Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mental Gymnastics

I had a goal to write 13 posts this month. I'm almost there... But I'm wondering about the validity of such a goal...maybe writing 5 good, thoughtful posts would have been more satisfying than 13 boring posts. Oh well. Maybe next time.


I am mildly obsessed with Target's Marimekko collection. But I don't tend to buy things just because I like them. They need to have a specific function and I need to purchase them for real use. I decided that I could justify the salad plates and replace the chipped Ikea plates we've been using for the kids (in the background above). Disappointingly, the Marimekko plates are melamine - but they're the best melamine I've ever seen. They are beautifully proportioned in a nice matte finish. I smile every time I get one out AND well, I decided worrying about the toxins in melamine is less of a concern as the kids get older. There's also something satisfying about how fast they're selling out. So there it is: salad plates, justified. Me, smiling.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

It turns out neither Noah nor Trixie have strep; which is a bummer for reasons mentioned in my last post. Trixie seems to have made a full recovery, but Noah is really still not well. Tomorrow it will be one solid week that we've had a sick kid in the house. I'm feeling grumpy and really tired. All the illness has me up several times a night – sometimes with the added benefit of the kids waking each other up as well. Lovely.

Mattias had an event at school tonight. Instead of the whole family going, just I went. It was nice: 1) to get out of the house and 2) to focus solely on Mattias. Mattias wanted his whole family to be there. And I wished we could have fulfilled his wish. But I'm also a little shocked to discover how much I enjoyed being there WITHOUT the whole family. No Trixie running in and out between the legs of the crowd. No Noah asking when we get to go home. No need to coordinate with Fritz over coming or going or who is in the bathroom or who just made a beeline for the door or who is playing inappropriately on the bleachers all while trying to have a coherent conversation with another parent. Sometimes I really wonder if I am just not meant to be part of a family as large as five. I'm so much happier with less input.

One more thing I wanted to mention: I'm having a one-day 25% off sale at my Etsy store on Saturday, April 30th. It's half way through the year to Halloween and I'd love to turn over some listings. I won't be having any more sales before Halloween 2016, so if you – or someone you know – might want a clown costume or mask, check it out. The coupon code is HalfHalloween, it works on all the listings, but it will only work on April 30th (EST).

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sick Day

Last week Mattias had strep, on Sunday night both Trixie and Noah burst forth with the same symptoms as Mattias'. It's Monday, which means a long wait until we get into the doctor's office. Sickness is no fun: all the waking at night and the finicky-fussy-whiny behavior.

I envied Fritz as he left for work today. We were both tired from last night, but I imagined how he could go zone out in his office, while I will spend the day attending to sick kids. I definitely will be in need of a break by the time he gets home.

On the plus side: as least with strep (if Noah and Trixie also have strep), you know what you're dealing with. Sometimes the mystery viruses are more infuriating because they lack predictability. I like the closure that comes with a strep diagnosis (not that I want my kids to be on antibiotics, BUT). Also, I'm grateful that Noah and Trixie appear to be only about 6 hours apart in their symptoms. Its more grueling to do a marathon of illness, each child falling like the next domino with 3 days between them. That would be worse! At least this way, we're slightly efficient in our illness.

Knock on wood that Fritz and I ward it off. I'm drinking EmergenC with a vengeance.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


You can always tell what's we've been up to by what the the kids are playing. Today, it was this:

That would be train tracks. A lot of train tracks. I've nearly donated these toys several times. But the boys keep playing with them. Funny.

A new commuter rail line opened in Denver. They had free rides for the first 2 days, so we slipped into downtown for dinner on Friday night. Mattias took the photo below. I believe Fritz is taking a photo of Mattias, because he was so serious about the task at hand. Mattias did well! I should hand off the camera duties more often, because scrolling through our photos, I'm almost always absent.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Visitors and Cleaning

My mother visited for a few days over her spring break. I had planned to switch the bedrooms around while she hung out with Trixie. But we ended up doing some much needed spring house cleaning instead: well, and, of course, hanging out with Trixie.

The eight inches of snow from the weekend has nearly melted. It's not entirely possible to say how much damage there is. (It will become clearer with time.) Stupid Snow in April.

I thought this robin looked grumpy about the snow, too.

Then I realized he was sitting under this tree. This tree with a nest. This tree with a nest that I kept cleaning snow off.

Oops. The tree – at least – appreciated my efforts. I'm sure of it.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Snowstorm Prep

We are suppose to have a big snowstorm here tomorrow. I can't adequately expressed how bummed about this I am. Everything is just starting to bloom and blossom and 8-14" of wet snow on just-leaved-out trees is bad news. I've covered a few things: a fruit tree, the strawberries, the herb garden, the bamboo, but whether or not it will do any good...who knows?

I'm really frustrated and tired with the weather in Colorado. Life-long locals spend so much time expounding upon its virtues, but to me: it's horrible. It's really dry and brown and even whenever a plant is doing well, it is destined to be clobbered by an early or late snowstorm. Or the hail. And I really think there is almost nothing to be done about these challenges.

The vicious fall/spring weather also opens an old wound from the days when Fritz and I were house shopping. I wanted something in an established neighborhood with big trees and hardwood floors. And Fritz wanted something in a new neighborhood with energy efficiency and plenty of space. The trees will grow! he said. We compromised: Fritz got a new, big, energy efficient house, and I got an upgrade to wood floors. But the trees? I don't think there is even much hope anymore.

They are still so small and fragile. And every year we replant one or two that were lost to the weather.

My personal feeling is that this is related to climate change. I suspect the weather patterns have changed just enough that reaching the level of mature landscaping in older neighborhoods may not be possible. Ever. That's a scary thought.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Weekend Projects

This weekend we completed two little projects. Usually, weekend projects include things like mopping the floors and cleaning the bathrooms, but this weekend, they were projects of a different sort.

Fritz replaced the sand box with a herb garden. (Old photos of the sand box were here and here.) We've grown really tired of all the sand being tracked into the house, although, to be honest: all three kids still like to play in the sand. I really hope they don't start playing in the herb garden with their construction vehicles and shovels. Tried to make that clear to them.

And, a little jar for the basil because it's still pretty chilly out there:

I also swapped out the house numbers. I had the desire to update something on the front of our house, but most updates seemed too daunting. The number were do-able. I hope I like them for a long time, because per the instructions they are construction-glued into place. (Gulp.) Old numbers:

New numbers:

No Soliciting sign from this Etsy store.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Endless Task of Matching Socks

 Or not.

(I've noticed I'm we're not alone on this.)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Kid-proof Painting Tips

I've spent a lot of time repainting walls over the last three years to make them more kid-proof. No wall paint job is going to actually reject dirt and grime. But a good wall paint job will let you scrub the the wall with soap and water instead of repainting. In more professional lingo, we might say that a kid proof paint job is actually how to paint for high traffic areas, in a residential setting.

The first two years that we lived in our new builder-painted house I continually repainted the bottom 3 feet of the walls with the touch-up paint kit they gave us at the closing. Touching up was really the only option because trying to clean the wall would result in paint (or worse, texture) coming off the walls. Finally, I picked a new paint and started to repaint everything. I have now repainted, like, 10,000 sf of painted surface in the house, and then, let my little mess machines go crazy on it. It's given me a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't.

1) Use a paint brush and a roller. This, it turns out, was the problem with the original walls. Sprayed-on paint is inherently inferior. The problem with spraying paint is an additive, or thinner, needs to be added for the paint to go through the sprayer. The thinned paint covers evenly, but predictably, THINNER than a brushed-on, rolled-on paint. Thin paint is more likely to chip, flake, or be washed off. Spraying is standard in the construction industry, so this tip might be the same thing as saying it's better to DIY than hire out when it comes to wall paint.

2) Avoid 1 coat coverage paints. It's tempting, because one coat paints generally give a nice, even coverage for very little time! You also feel like you're saving money because you only need one can of paint instead of two! But kids just look at the stuff and it falls off the walls. Don't do it; unless you're a conscientious adult living a quiet, peaceful and solitary lifestyle.

3) Choose non-texturized wall surfaces. Well, almost nobody has this option when choosing a place to live. But if you could have an option, this would be the one to take. There are simply less "edges" to hold dirt on a smooth wall finish. There is one ray of hope if you are stuck with texture walls, like most of us: you minimize the severity of the "edges" if you paint texturized walls. A layer of paint can smooth out the deeper crevices and be one less place for the dirt to wedge itself.

Aside: The majority of homes in the US come with some sort of texture on the wall surface. The type of texture seems to vary regionally and also based on when the house was built. You can see ours in the photo above. Home builders texturize walls because it's less expensive than making the wall smooth. Generally, the smoother the wall is, the more layers of joint compound have been added and sanded and added and sanded on top of the drywall. Texture, by contrast, requires no sanding and can disguise poorly installed drywall (where, perhaps, an drywall installer failed to drive a screw into a stud). At this time, there's also not a lot of demand for smooth walls in the United States, so there aren't as many contractors with the expertise and motivation to make walls smooth. It's sort of vicious cycle that someone would have to put financial muscle into breaking: I asked our basement contractor about smooth walls for our basement remodel and it was going to cost about $2K more.

4) The finish of the paint doesn't matter (as much as how the paint is applied). In the early days, I had a lot of people telling me that the problem with the original builder paint is that is was flat, as opposed to eggshell or satin or semi-gloss. I'm actually happy to report that this is not true. You don't have to have shiny walls for them to be durable. You just need to have a good coverage. (See numbers 1 and 5.) This became especially apparent over the last few years as various foods and drinks have exploded onto our ceiling. It was a flat finish paint, but, being newly repainted by me, it had good coverage. The food stuff wiped off easily, even when it once went unnoticed for about 24 hour. (How I could NOT notice pink EmergenC spray all over the ceiling for 24 hours, I still don't know....wish I had a photo of it!)

5) Paint smaller portions for better coverage. When using a roller, I generally try to limit myself to covering about 4-6 sf (an area of about 2 feet x 2-3 feet) before dipping back into the tray for more paint. It's difficult to find the right balance between a roller or brush that's dripping paint everywhere and a coat of paint that's too thin. I tended to err on the side of a too-thin coat since I'm easily annoyed by drips. Once I came to the conclusion that I just needed to paint less area and go back for more paint more often, I mastered the perfect coverage. I also never expect to paint a new color on a wall with less than 2 coats.

Aside: I think I was deluded by thinking I could cover an area of about 9 sf after each dip of the roller. Once upon a time, paint cans instructed with this really lousy diagram of a roller painting a "W" on the wall. Being naturally sensitive to scale and proportion, I sized up the diagram in my head and tried to paint way too much wall for years. How much you can paint is going to vary based on whether or not the walls are texturized. But generally, less is more. Also, make that a very tight and narrow "W" if you are going to use it (and I'm not convinced you must).

If you've made it this far, and have other tips, I'd love to hear them! I'd be especially curious to hear about various brands of paint. I've experimented quite a bit other Behr brand paint, because I live so close to Home Depot that it just keeps my life easy, but I know from working in architecture offices we always specified Benjamin Moore.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

We recently celebrated Mattias' and Noah's birthdays. This year we had a family celebration on the actual birthday and a party with friends on another date. The family celebration includes cake for breakfast, singing happy birthday, decorating with the fabric / prayer flag / pendants and the sea serpent candle holder (?!) and opening family gifts.

There's not a lot of variation, which makes it easier for me and hopefully happily predictable for the kids. Both the boys requested Strawberry Shortcake for their birthday cakes. I spent a little more time with the strawberries on Noah's cake.

Now, normally, I would say nobody cares what their cake looks like and nobody notices and this is sort of the bane of my existence that I put all this effort into stuff for the kids and nobody appreciates a bit of it and why do I bother anyway? But Mattias DID notice, even though it had been a few days since his party. (You can see his cake in the first photo above.) He was not happy that Noah's cake looked "better" and stalked off to his room to sulk.

So, there you go: somebody DOES care! I felt a little bit redeemed as I coaxed Mattias back downstairs to eat. Lesson to self: if I'm going to lazily recycle the same birthday decorations and traditions, I've got to really keep it the same.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Spring Break

This past week was Spring Break for the boys. Fritz took the week off from work. He spent it taking care of the kids and the house: visiting museums and playgrounds, fixing meals, grocery shopping and doing laundry. (Basically, he did all the stuff that I normally do.)

Before (ish)

I spent the week painting. We had a number of unfinished projects that included walls, ceilings, and trim. I didn't complete everything that I would like to do, but I finished more than I expected to.  It wasn't the most exciting paint job. Dramatic color changes are fun. Subtle color changes, not so much.

Ceiling and trim done

Over the last three years, we've been slowly repainting everything from the original color that the builder painted it (off-white) to Behr's ultra pure white. There are two reason for this: 1) I don't really like the original off-white color and 2) the original paint doesn't stand up very well to the kind of scrubbing that removes the kids' dirt.

Partially down the walls (painting the top of the room first)...

Both Fritz and I felt really happy with our respective change of pace. Sometimes you don't need a trip out of town, or a night out, or even a day of pampering to feel refreshed. You just need a change in routine.

Finished! Whiter! Easier to clean! And something to show for my week!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Easter Die - I mean, Dye

This Easter, there was snow on the ground.

Snow for Easter is a bit of a challenge for egg hunting.

But we dyed some hard-boiled eggs for an egg hunt anyway.

It looks so under control in this photo. It wasn't.

Every year, I have these ideas about how we'll sit down together and make some cool eggs together. I'm not even thinking of natural dyes or eggs that are hand-painted. I'm just thinking that the boys will maybe use the white crayon and draw some patterns around the hard boiled eggs before dipping them in the colors. Maybe Trixie will sit on my lap while we carefully dip eggs into the store-bought coloring. Maybe I'll show them how you can dye an egg a different color on each end...

And every year it is SO NOT THAT. Every year it's a mad rush to
ripopenthepackage and takeouteverything
puteverysingleegginthedye asfastashumanlypossible
yellatmommytogetmeanother color/spoon/sticker/cleanupmyspill/makesomemoreeggs
and, of course, to doitmyself

A large number of eggs end up brown because my children are convinced that purple and orange are going to make a Really Great Color. Trixie is still too young to be unsupervised with dye, but because I'm running in circles for the boys, she does what she wants. This year, she dyed the table.

But, at least with all those different colors, she dyed it brown.

I'd like to say that I've given up. Because I'd probably be happier if I lowered my expectation substantially. Instead, I keep telling myself that next year it will be enjoyable.

It's suppose to be enjoyable, right? I mean, the chaotic process was funny for a few years, but how many years can it be funny? At least the photo makes it look like a semi-normal experience. Nobody will know from the photos.