Monday, November 24, 2014

Our Projects of Late

We've had many projects going on recently, which has been taking up much of my time.  As way of explanation for my almost-absence from the internet, here's a look at some things I've been doing in my "free time."


Crafting
I'm still working on the baby quilt at my quilting group.  I finished piecing the top.  I still need to get some batting so I can sandwich it all together, quilt it, and bind it.
 

This was my first time doing appliqué work, and it looks pretty rough up close.  Sewing right along the edges was not as easy as I expected, and I hit that point where I stopped caring, and just said "good enough!"  As long as it doesn't all pull out in the wash, I'm happy with it.


Another thing I'm doing with my quilting group is "block of the month."  Our instructor gave us a guide indicating how much to get of different types of fabric ("1/2 yard of fabric #1", "1/3 yard of fabric #2", etc.).  We get to pick all our colors, but we have no clue what shape it will all take in the end.  Every month, she'll give us a new pattern, showing us how to put together one block.  At the end of a year - supposedly - we will be able to join them together into a queen-sized quilt.

Here's my first block.
 

I'm making the quilt for my bedroom.....which is now finally re-painted!  

Master Bedroom
When we moved in, the master bedroom had peach walls with matching peach trim, done in dull flat paint.   Very unhappy looking place.

before

before
"before", but after we had already scraped a lot of the old caked paint off the window moldings

And here's the room after painting the moldings white and the walls in a purple-gray satin paint.

after
after
 
after - I'm loving the contrast between the walls and the trim

This was a big step, but our bedroom is still not done.  We need to hang pictures, refinish the free-from-Craigslist headboard (I'm thinking white, with some antiquing paint to pull out all the nice carved flower details), and - the big one - build some bookcases in the alcoves beside the bed.

Which is why the alcove area still looks terrible, with the original wall color and stacks of books, waiting....



Kitchen Backsplash
Ever since we had our kitchen cabinets and counters re-done, we've been hoping to attempt installing a tile backsplash ourselves.  It's taken so long to get started - mostly because we were intimidated by it.  But after reading many online tutorials and watching a handful of Youtube videos about tiling, I felt confident enough to try it.  So far, we've just done the small piece of wall above the side counter.  This was our "practice" wall - Tom did most of the cutting, I did most of the tile-laying.  We're hoping to start on the rest of the backsplash a little after Thanksgiving.

wall before

after laying the tile, but before grouting

ta-da!!
I know the aqua and white is not to everyone's taste, but I think it's beautiful.  I can't wait until we have the rest of the backsplash done :-)


Moldings in the Playroom
When we moved in, the playroom had pale blue-green walls and white trim.  It was clearly in need of a new paint job at some point, but we decided not to even deal with it for a year or so.  We have too many other projects we'd like to do first.

But we noticed a few areas on the window frames and doors where there was some paint starting to chip off.  Worried that it might contain lead, Tom started pulling these little chips off with his fingers so he could throw them away before the kids got them.  It was soon discovered that 1. the paint is no longer well-adhered to the wood, and can pull off very easily, and 2. the stained trim underneath is still in great shape.

We did not need this as a project now, but Tom is so excited to restore the room to its former stained-wood glory that he's taken this on as a little side job when he has nothing else to work on.

I am going to miss the fresh and bright white trim in that room.  I'm so torn between wanting to restore the house to its historically-correct look, and claiming a few rooms for a more-modern white-trimmed look.  (Luckily, the trim in our bedroom was discovered to have always been painted, so Tom didn't fight me on that one).

This shows the white trim on the window and the baseboards (taken shortly after moving in)

This was a few weeks ago, after Tom started to chip the paint away
I don't have a clear vision yet for this room's future look (or function), but it's definitely going to be a big change in feel.  To me, white trim seems light and feminine, while dark trim seems heavy and masculine.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Don't Like Playing With My Kids

I haven't worked this all out in my mind yet to figure out what it all means, but I have an admission to make.  A lot of the time, I....really don't like...playing with my kids.

Phew.

I feel guilty about this.  My whole life, when I pictured myself as a mother, I imagined running around with my kids, taking them to parks, joining them in games playing with toys, and simply having lots of fun with them.  And I do have my moments where I like to be silly with them and dance and sing and play pretend and give tickles and have fun. 

But the majority of the time?  I'd seriously rather stand in the kitchen washing dishes and gazing at the kids out the back window than have to go outside with them and play. 

I like watching them, snuggling them, or talking with them.  But I don't like to be their entertainment.  I tell Sly, "Mommy's job is to take care of the family and the house.  Your job is just to play.  So go play!"  But they want me to play with them all the time.  And I have to force myself.

I dread Sly asking me to play Candyland with him.  I feel like I'd rather do anything else.  Playing four-year-old-level board games is done completely as an act of love and for no other reason.

Am I not giving them enough attention at other times?  Perhaps I'm not being "present" enough when we are spending time together?  Or maybe it's just that I've never been good with young children?  I can't figure out if there is a problem with me not wanting to play with them, or if it is just a manifestation of my particular temperament.
  

I love my kids, I love being around my kids.  But it's so much nicer when Tom's wrestling with them on the floor, and I'm just sitting in the room near them, maybe sewing or paging through a magazine...enjoying the sounds and sights of my happy children. 

I feel drawn to the image of the typical mother of a couple generations ago who would feed the kids breakfast, give them a kiss, and send them out the door to go run around the neighborhood with other kids all day.  Mother as the holder-down-of-the-fort.  The mother hen who the little chicks come running back to at the end of the day.

This was all driven home for me recently because Tom was on a business trip and I had to take care of everyone on my own for several days.  Day times were fine, because we have our general schedule and I'm used to being home with the kids during that time.  But evening would hit - which is usually when Tom plays with them for a couple hours before bed - and I found myself thinking desperately, "what do I doooooo with them?!" 

I know that kids learn and relate to people largely through play.  And I absolutely want a good relationship with my kids.  So for now, I guess I just need to grin and bare it some days.  When they're older, hopefully we can strengthen that relationship based on other interests and ways of relating.

Thoughts?  Advice?  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Roughing It in the Cold

Well, winter weather is starting to set in for sure.  When I climbed out of bed this morning, there was a bit of snow on the ground (not as much as they got in Western New York - have you seen the pictures?!), and my little weather station told me it was 13° outside...and only 56° in my bedroom.  Oy.

At time of writing...
 We've been keeping our thermostat set to 62° to save money on natural gas.  But in an old house with literally no insulation in the walls (I did not realize this until Tom informed me of it the other day.  Apparently, in the 1920s, there was little need for insulation in houses, since coal was so cheap - and probably especially so here, as we live in coal country - and you could always just throw another shovel in to the furnace to make it warmer...), the upper floors never even get that high.  

There's a Facebook group I'm part of, and one of the women recently asked what temperature everyone kept their thermostats set to in the winter.  There were dozens of responses, ranging as high as 72°.  The average seemed to be between 65° and 68°.  Only one person I saw kept theirs lower than us: at 60°, and she said she lived in Vermont so maybe she's just used to the cold...? 

Here, we spend the days wrapped in several sweaters, thick socks with down-filled slippers on top, and scarves and hoods as needed.  Sometimes I even sleep wearing a hat.  My body maintains a low level of constant shivering.

Anyways, if I thought my room was cold this morning, it felt like a veritable sauna compared to the attic.  I went up there to wake Sly, and could hardly stand how cold it was.  You can see your breath up there!  Poor kid. The ducting just has no warm air left to give by the time it reaches the one tiny floor vent that's supposed to service the whole third floor - and that's after we've selectively closed off several of the vents in "unnecessary" rooms below, such as the bathroom....brrrr!

Tom and I have been brainstorming about measures we can take to help keep it a bit warmer in the house/cheaper to heat.  He's partially through with covering the windows with plastic, and using spray foam insulation along the drafty bits in the foundation in the basement.  Hopefully that helps a bit.  And he found a tutorial for how to strategically add insulation to the specific type of attic shape we have.

As much as I want to complain about how cold it is here - and I think I pretty much spent a whole blog post doing just that! - I keep reminding myself that in terms of human history, we are so lucky to be enjoying a house that's as warm as it is during the winter.  Even into the Victorian period, many people had to close up the majority of their houses during the winter, living in just a room or two, huddled around a common hearth.  And insulation or no, I know our house is much toastier than the little loft where the Ingalls girls slept in the Little House books!

Monday, November 3, 2014

October in Words and Pictures

As I mentioned in my last post - before falling off the face of the blogworld for three weeks - I've recently taken on a lot of commitments.  Life has been busy busy busy, and it's been hard to spare many moments for blogs - either writing or reading them, so my apologies to those whose I try to keep up with!  Here's a look at a few of the things that have been going on for me.

Crafting

I've been trying to plan out one (easy!) craft a week to do with the kids.  They really enjoy it, and I get the benefit of having free but cute seasonal decorations for my house.

Some of the recent ones were...
Paper-bag puppet owls.  They look great on the wall and I may even save them for next fall, but I don't recommend making these with really young kids.  I pretty much spent a half hour cutting tiny things out of construction paper, while the kids sat - impatiently, of course - and waited.


Various ghosties for the chandelier.  Kleenex wrapped around a balled Kleenex, and cotton balls glued onto card stock.  Very simple.


And some gorgeous fall leaves ironed between waxed paper.  The number of stained-glass windows in the house just doubled!



I've also been working on some crafts of my own.  Mainly, the baby quilt I'm making at my quilting group.  I don't have any in-progress photos now, but here's the fabric I'm using:



Halloween
Sly couldn't decide what he wanted to be until the last minute.  I wasn't too worried, because we had his costume from last year as a backup. He finally settled on being a cowboy, and luckily, I was able to throw it together with things we already had around the house.  I pleaded with Stella to be a cowgirl, because how cute would that have been?  But she insisted on wearing a masculine-looking pre-packaged bunny suit we had.  Oh well.  Linus wore his winter bear suit.


Our new neighborhood turns out to be a great place to trick-or-treat.  Our block was packed with kids, and most of the neighbors came to the bottom of their stairs/end of their walkway to hand out candy, instead of staying indoors (we also had pretty mild weather).

Some friends invited us all to a Halloween party after trick-or-treating.  Costumes were "encouraged," so Tom and I scrambled to get something together, literally minutes before leaving.

I dressed in orange and black, and threw on a bunch of dead animals [minks].  Aaaaand....yeah.  I don't know what I was, but I looked Halloween-y, anyways.


Tom slicked back his hair, put on a power tie, grabbed some dry wall tools and went as "a banker on Dry Wall street"....Okay.


Soul Cakes
For several years, I've been wanting to bake soul cakes.  I can't really figure out if they're more appropriately made for Halloween or All Soul's Day.  In the end, I decided not to make them this year for the same reason I've always declined to in the past: we're already eating WAY too much junk food around Halloween, and we absolutely don't need any more!

All Saint's Day
We went to Mass on Saturday, which is when my church observes the feast.  And....that was it.

We had the opportunity to go to a couple different dress-up-your-kids-as-Saints parties, but I opted out.  Figuring out Halloween costumes for the kids was enough for me this year, and I didn't think they were quite old enough to really understand or appreciate dressing up as Saints.  I know some moms just do one costume, having their kids trick-or-treat in their Saint outfits.  My concern is that doing so would just be an invitation to your neighbors to be labelled as "the Catholic weirdos." Perhaps if I were holier, I wouldn't mind so much.

I promised Sly we would try to go to an All Saints party next year, though. He's already decided who he'll dress as: St. George.  A knight who slays a dragon?  I would guess that he is many little boys' first pick.


Other Autumnal Happenings
We're still soldiering on with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons - Sly and I, that is.  The daily lessons have been earning me some time off Purgatory....or sending me to confession.  Depending on how much patience I can muster that day.
ready to read!
Stella got into a tube of brand-new (and not-that-cheap) long-lasting lipstick and put it all over her face.  I may have freaked out a bit and caused her to cry uncontrollably for the next twenty minutes.  It took two days and several hard scrubbings to get it all off.


 
After a lifetime of half-doubting the existence of most people's "allergies," I finally had to humble myself and go get allergy testing done, at the recommendation of my doctor.  And guess what?  I've got 'em!  Among a couple more minor things, I am allergic to dust mites.  This explains so much.  I won't bore you with all my symptoms, but basically I wake up many mornings feeling like I have the worst sinus infection ever.  Because, uh, dust mites live in my bed (and yours too!).  It feels pretty empowering to know this, actually, and to know that there's hopefully a way to make things better.

We took a walk in a city park, and got to enjoy the last hurrah of the deciduous foliage.





Oh, and I finally re-painted our bedroom!!  No more peach walls with peach trim.  It looks great, but I'm going to wait to take photos after we hang our pictures and curtains.  And knowing the pace we've been moving on our home improvement projects recently....that might be a while.

Friday, October 10, 2014

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 43)

 -1-
I've taken on a ton of commitments recently.  I think subconsciously, it's because I want to take advantage of this time when I'm not pregnant, and actually have the energy to do things.  Oh, and because my pleasant little Linus not only happily drinks from a bottle (which his older sister never did), but has also started on solid foods recently, which means I can sometimes leave him with Tom when I go out!

I'm part of a weekly Endow study group, a bi-weekly Catholic moms book group (currently reading The Seven Storey Mountain), another monthly study group with women from my church, and I host a monthly discussion group at my house.  I'm also participating in biweekly "craft nights" (to finally finish the mittens I started knitting for Tom two years ago), take Sly to two weekly catechism programs, and go to occasional other activities with my Catholic moms group...and then there are all the various doctors appointments, errands, trips to the library, grocery shopping, etc. that has to happen.  Oy!  A number of these activities are in the evenings, and my husband has been really awesome about letting me leave the kids with him and get out of the house.

Some days get rather hectic, but really - I like being busy.  I'm happier when I have a full schedule.  And despite being "shy", I'm a definite extrovert, and it's been excellent to have all these opportunities to be with other people.


-2-
And to add to the packed schedule, the other night I joined a local quilting class/group that's starting up in my community.  They meet two evenings a week, and I'm really looking forward to learning some new skills.  It's just me and three middle-aged women, plus our (middle-aged woman) instructor.  We pick our own fabric, but we all work on the same pattern.  Our first project is going to be a baby quilt, and part of it has to include appliqué work.


 -3-
Last weekend, the temperature dipped into the cold zone, spurring me to switch out my summer clothes for my winter ones.  All my winter skirts were stored in a box at the back of my closet - many of them made from wool, or other thick materials.  I had followed the advice you read in so many magazines about rolling your clothes instead of folding them.  Bad idea.  I might as well have just wadded all my skirts into balls, they're so wrinkled!  Definitely going back to regular folding when I pack them away next time.  I'm going to have to iron almost all of them now, and my "ironing pile" is still full of summer stuff that I haven't gotten to yet!

And speaking of breaking out the winter clothes, Stella was put into footie pajamas last night for the first time since last winter.  She had an absolute meltdown about the feet, and screamed and clawed at them for a good twenty minutes.  Anyone else's toddler do this?

-4-
For the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on Tuesday, I helped the kids make some chocolate chip (and butterscotch chip) Rosaries, as suggested on Catholic All Year.


But we used mini chocolate chips for all the decade beads, because using the full-size ones would have been way too much chocolate before bedtime.


picking out all the big chips first

-5-
Speaking of the Rosary, our nightly prayers have definitely been enriched since we got this beautiful Rosary book with depictions of all the mysteries.  There's not much room left on the top of our home altar, so the small sized one was perfect for us.  Sly has really enjoyed flipping the pages while we pray to see what the next mystery is, and explain to us what's happening in each painting.  And I find it's also improved my ability to focus on the mystery and pay better attention to my prayers.



Anna, a regular commenter here, makes these stand-up booklets along with her husband.  They are creating various resources that use sacred art to teach and inspire people in the Faith.  Please consider supporting this great family business.


-6-
I often get a little disappointed when there's "dessert" that doesn't involve chocolate.  You know, like fruity desserts (pies, crisps, etc.) or the ubiquitous loaf cakes that every woman seems to serve at every event ever (pumpkin bread, banana bread, nut bread, etc.).  Don't get me wrong, baked goods are always welcome.  But as I've said to Tom, only half-jokingly, one of my personal mottos could be "if it's not chocolate, it's not dessert!"

A friend posted a recipe for cobbler the other day.  But not just any cobbler - chocolate cobbler!  So I whipped one up the other night, just because.  It was pretty darn good.


-7-
Every time I go to the supermarket, I have to get myself a (chocolate-frosted cake) doughnut in the bakery section.  Those of you with a true sweet tooth know what I'm talking about. Tom doesn't share my affinity for baked goods.  He has even dared to suggest that I don't need to give in to the urge each time I pass the bakery section.  But the other night I was vindicated.  I made a quick stop at the store for a couple ingredients I needed, and the guy bagging the groceries for me said "wow - only one doughnut?!  You must have a lot of self-control!":-)  Ha!


[I like that three of my Takes today were about eating chocolate]


Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Some Quotes and Stories from My First-Born


Because this kid is a real hand-full sometimes...



-1-
We've explained to Sly before that superheros are "just cartoon characters."  A couple weeks ago, Tom and the kids went to cheer me on while I was running in a 10K race.  One of the other runners was dressed as Captain America.  Sly was pretty excited about it, and recounted it to me after the race.  He ended with, "Captain America looked pretty real to me."


-2-
Last week for St. Therese's feast day, we were digging around inside our altar to find a special St. Therese chaplet of ours.  The search unearthed our little stash of relics, which Sly had never seen before.  He was completely fascinated by them, and wanted to hear the story about each of them, and give each one a kiss [we own a number of third class relics, and one second class relic.  No first class ones...yet].  The next night, Tom asked if Sly had any intentions for our Rosary.  He quickly offered, "That we get more relics!"



-3-
Tom's been teaching Sly how to pray on his own - each night before bed he tells Sly to think of a prayer in his head and say it to God.  Afterwards, Tom asks Sly what he'd said.  The first night, Sly's prayer was, "Jesus, I really really love you.  Help me to be more like You." We were pretty impressed.  But then the following night, Sly came up with, "Jesus, help me to get more toys."  So....we have some more work to do.


-4-
Tom often says that watching tv "turns your brains to mush."  The other day while Sly was "at naptime", I was downstairs, folding huge piles of laundry with the tv on.  Sly must have heard it, so he came down and said, "Mommy, I think your brain turned into mush."



-5-
Speaking of "naptime", Sly hasn't actually slept during the day for at least a year, but I still insist he spend a couple hours in his room each day because I need that time.  But he's constantly coming up with new schemes and excuses for getting out of his room, however briefly.  Usually some "really important" thing he has to say to us. 

Last weekend, he began to employ a new strategy that really had us baffled for a while.  He would come downstairs with quite convincing tears streaming down his face, acting incredibly contrite, saying he needed to apologize for something - usually something dumb that there were no rules against anyways.    "<sniffle, sniffle> I'm sorry <sniffle> that I smacked the floooooooooor <cry, whine, sniffle>".  Tom or I would tell him it was alright, pat him on the back, and send him back up with instructions not to come down again.  But each time it got more ridiculous. A little later you'd hear him sniffling his way down again.  I'd sternlysay  his name, and ask why he was out of bed.  Then he'd appear around the corner, red-eyed, saying, "I'm <sniffle!> sorry I <sniffle> came dowwwwwwn!"  And finally it devolved into - my favorite - "I'm <sniffle> sorry for <sniffle> everything bad....in the <intake of breath> whooooooooole wooooooorld <bursting into tears>".  Ugh. 

I think we finally nipped it in the bud, but it was a weird couple days, and we couldn't really figure out how to handle him since he already seemed so genuinely upset.  Tom suggested that he could probably have earned an Oscar for his performance.


-6-
Sly: "Stella, you're bad!"
Me: "No, we don't say that. You need to apologize."
Sly: "Stella, I'm sorry that you're bad."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Liebster Award - high five!


The lovely Theresa at Ordinary Lovely nominated me for a Liebster Award.  Thanks for thinking of me!

I don't think I've been asked to answer a series of questions about myself since back in the day when I had a Xanga page (oh yes I did!).  Here are my responses, and a few nominations.

1. Have you ever had something stolen from you?  
Yes, our car got broken into while we were living at our old place, and our GPS was stolen.  The thief left the power cord, though, so I contented myself with the thought that maybe it would be useless to him anyways.

2. Show us your favorite internet meme or cartoon.
hmm...I don't know about favorite.  Let me just pull a couple things I have saved in my "funny" folder on the computer (yes, I have such a thing).




3. Can you show us a picture that tells us something about you (no words)?


4. What's one of your guilty pleasures?
Reading celebrity gossip magazines when I get my hands on them in waiting rooms, etc.


5. Is there a hobby/sport you'd like to learn? 
I'd like to get better at quilting.  Maybe learn some embroidery some day (I do cross-stitch now).  It would be awesome to know how to play banjo, but honestly, I don't "want to learn" because that would involve hours and hours of practice, and I really don't have the time.

6. How do you see yourself spending your retirement (or golden years, as it were!)
Hopefully, I will have lots of kids and grandkids visiting a lot.  I'm hoping I'll never have to really be an "empty-nester"....if I still have my youngest kids in the house by the time grandkids start to come, it might work out.  It would be awesome to do some traveling with my husband, but it will really depend on what kind of savings we have by then, and right now it's hard to imagine it will be much.

7. What was one of the most thoughtful gifts you've received? 
There was a large old painting of St. Thérèse a friend had that I really loved, and praised every time I visited.  For my birthday, he arranged for a bunch of friends to chip in and buy me the same painting that he had found for sale in the local Catholic used book store.  It's hanging on the wall right above me now :-)




8. What's your biggest pet peeve?
Not sure if this is the biggest, or even - technically speaking - a pet peeve.  But as I've mentioned before, I basically flip out anytime the kids spill a drink....I'm working on it.

9. Have you started your Christmas shopping or crafting?
We have a gift box in our basement that we add things to as we find them throughout the year.  I have one gift for my mom, one for a friend, and several for the kids right now.


10. Blogger's Choice: You pick that awesome question that I'm forgetting to ask.
"Christine, do you have a name for your unique decorating style that is made up of mostly thrifted, given away, or trash-picked treasures?"
Yes, I do.  "Second-hand chic."  Which would be the name of my decorating book if I ever wrote one, but I probably never will...because people who are interested in second-hand stuff don't buy things new anyways :-P

*****
I'm going to pass this award on to some ladies I know in real life (or have at least met).  I'd love to read your responses, but don't feel pressured to participate if you aren't interested or simply don't have the time!

I'm tagging:
Rosemary at Rosemary's Fancy
Katie at Think of Lovely Things
Kim at The Kearful Life
Caitlyn at Harvesting Home
Eva at Humblebee Home
Mary at Castle Keane
Pax at Peace Among Thorns
Caitlin at Easy as ABC
MamaRoc at Fifth of Five
Amelia at One Catholic Mama
Kellie at The Life Pursuit

Here are the new questions for my nominees:
1. What's one thing you do really well?
2. What's your favorite blog post you've written (include link)?
3. What is one blog post or article by another writer that has stuck with you for a long time (include link)?
4. Are you a "cat person" or a "dog person"?
5. How well do you get along with your siblings?
6.  Do you subscribe to any publications?
7. If your house was on fire, and you had time to grab ONE object to save (assume all other people and pets are already out safely), what would it be?
8. Are there any kids' toys that you suspect you might enjoy playing with as much as/more than the kids?
9. What kind of candy will you be handing out for Halloween?
10. Have you ever seen or experienced something you suspect was supernatural?