materials and paint, took measurements and even went to the hardware store to look at prices. That's when reality took a swing at me, connected and left me with a black eye. The cupboard doors would cost almost $400 even if I built them. The wood, the paint, the whimsical hinges and latches... it all added up. In an old house like this there are a million improvements I could make and if I am going to spend $400 on it, there are a hundred things that come before cupboard doors, such as the back door that doesn't keep out the weather.

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After talking extensively with hubby and crying on his shoulder, I reluctantly gave up the cupboard doors and instead took the practical route of cleaning off the shelves and finding new places to stick all the clutter. I put the homeschool supplies in a kitchen cupboard and organized other things in baskets. I put away the books downstairs and fished out some antique, decorative books for the living room.

Then I made a solemn vow to myself not to set things on the clean shelves, which I promptly broke when Hubby's mom gave the kids a present and the box is still there, on the living room shelf.

I'd sure like to build cupboard doors.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Front Door

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The other day, Hubby decided that the front door was dragging too much across the floor and that he ought to fix it.

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He pulled it down off the hinges and set to work.

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Baby Bear and I, sitting on the couch began slowly to turn into popsicles, so I hung a quilt over the door. It's odd, really, how little is actually between us and the great outdoors: a 1" thick slab of wood with a window in it. And when it wasn't there, only a blanket hung between the 23 degree afternoon and ourselves. I felt a bit like Laura in Little House on the Prairie when Pa hung a quilt over the door to keep the wolves out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Evening Practices

family violin practice

Nightly, Hubby brings out the little violin to work with Curly on her songs. Since her concert is next week they have been going at it a little extra intensely to get ready for the big night.

hubby playing violin with baby on his back

Last night I was particularly impressed at his ability to multitask. He wore the baby in a sling on his back while he played the harmony part to Curly's tune. Baby Bear LOVES the sling and goes immediately to sleep, in spite of the music and talking.

curly with her tiny violin

Curly, who was practicing the bow rhythm for Perpetual Motion on an open string, cracked me up by sitting half on, half off her chair. Usually we have her stand but once in a while as a treat she gets to sit up straight on a chair. In this case she combined the two.

Little Mister

Little Mister, who was supposed to be quietly putting together a puzzle, was instead conducting and giggling. Yeah, he's not distracting at all.

Somehow they got through the songs. Curly has made good progress this semester. I wouldn't call it amazing; she has worked hard for what she has gained. But as far as I can tell, she is pleased with her work. I think Hubby has done a wonderful job with her the past six months.