Thursday, February 23, 2012

Because I'm Nothing If Not Determined to Grow

I'm still training for Pat's Run in April. My training has slowed a bit as I've accepted that I don't have to keep track of minutes or miles unless I want to do so. Sometimes, I do. Other times, I don't.

But in addition to that, I'm taking part in a meditation challenge put on by the Chopra Center. It's free podcasts for 21 days, and it's amazing and difficult all at once.

The meditations are guided, meaning a guru of sorts spends a few minutes setting the scene for you, mentally, and then they guide you to meditate on a certain topic while music plays. After a time, they then guide you out of the state of meditation.

Meditation is challening. Quieting my mind can be hard, and once it's cleared staying awake can be even harder.

Tonight, though, it all hit home with this meditation intention:

Go forward with a vibrant, healthy body; a quiet, peaceful mind; and a joyful spirit.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It Goes On and On and On.

Today involved 10 hours with 3 adults and 2 kids in one house...and no running water. The good news is that our plumbing in the bath tub and shower is all hooked up with no leaks and we're ready for the next phase of bathroom renovations. The bad news is, the next phase is more like 100 little phases.

While Darrick spent almost an entire day sitting in the bath tub cutting and sweating copper pipes and making so many visits to Home Depot that they all know him by name, I did some of this:

And some of this:

And some of this:


But before I talk about all of that, I also have to make note of how much of this I got done:


Oh yes. A mere 7 months after installing our laminate floors, we finally got around to putting in baseboards. Originally, I'd planned on reusing the old baseboards to save some money and natural resources and all those good things, but in the end that didn't work. The old baseboards were pretty well beat up, had caulking and other varieties of disgustingness all over them, and needed about 56 coats of paint sanded off them in order to be salvageable. When my mother in law came over with an offer to help put baseboards back in place, I immediately accepted. But when I showed her the pile of old baseboards I planned to refinish, she talked some sense into me. And thank goodness for that.

We bought baseboards in the same style that are everywhere else in the house and painted them Behr's Ultra Pure White. My mother in law did the first 2 pieces, showing me how to use her fancy table saw. I went ahead of her, caulking the gap between the laminates (when you install them, you leave a small gap so they have room to expand and contract as needed), the foundation, and the drywall. I'm not so worried about moisture, but I did want to keep that area sealed tight because we live in Arizona and scorpions are a very real concern. Anything we can do to minimize the opportunity for them to sneak into our house I am all over. My mother in law, for the record, didn't approve of this step and argued it would make it harder to properly install the baseboards. Luckily, it didn't create the problems she feared.

Once she got me started, I was able to keep it going. Some of the sections were easier than others, but the basic steps were easy enough. I just laid the baseboard out along the wall where it needed to be installed and used a washable marker to mark the cuts I needed to make. On a few, I had to go back to the saw more than twice, but once they were properly cut I just hammered them in with finishing nails, then caulked the top edge with clear DAP caulk and let it dry. We went over them with an additional coat of white paint, and once it's all done we'll go back again and touch up any of the wall paint that got messed up in the process.

There were a few areas that needed some extra love before we could put baseboards up. The transition between the kitchen and great room was designed with a gap between laminates. Laminate installation sometimes calls for gaps between rooms to make the boards flow correctly and to break up the floor so there's another form of support there. I brought home some t-molding to fill that space and hopefully assist with some of the transitions in doorways. It was easy enough to install. I cut it to size so it would fit snugly but not bow, and used Liquid Nails on the foundation and the edges of the surrounding laminates to affix it. Per the directions, I put weights on top of each strip which will stay there for 24 hours just to make sure they adhere well.

I love how you can hardly even notice the molding in that space, and I'm optimstic it will be as seamless as possible once it's dry.

I had to do something similar around the french doors, since there's a gap there as well, but the t-modling wouldn't fit properly. Instead, I used a 1/4 round in a finish to match the floors. I cut it to size and glued it, but thanks it it's curved top a weight wouldn't stay on top of it. Instead, I put 4 finishing nails through it and into the laminate below. In all honesty, this was the most difficult part of the day because the angle was awkward, the 1/4 round was difficult to nail through, and the finishing nails are fine. I bent at least 3 nails at each spot before successfully getting one all the way through.

While all this was drying, I revisited my cabinets. The doors and drawer fronts I stained weeks ago were mostly looking good, but a few needed some more love. For those that needed it, I buffed again with sanpaper and/or steel wool, wiped them down, and used stain and clear poly. I was not only concerned with some bubbles and streaks on a few of the pieces, but also with getting them all as close as possible to the same saturation level.

And, at long last, we started the long-awaited addition to the cabinets. I've mentioned before how we planned to build the cabinets up to make them taller, and we finally got that project started. Originally, we were going to leave the cabinets in place in the bathroom and add a riser to the top, below the counter. Instead, we removed the cabinets to stain them and decided to build the riser at the bottom. We kept it simple, creating a frame from 2" x 4"s and staining them to match the cabinet color.

 As soon as we're ready to place them, these beauties will be affixed to the cabinets with Liquid Nails. What you're seeing here is the backside of the risers, so while I did stain them with 1 coat of stain, I did not do a second coat or a clear coat. In the end, only the front and 1 side of each will show, so there was no need for stressing over perfection.

Oh, and we also started this:



The shower head has been raised about 6" to acommodate my husband's height (6'5") and to improve the final appearance of the shower, and Hardiebacker installation has begun!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Your Favorite Part of Today.

Luca and I have a routine that's become a sweet moment right before I tuck her in for the night. We read books, collect stuffed animals (right now it's the two Minnie Mouse dolls she got for Christmas), sing a song, and then I kiss her goodnight. Before I leave her room, I always say to her, "Tell me your favorite part of today."

Sometimes it was something that happened at school. Other days, it was a treat she got before bed or taking a bath with her brother or going to the zoo.

Today, her favorite part was, and I quote, "Going to the doctor."

Yeah, she's not your typical 4 year old. And I like it that way. That girl....she is her own person through and through.
________________________________________

About a month ago, I went online and filled out a form to request a boundary exception for her when she starts kindergarten this fall. We live just a few minutes' walk from a perfectly acceptable elementary school, but the hours of school don't jive well with our schedules. So when my mom suggested we apply to get her into the elementary school across from her house, with the helpful offer to watch her before and after school and walk her to campus and home every day, we couldn't say no. It might help that this school gets excellent ratings, is part of a fabulous district, and is the same school my siblings (well, 2 of them) and I attended.

She was accepted, which was a huge relief and also really bittersweet. Because while I was happy she was accepted into our choice school, I'm still not sure where the last nearly-5 years went. I keep expecting to find them hidden in the back of the kitchen pantry behind old granola bars and lost ziploc baggies. But, of course, it never happens. They just disappeared into the vapor of time.

_________________________________________

Since we're out of district, we had about 10 days between the time we got the letter and the last day to secure our spot. And before we could register her officially, Luca needed to catch up on some shots from her 4 year appointment, which we missed because she was sick and I failed to reschedule.

I got to her school early today, rushing her into her backpack and out the door and making it to the Dr just in time for her appointment. The appointment itself was relatively uneventful, with her pediatrician proclaiming her perfectly healthy and 'obviously very smart' (you KNOW I have to gloat about that one, right?). She is 38.2 pounds (50th%) and 44 inches (87th%) and was meeting or exceeding all the markers the pediatrician requested of her. Poor girl did have to get 4 shots, which made her cry, but after that was done she left with a sucker, 3 bracelets, a sticker, and 4 band-aids.

We left from there to her school, where she met one of the ladies in the front office and we got a stack of paperwork to complete. And with that, she's officially signed up and ready to be a kindergartner. I mean...what?!?

_________________________________________

A quick call to my mom confirmed Rohan was still napping, so with her blessing I took Luca on a special mommy-daughter date to our favorite local coffee shop. I let her order a chocolate milk and pick a treat (carrot muffin with frosting), and we sat together outside in the warm afternoon sun by a huge fountain, talking about kindergarten. Eventually, she made her way to the fountain and splashed in it a bit.

As I watched, she would dip her hands in the cold water and run to a line of tiles on the ground, crawling on her knees and leaving a single wet handprint on each tile. Something about the carefree sweetness of the moment made me get out of my seat, and before I knew it we were tracing wet fingers on the patio, drawing hearts and writing our initials and using large and small handprints mixed together to create water butterflies.

Without realizing it, time had passed. The shadows were lengthening and the water was no longer cold on our hands. We carried our plate back inside the coffee shop and headed to the car. I reached for her hand in the parking lot and she smiled up at me and said, "I want to walk like a big kid. Can I do it myself?" So I let her. Instead of leading her, I walked beside her, joining in her game of "Don't step on cracks or white lines" until we made it to the car. Side by side.

__________________________________________

I know it's just the start of a new chapter. I lose full minutes absorbed in her face and her imagination. I lose full days and weeks just getting by and trying to remember to hold on to this sweet time in her life as tightly as I can while also letting her go. In the small space between our bodies, not linked by our hands, she became less a little kid and more a girl. Independent. Wise beyond her years. Spirited. And tender.

__________________________________________

After dinner and a movie and page after page of Where the Sidewalk Ends, I tucked her in under her pink blanket and traced the silhouette of her cheeks with a finger. There is no baby left in that face, but those eyes I stare into are the same eyes I've stared into since the day she was born. She was always this wise, this sage. If she can hold onto any trait of her early years as she moves through childhood and closer to becoming an adult, I hope it's the ability to be completely oblivious to what she's 'supposed' to be or think or say. I hope that moments making water butterflies and sharing carrot muffins are the sweet and mundane memories of her childhood.

__________________________________________

"Mommy?"
"Yeah, sweetie?"
"Did you know that some people say there was a man who walked on water and he didn't even fall in?"
"Oh, yeah. I did, honey."
"Oh."
"Where did you hear that?"
"I don't know. Someone told me."
"Oh? And what do you think about that?"
"It sounds like a bigger fib than even kids tell, mommy."
::pause::
"Well, you know, Luca, sometimes people believe in stories like that because of how they make them feel. Maybe they believe he walked on water and didn't fall in. Or maybe they don't believe it either, but they like how it makes them feel. They want to imagine they could walk on top of water too."
"Yeah."
::pause::
"You know what I think, mommy? I think it doesn't matter about walking on water and not falling in. I think it matters most that you're kind to people. And then maybe if you are kind enough even if they are sad, they can close their eyes and imagine they can walk on water too. Like that man."
"Oh, I like that."
"Me too, mommy."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Progress.

We're the proud owners of Hardibacker, 18' of 2"x4"s and new drill bits!

I know, I know. I get excited about the weirdest shit these days.

I'm off work tomorrow because I have a Dr appointment smack in the middle of the day, so I convinced Darrick to get the wood we need to build a frame for our bathroom cabinets so I can get it stained tomorrow. We'll be building a square that is the same dimensions as they bottom of the cabinets to bump them up a few inches, since they are fairly short and we are reasonably tall. While we were there we got the Hardibacker, a cement board that goes up behind tile in the shower surround, so that we can get going on that project sooner rather than later. We decided to continue the tile all the way to the ceiling and around to the door frame, which also means we'll be raising our shower head several inches so it will look more in proportion and so Darrick can stand under it instead of in front of it.

I am getting really excited to get this next phase of work done. Once the Hardibacker is in place, we are ready to decide on wall tile. And once THAT is done, it's on to floor tile, paint, and new counter tops. I already bought new faucets, which are patiently waiting in the garage for their grand debut! I can't wait to hopefully have some good progress this weekend!

In other news, my day wrapped up in the sweetest way. When we got home from shopping, I sat the kids at the table with paints and asked them to paint some paper. My original idea was to cut the paper into smaller pieces and write a Valentine's Day note on them from Luca. Well, my girl instead decided she wanted to make 23 painted hearts for her friend. And make them she did. They look so cute, and I cannot wait to put them in envelopes and deliver them to school tomorrow with her!

When she was done painting, both kids got smiley faces painted on their tummies, then I shuttled them upstairs with popsicles in hand and piled them into the tub. They ate the popsicles with no worry over stickiness or messes, then brushed their teeth and put on jammies. Then it was time for songs and tucking in and kisses goodnight.

About 20 minutes later, we heard a funny noise upstairs, so Darrick and I went to investigate. There, in our bed, were both kids. They were tucked in under our giant blanket, their cheeks warm and rosy. Between them was about 7 stuffed animals and 3 extra pillows, and in the middle of all that cheek and eyelash and cuddly animals, they reached out and held each others' hands. I almost couldn't bear to move them, but I hefted each sleeping body into my arms and put them back in their rooms for the night.

Not much can beat that, you know? Craft time. Bath time. Popsicles. Best buddies falling asleep holding hands. Life is sweet.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

And Then, This.



























There's an old saying that goes, "There are few problems so great they cannot be resolved with cuddle puddles, hot chocolate, and stove-popped popcorn."

Ok, fine...I just made that up. So it may not be an 'old' saying, but it's my saying, dammit. And I'm standing behind it 100%. Last week, I needed this kind of healing. It had been a rough day that ended in my crying at the kitchen table while my kids looked on, confused. So when Darrick had to leave to go recruit middle schoolers to his high school's wrestling club, I did the only thing I could think of to help me get through to bedtime while feeling really, uncontrolably emotional.

I found a new kids' movie on the DVR, propped the kids up with pillows, stuffed animals, and a soft blankie, and went into the kitchen to make hot chocolate and popcorn. The hot chocolate was extra chocolately, and the popcorn was a stove-top recipe I've perfected in the past 2 months, lightly salted and delicious. And then I settled into the corner of our big sectional couch with the kids curled beside me, pulled their little table over close so they had somewhere to put their mugs and bowls, and lost myself in the smell of Rohan's scalp and the feel of Luca absent mindedly rubbing her toes against mine under the blanket.

This doesn't mean I was suddenly in a fantastic mood and the world was sunshiney. I wish it was that easy. Instead, last week was spent contemplative, pissed off, sad, confused, and resolute. And I wish I had some amazing explanation for all those feelings that would make sense, but the truth is I don't. I think sometimes we walk dark paths not because there is a lesson to be learned or a metaphor to be gleaned, but because it's part of life to struggle now and then. We don't always understand why we're feeling down or confused or stressed, do we? But at some point, we're coming out the other end of it. And if cuddle puddles and pop corn make it more bearable in the interim, then I'd be a fool to deny myself.

Something happened this week, and I don't know exactly what it was. The anniversary of my dad's illness + my own aging + worries about health + sleeplessness + stress + more and more and more = a shit week with lots of tears and long venting sessions and quiet moments of introspection. And then, suddenly, I was on the other side of it. There was no epiphany. No moment of clarity where I saw the way out of the things I'm feeling stifled by and into a future of bliss and perfection. Not even, sadly, any clear and rational understanding of what the hell was wrong with me and why I was feeling so out of myself. What there was, though, was a feeling of peace at the close of the week. I'm not sure what it all means. I'm not sure what all has changed and what will continue changing. I just know that this week challenged me emotionally in a lot of ways and made me think a lot about myself and the things in my life and how they make me feel. It also gave me pause to remember that how I react  - to people, to feelings, to situations, out loud, in my head - matters.

I'm walking into a new week a bit more introspective than I've allowed of myself recently. I'm trying to let myself just be and think and feel and process whatever comes into my mind. I am trying to open myself up to the possibility that there is a lot of possibility.

And if I get there through cuddle puddles and hot chocolate? All the better.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Where I Am.

This week has been shit.
My spirits are down, I've had more than my share of emotional breakdowns, and I am stuck between allowing myself to wallow in ridiculous time-sucks like self pity and trying to snap out of it already.

I'm ready for the weekend. Ready to throw myself into some of the work we've started that's been on hiatus. Darrick has state wrestling championships this weekend, so in his absence I have some big plans. Taking the kids to the park. Grocery shopping and meal planning. Brainstorming a possible kitchen remodel that would involve moving some counters and creating an island. Finally finishing flooring transitions and caulking the foundation downstairs. Building up the bathroom cabinets to the proper height. Buying paint, choosing tile, and putting greenboard in the shower surround so we can tile the wall.

Look, I know how that sounds. My life is lame, right? My weekend plans include building things and planning meals and paint...and I'm looking forward to these things? What have I become?!?

The truth is, there are some times in my life when I need to bury myself elbow-deep in work. Not the sitting-in-the-office-with-a-to-do-list kind of work, but the there's-paint-in-my-hair-and-stain-on-my-elbows-and-hand-me-the-drill-please work. My husband likes to tease that if he wants a clean kitchen, he just needs to irritate me a bit. And it's true. The monotony of cleaning and cooking and sunshine and hard work soothes my soul. There's something about honest work that gives my brain the freedom to sort through the issues I normally try to stuff behind the couch and ignore. And there's something even better about stepping away from a Saturday of hard work and knowing that my mind is clear and my house looks better.

I've been buried under stress lately, firing off responses to flagged emails 20 minutes after I was supposed to leave the office and crying to Luca's preschool teacher (true - and humiliating - story) and  holding back tears over things that would normally not even phase me. My life is at a weird point right now where I don't feel like I know where I'm headed next. There are big decisions on the horizon for me and for us as a family, and all of them have the potential to be amazing and make our lives even better. Not one of them is bad, but the anxiety of making scary new decisions and the uncertainty over what the right choice is cause me to panic. I want to take a week to lay under a blanket on the couch and watch every sappy romantic comedy and crappy show on my DVR possible. I want to tear out kitchen cabinets and appliances and spend hours sanding and cutting and staining and painting. I don't know what I want.

What I am trying to do is this: channel that mindless distraction that leads to mental clarity and which I now get from things like washing and hanging all the laundry and putting it away in perfect ROYGBIV order into running. Write a to-do list to rival all to-do lists and check off every last item, one by one. Purge and clean and organize, in hopes that organizing my home will lend order to my mind and my life. Save money. Enjoy long mornings at the park, watching my kids hold hands in a sea of other kids. Eat slices of fresh, sweet oranges picked from my mom's orange trees.

My brain is all over the place. This weekend, my goal is direction and clarity. I am going to check off items on my to-do list and find time to make popcorn and hot chocolate and watch movies cuddled under a blanket with my family.

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