25 February 2016

Asserting Myself

I'm a quiet people-pleaser by nature, so I have a hard time asserting myself. Now that we have three kids and house, there are lots of family traditions I want to start or continue and ways I want to go about things in my new house. But I have to learn to set the rules and boundaries with guests, even if it annoys them and that's hard for me.

One example I've been working through is the use of our front door. I know it's a silly little thing, but it's important to me. So my house is situated such that the driveway and the front door are on two different roads. There is a short sidewalk that leads off the driveway to our back porch, which has been screened in. You can walk around to the front of the house, but you either have to cut across the snowy yard or follow the sidewalk around the pine tree.

The former owners used the back door as the front door, and everyone from the UPS guy to the neighborhood girl scouts come around that way. In fact, the UPS guy would rather leave a package outside the locked screen room in the rain or snow instead of walking around and putting it on my covered, cove-like front porch! It's so frustrating!

Now we're all settled and entertaining guests who've never been here before, yet almost every single person naturally goes around to the back of the house to come in the back door! Matt swears it's because there is a sidewalk right off the driveway, but I'm not fully convinced. I mean, a back door is one thing, but an enclosed screen room? It's pretty much a private space. I would not venture through one to go visit someone unless they specifically asked me to come through the back door. I mean, I know the front door is all the way around the corner and us Americans already get way too much exercise, but come on - it's a cozy and inviting covered front porch with flowers (or, there will be soon) and front steps!

The driveway street sees a decent amount of traffic, and not everyone obeys the speed limit, but there is street parking on Slow Street, which pretty much only hosts people living on this block. If I were a visitor, I'd definitely gravitate toward parking on the street and walking up the front walk. (The house really does have nice curb appeal!)

It bugs me for two main reasons. First, snow gets tracked through the screen room (which has terrible drainage), then the back door opens into a narrow hallway with no good place to put shoes and coats. The floors are wood, which means I need to worry about salt and melting snow from people's shoes. The front door opens onto a foyer with space for people to take off their shoes and coats, slate floors, tons of space to store said melty shoes, and a closet for coats.

The second reason is that I'd have to keep the screen door unlocked and I use the screen room as a staging place for kids coming in and out of the car. In the winter, I like to warm up the car, which I obviously need to have the garage door open to do. Right now I leave Abigail in the screen room and get the two babies loaded up, then come back for her. If I left her in the garage, she'd bolt for the street. If I left the door unlocked, I'd inevitably forget to lock it when we came out, and while I'm mindlessly loading Eleanor in, Abigail would open the door and bolt for Fast Road. I can't leave her in the house because she'll run downstairs and take her coat and shoes off.

It's just better for everyone if guests use the front door. But some people get annoyed with me!
"We tried the back door, but it was locked," the first thing they say after, "Hello."
One person in my life is actively mad at me for keeping the screen door locked.
It might help if I ran though my reasons whenever someone complained, but I don't want to have to explain myself like some naughty little girl waiting for the judge to issue approval. If I want people to use the small yellow bathroom or not to take self-guided tours through my house (and closets), I have that right. But I don't know how to assert that right or to handle it when people get unjustly offended.

I also don't know the proper etiquette to handle guests' kids. I'm not a natural with kids (I do try! Fake it till you make it!) But what do you do when you discover an unflushed toilet with the seat up? (It gets worse, but I'll spare you the details.) Or your kid covered in ashes from the downstairs stove when your kid isn't capable of opening up the door to the stove? Or a door open to a room you said no one could go in? Do you rally up all the kids and have a big lecture? Do you ask the oldest kid to tattle on one of his or her siblings? Do you make a list of rules and go over them every time you invite someone over to dinner like a school marm?

Thankfully the back door issue will resolve itself soon, as we are going to finish fencing in the backyard and get a dog as soon as the ground thaws. (At least, I hope no one jumps the fence into a backyard with a dog. Maybe I should check with Matt for our liability on that one.) But I am hosting my first family holiday this Easter and that will certainly put my ability to enforce boundaries and limitations to the test. I am going to do things a bit differently than they've ever been done before, I need to set aside (and enforce!) a place for my extremely crowd-resistant daughter to retreat, and I'm going to have to tell two people very close to me, "no." Not big deal "no," but any kind of "no" is hard.

Being an adult and being in charge can be very difficult, even when you know you are doing the right thing.

24 February 2016

The Office

It took wwwaaayyy longer than I thought and cost wwwaaayyy more than I thought, but the basement office is almost done now! I have a few finishing touches to add - after which I'll post some better pictures and a breakdown of the cost - but it's at least up and running now. I'm not in love with the way it turned out and it looks nothing like what I pictured in my head, but it achieved my primary goals of being a (1) kid-free and (2) comfortable place for Matt to work during the weekends.

I painted one wall with a warm (read: red undertone) grey I found in the stash of paint the homeowners left and another wall white. But I ran out of paint before I finished the white wall and had to go out to buy more paint! Despite buying the paint a few days ago, I just finished up the white wall today.

School was canceled due to intense snow and I have found that putting Theodore down for his afternoon nap in his car seat is an incredibly effective way of getting him to take a serious nap, so after he went down, I set the girls up with Frozen in the finished part of the basement while I worked on the unfinished part. Cleaning the painting supplies took longer than painting did, so I had plenty of time for other things.

The first other thing was to hide the exposed insulation. The homeowners left all the curtains when they moved, which are way nicer than mine, so mine have just been sitting in my linen closet. I had one for the girls' room that was dark blue that I'd sewn white fleece on to (black out + warm in winter!). Since we have nice curtains and non-drafty windows now, I cut the curtain into squares and tucked it around the insulation.

It hides the insulation really well. I re-swept out the corner and arranged the furniture. No furniture (except the lamp) was purchased in the making of this office. Our old kitchen table, the desk chair we already had, a two-shelf bookshelf from Florida, and an old kitchen chair all found new homes in Matt's office. The old kitchen chair is functioning as a place for me to sit when I come down to visit.

Once I had everything arranged, I hung up some pictures and awards of Matt's on the walls. A few days ago, the girls and I made a finger painting picture just for the space. Lots of fun, bright colors to brighten things up.

Lastly I hung up the sheer curtains from our apartment on the rafters to create a more private feeling. I'd envisioned hanging more substantial curtains that were not sheer and touched the floor, but curtains are very expensive and I was out of money.

Originally I had hoped to throw a few carpet remnants, but (1) I'm out of money and (2) The chair rolls really well on the concrete. So I'm going to make or buy a rug to put underneath for Matt to put his feet on. We'll also get a space heater next fall, or maybe earlier. Matt gets cold very easily and cozy spaces should not be uncomfortably chilly.

A few things I learned while doing this project:

1. Paint is expensive and you always need tons of it.
2. Never spray paint walls. Or ceilings.
3. Just because I grew up watching my dad do all kinds of projects, I was not magically instilled with project-doing skills.
4. It is really, really hard to create the image I see in my head in reality. I need to spend more time planning and researching before I dive in to my next project.

17 February 2016

Ceiling Blehs

Written on Tuesday, published on Wednesday.

I am pettily and selfishly mad at the whole world, so I have vehemently plopped my lazy tuchus on the couch and decided that if I blog, it counts as being productive. Because there is no way I'm finishing up all the things on the schedule I didn't do today. Because I'm mad at the schedule too.

Abigail was at school and Eleanor was asleep. I nursed Theodore until he was a limp little baby noodle and snuggled him in his Rock n' Sleeper. I then waited a few minutes to be sure everyone was asleep and headed downstairs to work on Matt's office. Last night I had run up to the local hardware store for more paint and a few other supplies, spending another $9 of our budget.

I figured three cans total would be sufficient and I was excited to finish the rafters.

I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed and sprayed. Misty clouds of spray paint hovered around my head and the air reeked and I was only half way done when I ran out of paint again. I was angry and frustrated. I wasn't getting good coverage, hard-to-reach places weren't getting any coverage, the can didn't want to spray upside down, and I had a very hard time getting paint off my skin. And at that rate, I was going to spend our whole budget on ceiling paint!

Angry and looking to make some progress, I decided to hold off on the ceiling and paint the walls for now. The sellers had left us a shelf of various cans of paint - some colors aren't even in this house - and I have been planning to use those random cans on the walls. I was scrounging around when I found It. A nearly full can of the same black the sellers used on the laundry room and bathroom ceiling! Adios, spray paint! My neck and shoulders are more sore, but it is definitely worth it. I'm getting great coverage with only one coat (which is good because I don't have enough paint for two coats), the brush fits in hard-to-reach places, and I can wash splotches off my skin.

I know the cardinal rule of construction(-ish) projects: It's going to take twice as long and cost twice as much as you plan. But I figured this was simple! I had planned to finish the ceiling on Monday, but it looks like I won't finish until Wednesday (I'm about 60% done as of Tuesday night). Oh, I have so much to learn.

I cleaned up and returned to the main floor to discover that Theodore was screaming his little head off and had woken up Eleanor from her nap. The two fussed and whined and complained until Abigail got home. Everyone calmed down after some food and a few upbeat songs.

We snuggled a bit on the couch until Foxy Man, overly tired from his stinky naps, started loosing his cool again. He was all:

So I'd pick him up and bounce him until he calmed down. Then Eleanor would be all:

So I'd put Theodore down and snuggle with Eleanor until he cried. Then I'd put her down and snuggle with him until she cried. Then I tried to snuggle them both at the same time and they both cried. So I tried ignore them both and taking pictures with Abigail.

But the constant, needless crying was draining me fast.

 I decided Theodore had the more valid complaint, so I focused my attention on him.

Eleanor laid on the floor, shoving her book under the Rock n' Sleeper, then sobbing because the Rock n' Sleeper was touching her book, but at least Theodore was happy. Until he wasn't.

I finally gave up. "Who wants ice cream?!" I asked with forced cheerfulness. The girls looked at me in disbelief, but I hopped up, changed Theodore's diaper, and put my boots on. "Come on! Boots and coats and ice cream!" Eleanor ran to get her boots and Abigail ran into Eleanor's room shouting, "No!" I spent a good seven minutes trying to get Abigail ready, but she kept running away and ripping her coat off. I was hauling Eleanor and Theodore to the car when Matt got home. I'd planned to head back inside and drag Abigail out once I got them buckled, but Matt offered to stay home with her. I drove, Theodore slept, and Eleanor was happy. I used some coupons that made the outing totally free, we happily ate our ice cream, and we happily drove home. Although I felt a bit guilty and weak for giving in to an outing so quickly when we left, I now felt calm and in control of my faculties. Until I walked in the door and Matt informed me that Abigail had a very hard time and had gone completely nonverbal. She was an anxious mess and stayed that way until she went to bed. She thinks I left her. She knows we got ice cream without her. She looked for some when I got home, but i didn't bring any back for her. Cue Guilt! So now I am plopped on the couch, frustrated with my crappy parenting skills. And to top it all off, I feel hugely fat with all this baby weight that is not coming off because restricting calories while nursing is hard and then I go and stress eat ice cream. Bleh, bleh, bleh. I am so over today, but so not ready for tomorrow, when I will be single-handedily covering bedtime. So bleh, bleh, phooy on today and the lame-o ceiling and the lame-o sob fests.

16 February 2016

The Next Project: A Basement Office

Now that we're all settled in and back to a routine, I'm ready to take on a new project. My project? A basement office on on shoestring budget.

Matt often has to work on the weekends, and right now that looks like this: 

As you probably guessed, he doesn't get as much work done as he wants, and he often has to work from the girls' bedtime to our bedtime in order to get anywhere close to his weekly goals. The kids and I interrupt him throughout all his weekend work time because we are excited to have him home. He needs a quiet place to work or sooner or later he's going to have to start heading into the office.

Our basement is half finished and half unfinished, separated by a masonry wall and a huge door that locks from both sides.

The kids aren't allowed in the unfinished half and the door is kid proof, so we decided it was the perfect place for him to work. This way he'll be able to work from home and be productive. Right now the cobweb-filled space has dirty concrete floors and open rafters. Here's a fabulous before photo:

Matt said he doesn't care how it looks, but I really want to give him a better space. I think once it's all done, he'll realize it was worth it. Our shoestring budget is a whooping $50. Anything over the $50 will come out of my own personal free spending money. For the last week, when I'm up nursing Theodore at night, I've been brainstorming ideas and prioritizing them for budget purposes. I am hopefully that I'll be able to convince Theodore to nap alone when Eleanor naps, which happens to fall when Abigail is in school. With no kids for a good two hours, I should be able to make excellent progress without taking time away from the regular daily schedule.

So far I've spent $16 of our $50 on supplies:

-Face masks
-Rollers to paint the walls
-Spray paint for the ceiling

Abigail had Monday off, so I brought her downstairs with me and set her up at our old kitchen table/Matt's new desk with the tablet while I got some work done. First up: cleaning. I swept out the rafters, swept the walls, and swept the floor. Then I measured out a space, making sure to include an outlet and a window. His office measures 8.5 feet by 10 feet, and I outlined it with masking tape.

Since, obviously, putting up a proper ceiling is out of the budget, I decided to paint the rafters "Dark Walnut." The previous homeowners did the same thing in the laundry room and the basement bathroom and it looks really nice - You don't even notice the exposed tubes and ugly rafters. I opted for spray paint, which I thought would be easier than painting over my head with a brush. It is. So the third thing I did on Monday was to start painting. I opened a window to the subzero temps (with windchill) and plugged in a fan. I finished about a quarter of the ceiling when I ran out of paint, and after 1.5 hours of playing quietly by herself, Abigail was done with the basement.

I have lots of ideas, but I'll reveal them as we go, since some will have to be cut due to money. My goal is to finish by next Monday. Then I'll be on to my next project, the girls' Easter present. It's going to be awesome : )

15 February 2016

Yay, Routine!

We've been settled in to our new house for about two weeks, but now I have finally created a new daily schedule and gotten back into meal planning, so our days finally have a reliable routine. I thought it would be nice taking a break from the schedule, working and relaxing as desired, but, spoiler alert: it wasn't. There was no clean laundry, the unplanned dinners were lame, I was frustrated when the kids' bedtime came and I still had a giant list of chores to finish before the day was out. Our first day back on a schedule and by the time Matt came home from work, chores were done, I was happy, and life was peaceful. I love schedules: I get chores done, time with the kids, and time to myself.

Especially time with this one, who has become very clingy in the last few weeks, going from willingly napping alone to refusing to nap without me.

I always wear him in the morning now, throughout chores and playtime, switching between the ring sling and the Ergo depending on my mood.

One of our final days in the apartment.

The girls are still in love with the house, running up and down the hall, darting from room to room like one of those cartoons where the characters run in the first door, but come out the second door.

A return to stability means a return to dress up, baking, and all-around silliness.


09 February 2016

The Spirit of Lent

Hey look! Two blog posts in a span of time that is not that long! Anyway, I wanted to talk about something that's been driving me nuts lately. Inevitably, in the days preceding Lent, my Facebook wall fills up with posts from friends, "No, pregnant and nursing moms do not have to fast for Lent!" A few of my friends even write blog posts defending this position. These graphics (found here) explain the Catholic Church's position on fasting.

So when I see these plentiful "You don't have to fast!" posts, I wonder to myself, "Who are these goody-goody Catholics who are adamantly defending not eating while growing/nourishing human life?" I mean seriously - are you bragging about being pregnant or nursing and skipping meals? Well, yay for you, now go find a closet and pray for humility. Never have I encountered someone who was like, "Hey, do you have a baby in there? Well, I certainly hope you didn't eat a full bowl of cereal for breakfast this morning!" I didn't think those people existed!

I, personally, hate fasting. No food is hard. Who likes hard? Whenever I happen to be pregnant or nursing during Lent, I'm always like, "Booyah! Food for me!"

In fact, I'm not even giving up anything for Lent this year! Well, I'll refrain from meat on Fridays. But this girl will continue imbibing coffee, sugar in her coffee, chocolate, fast food, Facebook, the works. At this point in my life - with three kids under five/three kids in diapers - giving up any food item would just be punitive. We don't have a TV for me to give up, I rarely get online during the day anymore, and I don't even have a Facebook app on my tablet or smart phone. Getting creative with my penitential suffering (No soda! No crocheting! No reading fiction! No...buying the yummy granola bars?) wouldn't deepen my relationship with God. It would be very "letter of the law" instead of "spirit of the law."

Right now what I need are extras for my spiritual life. When you spend a majority of your day cooking, doing laundry, and changing diapers, it's easy to forget about prayer, Jesus' suffering and dying on the cross, you know, the little things in life. So this year, while my youngest wakes up 2-3 times a night to nurse and my oldest thinks it's perfectly acceptable to take her snowy boots off every time we get in the car and hit her sister in the face with them, I'm going to (re)start saying a daily Rosary, go to adoration once a week (at night after the kids go down), respect the third commandment with less work and shopping on Sundays, and go to Mass every Sunday I'm not sick. (Right now, if one of the girls is sick, I stay home with her and Matt takes the healthy one to 9:30am Mass. During lent, I'll then go to the 11:30am Mass by myself when someone is sick.)

At the end of Lent, instead of making sweet love to a chocolate bar, I'll have significantly strengthened my spiritual life and grown closer to God. And isn't that the point of Lent?

06 February 2016

I Love My House and My Life

I apologize for my lack of blogging and for my pathetic follow through on promises of future posts. In this case no news is simply...IT related. You see, the wireless card in my "vintage" computer died many moons ago and the router (or modem - whichever it is that I have to manual plug my computer in to) is not in a convenient place for my computer to be located during the day. So I can only blog in the evening after the kids go down. But I usually have some work to do around the house, so by the time I finally settle down for the night, I'm too exhausted bother with getting online.

BUT...I am happy. Very, truly, deeply happy. I love my house. I love having a little newborn baby around again. I love being downtown. I love plodding down the carpeted stairs to my cozy basement, plopping down on my super-comfy sofa while the girls run around and play. I love coming home through the back door, the first thing I see is the subway tile backsplash and the roses Matt bought me just because. I love watching the girls run up and down the hallway to each other's rooms. I love watching the cat lose traction and skid sideways across the hardwood floors when she runs. I love sitting in my rocking chair, nursing Theodore, and imagining what the kids' memories will be of growing up in this house. I feel safe, secure, and blessed. Really, really blessed. This hardy, well-kept house that we live in with the quality kitchen and the new roof. Two reliable cars tucked away in a sound garage. Windows that don't let in moisture and warm water on demand. Every plank of wood in the floor, brick around the fireplace, well-kept tile in the bathroom is a reminder of this amazing gift God gave me. Everything is so new and so exciting - it is easy to remember to give thanks over and over throughout the day.

I am still working on settling into a new schedule during the day and fitting in all the new house chores, so I am rather inefficient during the day. When combined with house projects (like rehabbing a second dresser for Eleanor!), I am so tired at the end of every day! I have so much to say though, so I will be making a greater effort to blog.

Oh, I am so happy. So very picture-perfect, no-one-rock-the-boat, too-good-to-be-true happy. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, thank you.