Monday, January 31, 2011

Color Wheels

I've carried this tiny cut-out from a magazine with me for about five years.

I love everything about this room: the colors, the furniture arrangement, the cozy and bright feel. Most of our furniture and artwork mirrors this look with warm wood tones and mostly neutral furniture with colorful accents. So if I'm such a fan of warm colors, why am I trying to find the perfect shade of grey?

Beats me. I narrowed the gray paint search down to two colors and painted squares all throughout the house. I'm so glad I did because, as it turns out, I dislike both colors. They're too pale and chilly, not at all what we're looking for.

Back to the drawing board. Er, paint department at Lowe's.

Cheap Thrills

Don't you love it when you come across something cheap AND cheerful? I do! I'm sharing the cheap love...
Orchid in purple pot from Lowe's for $11. Now let's just see if I can keep it alive...
Bangles from World Market for $8. Kind of tacky, but in a fun way. William LOVES it when I wear these.
Granny afghan. It's so colorful; this side is more muted but the other side has turquoise and pink and purple. FREE! Gift from Don's mom.
Cloth diapers. They're not right for everyone, but we love them. We've saved a boat-load of money so far on diapers and William is only 7 months old.  I know I'm crazy, but I love this big basket overflowing with glowing white clean diapers (the dirty stinky ones, I am not such a fan of).

Stacking mugs from World Market for $9.99. We have a smallish kitchen and these save space and are so cheerful.

Friday, January 28, 2011

In Case Zombies Happen

In an effort to save money AND be more self-sufficient (you know, in case zombies happen), I baked Peter Reinhart's recipe for whole-grain bread. This wasn't an easy recipe. This sucker required 45 minutes of kneading and you have to get the dough pliable enough to stretch out and let the light shine through, which helps ensure it won't be a super dense loaf. But I did it. I was almost as proud of this bread as I was of William the second day he was born (the first day his head was still VERY cone-like).

Three bowls to start the dough.  
I had a helper as I kneaded. I'll give you a hint: he wears footed pajamas.

Window pane test. It passed with a B.

First rise.

Second rise.

Took a play break in the front yard. I love this tree. It's right over our house.

I left William alone while I took the bread out of the oven and look what happened! He tipped over his play mat.

I honestly don't even know how he did this, but I was impressed.

Pretty good, but not perfect. It'll be better next time around.

So satisfying: toasted homemade whole wheat bread with nut butter and sliced blackberries.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Babies Don't Keep

Won't he be this little forever?

Will there really be a day when he is a sulking teenager? A young man leaving for a college? A daddy?

Today it hit me like a ton of bricks. It literally almost knocked me over. I was kneading bread in the kitchen (more on that later) and William was playing in his bumbo at my feet. I left the kitchen for a second to grab something, and when I walked back in, he just looked so small. Such a tiny little boy playing on the floor in the kitchen.

Some day I will not be able to kiss that baby face. Maybe I'm just crazy to think of something like that. He will be my big boy, our son. I wonder if mothers keep an image of their children as babies, printed in their hearts? You know, just for quick reference. I wonder if they can recall with accuracy the details of the smiles and the curls and toothless grins from the first six months.

So, anyway, I made bread and then I left my kitchen like this. And I played with William and held him as much as he would let me, which wasn't much. 

Our life isn't perfect. It's so very far from perfect, but I am so grateful to have this time with my child. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Story in Pictures: Never Wake a Sleeping Baby

Especially with your camera clicking two inches from his face. I couldn't help myself; he just looked so angelic curled up next to the big pile of clean diapers to fold. Luckily he was distracted from crying by the sound of Don coming home from work. I'm so happy I caught his expressions on camera. William is so thrilled when Don walks through the door.

Napping sweetly.

More close-ups of these growing feet. I wish I could capture these baby feet forever.



Too close!

A paci helps.

Trying to touch the clicky thing.

He heard Don walk in the front door, but couldn't see him yet.

Watching Daddy walk into the room.

Listening to Don tell us about his day.

Watching as Don backed up and got a running start...

Who was crying 5 minutes ago? Not me. I love these boys so much. Even when they cry after a nap and forget to take out the trash.

Monday, January 24, 2011

You're Killing Me, Buster

Well, maybe Buster isn't killing me (you have seen Arrested Development, right?), but the green paint in our living room is. And the yellow paint in our dining room. And the khaki paint in William's nursery.  We've had a list of minor home improvement projects, like painting, to work on for over a year, and nothing was getting done. This weekend, we decided we have to complete all of these little projects soon, or our house will look the same in 5 years.

We're not afraid of color. Or painting. This will be our third time to paint the living room, and we've lived here a little over a year. The problem is that I choose paint colors that are too saturated (like the green), so we're repainting the whole house in calmer, more subdued colors.

See those blurry little books in the Maurice Sendak mini-library? Those fresh colors would be perfect on the walls in William's room. So we're repainting his nursery a very light and airy blue. Nothing too saturated or bold. It's a room for sleeping and rocking.

Our house is really a work in progress right now. I'm doing a photo collage around the entry to the kitchen, the lone cream-colored wall in that part of the house. It will be a different color pretty soon. And all those frames will be painted black. And the photos will be changed, too. Poor Don. You can see his reflection in the kitchen windows. He thought he was hiding from my camera! I'm trying to convince him to build a banquette underneath those windows and I'll sew a ton of cheerful cushy pillows for it. I can so see William sitting in his pj's on a Saturday morning on that non-existent banquette, while Don makes pancakes. And I'll be lounging in bed while someone fans me with a feather and feeds me chocolate covered espresso beans from a silver spoon. A girl can dream.

I hope this little guy likes his new nursery. We just have to choose the colors...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hey You!

If your friend did something really tacky (like write the amount she donated to a charity in a Christmas newsletter that she mailed to everyone...not joking...this really happened), would you tell her?  Or would you just assume it was a one-time poor decision and say nothing?

Or would you do what I did? I read the letter, dropped my jaw, and called my sister to discuss. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Other Children

A few months before I met Don, when I was 22, I applied for a job as a social worker in London. We'd been dating for about six months when I got my visa and moved there. My plan was to live in London for a few years before joining the Peace Corps. Funny how plans change.

I was hired to work at a social work agency in London as a child protection social worker, but on my first day of work, I was told that I was being placed in an office in the most impoverished borough in the United Kingdom. It was in Birmingham, three hours' drive north of London. Ha. I still remember the shock I felt when they told me how far away it was. I asked if the train would be the fastest way for me to get there. The agency supervisor laughed. "No," she said. "There aren't trains to Birmingham. You'll need to move there." This was a Friday and my first day at the new agency was Monday. I don't know how it all worked out, but I found an apartment to rent and managed to buy bed sheets and soap by Sunday afternoon, when everything closed in Birmingham. That was it, though. I remember that I literally didn't have anything to eat because all of the shops and local restaurants were closed and I was STARVING on my first day of work.

I try not to think too much about my time in Birmingham. Working there was the hardest thing I've ever done. I lasted exactly six months, and I didn't renew my work visa. I didn't join the Peace Corps. Working in Birmingham opened my eyes and let me know that giving absolutely all of my personal strength and love and heart and mind for a job was not for me. I had 16 children in my caseload. The oldest was a teen boy who was in remand for sexually assaulting another child, and the youngest was an unborn baby whose mother was a drug addict and in a violent relationship. Isn't it interesting that in England, you can be a social worker to an unborn child? I couldn't ever separate myself from my kids. I tried and tried, and nothing worked. I always felt directly responsible for each child, which I wasn't. But I felt that way. I was still a child myself in many ways, but most of my kids clung to me as though I was their mother.

My youngest child was born a few weeks before I was scheduled to return to the US. I spent hours holding him and rocking him in the hospital, holding him tighter as the drugs left his system. The words baby and withdrawal should never be in the same sentence. I cringe even as I remember. 

When we lost most of our photos this week, all but four pictures of me in the UK were lost. It's just as well. One that remains is a picture of me at my desk, smiling for people back home.

See the glass of purple flowers in the window behind me? I tried so hard to surround myself with comfort and to remember that there was happiness to be had, even in a dark place. 

If I am completely honest, I will admit that every once in a while, when the doorbell rings, I half expect to answer it and see one of my teenagers standing there, holding a suitcase. I know it won't happen. How would they find me? I don't even have the same name. Besides, there is a whole ocean between us.

A friend of mine is adopting two children and she sent out a Christmas card that asked what I was doing to help orphaned children. I couldn't find the words. I conjured up those 16 faces.

Dear Lord, please protect each of those 16 children. You know them all by name. Please draw them near to you, and wrap your cloak around them, and shroud them in comfort and peace. Please stretch my heart and make it grow. Please let there be enough room for William and my future children and these other children. Please don't let me forget them, even if there are no pictures to remind me. Amen.

The Other Woman

I think about her a lot. Some times, it's almost like she's here with me. Here. In this very kitchen where I spend so much of my day. She gives me the heebie jeebies. Or is the heevie jeebies?

No, Don didn't have an affair (though when I was traveling Monday through Friday, he did refer to me as his weekend wife). I'm talking about the woman who owned this home before we did. I can feel her presence so often because the kitchen in this house was built especially for her by her husband, a carpenter.  Apparently, she led a cooking class from this house and her husband built the kitchen with special nooks and crannies and secret cupboards (yes, really) just for her.

At first, I loved all of the details in the kitchen. Concealed storage over the fridge to hide our food saver and extra platters? Holla! Pull out drawers in every cabinet? I felt like a Food Network star when we first moved in. But now?

Now it's just too much. Case in point: the dang pantry.

What happened here? I cannot keep this thing organized, and I have tried every possible container and labeling system in my repertoire of knowledge as a type A minus woman (A minus because I am OCD in some ways and completely disorganized in others). This morning as I rocked William before his nap, I realized it's because of HER.

Our food containers do not fit on these rounded shelves. I'm sure she had specialty baskets with rounded corners labelled "oats" and "dried beans" that fit snugly on the shelves, but those didn't come with the house. It just occurred to me that I need to tear out this weird shelving system and clean this pantry up. Once and for all.

See that gap in the center of the shelves? Her husband built that so that she would have a place to keep the vacuum. Well, we don't keep the vacuum in the pantry, thankyouverymuch. We keep it in the last room it was used in, so there!

Don, if you're reading this at work, I need you to help me tear out this shelving system. And build new shelves. Kiss kiss!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Where the Wild Things Are

I initially went outside to rake the leaves, but then I stopped to take pictures of this wild creature. He was fascinated by the crinkly leaves.

I so wish I had Photoshop so that I could edit out the lawn chairs and potted plants in the background. Or maybe I should just get to work cleaning up our backyard.

That's Not How Mommy Doos It

When my little sister was about three years old, our mom had a cold. My little sister followed our dad around the house as he cleaned up and took care of us kids, saying, "That's not how mommy doos it," every few steps.  

Now that I am a sick mama, you would think I would be able to keep everything running on my own. You would think.

My mom offered to come help with William and the laundry while I was sick this week. Yes, please.

She fed my family nutritious food and made delicious hot comfort tea and made bright purple healthy smoothies for me. She took me to Borders and bought me a book. Most importantly, she did not judge me this morning when she saw me feed my son in the only way he will currently accept food: reclining on a boppy on the floor, half-asleep, while he lazily sucks pureed banana off of my finger, which he is so obviously confusing for a nipple. 

Thank you, Mom, for taking care of this grown daughter of yours. I hope I am half as awesome as you are when William is grown.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Iphoto is still broken. No pictures today, just some words.

Scratchy throats and Vicks rubbed on little feet.
Lots of patty-cake and stacking blocks. 
Tortilla soup and hot peppermint tea.
A short walk to the park, swinging in the sun, tiny hands trying to catch a sunbeam.

And thoughts of a second baby sprinkled throughout the day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lost and Found

I lost something. Some things. I was importing photos from our camera and iphoto just shut down. Now all of our photos and videos are lost. We can't find them. Pictures of William's birth, the actual video of him being born (not that anybody but me wants to see that), my pregnancy, our house when we first moved in, me living in England, all of it lost. Hopefully only temporarily. Geniuses at the apple store, I am counting on you to fix this.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Come to Mama!

As soon as William naps, I run around prioritizing all of the things I need to do, which is about 80 things. And then I collapse on the bed, exhausted just from listing everything out. And then I decide to take self-portraits using the funhouse effects in iphoto. Excellent use of time.

Is that creepy or what? It kind of looks like me, but in a deformed way. I wonder what William would do if I showed him this picture. I better not, though. He has enough trouble staying asleep as it is.