Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mother. Dresser. Trixie.

Fritz was out of town on business last week. My mother flew in from New England to help keep me sane over the long President's Day weekend. Really, she did so much more than keep me sane. I was so happy to have her around. Sometimes I don't know how I manage to function at all without my mother nearby. She has a graceful, patient and insightful way of helping me in just the right way at just the right time. We also had long late night conversations, just the two of us. The boys spent lots of time playing and cooking and reading with her. We all felt completely nurtured by her presence. Ah, the art of nurturing! Sometimes I forget about it. It's both humbling and empowering to be the receipient of nurture. I always feel inspired and determined to be a better parent by my mother's visits.

***

One of the little projects we attempted to accomplish while my mother was here was finding a dresser for the baby. A simple project, one would think. When Mattias was born, I got a three drawer Hemnes dresser from Ikea for him. I'm not very happy with it. At all. The bottoms of the drawers are masonite. The masonite EASILY slips out of the supporting slots and bends under the weight of not-very-many clothes. Then the drawers don't close or open. It's obnoxious. I'm testing a couple of different fixes including glue and midpoint supports (we'll see how they hold up), but on principle, I don't think I should have to fix a piece of furniture that is less than three years old. Also, I would like to buy a dresser that lasts 18 years, not 3 or 5 or even 10. In 3 or 5 or 10 years, I have OTHER things I want to spend money on. Not another dumb dresser.

So, we went shopping both in thrift stores and "new" stores. I've also been stalking craigslist for about 3 weeks.  Every single dresser in my price range that agrees with my aesthetic sensibilities is a disappointment. The newer ones are ALL masonite bottoms, although sometimes they try to fake you out by laminating the masonite with a wood veneer. And by the way, I've opened so many dresser drawers that I can HEAR the sound of masonite when I open the offending drawer. Now there's a useful skill! Almost all the older dressers we found had real wood bottoms (yay!), but they also had really crappy sliding mechanisms on the drawers. I've got two older kids; I can't really risk dressers falling over because drawers are ill-fitting or ill-pulling. I also can't eliminate the possibility that kids are going to open the drawers and try to climb them, etc.

The crappy quality of the newer dressers is really getting to me. I suppose I don't have enough to think about or I'm simply too damn picky. (Pickiness seems to be a common theme during this pregnancy.) At night I find myself obsessively dreaming about dressers, as though I can de-McKinsey the world of dresser manufacturing, if I just put enough brain hours into it.

***

Noah has decided the baby's name is Trixie. Everyone asks where he got Trixie from. There are two possibilities: 1) from the character in the German language version of The Octonauts (in putting together this post, I learned her name is Tweak in the English language version) or 2) from Mo Willem's Knuffle Bunny series character. I like one possibility more than the other. Noah will cite either source without a discernible pattern, so maybe the answer is a little of both.

Fritz and I are not really keen on the name Trixie, but Noah is SOOO adamant about the name, that I've decided to honor his wishes by keeping it for this blog. Third child: Trixie, for the blog. Named by Noah.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Showered

This weekend, my friends here in Denver had a baby shower for me. It was really a great shower. I left feeling loved and fulfilled and so lucky to be surrounded by the amazing mother - friends that I have. But I was actually pretty nervous about the shower. Because, as I've mentioned many times here on this blog, I'm really scared about having a third child. I'm scared about having a girl after two boys. I'm scared about going back into infanthood with all that holding and carrying and dependency. I'm scared about not being – or not seeming – excited enough. I might be seven months pregnant, but I still feel barely prepared. When my big stomach knocks against something unexpectedly, it feels like A Metaphor for not recognizing and accepting the coming changes. I was experiencing some sort of performance anxiety at the thought of a shower.

I feel the need to explain myself. Or at least, I keep trying to understand my feelings in my own head. Do you ever have times when you can't really let go of something, and your brain just runs away trying to process it? You put your worries in this context and that context trying to understand how you arrived at this moment and these particular feelings. Maybe you need your life to feel like a coherent story, you need to make your feelings more orderly and neat in your mind? Maybe you need your feelings to be justified by something in the past in order to be at peace with them and accept them? But what? What is that key to it all making sense?

Anyway, at these times, when you are super uncomfortable with yourself, and doubting, and feeling like you can't really pull it all together and be the coherent person you mean to be (no matter what the photos say), this kind of love, attention, and support from your friends is just about the greatest gift that they can give you. I went home and cried, trying to figure out how I could thank them enough.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Messy Seque

I bet you saw this coming: the water table becomes the mud table. Gross. I hold onto my belief that one MUST allow children to play this way AND that this IS the alternative to television that our children need. Still. It's not lost on me that this is a godawful mess that *I* ultimately clean up.


Speaking of television, one of the few shows that I let the boys watch is Sendung mit dem Elefant from Germany. Honestly, such a great television show. Recently, they slowly sank a plate, or "boat," in an aquarium by dropping coins atop it to demonstrate buoyancy. On the show, it was a game: the person who sinks the "boat" loses. We had to mimic that experiment at home. In our game-experiment, Mattias was happy to lose (by sinking the "boat") and Noah was happy to let Mattias lose, thus winning himself. Everyone felt like a winner. It's unclear whether any scientific principles were actually learned, but as I alluded to, they were happy. The table was covered in water by the end. The mess was not lost on me, nor was the irony that it was inspired by watching a television show.

[photo removed, because sometimes I do that]

At least this inspiration doesn't come from a television show: legos. Is this pile not three times the size of my child? I'm brainstorming a lego organizing solution. I've spent hours sitting on the floor, or at the table, playing with legos over the past year. I think I'm getting some idea of just how the boys' brains are operating when they sit in front of this huge pile and play. That processing will be key to my organizational system. Some ideas, like, say, organizing legos by color, look pretty, but would be useless in the end, because that is NOT how one plays with legos. (In fact, I suspect organizing legos by color might actually make them more frustrating to play with.) My organizational idea is awesome so far, and I'd love to just do it. But I've got my hands pretty full cleaning up mud and water and legos. (Sigh.)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dried Fruit

We love dried fruit around our house. The boys and I make it together weekly with fresh fruit purchased in bulk. It feels like one of those time-consuming stay at home mom activities for which I feel a little guilty and indulgent. The last few years, we've given dried fruit away as gifts at Christmas-time.


It's nice to have dried fruit without all the extra sugar in commercially acquired dried fruit. I love the chewiness. And I love cutting the fruit. All that chopping is somehow therapeutic. My aunt gave us this food dehydrator about two years ago. I think they were popular in the 90s?

Our favorite fruits for drying are strawberry, champagne mango (other mangos are never as good), kiwi, and persimmon. With the exception of the mango, all these fruits look really cool when cut laterally. That's another advantage of making your own dried fruit: you can control it's size and appearance. Also: the smell when the fruits are being dehydrated – wonderful.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

To Go

I think today is a day that I'm suppose to post something, but I've got nothing. Or nothing ready to go.

Here's what's on my agenda tonight: watch House of Cards. It's the just-released Netflix series about Washington politics with Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, House Majority Whip. I'm having a love-hate relationship with this series. After episode 6, I was in love. But now we are on episode 11-ish. It might have gone too far. I'd say it jumped-the-shark, but that's way too nice an expression for what happened last night. Anyone else watching this? What do you think? I've only read professional reviews, and they seem as noncommittal as me.

What I like: characters are dark and complicated. Sometimes, I feel like I'm "playing along" try to outwit Frank Underwood at his own game. The show affirms what I've always suspected about Washington, it's all a big game! (What? It's just television? It's fake? Really?? Shhh! Don't tell me that!)

What I don't like: the characters are starting to look not just darkly complicated, but downright EVIL. In which case, I might start taking sides instead of "playing along." The intro drives me crazy with it's darkening skies and shadows over Washington DC. For 9 episodes, I've hoped this intro was not some heavy-handed foreshadowing (ha ha) of the show to come. Now I fear it might have been. BLECH.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Magnetic Primer, Round Two

Every now and then, somebody emails about how the magnetic primer project from last year turned out. I don't have a stellar review to give, but just to answer your questions:

  • I used Rust-Oleum Magnetic Primer, because it was easily available at Home Depot. 
  • Realistically, I covered two areas of about 10 square feet. That's a total of 20 square feet. I used an entire 30 oz container. (That means I used about 1.5X the amount that the instructions claim you need.)
  • Our walls are texturized. (YUCK! Never have texturized walls with kids if you can help it!) That may explain why I needed more primer than predicted.
  • After applying 4-6 layers of primer, I went over it with our original wall color. It took about 2-3 layers of white paint to go over all that dark magnetic primer. 
  • The number of layers of magnetic primer were determined by the does-this-magnet-stick-and-hold-yet? method.

  • Most of the magnets holding up the artwork above are half inch round rare earth magnets. Also available at my closest Home Depot. Lighter/cheaper magnets will stay on the wall, but will NOT hold up artwork.
  • The magnetic letters are from Melissa and Doug (wood) and Really Good Stuff's EZ Read Soft Touch Letters (foam). Both of these letters are entirely magnetic on the back. We use them a lot. 
  • Now that I know how much we use the letters, I would just skip the Melissa and Doug and buy the Really Good Stuff letters. There are more RGS letters for the money, and you can focus on just lowercase letters. (My mother, the reading specialist, got the RGS letters for us.)
  • Those little plastic letters with a tiny little magnets in the back never stayed on the wall. 

This room is our informal family room space. It usually looks pretty chaotic. When a magnet slips on the wall and artwork is left hanging crooked, I'm okay with it. But if you are looking for a precision system of temporarily attaching things to the wall, I think you'd be frustrated by the magnetic primer. Also, the rare earth magnets aren't cheap.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Foiled

Noah came down with some sort of digestive thing. He's home from school. I'm not very gracious about it, because today is my day to get stuff done kid-free while Mattias is at the parent's day out program. Now I'm doing laundry on the sanitize cycle and half-heartedly playing school with Noah instead of the general house cleaning that really needs to be done. If Noah were sick enough I'd set him in front of the television, but he doesn't seem very sick at all, other than his occasional dashes to the bathroom. I've diagnosed him with Ate The Wrong Thing.

[sorry, photo removed!]

I'm pregnant. I feel big and kind of ache-y. I'm tired of being pregnant already. Twenty-eight weeks. Yesterday, the baby had a foot (or something) under my rib, and I told Fritz that I simply must take a bath instead of putting the boys to bed. Thank-you-very-much-Fritz-Goodnight-Boys. Fritz is a trooper about putting the boys to bed pretty much every night, but he was all: What does taking a bath have to do with dislodging a foot from under your rib? I was fast on my (own) feet, and I said a bath would relax my muscles and then the baby would move her foot. Sounds pretty credible, right? I thought so. Don't worry; the bath wasn't too hot and that foot (or something) DID get out from under my rib. For about 15 minutes.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a bunch of toys to extract from under the sofas. And that foot is still under my ribs. Maybe crawling around on my knees will dislodge the baby's foot as effectively as a bath. Or - OR! - I have to go get Noah to do the toy extraction. Hmm. Yes, that sounds like the perfect task for him, while I go take another bath....

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Skiing!!!!

I'm not an athletic person. I like to sit on the sofa and read books with a cup of hot cocoa. There is but one single athletic endeavor for which I will abandon my cozy cocoon: downhill skiing.

The first winter Noah was walking, we strapped on the skis and took him outside to the nearest snow. Poor kid. He was about 20 months old:

[this used to be a silly photo of a kid barely standing on skis]

It made a funny photo, but this was the reality at the actual ski slope:

[this was a photo of me in winter weather gear, hauling Noah around in a hiking backpack]

We've persisted in trying again each year.

[this was a photo of Fritz trying to teach Noah to ski]

And you know, it's getting better. But we're slowed down by things like a younger sibling, a pregnant mother, and finding the time and patience to drive to the mountains.

[this was a photo of Noah actually standing, somewhat competently, in skis]

This year appears to be a bit of a sweet spot for Noah. He's developed the muscle strength and endurance to actually spend 3 hours at a time on the slope. He's still 5 years old, meaning that his lift ticket is free. He can manage the car ride to the mountains and back. And he's figured out how to stop on a slope without falling over (Hallelujah!). It's so freaking exciting. We're scheduling up his weekends to get in as much slope time as possible this season.

I can't wait until we all can join him!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Mishmash

I've decided I'm not as good at reading blogs when I'm posting every other day. I'm still reading - but I'm not commenting or thinking about what I'm reading quite as much.

I miss that.

***

I'm experiencing a very strong nesting instinct lately. I have a list of about 20 things I want to do to the house. Every other time I've been pregnant, we've moved shortly after the birth (1 month after Noah was born and 6 months after Mattias was born). Both Noah and Mattias were born while we were living in rentals. So I've never much given in to my nesting instinct before. It always seemed like a waste. This time, I feel differently, seeing as we are living in this, our own house, indefinitely. But I'm really having trouble prioritizing what I should do given limited time and resources.

I'm coming up on the third trimester. I'm thinking how I've been – sort of...indifferent? – about this pregnancy. Maybe giving into my nesting instincts is just what I need.

***

Okay: some Friday distraction. Have you heard about the smog in Bejing? Fritz sent me this article from der Spiegel. If you follow the link (the article is in German) scroll down a bit to see the interesting part: they took photos of the same scene, one without the smog, one with the smog, and then put a little slider over the top, so you can see the same scene both ways. Yuck. Serious yuck. It's Bejing - but it's all going into the same pot of Air Here On Earth. Yuck again. I think I'm going to show it to Noah, but I still need to think a little bit about my lesson plan and purpose in showing him.