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Monday, September 15, 2014

the DIY ring sling

After bringing you a post like the last one, it seems I should try to offer the world something of beauty too, and not just the crazy and the chaos and the mess.

Something of beauty being, of course, my kids.

And the ring sling I sewed to carry them around!

I made it with Ree in mind, for as much as I love my fabric wrap and my Ergo {and Nell always loved them both, too}, Ree wants to see the world, and is not as content to sit pressed up against my chest unless she is really tired and ready for some serious sleeping.  Awake and alert, she wants to face out.

It seemed like everywhere I looked on the blogosphere, mamas were carrying their babes in those gorgeous Sakura Bloom ring slings.  I did not, however, think I would be able to sell my husband on the idea of spending $100+ on yet another way to carry the babe around.  The solution, of course, was to make my own.

A lengthy cut of pretty grey linen, sturdy rings from, a tutorial from Jan at sleeping baby productions and a little extra info on doing a gathered shoulder, and I was in business.  Easy-peasy.  And I saved myself a lot of money.

Following the one-size-fits-all approach from the tutorial yielded a sling that is definitely longer than I need it to be, so I'm planning to trim and re-stitch the hem on the tail soon, but aside from that I'm quite pleased with it.

Ree is so snug and cozy in it, and can look around when she wants to or snuggle in close and doze when she gets sleepy.  And as it turns out, Nell loves it too!  She has a way of asking for "Mommy hugs!" just when I'm trying to slice oranges and scramble eggs for breakfast or put the finishing touches on dinner, and being able to pop her in the sling is the perfect solution: Nell feels hugged and close to me and is happy as a clam, and I still have my hands free to do what needs to be done.

Oh, and since the sling kind of disguised the all-important fact that the girls wore matching corduroy dresses to church on Sunday:

{A consignment find I'm pretty pleased with.  Every mother gets to inflict this kind of matchy-matchy scenario on her daughters at least once, right?}

Ree was kind of unimpressed by the whole phenomenon, but don't try to tell me your day hasn't been made.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

pin THIS!

I don't know how some people do it, really I don't.  How is the world full of people who manage to make their homes look perfect, like something out of a Pottery Barn catalogue, and keep their children always looking ready for a Crew Cuts photo shoot, and then still have time to blog about it all?

My life isn't perfect.  My home is quasi-disastrous at times.  My two-year-old's hair is often unkempt and my four-month-old has a bald spot in back.  And I don't even have time to blog about how imperfect it all is.

Anyway, here's my little homage to Pinterest-worthy perfection.

** Full disclosure: These images are not photoshopped.  I'm stating this for the record, because they are so amazing, you'll be tempted to think they were edited to achieve this level of perfection. **

Are you ready?

This is a pile of Nathan's work gloves, knee pads, and masks that has been sitting on our staircase for about a month.  I keep moving them to the basement or somewhere else less objectionable, and they keep winding up here again after another evening's hard work on the attic project.

This is our kitchen floor, right next to our kitchen table.  The kitchen table that is usually covered with tools, or at the very least, bills and other mail needing to be sorted and dealt with.  You might think this is a garage or basement due to the extremely sharp and dangerous electric saw sitting there, but no, it's my kitchen floor.  I should have gotten a picture of the time Nathan stored it in the nursery for a couple of days.

This is our little screened in porch.  We have plans to fix it up someday and try to make it somewhat pleasant.  In the meantime, we have a lovely wooden swing my Dad made us, and we like to swing on it.  Nell has a sweet little adirondack chair, as you can see, and she likes to sit out on the porch, too.  And for some reason, Nathan sometimes puts his blow torch out here.  Because that's normal.  And safe.  {Don't worry; I hastily removed said dangerous object.}

This is the area at the top of the stairs, looking into Nathan's home office space.  During the course of the attic renovation project, Nathan's office became increasingly filled with tools, light fixtures, empty boxes, wood scraps, and other sundry items to the point where it is now hazardous to even attempt to walk through the door.  I needed to access the printer the other day to print some things for my violin studio, and I almost died.

Don't believe me?  How about a close-up?


I'm pretty sure someone could break into our house and ransack that room, and we wouldn't even notice.  Ever.

Poor over-worked Nathan.  One of these evenings, now that the attic project is essentially complete (!!), we're going to tackle that office.  I'm going to help him, because if he gets buried alive, I want to be there to dig him out.

This is standing at the top of the stairs and looking to the left, where the spiral staircase is that goes up to the attic.  You might be horrified by the green shag carpet on those stair treads... or you might not even notice that particular feature due to the mountains of, um, stuff.  Stuff that used to be stored in the attic prior to the renovation project commencing.  Stuff accumulating from the project as it unfolds.  Plus bonus stuff the origins of which elude me.

This is the bedroom next to Nell's room, the room I'm planning on turning into her "big girl room."  All it really needs is a new light fixture and it should be move-in-ready, right?  Well, if the brother-in-law can get his stuff out of there.  Which, in his defense, is probably impossible because there's so much of it where would it all go?  I'm beginning to think this may be his permanent storage unit.  That's okay; Nell and Ree can share a 120 square foot room.

This is a little section of our back yard.  Back when I was about 41 weeks pregnant with Ree, I cleared all those branches from an area next to our garage to try to make that space a little nicer, and carried them as far as I could muster the energy to carry them.  Then Ree was born, and the branches lingered in that lovely spot.  The grass and weeds grew up around them since we couldn't mow that area.

And on the left hand side there, yes, that is a weed that grew too tall and too large to bear its own weight.

I'm kind of picturing that little emoji emoticon of laughing until you cry.  It seems somehow fitting.

So go on, friends, pin away to your Pinterest boards!  If this life of ours isn't Pinterest-worthy, I don't know what is.

Friday, August 29, 2014

the new job and the mid-year evaluation of life

Back in July, Nathan got a full-time job.

I put a period after that sentence to pretend like hey, no big deal, but actually...

Nathan got a full-time job!!!

We were relieved, happy, overjoyed, excited, etc.

We celebrated.

But we also high-fived each other for having made it through seven-and-a-half years of marriage without either of us ever holding a full-time job with benefits.  Seven and a half years of freelancing and part-time jobs and self-employment and paying for our own insurance out of pocket, and you know what?  Life wasn't too shabby.  We had an apartment, then bought a house, then bought a second house.  We both got graduate degrees.  We had two kids.  We survived.  Maybe we even thrived at times.

But it was also hard, and particularly since he had lost a job he loved a year ago.  The last year for us was really, really hard sometimes.  The past year of Nathan's work situation involved him often being gone for 12-hour days, and then working from home whenever he was actually home.  Oh, and during that year I had hyperemesis again, this time with a toddler to keep up with while I puked, and a husband too busy to help much.

So when he was granted the position of full-time Director of Music at a large and wonderful church in Boston, we were pretty thrilled.  Life was going to be different.  Better.  Much better, probably.

Well, it's been a little hard to tell how much better it's going to be so far, because what with the attic renovation project, Nathan still kind of works all hours all the time.  But there have been glimpses.  Like already having a little bit more money and a little bit less freaking out, and having days where we get to spend time together as a family, and an evening here or there where Nathan helps with bath time and bedtime and all that good stuff.  Bliss, I'm telling you, pure bliss.

* * *

Well, back in January, I said goodbye to 2013, and wished for some specific things to happen in 2014.  The remarkable thing is, here we are eight months through the year and already there are so many good things to celebrate.  First and foremost is not the new job but the new baby, little miss Ree, so healthy and delightful.  Then there's the new job, a relief both in terms of our finances going forward and the time we'll get to spend together, all four of us.

I'm surviving being a mama of two, and loving it.

I wanted to work in my garden, and I even with a new baby I managed a lot of work on our front yard and got it looking downright presentable.

I wanted to sew more, and I have -- including two quilts for my girls!  {Nell's quilt // Marie's quilt}

Looking back at that New Year's post, I see that I wanted to do more house-fixing-up projects.  Little did I know that the brother-in-law would ask us to renovate our attic and turn it into an apartment for himself and his new bride, and a seven-month project would commence.  It's been crazy, but now that the work is nearly finished and they are living up there, it already feels so worth it.  It's a cozy little space with the vibe of a Manhattan studio apartment, exposed brick walls and sloping ceilings lending an old-building charm to it.  In any case, be careful what you wish for, because you might just get months of air compressors and nail guns and power tools filling your home when you say you want to fix up the place a little bit.

I wrote that I wanted to keep de-cluttering our home by selling things on eBay, and hoped for $1,000 worth of sales.  Well, here it is the end of August, and my total sales on eBay are now over $2,000, so I've officially sold more than $1,000 worth in 2014 so far.  Not really germane to this blog, and I have no intentions of turning this into a place where I document my eBaying successes, but if you have stuff you want to get rid of and you need to make a few bucks, I totally recommend it as a worthwhile venture.

* * *

As for the matter of the new job for this brilliant husband of mine, he was officially "installed" as the new music director this past Sunday, and we celebrated with brunch at a lovely restaurant just up the street from the church.  Nathan was even in a good enough mood to oblige with a "selfie" (an us-ie?  a two-sie?  a we-sie?).

And in case this sounds like a lot of bragging about how not-too-horrible our life is right now, but don't worry -- I'm planning a post soon that will be full of pictures of just how, um, real our real life can be around here.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

the attic renovation project

It's been the spring and summer of the great construction project.  The third floor attic renovation that has curiously managed to take over my entire house, and left me wondering how it can be that we are paying a sizable mortgage payment every month for a five bedroom house, and yet somehow I don't have a quiet place to lay my baby down for naps anymore.

The air compressor, the nail gun, and the drill blast through Nell's nap time every afternoon.  She wakes too soon and decidedly too grumpy, day after day.  A large shopvac blocks the hallway, preventing me from coming and going to Nell's room except by turning sideways and squeezing past, inevitably squishing a foot or an arm of whichever child is in my arms and eliciting squawks of protest.  My kitchen pantry cabinet, instead of holding steel cut oats and almonds and canned goods, was home to a saw and other sundry tools for a week or longer recently.  My living room wall boasts four small drilled holes, a means of searching out some electrical question or other, and small piles of plaster dust in nearly every other room of the house belie similar explorations having occurred elsewhere, too.

I've given up trying to sweep the stairs or the upstairs hallway.  I've given up trying to vacuum anything, either, but only because the vacuum is literally inaccessible.  It is put away neatly in its corner in the guest room... and now covered with the things of our new tenants, my poor long-suffering brother- and sister-in-law who will be living in our newly renovated attic space as soon as it is finished.

A queen sized mattress leans against a wall in our TV room.  The second bedroom upstairs, intended to be Nell's "big girl room" soon, would be an ideal place to put a dresser for her clothes so that I wasn't cramming everything for both girls into the one smallest bedroom in the house, into the four little baskets of a changing table.  Yes, it would be ideal -- if it weren't currently filled with stacks upon stacks of things belonging to these new housemates of ours.

Even the garage is filled with things not mine, filled to capacity and beyond, so that entering it is nearly impossible and certainly walking from one side to the other would be inviting personal injury, and I can't store Nell's outdoor toys there this summer.

Our master bedroom, probably the only room not directly affected by the renovation and the new housemates, is messy.  "Messy," really, seems inadequate to describe it, in fact.  But with no other room available to lay the baby for her naps, she naps there, on our bed, and thus every time that my arms are free and I could tidy the bedroom, instead I must vacate the bedroom to let sleeping babies lie.

It's possible that a person might find these events upsetting, even aggravating.  Another woman might have reached her limit weeks ago, or even months ago.  And I can't say there hasn't been frustration over the course of this project.  But it wasn't the enormous saw stored on the nursery floor for several days that challenged my sanity -- no, that just made me laugh.  It wasn't the constant noise of the power tools leading Nell to wander the house saying, "Daddy, BANG BANG BANG!  BANG BANG BANG!" to describe the process unfolding upstairs.

It was the smell of cigarette smoke on the plasterers' clothing today as they came and went from my house all day long today, slamming the door repeatedly with no understanding of the importance of quiet for children napping.  That smell, that wretched smell.  It was today that I felt, for a brief moment, as though I might have reached my limit.

And then I poured myself an iced coffee and reminded myself that I have a house, a roof over my head and the heads of my children.

We have a future, this little family of mine, and one where we won't fear for our lives daily.  We plan for this future with extravagant ideas like buying furniture someday for those extra bedrooms because we have incomes and we can do things like buy things occasionally.  We dwell within these walls, we have food on our table each night, we bow our heads in gratitude.  We practice our faith with freedom and without fear.

We have family, these in-laws who are our new tenants, a dearly loved aunt and uncle to our kids, here sharing our home with us for the time being.  There are families twice this size not so very far across the globe from us who live together in just one room, and us?  We have ten rooms.  We have shared pizza nights and glasses of wine and laughter together.  We have in-house babysitters who love our kids because they are family.  We have a finally-almost-finished (!) attic that will improve the value of our home should we decide to sell it someday, or give us a lovely play space someday if we stay here for the long term.

Perspective.  Family.  And grace to endure a few more days of chaos.  That's what I chose to breathe deeply of today when for a moment I thought all I could smell was the cigarette smoke.