Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Dining Room

Here are some pictures of the dining room. I finally got all of the tools off the table and the few unpacked boxes stuffed into closets and all the painting paraphernalia put away. This room is the most finished room in the house. I'll post more pictures when everything is hung in the other rooms. First let me show you some "before" picture of the dining room:

Very white. I think white can look nice but right now, it's just not me. I really wanted a lot of color.

And we tried a lot of colors. Choosing paint colors is hard because there are infinite options. Literally infinite. I think we probably paid a Sherwin Williams employee's salary for the month just in our purchases of paint samples. I don't really know if Sherwin Williams is superior to other types of paint but there is a store right around the corner which is why we went with Sherwin Williams paint.

And now here is the finished product:

You might notice that this room has baseboards on the floor, crown molding on the ceiling, and molding at chair-rail height. Let me warn anyone who will listen that this is a perfectionist's nightmare when trying to paint. We have had bad experiences with painters tape. We could not find a reliable tool that would ensure that paint got where we wanted it and stayed there without also getting where we didn't want it. I ended up free handing most of the molding. And touching up a lot. In the midst of touching up, I realized that I could conceivably spend the rest of my life painting over the green paint that inadvertently got on the white molding and then painting over the white paint that got on the green wall. Thankfully, I'm only a lazy perfectionist so I gave up rather easily. There are one or two other things that I want to do with the rest of my life. It looks pretty good but it's not perfect. Don't look closely at the molding if you come over. (I'll be watching you.)

I am so happy with this color. And I like the combination of modern and retro in the room. At first I thought the chandelier, which came with the house, was chintzy-looking and I had great plans to transform it into something prettier and more streamlined. But as we painted the green on the walls, I liked the chintzy chandelier more and more. The green enhances the gold and vise versa. So when we were all finished and deciding what to hang on the walls, we put a gold framed mirror up and really liked it. We had only one other gold frame (no mirror, just the frame) which we also hung. I thought it would look fun and eclectic with a variety of gold frames and gold-framed mirrors on the wall. So last weekend we were out shopping and I found several inexpensive ones at an antique store that was going out of business. I'd like to eventually find a few oval ones and hang them as well.

All the furniture was graciously given to us by Peter's grandmother. The table has three leaves and expands to seat 8 which is nice. This is the first time we've had the space to use the table. She also gave us the china cabinet and the large, unframed mirror. We're thankful for all the seating. We're hosting one of the small groups from church this year and I think the plan is to have dinner together. Eight seats will go a long way towards giving everywhere a place to sit. But there might be more than eight bodies at times. Someone may have to sit in John's bumbo chair.

John in his Bumbo chair

He has only just come of age to use this seat. And his legs barely fit in the leg holes. I don't know how much use we'll get out of this one.

Again, I have to give a big thank you to Diane, my mother in law, without whom this room would still be alabaster.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

National Breastfeeding Month

I didn't know it until recently but apparently August is National Breastfeeding awareness month. When I was pregnant I hoped to be able to breastfeed but I knew that it could be difficult and that I might not be able to. I've heard about a lot of women who struggle. So I resolved that I would take every reasonable step to be able to nurse John but that John's health and personal and family sanity would take priority if obstacles occurred.

Thankfully there have been no obstacles and I have been so happy with the entire experience so far. I love breastfeeding! There is really something so nurturing about it that I can't quite capture in words. I feel like it is an act of God's grace in that it extends the bond between mother and child beyond birth (though formula and breast pumps are also from the grace of God and have improved the health of many an infant). Birth is a small death of sorts. A death of the relationship that occurs in pregnancy. The baby goes from being completely dependent on the mother and completely intimate with her to having to rely on his own body for life. And everyday after birth is a step towards complete independence from his mother. Breastfeeding, in my experience, extends the closeness of pregnancy and infancy. I love to cradle him in my arms and I know that I will look back and cherish these days years from now when he's sixteen and breaks his curfew. The best, cutest moments are when he takes a break from eating to look up at me a coo. It's as if there is something that he just has to tell me. So precious!

Not to mention that it is so convenient. Everywhere I go I have everything I need. I never have to mix formula, wash bottles etc. I fear my child might be an ethereal waif right now if I had been required to get up and make bottles multiple times per night.

My cheeks and I support breastfeeding.

That's not to say that things always play out like a hallmark card. I missed the entire ceremony at Peter's sister's wedding because I was feeding John. (It was a short ceremony and he had also pooped through his onesie...) I think he has had some reflux and at times this makes feeding really unpleasant.

I don't judge people who decide not to breastfeed. Peter and I were both mostly formula fed. I don't know if that's any encouragement to formula feed but I think we've turned out tolerably well by society's standards.

I've more than doubled my weight in 3 months! At any other age I would be considered morbidly obese. But right now I'm considered delectably fat, medically speaking.

So, there's my endorsement for breastfeeding! Though, the most important thing is that the baby is fed and loved. So no one should feel ashamed if she cannot nurse. But if I may step on a soapbox for a moment I would like to rant about one of my pet peeves. In our society people are perfectly okay with breasts. They are everywhere. Victoria's Secret catalogs adorn many a coffee table throughout the country. There are billboards of scantily clad women lining our highways. For crying out loud, a lot of us are hard pressed to find a t-shirt that doesn't bear cleavage. Yet when women actually use their breasts doing the one thing for which they were intended, many people become offended. A few years ago a woman was actually told that she could not nurse her baby in a Victoria's Secret dressing room! There are no words to capture the inanity of that scenario. Recently a friend of mine was told to "get a room" when she was breastfeeding in Cracker Barrel.

I'm thankful that today breastfeeding is encouraged more than it once was. My grandmother has told me that she was dissuaded from nursing her oldest child, who was born prematurely, by her mother-in-law. She still talks about this with dismay. Things have improved today today in that women are generally encouraged to breastfeed. Unfortunately many are not given much practical support. Yet things still seem rather backwards when no one bats an eye at a string bikini or a sheer blouse but breastfeeding is considered weird or inappropriate. The message seems to be that it's fine to ogle a woman's body (or conversely, for her to flaunt her body any way she wants) but not for her to care for her child using her body the way it was intended.

Alright, I'll step off of my soapbox now. Because, speaking of soap, I actually need to wash something. The laundry, the floor, the dishes, the bathroom... yikes, there are so many choices...


Last Friday marked 5 years that Peter has spent putting up with me in holy matrimony. This past year was the best so far. Not only did we get to spend most of it in Salt Lake City in an extended vacation of sorts, but we also had our John boy! We are so happy to have him. We went out for dinner while some friends watched him but he was never far from our thoughts. And we both acknowledged that the day that he was born was the best day in our five years.

And yesterday was the anniversary of the day that I found out that I was pregnant! August 25th. I can't believe my ginormous baby was only knee-high to an amoeba at the time! Pregnancy. I'll never get over it. It's so weird and amazing. People living in people! People living in people! I'm so thankful to God that I was able to have the experience of carrying that little life. And that he arrived safely and that Peter is willing to go out and earn the cash money so that I can stay home and listen to the baby coo while I eat bon bons all day. (Kidding about the bon bons.)

God has been so good to us and has richly blessed us.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Prepare for Emergency Landing!

When we last encountered the characters of our story they were preparing for an imminent emergency landing in the Atlantic off the coast of NYC! At least Leslie thought it was going to be a landing in the ocean. No one ever actually said that. But it makes this story much more exciting. Let's see whether our protagonists meet their untimely end or live to tell about their harrowing plane ride...

Wow, the moments that followed the announcement of our emergency landing were tense and heady. I kept repeating to Peter that I loved him and I was worried that I might vomit. But shortly after the emergency announcement we were informed that everything now appeared normal and we would prepare for a normal landing but in Newark instead of at JFK where we were scheduled to land. The pilot explained that he was not able to get in touch with anyone at JFK- That’s a little disconcerting, is it not?- I was on pins and needles for the remainder of the flight but we finally landed which occasioned an outburst of applause from the passengers. We were provided transportation into NYC. I was shaken for the rest of the day. My jitters were not relieved at all by our cab ride into NYC. Our driver showed a nauseating enthusiasm for using the break. And when we were going through Lincoln Tunnel, Peter thought that was an opportune time to discuss a movie he's seen in which a bomb is detonated there.

And did I mention that that flight was only the first of many? Later that very day I had to get on a flight headed across the pond! We were going to Berlin. (Not that I’m complaining about getting to go to Europe but at this point I’d had enough adventure. I just wanted to sit at home and learn to make doilies or something.)

When we were obtaining our voucher for transportation into NYC, many people were complaining about the change in their plans necessitated by the plane’s detour. Several people were very inconvenienced by the landing in Newark. I was astonished that anyone could feel annoyed at that point because I was relieved, jubilant even, just to be off that plane alive! I wanted to say to these people “Why are you complaining? Do you know that you could have met your violent end? Stop whining and do some cartwheels or something.” Which might be an exaggeration (the violent end part) but nonetheless I felt like doing cartwheels because I was immensely thankful to still have my life.

So, this is why I will never complain about delays, long layovers, turbulence, rude flight attendants, canceled flights, noisy children or any of their ilk. To disembark a plane alive is all I hope for.

Later on, when I shared this fear of an emergency water landing to a male friend he replied “That would be so cool!” I was astonished and bemused at the contrast between his enthusiasm and the sheer terror I had felt earlier that day.

Thankfully, plane crash or no plane crash, I know this for sure: "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." Psalm 139:16

But I still don’t want to die in a plane crash. (I’d like to die of a massive heart attack in my sleep many years from now.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This is the kind of plane crash story I love!

Because in this plane crash story everyone survives! Well, one person died in this case. Which is still miraculous considering the fact that a 737 broke into three pieces. And it seems that they (whoever looks into these things) think that the passenger might have died of a heart attack which my have happened plane crash or no.

Anyways, this got me reminiscing on a little plane phobia I have developed over the years. I try to hang onto all the plane crash headlines in which everyone survives- like that one a few years ago when a plane crashed into the Hudson river in New York. And I really try to forget the ones that proclaim "Plane becomes fiery inferno! All perish!"

There was a time when I loved flying on planes. Usually a plane trip was the beginning of a vacation so there was always the anticipation of exciting days to come. I loved the sensation of taking off and seeing all those gravity bound objects retreating from view. I loved flying through the clouds. Occasionally, like when Peter and I traveled to Oregon in 2006, we experienced great views of mountains from the air. I loved the in flight movies especially when there was a TV on the back of the seat in front of you! I loved it that people bring you food and drinks while you relax and read.

My love for flying even survived 9/11 when we were all painfully reminded how little control we actually have on planes (and in life). Then one day a few years ago Peter and I watched a PBS documentary on plane crashes. The show was very interesting and covered the often tragically reactive stance on plane safety that is practiced by many airlines. Meaning that instead of proactively trying to solve problems and consistently working for higher safety standards, many airlines wait for a catastrophe before acting. This isn’t just airlines. This is how a lot of industries work and probably how a lot of people live their lives. At the time, I really didn’t feel inordinately disturbed by the show. The one thing I did find horrifying was the description of TWA flight 800. In the middle of its Atlantic crossing it broke in two. Apparently, the front half of the plane, where the cockpit is located, is an anchor for the vehicle. So when the front half blew off and plummeted to the earth, the back portion spiraled skyward for hundreds of feet before crashing down into the sea. I was aghast trying to imagine what those people might have been thinking as they careened through the sky; the fear they must have felt. Of course, later Peter and I conjectured that they might have all passed out with the loss of cabin pressure. I hope so. Anyways, other than that, I had no reason to think that this particular show had triggered a plane phobia.

Yet when I boarded a plane to fly to New York in June of 2007, I was nervous. I don’t think it was just the documentary that did it. I think it was the realization of many things: the fact that terrorism is a real threat, the graphic description of TWA that will never leave my memory, a new found anxiety of heights/falling (this will be a whole other post, but I realized that I have an anxiety of heights when I was ON A MOUNTAIN next to a sulfur pit (of death).) plus a long standing fear of explosions (sometimes I’m even afraid that the microwave will explode..??), and finally a growing seriousness that just comes from growing up and contemplating all of the evils of the world. I think all of these things contribute to my flying freak outs.

So anyways, we boarded the plane to NYC and the trip goes well. Finally we begin to descend… and then we ascend again. I look out the window and all I see is water. I know NYC is a port city but I’m thinking something is wrong and I should probably see some land if we are close to, you know, LANDING. Then a flight attendant makes an announcement that we are to prepare for an emergency landing. She instructs us in the procedure. Stone cold fear gripped me like a vice. Since my last glance out the window had revealed only water, I surmised that we would be making an emergency landing in the ocean! I was sure that I was on my way to a watery grave.

What will happen to Peter and Leslie? Will they survive this terror in the sky? To find out you'll have to return tomorrow because this post is already long.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Creative Vision: Realized! (mostly)

A few posts ago I mentioned the long suffering of my husband and mother in law while I worked through my Creative Vision (jazz hands!) for our house. Now, I should say, it's not like we were knocking down walls to make rooms shaped like fleur-de-lis. It was mostly just deciding paint colors. Nonetheless, a Creative Vision (jazz hands!) cannot be rushed. It must be painstakingly wrought.

Would you have told Michelangelo to "hurry up" because you are "ready to be done?" I asked Peter as we were discussing colors for the ceiling. I don't fancy myself a Michelangelo. But renaissance painter or no, the artistic process must steep and percolate until it is ripe. As I explained to Peter, painting the walls a color that we don't like just so we can be done seems to be a bad idea (to me, but maybe that's just because I am crazy, which I have already admitted).

We've got the bulk of everything done. Now we're just hanging pictures and some other little details. There are still a few walls I'm considering painting. But so far everything looks so great and I'm so happy! It has been fun to see my Creative Vision (jazz hands!) come to life! In a good way, not like Frankenstein's monster.

And being done with these major projects has done wonders to put me back on my rocker from which I might have temporarily fallen. One tends not to think clearly when all thoughts have been converted from English to Sherwin William's paint colors. Juneberry, lime granita luau green? Gecko glitzy gold! You see, I just asked what you'd like to have for lunch but you probably didn't know that because I was speaking Sherwin Williamese. That is what my mother in law had to endure the week that she was here.

So before I got this post published I decided to paint the walls I was still considering painting. I might have gone too far this time. But I don't know yet. We'll see. I can always paint things white again (though, I, myself am growing weary of my Creative Vision (jazz hands!)). But I didn't want to post pictures with drop cloths and paint cans everywhere. So here are a few pictures of my magnum opus in the baby's room:

I got the idea to paint a tree and birdhouses from this website. I was thoroughly pleased the result. It turned out better than I dared to hope it would.

His crib and bedding that were given to me by friends from church

A while ago I asked for suggestions on bedding for John's room. Most people suggested little birds since I was planning to do a tree with bird houses on the wall. But I couldn't resist the bedding with all these adorable little animals. Especially when I found these cards on Etsy (below) that go so well with the animal/alphabet theme. Eventually I'd like to paint the dressers and stencil animals on them.

I still feel like this room is missing something- perhaps John! He's still sleeping in our room. But seriously, I think something is missing but my budget and my Creative Vision (jazz hands!) for this room are both exhausted at this point...

And since no post is complete without a picture of my little snuggle britches:

How many fat rolls can you count?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Grace: Not getting what you deserve

Baby John is three months old today. Everyday is more fun than the last. His smile brightens my day as cliche as that sounds. And sometimes when he's asleep I sit at the computer and look at pictures of him just because he's so ridiculously cute. I'll admit I'm not always excited when my clothes smell like curdled milk courtesy of milk leakage and spit up. And I don't love it when the exact moment I change his diaper, he pees on the comforter (even though I have him laying on a changing pad, it's hard to control the trajectory of a little boy's urine stream... thus to mothers of little boys: alacrity is key when changing diapers!). I'm not crazy about waking up multiple times per night. But seriously, despite all of that, I am having more fun with him than I imagined I could have with someone who is completely dependent, can only communicate his needs by crying, demands to eat every three hours and causes the house to be steeped in bodily fluids of one kind or another.

John is such a sweet baby and is a huge example of God's grace to me. I have heard, since I could understand English, what a challenging child I was. Most colicky babies outgrow it within a few months but my mother claims I was colicky for multiple years. I was a willful child and just all around unpleasant (and Peter was willful as well so it seems possible that J has received a double shot of stubborn genes). I think this changed at some point and I hope that my mother finds it nicer to be around me these days. ;o)

It is often true that riding in the car will calm a screaming baby down. When I was an infant my mother would put me in the car and drive which, according to her, only provoked me to scream louder. So much so that as she was driving through the woods around Boston (where I was born) she would think "if I leave her here in these deserted trees, no one will ever know." Thankfully, she never acted upon these impulses. Although, who knows? It might have been fun to be raised by wolves. Mom, maybe that's why I was so unhappy! Because you didn't have enough fur! I suppose we'll never know.

Sometimes I fall into a sort of karma-like thinking that "I did A and so I deserve B." So, in my logic, I was prepared to "pay for" my colicky days with an equally difficult baby. This kind of thinking has no place in a Christian worldview. It is true in some sense that we reap what we sow. But in a larger sense, as a Christian, my debt has been paid in full at the cross. None of us deserve easy, sweet babies. In fact, according to the Bible, we all deserve death because we have all sinned . "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. " (rom 5:8-9). So he has not only not given us what we deserve (death) but he has blessed us with Himself, eternal life and every spiritual blessing. There is no punishment for Christians. Our punishment has already been paid.

This doesn't necessarily mean that I will never struggle with willfulness from John. Who knows, someday he might turn up on America's most wanted (If he does, I at least hope it won't be for parricide). But the struggles I do encounter will only be out of God's love for me. There might be some discipline involved when I make mistakes and there will be consequences when I sin. But there is no more wrath. Only love for those who trust Christ. For now my sweet-tempered little man reminds me that God has not given me what I deserve, he has richly blessed me instead. And I don't have to fear some sort of "payback" for my mistakes because they are already covered by His love.

"He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him." Psalm 103: 10-13

This picture is for John's assistant grandmother, Terry, who bought him this Tigger outfit:

Happy three month birthday, sweet boy. I'm giving you so many kisses everyday so that I'll have enough saved up for when you're 16 and you don't want your mother kissing your face!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

What's wrong with a little muffin top?

On me it's not too attractive. On John it's adorable. But on muffins, the more the better! I've been baking a lot recently in what we have dubbed my easy bake oven. The oven in this house is very small and it might be 40 years old. I don't know if it's the original from when the house was built in 1968. Some of my baking sheets won't even fit. And it's not like I have industrial sized baking sheets- they're pretty standard. I heard that Julia Child had the same oven for 30 years. If she can make a slew of french delicacies in a 30 year old oven then surely an old, miniature oven will be good enough for me!

Muffin Top

I mentioned in an earlier post that upon discovering some of the health properties of wheat germ that I had some recipes on the docket which called for it. And I promised I'd post about the results if they were gems. Well, the Orange-Cranberry Wheat Germ Muffins are definitely a keeper! They were great. I also made some Blueberry Power Muffins with Almond Streusel- they are pictured at the top. They weren't part of my wheat germ experiment but earlier this summer we picked blueberries and I have a stockpile of frozen ones to use. I liked these as well but they weren't as good as the Orange-Cranberry.

This morning we made multigrain pancakes. Which are also a keeper. Very good and filling. Peter's comment was these "don't taste like they're straight from the earth." By which he meant they don't taste like dirt. He is disposed to think that healthy foods will taste bad. He has slowly come around to realize that's not true but is still sometimes amazed when I bake something that is both whole-grainy and delicious.

Make the Orange Cranberry Muffins. Your taste buds will smile.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I see why people pay professionals to do their painting for them

Oh boy. We've been hard at work over here. My wonderful mother in law, Diane, came last Saturday to help us finish a few big projects around the house. Mostly painting. She has been a huge help. We still have a fair amount to do but she's not leaving until Saturday morning.

Both Peter and Diane have been incredibly long suffering whilst I realize my "Creative Vision". (A phrase I tend to say with accompanying jazz hands for effect.)

Even though we're working our tails off, this is actually a vacation for Diane. She has four young kids at home. So comparatively, the work she's doing here is like sitting on the beach sipping a margarita.

I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about painting since we bought this townhouse. I've written several posts in my head about this experience but none of them have found their way out of the confines of my brain. I'll have to post more later. I'm really excited to put pictures up when we get all finished. But for now I want to post some pictures of my cute, fat baby.

We've been doing our projects under the competent supervision of Baby John. He's a taskmaster and tolerates no tomfoolery.

He has discovered his thumb

Got some paint on the little guy.

Working hard

I'm going to gobble that child up