A Christmas video treat

Christmas cleaning leads to Christmas music. And Christmas music leads to Christmas dancing of course. Enjoy!


Toddler Tuesday

I am loving 18 months. All of a sudden Lucy just seems to get so many activities. We've had puzzles around that she could do with quite a bit of help, but now she's a pro. And she now loves matching which opens up tons of activities. She also understands tray work now and will get one tray out then put it up before getting another.

But of course, there always seems to be a directly correlation between the amount of time I spend prepping an activity and the amount of time Lucy spends on it. Example - this one took all of 30 second to arrange, but kept Lucy busy for quite a while.

What is it? Well, if it looks like Lucy is standing on a piece of painters tape stuck to our floor, you would be correct. Although to Lucy, it's a line for her to walk on. It tests her skill and requires deep concentration.

 She did it once then ran off. I thought that was it but she came right back. She just needed some skid-proof socks for better traction, or maybe she was cold :-)

Then of course, baby needed a turn too. 

 Her first line was just a few feet long but at her request, I made it longer and included a corner.

This is a great example of how important timing is and how kids develop at their own pace. This was originally an activity from Slow and Steady Get Me Ready but it was listed as an activity for 1 year 6 weeks (or what normally people would call 13 months). She could walk by then but did not understand the concept of walking on a line at all so I put it aside. Then recently I noticed she was more interested in physical things like walking backwards, spinning, dancing, etc. She could do them before when prompted, but now she spends 30 minutes just figuring out how to make her body move and really seems to enjoy challenging herself to go faster, longer and harder. So we tried it again and voila, fun fun fun! She started "walking on the line" with one foot staying on the line and the other off to the side but after just a few days she started getting both feet to stay on the line.

Another activity that illustrates this is this animal matching game. It's on several other sites so I won't claim it's new but I think my kid is cute, so I'm putting up more pictures of it. It is supposedly a activity for a 2-3 year old but if Lucy is 6 months behind on her line walking, she is 6 months ahead on her animal matching! So I'm learning to ignore the numbers and remember that I know my kid best. Anyway, her is Little Miss matching away:

I took 6 of these cards and put them on a tray with the matching animals that we already had. She could probably handle more but none of the other animals we have match the cards they have. Her animals are her most used toy though so we'll be getting more.

Lucy gets out the tray...

 lays out the cards

 and starts matching
 sometimes she will put the wrong animal on the card, look at us, shake her head no, pick it up and put it down correctly
then she stands back and admires her accomplishment.

*These pictures may or may not have been taken on the same day. The undies + pink socks combo is fairly common round here.


Week 13 Update

Weeks 10-12 were pretty calm. For obvious reasons, we didn't do a whole lot on the kitchen. But last week my dad came to visit and Thursday my brother Ben (otherwise knows as The Beav) finished up his first semester at A&M and flew in too. Being the wonderful hostess and daughter/sister that I am, I put them to work.

Craig had already put together the cabinets in the basement so when my dad came, we started bringing 'em up and installing them. It wasn't too hard and the motivation was high since every cabinet made a big visual difference in how "kitchen-y" it looked.  Here we are working on the first cabinets.

I've never installed cabinets before but I think Ikea installation is a little more diy friendly that others. The top cabinets fit onto metal rails you secure and level beforehand. This makes it feasible for two people to do the install although it was really nice having my dad around as a third set of hands (and ones with more upper body strength than mine) There were a few moments when we had to consult the ikeafans forum but overall, I'm pleased with both the quality and the user-friendliness of working with ikea cabinets. It also helped when I reminded myself that Home Depot charges $75 per cabinet just for installation so when it took at hour or two to get a cabinet in place, it was worth the effort. 

We mostly worked in the evenings after Lucy went to bed, but during the days, she tried to help out as best she could. 

Of course, we had a few little glitches to deal with on the way and I think we took a trip to Home Depot or our local hardware store at least once a day but we have all but three cabinets installed now. The three that remain are the one to the left of the stove and the two island cabinets. We are waiting for those until after the electrical work is done to make it easy on the electricians as they work behind the stove.

Craig also worked on getting the range hood installed. This took some ingenuity because our vent hood was being installed over the glass blocks. You are technically supposed to attach the hood to horizontal supports that you install between the studs and behind the drywall. We weren't going to do that, so my dad came up with a solution that involved drywall anchors along with some metal strips that allowed us to make use of the upper window framing as a means of support. It took three pairs of hands to get it installed, and as of this writing, 24 hours later, it has yet to fall down.

Here is what it is looking like these days.

We are taking off this next week for holiday festivities but the electritian comes on the 28th after which we can finish up those last few cabinets and bring in the countertop guys for templating. The end is in sight!


Cleaning out the drafts: UHF - Start 'em young

Wow, I haven't written an "undercover hippie files" post in a long time. This was was started almost a year ago! Perhaps I was waiting to add another book, I have no idea. I also have no idea why the formatting is weird but in an effort to save my sanity, I'm not worrying about it. 

All the World

I just happened to pick this up at the library and both Lucy and I loved it. The poem itself is fine although some may think it is bit deep for kids. The words sound lovely and that is enough for Lucy. It's the illustrations that are great. Beautiful pictures of families having fun together in a variety of settings. It really just gets better as you read it more because the illustrations are the real story and they have so many wonderful little details that Lucy discovers each time we read - the ball that gets left behind, the baby having "milk-milk" and another being worn while the mom is gardening. Update: After multiple readings, I noticed that there seems to be a depiction of a lesbian couple in the illustrations. I didn't notice it we had returned the book to the library and thought bought a copy for ourselves so I doubt Lucy will even notice it but I thought I'd mention it. 

Baby Brother

This was a Lucy selection that turned out to be great. Lovely illustrations and cute story. Mia is writing a letter all about how her cat was acting funny and ended up having kittens while you see mom preparing for a new arrival herself and actually having a home birth (not at all graphic though, don't worry). We checked this out pre-Dewey but I think I'll make sure we check it out again several times before September.

The Biggest Bed in the World

A more comical take on co-sleeping. As his family gets more kids (and more pets), poor daddy gets tired of having no room. He keeps building a bigger bed but it doesn't seem to help. Lucy doesn't quite get the comedy of this one, but I think Craig and I can appreciate the humor. We love co-sleeping, but it does have it's moments too.

Nursies when the sun shines 

We read this as "Milk-milk when the sun shines" since Lucy got this for Christmas with the hopes that it will ease the night weaning process. It perfectly illustrates the reason for this post. My post title aside, I don't really pick up books like these because I think I need to indoctrinate Lucy or because I am horrified to see her read a book about a baby drinking from a bottle or sleeping in a crib. I search for books like these because Lucy really likes to see babies doing things the way she is used to. She got so excited when she saw the mommy, daddy and baby snuggling together in bed and was overjoyed when she saw the cat was at the foot of the bed too. She kept pointed to them and then to us. I'm pretty sure she won't be excited when I tell her no more milk at 2am, but it can't hurt to encourage her along. The words are very simply, as they should be, the point is to convey the idea that everyone, mommies, babies and nursies, sleep at night, but wake up in the morning. The illustrates are pretty but be forewarned, baby does get nursies in the morning as promised and the mom isn't using a nursing cover! But I'm guessing if you want this book, that won't be much of an issue for you.


Mark Maker

As I mentioned in our first post of 2009, I am a Maker's Mark Ambassador. It's not quite as prestigious as it sounds - I signed up on their website. As an Ambassador, I am supposed to promote the fine Kentucky bourbon whiskey (I think this post counts; to become an Ambassador, go here). As a reward, there is a barrel o' whiskey with my name on it. When it is ready, I can buy some of it. It also means I get a Christmas gift each year. Two years ago it was some gift bags and wrapping paper. Last year it was an ice cube tray for making bourbon balls (the tray makes 4 perfectly spherical ice cubes). Here is this year's present, which just arrived in the mail:

A bottle sweater! Isn't that festive?


A New Tradition

One new addition to our Advent/Christmas season celebrations was St. Lucia Day. St. Lucia's day is a church feast day set aside to celebrate the young martyr, St. Lucia (St. Lucy). Her name means light so the day is also a reminder that as Jesus is our light, we are called to reflect His light to all the world as well. A traditional home celebration involves the eldest girl dressing in white with a red sash with a crown of candles on her head. She carries the St. Lucia buns to all the family members early in the morning while they are still tucked in bed.

It's mainly celebrated in Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Norway. Craig's Norwegian heritage is very important to him so even though he did not grow up celebrating this holiday, he was on board. Even more so when I told him it involved food. Who doesn't like a food holiday?

We prepared the week beforehand. Wednesday is was our baking day so we borrowed Neighbor J's kitchen for the afternoon and made these St. Lucia Rolls (also known as Saffron rolls). I underbaked them by just a few minutes so we could heat them up in the morning in our toaster oven. That worked really well and they were delicious. The only thing I would change would be to leave out the Saffron. I know that Saffron is the traditional flavor of St. Lucia rolls but we couldn't really taste it in the roll and it is really expensive. So expensive that when I bought it, the check-out lady double-checked the price then asked me if I really wanted to buy it. I'm sure I could have gotten it cheaper online but it was ~$15 for 0.03 oz at our local grocery store. Yikes! But the rolls were delicious.And not very crumble, which is good since we ate them in bed.

Thursday, our craft day, we made Lucy's St. Lucia crown. I had pre-cut the crown, leaves and candle parts (I just went free-hand) and they were waiting for her in her advent bag. Once we measure her head and I stapled the crown to the right size, I cover the outside with double stick tape so she could put the leaves and candles where she wanted to. I thought about letting her glue them but she really doesn't like to get messy and the double stick tape was similar to stickers so I thought she would enjoy that. And she did. We had a great time assembling it. But she was very much opposed to wearing it anytime I asked her that day or the next.

Technically, St. Lucia's day was Tuesday but we celebrated Sunday so daddy didn't have to feel rushed. When Lucy woke up, we made Craig stay in bed while we went and prepared the tray. I didn't dress her in white but she was wearing her red and white hanna anderson pajamas and h.a. is swedish so we were still pretty authentic, right :-)

She wanted to carry it herself. Tray carrying is a new skill of hers but I was nervous because the tray had several rolls plus the crown (that she still refused to wear). She actually did great but was so fast I didn't get any pictures of her.

Here she is showing daddy (and baby) the tray. Then we feasted on our rolls and once in bed, Craig asked her if she wanted to wear her crown and surprise, surprise, she did!

It might look like she is handing them out, but actually she is stealing everyone else's raisins. She liked the rolls but only tried them once all the raisins were consumed. 

Hmm, let me see, Yep, Raisins!

Overall, this was a great First St. Lucia Day for our family. I hope we keep this event as a tradition. Next year when I have a kitchen, I might even try making swedish meatballs or kneple soup that night. And maybe buy this book when Lucy's a few years older.


Advent is upon us

We're getting a little bit of a late start on Advent since we just got back into town last week but Craig and I just didn't fill Lucy in on that fact and since she can only count to one, I think our secret is safe.

I've been thinking and planning for Advent for a couple months now and forcing Craig down to think and plan with me for several weeks. I really want to thoughtfully consider what traditions we want to incorporate instead of just letting Christmas happen to us. I've always felt that way but Lucy ups the ante. And I also know that this holiday period is going to be hard on me so I think I'm not so sub-consciously hoping that if I stay busy, I won't notice that my mom isn't here. I don't really think that plan is working, but I'll try. It might get easier this week since my dad arrived last night and my brother will be flying in as soon as he wraps up finals week at A&M.

So here are the things we've been doing this advent season:

Bags with activities/treats:

I saw this on pinterest and knew I could make something similar so I ordered muslin bags and a number stencil from Amazon. (Note: don't depend on your local Hobby Lobby to have number stencils - mine didn't :-( I originally wanted to hang them on a branch or dowel but I ran out of steam so this year they just went into a basket. Next year perhaps.

At this point, Lucy doesn't really get the countdown part but having the calender planned out helps ensure that the really important stuff that I wanted to make sure happens, actually happens and doesn't get crowded out by last minute, not-as-crucial, activities. So far, I love it. The bags give me lots of options. I've tried to focus on activities but I do have a toy in the bag for the day we fly to Grandma and Grandpas. Here are a few of our bags:
  • Make St. Lucia crown - bag contains pre-cut paper
  • Make treat for the birds - pinecone (with pb, birdseed to come later)
  • Shop for Christmas tree ornament - activity on a slip of paper
  • Make cards for firemen/postman/librarian - stickers and paper
  • Make treats for firemen/postman/librarian - recipe for muddy buddies (one of the few items we could make without a kitchen :-)
  • Roll Advent candle - Every Sunday we make the next Advent wreath candle using supplies from this kit from etsy. Lucy needs help getting it started but can roll it pretty well with just a bit of guidance. They aren't professional looking but she is very proud of them and it is obvious she considers them her candles. 
Advent wreath with candle: 

This is pretty standard fare for anyone with a liturgical background. We do our study in the evening and Lucy tolerates it. She does better once we light the candles but overall, this part is more for Craig and I.

Prepare for Baby Jesus:

This is by far Lucy's favorite thing. I think the reason she tolerates sitting still for the devotional is that she knows this comes next. I read about the general concept of preparing a manger for baby Jesus on a Catholic mom forum but the details were sparse so I improvised. I made a manger from a pack of sculpey clay. I'd worked with sculpey before but if you haven't, the package tells all you need to know. It is easy to work with and fairly durable once baked. My manger is very homemade looking but that adds to it's charm, right? Baby Jesus was a wooden peg from Hobby Lobby painted with acrylics I had on hand. Lucy hasn't seen him yet - and I haven't exactly finished painting him yet. Right now he is a white body with a peach head. The second layer will include eyes, mouth and perhaps a halo. He will go in bag 25 to be opened Christmas day!

Every evening after we blow out the advent candles, she starts signing "baby" until we give her a little piece of "hay" (yarn). She then very carefully places it in the manger to get it ready and cozy for baby Jesus. Then we say the Come Lord Jesus prayer which for those of you who are unfamiliar with it goes something like this - "Come Lord Jesus." It's a tricky one.

 I wasn't really expecting her to care about the prayer but she gets really excited about that too, grabbing our hands and smiling when we say it. Perhaps because it is short enough that she knows it, even if she can't say it yet. This activity takes 2 minutes total but she is grinning ear to ear the whole time.

I am definitely getting to be in a more Christmasy mood now that Lucy and I are activity awaiting the celebration of the wonderful gift of "baby Jesus." I know that this will probably be the hardest Christmas season I've experienced, but it is still nice to rejoice in the wonder of the Christmas story and remember the memories my mom worked so hard to build up in our minds and hearts over the years.


Next 5

My problem is not normally a lack of ideas but too many. That is especially true now that I’ve joined pinterest. But it always seems that when I actually have the resources to put an idea into place, I forget what I wanted to do or am to overwhelmed and so ever get around to anything.

So I started a new page in my “mom notes” notebook - my next 5. I keep other lists with tons of ideas and I have a lot saved on pinterest but my next 5 is the place I go to when I want to implement. And I don’t necessarily have 5 in all categories, sometimes I just have one or two, but I won’t let myself have more than five. Here are a few of my current “next 5”

Books to read:
  • A Charlotte mason companion type book (I've read two of her own books but want to get a summarized version as well)
  • Bible training (not discipline) book (Recommendations anyone?)
  • Miss Pettigrew lives for a day
Things to buy: (not literally, that would be bread, milk, fruit, veggies and p.b.) these are more splurgy things for when I have bonus money/swagbucks burning a whole in my pocket)
  • Wool unders for Lucy (Got a awesome thred-up coupon so splurged some from these last week!)
  • Praise/Bible verse CD
  • Indoor shoes/slippers for Lucy (love these)
  • Art prints for Lucy’s reading nook
  • Christmas/Advent items: (beeswax?) advent candles and Lucy still doesn’t have a stocking!
Lucy projects
  • Self-serve water station
  • Rearrange clothes for independent dressing
  • Lacing activity
  • Music station
  • Montessori rough/smooth boards


But it's okay because she's cute

We normally write nice Christmas letters every year. We started it our first Christmas and surprisingly, have actually kept up with it. We even managed to get one out the year I was in the midst of morning sickness while trying to prepare to move across the country. But not this year. I just don't have it in me. It takes energy which I don't have and frankly, the last thing I want to do right now is relive the last year.

So we made a shutterfly card instead.

It was quick, easy and illustrates Lucy's cuteness pretty well. And since I'm blogging about it, I get a $10 coupon. Added bonus: the coupon expires on January 31st so I have really strong motivation to finish that 2010 album I've been working on. I only have a few pages left, none of which involve my mom so I should be able to do it without dissolving into a puddle of tears like I did when I looked through the 2009 album I just had printed* and saw pictures from this afternoon**.

*"Just had printed" doesn't mean just finished. I was waiting for a good Christmas sale before I printed it. That is my story and I'm sticking with it.

** And again, I'm crying. How was that less than 2 years ago? I look at that third pictures and all I can think is how my life was perfect back then. Now all I want to do is spend hours reading all my old posts searching for my mom's (Junecleaver) comments just so I can read her words. This is hard. Really really hard.

Polka Dot Christmas Wishes Christmas
View the entire collection of cards.


18 Months!

1.5 years! How did you get so old baby girl? You are a full toddler now and you won't let me forget it. You are so much fun to be around and I love to watch you learn and grow. You can do so much including:

- Walk up and down stairs all by yourself. I make you hold my hand if there are more than a couple but you don't really need to.

- Spin in a circle until you get really dizzy. Fall down or stand wobble for a few seconds. Repeat. You think this is hilarious.

- Count to 1! You love counting. After one, you just point and I say the numbers but you recognize what numbers are in several of your books.

- Pick out the color yellow. After we painted the kitchen, we collected lots of yellow things and now you can pick out yellow from a group almost all the time. Sometimes you get other colors but not nearly as reliable.

- Select the "big" one and the "little" one. If I ask you to hand me the little or big you get it right but you don't know those signs so you call the big ones "mommy" or "daddy" and the little ones "baby". This makes sense when we are talking about rubber duckies or toy animals but less sense when we are talking about blocks but you'll figure that out later.

-Talk. You are so funny. You still prefer signing to talking but I know you actually can say a fair number of words. Repeat words include mom, dad, ball but you most often say a word just once though. Just a day or two ago, you said "upstairs" - and grandpa was around to hear it to. I haven't got you to repeat it and probably won't. Its like you slip up and let us know you can talk then realize your mistake and clam up again. I would not be surprised if you hold out for a bit longer then just start talking in complete sentences.

- Reply in the negative. The one "word" we do hear a lot, "Nah" - accompanied by a very empatic head shake. You don't seem to understand the difference between my asking you something and my telling you something but if you keep insisting with the "Nah," I just tell you that it is a "Mommy decision" at which point you hang your head but accept your fate.

- Make animal sounds.  Meow, Woof-woof, moo, baa and gobble gobble are the most frequently heard.

- Give fist bumps. Your uncles taught you this one. At first I just rolled my eyes but now I will admit, its pretty adorable.

- Socialize with people other than mommy daddy grandpa and bubbie. You've finally decided that other people are okay and will occassionally let uncles/aunts hug or even hold you. And you liked greeting the hospice workers and certain family friends now that you've seen them a few times. You'll even share your toys with them.

You are getting such a personality and are definitely a little girl. We bought you new shoes last week and you had very strong opinions on what you wanted. Then we got home and you walked around the house showing everyone your new pink converses! I like that I can see you start to do things that I do. You ask me to rub your back a lot, which is something Bubbie always did for me. And you sleep with your arms tucked under you just like I do.

Mostly though, I just like you. Back in the letter I wrote you when you were just one month old, I said you were my little sunshine and it's true. You fit your name. God gave you to us at a difficult time but I believe He did so because He knew we would need you, need your laughter, your smile, your silliness. You brought such joy to your Bubbie this past year and a half and I know that right now you are lighting up the lives of your grandpa, your uncles and I in what, without you, would be a very dark period for us. I can't imagine what my world would be without you, and I'm so glad I don't even have to try.


Lessons Learned

I can't believe I've been a mom for over 18 months now. But Lucy and I are both still learning a lot about being a parent/toddler. Here are a few of the lessons we have learned in the past couple weeks.

 Lesson #1 (Mama): Decorating a Christmas tree with toddler "helper" is difficult but not impossible.

 Lesson #2 (Mama): The one finger rule is surprisingly helpful.

Lesson #3 (Lucy): Mama can not understand sign language when it is 2am and pitch black.

Lesson #4 (Mama): If at 2am, you hear your toddler take off her diaper and see her attempting to sign something or move her arm around at all, don't think. Just move to the potty as fast as possible or you will end up spending the rest of the night on the 1/4 of the bed that is still dry. (Yes, this one is related to the previous lesson but hey, it could have been much worse).

Lesson #5 (Mama): If you let your toddler eat nothing but asparagus for Christmas dinner (11 stalks to be exact), she will have incredible stinky diapers for the next 24-48 hours. (Luckily this was a few days separated from Lessons #3 and #4)

Lesson#6: (Lucy): Hugs from your mama make everything better.

Lesson #6 (Mama): Hugs from your baby can't make everything better, but they do help a lot.


The expected happens

My mom passed away Saturday morning. From my experience and knowledge of cancer and death, I had several fears but in the end, her death was peaceful. My family was all at home with her and I've very thankful for the hospice care that allowed that to happen.

 We knew on Friday we were getting close to the end. Lucy had been sick and feverish so Craig and I had been keeping her and her vomit upstairs most of the day but that night she wasn't sleeping well and just wanted to be sprawled over my chest so, I took her down and we all spent the evening with my mom. We watched a movie while my mom slept. Then I took Lucy up to bed while my aunt, brother and dad spent the night taking turns watching over my mom. My dad got me early in the morning so I could say my last goodbye. Ben was holding her hand and I had my arm around her and my head on her pillow next to hers when she took her last breathe.

Compared to how frantic everything seemed last fall when she had her first bad spell, things were very calm and quiet and slow. Hospice came and the chaplain that we had been working with us said a prayer and we all sang a hymn. I didn't feel rushed to say goodbye or to hurry through things. It was hard to be thankful this Thanksgiving but that is one of the things I am most thankful for.

The time was good for Lucy too. I've explained to her the best way I knew how. She is at a really hard age in that she understands and communicates just enough to need an explaination but not enough to understand. But I told her that Bubbie's outside, her body, wasn't working anymore so it was going away but her insides were up with Jesus. When she heard "Jesus", she got excited and starting signing about Baby Jesus and the angel and the book (she loves this book we've been reading about Christmas) and I told her that it was the same Jesus. She also seems interested when people are sad or crying so I told her that it was okay to be sad and cry because we miss Bubbie or we want to give her a hug but can't. Then we gave Bubbie one last big hug. It hadn't been long so my mom didn't seem much different that the previous days to Lucy. Since then, she's had a few moments of confusion. She kept signing Bubbie when they came to take the hospital bed away and she threw a fit when she wanted to find Bubbie and give her a hug but I reminded her of what I had said before and how we had given her a hug earlier and after a few repetitions, she seemed to understand and let it go - for now. Her relationship with my mom was very real so even though she doesn't understand everything, I know she will grieve in her own way and her own time. It will just take her a while to realize what losing Bubbie really means.

Frankly, I think it is going to take me a while to completely realize what losing my mom means.  In a way, I've been preparing for this for 18 months but now that it has happened, I don't think I quite belive it. Last night we were all in the living room together and with the bed and medical supplies gone, it looked like our normal living room. I kept thinking my mom was just going to walk in any minute with a bowl of popcorn and a tray of tea. Oh, how I wish she could.


Garbage Disposal

Our kitchen demolition project was clearly going to generate a lot of waste, so we looked around for a way to get rid of it. A dumpster was the obvious option. The problem with them, though, was that you only get them for a week or so before the garbage company comes to take it back. Since our project is largely do-it-yourself, it has proceeded more slowly than a professional job, so a week wasn't going to cut it. We could have piled our debris in the yard, ordered the dumpster, and loaded it after demolition was complete, but that would have been a pain.

MacKenzie, however, had heard of this product called The Bagster. It is a 8' x 4' canvas-like bag that you buy at your favorite home improvement store for $30. You fill it up at your leisure, and schedule your pickup when you are ready, paying for collection when you book it. These bags hold 3 cubic yards, as compared to about 10 or more for a dumpster. Costwise, it was about the same for us to get two of these as it would have been to get a dumpster. Two bags was enough to hold all our debris, and we kept the bags for a good 7 weeks before having them picked up (you get a bit of a discount if you have multiple bags picked up at once). So this is an option you might consider for your disposal needs.

One note I will add is that, when you view promotional videos for The Bagster, they make the sides look so rigid. That was not our experience.

Maybe I did it wrong? This wasn't a major issue, but I thought it was kind of funny.

Update: The bag comes with specific placement directions (5 feet from any building, 16 feet of overhead clearance, 10-foot wide driveway, etc.). I was worried about getting these picked up, because our driveway is L-shaped and hard to get in and out of for larger vehicles. But Waste Management had no trouble taking our full Bagsters away.


My mommy you'll be

Those of you who are friends with me in real life or who are following my dad's writings on my mom's caring bridge page will know that my mom has recently begun her final time of rest before she leaves this world.

I haven't talked a lot about her illness on this blog. I've written several posts and left them in drafts and have written over a dozen posts in my head but sometimes it seems like living it is taking all the strength I have and I don't have any left to write about it. But I also hate that because this blog chronicles our lives and I don't want it too seem like my life lately has been taking pictures of Lucy playing or remodeling our kitchen. Those things are in my life but they are secondary and good for a distraction but my focus has been spending time with my family and my mother. I want the world the know who she is but I know I can't do justice to her and I don't even know how to try. But I do want to share a bit now (well, I think I do, I'm still not sure if I will post this or not. If I do, I won't go back and edit it so forgive my spelling or grammer errors.)

I recently remembered a story she told me a couple times about how she found out she was pregnant with me.  She thought she might be pregnant but tests were expensive and they were young and didn't have a lot of money. And at the time they were back visiting her parents for a little while before moving to Germany so they couldn't go to the army hospital like she normally would. So she decided to go to planned parenthood for their free pregnancy tests. She went and got a postive (you knew that was coming, right :-) but then got confused as they started talking to her about her schedule and when she should come back. Finally it dawned on her that they thought she wanted an abortion. She got upset and went on a rant about how she was excited about this, how she and her husband (that would be my dad :-) wanted this baby! Even 20 years later when she would tell me that story, I could see her get upset at the thought of them assuming she would even think about having an abortion.

You might be thinking that is a really odd story to be telling right now. Don't worry, I'm not about to twist that into a "I was almost aborted" story. I wasn't. Nor am I really telling if for any pro-life cause. Because what that story means to me is just that from the very moment my mother knew of my existance, she loved me and her first thought was to protect me.

Now, flash forwards ~27 years. When I arrived Sunday night, she hadn't woken up for over 24 hours. She was resting in peace and comfort but unresponsive and I didn't know if I would be able to really say goodbye. But this morning, she "woke up" a bit. Barely, but we could see her one eye open a bit and move around towards us. So we all sat and talked to her but I still wasn't sure if she was awake, could hear us or knew we were there. Then I lay me head down on the pillow and started to cry. And she started to cry too and squeezed me hand. Because all these years later, I'm still her baby and I know that she loves me and wants to protect me.

She's my mentor, my role model, my confidante, my friend. But foremost, she's my mother mama.

I'll close with a line that anyone who has ever read and cried over this book will remember. Now that I've been both a daughter and a mother, I understand how true it is and if I had to tell you what I think that hand squeeze and those tears were meant to convey, this would be the sentiment:

I'll love you forever,
 I'll like you for always, 
as long as I'm living
 my baby you'll be

and if I could only say one thing back to her, I would choose the same response:

I'll love you forever,
 I'll like you for always,
 as long as I'm living
 my Mommy you'll be.

Week 9 update (or hip hip hooray, the floors are done!)

Lucy and I went home last week, just for a few days, (we are back with my mom now)  but it was a fun treat to see the progress on the kitchen. I left right before the drywall was put in and the only pictures I've seen are the ones you all have so it looked a lot different when I walked inside. Craig had just finished installing the floors. They look great. Even Lucy was impressed. She kept pointing to the floor and signing daddy. When I say that yes, daddy did the floors, she signs "me" - yep, she thinks daddy did the new floors just for her. And I guess that is partially true.

Since Craig stained the existing hardwood floors in the rest of the house himself, we knew exactly what stain to use so (crossing our fingers) we should expect a nice match as long as we started with the same material. We weren't exactly sure whether the old stuff was red or white oak but from my research, it seemed like red oak was the more likely candidate so we went with that.

It was actually harder than anticipated to find unfinished wood flooring but Lumber Liquidators had just what we wanted. They have three grades of red oak: select, natural and rustic. We went with natural, which had a quite a bit of variation, similar to our old flooring and our favorite style-wise (a happy coincidence) but not the level of knots and open spots that the rustic would have.

Last Sunday he stained the floors and the color is perfect! Then he spent the next two days laying down the three coats of poly. We were a bit worried about that because the first time we went with Varathane oil-based satin finish but both Lowe's and Home Depot were out of that so we went with Varathane High Traffic Satin oil finish hoping there wouldn't be a visible difference. This morning the second coat was dry to the touch but glossier than the old area and I was a bit worried but by 18 hours of dry time the sheens were almost identical so it looks like we lucked out with that too  (I could see a slight different when I put my head down on the ground and the sun was shining directly on the seam but I'm not really worried about people doing that and there will be cabinets covering about half the seam). In fact, I'm actually happier knowing we have the heavier duty poly in the kitchen since even with only three of us, the kitchen will certainly be a high traffic area. (Here's a post he did on floor staining back in January.)

Here they are in all their glory: We can finally take a progress shot from the same angle now that the drop cloth wall we had up has been taken down.

And here is it today!

After letting them sit a few days to make sure they were fully dry, we were able to paint. And you might notice that we also have a a few new shiny appliances now.  We're already been enjoying the new fridge for a few days and the dishwasher (off-camera to the right) is making a nice makeshift table for the time being. The stove was delivered Saturday and next week the plumber is coming to install the propane line.

I really feel like we're on the downward slope of our project now that the floors are done. The window and the floors were the two biggest question marks in our planning and neither of us had any experience installing windows or floors but now that they are done, the room looks like a room again and I can actually visualize my kitchen. I'm excited! I'll be even more excited when I finish de-dusting my house*  but still, I'm excited!

*Even with the drop cloth wall, the dust got everywhere. Lucy and I have spent the last two days dusting, sweeping and wiping down walls. The amount we get each time we sweep up is diminishing so another day or two of cleaning and we should be back to normal.


Hardwood Floor Installation

MacKenzie has another floor post planned, but first I thought I'd talk a little about the installation process. I installed 3/4" x 2 1/4" tongue-and-groove unfinished red oak flooring.

Our existing subfloor is 1" x 8" planks. Before starting the install, I replaced a couple of decaying boards and then made sure all the nails were pounded in all the way. Then I laid down 15-lb felt paper. I found different answers online about whether to overlap adjacent pieces and whether or not to staple it down, but I overlapped by 3-4" and stapled.

I had the issue of how to transition from the existing wood to the new wood. Ideally, you would interlace the boards, so adjacent boards don't end right next to each other, but that wasn't an option without tearing out boards. So I did as Lumber Liquidators suggested and put one row of flooring perpendicular to the existing floor to serve as a transition strip (visible in photo above). I installed the strip with the tongue facing the new flooring, which was really the only option. Before installing the strip, I had to take a circular saw and cut the existing floor so all pieces ended evenly (a few pieces previously extended a few inches more than the rest). It was not easy to get this straight, but I did what I could using a chalk line.

Before installing, to back up a bit, I brought the wood into the kitchen for a few days to allow it to assume room temperature and room humidity. I separated the boards into piles based on size. This helped break up the different bundles I bought, and allow for easy board selection during installation. I also picked out boards that were less than perfect. I used most of these against the west wall, where they will be covered with cabinets.

I began at the west wall by using a chalk line to measure out a line about 1/2" from the wall (this is the expansion gap) I laid out 3 rows of flooring, cutting the ends of the last pieces to make them fit, leaving about 1/2" for expansion along the south wall (this gap will be covered by baseboards). These rows had to be face-nailed by hand (nailed through the top through pre-drilled holes). I had to work around the water pipes for the sink here by making notches in the side of a short piece of wood at both ends.

I started out trying to do the job with a manual floor nailer that I rented, but I found that the nails wouldn't quite go all the way in. I had to set them by hand, which was slow and occasionally led to bent nails. The nails were more or less unremoveable once placed, unless you take up the board and pound them out from underneath. When necessary, I would generally twist and bend a partially-driven nail to break it off if it had more than 1/2" sticking out.

I then rented a pneumatic nailer, which uses an air compressor to assist the mallet in driving the nail. This one gave me the same problem. I switched to a larger air compressor, thinking that might solve the problem, but it didn't. I thought maybe my floor was too hard, but another return to the rental place to try a different pneumatic nailer proved successful. It wasn't me, after all, it was the tools. With that taken care of, I could proceed. By this time, I had laid out about half the floor, so I just had to go back and nail the rows that were ready to go. I made marks on the east and west walls where the floor joists were, and tried to nail into them when possible, while still maintaining 8-10" nail spacing.

Another obstacle to work around was the vent. We decided to put in a wooden vent that lies flush with the floor, so I had to make it fit by cutting some small pieces (the gap you see below was filled in later).

When I got within about 5 rows of the end, I was no longer able to use the nailer, because there was no room to swing the hammer. I tongue nailed a few rows by hand, but had to face-nail the last two. I had several long boards left at this point (40-50 inches), and I realized this portion of the project would have been easier with shorter boards. Tongue-nailing serves to help push a board flush against the previous row, something that is important with longer boards, because they can be harder to get a close fit with. A large board will overlap several shorter boards, and if these pieces are slightly misaligned, it will affect the fit of the long boards. Tongue-nailing with the nailer usually overcomes this difficulty, but face-nailing does not. So use up your long boards before you get to the end.

My last row ended about 1/2" from the east wall. This was perfect - close enough to be covered by the baseboard, without requiring me to rip (cut longitudinally) the last row. To finish, I had to do the area under the door, ending with stair nosing where the floor steps down into the entry way. I had to file away at the bottom of the door jamb in order to fit pieces under it. To get the stair nosing tight against the next row, I had to file away at the lip underneath so the piece extended further in from the edge (thus slightly reducing the overhang. Here is the installed product:

One more note: when you put your drill down after pre-drilling holes for face-nailing, lay it down instead of standing it up. If you do the latter, and you knock the drill over, it will fall forward and break the bit. I found this out twice.