Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Freeze frame: Fall 2013

So these two. They are changing so quickly that I feel like each week gives me new kids to parent. This post has been a long time in the making (I started it in August!) so it covers a lot of ground.

The Numa

The Numa is getting so tall and so inquisitive. He has been going through a rough patch lately, with lots of limit testing and tantrums, but continues to really be a sweet guy. His school uses an emergent curriculum model, which is one where the day to day learning is based on and around interests of the students and teachers, and right now they are focused on rocket ships and all that they entail. The rocket ship interest started with the Numa and spread to his classmates and just this week, the mister spent a morning wiring lights and fans into the rocket that the kids built. It is totally cool and the Numa has been loving going to school. Except in the mornings when he will excitedly ask "is it home time today?" and is then disappointed to find out that no, it is school time. His whining lasts until we arrive and then at the end of the day he cries as we leave, because "I want to stay here!" Being a toddler seems an awful lot like being a hormonal pregnant woman.

In October, the Numa's class went on their very first field trip to a local apple orchard. He got to ride a real school bus, which he still talks about every time we see one. His current interests include cars, school buses, any type of emergency vehicle, dinosaurs and of course, rocket ships. M and I have both noticed a pronounced increase in his imaginative play and a large part of that is transforming anything and everything into a rocket ship and having it blast off. He somehow talked me into the light-up shoes that I swore I would never buy and he loves them so much that he wears them every day. He has grown out of all of his 4T clothes and most of the size 4 pants in his drawer are too short but the size 5 stuff is too big in the waist for my lanky guy. He got all new underwear when he started potty training and now has a full set of monster-themed days-of-the-week underpants, including Sunday. He really likes for the day on the underwear to correspond to the actual day of the week, so there have been a fair number of tantrums when the required day is still in the wash. On a recent Thursday he had been forced by his cruel mother to wear Friday underwear and in an effort to cheer himself up, he decided that it WAS Friday. When one of his teachers tried to explain that no, it was Thursday, he actually yanked down his pants, pointed at his butt and declared "No, it's FRIDAY." Point Numa.

He says the funniest things these days. The Numa has always been a great night sleeper and is fairly easy to get into bed in the evenings, usually just requiring one quick return after we say goodnight for the first time. Now that he is fully potty trained (day and night!!!) we are very keen to respect his requests for one last bathroom visit, but sometimes he just needs another hug. Almost every night, he summons us, or more specifically me, with a "mommy I neeeeeeed something." And he actually says "something." One of us usually heads upstairs to check in and attends to his needs (or not - requests for candy at 8pm are generally denied) and as we leave his room he has this funny little habit of saying "before you go..." and then passing on a little pearl of wisdom. This can be anything from "don't forget to take turns" to "we shouldn't hit" but it is occasionally really specific. To wit:

Numa: Mommy, before you go, if you push Daddy down the stairs you will have to come and get me right away, so I can call the policeman and they will come and tell you 'We Don't Push' and then you will be in trouble.

Me: Buddy, I really don't think I'm going to push Daddy down the stairs...

Numa: MOMMY. You need to come get me right away. Okay? Night night.

Thanks for the tip, Nums.

HH, who will henceforth be known as MS but should really be called DQ

It has become painfully clear that while Her Highness is a somewhat fitting moniker for my youngest offspring, a far more appropriate one would be Drama Queen. As a mom of two, I am no stranger to tantrums but fits like this child throws are heretofore unseen in our household. When she is really pissed, her crying moves to an almost inhuman place, she throws herself repeatedly, either out of your arms or onto the floor (or her bed, or your bed, or the ground outside; she isn't picky), and it looks for all the world like she is having some sort of medical episode. The hysterics she works herself into are awe inspiring and her disbelief when she still doesn't get what she wants is huge, as are the knots on her forehead from when she forgets that she is on a hardwood floor. The drama is strong with this one.

(While I acknowledge that DQ fits, it is only one part of her personality so in an effort to be fair, she will now be known as monkey shine or MS. After over a year with her, MS is the nickname that I use most often so that is how she will now be known on this blog.)

The monkey shine loves her shoes. Like, LOVES her shoes. She starts to squeal when she sees them and will start to whine and cry if you don't put them on her immediately. She will excitedly sit down and try to put them on herself, which is super cute. Shoes is still one of her main words, though she has now added a fair number of other words to her list. She says shoes, ball, socks, Daddy, NO and some form of the Numa's name really well and is trying new words each day. Conspicuously absent from her list: mommy. I think there is some sort of evil plan behind that, but I haven't pinpointed it yet. Her climbing skills are starting to rival her brother's, as is her collection of scrapes and bruises. I sent her to school just this morning with one hell of a knot on her forehead after she lost in an altercation with a pull toy. She bounces back quickly, though, and is super curious and full of spunk and energy.

Her big news this month is that she moved to a new class at school! After a short transition period she is now in one of the young toddler classrooms with wonderful new teachers, one of whom is our main babysitter! She is doing great so far and we are hopeful that this is the beginning of the end of bottles as well. She is getting into puzzles and has started to really love reading, an activity she didn't really take to until recently. Her current favorite books are The Goodnight Train, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, Listen Listen and My Big Animal Book. Monkey shine can do several animal sounds now, but the one she is most consistent with is dinosaurs. If you ask her what sound a dinosaur makes she does the cutest roar. She loves cars and trains and dinosaurs and balls and her older brother, who continues to be her hero even though the fighting has already begun. They typically get along really well, but have recently started to pick fights with each other and she is getting pretty good at taunting him. Her favorite food continues to be eggs, but she also loves yogurt, grapes, oranges, Pirate's Booty, pasta and carrots. Watching her learn and grow is reminding me of this time with the Numa and I find myself wondering if this will be the last time we do these things or if another little person is in our future. She is funny, determined and still oh-so-attached to mommy, a trait I am trying to appreciate because I know it is so fleeting.

I continue to marvel at how lucky we are to have two inquisitive and healthy kids to love and teach, and the ability to provide the things they need. I hope we are always this blessed.

Be well,


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Right now.

Reading the blogs of other, more motivated creators of lovely things.

Listening to Saoirse purr as she sleeps next to my leg.

Watching season 5 of Frasier while M isn't home to complain.

Waiting for HH to wake from her nap.

Hoping her cough is better by tomorrow.

Planning her Halloween costume - she is going to be Dorothy and I am working on a way to create an apron-esque costume that is somewhat close in appearance to the original.

Glad that the Numa wanted to be a lion, which sparked a Wizard of Oz theme.

Preparing to follow the yellow brick road with them as the Scarecrow.

Giggling when I think of M as the Tin Man.

Ignoring the huge pile of laundry that needs to be least until I finish this post.

Missing my darling niece, E, and my sister and her guy but so happy I could spend a week with them.

And my mom. Missing her too but she will be with us in a week!

Loving the office progress M made while I was out of town.

Wondering what kind of yard work could be causing the loud noises behind our house.

Thinking of making pizza for dinner using this crust recipe from Elise.

Wishing I had socks feet are cold.

Thankful that yesterday was a good day at work. That is rare right now.

Getting off my bum and headed into the kitchen to make pizza dough.

Be well,


Monday, August 26, 2013

40 pounds.

My size has always been an issue for me. As a child, I was the tallest person (not girl, person) in most of my classes from about the 3rd grade through the 8th. Kids are the ultimate purveyors of cruelty, and I got more than my share of teasing based on my height. The insecurity this instilled in me hung on through high school, past the point when others were outgrowing me, and though I don't think it completely defined me as a person, I was always conscious of being "big." Looking back at pictures of me from high school and college I just want to cry. Not because I was fat, but because I wasn't. I spent years wanting to hide a body that was at worst average and at best, healthy and strong. I want to tell that girl that having long legs and strong shoulders is a good thing, a great thing, and that you shouldn't cede control of your physical self worth to others. But I can't.

Me, graduating from high school in 1997
High school graduation, June 1997.

Rockport, MA, August 2005.

In the summer of 2005, less than a year after my wedding, my dad started to have shortness of breath when walking up the stairs of his Connecticut condo. Dad was one of those people who was rarely sick and even when he was, he almost never visited a doctor. The man wore drug-store reading glasses until the day he died, which was unfortunately on November 24th, 2006, after his short battles with first myelodysplasia and then leukemia. The shortness of breath was the first indication he had that he was sick, and in the year following his myelodysplasia diagnosis he went through chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, several months of seeming recovery and then a second, more damning diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. Dad listened carefully to his options, did his research and decided that he wanted to spend the time he had left (weeks, maybe months) at home with his family and not in pain from treatments that wouldn't turn the odds in his favor. 

My heart, along with everything else, just stopped. My father was my rock, and he was dying.

I immediately took a leave of absence from work and told my (amazingly understanding) boss that I had no clue when I was coming back. My sister dropped out of her PhD program and she, her boyfriend, their dogs, along with I, my husband, and our cat, all moved into my parent's home for my father's final months. Because we all had animals that didn't get along across pack lines, the house turned into a series of tiny DMZs defined by baby gates and arranged so that the various cats and dogs had their own spaces, separate from the alien presence of their extended fuzzy family. We all hunkered down and became fluent in Dad's daily med schedules while trying to reconcile ourselves with the new and strange world into which we were thrust. Every day was a gift and a curse...more time with Dad but more time to wonder when and how it would end. Would he be blessed with a short, peaceful death? Would he be in pain? What would we do without him?

Life for us became a tense march toward the inevitable. My family is not great at communicating our feelings, so discussions focused on dealing with the situation emotionally were fairly infrequent and never in depth. My Dad, ever the planner, arranged all of his affairs so that my Mom wouldn't have to worry about necessities, like the house or her health care, all while slowly fading away from us. He had okay days and awful days, and even some really funny days when he was trying Marinol for his pain. We were managing his care mostly at home and when it became obvious that his time was short, we began relying on hospice care for daily support. The kind, wonderful hospice nurses were the ones who finally convinced us to stop offering him food, which only made him uncomfortable and was really us trying to retain a sense of normalcy. We had a very low key Thanksgiving that year and sometime after midnight, Dad was just ready. My mom, my sister and I were all with him, telling him it was okay and encouraging him to let go. The moment he died was the hardest of my life but also a huge relief, which is hard to reconcile even in my mind but it marked the moment that he finally found peace after a painful struggle. I will cherish that moment forever.

Anyone who is still with me at this point is probably wondering: what in the hell does any of this have to do with my body issues? Well, earlier this year my Mom was visiting us and had brought her laptop. M was going through her files, making sure that we had a complete back-up for her system and porting some of her pictures to our machines. Mom and I started going through the pictures one by one, like you do, and we eventually got to the pictures from that fall. And as we clicked through, I watched myself gain 40lbs over the course of three months. While I wasn't fat in college or afterward, I do tend to be a stress eater and someone who looks to food for comfort. I gained 20lbs while planning my wedding in 2003/2004 and then lost about half of that before being a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding in October 2005. Somehow, I kept the weight gain during the first part of Dad's illness to a minimum, but once we knew he was terminal it just piled on. Watching my weight balloon in those pictures was painful and alarming. Having had two babies, I am no stranger to watching my body change, but I lost all the weight I gained with both kids pretty quickly (I only gained around 35lbs with each of them so most of it was baby/water weight). The stubborn 40lbs from that fall, however, had become part of me and I was finally able to see the difference they made very clearly. I didn't like it.

Sarah with Mike and Sully
Me in March 2007.

Shortly after this disturbing revelation, I joined Weight Watchers. Online, because as I mentioned before my family really doesn't like to talk about their feelings. I have been somewhat lazy about adhering to my daily points and am very, very bad about entering my daily food intake, but somehow I have managed to lose 9lbs! I finally feel like I am on the road to a healthier weight and I am very excited about it. I don't plan to share my before weight here (body issues are hard to get past) but will say that it is over 200. Ouch. My goal is to use WW to lose those 40lbs and become a healthier version of me, not so that I will look better in a bathing suit, but so that I will be in better health for me and my family. I want to meet my grandkids one day and being overweight never helped anyone live longer.

Okay, this is really wordy, but I figured that sharing my goal and my progress can only help. I am including a  current picture of me for your enjoyment, and will update with new pics as the weight continues to come off.

Me, up close and personal, in August 2013.

Be well,


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Freeze frame: August 2013.

Time for another freeze frame (let's ignore my 2+ month silence, shall we?). I started this one in June but never got as far as adding in any content and now it is August and so much has happened this summer. The usually warm months have been fairly mild, with what seems like less than 2 weeks of really hot days. That has meant less time at our neighborhood pool (bummer) but also fewer moments with sweaty, tired, grouchy kiddos so let's call it a wash.

The Numa

Oh, my Numa. The Numa has always gravitated to little boys like himself: busy, handsy (is that a word?) and mischievous. These friendships inevitably end up being very love/hate and there is typically some hitting and rough play on the part of both parties which leads to tears, tattling and mixed reports from teachers at the end of the day. The Nums has never been an aggressive or mean kid, but he can definitely get pretty physical when playing and sometimes hits when he is frustrated or tired. He also has personal space issues, in that he would really, really like to share yours. He will sit in anyone's lap, which can be awkward when we are, say, eating breakfast with an old friend who is meeting him for the first time and wasn't really expecting to have a preschooler attempt to steal his blueberry muffin. (Sorry D! M and I have a new rule that one of us needs to sit next to the Nums during meals out for this very reason.) All that being said, he is a pretty normal 3.5 year old who is bright, loud, affectionate, energetic and for the most part really kind.

The biggest development for the Numa this summer has been potty training. M and I decided at the beginning of this month that we were all done changing messy diapers for our little guy. Just in case you don't have kids, or your kids are younger than the Nums, let me explain why: baby poop is gross but preschooler poop is just like adult poop which is magnitudes worse, especially if your kid eats as much as mine does. At some point, it just crosses a threshold and you suddenly realize that changing one more of these disgusting things is going to put you over the edge. So we did what we swore we never would. We bribed him. With a Disney movie. (Don't pre-kid self is judging me harder than you ever could.) The Nums had never seen Cars but had many friends who proudly wore merchandise bearing its stars on a regular basis and he was really interested. So on a Sunday night, we taped the Amazon-Primed Cars DVD to the bathroom wall and told the Numa that if he pooped in the potty, he got to watch the movie. At that point he was pretty willing to pee in the potty if you asked him, but pooping was out of the question (apparently a pretty common thing). At 7:40pm on Tuesday, I was putting the Numa to bed when he suddenly exclaimed "Mommy! I have to poop!" We ran to the bathroom (trying not to awaken his sister) and he finally did it. I was so happy! And then he promptly asked "I get to watch Car movie now?" My smile immediately morphed into a stunned O. It never occurred to us that he might cash in on our offer at night - seriously, we completely overlooked this possibility. A promise is a promise, however, and at 8pm that night M, the Numa and I settled in to watch Cars, which is much longer than I expected. I am pretty sure that M and I fell asleep at some point but the Numa was still going strong when the credits ended around 10:15. It took another hour to get him to go to sleep and by the time the morning rolled around he was a whiny mess. For the sake of everyone's sanity, I kept him at home and spent the day reinforcing the potty issue. We decided to go all in that morning and eliminated diapers as a daytime option, which was rough that first day (at one point there was a 30 minute stand-off with the Nums in tears shouting "the pee-pee won't come out!") but in retrospect was totally the right call. He has had only 4 accidents and is still in pull-ups at night and during his nap but while he is awake it is big boy underwear all the time. Only 3 pairs have Cars characters. Bribery FTW!

(Side note: The best and funniest part of the whole potty training experience has been how the Numa has taken to heart all of our encouragement. Because we are constantly praising his efforts and successes, he now returns the favor, frequently exclaiming "Mommy - did you go to the potty all by yourself? Good job, Mommy, good job!" while he claps enthusiastically. Freaking adorable.)

The Numa and his sister continue to be good friends and he loves to help her. He shares his food and toys, holds her hand while she (spoiler alert!) walks and alerts M and I if he thinks she is in distress. They giggle and chase each other in the evenings before bed, with first one hiding and then the other, and their relationship makes me happy in a way I can't even describe. I hope they will always be close.

His current favorite things are the New England Aquarium (thanks for the membership, Gma P!), toy cars, the Cars movie, corn-on-the-cob, hot dogs and taking pictures. He has always loved playing with Gma P's camera and iPhone (since Mommy and Daddy refuse to let him have ours) and now has discovered the camera on his LeapPad. He takes pictures of everything and if his interest continues he may get a kid-friendly digital camera for Christmas. When we are putting him to bed he likes for us to draw circles and triangles and stars on his back and to write his name, after which he wants us to come back "before you go" approximately 8,000 times. Then he talks to himself and kicks the wall for at least 30 minutes before finally falling asleep. He is getting really excited about letters and always wants us to spell the words in books so he can identify them. So far he is solid with O and E and we are working on S. His current favorite songs are Get Lucky by Daft Punk (I like Stephen Colbert's version best - I still cry laughing at the last shot of him and Jeff Bridges in the stairwell) and ATFC's When The Needle Drops (Summatime Radio Edit). Clearly M is his musical guide. He has discovered Dr. Seuss and is loving Green Eggs and Ham which he relates back to our one-bite rule. He is a challenging little guy at times but his sweet, sunny little personality makes me smile every day. And I don't know many people of whom that can be said.

Her Highness

Our little HH turned one in July, surrounded by her grandmas and some of our close friends. How on earth is she already a year old? It simultaneously feels like she was born 30 seconds ago (not in my nether regions, thank goodness) and like she was always a part of our family. She has had so many firsts this year but her biggest two to date are walking and talking! She has been tentatively taking steps here and there for a couple of months now, but just this past weekend reached the point where she would prefer to walk than to crawl. Or be carried. It now takes FOREVER to go anywhere, because she wants to walk all the time, but that is totally fine and we are all pretty patient while she slowly meanders toward her goal. The Numa holds her hand so gently and is really good about not pulling her and instead letting her set the pace. She is delighted with her new skill and it is so cute to see her toddling around on her chubby little legs. Plus, she will now wear dresses! When she was crawling she absolutely refused and I am so glad to finally get to put her in all of the cute dresses in her closet. She still has very little hair, but what is there curls just slightly at the edges. Her chipmunk cheeks continue to delight me and after she eats she gets a baby pot-belly. I seriously just want to eat her all the time because the cuteness is overwhelming.

HH has always been a big babbler. She "talks" to herself and us all the time but it is only recently that she has tried saying real words. Chief among her new words are the names of the things she loves most. She cannot say the Numa's real name, which is a hard one for little kids to master, but we can definitely tell when she is trying. She also tries to say Radar and Saoirse ("sear-sha") and has limited success there, mostly with Radar. The name she most likes to say is Leo, who is one of her friends from school, and she repeats it over and over again, although it sounds more like "We-o" when she really gets going. Missing from her attempts: Mommy and Daddy. Clearly we are not as popular as we thought.

HH is an easygoing girl for the most part but can also be super dramatic, a trait I am very much afraid she got from my side of the family. Mommy leaving is still THE WORST THING EVER and causes tears on an almost daily basis. She does not like to be confined and the playpen has become akin to purgatory for her, so we are finding other ways to contain her when we need to set her down for a few minutes. She loves the cats, a feeling which is not always mutual but both Radar and Saoirse are really good with the kids and Radar in particular will take a lot of abuse before he decides to move. (Just in case anyone was worried - no, we do not let the kids "abuse" the animals and we always ensure that they are gentle, but there is a learning curve here for all of them and we are just thankful that our pets are patient and have always been very gentle with the kids.)

I am terrified to even think this, much less put it in writing, but HH has slept through the night pretty consistently for the past week. This is a first for her and the streak will surely end now that I have jinxed it. It has been great for M and I to finally get more than 4 hours of sleep at a time and we are hopeful that this is a new habit and not a fluke. HH is also getting better about going to new people - it still takes her a few days to warm up to anyone but she is much more willing to let people other than M or I hold her or help her with things. She never seems to eat very much but is somehow maintaining her chub even though she is officially done with formula (except for the last remnants of the last can at school - that stuff is expensive and I will be damned if we are going to throw any of it out). She is both a picky and adventurous eater, sometimes wanting only eggs and pasta and sometimes willing to try figs or tomatoes or asparagus or chorizo. She has huge feet, a delicious baby laugh and boundless curiosity and we can't wait to see what she will learn next.

Be well,


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Kitchen progress - Chapter 5.

Once all the appliances were in the kitchen was mostly finished. All that was left to do was to add final details and, of course, unpack way too many dishes, gadgets and utensils. Since the small details are all important but not necessarily related (other than by being in the kitchen), I will do a small blurb about each.

Pendant light: The kitchen in our apartment had one, very bright, ceiling mounted fluorescent light, a small task light in the stove hood and no windows. This meant that you had very few lighting options and honestly, I used only the hood light even when it was dark because of the ugly light supplied by the standard ceiling fixture. We really wanted the new kitchen to have some options for lighting that could change depending on the time of day and the task at hand. As you will recall from Chapter 2, we had the electrical box for the existing pendant light moved from the middle of the room to a position centered above the sink and installed 6 new pot lights which are on a dimmer. These are the main lights in the room and they provide a nice, bright light that isn't too harsh. In addition to the pot lights, we also installed the new pendant over the sink, put in 3 under cabinet lights and installed an exhaust hood with a built-in light.

We looked for a long time at pendant lights and explored options from a $20 IKEA fixture to a much more expensive glass globe light. In the end, we chose the Renovators Harbor Pendant 2 finishes (that is the actual name of the fixture as listed on the website), an industrial style metal pendant from Shades of Light. As the name implies, it is available in two finishes, Olde Bronze and Polished Nickel. We couldn't decide which finish we liked best so we ordered both and waited until almost everything else was done so we could see the fixture in the space. Final answer: Olde Bronze. The brushed stainless finishes on the appliances and the faucet just didn't work with the Polished Nickel but the bronze echoed the new coat of oil rubbed bronze that was freshly spray painted on our window hardware and just looked more like it belonged in the room.

Pendant over sink.
Pendant installed.

Likewise we considered several options for under cabinet lights. You would never guess that there are so many types of lights for this purpose, but we found out that you can get under cabinet lighting in fluorescent, halogen, xenon and LED. A local lighting store had all the options on display so I and my lovely MIL took a trip to check them out and determine which one looked best. All of the lights were a little more blue than I wanted, but the xenon was pretty tolerable and low voltage so we relayed our opinions to M, who agreed that xenon was the winner. We considered purchasing the units locally but found that they were much cheaper online. I think we finally ordered ours, in the brushed silver finish, from Amazon. We opted for the brushed silver because it was possible to see the light housing from some angles and the silver looked much nicer than the white or black options. We decided to install 3 units: two under the cabinets to the right of the fridge and one under the cabinet next to the wall oven. This may seem like a strange choice, given that there is more counter space next to the wall oven than next to the fridge, but unfortunately the cabinet boxes dictated what we could install where. We were told that it was unwise to have the light boxes straddle a join in the cabinet boxes, so centering one light under the cabinets next to the fridge wasn't an option as those cabinets are two separate boxes that abut each other (instead of one box with two doors - make sense?). You can see the two lights in the picture below because of the angle, but we don't notice them when we are in the room.


The cabinets next to the wall oven are also comprised of two cabinet boxes, but one of them is double the width of the other which is why there are three doors. The middle and right-hand doors are a single cabinet box so our choices were to use a light under each door or to put only one in the middle (a longer light box would have fit but it would have straddled a cabinet box join so that was out). We decided that three boxes was overkill and just installed one in the center, which provides plenty of light for the space. The under cabinet lights are also on a dimmer, which is helpful for making bottles at 3am.

Cabinet drawer and door hardware: Because all of the cabinets came from IKEA and we were eligible for that lovely 20% discount on most of the additional kitchen hardware, we decided to go with cabinet and drawer handles from the same. This time there was very little debate. M liked the LANSA handles and since I was 7 months pregnant and had a stress fracture in my foot and an active toddler, I liked whatever I didn't have to choose. And I do really like the LANSAs...they have a simple, clean aesthetic and are easy to pull. Radar likes them also and spends a considerable amount of time biting the ends, mostly when he wants to be fed which is anytime we are in the kitchen. Silly kitty.

Soft-close hinges/drawers: We bought dampers for both our cabinet doors and our drawers from IKEA and had them installed on all the cabinets and drawers. I think that the large pantry door required a different damper, but I can only find one of them online. These were a really nice addition to the room, especially since we have a kiddo who isn't too gentle when he closes things.

Drawers vs. cabinets: For storage in the kitchen we opted to use drawers for anything below the counter and cabinets for anything above, with the exception of the cabinet under the sink. I think this is pretty conventional but storing my pots and pans in drawers was new to me and seemed a little strange. A year later I have no idea how I ever could have been okay with the gymnastic twisting that was required to get anything from the very back of my old cabinets. (Side note: anything involving gymnastics makes me think of this old Dave Barry article about potato guns. And then I think about his Weiner mobile article and I go back and read it and laugh until I cry. Where was I?) I really like having everything in drawers and because their listed max load weight was around 100 lbs I put everything I wanted within easy reach into those drawers. One of the many advantages of having our contractor install the cabinets was that he could do things we likely could not have done. Best example: drawers under the cooktop. Our IKEA kitchen rep told us that most people just put drawer fronts over the opening for show, since the cooktop makes it impossible to install the drawers without modification. Thanks to Doug, who was able to mill out the sections of the drawer that would have interfered with the cooktop, I now have two drawers that would have otherwise been wasted space. The presence of the cooktop means that the contents of these drawers must be fairly shallow, so I use the left one for spices (with the Rationell Variera drawer inserts for spice jars - I can't find these on the IKEA site but could swear I saw them in the store recently) and the right one for cutting boards.

Drawers under the cooktop!
Installation of drawers under the cooktop.
Filled drawers with my random assortment of spices.

Trash cabinet: We stored our kitchen trash under the sink in our apartment and it was kind of a pain to pull the can out whenever you needed to dispose of something. Instead of repeating that here, we chose to have a cabinet dedicated to the trash next to the fridge, which makes cleaning out the fridge really easy. I will say that having the pull for the trash cabinet at the top of the door is creating a lot of stress on the door where it attaches to the drawer, especially because the Numa tends to get a little too enthusiastic when pulling it open to throw out his banana peels.

Glass doors: We used the plain, birch veneer doors and drawer fronts for most of the kitchen but decided it would be nice to break up the solid wood with some glass front doors. We used them only on the upper cabinets that would be housing dishes and one day, when we don't have so many bottles and colorful plastic dining ware, I hope to have those cabinets contain only white, stainless and glass items for a clean look.

Glass door cabinets.
Glass doors with empty cabinets.

Pantry cabinet: The pantry cabinet is magical. I never knew you could store so much in one cabinet. We went with the AKURUM high cabinet that was 24"x80"x24", which sounds huge but doesn't look out of place in the room. We decided to use the drawer inserts with a hinged door and I love, love, love this cabinet. Having drawers that pull out one at a time makes it stupid easy to load items in and to find them when you need them. Like all the other kitchen drawers, they can hold a fair amount of weight so I haven't been shy about storing cans and repackaging my grains into large glass jars, partly because they are prettier and partly because they are neater.

Heater: The electricians and Doug installed a toe-kick heater under the cabinet beside the wall oven so our little (or in my case, huge) feet wouldn't get cold in the kitchen. Also because the radiant heat was on that wall and this would be the only heat source in the kitchen during the New England winter. So kind of necessary.

Well, I think that is everything. All the final details. The only thing left is after pics, which will be up soon!

Be well,


Freeze frame: Early spring 2013.

(I started this in April and am publishing it now with no updates. I wanted it to be longer but it is more important to me that it reflect that particular period in their lives, so on with the show.)

When you have kids, everyone tells you that the days are long but the years are all too short. Unlike so much parenting advice, this is actually true and it is sad and wonderful at the same time. Children change so quickly; like a watch in the night their infancy and toddler-hood speed past and you are left wondering who stole your baby and replaced them with this little person who is crawling or walking or jumping off of the swingset while your heart skips a beat.

I have gone back and reread my Freeze Frame post from February many, many times. It is amazing how much both HH and the Numa have changed in just two months and thus, I have decided it is time for another.


Crawling. My baby is crawling. I can't believe that we are back in baby proofing mode again, this time with stairs. It happened overnight, as in Sunday she wasn't crawling and Monday she was. It didn't take her long to master this new skill and she is loving being able to move on her own, so much so that holding her has become an aerobic event. She twists and lunges constantly because she just wants to be down and moving all the time. She wants to be standing all of the time that she isn't moving, so now when she wakes from her naps we walk in to find her looking at us while holding the crib rails. Her sleep is much improved, and on most days she sleeps from 7 or 7:30pm to around 3am, has a bottle and goes back to sleep till 6:30. Plus she pretty consistently does two naps, one at 10am and one at 2pm, which means that between HH and the Numa someone in our house is napping from about 10am till 4pm.

The babbling. She talks constantly, to herself, to us and to the Numa who continues to be her hero. She has also discovered shrieking and screaming, to M's great delight, and very much enjoys the sound of her own voice. She gets that from me. She loves baby food and the new tastes she is getting of our food. Peas are still a big favorite, but she also likes O's, graham crackers, carrots, potatoes, avocados, bananas and bagels. When she starts to get bored or full she throws individual pieces of food to the floor and then stares at them with great interest. Cleaning her up after meals is becoming a challenge that bibs cannot meet, so as soon as it gets warmer I am predicting that she will be dining sans clothes.

She is so big and so tiny all at the same time. When I compare her to pictures of her as a newborn I can't believe how much she has grown, but when I compare her to the Numa she still seems like my baby for a moment. She has delicious dimples, at the base of each finger, two on each elbow and behind her knees, but escapes being really chubby due to her height. She isn't quite as tall as the Nums was at this age (he had already outgrown his bucket car seat) but she is definitely above average and wearing pants in at least a 12 month size, though some 9 month onesies will still snap over her cute little cloth diapers. Every time I change her for bed I end up stripping her down to just a diaper and then have to spend at least 5 minutes kissing her soft back and squishy thighs and round baby belly before I can bring myself to dress her again. M pretends to be embarrassed for me but he is just jealous. She remains happy and healthy and I can no longer clearly remember a time when our lives didn't include her. To say we love her is to completely miss just how deep our obsession goes.


The Numa, if I do say so myself, is just an awesome little guy these days. He is loving his new school, from the teachers to the classrooms to all his new friends. M and I retrieve the littles together almost every day and after we get the Nums into his seat and begin to head home, he tells us that he wants to go to school. When one of us remarks that he was just at school, he gleefully exclaims "Wes [let's] go to school AGAIN!" We are so happy that he is so happy - it makes all our sacrifices to have him there worthwhile. After all of the issues we encountered at his old school, nothing has ever made me prouder than hearing his new teachers talk about how kind he is to everyone. He is still restless, still has trouble listening sometimes and has far too much energy, but he is the first one to comfort fellow students who have fallen down or to hug a teacher who has been out sick. So. Very. Proud.

He has been so good at remembering his manners lately that I think I can actually imagine a time when we won't have to remind him to say please and thank you. He pretty consistently says "excuse me" when he wants our attention and, more often than not, has replaced "I want milk" with "can I please have milk." He shares with HH, somewhat more reluctantly since she became mobile but mostly without pouting, and will help pick up toys when asked.

He still has his moments where frustration consumes him and in those moments, I am reminded how important sleep can be when patience is required. He is so opinionated about everything, from his clothes to his food to his hair, which he still HATES to have touched or washed. He has actually started requesting haircuts and is super excited until they start cutting, at which point he tries to melt into his chair. He looks so much older with short hair - it makes M sad and makes me wonder how on earth he got to be such a big boy when we weren't watching. I am constantly reminded that this time in his life is so short and both M and I try very hard to savor the moments because they don't last.

Together they are a happy little duo and they bring us an enormous amount of joy each day. Even when we are exhausted and completely out of patience, we are so thankful to be their parents.

Be well,


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kid's Clothes Week, Spring 2013.


I am so excited that the Spring 2013 Kid's Clothes Week challenge is almost here! If you are unfamiliar with this event, click on the logo to learn more. Briefly, KCW is a seasonal event that challenges you to "work on making clothes for kids one hour each day for a week." It is a great way to motivate yourself to be creative and make something(s) useful in the bargain, while being part of a larger community of makers and do-ers. Seeing the creations of the other participants is always so inspiring - there are some seriously talented seamstresses in the blogosphere! The FAQ page is useful if you are a first timer.

In past years I have started the challenge with grand goals and almost met them, but this time I am determined to go full out. I have plans for several projects, including a new item for each kiddo and some refashions for both as well. HH in particular is in need of some solid-color duds - my mom buys her tons of cute clothes (thanks Mom!) but most of it is patterned, tops and bottoms, which can make finding a full outfit somewhat difficult. I think that some simple, solid shirts and leggings (that cover her knees because she started crawling last week - where has my baby gone?) will be just the ticket to fill out her spring and summer wardrobe. Plus, fitting pants over her cute, cloth-diapered bum can be hard with ready-to-wear items so roomier pants are on my list. The Numa is growing ever more opinionated about what he will wear, with a strong preference for anything featuring a dinosaur, so he is  going to get some simple separates that will pair well with his current stash. He is also growing like a weed (at just over 3 he is already in a 5T because of his height) but only in the vertical direction so everything for him has to be long and lean. I am thinking that Rae's Flashback Skinny Tee will be perfect for him and plan to make at least one.

Is anyone else planning to join in? I can't wait to get started!

Be well,


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Kitchen progress - Chapter 4.

When last we spoke, the kitchen had cabinets, new flooring, finished electrical connections and roughed in plumbing. The next steps were to install the countertops, the new farmhouse sink and four new appliances.

Before I begin, let me tell you a little bit about our goals for the kitchen. (I probably should have opened with this, no?) I cook at least one meal almost every day, and frequently more on the weekends. The Numa and I both love to cook and he "helps" me in the kitchen quite a bit. This translated into a need for a very workable kitchen, with plenty of counter space, a good flow, decent appliances and well organized storage options. What it didn't require were fancy finishes in the form of granite countertops and expensive, custom backsplash tile. When we set out to design the space it was always with the knowledge that we can upgrade finishes down the line if we desire (I will eventually have Heath Ceramics tile on my backsplash) but for right now, serviceable and affordable was key.

We debated many options for the countertops. IKEA has a huge selection of various materials and colors, but we also looked at Lowe's and Home Depot, online and at a local store called Green Depot. Our requirements were a material that was easy care, relatively low VOC (some laminate countertops off-gas like crazy) and somewhat cheap. This meant that granite and marble were ruled out immediately because of their high cost and maintenance requirements, but also because only one of us likes marble (me) and neither of us likes granite. The abundance of wood already in the room meant that butcher block was out and most laminate choices were just too chemical-laden for our taste. I wasn't even willing to discuss tile and though we briefly thought about exploring concrete we were too worried about the weight and ruled that out as well. We eventually whittled it down to two options: solid-surface in the form of CaesarStone and IKEA PRÄGEL laminate. We really loved the look and feel of the CaesarStone but balked a little at the price. We didn't love the PRÄGEL, but it was super cheap (around $3/sq. ft., which made it less than $200 for the entire kitchen) and had at least one finish that we could live with. Another selling point was the fact that IKEA conforms to the German E-1 standard for formaldehyde emissions from particle board, which require emissions to not exceed 0.01 parts per million, making the PRÄGEL the most environmentally safe laminate we found. (You can read more about IKEA's policy about chemicals here and here.) In the end, cost concerns won out and we went with the black stone effect PRÄGEL to balance out all the birch colored wood and to mirror the dark floor.

Sink and countertops.

Verdict: after a year of cooking in this kitchen almost daily, I have no regrets about going with the PRÄGEL. It is easy to clean and looks great with the cabinets and floors. I should note here that one of the downsides of this particular IKEA countertop is that DIY'ers seem to struggle with cutting the material without chipping it. Our contractor, Doug, even recommended against cutting it on an angle because it is cheap laminate, so for our one corner join we opted to abut the two sections perpendicularly, as you can somewhat see in the above photo.

The sink was the very first thing I chose for our kitchen and one of the only things that we didn't change our mind about through the entire process. I fell in love with the DOMSJÖ ceramic, double bowl sink years ago at IKEA and always knew it belonged in my future kitchen. You know how some people fall in love with a wedding dress when they are a teenager and just know it's the one? That is how I felt about this sink. How I still feel about this sink. Because I love it. Hugely. It is a gigantic piece, measuring almost 37" across and very, very heavy. The double bowl is key because you can section your sink needs into two categories, which for us are "things that are too large to fall into the disposal" and "baby bottles and small things that will fall into the disposal." To go with the sink, we chose the now discontinued HJUVIK faucet (2014-1-9 update: this faucet has reappeared in our local IKEA and on the website!), which has a detachable hand sprayer. The modern, industrial look is a nice offset to the more traditional farmhouse sink. We also had the plumber install a Waste King garbage disposal in the left sink.

Like it was designed by angels.

Verdict: after a year of constant use the sink still looks great. I think that if you look closely you can see some small scratches but we never expected or intended this sink to look perfect forever. Our kitchen is a workspace and the patina was always going to reflect that. The one complaint I have about my sink is that the grooved area is more difficult to clean than a flat surface, but it drains water away from the wall nicely so all is forgiven. I really like the faucet as well. The detachable hand spray is great for cleaning the sink and I like that you can lock the spray if you want to use that particular "mode" for the faucet without having to hold down the lever. The garbage disposal sees it fair share of abuse, having eaten at least one spoon and several plastic bottle parts, but doesn't seem any worse for the wear. It is very quiet for all its power and the only thing I would change is that the rubber drain cover over the disposal is a little too closed off, so sometimes I have to use a utensil to push food waste into the unit. Overall we are very pleased with all of the choices we made for the sink area.

The appliances that were in the kitchen when we purchased it were a mixed bag. The dishwasher was ancient and gross and had to go, but the range and refrigerator weren't bad. They were both stainless finishes and the reviews I managed to dig up online were promising. We toyed with the idea of keeping both units until my mom suggested that we go with a separate cooktop and wall oven. Installing a wall oven wasn't something we had considered, mostly because I was used to all-in-one ranges, but after thinking about it for a while and rearranging the kitchen layout (again - poor M) we decided that we really liked the look of the separate units. Plus, we are both taller than average so having an oven I didn't have to bend over to access was pretty appealing. I ruled out a double oven because I just don't need that kind of cooking capacity more than twice a year and couldn't justify taking up valuable storage space with a mostly unused appliance. We finally settled on a Bosch microwave/wall oven combo unit, the oven of which was recommended by Consumer Reports. Bosch is continually cited as one of the most reliable brands in kitchen appliances by CR, so we also chose a Bosch 30" electric cooktop. The actual cooktop does not have those bright white lines outlining the burners - they are more like a pale gray - but I have no good "during" pics of the cooktop as it was the last appliance to be installed. I would love to have a larger cooktop, or even better, a 6-burner gas range, but the space just didn't allow for it and we don't currently have a gas connection on our street. Maybe someday. As a bonus, we managed to sell the existing range on craigslist for a few hundred dollars. Craigslist FTW!

Original range.
Wall oven and microwave.
Wall oven and microwave.

We looked at lots of exhaust hoods during our planning process and found several that we liked, but they were all expensive and finding reliable ratings was difficult. Thankfully IKEA had a model we liked, the NUTID, and because we bought the whole shebang during a 20% off kitchen sale, we essentially got the hood for free. It is really powerful and on the highest setting will hold a small magazine against the grate. Downside: it is somewhat loud even on the lowest fan setting. The previous exhaust fan was an under the cabinet style unit (which was also not centered over the existing range) so installing the new fan involved patching the old hole (during which we got a peek at the total lack of insulation in our walls - awesome) and cutting a new one at the right height. The NUTID hood comes with an extension for the exhaust pipe cover and we needed almost every inch due to our high ceilings. Doug had quite a challenge matching the two angles of the roofline but did a great job.

Original hood and range/oven. See the crazy offset?
The hole for the old unit is on the bottom. What was with these people and sloppy holes?
Exhaust hood installation.
Installation of the new unit.

My main requirement of a dishwasher was that it wash my dishes QUIETLY. The dishwasher in our apartment was so loud that you literally could not have a normal volume conversation anywhere near it. I hated it and vowed that our next dishwasher would be so quiet that you would wonder if it was on. I also wanted an adjustable top shelf, attractive handle and stainless interior, but the quiet requirement alone was enough to lead us to Bosch again. I found a model that balanced my need for quiet and our budget and we went with this one. And it is wonderful. Unless we have greatly crowded the racks to the point that dishes are touching you cannot hear it run if you are outside the kitchen and can barely hear it even if you are standing in front of it. It took us quite a while to get used to loading it, as the layout of the tines on both the upper and lower racks are very different from American made units, but now it is fast and easy to load and use. It cleans well and it does so without gusto, so I am a fan. It has lots of settings but we mainly use the auto wash and rinse settings. One of the only drawbacks of the unit is that the auto wash cycle is almost 2 hours long. Fortunately the small display on the front tells you how much time is left so you can plan accordingly. Again, I don't have any during pics so you will have to wait for the final reveal.

Original fridge and dishwasher.

Although we left a space large enough for a cabinet-depth fridge, we eventually decided to keep the GE refrigerator that came with the house. The finish worked with the other appliances and, other than not being cabinet-depth, it met our requirements: single door, bottom freezer with no in-door ice maker (we have kids and would rather not have water and ice all over the kitchen floor and before you ask, the Numa is already capable of defeating the child locks so that won't help).

Verdict: So-so. The cooktop has had no issues to date but can be a pain to keep clean. The oven cooks evenly and reliably but we are in the middle of a series of repairs to both the oven and microwave. The self-clean function on the oven is broken and we are waiting on a part to see if that will fix the issue. Additionally, there is a distinct vertical line through the middle of the amber colored text display panel that is annoying but not detrimental to the operation of the oven. I should also note that I have yet to use the convection mode or any of the other fancy cooking modes. What can I say, I just need to bake and broil stuff. The microwave was doing okay until a couple of months ago when it began having door latch issues which lead to it not starting. Also, the door is LOUD to close and open, which makes it harder to use with sleeping kids upstairs. We may just try to get it replaced to see if our unit is a lemon. Bosch customer service has been really helpful, though, so hopefully all will be well. The dishwasher continues to work well despite being run pretty much every day, sometimes twice. The fridge is meh - overall it is okay but every once in a while it will freeze things in the fridge for no reason that we can detect. It will do for now.

Almost finished!
Everything but the cooktop and under-cooktop drawers.

Well, I think all that's left is the small details and the final reveal!

Be well,


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Right now.

Right now, I...

Am home for my second vacation day to try to get the house cleaned and organized.

Have found at least 6 BIG boxes worth of stuff for the upcoming yard sale.

Am listening to Roundtrip :: April mixtape by Anoraak because M left it playing. I like it.

Can't believe that HH learned to crawl literally overnight and by Monday was seriously on the move.

Love that anytime HH falls while crawling the Numa is the first to hug her and say "iss okay."

Wish I had the money to hire someone to take care of this mess for me.

Have just remembered that I need to call our insurance company about some benefits.

Am anticipating a phone call from an old friend who found me on FB.

Want to knit or sew or cook...anything but more cleaning.

Will probably change the music soon because this mix is too chill to inspire rapid progress.

Should get back to it because I have to get the littles in just 3 hours.

Decided on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss for motivation. Along with Frou Frou and Katy Perry. I'm nothing if not eclectic.

Swear that I will post the final two entries in the kitchen series by Monday. Cross my heart.

Be well,


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My breastfeeding journey - final chapter.

When HH was about 4 weeks old, she started to become impatient with breastfeeding. Her latch was less sure and she would fuss as she would stop and start. In a little less than a week she went from breastfeeding at the beginning of every feed to only breastfeeding 2-3 times a day. I started pumping when she would refuse the breast in the hopes of keeping up my meager supply but it was dwindling quickly and I started to panic. Somewhere in the middle of trying to reassure myself that this was a temporary setback reality reared its ugly head: my daughter was self weaning at 5 weeks old.

I had tried to prepare myself for this moment, knowing it was inevitable, but it never occurred to me that it would be so soon. I had convinced myself that with her great latch and ability to switch effortlessly from breast to bottle she would do both at least as long as the Numa if not longer. It was crushing to feel like I was failing, again, especially after I told myself that having my hard won perspective was going to make it easier this time.

M and I talked about it and decided to again consult the LC who had been so helpful with the Numa. She came to our home when HH was about 6 weeks old and listened with sympathy as I described the situation before confirming that HH was, in fact, self weaning due to my low supply and the slower flow afforded by the breast. We discussed a myriad of options, from using a supplemental nursing system (I barely even considered it as I have a toddler and that was just going to be too much for me to deal with) to changing HH's bottles to a brand that more accurately resembled a breast. One thing that was a given was increasing the number of times a day I was pumping. If I had any hope of continuing to breastfeed I was going to have to start pumping way, way more often to keep my supply up. (I should note that even though I was taking the maximum recommended amount of Go-Lacta and fenugreek and doing numerous other things to keep up my supply, on a good day I would get 1.5 ounces after pumping for 30 minutes, which was disappointing at best.) The LC was supportive and kind and before she left, she hugged me and reassured me that it was all going to be okay. And I really wanted to believe her.

Before having HH I had decided to try breastfeeding again, but I had also convinced myself that if it didn't work out it would be fine. I wasn't going to punish myself this time like I did the last and I was going to accept that whether it worked or it didn't, my child would be okay. I still knew this in theory, as my 4 week old baby was starting to refuse the breast, but my heart and my head disagreed about just how devastated I should be. There were lots of tears and even more guilt, all about something that was almost entirely out of my control and certainly not my fault. I think the timing was the real issue, since I just wasn't expecting her to realize quite that early that the bottle was an eminently faster method of eating. M's attitude was also unhelpful, since he very much wanted me to continue to pump as long as possible, and even offered to come home during the day to help if necessary, but he couldn't fully understand how depressing it was to pump for so long to get so little. I know he wanted to help, but our conversations just made me feel more alone.

In the end, I decided that what would be would be. I would pump as much as I was able during the day, continue to take supplements and offer the breast frequently, but I wasn't going to embark on a quest that would exhaust me and take time away from interacting with HH. At 8 weeks HH declared all done: she no longer cared to work so hard for so little and would not even entertain the thought of breastfeeding. The day I finally let go and stopped offering her my breast I felt a huge weight lift. I no longer had to deal with the daily frustration of pumping or invest huge amounts of money on supplements or spend 30 minutes feeding HH every 2 hours. Overwhelmingly I was just relieved that I was done fighting with and being disappointed by my body. HH has been a formula baby ever since (Earth's Best Organic, if anyone is interested) and she is beyond thriving.

Almost 7 months later, I have mixed feelings about my breastfeeding experience. I loved doing it; watching HH from that angle was something special that only I got to do and when she was still enjoying it we had lots of quiet, calm moments together to just be. Just as I did with the Numa, I made sure to get some photos of her breastfeeding from my vantage point so I could always remember staring at her perfect, chubby cheek while she nursed. But at the same time I can understand why so many women quit breastfeeding earlier than they planned, or wanted, to. When it goes well it is wonderful, but when you spend every day struggling to make it work for any reason it can become a very real drain at a time when you are already tired and anxious. The last thing I needed on any day at home with a baby was more stress and the constant fight to maintain my supply was simply one thing too many. I have no regrets about my decision to give it a go and none about my decision to let it go, because both were right for me and for HH. M was disappointed but also super supportive once I decided to stop trying and I appreciated his acceptance.

I don't know why I decided to launch this story into the abyss of the internet. I think part of me wants to remember the details but, as much as I hate to admit it, another is searching for acceptance in a world that actively judges women for "choosing" formula. I hope someone else who has struggled will read this and find solace in the fact that they are not alone. As parents, and especially as mothers, we face a constant stream of judgement from the masses about our choices (there are no right choices - see this awesome graphic) and it is exhausting. Maybe eventually, my story can just be one among many, not right or wrong, from parents everywhere who are just trying to raise good people without completely losing themselves in the process. Fingers crossed, right?

Be well,


Monday, March 11, 2013

Who shot J.R.?

I hate cliffhangers. A lot. As a plot device I can understand their appeal and I can tolerate them if they are used sparingly and unobtrusively. (Or to save your own life...I have nothing but respect for Scheherazade.) But some authors/writers just have no clue when enough is enough. This is why, despite the accolades that poured in from the rest of the world, I just couldn't stand The DaVinci Code. Dan Brown ended almost every chapter with a cliffhanger which seemed sloppy at best and made the book, in my opinion at least, virtually unreadable.

Why am I talking about cliffhangers? Well, it turns out that I unintentionally created some of my own when I failed to finish my series of posts about my breastfeeding journey or the series about the kitchen. In an effort not to become that person, I will try to finish both series in the next week or so, thus ending any suspense about feeding HH (spoiler: she is exclusively formula fed and just fine) or about the conclusion of our kitchen remodel (spoiler: we have some issues with our wall oven but otherwise are pretty happy).

In the meantime, I just discovered an excellent post on Babble about breast hypoplasia that was written last fall. I am sharing it here because I know I would have appreciated finding it while I was still in the throes of frustration and disappointment while trying to breastfeed my two little ones. Hopefully it will help someone else who is in the same situation.

Be well,


Friday, March 8, 2013

Sick day, snow day.

Well, M is out of town again and we are in the middle of another big snowstorm. Right now I would say we have about 6-8 inches at the house and I think we are set to get another 2-4. The snow is really pretty, wet enough that it is sticking to the trees and covering everything with a clean layer of white. I always love this part and am a little sad when the plows move through, throwing dirty, muddy snow on top of all that lovely white.

Radar in the snow.
I wish we were going to get to enjoy the out of doors today, but the Numa is sick. He was home yesterday as well but it was just he and me as HH got to go to school. With M thousands of miles away, I just couldn't see shoveling all that snow and cleaning off the car to take one of them out this morning only to have to do it again this afternoon to fetch her. So here we are, the three of us. I don't know what we will do, trapped inside, but hopefully our day will include a few naps for the sake of my sanity. And maybe cake. For the sake of our tummies.

This morning, around 8am.

Be well,


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

One thousand.

This morning I officially gained my one thousandth (!!!) Pinterest follower.

I am ridiculously excited about this, though it seems like a really small thing. I don't publicize this blog, so no one is following me because they like my blog. I'm not famous so I don't have a celebrity following. And my Pinterest page lacks real focus, so it isn't as if there is a single community that is identifying with my pins. I have 65 boards that cover pretty much anything and everything, from all types of crafting and creating to home inspiration to single colors. I guess what I am trying to say here is that I don't know how or why so many people have found my page and decided they liked it, but I am glad. Four digits worth of followers makes me smile.

Things have been a little rough on the home front lately. M traveled a good bit in the past few weeks leaving me alone with the two littles, save for a couple of nights when our fantastic babysitter came to help. I am tired and discouraged with our lack of a good routine and very ready for everyone to be well. But we are moving on and hopefully March will find us settling in a little more.

Be well,


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Freeze frame.

I love Pinterest. As of this writing, I have 64 boards, 3,905 pins and 923 followers and have averaged 5 pins a day since I joined in 2010. Clearly I spend a significant portion of my very limited free time trolling the internet for inspiration that I can save for later. As much as I love Pinterest, it constantly makes me feel like a giant failure as a parent. It seems like all of these other people keep baby diaries, take monthly or weekly photos and create keepsake ornaments of their baby's hand/foot prints or their artwork. I make sure my kids are fed, clothed and hugged regularly, but handmade keepsakes are few and far between.

For the most part, I am okay with this. Numa and HH* know they are crazy loved and cherished and we have a great time together when everyone is rested and not throwing tantrums (because, say, their banana cannot be reassembled after breaking in half - true story). I do wish that I had a better record of what they were doing at various ages though. Not just pictures - pictures are great but they don't tell the whole story. I need a way to take a 5 senses snapshot of our life. What HH's first teeth look like and the smell of her head. The sound of the Numa using his silly voice and the feel of him giving me giant kisses (which are just regular kisses, but lots and lots of them) and the taste of the biscuits we make every weekend for breakfast. How my heart swells when they smile and breaks a little when they are sad. When I am very old (fingers crossed) I want to be able to be transported back to this time when they were little and carefree and oh so happy just to be with one another.


The Numa has just turned 3 and continues to be a joy and a challenge. He is super strong willed, which means that his listening skills are directly proportionate to his desire to listen. He is easily frustrated and forgets to ask for help nicely, instead choosing to scream or stamp his feet. He has a crazy amount of energy on good days and a crazy amount of unfocused energy on bad days. Missing his nap = disaster. He is also getting a little bossy and constantly reminds M and me of our house rules while shaking his finger at us. But despite all that he is a good little chap. He LOVES his sister. When he comes down from his nap or she wakes from hers he gets right in her face and asks: Did you take a gooood naaaaaap? She loves it and she worships him. He kisses her all the time and drives us crazy by climbing out of his chair 14 million times during dinner to get the toys she has gleefully discarded. He is a great helper, setting the table, feeding the cats and fetching things for us or for HH.

His current favorite songs are Silence by Depeche Mode and Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO, the latter of which he dances to enthusiastically. His favorite thing to watch on "da TB" is Wild Kratts. (It is too adorable when he asks "Mom, want to watch something on da TB with me?") He runs around the house imitating their intro jump and yelling "what if" and encourages us to do the same. He just started preschool and so far is doing pretty well. We have to pack his lunches now and I spend most days worried that I haven't sent enough food cause the little man can really put it away when he is in the mood. He likes hot dogs, cantaloupe, waffles, BANANAS (we tell him he is going to turn into a banana and he giggles), strawberries, eggs, rice, ham and cheese. Also Veggie Booties (the plural form is his, not mine). And dried fruit and gummy bunnies and pistachios and bacon. He eats an awesome variety of food (but still manages to be pretty picky) but doesn't like anything on his plate to touch anything else or be combined, like in a sandwich.

His silly voice never fails to make me smile. Tonight, he spent 15 minutes singing 10 Little Monkeys but would leave out the part about the doctor. Yesterday he missed his nap at school and fell asleep in the car on the way home which was actually better than today, when he didn't fall asleep and was a total loon by bedtime. He can put on all of his clothes by himself, including his socks and shoes. He is getting really good with the games on his LeapPad and will sit still long enough to put together one of his floor puzzles most of the time. His favorite place to go is the Boston Museum of Science but he also likes the Children's Museum, Uncommon Grounds and Trader Joe's, where he pushes his own little cart and fills it with things that look good. He likes talking to Gma B, Gma P and Aunt E on Skype and loves having breakfast every weekend with our closest friends. He is funny and caring and determined and he makes every day better.

Her Highness

HH is almost 7 months and is determined to be nothing like her brother (except in looks; they look just alike). The Numa was crawling by now but HH would rather have the mountain brought to her. The Nums had no teeth until he was almost a year old but HH just finished cutting her second. Both of her bottom front teeth are finally through and it looks like her top front teeth may not be far behind. Numa has never had a fat roll in his life but HH has the most delicious chunky baby thighs - not too fat but definitely chubby. Like her squirrel cheeks. I just want to kiss them all the time. She constantly has lint between her fingers (we call it troll fingers) because her hands are always in her mouth. She likes to be warm and right now she sleeps in two onesies, socks, tights and a footed fleece sleeper, with a blanket over her. She hardly ever fusses unless she is really tired, really hungry or doesn't feel well. She babbles all the time.

HH is obsessed with the Numa and her mommy but I am fairly certain that if the Numa could carry her she wouldn't bother with me at all. She finds him hilarious and her whole face lights up when he is near. She is sitting on her own and loves to throw things over the edge of her high chair and then look interestedly at them until someone gives them back. She immediately throws them again but we never learn. She has started eating baby food, something the Numa was never into, and it is astonishing how much cereal she can eat. She currently likes apples, pears, bananas and spinach with potatoes but we are cutting back on fruit due to some output issues. She is really warming up to her daycare teachers and loves being with the other babies. I usually call her by her first name but if I need another moniker, my current favorite is Monkey Shine.

She is not a great sleeper, during the day or at night. When she is at home, she naps really well but at daycare is only doing two or three half hour naps which isn't enough. Last night, she only woke once which was an amazing treat for me. (I haven't had a full night of sleep in over 7 months so I almost cried with joy when she only got up one time.) She drools constantly but fortunately Gma B has provided her with enough clothing to sustain the 2-4 costume changes she requires each day. Her cloth diapers make her butt huge. I am pretty sure that she is starting to understand some of our words as I can ask her "where's Daddy" or "where's the Numa" and she will look around for M or the Nums. She loves to pull hair and sometimes, when she is tired, she lays her little head on my shoulder and sighs and I wish we could stay like that forever because it is perfection. She is a happy baby and, if I do say so myself, a very pretty baby as well. (What can I say - I make pretty babies.) She is cheerful and cuddly and inquisitive and I can't imagine our life without her.

In equal parts, I want them to stay just as they are now and I can't wait to see the people they become. Being a parent is the hardest thing I have ever done in every way but it is also the most rewarding and the most fun. I have read several studies which found that people with children are less happy than those without and I wholeheartedly disagree. My life has a depth and a richness now that it never had before the kids and they bring me joy each and every day. I wish that everyone could be this blessed.

Be well,


* The nickname Numa came from one of the little guys first "words" that he would babble over and over. Sometimes we call him the Nums or Doobie, but Numa is the one we used the most. Her Highness just seemed a fitting title for our second child who is a good baby but very determined to be the center of attention and have her own way. We don't actually call her that.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Kitchen progress - Chapter 3.

When last we spoke, the kitchen was prepped and ready for all the new things that would go into it. To refresh your memory, this is what it looked like:

Widened doorway.
Ready for flooring, cabinet, appliance and fixture installation.

And this was our end goal:

Final Kitchen Layout.
Final layout, looking in from dining room.

You would think that we (and by we, I mean Doug, the electricians, the plumbers and the painters) were almost done but you would be wrong. There was so much more to do...

Once we finalized the kitchen plan, we headed back to IKEA to order all of the necessary parts. And there are a LOT of necessary parts when building an IKEA kitchen because everything is packaged separately. From the cabinet frames to the drawer fronts to the soft-close hinges, it all comes in individual boxes or bags. This is where the staff in the kitchen department comes in. If you, like M, have spent hours and hours and hours toiling over the less-than-user-friendly kitchen design tool, you can save your final product online and the nice people at IKEA can access it from there. (If you have not, they will sigh heavily and open a session for you.) They inspect your work to be sure that you haven't inadvertently done something stupid that will cause you much woe and more trips to IKEA (which you should just resign yourself to anyway...there is always something else you need) and once they have fixed your amateur mistakes, they print a huge list of required pieces and parts that will eventually become your dream kitchen. They place the order for you and you pay right there but unless you own a semi-truck to cart your dream home, there is no escape from the absurdity of IKEA's home delivery process. In case anyone is interested, I can offer a few tips that will make purchasing an IKEA kitchen (especially during a sale) much less stressful:

1. Take good measurements of your kitchen and then take them again. And again. Having the correct measurements for your space (including those for the floor plan and, unless you are planning some major reworks, the locations for anything requiring power, plumbing or both) will ensure that the dream kitchen you design and purchase will actually fit into your home. I can't tell you how many people we overheard telling an IKEA kitchen rep (hereafter known as IKR) that they were "pretty sure" their kitchen was x width or y length - you need to KNOW these numbers or be prepared for the many repeat trips to IKEA it will take to fix the resulting problems.

2. Spend a lot of time visiting the IKEA kitchen department to look at all the options. It is really helpful to check out their in-house mock kitchens as well as their selection of finishes and fixtures. We had originally planned to have white kitchen cabinets but after seeing the "white" IKEA options in person we realized that they are all off-white instead and not a look we liked. Being able to see so many options on the floor will also help you to think about how you want your kitchen to be organized and since people don't often redo a kitchen more than once, your decisions will affect how you use the space for quite a while.

3. As much as it sucks, use the design tool to get as far as you can in the process before sitting down with the IKR, especially if you are shopping during a sale. We finalized our plan with an IKR about a month before the sale ended and ordered everything about two weeks later which allowed us time to make final tweaks and to avoid the crowds of people that were starting to appear. The IKR we worked with (let's call him Alex, which I think was his name - he was super helpful and knowledgeable and, as a bonus, had really cool tattoos) told us that wait times to meet with them get out of control in the final two weeks of the sale. Having the undivided attention of an IKR for as long as you need them is really important as they will be placing the order themselves and you don't want them hurried.

4. Know your design well enough to be able to competently check your parts list before the IKR places the order. Then check it again. When you design the kitchen using IKEA's tool it will provide you with a list of all of the necessary components as they need to be ordered. The IKR will use this list to place the order but it is a really long list and mistakes happen. Alex, wonderful as he was, ordered the wrong size for one of our cabinets and it is only because M had looked at everything for so long that he caught it.

5. Expect to have to make at least one return trip for wrong or missing parts. Even though M caught the incorrectly sized cabinet, we still got a couple of things that we shouldn't have and were missing a few things that we needed. Luckily we are only 45 minutes from IKEA, so return trips were a hassle but not a deal breaker. Public service announcement: I do not advise purchasing an IKEA kitchen if you are either unable or unwilling to make many trips to IKEA.

6. Plan to order your entire kitchen, including any fixtures, handles and appliances, at least 2 weeks before a sale ends or before you need the parts. Alex told us (and he was right) that the risk of having to back order pieces or parts gets significantly higher as a sale draws to a close, especially for cabinet parts. IKEA kitchens are popular in large part because they are already so cheap...add more discounts on top of that and IKEA kitchens become the Cabbage Patch Kid of the remodeling world. Since we were working with a very hard deadline we made sure to have our order in before the rush.

7. If you don't like the first IKR you meet, find another one. As with life in general, there are people you mesh with and people you don't, and also total a-holes that no one meshes with who should just stay home. You will be sitting with this person for a while so try to find someone who doesn't make you want to slap them.

8. Once you have a final layout, plan to be at IKEA for at least 2 hours when ordering your kitchen and know that it could take longer. Alex (helpful, helpful Alex) recommended that we come in just after lunchtime during the week, as the IKRs tend to be less busy at that time. We took his advice but we still needed all of those two hours plus some to finalize the order, check out, realize there was a mistake and have it fixed and wait for the home delivery process to finish. (This process was even more stressful for me because we were 45 minutes away from the Numa's school and I cannot deal with being late to pick him up.)

After all the months of planning and at least 5 trips to IKEA we now just had to wait for our kitchen to arrive. And arrive it did, in 99 boxes. 99 boxes people. And our kitchen isn't even that big. It took two guys almost half an hour to bring it in the house and they were almost running.

IKEA kitchen.
All boxes for the kitchen. (Though, to be fair, the one with the black writing wasn't from IKEA.)

IKEA kitchen.
Yet more boxes. It was ridiculous.

When I saw all the boxes my first thought was: "I am so glad I don't have to assemble this;" which was followed quickly by: "Where is my sink?" I think that Doug was also less than excited, but he did an amazing job and pretty soon the entire main level was covered in cabinets.

Holy cabinets, IKEA!
Holy cabinets Batman!

I still don't know how they all fit in our kitchen but fit they did and, pretty quickly, it started to look more like this:

Cabinet installation.
Hi Doug!

Once the base cabinets were installed the tile guys were able to start on the flooring. The kitchen abuts spaces with two different floor finishes: the original slate tile in the front entryway and the wood floor in the dining room. We didn't want to bring a third type of flooring into the space, but matching either of the original floors exactly was going to be difficult to impossible. We quickly ruled out wood floors since the cabinets were a birch finish and it seemed like using wood on the floor as well would be too much wood (that's what she said). We didn't really want to spend the money to put slate tile in the kitchen but we really liked the color of the slate in the entryway and thought it would be a nice contrast to the light colored cabinets while also tying in the dark counters. We decided that our best option was to find a tile that matched the color of the slate in the entryway as closely as possible. I think I visited every tile shop in and around Boston and just when I thought all hope was lost, I stumbled across this awesome 12" x 24" porcelain tile at a store in Burlington. It has a matte finish and was the closest color match to the front hall that we could find. As a bonus, it was one of the biggest budget wins in our renovation project, coming in at less than $300 for the entire kitchen.

Trying to "match" the slate.
Sexy and cheap. We have a winner.
Doug recommended that we tile as far under the cabinets as the supports would allow so that once the plinth was installed you wouldn't see cut tile edges. The tile would also extend all the way under the refrigerator and to the awkward box covering the basement stair head space. We decided to lay the tile with the long edge parallel to the dining room door to make the kitchen seem wider and not like a hallway.

Kitchen tile.
Floor tile progress, seen from dining room.

From the front hall - just needs grout!

The tile took under a day to lay down and only part of another day to grout. We decided to use dark grout and in the end my only regret is that we didn't go darker. It looks great but I wish we had been able to almost match the tile. Once the floor was in the rest of the cabinets went up quickly and pretty soon we had this:

Pantry and fridge.
Pantry cabinet, fridge box, pull-out trash bin and dead corner space.

and this:

Plumbing in.
Mount for my sink (!!) and cooktop.

and this:

Wall oven unit.
Wall oven/microwave unit, base cabinet storage and glass front top cabinets.

We talked with Doug and our IKR at length about how best to handle the unusable corner, since it still needed a base that could support the counter top. In the end, we decided to get a base cabinet to cover the weird box and have Doug hack it to fit. In a feat worthy of a super contractor, Doug also managed to get side by side drawers under the cooktop which I had thought impossible. The usable space in the drawers is pretty shallow, but they are perfect for spices and cutting boards. They were some of the last things that were installed so pictures will come later. You can also see that we chose to use different doors for the upper cabinets next to the wall oven. We planned to store dishes and bar ware in those cabinets and decided that the ÄDEL glass doors (which I don't think you can get in the birch finish any more but thankfully, we got an extra in case of eventual wear or breakage) would be a nice way to break up the acres of plain birch.

That wraps flooring and cabinets. Chapter 4: appliances, counter tops and my beloved sink.

Be well,