Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Just a few pictures from our day today, a lovely and restful Christmas Day. December has been kind of rough on our health and nerves, and I'm feeling relieved already that the Big Day is behind us. I don't really want to feel that way about The Most Wonderful Time of the Year but hey, there it is. All the same, today was nice. I'm always thankful when we are all home together, and as the pile of presents must show, we have every blessing our little hearts could desire. All is well. 

Oh, and I failed to give my little girl her birthday post. Caroline turned 3 two weeks ago! 

She's such a pal, always by my side and willing to help with most any project. She helped with cookies yesterday for a solid ninety minutes. She excels at puzzles, is a careful artist, loves her stuffed animal friends, dresses up as a cat or fox or Elsa without fail for some part of every day, and adores her Daddy. Her main goal in life right now is to make sure Matthew Does Not Get Her Stuff; patience is not a virtue. But she's a doll, and was probably my favorite kid to shop for this year. Happy Birthday, baby girl! 

Wishing you many continued warm and fuzzy Christmas moments in the week ahead. Now that the stress is mostly done I'll be clinging to the warm and fuzzies as much as I can. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Thankful Story

I started this post over Thanksgiving weekend, really wanting to have it published for Thanksgiving day, and honestly, meaning to have written it months ago. But it is one of those pieces of writing that I have spent too much time thinking about and therefore get a bit hung up on. But here it goes anyway. 


I must not let the occasion of Thanksgiving pass without a pause to count at least a few of my blessings here for posterity. There are the obvious: wonderful husband, four healthy and amazing children, supportive and loving family (and living in the same state as them for the first time in ten years!), a big, beautiful house of our very own, and a free country to live in. This year I am also especially grateful for the odd combination of circumstances that allowed D to be home for almost all of Matthew's first five months - when he was born it looked like Don was going to be far far away for the first half of 2016 and by the grace of God things kept changing and he ended up being home more consecutive nights than ever before in our CG career. I'm still feeling thankful for that. 

What I really want to write about in the spirit of thanksgiving is a story from this summer, one that I kept wanting to share here but never found the time to write. It is a kitty story. Ready? 

I would like to suggest that the most complicated part of moving across country both directions was deciding how to move our two cats. On our way west two years ago we made the decision to leave our third cat (a recent addition) behind with my parents. That cat has thanked his lucky stars ever since and my parents just love him. Our other two cats, Ollie and Humphrey, traveled west with us as carry-ons, "in-cabin pets" - a maneuver made possible only because my brother was able to fly with the kids and I and helped manage two freaked-out cats. That was quite a story in its own right. This summer's move, two years later, we also decided that flying with the cats in-cabin would be the least stressful on them and most practical option for cost and time. Don was flying with us this time, since we came out together to close on the house. 

Both cats barely tolerated the upheaval of our household goods getting boxed up by a bunch of strangers. They knew what was coming as the house emptied. On the day we left, I shoved two very reluctant travelers into their airline-approved carriers, said a prayer, and crammed them into our very full rental car. 

At the airport (a regional airport, only a few miles from the house), we unloaded our 8 checked bags, car seats, feline travelers, and children, and thought we were managing fairly well by the time we got to security. Then the frumpy TSA agent announced that we would need to remove the cats from their carriers to send the bags through the x-ray. I laughed, and argued, but ultimately we complied, and my dear husband carried a squirming Ollie successfully through the checkpoint and redeposited him in his bag safely on the other side. 

Then it was Humphrey's turn. 

Humphrey has always been the more skittish cat, and a bustling airport was pretty much his personal idea of kitty hell. As we tried desperately to get a panicking cat back into his tiny carrier his back claws found Don's forearm and he flew out of the hands that were trying so hard to hold him. He flew up the window, he flew down the escalator (I doubt his paws even touched one step). He flew out the open door to the tarmac. 

A blurry few moments follow: Dear husband dashes off in stocking feet to attempt retrieval. Yours truly shakily reassembles laptops, lunches, shoes and children and waits an ungodly amount of time for an agent to bring the damn elevator key so we can get the stroller to the departure level. Kids are frightened and worried. Husband returns empty-handed. 

At this point I have more curse words than I thought I knew flying through my head but I'm calm on the outside, and oddly relieved that I won't have to worry about a freaked-out cat having a major coronary episode mid-flight. What else can we do? All security agents are guiltily searching and calling everywhere outside the airport. The plane is leaving; we have no choice but to get on. We leave our empty carrier and contact info with another TSA agent, a kind lady who assures us that she, too, is a cat lover and will find Humphrey and keep him safe and "send" him out to us. Even the pilot tries to make calls on our behalf, once we get to San Francisco. 

The remainder of our travel was as uneventful as a delayed connection and red-eye flight with four children and one cat can be. A limo picked us and all our stuff up at 3 a.m. in New York and we made it safely to my parents' house by dawn. We tell the story but it all seems a little unreal. Again, what can we really do? 

The next two weeks were filled with the details of jet lag and home buying and a sick baby. In between all that I reached out to a few people back in Oregon, feeling strongly that the runaway cat story wasn't over yet. It all seemed like a long-shot but surprisingly word of our airport runaway spread in the local community (we joked that we were just a few facebook shares away from ending up on the evening news). My good friend ("S") stopped by our old house everyday to see if Humphrey made it back there. Neighbors sent pictures, thinking they had found him (turned out to be a look-alike stray). After two weeks I woke up to a message with a picture of OUR cat and I could hardly believe it. Our friendly TSA agent ("K") had been contacted by a man living near the airport who fed the local strays and had recognized Humphrey from the picture that had been posted around. K spent her Saturday setting a live-trap for Humphrey and succeeded in catching him and getting him safely to her own house. We were amazed and thankful, to say the least! 

But the thankfulness doesn't end there. I am eternally grateful to my friend S who eagerly agreed to foster poor Humphrey for the next five-plus weeks. Don had to return to the west coast shortly after our house closing to properly finish his tour. He was staying with the ship, in California no less, until he and his dad made the cross-country drive with our second car. 

Humphrey was cared for lovingly by S and her family. After D was finished with his job with the ship in CA he drove back north 9 hours to pick up one crazy cat, and he and his dad made best speed across the big wide country, arriving in CT six days later, and seven weeks after Humphrey's airport escape, at the very end of July. 

Humphrey was healthy but skinny and definitely had some kitty PTSD. He was hostile toward Ollie and even more skittish than usual. But we were pleased and relieved to see that melt away in the first few weeks he was home and he was quickly back to his usual self. 

He is still a cat that prefers one-on-one time and tends to avoid the bustle of the day around here, but in the evening he is always affectionate and likes to hang out in the bathroom with me while I shower so he can tell me a few things. I thought of writing this story in connection with Thanksgiving because this silly orange is my daily reminder to be thankful - thankful that friends and strangers cared so much about one little cat and our family and went out of their way to reunite him with us. It is often the smallest things that really are the biggest things.

I'm sure there are details I'm leaving out, but I don't want to let any more time go by without telling this whole story and using it as a chance to say Thank You again to everyone who helped and prayed for our kitty. And I hope this tale can be a reminder that very real miracles absolutely do happen! 

Thanks for listening, back soon (I hope) with updates on a newly-minted three-year-old and other tales of early December. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Fourth First Birthday

I can hardly believe that a whole year has gone by since this little guy joined us. Such a year! Matthew got a special treat for his first birthday - snow!  We are spending TG week here at my folks' house and we woke up on Sunday to a quite respectable snowfall! This is the first snow any of my kids have seen, or remembered, since Amy was three and William only a baby during our last real winter. They were all so excited! It made the day extra-special. 

Of course we traveled without any snow gear, so everyone got chilly pretty quick, but Matthew was suitably impressed with the whole experience. 

I made a carrot cake, which he loved. My brother added the Little Person on top. 

First birthdays have always felt for me, the parent, as a "phew, we made it!" sort of milestone. The hard work of parenting has really only just begun, but I can say we survived our first year with four. Matthew may be quite a little fellow, but he's been walking for months and is well on his way to keeping up with everyone. He is such a lovey, cuddly, sweet, goofy, busy boy. The big kids dote on him and are enchanted with his every accomplishment. We are so blessed to have him in our family. Happy Birthday, my boy! 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Amy's Bedroom Makeover

Ah, was hoping to get to this earlier in the week but alas! the election! Such excitement. Feeling thankful this week, and wishing I could make everyone feel as positive and hopeful as I do. Buuuut that's not my department, so instead I'll show before and afters of Amy's room. A few weeks ago she went on her first real sleepover with friends and with her birthday coming up, too, it seemed like the perfect occasion to empty her room for a weekend and start fresh. Like most of the house, there was nothing too wrong with the paint color, but her room had clearly suffered the most wear in terms of scuffs and nail holes. Also, we've been carting around the antique Jenny Lind bed frame that belonged to my great-grandparents for years now, and it seemed fitting that it get put to use in my eldest's room. So, here's where we started: 

My usual helpers were on hand at the start of the painting. 

I started off with Benjamin Moore's "Gray Owl", which is number 52 below. It looked great, but as I started the second cost I realized that I wasn't going to have enough, so I got the crazy idea to do two walls in a darker color. I chose "Timber Wolf" and ran out for another gallon. At first I was afraid I had gone too dark, but after the colors cured up a bit it looks perfect. They are both a bit cooler than this photo below represents. I think I'll use Gray Owl again in Caroline's room; it really is a lovely gray. 

For the new full bed I ordered a mattress and boxspring off amazon. Awesome! The mattress came in a very small box but unrolled and poofed up just as advertised. 

Amy knew about the paint of course but I was able to surprise her with the bed and some other new art and accessories by doing one furious transformation day while she was at school. She was so pleased! 

The white trim makes all the difference, I think, tedious as it is to do. I'm so pleased with how it all turned out! Caroline's room is next, though I'm not sure I have it in me to pull that off before Christmas. I want to continue the trim painting downstairs as well and redo the powder room. Lots of projects in the homeowner's queue! 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Nine, Horsing Around

It must be around this age, fourth grade or so, where a Mom stops aging - my own nine seems so very recent, and I can't quite make it seem (in my own head) like I'm old enough to have a nine-year-old myself. And yet, here she is:

She's smart and confident and polite and all those good things. She has a few kinks to work out, too. She's an awesome big sister, a fantastic optimist, and endlessly adaptable. She'll be a great leader some day. She and I are very different and yet each day I see some part of myself in her. She's the trail blazer, and during this past year that I've spent with my fourth baby I've realized just how much I didn't know in Amy's early years. God bless her for putting up with me. 

This was a very busy weekend for us all, as we had a good old fashioned girls-from-class birthday party here at the house for her on Saturday. Craft, cake, and then they all went outside to play in the leaf pile. Fairly painless, and Amy was delighted. 

In an amazing coincidence Amy shares her birthday with new BFF and neighbor, and today was her friend's party. So we spent the afternoon at the barn for Amy's first true horse experience. Matthew came too and also fell deeply in love with the horses. Don took W and C to the aquarium and we all met back later for presents and dinner at home. It was a very memorable day! 

(PS no Matthew did not get his fingers bitten and yes he has a horrible-looking scrape on his nose. It wasn't really that bad; just a poor decision on the concrete stoop. However, I could pay for preschool if I charged for the number of times I've told that story in the last three days.) 

Stay tuned, I want to share about Amy's "present" - her room makeover. This week I promise! 

Monday, October 31, 2016


This might have been my favorite Halloween yet, because I didn't have to do a thing for anyone's costume besides rescue and re-tape a cardboard box from the recycling bin. That would be for William's "Enderman" outfit, a figure from Minecraft, which the older kids have had a fleeting obsession with. The only flaw was low visibility from the box, so he did most of his trick-or-treating headless. Amy was very secretive about her costume, making her decision several weeks ago but giving no clues besides finding everything wearable that was blue. She was a Navidian (Dividian?) from Star Trek... She doesn't watch Star Trek, but somehow in her passing exposure to the show she picked out this race of creature as something worth dressing as. Caroline was delighted to wear her "cat costume" consisting of the black ears and tail she has been wearing just about every day for a month now anyway. She was so in to the whole trick-or-treating concept this year, racing along with the big kids and all their friends and declaring to me in joy and disbelief after every house, "I got another piece of candy!!"  Matthew started off in a nap, but woke up happily dressed in the cozy warm raccoon jacket costume I picked up at Goodwill years ago for just a couple of dollars, I think. It has been in the closet for ages. He was a great sport. They all were, and I wish I had more and better pictures of each of them in the costumes of their own creation. 

(I gave myself extra points for the fact that there were also raccoons on his blanket.) 

And, as a side note, how fortunate we all feel to be living in a neighborhood so ideal for trick-or-treating. Feeling so blessed in so many ways these days.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Yarn Season

To pick up where I left off several weeks ago, let's talk about some more projects. Right around the first of October something pinged in my head and I knew it was time to wake up the knitting needles. I have no shortage of projects started, but I haven't touched any of them in quite awhile. Plus, after finally getting my sewing and craft stuff organized I've been forced to confront this rather large bin of leftover or unused yarn. I've been sifting through it over the last several weeks, considering projects different from what I might have intended to use skeins for originally, or ways to combine the leftovers into something pretty or useful. 

So far this season, I'm on a bit of a roll. 

First I wanted to make another helix knit hat. I followed the same general pattern I'd made successfully twice before, this time with leftover purple and pink Red Heart acrylic and presto! A hat for Caroline. 

You can see in the first picture my very not-done to-do list that I was ignoring in favor of some knitting time. In the second picture is the yellow and black helix hat I made for William a few years ago that he still actually wears and likes. Currently I'm whipping through another hat with a different yarn, also from the stash, this time for Amy:3

Might have enough to make a cowl, too. Small projects like this are so fast and satisfying! 

On the opposite side of the speed spectrum is this doozy: 

The beginnings of a attempt to use up all my cheap acrylic afghan yarn once and for all. Working on this project in just a simple giant granny is fun and mindless but gives me some déjà vu because of all the hours I've logged with these colors over the years, in several large-scale projects, most of which were sent off as gifts. Fortunately most of the colors I have on hand work together and go with my living room, so a mix-y, casual blanket to snuggle with should be just right. 

Speaking of the living room, I finally sprung for a rug and end tables and proper lamps, which all together have improved that room tremendously. Here's a quick before and after: 

With these new additions I feel like I finally have a grown up living room. What do you think, should we paint the mantle white?

That's about all I've got for the moment though I hope to keep up the good knitting and crochet momentum; I do love it so and like to report on my projects. I'll sign off with my attempts at catching the autumn beauty going on all around us right now. It's just amazing, especially after being away from New England for so long.  

Hope you all have had many beautiful moments in your week, too! Back soon! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Small Projects

Slowly but surely little (and big) projects are being completed around here. Caroline is my super-helper, and she had quite a hand in the painting and staining of the pieces in this post. 

Over the summer I picked up a 1960s ugly but functional dresser from a trendy little thrift store. Somewhere I have a Before picture but I can't put my finger on it. You can imagine I'm sure. I tried Rustoleum's "chalked" paint on this, since the whole chalk paint idea is good for low-prep and high coverage. The color was off the shelf "serenity" and I used their recommended matte varnish over top. The paint was a little drippy, but covered well, and the varnish was a little bubbly, but in the end I love how it turned out and I think it will be quite serviceable. 

For now this dresser is hanging out in my sewing space, holding fabric and other supplies. Since taking this picture Don and I removed the kitchen cabinet from the wall. Not as useful as it might seem. This corner of our finished basement is the last stronghold of chaos in the house - it's been the home for everything that hasn't otherwise found a home. This week Caroline and I have been spending our mornings trying to organize it all into something much less cluttered. It's looking better now; I hope I can show you a more finished area soon. 

Next up my lovely assistant models the completed bench in the completed front entry! I am SO proud of this project because it took our entry from a scuffed up wall and a lot of shoes (again, I need the before picture!) into a really lovely first impression when you come in the front door. 

Don and I built the black shelf on the wall, installed the beadboard and chair rail (I had already painted) and made the bench. We are feeling pretty pumped about out combined carpentry skills! It all warrants more detail. I'm going to try to get pictures better organized onto my computer soon and then will be back to fill in the details on this all and other adventures in homeownership!