Friday, August 29, 2014

the new job and the mid-year evaluation of life

Back in July, Nathan got a full-time job.

I put a period after that sentence to pretend like hey, no big deal, but actually...

Nathan got a full-time job!!!

We were relieved, happy, overjoyed, excited, etc.

We celebrated.

But we also high-fived each other for having made it through seven-and-a-half years of marriage without either of us ever holding a full-time job with benefits.  Seven and a half years of freelancing and part-time jobs and self-employment and paying for our own insurance out of pocket, and you know what?  Life wasn't too shabby.  We had an apartment, then bought a house, then bought a second house.  We both got graduate degrees.  We had two kids.  We survived.  Maybe we even thrived at times.

But it was also hard, and particularly since he had lost a job he loved a year ago.  The last year for us was really, really hard sometimes.  The past year of Nathan's work situation involved him often being gone for 12-hour days, and then working from home whenever he was actually home.  Oh, and during that year I had hyperemesis again, this time with a toddler to keep up with while I puked, and a husband too busy to help much.

So when he was granted the position of full-time Director of Music at a large and wonderful church in Boston, we were pretty thrilled.  Life was going to be different.  Better.  Much better, probably.

Well, it's been a little hard to tell how much better it's going to be so far, because what with the attic renovation project, Nathan still kind of works all hours all the time.  But there have been glimpses.  Like already having a little bit more money and a little bit less freaking out, and having days where we get to spend time together as a family, and an evening here or there where Nathan helps with bath time and bedtime and all that good stuff.  Bliss, I'm telling you, pure bliss.

* * *

Well, back in January, I said goodbye to 2013, and wished for some specific things to happen in 2014.  The remarkable thing is, here we are eight months through the year and already there are so many good things to celebrate.  First and foremost is not the new job but the new baby, little miss Ree, so healthy and delightful.  Then there's the new job, a relief both in terms of our finances going forward and the time we'll get to spend together, all four of us.

I'm surviving being a mama of two, and loving it.

I wanted to work in my garden, and I even with a new baby I managed a lot of work on our front yard and got it looking downright presentable.

I wanted to sew more, and I have -- including two quilts for my girls!  {Nell's quilt // Marie's quilt}

Looking back at that New Year's post, I see that I wanted to do more house-fixing-up projects.  Little did I know that the brother-in-law would ask us to renovate our attic and turn it into an apartment for himself and his new bride, and a seven-month project would commence.  It's been crazy, but now that the work is nearly finished and they are living up there, it already feels so worth it.  It's a cozy little space with the vibe of a Manhattan studio apartment, exposed brick walls and sloping ceilings lending an old-building charm to it.  In any case, be careful what you wish for, because you might just get months of air compressors and nail guns and power tools filling your home when you say you want to fix up the place a little bit.

I wrote that I wanted to keep de-cluttering our home by selling things on eBay, and hoped for $1,000 worth of sales.  Well, here it is the end of August, and my total sales on eBay are now over $2,000, so I've officially sold more than $1,000 worth in 2014 so far.  Not really germane to this blog, and I have no intentions of turning this into a place where I document my eBaying successes, but if you have stuff you want to get rid of and you need to make a few bucks, I totally recommend it as a worthwhile venture.

* * *

As for the matter of the new job for this brilliant husband of mine, he was officially "installed" as the new music director this past Sunday, and we celebrated with brunch at a lovely restaurant just up the street from the church.  Nathan was even in a good enough mood to oblige with a "selfie" (an us-ie?  a two-sie?  a we-sie?).

And in case this sounds like a lot of bragging about how not-too-horrible our life is right now, but don't worry -- I'm planning a post soon that will be full of pictures of just how, um, real our real life can be around here.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

the attic renovation project

It's been the spring and summer of the great construction project.  The third floor attic renovation that has curiously managed to take over my entire house, and left me wondering how it can be that we are paying a sizable mortgage payment every month for a five bedroom house, and yet somehow I don't have a quiet place to lay my baby down for naps anymore.

The air compressor, the nail gun, and the drill blast through Nell's nap time every afternoon.  She wakes too soon and decidedly too grumpy, day after day.  A large shopvac blocks the hallway, preventing me from coming and going to Nell's room except by turning sideways and squeezing past, inevitably squishing a foot or an arm of whichever child is in my arms and eliciting squawks of protest.  My kitchen pantry cabinet, instead of holding steel cut oats and almonds and canned goods, was home to a saw and other sundry tools for a week or longer recently.  My living room wall boasts four small drilled holes, a means of searching out some electrical question or other, and small piles of plaster dust in nearly every other room of the house belie similar explorations having occurred elsewhere, too.

I've given up trying to sweep the stairs or the upstairs hallway.  I've given up trying to vacuum anything, either, but only because the vacuum is literally inaccessible.  It is put away neatly in its corner in the guest room... and now covered with the things of our new tenants, my poor long-suffering brother- and sister-in-law who will be living in our newly renovated attic space as soon as it is finished.

A queen sized mattress leans against a wall in our TV room.  The second bedroom upstairs, intended to be Nell's "big girl room" soon, would be an ideal place to put a dresser for her clothes so that I wasn't cramming everything for both girls into the one smallest bedroom in the house, into the four little baskets of a changing table.  Yes, it would be ideal -- if it weren't currently filled with stacks upon stacks of things belonging to these new housemates of ours.

Even the garage is filled with things not mine, filled to capacity and beyond, so that entering it is nearly impossible and certainly walking from one side to the other would be inviting personal injury, and I can't store Nell's outdoor toys there this summer.

Our master bedroom, probably the only room not directly affected by the renovation and the new housemates, is messy.  "Messy," really, seems inadequate to describe it, in fact.  But with no other room available to lay the baby for her naps, she naps there, on our bed, and thus every time that my arms are free and I could tidy the bedroom, instead I must vacate the bedroom to let sleeping babies lie.

It's possible that a person might find these events upsetting, even aggravating.  Another woman might have reached her limit weeks ago, or even months ago.  And I can't say there hasn't been frustration over the course of this project.  But it wasn't the enormous saw stored on the nursery floor for several days that challenged my sanity -- no, that just made me laugh.  It wasn't the constant noise of the power tools leading Nell to wander the house saying, "Daddy, BANG BANG BANG!  BANG BANG BANG!" to describe the process unfolding upstairs.

It was the smell of cigarette smoke on the plasterers' clothing today as they came and went from my house all day long today, slamming the door repeatedly with no understanding of the importance of quiet for children napping.  That smell, that wretched smell.  It was today that I felt, for a brief moment, as though I might have reached my limit.

And then I poured myself an iced coffee and reminded myself that I have a house, a roof over my head and the heads of my children.

We have a future, this little family of mine, and one where we won't fear for our lives daily.  We plan for this future with extravagant ideas like buying furniture someday for those extra bedrooms because we have incomes and we can do things like buy things occasionally.  We dwell within these walls, we have food on our table each night, we bow our heads in gratitude.  We practice our faith with freedom and without fear.

We have family, these in-laws who are our new tenants, a dearly loved aunt and uncle to our kids, here sharing our home with us for the time being.  There are families twice this size not so very far across the globe from us who live together in just one room, and us?  We have ten rooms.  We have shared pizza nights and glasses of wine and laughter together.  We have in-house babysitters who love our kids because they are family.  We have a finally-almost-finished (!) attic that will improve the value of our home should we decide to sell it someday, or give us a lovely play space someday if we stay here for the long term.

Perspective.  Family.  And grace to endure a few more days of chaos.  That's what I chose to breathe deeply of today when for a moment I thought all I could smell was the cigarette smoke.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ree at Two Months

Seeing as the babe is now three months old, I figured I may as well sit down and record a few memories and pictures from two months!

Weighing in at just over 12 lbs, by the time she turned two months old, Ree had rolled over once in bed, quite by accident of course, and surprised herself as much as she surprised us.  She was sleeping long chunks at night -- 4-6 hours mostly, plus one memorable 8 hour stretch in the beginning of July! -- making her Mama very happy.  She also was a champ at taking naps alone {as long as she was swaddled according to her ladyship's particular preference}, with at least one 3-4 hour nap each afternoon.  Hands free time to tend to the toddler!  Hurrah!  She transfers pretty well from nursing into the co-sleeper beside our bed now, too, so we're all getting good {well, as good as could be expected in any case} sleep at night for the most part.

During a couple of afternoons in late June, I accomplished every mother's greatest aspiration, and got both girls to nap at the same time.  Several times.  This was around 6-7 weeks postpartum, and I was feeling my energy returning and was just dying to get some yard work done, so I used those precious nap times to do just that.  The front yard now looks so much better than it did last summer {yes, those italics are necessary}, and it was totally worth wearing myself out and not being declared totally recovered by my midwife until Ree was ten weeks old.

Marie is a tall one, in the 98th percentile for length at her two month appointment.  Grow, baby, grow! Tall like Daddy.

She continued to hate her car seat with a passion well into her second month of life, but occasionally permitted a brief trip to the grocery store without screaming.  Thank you, little lady.

We introduced a bottle once, and she took it like a champ, and since then I've totally fallen off that wagon and failed with the oh-so-important follow-through of continuing to offer her one weekly or thereabouts.  Oops.  Hope she'll take one again when it's next needed.

When Ree was one month old, I looked back at photos of Nell at one month, and all those smiles, and remarked to Nathan that Ree really hadn't smiled yet.  At all.  And just when we were figuring she was going to be the introspective {unhappy?} second child who never cracked a smile...


And then tried to play it like "Who, me?  I don't smile."

Actually, she started smiling a lot, wonderful smiles that involve her whole body, her little belly tightening and her arms flailing.  Oh I love that.

Her big sister dotes on her.

And while Marie seems at times unconvinced by the idea of being mauled hugged by a two-year-old...

...she also saves some of her very best smiles for that wonderful big sister of hers.

Dear Marie, 
I am utterly, totally, completely addicted to the softness and sweetness of your cheeks.  I must press my own cheek up against yours at least fifty times a day.  No exaggeration.  I'm convinced that if this cheek-nuzzling euphoria could be bottled up and sold, it would be the antidote to everything wrong or broken in the world.  It's perfection.  You are perfection!  We love you. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

a few of Nell's vocal escapades... on video

Nell is a great lover of music, and enjoys singing throughout the day.  She's an expert at classics like "Eency weency spider" and "Baa baa black sheep," but she also likes to improvise and sing on random syllables.  Here are a few good ones I've captured lately.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

I'm joining Like Mother, Like Daughter for another {pretty happy funny real} post today. And I'm realizing that I haven't done one of these since before our little Ree was born!  Time flies and all that.


Sunflowers on my mantle!  Sometimes flowers are worth the $3.99 for all the cheer they bring to a room, don't you think?


I was happy to come across this vintage 1950's Amsco 'Doll-E-Crib' metal toy crib for just $15 recently.  It provides a charming home for Nell's babies when she's not playing with them, a place for her to put them for naps, and will be a sweet and charming item to go in her 'big girl' room when we get a second bedroom cleared out and fixed up for her.

She has been having such fun with it, and to go with the vintage crib, I brought my mother's doll 'Betsy' out from storage for a third generation of loving care.


I'm pretty sure Marie wasn't half hidden under the couch when I walked out of the room, but moments later, I came back to this:


Remember those cheery sunflowers?  The big picture looks like this: 

See, we're currently in the midst of a construction project known as Operation Turn The Attic Into An Apartment For The Brother- And Sister-In-Law.  And while it is technically an attic project, it is apparently impossible to limit the work to the attic, it would seem.  And so it was that earlier this week found Nathan drilling holes in our living room wall... oh, and cutting out the back panel of my kitchen pantry, too.

I commented that I was going to spend the rest of the day lying on the dining room table, seeing as that room may be the only room in the house unscathed by construction debris, displaced storage items, power tools, etc.

Yes, it's been the summer of the new baby, but also the summer of the attic renovation.  In other words, almost every minute that Nathan isn't working his day job, he's working on the attic.  We can hardly wait for it to be finished!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

your image is not your legacy

I was doing some thinking this evening while I was out running -- well, jogging, anyway -- okay, lumbering might be the best description of what I look like out there these days.

My thoughts this evening were about these oft-elusive things we pursue through exercise, about my desire to shed eight or nine pounds of baby weight, about God as our creator and about body image and raising daughters and other such things.

The truth is that it is hard for me to really believe what God most likely believes about our bodies: that God doesn't find a 5'8" woman more beautiful than a 5'4" woman, that he doesn't think a model is more beautiful than an average mom.  And that it is God's thoughts on these matters that, well, matter.

And this is a problem, because I have two daughters and I need to be able to teach them from a place of sincere conviction the truth about these things.

So, it was probably a good thing that after my jog, I happened across this piece by Glennon Melton: Your Body Is Not Your Masterpiece.  Some good thoughts there.

* * *

"Stop spending all day obsessing, cursing, perfecting your body like it's all you've got to offer the world. Your body is not your art, it's your paintbrush. Whether your paintbrush is a tall paintbrush or a thin paintbrush or a stocky paintbrush or a scratched up paintbrush is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that YOU HAVE A PAINTBRUSH which can be used to transfer your insides onto the canvas of your life..."       ~ Glennon Melton of Momastery
* * *

It is easy to feel, in this age of cell phone cameras, Instagram, digital photographs, and blogs with perfect pictures galore, that what you look like is your legacy.  It isn't.  

I am a big advocate of healthy eating, healthy moving, healthy living.  But health shouldn't be the only end goal. Pursue health so that you can go out and do all the things you want to do, be it playing in a symphony, taking your kids to the park, reading, spending time with family and friends, fixing up an old house, gardening... you get the idea.  Those are some of the thing I love to do, anyway, and I'd better make sure my desire for a certain kind of 'paintbrush' in this life doesn't keep me from doing the 'painting' I'm supposed to be doing.

There you have it, friends.  Go ye therefore and get painting!

Friday, August 1, 2014

the red letter day

Seeing as it has been almost a month since I last blogged, there are many things I could - and want to - write about.

In fact, the more time that passes, the more overwhelmed I get about all the little memories I'm failing to record, and the more overwhelmed I get, the less likely I am to blog.

A vicious cycle, see?

But if anything has ever merited blogging, I suppose that yesterday's events do, so here goes.

Yesterday evening, July was coming to a quiet and uneventful close as I stood in the kitchen dicing tomatoes for dinner.  Nell wandered past me, playing with her toy kitchen that stands beside my fridge. As she walked by, I said - as I so often do - "I love you, Nell."

Nell looked up at me and replied, quite unprompted, "I yuh you, Mama."

I can't quite remember it now, but however it came out, it melted my heart and I swooped her up into my arms.  My eyes must have been glistening, because Nell asked, worried, "Mommy yad?" (sad), then smiled with relief when I told her I was happy, oh, so happy.

I called Nathan into the kitchen to tell him what had happened, and he acted quite aloof and unmoved about the whole thing.  So naturally, I had to call his bluff, saying, "Oh please.  I know the minute I turn my back you'll be coaching her to say, "I love you, Daddy."

Picking up on this, Nell looked at me, then at Nathan, and said, "I yuh you, Daddy."

And then she looked to Marie, cradled in Nathan's arms at the time, and continued, "I yuh you, Baby Wee."

Well, what do you think of that.

It made for a pretty good evening.

{photo by Cara, who took some lovely family photos for us recently.  more to come on the blog soon, no doubt!}

Well, that alone would have made it a red letter day, but as bedtime rolled around and I was changing Ree's diaper, I bent over her to nuzzle her soft little belly with my face, and I'll be darned if that little not-quite-three-month-old didn't let out the sweetest, dopey-est chortle!  Her first laugh!

{photos snapped a couple of weeks ago at Uncle Andrew & Aunt Hannah's wedding, which should also be blogged}

So, these things will probably be on the front page of the Times or the Globe by tomorrow, but don't forget -- you heard it here first.