A Painted House

Archive for January 2011

I think it’s time for my first bullet list of the new blog.  (For those new readers, bullet lists are my lazy way of stringing together a bunch of random information about our life and pretending it constitutes a real post.  Try it, it’s great.  You don’t even have to make real sentences with all those nouns and verbs and junk.)

  • I’m ready to break up with winter.  The relentless snow, being housebound because I can’t quite summon the wherewithall to schlepp two boys out in the elements, James having his second full-blown cold in as many months….
  • I.am.so.over.it.
  • And that kid really, really needs to stop wiping his snotty nose on the new couch. Or I might have to stuff tissues up there as a preventative measure.  Just sayin’.
  • Oh yeah, we got a new couch!  Post coming about that.
  • I really need to be done buying Christmas decor on super-duper-schmooper (thank you, Sid) clearance.  It’s kind of getting ridiculous.  But this is a much bigger house and when I got out the Christmas boxes this year I realized how little there was to spread around.  So I’ve been picking up things here and there for 50-80% off and building my inventory for next year.  Here’s hoping when I get it all out next year it actually comes together into some kind of cohesive holiday look and not like Christmas threw up all over my house.
  • Edison turns two months old tomorrow.  Which means I need to get writing another letter.  Where is time going, wasn’t he just born?
  • I’m afraid to admit it, but I’m kind of liking the new judges on American Idol.  I know, I know, I said I wasn’t giong to watch it this year after last year’s boringfest.  What of it?
  • But does anyone else get the feeling that the celebrities who judge these shows aren’t as nice in real life as they pretend to be when they’re on TV?   I bet when the cameras turn they treat people totally differently.
  • I’m undertaking two painting projects simultaneously, the upstairs and main floor bathrooms.  Why not just do one and finish it before starting the other?  I have no idea.  I tend to start projects when it sounds like fun and I’m excited about it, otherwise it’s just work.  And I’m really excited about painting both of the bathrooms.   I finally found a shower curtain I like for one and a bathroom rug I like for the other, which led to picking colors which led to me wearing my painting pants again.
  • Aaaaaand, it’s snowing again.  Gah.
  • I’ve been trying to find time to shove some regular exercise back into my life.   I have 8 pounds left to lose for my pre-Edison weight and 18 pounds left to lose to reach my pre-James weight.  But the aforementioned lack of regular napping is doing me in.  I made it a whole 5 minutes and 6 seconds on the exercise machine the other day before I had a fussy baby to tend to.  20 minutes and five more times of hopping off to deal with one child or the other, I gave up.
  • I’ve been somewhat more successful at fitting some quiet time with God back into my morning.  It’s by no means every morning yet, but at least half of the time I am able to settle both boys, retreat to my Reading Room chair, and spend at least a few minutes in my Bible.   It feels great.
  • Have I mentioned that I’m over winter?  I can’t wait to become reaquainted with our back yard.  I spent all of last summer growing increasingly pregnant so wasn’t able to do the running and climbing and playing with my boy that I’d like.  I’m so looking forward to this summer and my renewed mobility.

And there you have it, a random, nonsensical, bullet list update!  By the way, I can’t take credit for the genius that is the bullet list post.  That goes to Jess at These Grapefruit Spoons.  Check her out, she’s  fabulous and entertaining and one of those few people in life I wish lived right next door.

We’ve got a thing goin’ on.

So, I’ve been Craigslist-ing again.  I’ve been on a six-month search for a comfy chair for our front room.  You know, that room every house has so that it doesn’t look lopsided from the front, but no one actually uses?   I guess it’s intended as a formal sitting room but as we so rarely entertain the Pope, I’ve decided to claim it as my own Quiet Space.  Subtext: “The rest of you can go sit in the family room to behave like baboons. Out.”  I call it the Reading Room because I harbor buried hopes that someday I will once again have time to read something beside the dosing instructions for Children’s Tylenol,  the episode descriptions for fifteen segments of Sid the Science Kid while searching for the one specifically requested by my toddler, and my recipe for Macaroni Salad.

Anyway.   Back to my Quest for a Reading Room Chair.  When we moved in I put this too-small, not-comfy accent chair in my reading corner as a placeholder.  (You can see how I rehabbed that desk chair here.)

I shopped furniture stores andy noted that no way was I paying $279 for an “accent” chair sporting a loud, geometric print and which most of the time, came with no arms.  Nor was I willing to purchase something in the gingham/plaid recliner realm and attempt to recover it; a seamstress I am not.  And WHAT is with the current trend of purchasing (and apparently quickly evicting, per the number of craigslist ads) hugely overstuffed Michelin Man chairs which eat your whole room and in which one could permanently misplace their smaller-than-average toddler during an unfortunate bout of timeout?

So the search continued.  And finally, one week after Edison was born I happened upon a possibility.  Neutral color, classic shape, durable fabric…..and a pricetag of only $50.   Two emails and one day later I left the babies home with their Dad and went to inspect and hopefully cart home my prize.

Ta da!

AND it’s actually a recliner in disguise!

I.big.fat.puffy.heart.Craigslist.

P.S.  The small side table and lamp came from The Christmas Tree Shop, purchased on Christmas Eve, of all times.  I’d been looking for both items for cheap for this room and happened upon them while getting some last minute stocking stuffers.  The table fit my list of desired qualities including a) a round table, b) that was black, c) didn’t take up a lot of floor space, and d) didn’t cost more than $20.  The fact that it was the last one didn’t stop me from taking it right down off of the shelf, sticking it in my cart, and toting it up front to ask if I could buy the display model.

The lamp was on clearance for $7 and I loved the idea of adding a little sparkle to the room.  Isn’t she adorable?

I cannot wait to show you the finished room, the picture in my head is awesome!

So we find ourselves in that awkard period between the holidays and Spring when the Christmas decor is down and put away but it’s way too early (and optimistic) to be bringing out warm-weather decor.  (Insert longing sigh when I moved my Spring wreath to the side to put away the Christmas boxes).

So in an effort to pretty up my newly-nekkid kitchen hutch, I continued my quest to Embrace the Blue.  (No idea what I’m talking about?  See this post .)  Thankfully I have some wintery snowflake decor to use that isn’t also Christmasy.  Check it out (you can click on the pictures for a better look):

I had two blue, white and silver placemats (gifts from my mother-in-law on our first married Christmas) which fit perfectly under my favorite white serving bowls.  (Note to self: find something to put in the white bowls).  The matching cloth napkins were crumpled up and stuffed into the domed glass containers on the shelves.  The small glass jars were filled with white and silver tea lights and the big cookie jar contains pine cones.  The pine cones I’ve had for years, gathered up from the forest floor at a Wisconsin resort.

The display cabinet holds a few blue snowman dessert plates and mugs, gifted to me  by my Mom several Christmases ago.

This little display sits on my island:

An Evergreen scented candle and two sets of snowmen and snowflake napkin holders, arranged on a wooden pedestal I bought at Goodwill last summer and spray painted white.  That little pedestal was such a great find at just $1.00 since it was missing the glass dome.

Grand total for this kitchen decor makeover?  $0!  Gotta love that.

 

Alternate Title:  Potty Talk

I live in this house with a husband, a toddler boy, and an infant; there are soooo many ways I could go with that alternate title.  But I don’t think in my first week on the new blog I need to develop a reputation as the girl who talks in depth about baby poop.  Or (thus far unsuccessful) potty training.  Or my husband’s penchant for reading trivia books in the bathroom and using toilet paper squares as his bookmarks.  But I digress.

For now we’ll go with the master bathroom remodel instead, mkay?  Fair warning: there are twenty-eight pictures in this post.  Yes, twenty-eight.  Just consider it one per day that our house was a construction zone.  (Hint: you can click on any picture to see a bigger version.)

When we bought our house we planned for a master bedroom and bathroom remodel within the first few months after the move.  The master rooms were the only part of the house we didn’t love for long-term living and we knew that with a baby coming, if we didn’t start the project right away then it wouldn’t happen.   So four months after we moved in we hired a contractor on recommendation and moved ourselves into the spare bedroom. (Which, incidentally, is setup with twin beds.  Yup, we were Ricky-and-Lucy-ing it for an entire month.  Turns out when you’re eight months pregnant and getting out of bed every hour to pee sets off seismic activity, seperate beds isn’t that bad of an idea.)

Our contractor had originally estimated the project length at two weeks which we knew was waaay optimistic.  Especially as he is basically a one-man operation with only one assistant whose job it was to haul stuff up and down the stairs.  But his bid on the project was also only half that of all the others because he does everything himself instead of sub-contracting it all out, so we mentally planned for three weeks, and went with it.  Many, many hours of comparison shopping and planning, one extremely expensive afternoon at Lowe’s, and one delivery truck later, we were ready.  Behold, a bathroom in boxes:

You’ll remember that before the renovation our bedroom and bathroom looked like this:

Master Bedroom 8.24 (2)

Master Bedroom 8.24 (5)

There were small his and hers closets on the left and right, forming a small hallway into the attached bath :

I have plenty of before pictures from the bathroom as well, but we’ll save those for comparison shots with the afters.  I love me some good before and after shots.

Our big plan was to remove the two small closets and allocate half the space to the new bathroom layout and half to the bedroom.  The tiny fifth bedroom next door (yes, there were five bedrooms on our second floor, hate me) would then become the master walk-in closet via a new doorway.  It wasn’t a legal bedroom anyway, as it had no closet of its own.  Follow me?

Day One of the renovation was SUPER EXCITING.  Tons of pounding and sawing and lots of the old and ugly being carted out to the dumpster.  At the end of the second day it looked like this:

And by the end of Day 2 we were well on our way to new walls:

Day 5 gave us those new walls!

And then it got really boring and I stopped taking pictures.  Lots of wiring and plumbing and duct work and such.  So let’s skip ahead three more weeks (yes, it took a full four weeks before he finished, and then only because the Hugely Pregnant Woman threatened that if he didn’t finish up soon he would be driving her to the hospital in his truck when she went into labor), and see some befores and afters!

Before: single sink, standard builder’s grade wall mirror and faucet fixture, and no over head lights.

After, double bowl vanity with new brushed nickel faucets, individual portrait mirrors, dark mahogany stained vanity, and overhead lighting.

   

The new custom counter is a granite remnant.  We tried and tried and TRIED to find an off-the-shelf five-foot stone counter for the vanity in the subtle mix of browns and blacks.  Turns out you can only buy that particular pattern for single bowl vanities, not double.  So off to the granite remnant show room we went and within ten minutes had picked out this beauty.  As an added bonus we were able to have it cut to the full seven-foot length of the new room, which gave us the built-in look and a cubbyhole for a hamper (Bed, Bath & Beyond).

Before: no step into the garden tub, white tile, and chrome builder’s faucet with “crystal” nobs.

After: a customized step leading up to the jacuzzi tub with brushed nickel fixtures.

The subway tiles were cut by our contractor.  We looked FOREVER for tile that we a) liked, b) wasn’t too red or too yellow, and c) came in both 12×12 and 6×6 options for the floor pattern.  And of course when we found it, it didn’t come with a subway tile option.  I really wanted a subway tile around the tub so our contractor used his wet saw and cut 12×12 pieces down to subway tile size.  Which is why he is awesome.

Before: Single stall shower with no lighting and chrome single towel rack (which means one of us always had a damp towel draped over something else – gross).

After: double-head shower with new lighting.  Shower curtain came from Wal-Mart, double-rod towel rack, hand grip, and shower rod came from Menards.

Before:  One window, faux tile laminate floor.

After: Two windows, tile floor laid in pattern I saw in a Menards display. I took a picture with my phone and handed a printout to our contractor. 🙂  The rugs came from Wal-Mart and incorporate our light shade of blue, a darker blue, and the chocolate brown of the dark woodwork and granite.

What you can’t see is that we replaced the regular door which swung inward with a six panel pocket door, to maximize the open space.

So that’s it for the big changes!  Now let’s talk about some of the details.  The paint color took two attempts.  I wanted something a very, very pale blue.  Like almost a neutral with just a hint of blue so that the fixtures and tile were the showcase, not the walls.  The first color I chose looked really pale on the strip….and like a smurf on the wall.  Gah.  So back to Sherwin Williams I went with a paint chip that looked practially white on the strip, and was the perfect shade of barely-there robin’s egg blue on the walls.

The corner shelves came from Menards.  They balance the heaviness of the mirrors on the left side of the vanity.

The portrait mirrors came from Menards in the home decor section:

A closeup shot of the brown/black granite and faucets:

The tile detail on the tub:

We almost didn’t have him put in the glass tile accent, but I’m so glad we did.  It highlights the shape of the corner tub and new step, and pulls all the colors from the granite counter into the other side of the room.  And since we bought it in 12×12 sections and had him cut it down, it wasn’t an expensive addition.

The final piece (so far) were the window treatments.  I  wanted something solid in color because we already have a lot going on with pattern in the room, and I didn’t want them to be white.  The window wall needed some visual “weight” to balance the rest of the room.  I happened upon these roman shades at The  Christmas Tree Shop (LOVE that store) and they were an exact match to the darkest blue in the rug, with just a hint of z damask pattern.  Score!

All that remains is to find something for the walls above the potty and tub.  I’m finding it difficult to find large-scale artwork appropriate for a bathroom.  I’m not a fan of the generic botanicals or geometric prints you can find in any home store, I want my wall decor to have some kind of meaning, and any classic art with people in it is out… I think I’d feel like I was being watched while in the potty. 🙂

The other half of the renovation was the bedroom/closet.  But you’ll have to wait for those pictures, as those rooms have been basically untouched since the construction was completed.  At some point I’ll get to the projects and save for the purchases necessary to make them reveal-worthy.  Until then, this will have to do!

I suddenly have the urge to go sit in the hot tub.  Just like we have almost every night since it was installed. 😉

Dear Edison,

A few days ago you turned one month old.  Ok, to be honest it was a week ago.  In stereotypic fashion I’m already behind in keeping up for my second born, traditions begun with the first child.   But to be fair everything in our life is running approximately 25% behind these days so don’t take it personally.  Adding you to our family has been a joyous, celebrated experience but as newborn babies are want to do, you’ve totally thrown a wrench into our well-oiled routines.  If we can manage to make it through the day with three-quarters of us dressed, clean, and fed I consider it a rousing success.  Unfortunately that means at any given point someone will be missing a key article of clothing (pants, it always seems to be pants), in dire need of sustenance, or sporting an unclean bum.  But at least I’ve yet to have to answer the door as the pantsless one, so again, I’ll chalk this month up in the success column.

In so many ways you’ve been a surprise to us, Edison.  I promise I won’t spend ALL of the next eighteen years of your life comparing you to your older brother, but permit me this paragraph.  You and your brother are thus far, as different as can be.  While he took only six hours to enter the world, you took twelve.  (Humph.)  He resembles your Dad’s side of the family and you look like mine.  And though he is uninterested in food in general, you seem to think your body will shrivel into nothingness if you don’t vigorously fill your tummy every two hours, if not before.  By the way, you better grow up to be a Snagless Pantyhose Inventor or something equally impressive that I can brag to all my friends about, because allowing you to ferociously attack some of the most sensitive parts of my body on an every-other-hour basis?  Ouchie.  Anyway.  Thankfully your differences fall to our advantage in the sleep department as you’re a much better sleeper than your brother was as an infant.  By this point with our first go-around I was a walking zombie with sticky-upy hair and dark circles under my eyes, while you, sweet Edison, have given me up to three hours in a row of sleep before you wake up to eat.  Way to make an early bit for the title of Favorite Son, my second born.  Well played.

One thing we do need to work on is learning to poop.  I know, you’re going to love me when you’re twelve and you read this and you find out I talked about poop right in the middle of this sappy, sentimental letter.  But it’s a big part of your life right now (come to think it of it I suppose it will be a big part of your life then, too), this whole pooping thing.  It seems filling your diaper is a learned skill just like anything else and you do your best learning in the wee hours of the morning.  You’re sleeping in a bassinet in your Dad’s and my room and we’ve come to expect that from about 5:00 a.m. on, we will hear you grunting and snorting in your sleep as you work out your internal organs.  And you’re LOUD.  It’s like sleeping in the room with a congested boar.  And then when you finally let loose….well, it’s impressive.  We had a minor earthquake in Indiana last week and when it happened you were laying next to me in bed.  I kid you not, I honestly thought the bed shaking was just you forcefully filling your diaper again.   If you retain that skill it will make you intensely popular when you’re twelve.

 Your birthday fell right before the holiday season so we’ve enjoyed having lots of family around for the first few weeks of your life.  This basically means you’ve been held and cuddled and cooed over for eighty percent of your existence in this world.  Not that much would change if your grandparents, aunts and uncles hadn’t been around; your ridiculously bright eyes and the sheer length of your eyelashes are enough to charm anyone into touching you.  And as it’s winter (read: Germ-a-Polluza) I’ve had my work cut out for me in keeping you from contracting the bubonic plague from everyone who asks to hold you.  You doctor is wonderful but I don’t want to have to explain to her how you caught Dengue Fever from the Target checkout lady.  So to keep you healthy we’ve spent most of the past month at home, watching the world outside our living room windows slowly turn white.

And I can’t say that I mind our month of isolation.  It was wonderful having our family around to celebrate Thanksgiving, your safe arrival being high on our list of things for which we’re grateful, but I’ve also enjoyed our time as just a new family of four.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised how easily you’ve slipped right into our lives, Edison.  I was so nervous that bringing a second baby home would be more responsibility than I could manage, more change than your brother could handle, and more of a time commitment than your Daddy could provide.  But when I look back at the months leading up to your arrival and I can’t believe a) how much time there was in my day, b) what a luxury it was to sleep uninterrupted, and c) just how much we needed you to complete what was missing in our family.   When your big brother was born I spent the first month of his life worrying about his schedule and whether he was doing what he was supposed to be doing when he was supposed to be doing it.  With you, I’ve simply enjoyed having you here.  I figure we messed up enough things with him and he’s still alive, happy, and chattering ninety-four words per minute, so maybe this time I shouldn’t worry so much and just go with it.  And it’s been a wonderful first month (ok fine, five weeks) of cuddling you close, watching you learn to smile, remembering just how good newborn babies smell, and discovering what it means to be a family of four.  We’re so, so glad you’re here.

Love, Mama

Note:  Readers from my former blog will be familiar with the monthly letters I write to my babies for the first two years of their lives.   As each new letter will be posted here I will be moving over all previous letters to my archives for continuity.  Thanks for your patience as I work on all this administrative stuff!

Original post date: April 16, 2010

Dear James,

Happy second birthday, James boy!  And a little boy you are, no baby left in sight.  You charge full-speed-ahead through your day, alternately narrating your (and my) every move, and begging for things we were stupid enough to let you try once.  Your Dad and I have made many rookie mistakes in parenting you these past two years, James, but none quite so big as assuming that if we let you try something once, you would then forget all about it.  Hah.  Hah hah.  Poor naïve first timers, we are.  Turns out if I let you sit on the counter and splash in the water one time while I do dishes, you will want to do it every minute of every day for the rest of your life.  You’d think we college educated ones would have picked up on this trend when we let you touch the ceiling fan just once before you turned one and now, over a year later, alternate responding to your consistent requests to “Touch it?  Tooooouch it?  Touch’a da faaaan?”

This month we marked another stage of your growth into a big boy by switching you into a toddler bed.  I was a little worried how that transition would go, as you’ve been emotionally entangled with your crib from an early age.  It’s the only place you’ve slept soundly since you were just a few months old and you frequently ask to be put inside during your waking hours, just to play in there.  Yes, for the record, that’s a little weird.  Not that I’m surprised, I happen to have an unhealthy dependence on my bed and you know those kind of addictive behaviors are genetic.  But all my worry was for naught, as you latched onto the idea of a Big Boy Bed with glee.  You looooove being able to climb in and out by yourself and have even nixed our nightly rocking and singing routine, to expedite the process.  Sniff.

Not to say the transition has been completely smooth.  We made it three weeks with only the occasional bedtime snafu, where you’d come waltzing out of your room minutes after being put to bed.  But earlier this week you made up your mind to see if perhaps Mom’s limit for naptime indiscretions was lower than you thought and you were only two tries away from covert playtime.  WRONG.  And yes, that was me laughing into my arm out in the living room after busting you out of bed and watching you turn and hightail it back, pop gun trailing behind you and toy hammer tossed over your shoulder like discarded dead weight.  Turkey.

The largest change to happen to our family this month will have perhaps the biggest effect on you, James.  A few weeks ago we found out that in seven short months we’re going to welcome another member of our family!  I’m not sure how you’re going to feel about this addition come November, when suddenly you are not the only small person requiring Mama’s time and energy and attention.  To be honest I’m a little nervous about how it will affect you; I’m afraid you’ll be resentful of the new baby and upset with me for turning your world upside down.  But I also know from experience that siblings are the greatest long-term gift a parent can give their child.  The brother who shoves you and tries to stand on your head will someday stand next to you at your wedding and nudge you forward to take your bride’s hand.  And the same sister who calls away your Mama’s attention will call you on your birthday long after your Dad and I are gone.  So James, I’m willing to risk some of your two-year-old resentment in order to assure that for the rest of your years you will have someone bonded to you by blood and a mutual love of nacho cheese.

Love, Mama

Note:  Readers from my former blog will be familiar with the monthly letters I write to my babies for the first two years of their lives.   As each new letter will be posted here I will be moving over all previous letters to my archives for continuity.  Thanks for your patience as I work on all this administrative stuff!

Original post date: March 26, 2010

Dear James,

Last week you turned 23 months old.  This month has brought the outdoors back into our life which is a more welcome addition than a swimming pool filled with nacho cheese.  You had completely forgotten that a whole world of play exists outside of our four little walls and watching you rediscover it with full abandon has been a joy.  The first time the snow melted enough that you could see the edges of your outdoor toys you took off in a dead run across the frozen yard yelling, “Lawnmower!  Laaawnmooower!” with all the elation of a reunited long-lost family member.  And then you mowed nice neat little rows in the snow-dusted driveway, much to the pleasures of your vacuum-lines-in-the-carpet lovin’ Mama.

Last year your Grandpa Pierce made a wagon for you for your birthday.  We’re only two weeks into what is now being called “wagon season” and I’m pretty sure you’re going to owe me for shoulder surgery sometime in your early adulthood.  You’re a wagon addict, James.  The second your feet hit the driveway you begin begging for the wagon and before the garage door is all the way up you scoot under and start pulling on the handle.  If only Grandpa had installed an odometer on that wagon because I have a feeling there’s a record somewhere for most miles covered in a Radio Flyer and we could give it a serious run for its money.

This month we’ve made some serious strides in your eating habits, James.  Last week I watched you shove forkful after forkful of green beans and mashed potatoes into your mouth and then hand it to me and ask for more. And make no mistake, that sentence reflects more celebration than if you’d suddenly started reciting the Periodic Table.  Your Dad and I realized that we’d become guilty of leaving the TV on during each dinner; a technique that once provided a good distraction as you’d mindlessly shove bites into your mouth.  But now it had become a distraction from eating so dinners have become a quiet family time where we talk and concentrate on eating and each other.  And surprisingly, you’ve responded so well to our new routine.  You eat without complaint, you try almost anything on your plate at least once, and you’ve even eaten the occasional vegetable or fruit without throwing it back up.  That’s progress, I tell you.  And each time I see you put that fork in your mouth willingly and without coercion or tears, I thank God that it’s one less time we will have to wage a battle of wills to ensure you get adequate nutrition.

An added reason for restricting what you see on TV is that you’ve become a little parrot.  You can sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Jesus Loves Me, Itsy Bitsy Spider without prompting and spit the entire verbiage of Goodnight Moon back to us verbatim.  You can imitate almost any sound and we have great fun hearing you try and repeat “rhinoceros”, “refrigerator”, “helicopter” and “Worcestershire”.  What we did not expect was how quickly you’d pick up phrases from our TV shows.  A couple of weeks ago your Dad and I were watching a sitcom and one of the characters used God’s name in vain.  And you, playing with your refrigerator magnets in the kitchen, loudly repeated the phrase in perfect diction.  My eyes shot to your Dad’s, he clicked off of the TV, and just like that we were done with grownup TV while you’re around.  It’s our job as your parents to protect you from negative influences, James. Even as we coerce you into repeating, “I have a booger nose” just one more time.

Love, Mama

Note:  Readers from my former blog will be familiar with the monthly letters I write to my babies for the first two years of their lives.   As each new letter will be posted here I will be moving over all previous letters to my archives for continuity.  Thanks for your patience as I work on all this administrative stuff!

Original post date: February 18, 2010

Dear James,

A couple of days ago you turned 22 months old.  And in many ways this has not been an enjoyable month.  Not at all due to your age, in fact every new month seems to bring out a new little facet of your personality that leaves your Dad and I shaking with laughter or shooting each other sentimental glances over your head.  This month has just been plagued with sickness, even more so than the last, and so when I look back on it my largest memory is of holding a feverish and wimpering you as you shifted and struggled to get comfortable in any way.  You had a nasty bout with RSV, a respiratory virus that left you coughing and gagging, unwilling to eat and unable to drop into uninterrupted sleep.  And no sooner did you start to feel better than I came down with a stomach virus that put me flat on my back.  But as of today we’re virus-free and feeling good and life, like the sky outside, finally, finally looks a little sunnier.  So let’s move on, because frankly I think reliving those weeks of misery is making me all twitchy.

Your Dad is immersed in his last weeks of being overworked on call at the hospital so you and I have spent a LOT of time together this month, just the two of us.  It thrills me that for the most part, you don’t seem to have grown sick of my company yet.  You always want to be where I am, see what I’m doing, touch what I touch.  You’re my constant companion, James, ever curious and eager to narrate our days as we go.  You’ve learned the concept of helping and anytime you see me trying to accomplish a task you try and try to find a way to get in on the action.  When I’m dusting you grab any cloth you can find and dust with me, when I’m sweeping you wriggle in to hold the broom too, and should I be loading the clothes washer I better keep a diligent eye on what else might be added to the load because you’ll pick up anything in reach and toss it in. And though I’m sure my tupperware, your blocks, and various canned goods could all use a good scrubbing, I’m not sure that our clothes need to be washed with a can of tomato paste.

Oh, are you going to miss the canned goods cabinet when we move.  Right now our house doesn’t have a pantry so the biggest lower cabinet in our kitchen is where I store all nonperishable food items.  You absolutely love playing in that cabinet, stacking and rearranging the cans.  Often you’ll pull them out one or two at a time and run them into the living room.  Thirty minutes and twenty trips later you’ve created for yourself a little grocery store of teetering canned goods, stacked one on the other until to your delight, they come crashing down.  (And yes, we’ve had more than one toe-squashing incident when a particularly dense can landed on your tootsies.  Much crying ensued and we thought you might learn the lesson not to stack them so high.  But no.)  So we’ve added grocery stockboy to your list of potential careers.  We figure with your penchant for sweeping, dusting, and stacking we might someday be the proud parents of the Kroger Employee of the Month.  Be sure to get Mama a bumper sticker.

James, you are such an obedient child.  Several times in the last months we’ve left you with friends for a couple of hours while your Dad and I breeze through many potential houses at a much quicker pace than if we were buckling you in and out and keeping you from shoplifting from strangers’ homes.  You love to play at friends’ houses and with other people your size, and most of the time don’t even look up when we arrive to retrieve you.  And the thing I love to hear the most when we pick you up is how good you behaved.  You’re polite, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, ceasing to do things when you’re told not to, and coming when called.  We’ve worked so hard on raising you to be a respectful, obedient, joyful child that to hear from others how well you’re doing makes my heart swell.   I’m probably daring God to prove me wrong, but I honestly can’t remember the last time you threw a tantrum.   Not that you don’t have a defiant nature at times; your little sin nature shows through loud and clear now and again.   One of the funnier parts of raising a toddler is how clearly your thought process is written across your face.  Often when we tell you to do something, to come here for example, you tilt your chin back, raise your eyes to the ceiling and very visibly consider whether you will obey.  And should you be leaning toward ‘no’, you enact several techniques to draw our attention away from that fact.  First, you act cute; smile and bat your eyes and do a little dance.  When that doesn’t work you switch to diversion tactics.  “Look, a light!”  Nice try, dude.  Your parents may be getting old, but you have a long wait before we’re senile enough that a lightbulb will prove so distracting that we let you run around naked in February.

Love, Mama

Note:  Readers from my former blog will be familiar with the monthly letters I write to my babies for the first two years of their lives.   As each new letter will be posted here I will be moving over all previous letters to my archives for continuity.  Thanks for your patience as I work on all this administrative stuff!

Original post date: January 20, 2010

Dear James,

A few days ago you turned twenty-one months old.  I will come out and admit that this letter is late because frankly, I forgot.  Sorry.  My excuse is that I’m still recovering from the misery that was last week.  Ten days ago an illness snuck up on us, tackled us to the ground, gave us wedgies, and stuck its wet finger in our collective ear.  After nearly three days of fever, not sleeping, not eating, and round-the-clock medicine, I took you to the doctor and where you were diagnosed with Strep Throat.  You felt horrible James and I felt horrible for you.  Of course even your extreme discomfort couldn’t squelch your excitement when we pulled into the parking lot of the doctor’s office and you recognized that this was the place with the FISHIES!  FISHY!  FISHIEEEEES!  And then you proceeded to entertain the receptionist and other patients by continually making fish faces at the aquarium until they called us back.  By the way, James, I think I speak for every mother when I ask that if I have called to make a last-minute appointment for you because you’re so miserable you can’t even stand upright and I haven’t showered in two days because I cannot detach your sick little self from around my neck, then please have the decency to ACT SICK when we get to that urgent appointment.  It’s not nice to wreak such havoc on our home life, sleep, and sanity and then top it off by making Mommy look like a fool with her chattery, energetic child at the doctor’s office.  Even if you did get a diagnosis and a prescription.  I’m just sayin’.

Also, antibiotics are my new favorite facet of modern medicine.  It used to be the epidural but now I realize that without an epidural the pain will be intense but it serves a purpose and will be over in a few hours.  However a child with an infection, and thus his family, will live and not sleep in misery for days and days on end with the big reward at the end being a feeling of….normalcy.  Antibiotics trumps epidural every time.  It seems you feel the same way, my little junkie, because you now routinely ask us for “mecidine”.   Who knew it’s possible to be addicted to grape flavored Tylenol and bubblegum amoxicillin?  Your little bird mouth flies open when you see that pink syringe coming and you lick your lips to get every last drop.  Last night you were reading bedtime stories with your Dad and the book asked you to point out and identify the ambulance amongst a line of vehicles.  You did and your Dad said, “Yes, that’s right, James!  That’s an ambulance.”  You: “Ambulance.”  Dad: “It’s for when people are sick.”  You: “Sick. (pause)  Mecidine?”  Dad: “Yes! You get medicine when you’re sick.”  You: “ME-CI-DINE?”  Me: “Oh! Medicine! You need your medicine.”  You: “Mmmm!”

The past three weeks have also been busy because we’ve started packing up and preparing our home for sale.  When your  Dad and I bought this house you were still just a dream, a hope of a future family.  And then not quite a year later you arrived and backed the U-Haul straight into our driveway.  You are the best decision we ever made as a couple and we welcomed you and all the stuff that came with you into our lives with open arms.  And our cozy little house became cozier.  But now, nearly two years, to Christmases, and one birthday later…..well, opening your arms and not smacking something or someone has become a challenge.  The evidence that a happy, imaginative tornado named James lives here is strewn from one end of our house to the other.  And as we’d like to someday welcome another baby into our family, we figured that it’s time to find a place to live where we won’t have to take turns at who gets to play with you on the living room floor because there’s literally not space for all of us.  Plus on the off-chance that you get a sister this next time and a  U-Haul full of Barbies, Polly Pockets, dresses, and tights backs up to the house I’m afraid we’d have to move your Dad out to the backyard.  And we’d miss him.

It saddens me to think of leaving the house to which we brought you home, the place where you did all your ‘firsts’.  This place will always be special in my memory because it’s where I rocked my firstborn to sleep.  It’s where the delight of my days learned to smile and walk and throw a ball.  I know that no matter where we go or how many new memories are planted in my mind, I will always come back to these first years of parenthood and remember nights in your tiny nursery humming hymns in your ear, watching you totter across our back yard in the sunshine while I hung laundry out to dry, hearing you chatter away as you followed me up and down the hallway dropping toys and treasures in your wake.  More than anything else that has transpired in the past 2.5 years, this has been the little house where James began. 

Love,
Mama

Note:  Readers from my former blog will be familiar with the monthly letters I write to my babies for the first two years of their lives.   As each new letter will be posted here I will be moving over all previous letters to my archives for continuity.  Thanks for your patience as I work on all this administrative stuff!

Original post date: December 17, 2009

Dear James,

Yesterday you turned twenty months old.  I’m just going to come out and say it: you’re a genius.  I know, I know, somewhere in the Mommy Contract they make you sign before you can give birth there is a clause stipulating that I must think you the smartest child that ever existed even if all you accomplish in your life is continuing to breathe.  But I promise I’m not just saying that to fulfill my contractual obligation; you really are a smart cookie.  Case in point: at twenty months old you can repeatedly and correctly identify nineteen of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.  Do you hear me, James?  At the age of one, YOU KNOW WHAT AN ‘F’ IS.  You’re just a letter or two away from recreating at an even earlier age, that iconic family moment when your Uncle Josh read for the very first time, choosing an off-color phrase off an overpass.

I wish I could take credit for teaching you your letters this early, claim my title as Mommy Extraordinaire, but to be honest I think the credit goes to PBS.  I let you watch an hour of television each morning while I do my devotions, drink my coffee, and get myself together.  Unlike you, not everyone wakes up like they’re springing out of the starting blocks at the Olympic finals.  And Last week when Super Why asked you, ‘What letter is this?’ you matter-of-factly and correctly answered, ‘S’.  I whipped my neck around so fast my head twisted off.   Just now, sitting on the piano bench, you took a break from plunking the keys to point out and identify each of the letters in KAWAI.  Genius, I tell you.

You also know your numbers.  You can count to ten with little prompting, though you prefer to skip right to nine.  You know that when you reach ten we cheer and clap, and the rest of the numbers are just a means to an end.  Why expend all that effort traipsing through all those other numbers when you can take the express lane right from nine and start the party early? 

It’s Christmastime James, and you’re enjoying your second Christmas season much more than your first.  A year ago you were all preoccupied with not crawling and the holiday just slipped right by you.  This year you’re old enough to destroy appreciate the Christmas tree, not touch the ceramic nativity scene, ask for and dance to Christmas music, and swipe Christmas cookies off of the counter.  You haven’t figured out what all those pretty boxes under the tree are all about; all you know is they are NOT used for climbing on to look out the window or stacking and toppling over while you yell, “KNOCK IT DOWN!”  I can’t wait to see your surprise when you realize that those boxes which are NOT stepstools actually contain toys! For you!

Although really, who needs toys when you have the recycling bin?  Boring parents that we are, your Dad and I haven’t bought you much of anything new to play with since your birthday last Spring. And so you’ve improvised, making new playthings out of empty milk jugs and juice containers.  Earlier this morning you rescued the carafe from the broken coffee maker set aside to go out with the trash, and have been pouring me imaginary cups of coffee all morning.  Maybe you’re smarter than I even realize and have made the connection between that magical cup Mommy carries around and her willingness to let you bang on the pots and pans as loud as you can first thing in the morning.

It does this Mama good to see you make new connections, to watch the light of understanding brighten your eyes.  You’ve always been so little, barely holding your own on the growth chart and in comparison to your peers.  And your recent experiments in the field of I’m Not Hungry Thank You, No Really, ALL DONE aren’t doing much to help that fact.  But when I see you learning, absorbing information from the world at a faster rate than I can keep up with, I rest a little easier knowing that chicken legs or not, you’re growing.  This year you’ve made the connection that everything and everyone has a name, you can recognize shapes, understand instructions and tell us what you want.  Next year you might be old enough to understand the story of Jesus and how he came to this earth to be born as a little boy just like you, and save us all.  Only Jesus probably didn’t throw a temper tantrum when his mother told him not to spit out his mashed potatoes.  Just some food for thought.

Love, Mama


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