Friday, July 18, 2014

They can, but I can't.

One of the best parts about parenting is watching the unique ways little people interact with the world. Today, while willfully ignoring the near-constant stream of chatter coming from the two people in the backseat of my car, I began imagining what the social consequences would be if I, an adult, engaged in the same habits as my kids. And so, a list of things my kids do that would be inappropriate for me to do:

1. Expressing every passing thought out loud, even if that thought interrupts a current thought.

Bug: Hey Mama, I want to go to Grammy's house because LOOK A KITTY!

2. Lacking the emotional regulation to respond to even mundane suggestions with anything other than near-hysterical energy.

Me: Who wants to go downstairs?
Mr. Baggins, hopping up and down, flapping his arms wildly: Oooo! Me me me me! Peeeeese! DOWNSTAIRS!
*See also: flopping to the ground in dismay at any event eliciting mild displeasure.

3. Commenting on every detail of every day, no matter how uninteresting or unimportant.

Bug, while eating a picnic lunch: Hey Mom, some yogurt dropped on my arm and not my swimsuit.
Me: Ok. Go ahead and lick it off. 
Bug: I did already.

4. Finding it necessary to clarify in what form their requests ought to be granted. Mister regularly begs for "milk please in cup." You know, because of all those times I have brought a puddle of milk for him balanced in my cupped palms and required him to lap it up like a puppy.

5. Discussing our bathroom-related needs at a 7/10 volume, no matter the location or situation. 

Bug, doing the universal potty-wiggle-dance (and maybe we're surrounded by people in church): Mama? I need-a go POTTY! Right NOW! CAN'T HOLD IT!
Me: Can we color for a minute instead?
Bug, shrugging: Yeah, sure.

Baggins, with energy: I dess put POOP in my DI-PAH.

Also: a desire to dip any piece of solid food in ranch dressing (Mr. Baggins), neglecting to flush the toilet after use (Bug), and displaying a near-complete inability to stand still, resulting in spastic dancing, spinning, and/or arm flailing while waiting for parental instructions (both), and eating ice cream with the gusto it deserves.

Monday, July 14, 2014

That noise crickets make.

Yoo hoo! Anyone out there? Hello-ooo?!

So here's the thing. It's been, like, I don't know, a million years since I last wrote anything on this little space. Generally speaking, I don't believe in feeling guilty about neglecting things that are not alive and/or important, but the thing is that I actually really enjoy writing here, and more than that, I love looking back at the way things have changed since I started. It's really the only record keeping I do, and it has become something that is important to me. (First world problems, right?) So I'm starting again! Fresh starts! New beginnings and resolutions and whatever!

Here's what happened: around the time I last blogged, things started getting a little out of control free-time-wise. In addition to the usual hubbub, we decided, for reasons that seemed more complicated at the time than they do now, to remodel our kitchen in preparation to sell our home and move. Have you ever tried living without a functional kitchen while simultaneously packing a house on an extremely tight timeline with two small children? While working nights? It's an adventure!

But we did it! We wrapped up the kitchen and I somehow managed to fit our life into boxes. Our plans changed just enough so that we ended up moving to Nana and PopPop's  house, which the kids have absolutely adored. I haven't lived at home for longer than a summer break in 12 years, but to be honest, the transition has been much smoother than I ever guessed. My family has been so welcoming, and we've had the perfect balance of great people around to help with kids and enough privacy to really feel at home.

Other things that help with adjustment: the dreamy amount of counter space available to me in my mom's amazing kitchen.

As anyone who has sold a house can tell you, the move was the easy part. Navigating the ups and downs of  having a house for sale was even more chaotic, but with the help of a fantastic real estate agent who Paddy has known for several years, we made it! Our little red house has new owners, and while we'd been planning this for a while, I cried more than expected when we stood in that empty house for the last time.

I looked around at that empty house and saw the carpet where Bug crawled awkwardly when she was first learning, and the spot we put our Christmas tree, and the rooms I put my brand new babies to sleep in, and I cried until I couldn't see anymore. I thought about all the other changes we have been navigating the last couple of months, and for a second I let myself feel really overwhelmed by all of the decisions we have yet to make.

And then I picked up my baby boy, ushered my little red-head out in front of me, and grabbed my Paddy's hand. Together, my little family of 4 marched out that door and into our future.

Oh, wait. Did I say family of four?

I meant four and a half. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring projects: The Back Door.

The  bummer thing for me about owning our particular 60+ year old house is that we weren't  fortunate enough to snag any of the cool architectural details that you sometimes luck out on with older homes. We don't have any cool molding it anything like that, but what we did have was this oddly embellished back door. Unfortunately, as the last area on the ground floor that I hadn't gotten around to painting since we moved in, the exterior of the door was just dirty, sad, and weird.

(The truth is that I forgot to take a picture before I cleaned it up really well and started painting the top half, so you only get the bottom part of the door for reference. Also, imagine it dirtier.)

Now, I love me a good door (see the front door transformation here) so a change was in order.

Using some paint I had around the house, I spruced up the door to a nice light grey color, and highlighted the embellishments with white glossy trim paint. This way, they look intentional instead of like some tired throw back to when my grandparents were young homeowners.

Here's the total before and after look. What do you think?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Heart of the Home, or, Finally, my kitchen isn't a total embarrassment.

Right in the middle of a million other major life changes (they're exciting! and nervewracking! and stressful! Let's not talk about them right now!) we decided to finally finish some of the upgrades to our kitchen. As you might remember, we've done smaller cosmetic upgrades from time to time but we hadn't really tackled much of the major stuff, beyond replacing the appliances. Basically, up until last week, this was the status of our kitchen. Admit it, you're jealous of the vast, sweeping expanses of counter space. Don't worry, it's EASY and FUN to prepare dinners with only THREE INCHES OF FLAT AREA to work with.

The worst offender, by far, was the atrocious floor. It was hideous, stained linoleum with paint splatters. Interestingly, you can see that it wasn't the first ugly linoleum to be laid down. At some point, our orange kitchen must've had the very flashy green flooring you can see peeking out from under the dishwasher.

During some other era, the floor must have been this disgusting carpet, which for some reason wasn't pulled up from under the old, wider-than-standard stove. (Packing tape to hold it down is so classy, don't you agree?)

After putting it off for a million years, we decided to go ahead and redo the floors. We knew we wanted tile as opposed to a wood laminate because the rest of our home has lovely hardwood floors hiding under the carpet (just waiting for someone more energetic than me to refinish them.) We figured tile would be a better compliment to those someday-floors. Paddy's flooring guy, who also scored us the remnant carpet piece for the toy room, had a great deal on some tiles. They were a nice, large size and neutral color, so I didn't mind that we didn't really have much choice.

PopPop and Paddy scraped out the laminate that curled up the walls and pulled up the aforementioned carpet piece.


Particularly given the tricky stair section, we opted not to try our novice tiling skills out on our floor, and instead let professionals do the job. We are thrilled with out it turned out!

And after!
(You can see we still have baseboards to add, but I was too excited to wait to share.)

Once the floors were in, we knew the hideousness of the countertops and sink would really be highlighted. Despite my best efforts, the red Rustoleum countertop paint I snagged for a great price turned out to be about as durable as a ripe peach. (CURSE YOU, RUSTOLEUM! Also, your customer service kind of stinks.)

Given the finishes in the rest of the house, we thought granite countertops would likely not be worth the dollars, particularly given that this isn't our forever house. We found a nice laminate that looks great and will hold up well.
We also replaced this gem of a sink. Believe it or not, I scrubbed that thing with Comet on a regular basis. Not even my furious, obsessive scraping and polishing can remove 50 years of grime, it seems.

Though you can't tell (even in person), I ended up repainting the backsplash a lighter, creamier color. The green in the new countertops ended up making the grey backsplash read really blue-ish and bizarre. I also painted the bottom trip of the cabinets where there used to be linoleum coving black to match the rest of the cabinets. Here is the final transformation!

From this:
To this!:

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


 Nearly nine years ago, in a fairly unforeseeable turn of events, I found myself in my pajamas, sitting cross-legged on the floor of my grandparents’ bedroom in the faint early morning light, my hair tied back loosely from my face. I could hear Bandie’s deep, regular breathing in the background, but Papa and I were entirely focused on each other. Our eyes met in the pale blue light, a withering smile passing between us.

It wasn’t exactly a tender grandfather-granddaughter bonding moment. In fact, he didn’t offer me ONE SINGLE WORD of wisdom or life lessons.

Instead, I was using most of my body weight to force down the plunger of a large syringe full of hot water into a frustratingly small plastic tube that went directly into my Papa’s stomach. The goal was to dislodge a hard, congealed clump of dried liquid nutrition that was clogging the tube; we joked that when it finally broke free it would shoot right out the back of him. And we’d been trying for nearly a half an hour.

We did eventually force that chunk free, and lots of others, too. We spilled bright red Gatorade on their pristine bedroom carpet in the middle of the night. We survived a potentially fatal medication error (thank you, moron pharmacist), and we survived him re-learning how to drive, including a near-miss with a semi-truck. His slow reflexes pulled our car right in front of the speeding truck, and when he realized what he’d done, my Papa swore—loudly, clearly, and intentionally. I didn’t mind; it was good to hear his voice. We covered his swollen, flaky legs in lotion. We made a few trips to the ER to reinsert the feeding tube into the open hole into his abdomen until I finally learned how to fix it myself, and we entertained a parade of therapists and nurses who slowly nursed him back to health after a devastating aneurysm repair over the course of one impossibly short college summer break.

That summer I spent hours weeding his impossibly congested flower beds, and he took wobbly steps outside to inspect and critique my work. It is only now that it occurs to me that perhaps his impulse to be completely in control of those petunias was more about his own inability to be at all in control of his own body’s painfully slow recovery. Purple petunias, I guess, can handle the grumbling.

Last Friday night, my Papa died.

And while I have wrapped my head around the idea that he is gone today, it is somehow impossible to wrap my heart around the idea that he will still be gone tomorrow—that when that garage door opens to let me in the next time I visit, he won’t be standing at the top of the stairs, his hunched shoulders leaving him shorter than his regular six-foot four height.

I have memories of my Papa that are different than many of my peers’ memories of their grandfathers. When I was young, Papa was strong and robust. He taught me to ski and built me bedroom furniture. Maybe other people haven’t seen their grandfathers in swimsuits; I have swum with mine in the pool behind his house in California more times than I can count, both before and after he acquired the long purplish scar down the front of his chest. When I think of my Papa, I think of his tall frame and strong arms, his thick, course, wavy hair forced into perfect submission with gallons of hairspray and the sheer, overwhelming force of my Papa’s will.

It was inconceivable that he look the least bit disheveled. Other people look disheveled. Papa looks perfectly composed, pressed shirt tucked in and slacks perfectly ironed and belted, and he smells of Drakkar Noir.

That summer, after weeks of leaving me solely in charge of his nutrition, hydration, and transportation, the day finally came when the speech therapist asked us to bring solid food to the appointment. Weeks of strapping electrodes to his throat by wrapping his neck and face in CoBand (“I look like a nun”, he’d point out, wryly) had paid off, and it was time to try to eat. A turkey sandwich was on the menu.

Though I had single-handedly dosed his medications—blood pressure, anti-coagulation, supplements, pain medications—without the least bit of supervision, he hovered anxiously behind me while I pulled the condiments from the fridge.

“Mayo on that piece, and mustard over here. You can put the lettuce wherever you want, but the turkey has to go that side and the avocado over here.” He directed, squinting just slightly in concentration.

I put the knife down and turned to him slowly, one eyebrow raised to show my mild displeasure at his coaching. He smiled, understanding the irony of his bossiness without a word, but unrelentingly added, “And don’t forget the pepper.”

Papa was back.

Once, when I was too young to fly by myself, my Papa drove me from Utah to their home in Northern California. I remember very little about the trip, other than that we went together, just the two of us, in his old, brown Honda, and that we stopped on the salt flats to let me stretch my short legs. I must have made him crazy with my incessant four-year-old chattering.

He bought me fruit snacks.

I never got fruit snacks.

Years later, we made the trip many more times with my siblings and grandmother. We towed his trailer over long miles on the way to the redwood forests, playing a silly game where we picked at item on the horizon and guessed how many miles away it was and then watched the odometer, cheering at whoever guessed closest, all the while Bandie snoring contentedly in the passenger seat. Traditionally, on the way from our home in Utah to his, we stopped at the Peppermill Casino in Wendover for brunch, and Papa put the change from our check in the slots on the way out. I remember his wide grin when he made a few quarters, and his refusal to put them back in the machine to try again.

“Nope,” he said, with finality. “That’s how they get you.”

Before that day with the turkey sandwich, Papa was prohibited from swallowing, including his own saliva. He had a suction machine at home, but on the long road trips to appointments, he brought a long a small Dixie cup and every few minutes, he’d quietly spit in to it. It must have been torture for my proper Papa to find himself spitting into a cup. It must have been nearly unbearable.

At least that’s what I tell myself when I remember the time he asked me to pull to the side of the road a mere 6 houses away from home, apparently unable to wait a moment longer to throw out the offensive cup. He unrolled his window, and took aim at the open garbage can a neighbor had left out on the street for pickup.

He missed. Widely. The cup bounced off the can, flinging his last hour’s worth of spit all over the can and road.

Enormously amused at himself, he laughed out loud, and then turned to me without hesitation.

“Just leave it. Let’s go home. They’ll never know.”


Papa wasn’t a perfect person. He made mistakes. He could be formal and stubborn and old-fashioned, he cursed, he grew short-tempered when he didn’t feel well, and as it turns out, he was persnickety about the construction of his turkey sandwiches.

Who wants a perfect person around, anyway? All I needed was a perfect Papa.

I miss you, Papa. I love you. Slug bug green.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mister Baggins Turns Two.

Hello, sweet son-

Exactly two years and twenty minutes ago they put you on my chest, naked and sticky and pink and crying like a baby lamb. I breathed in deeply, filling my lungs with air and marveling at the roundness and realness of you. The new emptiness in my belly was soothed by the weight of you in my arms, and I looked upward through my tears at your daddy, barely believing you were here.

You were finally here, but really, you had been mine all along. Before I saw you and held you and nuzzled your soft baby skin, and before I felt you kick and tumble and wedge your wiggly little self into that spot in my pelvis that ached all through the time I grew you, and even before I knew of you at all, you were mine. You are woven into my soul because I am your mother and you are my son and there cannot be a time in the universe when that was not true. 

And those thoughts, my boy, are what I work very hard to keep in my mind when I find you covered from head to toe in bright blue bath paint a whopping FIVE ENTIRE MINUTES after I pulled your clean, drippy self out of the tub. I look at the blue gloppy mess dripping down the bathroom cabinets and spreading all over the tile floor and I think, MAN that kid is so lucky that I like him.

And listen to my words, son, you ARE lucky. You are lucky that you have an adorable, impish, toothy little smile that fills my heart with sunshine because otherwise, SO HELP ME CHILD, I might have simply let the vultures have you after I found your freshly-dressed self grinning widely and sweetly repeating the phrase "sorry, Mama" over and over again while you methodically pumped all the liquid hand soap from the bathroom sink down the front of your shirt and on to the floor. And then threw the container in the toilet when I caught you.

Oh yes you did. 

Someday, you will have a curious little guy of your own with chubby little cheeks and a penchant for dumping snacks on to the carpet at every opportunity and playing with the toilet plunger on the carpet no matter where it is hidden and guess what? You will NOT sell him to the gypsies, however tempting that may be after he smears your makeup all over his face and clean clothes. (Oh yes you did.) Do you want to know why? Because somehow your father didn't sell YOU to any roving bands, not even when you dragged your sister's Strawberry Shortcake stool out of her room and into the kitchen, climbed on it, and cheerfully swirled and flapped your hands into the water left soaking in the crockpot in the sink, soaking the sleeves of your clean dinosaur pajamas in spaghetti sauce-infused dishwater.


You will cherish that little boy of yours, Buddy, just as much as we cherish you, even when he squirts Windex into his mouth (yep, that too) or empties your wallet for the one millionth time, flinging insurance cards and credit cards and driver's licenses above his head like rice at a wedding, or if he soaks his diaper, pajamas, and sheets with baby pee every. single. blessed. morning yea, from now even until the end of time, amen and amen.

You'll love him, because he is a treasure.

You are a treasure. You are MY treasure, and you always will be. I love you to the moon and back.

Happy birthday, Mister Baggins. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Worth a thousand words: Cabin Edition

(Also, I cheated and just now posted a similiar picture-filled post from Christmas here. Mommy blogger fail.)