Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Universe, are you listening?

Because I really, really need a break here. No more sick kiddos, no more family drama, no more financial problems. I have so much goodness in my life, and I am truly grateful for it. But right now, things are really stressing me out. I need to feel like smiling instead of crying. I'm not asking for 100% happiness in my life, but right now, I just want the scales to tip back toward "happy."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On Staying Home

I just read a blog post that was kind of disparaging to working moms, and it got me feeling, well, not really riled up, but just sad. I hate that so much of this parenting thing is a competition and full of judgment. I know I'm occasionally guilty of it myself, but I try to be mindful that what works for some familes might not work for others, and that we're all doing our best, trying to raise happy, healthy kids.
If my maternity leave taught me anything, it was that I would really enjoy being a stay at home mom. I was raised by one, and kind of always assumed I would be one. But I'm not. I'm the breadwinner in our family. My husband's career post-college have been very up and down, and he went back to school a couple of years ago to change career-tracks. I basically knew what I wanted to be when I grew up at the tender age of nine, and haven't really strayed much from that. I went from writing Babysitter Club knock-offs at nine to producing my own pretend newspaper at 10 to being the editor of the high school newspaper to a BA in journalism to an internship in publishing to a full-time job in book publishing to my current job as an editor/writer/account executive. So, needless to say that my steadfastness has meant I am eons ahead of my husband on my career path. At the age of 30 I have more than 10 years of work experience in my field.
Anyway, I'm getting a little off topic here. People on this blog post I was reading said that they heard women say they "wished they could be SAHMs" while sitting on their designer couch with their brand new cell phone and fancy purse. And yeah, maybe those women exist. Or maybe those women make more than their partners and have to be the ones to work, or maybe they just like working and are saying the wish they could stay at home to make you feel better. And I'd imagine most of th time the work vs. stay at home thing does not come down to "either put the kid in daycare and buy lattes, or sacrafice my fancy coffee, start shopping at thrift stores and I can stay home." No amount of penny pinching on those little things would allow me to stay home. I have a mortgage and student loans to pay, groceries to buy, and we need things like health care and insurance. Only one person jumped in on this post to say that maybe the answer to why a woman might work instead of stay at home is far more complicated than they think. Everyone else was chiming in with, "I agree!" "I worked at a daycare and I would NEVER be able to leave my kids at one" etc, etc. It really annoyed me. And yet, I remember very clearly thinking the same thing about a woman I worked across the hall from about 7 years ago. She drove a brand new Honda Element and was always dressed impeccably, and was super cute when she was pregnant. Then she came back to work three months later, and put up a darling picture of a baby and went on being trendy and stylish with new things. A lot of times, when I sit working at my desk and looking at Sebastian's picture next to my monitor, I feel like such a jerk for being so judgmental of that woman.
So yeah, being a stay at home mom would be great, because my kid is pretty darn awesome, and I love nothing more than spending time with him. But it's not my reality. So I make the most of every single second I have with him, soaking up his giggles and sweetness. I teach him things and support him in learning. I provide for him. And I make sure he's well cared for during the day. I'm so lucky that I've been able to rely on family members - my fantastic sister-in-law and my wonderful dad - to watch him. So he's not missing out on his mommy... he's gaining valuable relationships with his darling auntie and his beloved "pop pop." I love my kid. I'm his mom.

Homemade Playmat: Ready for Christmas

I completed the train table last weekend! I'm so very excited about this present, and I really hope Sebastian likes it. It was actually really easy and cheap to put together - a little time consuming, but easy. I made all the roads, trees, houses and the school house out of felt, and I glued it with craft glue to the larger piece of felt. I attached velcro to the back of the playmat and squares of velcro to the table.
And oh yes, the table! We painted two coats of chalkboard paint to the top of the table. It looks really nice, and hopefully will be durable.
My little guy is just starting to get really into coloring and playing with his trains, so I think this will be a great present. There's a shelf underneath which will house a couple of plastic bins to store extra trains and cars, and a smaller one to hold chalk.
I can't wait to see his face on Christmas morning, and I'm hopeful that this will look really cute in our playroom. It's the last thing we needed to make the playroom complete. After the dining room serve as a playroom for a couple of months, I have to say it was one of the best moves we've made in revamping our condo to fit our needs better. Sebastian plays in there every day and night. He can pull out his bins of toys, shoot hoops, play the keyboard, read books in the chair and soon, play trains or color on his chalkboard. It's nice to have this area right in front of the kitchen, so I can cook while I keep an eye on him, and it's also nice not having to play in front of the TV (now that he can turn it on himself, if we play out in the living room play time quickly devolves into a TV battle). I haven't really missed having a formal dining room, either. We kept our dining room table in storage, so at Thanksgiving we pulled it out, put the green chair in the living room, and were able to host a big, fancy dinner. All other nights we eat in the kitchen, and that works fine for us.
Now that I've finally completed the train table, I have my eye on making him a play kitchen for his birthday this spring!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Moving Forward

I started this blog back in March for a few reasons. I was experiencing major real estate envy of my many friends who were buying super cute, single family homes while I was stuck in an underwater condo. I was feeling inertia about my space - not sure what else I wanted to do with it, decorating/renovating wise. The negative feelings I had about our "investment" were clouding the feelings I had for the condo as a "home." I decided a blog would help me work out those jealousies while spurring me into action on some projects. I would say it's been a pretty successful venture! I found the more positive I felt about the house, the more likely I was to do some of the stuff I was neglecting, which then caused me to be even more positive about the house, etc. I would say it's been a long time since I've felt down on the place I call home. Instead, I have positive, cozy feelings of being settled.
Which leads me to two major milestones: One, I just read the latest post on www.younghouselove.com, which features the new house the bloggers have purchased. A few months ago, I'd be way jealous of that massive, open space they get to work with (and the fact that they've now owned two great houses). Instead, I just feel happy for them, and excited to see how they rennovate their bathrooms, because I really hope to do ours soon too.
Second, we got some majorly positive feedback from a friend who hadn't been over in a long time. I think the last time he was at our house was in May, so we had painted our fireplace white, but hadn't changed anything else. He was amazed at our transformation, and was gushing about how much more open everything was. The new furniture (our low profile sectional that replaced two bulky couches), the dining room to playroom transformation and the mudroom makeover have really had a big impact. It's a little hard for me to see since we did a little bit at a time, and I live there every day, but it was so nice to hear that I achieved my goal of opening up our sort of awkward living room/dining room/entry way.
I look forward to what 2011 will bring for our house and this blog. Some of the things I'd love to tackle next year are spiffing up our kitchen cabinets and baseboards (we painted them almost five years ago, and they could use some touching up), addressing our carpets (do we need new carpet? Just a good deep cleaning?) and of course, the hideous bathroom. We'll also celebrate our 5th anniversary as homeowners in April! It will then be the place I've called home the longest in my entire life. I think that'll be a really neat feeling.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snowed In

This was the scene outside of my condo Saturday, as one of the biggest blizzards in Minnesota blew through. I have lived here since 1995, so I missed the big '91 blizzard my friends love to reminisce about. This was by far the biggest snow fall I've ever seen - it just kept coming down, and was blowing everywhere. I could barely see the parking lot of the other building that my windows face.
We were holed up at home anyway, since Sebastian came down with hand, foot and mouth disease (which is the worst illness ever. There was nothing we could do for the poor, miserable baby). It's very contagious, so he's not allowed to be around any other children for 7-10 days. But being trapped in a blizzard with a sick child is tough, because I was constantly in fear of him taking a turn for the worse, and us being completely stuck and unable to go to the doctor. Thankfully, he was feeling much better by Sunday. He went from doing nothing but watching cartoons and eating Popsicles on Saturday to running around the house, playing basketball, trains, dancing and eating everything in sight on Sunday. It was a welcome sigh of relief for all of us.
Here's how our snowy weekend progressed.
Friday I arrived home from my lovely work Christmas party to the news that Sebastian had H/F/M. So instead of going to our friend's house for dinner, we stayed in and made a quick pasta camped out on the couch watching Elmo in Grouchland. A quick aside - dealing with our first major illness showed me how important it is to be flexible. I'm pretty strict on sugar, television and fast food, but he had all of that this week. A Happy Meal was what I could think of in a pinch that would be fast and he might eat? Bring it on. His mouth hurts so much that he can't eat solids? Sugary Popsicles and juice it is! Too lethargic to do anything but whine in pain? Maybe some Elmo will help! Hah. When you have a sick child, you have to do what you have to do.
Anyway, Friday night we ushered him off to bed, but he woke up at 10:30. We got him back down. Then he woke again at midnight, screaming bloody murder. I made a tearful call to the nurse line while Matt tried walking him around the house. Nothing worked, so he finally turned on some Martha Speaks on our Netflix. He watched a few minutes of the talking dog, then fell asleep in our arms. So we got out the blankets, and all dozed on the sofa. He woke every couple hours, and we'd dose him with some pain meds, or he'd climb across to the other person and fall asleep on top of us. We woke up creaky and not very well rested.
Saturday we tried to keep him happy with a regiment of books, cartoons and low-key games. While we took turns taking care of Sebastian, we read books, did laundry and cleaned the house. It was nice in a way having all commitments erased, and having nothing to do but nest and watch the snow fall. I also enjoyed checking my friend's Facebook accounts and seeing staggering photos of their snowfall. It was a nice way not to feel isolated.
Our groceries were dwindling, so I made pancakes, bacon and eggs for dinner. Sebastian was feeling a little better by this time, so he actually ate a little and let me play with him. He took a bath, and then Matt and I put him to bed and watched The Office Christmas episode with mugs of cocoa.
I really love the simple, slowed-down life that we had this weekend. It's what I strive for, but often don't accomplish because we always seem to have a lot going on during the week. It was nice just getting to completely opt out of everything, with no guilt. 
Now the snow is cleared, and I'm back at work, but I know we'll be telling Sebastian for years to come about the big blizzard that struck when he was home sick.
Also, in keeping with the theme of my blog, this time of year I love, love, LOVE being a condo/townhouse owner. I stayed in my PJs all day and didn't leave the house. The next morning, a lovely band of bobcats and snowplows decsended on my driveway and cleared away all the snow.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I'm not sure my family is adjusting to winter very well this year. Perhaps it's because we were so lucky with the weather this year: it didn't snow one time in March (I was so very happy about that, because March is my most hated month here in Minnesota), the summer was great, and the fall was unseasonably long and warm. We were taking walks and playing at the park almost every day from March until early November this year. And then winter hit, and we're just not coping. It's dark outside when I get home; my commute has gone from 15 minutes to 30-40... and last Friday in the midst of a snowstorm it took me an hour and 45 minutes to get home; we've all been sick multiple times; and daylight saving time really did us in.
Here was the scene in my house yesterday. We had 30 minutes to eat dinner and get to ECFE class. Sebastian was cranky, so when I walked in the door Matt was heating tomato soup with the little guy on his hip. We sat down, Sebastian insisting on being at the table instead of in his high chair. He took a spoonful of his soup, and poured it right on my pants. I told him "no," which set off a crying meltdown for 10 minutes. He finally ate some soup, we all changed, and then rushed to class, leaving the kitchen a tornado of dirty dishes, food containers and soup stains.
Every year we seem to go through this, this period of adjustment. Once the winter comes and days go by without sunshine, it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day to get anything done. And once the chores are done, the stories have been read, and the little one is off to dreamland, we feel like empty shells who just want to veg on the couch and crash into bed. I miss the spontaniety of summer... the post-dinner walks and sunsets at the playground. We're cooped up indoors and while our little home is cozy, life just seems to be frantic and off balance.
Something needs to change around here. I just haven't quite figured out what yet.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Playmat Progress

After multiple nights of being too tired to do anything after Sebastian went to bed, I finally seized the moment tonight and started working on the train table play mat. I made a school house, a house and a little pond. They're so cute! I'm totally having fun with this project.

Would This Work?

I hate our shower. Hate, hate, hate it. If I had known that it would be completely impossible to clean, I probably would have passed on our condo. But when we toured the house, I just thought that the owners just hadn't cleaned it in awhile. The shower had super short doors that fell off the track all the time, a plastic shower tray that is discolored yellow, a big, ugly metal grab bar, and grout that is stained with mold. I've scrubbed a million times with all kinds of different cleaners but to no avail. It remains as ugly and as dirty-looking as always.

We want to change it, more than anything else in our house right now. But I'm not sure we can afford the cost and time of a complete tear down. We're worried we're going to find some unsavory things under the walls and floor.

In my dream world, I'd like to tear down the tile, pull out the tray, replace it with white subway tile that goes to the ceiling, new shower doors that are taller, and a shiny new plastic tray in white. And a new faucet as well.

But maybe a stop-gap measure until we're a little better off would be to regrout the tile, take out the grab bar, and epoxy paint the tray? Would painting it work? A few sites I am seeing say yes, but it seems laborious.