Monday, January 16, 2017

Adventures in Diapering

I'm sure Jack and Margaret must have done some squirming when we changed their diapers, but  Andrew makes diaper changes an Olympic event for both of us. And it's painfully obvious, this Mama is no Olympian.

Months ago, we moved the changing pad to the floor, since his lunging in every direction was heart-stopping. He's much safer on the floor, but it gives him too much room to work with as I try to man-handle him into a diaper.

Poopy ones are my favorite.

He gets suspicious as I carry him up the stairs. When I place him on his back, he starts to wail at the injustice, perhaps lamenting that excrement removal keeps him from his favorite activities of immersing his hands in the toilet, reorganizing the pantry, crab-crawling his way up the stairs, or changing my Facebook Profile picture while messing with my phone.

I start in Veteran Mama pose as I breathe deeply and try to press his little body down with one hand,  lifting his chubby feet with the other. A quick release of his torso to whisk the poop-filled diaper away gives him the opportunity to perform a quick flip and land in what I like to refer to as The Wheelbarrow.

This is when his head and chest face downward, he's twisted in the middle, and I have his legs and bottom raised high in the air. He paddles his arms in a swimming motion off of the end of the changing pad and onto the floor. Before I lose my grip on his legs and my mind, I attempt to dislodge any large clumps of poop.

Then the quick little rascal scoots away, his prodigious rear so clenched and dimpled, it's nearly impossible to make progress on the more recessed areas of his nether-regions. "Crack is whack," I mutter, as I nab him by the trailing snaps of his onesie and try to gently poke a wipe where it  really needs to be. His body may be stationary for the moment, but his legs stay moving in a cartoon-style running motion.

When I lose my grip on the onesie, clearly taking a deduction on my final score, he darts out his door into our tiny hallway, grabs the baby gate, which I have (thankfully) locked, pulls himself up, and clings to the bars like a unduly happy circus animal.

My 47 year old shoulders ache from effort, but I know we're near the finish line. I crawl up behind him on the hardwood floor, give him a loud smoochy smooch on the soft folds of his neck and finish my floor routine with Standing Diaper, something moms have perfected over many decades. It's slightly inferior to Regular Diaper, as one chubby cheeks seems to be hanging out more than the other, but it'll do.

He's no longer stinky, or confined, or angry. I conclude a diaper and an unsnapped onesie is perfectly appropriate indoor winter wear, because I'm not about to wrassle him back into pants. I scoop him up, and we head back downstairs to take a bow, hoping that the next poop is hours away.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Gray and Pink Teen Room Makeover, High/Low Edition

Margaret and I re-did her room on a budget.

To raise money for the project, we found whatever we could around the house to sell on a yard sale site. This helped us set our budget and also get rid of excess clothes and accessories that were cluttering up her room. We moved a bunch of books and keepsakes to the basement.

The look she wanted was Hollywood Regency meets Modern, and she was able to find a lot of ideas online. She wanted a mix of metals and textures, with a lot of white throw in.

To plan for the room, she sent me links of what she wanted, and I poked around for less expensive options. In some cases, we went with her choices, and in others mine. We are both happy with the results, and I thought I'd share the process with you here:

The paint color we  used was a continuation from our lower level: Benjamin Moore's Moonshine, a soft gray; we kept the white trim as-is.

An upholstered queen headboard was the centerpiece of the room. This is the one she wanted:


Ella Headboard from Pier One: 449.00

I found this one:
Baxton Headboard from $129.99

VERDICT: We went with the lower priced one from Overstock and it works perfectly!

She wanted pale pink bedding and there were LOTS of options! 

She chose this set from Urban Outfitters:

HIGH Eyelash bedding in Rose: $189.00 for comforter, $49.99 for 2 shams

I found this much less expensive one, that is quite similar in tone and texture: 

LOW Amazon LUSH Decor Belle 3 Piece quilt Set: $74.99

 And this one for even less, although not in the perfect shade

LOWEST Amazon Chez Moi Collection Ella 3 piece comforter set: $49.99

VERDICT: She asked for a gift card from her grandparents for her birthday, and went with the more expensive option from Urban Outfitters. She loves it!

Fuzzy Throw Pillow



Target throw pillow (FAUX): 17.99 (sale)

VERDICT: We decided that real sheep fur wasn't as important to us as price, so we went with the Target one.

 For lamps, she was looking for antique brass like this one.

Crate and Barrel Theorem Aged Brass Lamp: $219

LOW Amazon Satin Brass Hoyt Table Lamp 79.99

Target Hudson Industrial Brass Table Lamp: $49.00

VERDICT: Target for the win-- again! What a great lamp. I hope she gets tired of it, because I want it. Wait until you see it in her room.

Makeup Vanity:

West Elm Mid Century Modern Desk: $399


VERDICT: Target desk! Easy to put together, and it keeps all of her makeup neat in the wide drawer.

Vanity Chair:

Online these range from 450.00 on down. We bought one from Tuesday Morning for 99.00 (not available online), but here is one just like it, for less.

Amazon Casper Dining Armchair in Clear: 71.27

VERDICT: I still think we got a pretty good deal, but I wish I'd seen this one sooner and purchased it.

Pier One Mirrored Silver Dresser: 999.95

Wayfair Mirrored Dresser: 580.60

VERDICT: Mirrored dressers are lovely, but even at almost 50% off retail, the "low" one from Wayfair was outside our budget. Instead, we kept the same 75 year old white dresser she had and spray painted the handles gold for an update.


LOWEST Amazon Graham Mirrored 2 Drawer End Table: 169.99

VERDICT: Yep, she wanted a new nightstand too. This one is indicative of the MANY mirrored ones we looked at, and the price is the best we saw. However, we were still out of funds, so we painted her old nightstand's handle gold and are keeping our eye out for a more modern, less expensive nightstand down the road.

We are leaning toward something like this, but hopefully on the cheap:

Hay Needle Baby Relax Miles Nightstand: 149.99

I hope you enjoyed seeing our choices and are inspired by how Margaret got the look she wanted, with the budget she had to work with. While she only got a few new pieces of furniture, the room is transformed!

Up next: Photos of the room itself! 

(affiliate links provided for your convenience)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Why I'm a Great Mother

The day before our Christmas trip to Mexico, I hired a sitter so I could do all of the last minute things needed for travel outside the country with a baby.

So naturally, I ended up wandering the aisles of my favorite thrift store, McDonald's ice tea in hand, crossing nothing off my list.

I am a registered germaphobe, so it's more than a little surprising that I'd choose to go to this particular place in the heart of cold season, busy and crowded as it was, and full of used stuff.

More remarkable, still, was that I let my guard down and glanced over into the toy aisle, an aisle that had been off-limits in my 10+ years of thrifting. Jack and Margaret knew not to put a single toe in that aisle, with its plastic items strewn about, likely covered with baby slobber, e-coli, and boogers. Sure, the loudspeaker periodically chastens parents to keep their kids with them at all times, but no one enforces it, and the toy aisle often serves as the perfect place to dump littles off while mom shops a few aisles over.

And on this cold December day, the aisle was hopping and hacking-- full of kids who were likely too sick to go to school the last day before vacation.

But it was in that petri dish of a toy aisle that I spotted IT.

Back in our (germy) church nursery near the turn of the millennium, my kids played with a large plastic "garden" you could sit in.  Not that it made much sense, but the garden consisted of a plastic picket fence, some spinning plastic birds, flowers, and a mailbox. They'd make a bee-line for it, play with the plastic flowers, and put a germy plastic letter in and out of the pretend mail box for hours.

When I spotted it, I wanted my late-in-life miracle baby to have his own plastic garden to play with, once I'd cleaned it up, of course. Except it meant venturing into the germ zone, in December, one day before a major milestone family vacation.

Why didn't I just lick a urinal at Dulles Airport?

Shoring up my resolve, I darted in, then hoisted the behemoth onto my cart. As I tried to wheel it toward check out, something else caught my eye. Bags and bags of ball pit balls. Because if Miracle Baby wasn't enamored enough with the garden and its 15+ years of embedded germs and memories and fun, I could fill it with ball pit balls! Looking back, I see that this was the moment when my senses completed their leave-taking, because there is nothing, nothing, NOTHING more disgusitng than ball pit balls of unknown origin. Haven't we all heard the tales of horrible things found in ball pits? Syringes? Vomit? The wayward turd?

But what (I imagine) Miracle Baby wants, Miracle Baby gets, so I threw the bags of balls on top of the "garden" and made my way out of the store. A fierce winter wind threatened to topple us, but we made it to the car.

Except it wasn't my car.


I forgot my husband took my big car that day and left me with his small Toyota

I didn't know how I'd get the garden in the car, but I knew it would involve touching it more than I already had. And my hand sanitizer was running low by that point.

Getting it in the car would likely involve full body contact. I needed a plan. The trunk? No amount of shoving could make it fit. The front seat? Even with the seat fully reclined and pushed back, it wasn't even close. I'd have to somehow get it in the back seat, even though that looked impossible. With all the shoving and maneuvering, I'd already worked up a sweat even though it was bitterly cold outside. I was  making a spectacle of myself.

The back seat was my last chance.

I almost gave up, turned around, and re-donated it to the thrift shop.

Finally, I did what no parent ever wants to do and unhooked the baby's carseat-- so expertly installed by my husband-- and tossed it aside.

That provided enough room to POTENTIALLY get the garden in the car. I turned it on its side and shimmied up against its nasty plastic edge. Nothing short of full body contact and repeated thrusting could get it in the car. The plastic grazed my lips. Ugh. I wrapped my arms around it and humped that garden with determination until I managed to wedge it in enough to shut both car doors.


I eventually got it out and cleaned it enough to set it up in the house. After school, Margaret walked in and her face lit up, "I remember that garden! That was my favorite thing to play with in the nursery! Did it come with the piece of plastic mail?"


"That was the best part."


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Monday Musings!

When we moved three years ago, we didn't notice our clothes dryer was ridiculously loud. It was just background noise for our strangely smooth adjustment to a new house down the road from our old one.

When a sweet teenage friend came to stay with us for a while, she proclaimed, "Your dryer is REALLY loud!"

Hmm.  Maybe. I guess I was already used to it. It didn't bother me that much.

Soon it became the norm for people to comment on the dryer. During our kitchen remodel, each of the four men working in the house mentioned it on separate occasions. I mean, who notices DRYERS??? The final straw came this fall when an HVAC guy was doing a maintenance check in the basement when I turned on the dryer. He shot up the stairs yelling, "What was THAT? I thought the house was going to blow!!!"

We had to face the fact that maybe, just maybe, our dryer was not quite okay. We googled the brand and "noise," and found the problem was not unique, and there were concrete steps to take to deal with it. One afternoon, one cut finger, and several youtube videos later, Tim fixed the dryer and it now purrs like a kitten. It just took us THREE YEARS to deal with it.

This has me thinking of how easily the loud dryer became normal to us, even though we had to pull the door shut in order to hear the tv or talk on the phone, and I had a ringing in my ears on days when I did multiple loads.

I've written a lot about getting used to things, and how it is often necessary. I've had to get used to  living without Jack's physical presence, even though 5 years later I still find it bizarre, shocking, and excruciating. Time in itself does not heal all, but it does help us adjust, day in and day out, to reality. Heck, I must admit I am still getting used to the idea that I'm 47 with a baby, even though that baby turns 9 months old this week. I guess at some point it will start to seem normal.

But as the calendar page now has not only a new month but a new year on top of it, I wonder if there are other things that we are living with, that we have grown accustomed to, that really could be  improved if we would just take the needed steps.

(In my life these tendencies range from putting all of my goals on the back burner because of the baby, speaking and being spoken to by family members in ways that are curt and transactional not relational, and my leaning toward sloth rather than health and connection because eating candy and watching TV by myself takes less energy and planning than figuring out how to exist any other way)

But maybe that which seems permanent and unchangeable needn't be that daunting, and perhaps isn't even really that unique. There was a comfort that a bunch of other people out in google-land had the very same dryer issue Tim and I did and chose not to keep living with it.

Perhaps we've talked ourselves into believing that certain patterns/habits/situations might be a nuisance, but they're not really a big deal. I know that's what I do; and as a result, I put off positive changes in favor of inertia.

I wonder, are you living with something you've convinced yourself you cannot change, or that it's not a big deal?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Because baby's first lasagne requires a handsome elf and an immediate bath:

Friday, December 16, 2016

Still Standing!

Hooray! Our Christmas tree is still standing this morning. It's a bit bare in spots, where I took off my favorite ornaments in case it fell during the night.

Upon looking at it, I realized that in some ways, I'm like this tree:

I'm not where I thought I'd end up. The tree certainly never imagined it'd be transported from a forest or tree farm into my family room; I never thought I'd be a bereaved mother, a mom to an infant at age 47, the author of a book, or even in a new neighborhood.

I look normal from the outside. The tree looks perfectly acceptable with its angels, glass balls, heirloom ornaments, and layers of beads, but what is unseen is the trauma/drama it has gone through to get here. I look unremarkable, too, a suburban woman driving a family car on numerous errands,  shopping at the grocery store, and waiting in the carpool line. The tree reminds me to be gentle with others, because everyone has a story, even if it doesn't show from the outside.

I am leaning, a little bit bent, but not broken. Sure, like the tree, I've fallen down, but I'm semi-upright now. I am altered by my experiences, just as the tree was changed by the weather, its growing conditions, and our bumbling attempts to help it stand straight. But while I am changed, I am still me. The tree needs hidden supports to keep it from falling. My unseen, yet important anchors are friends who stand by me, prayers that lift me up, and the decision to hunt for gratitude every single day.

I'm a bit messy. The tree drops needles, and has oozed sap on our hardwoods. We put a plastic sheet under it to make sure water didn't leak out. In its "realness" the tree brings issues that an artificial tree wouldn't. I try to be real, too, even though I'm messy:  I cry sometimes, I curse, and I write what is real, not necessarily what is tidy.

I can still let my light shine. The beautiful glow this tree gives off in the darkened family room is its own sort of magic. I no longer see the twine holding it up, the room feels 10 degrees warmer, and I experience the wonder of Christmas when I look at it. I, too, can bring light in the darkness to those who need it with a hug, laughter, or even by just be being me.

So can you! 

p.s. Oh, and one more similarity: I don't drink enough water, even though it's good for me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Why Did We Have to Say, "This is the Easiest Christmas Tree Ever!"?

Tonight we will either be successful shoring up our Christmas tree, or we'll be taking it down 11 days before Christmas. I wouldn't say this year's tree experience has been as rough as the time three years ago that Tim chopped the lights with gardening shears AFTER the entire tree was decorated, but it HAS been a challenge. The kids' tree is still front and center when you walk in the house, in its easy-to-assemble and semi-stable artificial glory, but the real tree downstairs has been causing problems.

Because of the difficulty of taking Andrew anywhere in the evening, I quickly picked a tree out by myself one morning this week instead of waiting for us all to go after work. I didn't like going by myself. It reminded me of doing that after my mom died. Maybe the tree didn't like it much either.

Plopping it in the stand, Tim and I both remarked on how easy it was, since the tree was smaller and lighter than usual.

However, no matter how many times we twisted, the screws wouldn't anchor on anything. The trunk was a soggy, pulpy mess. After about 10 minutes, Tim said he was giving up. I suggested we toss it on the back deck and throw some white lights on it for an outdoor decoration. Margaret begged us to rally, from her comfortable perch on the couch, of course.

I suggested we could anchor it to the walls with twine, as my grandpa would have done, but Tim was having none of that, saying, "I've never heard of anyone doing that before!" So, I guess if he hasn't heard of it, it can't possibly be a thing.

Eventually, he made little shims out of wood so that the screws would have somewhere to go, AND we used fishing line to anchor it to a heavy table on one side and my favorite hulking "dumpster dive" on the other. All was well, and I decorated it until 12:30 am.

The next day it was leaning.

And leaning.

And leaning.

We tightened all the things.

Because we are going on a trip, we don't think it's fair that our house sitters and the dogs should have to deal with a downed tree and potentially hundreds of broken glass ornaments.

So after Tim puts Andrew to bed tonight (Yay, Tim! He does it every night), we will assess whether to up our fishing line game, or take down the tree. I always love how spacious the house feels after the trees are down, but it does seem a bit early in the season for that...

I'll keep you posted!

p.s. I ran across this old post from 2009 in which I call the family by pseudonyms, show how grumpy I am, and mention a surprise after-40 pregnancy. What?!?