Monday, December 19, 2011

My Christmas List is a To-Do List

Maybe I'll feel differently next year when I have a 10-month-old, but...I am totally not interested in getting a photo of my kid on Santa's lap. Unless one of my friends or relatives dresses up as Santa for a party, I just don't see myself getting that picture. At least not until she's old enough to request a visit to Santa, at which point I suppose if we were there anyway, I'd probably get a picture.

But speaking of Christmas pictures, for Christmas cards next year? I am so looking forward to setting up something fun and silly and snapping a bunch of pics to DIY our own photo cards (and for a much cooler keep-sake than the Santa picture). I'm thinking Baby Girl in nothing but a red diaper and santa hat, playing with a string of white Christmas lights, with some neutral fabric in the background and maybe a couple other non-breakable accessories. Or! Maybe a big pot fashioned to look like a mug, and stick her in there along with a few bags of big marshmallows like she's bathing in hot chocolate! Can a 10-month-old munch on marshmallows (with adult supervision)?

Anyhoo, that's all to come a year from now. This year, I have a huge to-do list of a different sort: this is the last time I'll have multiple days off of work in a row before D Day, so in addition to all the usual Christmas stuff, there's a TON of baby-related stuff I really want to get done between now and January 2nd! And I am SO GLAD I saved up my vacation days so I could have off for 13 days in a row, starting this Wednesday, December 21st! Here's what's on the ol' list:

Monday 12/19 Evening:
  • Coat of paint on the dresser

  • Lots of laundry, including all the old clothes I plan to make into cloth diapers & cover

Tuesday 12/20 Evening:
  • More laundry (see above)

  • Clean up & decorate Dining Room table

  • Finish decorating tree (just need to hang ornaments)

  • Vacuum/sweep/dust once all decorating is done

Wednesday 12/21:
  • Tidy/reorganize 2nd bedroom in prep for more storage needs

  • Clear out office except for small desk, computer, & printer

  • All extra non-baby stuff from 2nd bedroom & office goes to the basement

  • Finish up anything still pending from above (more laundry? fold laundry?)

Thursday 12/22:
  • Wrapping & other prep for Christmas gifts (this is 5 bullets on my personal list, but I don't want to give anything away!

  • Shop for any necessary supplies for baking Christmas cookies tomorrow

Friday 12/23:
  • Bake Christmas cookies with Hannah!

  • Two more Christmas gift prep items

Christmas Eve 12/24:
  • Askey Family Christmas!

  • Cooking in the morning?

  • Knitting

Christmas Day 12/25:
  • Killian Family Christmas!

  • More knitting

Monday 12/26:
  • Lebanon Christmas Brunch & Pregnant Cousins Pow-Wow!

  • More knitting!! (I really need to knit every day to get anywhere near all my knitting done, so just assume this bullet is included in all future days!)

  • PREP Christmas Dinner!

Tuesday 12/27:
  • Paint the Office Nursery!

Wednesday 12/28:
  • Sewing Day - hem curtains, make cloth diapers & diaper covers

Thursdasy 12/29:
  • Finish painting nursery (trim, wall stripes?)

Friday 12/30:
  • More of whatever still needs to be done (painting? sewing?)

  • Finish painting dresser & bookcases in basement

Saturday 12/31:
  • More finishing what still needs to be done from previous days


Sunday 1/1/2012:
  • Freak out because it's 2012 already, and because I'm going to have a BABY this year

  • Start un-decorating

  • More sewing? Start to assemble the nursery?

Monday 1/2/2012:
  • Finish un-decorating

  • Get house tidy & ready for organized storage of baby stuff

If I can come reasonably close to actually following this list, I will be feeling LOADS better about the prospect of bringing a baby home to our house in (less than?) 2 months. WAY, way better.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Brain Dump

Growing a new human is still going well. I'm starting to have to work harder to roll over in bed, and discomforts, but on the whole I really can't complain. Still feeling blessed to have an easy pregnancy.

At the doctor's on Wednesday morning, I was told to keep doing whatever I'm doing, because everything is great! I still have great blood pressure, my thyroid is still staying stable like a champ, my weight is good, and I even got confirmation that I was right about the orientation of Baby Girl: her butt is on the top right, her head is all the way at the bottom just above my pelvis, and she's facing slightly to my left and back.

But today I'm more in the mood for a brain dump of things that no one really wants to listen to me talk about:

Last night on WITF radio, the host introduced an NPR story by saying that the EPA had "implicated a connection" between fracking and contaminated drinking water. That is...not correct. You can't implicate a connection. He should have said either that the EPA had implicated fracking in connection with contaminated drinking water, or the EPA had found a connection between fracking and contaminated drinking water. I know it's a minor misuse, but it bugged me. I may have ranted aloud about it to myself as I drove to choir rehearsal.

Abrupt topic change:

If you work at a desk at a computer all day, let me tell you, it is the perfect place to paint your nails. The smell really isn't an issue because it dissipates quickly (especially since I have a big air vent right above my head), and as long as you plan a bit, it is a very low-risk environment for messing up your fresh paint. I make sure my water bottle is filled, my bladder is empty, and my cell phone is sitting on my desk and not in my pocket or purse, and then I go to town. I do one coat at a time while I'm working and waiting for a report to run or a page to load. Then I straight up work for a while while that coat dries. So far today I've done a base coat and one coat of color, which is now pretty much totally dry, but I'll wait to do color coat #2 and top coat until after lunch. Then by the time I'm ready to go home, everything will be dry and safe. I am telling you, it is great. Plus, with my actually strong, thick pregnancy nails, they'll keep looking great for up to 2 weeks, at which point I will take off all the polish before bed and then re-paint them the next day at work! I sit near 2 smokers who definitely spend more time on smoking breaks than I do on my nails, so I figure it's a parallel activity.

I started painting my nails again about a month ago, and I've decided I'll keep up with it through Baby Arrival Day, after which I will want to have clean, bare, short nails for a while. Probably a long while. So for now, I'm treating myself!

Speaking of treating myself, I think this is a symptom of another thing I love about being pregnant: I feel better and more comfortable with my body now than I probably ever have! I was hoping I'd get the "cute, round belly" type of pregnant body and not the "fat everywhere" type, and my wish came true! I love not having to worry about sucking in my belly, love handles, etc. and it makes me enjoy doing my hair and wearing eye makeup and painting my nails that much more.

Now my next hope is that breastfeeding and babywearing and baby playing are effective at getting my body into better shape than it was pre-pregnancy...a girl can dream!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Oh Baby

So. Wow. It's been about 4.5 months since I last blogged. I have been meaning to remedy that, but...well, I guess I've just felt fulfilled by twitter and facebook. It sure is easier to post pictured on facebook, let me tell you!

But I've been feeling like I needed a longer format, and after last night, I knew it was time. Last night my wonderful choir family at Trinity Lutheran Church threw us our first baby shower. There isn't anyone reading this blog who wouldn't already know that I'm pregnant, but seeing as I haven't actually posted that on the blog yet, just in case: Yup! We've known since about a month before my previous post. I'm just a few days shy of 6 months. 3rd trimester! Ack! So crazy. I also just noted today that I'm officially under 100 days until my due date (although most likely still over 100 days until my actual delivery date, judging from family and friends' experiences with first pregnancies).

As it is for many couples, pregnancy has been pretty surreal. Finding out that IT'S A GIRL was a big milestone for me, along with seeing her squirming all around during the ultrasound, and beginning to feel movement shortly after that was another one. But last night, getting all these baby gear gifts, and especially holding up adorable outfit after adorable outfit? That really brought it home for me. Especially after we got home and stacked it all in the designated Baby Gear Area in the 2nd bedroom, and I revisited some of the outfits. I was holding them up and realizing that in a little over 3 months, I am going to have a little person to put into these outfits. To fill up these outfits. I will be holding these outfits with a warm, squirmy little body in them. And that will be my daughter! It's amazing to think about, and mind-boggling.

My choir family at Trinity has made pregnancy special from the beginning, not just by throwing a shower for us. This is not a replacement for thank-you cards (don't roll your eyes at me, Jane H, I WILL write you another thank-you card whether you like it or not!), but seeing as I can't write a whole exposition in every little card, I wanted to share it here. I have loved hearing everyone's stories about their experiences, their memories of being pregnant and having their children, their advice, and their weekly inquiries about how I'm feeling. I loved choir before, but this whole experience has just magnified everything! It's been such a blessing.

So anyway...I have a whole lot more to muse about my pregnancy experience, picking items for a registry, planning for the nursery, and expectations/hopes/wishes for starting life as a family once Baby Girl arrives, but my wonderful choir family was at the top of my mind. I've had an amazing support group of friends and family members as well, but I feel better about my ability to express my appreciation to each of them individually. Now to see if Facebook is still slurping up my blog posts so that I can tag all the choir people...

Hopefully more posts to come soon! I want to get back in the habit before February, when I'll want to start, you know, documenting my daughter's life.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Fun

It is upon us! Paul is starting his 3rd week at camp, my parents are on vacation in Peru, and I am feeling like I might not be able to handle taking care of our house all alone AND getting done some of the big crafty & DIY projects AND keeping up with the garden! But so far I've held it together, just haven't gotten much extra done.

Visiting Rachel was awesome...I had so much fun that I didn't even take any photos.

I have all the stuff for making the headboard, now I just have to DO it...that might get started this Thursday evening, we'll see.

Last night I finally harvested a Bok Choi, which had TWO little caterpillars nesteled in its leaves laying little green eggs that looked like fish roe. I washed them all off and threw away the worst bits, and everything ended up just peachy. I sauteed some sesame seeds and onion in a bit of canola oil, then added the chopped up bok choi and some sesame oil, and sauteed that until it was all soft. Then I added the quinoa I had cooked, a little bit more oil, and stir-fried it like rice. It was pretty delicious! I am definitely going to start buying more quinoa. Too bad it's quite a bit more expensive than rice...but...worth it, because it's a heck of a lot healthier. And we'll still use rice plenty often too, I'm sure.

Saturday, Paul's friend Nate was in town, so we took him with us to a gathering at the B's house, where we ate a lot of delicious food and played foursquare. No, not the social networking stalker app, but the elementary school playground game. No kidding. It was so much fun! Rachel got the idea somehow, and invited us all over, to great success. It was a perfect party game because it rotates players pretty quickly, so everyone could play without having to stand around watching for long, and it was easy to rotate between kid-watching and playing as well, because it didn't matter much who was in when. And there's the perfect amount of movement so that you are getting some excercise without feeling like you can't keep up, and best of all, it wasn't a game that anyone felt like they were at a disadvantage - everyone could play well enough to make it to the top spot now and then! It was really a ton of fun. I still need to upload the pics I took.

This Wednesday I'll finally spend visiting Nawakwa, so I am definitely looking forward to that!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Update: Garden fresh meals

Dinner Saturday (while our power was out for going on 48 hours): Parmesan flatbread made from pizza dough thawed from the freezer-cum-plastic storage cupboard, paired with a huge salad of fresh lettuces from the garden topped with diced cucumber, chic peas, green olives, flax seeds, and gazebo room dressing. Delicious!

Yesterday's lunch: a wrap consisting of homemade hummus (Paul is such a pro at this now!), the rest of the diced cucumber from Saturday's dinner, more green olives, broccosprouts deli blend (I am so in love...haven't attempted growing my own sprouts yet though), and of course more baby greens from the garden!

Today's lunch: another wrap with the same hummus, half an avocado (they're way too expensive but I love them sooooooo much), sprouts, and another huge bunch of fresh lettuce picked this morning!

Witness the lettuce in all its glory:

I really love taking Juno out in the backyard in the morning and letting her run around for a bit while I pick lettuce. Although this morning she just came and sat near me (as long as I wasn't looking at her too much), so she must have still been tired from being out for a long time yesterday afternoon in the heat. But regardless, it's a great way to start the morning, and I hope I can keep it up all summer!

Juno enjoying the backyard while we garden:

I took a lot of garden pics yesterday, so now I'm all caught up with documentation of what's growing. All I still need to do (besides, you know, tend the garden on a daily basis) is get some more garden stakes to label the squash and tomato varieties. Soon!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Update: Food & more

I have now harvested Tah Tsai from my garden three times, and every time I go back there's more than there was before the last time I harvested! I've also picked a little bit of baby spinach, and I know there will be more of that soon, because everything is growing like crazy lately.

The Tah Tsai (plus a bit of spinach) I used in a pasta salad on Saturday, and again for lunch today! My lunch today was awesome. It didn't make a pretty picture, so you'll have to settle for a description: I covered the bottom of my medium glass pyrex with tah tsai leaves, spread a few big spoonfulls of Paul's homemade hummus on top of that, spread half of the remaining broccosprouts on top of that, followed by a layer of half a sliced avocado, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, a tiny drizzle of EVOO and red wine vinegar (because the hummus is a few days old and getting a bit dry), and topped with a few more tah tsai leaves to keep my container lid from getting stuck to everything. When I opened it up for lunch, I took a knife to everything to make it easier to eat, which also mixed everything all up and made it look really ugly. But it was SO DELICIOUS. It was rich and filling, and I didn't even add any bread! Granted, it had plenty of fat, but it was all GOOD fat from plants! And protein, and lots of other plant-y goodness from dark green tah tsai leaves and sprouts! I feel really super about that meal, and I'm going to have it again tomorrow with the rest of the sprouts, other half of the avocado, and additionally freshly-harvested tah tsai.

The best part: I picked the tah tsai THIS MORNING while I had Juno out. Talk about fresh! Makes me happy.

It also makes me happy that I have now used my harvest to feed a houseguest, share a dish with a bunch of friends at a party, and feed myself lunch! All by mid-May, before the planting is even finished!

Speaking of planting: Tomorrow evening, Tuesday, we will be making our (probably final) trip to Noggle's to get tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, zucchini, butternut squash, herbs, and maybe one or two other veggies, all of which I will plant on Wednesday (my day off! I love saying that), at which point we will be finished with planting things for the season. Yay! Actually I will sprinkle some more lettuce seeds once the current batch is all harvested, but that hardly counts, since sprinkling them is really all there is to it. Tomatoes will go by the house under the bedroom window, all other veggies will go in the garden, and herbs will go in the window basket we got at Frey's in Lebanon with our Groupon. Then I will be able to harvest the herbs by opening up my dining room window! How awesome is that? And they will be totally safe from rabbits. So this year, my cilantro should survive the seedling stage.

One more progress update: I baked bread! Paul talked me through it, but I did all the work. I've made bread before, but never such a nice simple, basic recipe, and with the right materials, i.e. real bread flour. It makes such a difference. Bringing the dough together only takes a few minutes, and then kneading it by hand for about 10 minutes seems like a lot of work, but really? Spread over two days, the entire actual labor put into it is probably no more than 30-45 minutes. And there is a magical moment as you're kneading the dough when it changes from kind of lumpy to smooth and elastic, and you know it's ready to rise. It is really cool.

Next up in the bread department: add-ins, different flour, and having another go at maintaining a sourdough starter in the fridge.

I'll take some more garden pics tonight or tomorrow, and then again on Wednesday after all the remaining plants are in! Like I said, everything has been growing at really unbelievable rates, and I'll definitely have more tah tsai to harvest for lunch tomorrow, plus maybe even some baby lettuces and mustard greens (both of which probably need to be thinned out). The cabbages are all getting huge, except for one that for some reason is still kind of dinky by comparison, but hopefully that just means that the cabbage harvest will be nice and staggared. I don't know what I'd do with 4 heads all at once! Make a lot of asian slaw and fish tacos, I suppose. That's probably what I'll be doing regardless.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First Wednesday Off

My first Wednesday off of work for my alternative work schedule was a total success.  The weather was gorgeous, so after sleeping in until 8:30, I made two over easy fried egg sandwiches for me and Paul, and then I spent the rest of the morning outside.

I planted the mini daffodils Sarah sent home with me after Jeneane's baby shower, and then filled up the big white pots they had been sitting in and planted the bok choi and kale seedlings I started from seed, along with the last two cabbage plants, because I think it will look really pretty all together until I eat it all!!  And I'm all about my veggies being ornamental and bringing beauty to my backyard until I eat them!  My hands were way too grubby to take pictures of the newly potted veg, but here's one I took earlier of a kholrabi looking fine:

Then I had my hair cut and styled, and went straight to PENNDOT to renew my driver's license.  As I hoped, this is my best DL photo ever.  Totally the way to do it.  Side note: how is the DMV that busy on a random Wednesday afternoon?  I thought I'd beat the crowds by going in the middle of a weekday.  It was still pretty quick and painless though.

Then I came home and went with Paul to finally move our safe deposit box from New Cumberland to a bank closer to our house, and on the way to open the new box we stopped at Starbucks for half-price Frappuccinos (3-5:30pm daily through May 15...Starbucks should probably be paying me).  Of course that was delightful.  I have been 100% disciplined and have not stopped at starbucks at all, even on my most crabby mornings when I am craving it, which is especially amazing since I drive right past it every day.  Most days I have to sit and wait at the traffic light and stare at Starbucks, often with the entrance just an easy swoop to the left instead of continuing to wait at the light.  I went for my free coffee on Earth Day, and haven't been back until today.  Totally worth it, and I enjoyed my frap even more since I haven't had one in so long!

We came home and put bacon in the oven for BLTs, and I even picked a few leaves of baby spinach from the garden to augment the lettuce!  Plus we were eating them on Paul's fabulous home baked bread.  Then Paul went with me to training class with Juno, because next week he's going to take her on his own so I can go to bell choir rehearsal.

So now we're home for the evening and since we've already eaten dinner (quite early for us), we are looking forward to a calm, lazy evening catching up on some Big Bang Theory and finishing off a pint of Hans Vanilla Bean Frozen Custard!  I am definitely going to enjoy this alternate work schedule all summer.  It turns out getting up at 6am is easy when you go to bed before 10pm and it's already starting to get light at 6.  Also?  I think I could be happy running a small farm for a living...anyone want to help me with the start-up capital?  If you do, you can have free veggies for life!  Just look at my handiwork thus far:

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Ambitions NOT for this Summer

In addition to all the things I want to do this summer,  there are some much bigger projects on my wish-list that are going to have to wait, probably for years or longer; and my ideal wish for these spaces will probably never happen:

Re-do the bathroom:  At the very least, I'd like to remove the sliding door on the tub/shower, re-tile everything, and add storage above the toilet.  But since the half-bath off the master bedroom is right behind the main bathroom, the main bathroom doesn't have a window; in fact, some of the other ranches in the neighborhood that are otherwise identically laid out to ours have only one bathroom that is the size of both of I think it might be awesome to totally demo both bathrooms and the adjoining wall, and make it into one bigger bathroom.  It might even work to keep the door from the master bedroom as well as the door from the hallway, and furthermore might make room for a stall shower AND a bathtub/shower, plus 2 sink/vanities, so there would be plenty of room for a growing family.  But that would require hiring a contractor, whereas re-tiling we could do ourselves, so it's probably not in the cards.

Update the kitchen:  Our kitchen has plenty of floor space, and very high-quality hardwood, hand-made cabinets.  I'd prefer a less-reddish wood tone, but my Dad says that God will strike me down if I paint over the gorgeous oak, so they're staying as-is for now.  The countertop is pretty ugly laminant, so I really want to do something about that.  But aside from those possible updates, there isn't much counter space; there's an entire blank wall that could easy have base and wall cabinets for added storage; the oven and dishwasher are both half-sized; and there's a totally supurfluous wall creating a smaller opening between the kitchen and dining room.  So again, if I had the means, I'd love to update the cabinets, knock out the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and just kind of extend the kitchen to make it more seamless with the dining room, including adding more cabinets and counters.

Build a patio:  Our carport has a door out to the backyard, and the shed off the back of the carport has a garage door facing the backyard.  I would love to add a cobblestone patio that starts outside the shed's garage door and extends, with a gently curved edge, across about half the back of the house, with possibly some built-in benchs and a cuppola covered with vining plants for some light shade.  We might actually do this eventually; we'd really love to have an outdoor seating and eating area other than our carport, which is nice but still feels too dark and inside-ish.

Add direct access to the backyard:  I doubt this will ever happen, but if by some miracle we did update the kitchen as extensively as I'd love to with the knocking down of walls, I think it would be fabulous to add a sliding door to the backyard in place of the dining room windows.  But for this reason, if we ever do build that patio, I want it to extend to just beyond these windows so that if we ever have the means, we could put in this sliding door.

Some days, I just hate our main bathroom so much that I feel the urge to take a sledge hammer to it the first week Paul is away at camp, so that I have no choice but to re-tile the bathtub and remove the sliding doors.  A girl can dream...

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Progress: Upholstery

I felt a flash of extra-overwhelmed-ness this morning, like "how will I get even one or two things from my Summer to-do list finished," until I realized that by the middle of June, I'll have no more external evening commitments - Juno's training class will be over, and so will choir rehearsals for the summer.  So the fact that I haven't had time or energy to even knit half a row of an unfinished project before turning off the light and going to sleep, or, say, do some more laundry, let alone make any small progress towards the many big things I want to do, is understandable.  It will all get better once other commitments drop away, and once Paul leaves for camp and I am free to go to sleep in a quiet house at 9:30 or 10:00pm.

To keep track of everything, I've created a new page on the blog (see it up there, below the header?  It's called Summer 2011 Projects) that has the same list as the previous post!  Also, I am making a vow to do at least one thing every day that moves me closer to some item on the list.  Even if it's a super-small thing, I will do something!

Today, I created a new Pinterest board to collect fabric samples and upholstry resources, since my list includes THREE (re)upholstry projects.  Here's the first fabric candidate I found:

So that counts as a small step towards my goal of reupholstering the old wooden chair in the living room!  What do you think?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Summer Ambitions

I am getting REALLY excited for this summer!  My excitement is bubbling up today because I have made it official at work that I am going to work 9 hour days so that I can take off every other Wednesday, and I am using vacation days to take off most other Wednesdays through the first weekend in September.

I will be using many of my Wednesdays off to spend time at Camp Nawakwa, where my hubby will be spending his entire summer, but I have A LOT of other ambitions for my summer as well!  I decided that I'd be exponentially more likely to do certain things if I actually scheduled them on my calendar, especially the things that involve other people.  I just wrote a bit about this in an e-mail to my mom (as I scheduled a Summer Ambition with her!) and thought to myself, this should be in a blog post!

So here is what I have officially scheduled as of today:
  • Training classes with Juno, which started last Wednesday and run every Wednesday evening through June 8th
  • A road trip to visit my dear friend Rachel in Raleigh, North Carolina the second weekend in June
  • My first sewing lesson & quality time with my awesome Mom the first Wednesday after she's done with school, which also happens to be only a few days before she and my Dad leave on their summer vacation to South America.  Hopefully we will move on to a second and maybe even third sewing lesson.  I feel like I'm ready to take on sewing!  I have daydreams about handbags with perfectly placed pockets, linings and zippers for knitted items, and fresh pillow covers for my Ikea Tullsta chairs!
  • A trip to visit my dear friend Crystal in Alexandria, Virginia the second weekend in July
There are tons of other things I'm hoping to do this summer, including:
  • Gardening.  Duh.  This should probably go in the "already scheduled" list, since the garden is already planted and I will definitely need to care for it almost daily, but since it's something that I can't officially schedule and will require discipline to keep up with, I'm putting it in this list.
  • Eating meals & packing lunches that use whatever's growing in my garden to the fullest.  This will mean planning ahead, making some creative salads to pack over several days, eating more veggies than I would choose to eat if I relied entirely on my carb cravings to make my decisions, and a lot more discipline.
  • Bake bread instead of buying it, and use it for copious sandwiches (see previous bullet).  Paul was on a bread-making kick for a while, so hopefully sometime in May we can make bread together so he can pass on his knowledge to me.  I'd love to get a sourdough starter going in my fridge, but I'm not going to hold myself to that, so let's just focus on making some plain ol' white bread for now.
  • Finish cleaning out and organizing the basement, and in tandem with that, reorganize the office/3rd bedroom, in pursuit of my goal to own less stuff
  • Paint the second bedroom and hallway, including trim, and finally paint the trim in our bedroom
  • Paint the nightstand and bookcase in the second bedroom, something that coordinates with the rest of the room, and possibly painting the vanity-turned-changing-table too?  But that is up for debate.
  • Hang curtains in the second bedroom
  • Paint the fugly fugly vanity in the second bathroom
  • Paint, fill, and hang all picture frames, mainly on the entry wall in the living room and in the dining room
  • Mount the huge antique-style world map I got for Paul for his birthday last October on the wall above our low dresser in our bedroom (once I confirm that it will fit on that wall...I think it will).
  • Revamp the orange wood-framed armchair we got from Poppy - I LOVE this chair, but it needs new fabric that isn't cracked and plasticy, and I think once I have removed the current covering I will take the opportunity to sand down the frame and re-stain it too, like almost black to go with the couch but not painted so the wood grain can still show through.  Then maybe I can find a fabric that has some brown tones like the Tullsta chairs and ottomans, and then it will help tie all the furniture together!
  • Reupholster the seats of the dining room chairs, and possibly the back as well (but I'm not at all sure about the backs yet).  Doing the seats will be easy, though.  Possibly using the same fabric as for the chair in the previous bullet.
  • I almost forgot to include a project close to the top of my list, even with the other mentions of reupholstering things!  I am going to make an upholstered headboard for our bed.  Hopefully with some button tufting and everything!  And if it goes well, I might even make a second one for the second bedroom.
Wow.  It is going to be a busy summer, and I can't wait to get started!  Well, I can't wait to keep going, since I have already started a few things.  Can I do it??  Probably not everything, but most of it?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Parsing some feelings

This post turned out a lot more incoherent than I wanted it to, but I'm posting it anyway.  Maybe I'll try again in a few months when I have some additional related news to the mean time, don't take offense, just read it for what it is:  a mind dump of feelings and thoughts that I'm still in the process of working out.

A year ago this week, Paul and I started officially trying to have a baby.  It took us four months to get pregnant for the first time.  Four weeks from now is when I would have been due.

A lot of people already know all this, but a lot of people don't.  And that's exactly how it should be; I had all the support I needed, and any more would have been too much.  I was only 7 weeks when it happened, so although it was very upsetting, we were not as devestated as people often wanted to assume we must be.  That was, perhaps, even harder than dealing with the feelings we were having:  it was unsettling to feel like I wasn't anywhere near as sad as some people thought I should be.  I wasn't worried that I wasn't sad enough, I was just worried that it would give people a bad impression of me!  I was exactly as sad as I needed to be.

I'm having some sad feelings this week again because of the timing.  There have been a handful of negative pregnancy tests since November when my cycle came back, and each of those was a bummer, but not much more so than the first three negative tests before I was pregnant the first time.  In addition to the timing of a year since we started trying and getting close to my original due date, this past month I was 2 days late, so that negative test was a bit sadder than usual, but still fine.

See, the thing is, I know I am able to get pregnant.  I wasn't in love with the pea-sized little tadpole in my uterus; I was in love with the concept of being pregnant, but that all happened last October, and now that it's almost 6 months later?  I'm over it.  Really.  So I know it's going to happen again soon.  And all the gardening and planting and planning and yard work we have been doing?  I have been getting SO MUCH satisfaction out of that, out of watching our plans turn into reality, and knowing that all my hard work is going to produce lots of fresh veggies for me to enjoy this summer.  What if I was in the middle of my first trimester right now, during the most critical preparation and planting period?  Paul has been working himself ragged as it is, so without my work on weekends and evenings, I don't think we could have gotten to this point with the garden.  I am going to have to do a lot of hard work by myself while Paul is away at camp this summer, and I'm hoping to be pregnant by then, but I wouldn't trade these past few weeks if I had the choice.  Especially if I do get pregnant within the next month or three, I will consider the timing to be perfect.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the feelings surrounding pregnancy and childbirth.  I haven't really experienced either yet, but my focus stems from the path I'm on, and from watching many of my closest friends go through both, seven times now just counting the people I'm closest to!  I feel blessed to be surrounded by so many growing families.  It makes me so happy to get to know my friends' children and watch them grow, and to hear all their mom stories and know what an amazing support system I'll have once I join them.  Their births were all different: some fairly straightforward, some difficult and traumatizing, some c-sections, some with drugs, some without.  I also feel blessed to have friends who were willing to talk about their experiences openly, and a mom who was willing to tell me about her experiences.

When I picture my own pregnancy and imagine giving birth, I still picture it as idyllic.  Discomfort and pain, sure, but not too hard to deal with when you consider the reward you get at the end of it all.  And I think, no matter how many stories I hear, it wouldn't change that daydream very much.  I'm always going to imagine the best case scenario; it's just my nature.  But I also know that when I do run into problems, complications, and all the other difficulties that I'm sure to experience in some measure, having heard all these stories will help me cope mentally and physically.

The thing that I struggle with most at this point isn't the actual feelings I'm having:  I feel quite confident in my ability to feel and cope with any less-than-ideal situations I'm currently experiencing, and I'm comfortably, contemplatively moving through the slight melancholy from the anniversaries of trying and due date, mixed with the joyousness of Spring and producing beautiful and useful things with my hands in my garden.  Maybe an outsider would say that I feel so driven to knit and crochet things for other people, and put so much work into our garden, as a result of our un-success so far at starting a family, but I don't think it's that deep; I know I just enjoy doing all this creating and producing, and I would enjoy it no matter what happened in the past year; it just so happens to exist in parallel with the other stuff.  Cum hoc ergo propter hoc Correlation does not imply causation.

No, the thing I think I struggle with the most is my perception of how other people expect me to feel, and how my actual feelings, since they don't jive with their expectations, will cause weirdness that I'll have to deal with.  And not expectations of me specifically, but in reading others' stories on blogs I follow, and hearing how people talk about pregnancy and birth, the prevailing attitude of society doesn't jive for me, and it worries me on behalf of my future self once I do get pregnant again and join that world.

I'm also not talking about the popular back-to-nature movement of home births, birth without drugs, anti-c-section sentiments, anti-formula-feeding, etc etc.  I agree that birth has become over-medicalized and over-commercialized; I want to have as natural a birth as possible, at a hospital with a NICU, and then I want to breasfeed my baby exclusively for 6 months, and make all my own baby food.  Sure I want to do all of those things, and I will try very hard to make it all happen, but if I'm not able to achieve some of those things, I will not feel horrible guilt about it.  I will know that I've done my best and made the best decisions I can for the physical, mental, and emotional health of my baby AND myself.  Because if I'm not mentally or physically well, then my baby won't be either.  A friend of mine was unable to breastfeed after the first two weeks with her first child, and she struggled against attitudes that made her feel guilty because of it.  That is ridiculous.  But I also see red when I hear about women who were all but discouraged from breastfeeding by the lack of support and/or pushing of formula free samples.  Basically, either extreme is bad, which is pretty much my feeling on a range of topics, from healthcare to politics to religion.  I feel essentially the same way about c-sections too.

But what I'm trying to get at isn't the mechanics; it's the sentiment of "I loved my baby immediately and unconditionally, and I would do anything to save it."  That's what, historically, we've learned to expect.  But there's also abundant sources of stories and support groups surrounding traumatic birth experiences, and for women who do have very upsetting experiences during pregnancy and birth, and/or who don't experience quite the level of absolute imidiate love for their babies, it has become easy (at least in the online/blogging community) to find an outlet to share those feelings with others who had similar experiences.  But I worry that now that opposite extreme is becoming too emphasized as well.  When I read a birth story on a blog and the birth stories of a hundred women in the comments section, every one is either perfect or traumatic; filled with immediate unconditional love from the moment they knew they were pregnant, or struggling with difficult bonding.  The traumatic ones sometimes have the unconditional love, but my point is that there's never any mention of middle ground for either feeling.

I'm hopeful that it's largely the filter of the internet giving me this impression, because the stories from a few of my friends have been much more middle-of-the-road:  labor was long and tiring, and it was a tough call whether or not to get that epidural; it was surreal to hold that baby for the first time, and breastfeeding wasn't easy at first, but now things are getting better, and I am so happy to have my sweet baby in my arms and so in love.  And in the ensuing months, even while they're still newborns, sometimes you want to scream and sometimes you're as happy as can be.  But online and in some conversations, it makes me sad to realize that parenthood has become another issue where there are two sides to every issue and you have to be firmly on one side or the other; it's another casualty to extremism.

There's one other big area where I get apprehensive, and that's religion.  I've heard this discussed in relation to other topics (major illnesses, natural disasters, etc), but just today in reading one mommy blogger's terrifying birth story with a happy ending, I saw many commenters say, in so many words, that they hoped this experience made the parents realize that God is working in their lives and loves them and has big plans for them.  Here is my problem with that sentiment:  What does it mean for the parents whose stories end tragically?  The baby dies, the mom dies, they're never going to be able to have children, etc?  Obviously those same commentors wouldn't say that God doesn't love those people.  They'd probably say something like God has a different plan for them, but that rings false to me too.  I want people to know that I believe God's plans for us are unknowable, and it mostly doesn't make sense to me to point out God's hand in any one specific event, whether it's joyous or tragic.  I don't know how to reconcile it, but I do know that it's not like that.  Athiests have the same kinds of tragic and joyous stories as Christians or any other religion; God isn't sitting up there deciding how your pregnancy turns out based on how your life is supposed to go; these things happen for the same reason you stepped in a puddle on your way into work this morning, or found a dime in the parking lot at the grocery store.  I don't believe in predetermination or destiny, and statements about God's plan as they relate to specific outcomes of major events imply predetermination.  You can't have free will and God deciding your daily life at the same time.  I'll say it again:  I have no idea how it actually works, I just know it doesn't work like that.

We're all just trying to make the best decisions we can based on what we know and what we're feeling and what our intuition is telling us.  You can give advice until your face is blue, but don't pass judgement on other people.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Crafty garden

I have two new posts up on my craft blog!
I also have a lot of gardening in my future, but for now our big reveal is a bit underwhelming, even though it represents hours of hard work (mostly Paul's) over days, culminating this past Sunday when we finally finished moving all the compost from the driveway to our garden:

That beautiful wooden border?  is Paul's weeks of hard work and skill, and by turning our garden into a raised bed, we're hoping to take our veggie growing to the next level.  And also overcome the problem of lots of grass creeping into our garden.  And above when I said *we* finished moving all that dirt?  I really meant Paul.  I pushed a grand total of one wheelbarrow full of compost from the driveway to the garden, and Paul did the rest.  But on Sunday, I raked it all out.  And as soon as I can, I will be planting  the lettuces and cabbage, asparagus, spinach, and kohlrabi that are ready and waiting to keep the lonely rhubarb company.  Can you see him in the corner?  Here he is:

This is his second year in our garden, so we should be able to harvest stalks for pie and other yumminess!

AFTER we had worked in the garden and the rest of the yard for hours on Sunday afternoon, I used the remaining daylight to finally repot all my houseplants, and they sorely needed it.  I had moved the three biggest plants into big white pots from Ikea a couple of weeks ago, but the rest were waiting patiently, and now they're all happy in their new homes:

I really love all my houseplants!  Can you believe the pointsettia still has so much red?  It seems pretty happy in my north-facing picture window, so hopefully a real pot to call its own will make it even happier!  The peace lily in the middle has yet to perk up, but I'm still hopeful.  And my favorite are the succulents on the right:  the giant aloe, and the trumpet jade from a clipping my mom gave me over two years ago.

Lots more gardening pics to come, hopefully this weekend if the weather cooperates at all!  Are you planting anything this spring?  Edible, decorative, or both?  What's your favorite veggie, and if I grow it in my garden, will you help me eat it later this summer?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Online Organization

It's really not as important as IRL organization, but I felt the urge to get my cyber-self all up to date, and now I pretty much have.  Let me know what you think of the new blog look and content:
  • Tabs along the top include "Inspiration," which feeds in from my new Tumblr page that I plan to use to link to anything I run across on the internet that I want to keep for future inspiration!  I also plan to gradually add a few typical bloggy tabs, like the 100 Things, a photo tour of our house, and one or two other things...
  • The list of my favorite blogs to read is still in the sidebar to the right, as usual sorted by newest content
  • I also added a list of links that encompasses every site where I have a presence on teh interwebs.  Check it out!  And if you need some circular bamboo knitting needles, or a computer programming book, or a few other things, check out my Amazon store, where I have already successfully divested myself of a bunch of unneeded house clutter (see previous post) and made a few bucks to boot!
I've also read a couple of books in quick succession, and am started on a third, which is A LOT more reading than I've done recently; also happy to say that 2 out of 3 have been on my Nook!  Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese was amazingly wonderful, and you should definitely go obtain a copy immediately and read it.  One of Our Thursdays Is Missingby Jasper Fforde is the newly-released 6th in his Thursday Next series, and I enjoyed it, but it wasn't my fav.  And finally, I just started Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I have managed to protect myself from finding out anything about, because I know it's got some startling stuff in it that would have lessened my enjoyment of the book if I had known ahead of time.  So far I'm loving it, and it's a page-turner just because you have to figure out what the heck is going on in the subtly different world of the novel.  See the Goodreads link in the aforementioned sidebar.

So that's the news of late.  Reading has usurped knitting, although I did also get a portion of my houseplant re-potting done last weekend.  Since Never Let Me Go is my own (e)book and not a library book, perhaps I will intersperse it with some knitting...or crocheting, since I now have a baby shower to prepare for by April 30th!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Stuff... and having less of it

It's been building up for years now, gradually, but recently more quickly: the desire to have less stuff. Of course, it's always competing with the desire to get more stuff: new cell phones, an e-reader, home decor items, kitchen gadgets, clothing, jewelry, craft supplies...the list of things I want to get is pretty much endless.

A bunch of things over the years, and a few things pretty recently, have kept the idea of living with less (and being happier as a result) in my mind, sometimes in the background, but more and more often coming to the forefront and presenting itself as quite possibly the best and first solution to being a happier, healthier, less stressed and more financially stable person.

A few years ago, I heard about my cousin's brother-in-law giving away a lot of his stuff. I also heard about Tiny Houses for the first time, and they've been popping up from various sources ever since, including just today when a blog post linked me to the Tiny House Blog and this recently hand-built trailer that just looks so, so cool to me. I wish I was the kind of person who had the desire and the discipline to simplify my life so much that I could live in a tiny house, but I know I am not that person, and I never will be; however, I think I am the kind of person who can learn to recognize what stuff I want to get that will actually improve my life and bring me joy, and what stuff will just take up space in my home and in my brain and add stress to my life, taking more than it is giving.

In addition to my recent reminder of tiny houses, a bunch of other things have me contemplating all my stuff and how much of it I don't need or want, including but not limited to:
  • My very good friend @kellypens is giving one thing to charity for every day of Lent this year.  If this beautiful mom of 2 who is also in school full-time, in campus housing with her family of 4, living on one income (her hubby's) can give 40 things to charity, how much could I give away?
  • Paul started working on the "finished" half of the basement yesterday, ripping up (old, hideously orange) carpet and scraping up the bits of padding stuck to the cement.  We need to drylock the walls, fix a crack in the cement floor, and paint the floor so that it can eventually be a cozy office/TV/playroom.  This has me thinking about the boxes and boxes of stuff stacked in the unfinished half of the basement, full of things that haven't seen the light of day in years.  Some of them have moved with me from college to Virginia, back to PA to our apartment in New Cumberland, and now to our house that we own and plan to live in for the next 5 to 10 years; some of it has lived in my parents' basement until we bought this house, at which point my dad dropped it off on our carport, and we dumped it unceremoniously in our basement.  Yes, a lot of this stuff has years of nostalgia attached to it, stretching back to my childhood...but it's in a box. In my basement. Taking up space. If I don't do something now, its most likely future is to continue to take up space in a box until we move to another house, where it will then continue to take up space in a box until I grow old and die and my offspring are forced to pay some robot from the year 2075 to haul it to the landfill on the dark side of the moon.  With a future like that, what good is nostalgia doing me?
  • On a related note, I have been thinking quite a lot lately about my future offspring, as you are almost certainly aware if you have ever met me.  One thing that has occurred to me, and keeps occurring to me, is that the rate of growth of the amount of stuff we own is going to increase exponentially once we have a baby.  I've seen it happen to my friends and cousin:  when you have a baby, people give you stuff.  LOTS of stuff.  So if I figure I could get rid of half the stuff currently sitting in my basement, but I don't do it now, then it seems to me that a year from now (at which point I am really hoping to have a baby, or at least be anticipating the arrival of one) my job will be, like, twenty times more difficult, and by 5 years from now it will be so insurmountable that I'll never be able to do it.  So basically, these last few months before I'm expecting are my last chance to learn the art of keeping my stuff in check.
  • My wonderful and talented sister got a job.  She will be moving into her first solo apartment, and since she's the younger sister and I did the whole living-on-my-own-for-the-first-time thing back in 2005, guess what?  I got a lot of the extra stuff my parents had to give me.  Well, now she needs it, which means Paul and I need to dig through some of the aforementioned boxes in the basement and collect all the extra things that she now needs to eat off of and cook with and sit on in her new apartment.  And if I'm going to be doing all that work anyway, and getting rid of some stuff in the bargain, I might as well keep going and get rid of more things than just the stuff Hannah will need!
  • I also have had a few semi-related experiences surrounding church, Camp Nawakwa, and my tenure on Trinity's senior pastor call committee that have really gotten me thinking about stewardship, not just in terms of me giving money to the church or camp, but in terms of how I manage my own possessions because of how that impacts my ability to give my time and money to the church over the course of the rest of my life.  I need to get my stewardship of myself and my house in order so that I can be a better steward in the world.
Part of succeeding in my goal of not owning anything that doesn't make my life better is thinking all these things and coming to these conclusions about what I want to do, but an even bigger part is holding on to the motivation all these thoughts have given me, and being able to re-motivate myself day after day over the many weeks and months it's going to take to actually get rid of all my extraneous stuff.  It's hard work!  I told Paul what I wanted to start this weekend, and that my two main areas of focus were going to be the basement and the office (our 3rd bedroom, the smallest, is currently an office, but has actually become more of a dumping ground for papers and random items that aren't suitable for basement storage but aren't in daily use that we want to keep out of the way.  It's basically a disaster zone of mess in here.), and Paul suggested (and I agreed) that the basement was the best place to start.  But then Paul made plans to go hang out with our friend Matt tonight, and while I didn't want to waste my current level of motivation, I also didn't fancy the idea of being alone in the cold, dimly-lit basement on a Friday night, so I decided to unleash my energy on the office instead, where I could at least play some The Daily Show reruns from the last week on the computer while I worked.  Well, aside from writing this blog post, I spent the entire evening (about three and a half hours) going through boxes and shelves and desks in the office, and it's still pretty much a disaster zone.  That might have de-motivated me a bit, except that I produced two small boxes of stuff to get rid of, a medium-sized bag of trash, and a medium-large bag of recycleables.  I freed up space in multiple storage boxes, including three plastic boxes that I can now use to organize our messy linen closet (it is nearly impossible to keep all those pill bottles, band-aid boxes, cleaners, and hygiene products organized!!)  I also found our missing safe deposit box key!  We had one of the two, which is all you need to access your stuff, but we haven't been able to close out our box in New Cumberland and move it to the bank near our house because we only had one of the two keys.  Now we can make the move!

Tomorrow evening and Sunday afternoon I plan to continue with my purge and re-organization, moving to the basement as soon as the office is slightly more tidy.  I feel like the motivation is here to stay, for a while at least, and I am hoping that my friends and family will read this post and talk about it with me, which will help me stay motivated as well.  And that brings me to the final and most important part of achieving this goal, to own only good things:  YOU.  If you are reading this, I need you to support me!  That means telling me when you hear stories about other people who are doing similar things, stories about things you might be doing, tips of people who need the kind of stuff I am getting rid of, and just general encouragement.  And it means one more really BIG thing: NOT giving us any more stuff.  Ever, for any reason.  At least, not until it's stuff related to our impending parenthood, since I doubt anything could prevent my mom, sister, aunts, or in-laws from buying stuff for their future grandbaby/niecephew.  This means when I turn 28 at the end of May, I do not want any birthday presents.  When our anniversary rolls around in September, nothing then either!  If you are walking through a really awesome flea market and something totally unique and wonderful catches your eye and you think, wow, Paul and Mer would really love that, I am asking you to just share it with us in words, but not give it to us.  If you are at some store's going out of business sale, and you see the most amazing deal on an item that you think we could use, remind yourself that a $10 item that we are currently living perfectly happily without, even if it originally cost $90, does not make it any less true that we do not need that item, and NOT buying it will cost even less--ZERO dollars!  Plus it will take up zero space in our house!  In this same spirit, I am planning to extend our Christmas gift-giving strategy to the rest of this year and beyond: we will be giving homemade food or other homemade items only when there is any occasion to give a gift.  The only other thing I can think of that fits the bill is a charitable donation in honor of the giftee; my favorite charity pick at this time would be to Camp Nawakwa to help pay off the land they purchased in 2008, and I hope you all will share your favorite charity causes with me.

All of this doesn't mean we won't be buying any material goods for ourselves.  I am planning to purchase a new purse soon, because my current one is falling apart after 18 months of continuous use; Paul and I are also considering purchasing an internet-capable bluray player in the fall so that we can cancel our Netflix subscription and get our streaming video via Amazon Prime.  If Paul can sell his motorcycle for a high enough price this Spring, we might use that money to buy a new MacBook, since we haven't had a truly up-to-date computer in the house in years.  The idea is to get rid of more things than we're purchasing, so that we have a net decrease in the amount of stuff we own; to purchase fewer things going forward; and to learn to only purchase items that we know will make our lives better, whether through practicality, functionality, or just plain enjoyment, but not things that we will relegate to a messy corner of the office or a box in the basement within a few weeks once the novelty wears off.  And if we can learn to do this and keep doing it, eventually we will now own any things beyond what we need to be the happiest versions of ourselves.  Can you imagine life without that nagging stress of knowing you really need to clean out the basement and re-organize the office and the kitchen??  Wouldn't that be awesome?

And that's the story of my latest, dearest ambition.