Friday, June 29, 2007

Where the Tiny Things Are

This coffee shop is a block and a half away from the house we made an offer on this morning. We didn't go inside so I have no idea if the coffee's good or if they're kid friendly, but I have cozy visions of walking here in the fall with the boys(I have boys. Plural.).The big stinky house sold for $15,000 more than the asking price, so for now we're content to take that as a sign that it wasn't meant to be. We're both a little disappointed, but I'm also kind of relieved. It would have been really exciting to take on such a big project with so much potential, but I wouldn't have been able to be as involved with the actual work part much and that would have been frustrating. So instead we're looking at buying a small, clean, cozy little doll house to be our love nest while the boys grow up a little bit and find a big stinky house of our own to remodel later down the road. This little deck is very inviting; I want to find a tiny table and some tiny chairs where Aaron and I can sit and drink coffee in the morning out of tiny cups. The bathroom is SO little; the sink is so short that Jack can wash his hands all by himself. I have no idea how Aaron will manage to use the sink ever; it doesn't even come up to his hips. The kitchen: tiny, but very clean and nice and bright. This is the outside. It's a lot like the inside; tiny, but cute. Jack approved, and kept running around the house(which took all of two seconds) calling everything "my tiny house, my tiny sink," etc. We're supposed to hear back by 9 p.m. about our offer and since the house has been on the market for almost three months with zero offers besides ours, it seems like we'll get it. If not, onto the next one.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The outside of the house. The porch is kind of rotting, and on the ground at me feet is a giant(three feet wide) anthill. The ants don't look friendly.

Where the Wild Things Are

"Where the Wild Things Are" is one of Jack's favorite books right now and that's what I'm calling the house we're looking at. We're going to talk and pray about it tonight, but it looks like we'll be putting in a real offer in the morning. The owners of the first house we looked at aren't getting back to us so we're moving onto greener pastures. By greener pastures I mean larger, woodsier, stinkier, filthier pastures. Really really filthy. The pictures don't do it justice; it's much, much worse in real life. The owners had dogs, evidently lots of them, and they were allowed to run amok in the house with no heed to regulating bodily functions or traditional dog etiquette; every single room(there are six) of the house has its own unique animal odor, some of them smelling more pungently of urine while in others the wet dog musk dominates. So WHY are we considering this house? For starters, it's cheap for the neighborhood. There's a house a block or two away worth $1 million and next door to that is an $870,000.00 house. Also it's 3,000 square feet of stinky filth, but the lot is just under half an acre; it's not often you find half-acre lots in Lynnwood. So the potential for increased resale value is pretty amazing. The back yard needs to be totally cleared, it's virtually unusable as-is on account of the giant trees every six feet and incredibly uneven terrain. There are, however, some very pretty rose bushes in the front yard, which help draw attention away from the rotting porch and overly-rectangular architecture typical of late 1960's construction. Just take a look.The other end of the kitchen. The area off to the right actually gets good light and with a lot of work could be a cute little study nook. At the top of the stairs are two rooms where I think the dogs would get together at the end of a really hot day and see who could get the carpet the smelliest by rolling around on it and then peeing on it. They marked every square inch of their territory. Minus the carpet, it could be a cute den with a nice craft room next to it. Bathroom in the basement, also the laundry room. I can't see anything getting clean in this room. The basement fireplace. Heavy dog musk, very damp aroma. The kitchen. There's actually some potential here. What doesn't show up in this picture is the fact that the linoleum is covered in a dingy gray coating and along the edges of the wall on the right hand side beyond the range of the camera it's peeling back from the walls due to water damage. It's also not this warm-looking, the fluorescent lighting doesn't do it any favors, nor does it stay on in any sort of steady fashion. The window over the sink looks out onto the forest backyard so not very much light gets in. I'd like to make the wall on the left a half-wall so it connects more to the living room and add some more counter space along it. The cupboards are disgusting on the inside, but the wood on the outside is in reasonably good condition. Probably because the dogs couldn't figure out how to pee on it. The main bathroom. Love the hot pink counter top, and the shabby-chic look of the peeling, molding pink paint. This is the living room. Mostly wet dog smell.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Zen Mama

My resolution has been working. I still feel really moody, but by avoiding things that could be frustrating I feel like I can manage the swings much better since I'm not always struggling against the current anymore. My aunt Shonagh summed up my current philosophy on life, only she figured it out years and years ago; she says "I avoid things that stress me out." Also, she has five children, including a set of twins. The woman knows stress. But since ordinary life brings enough of it in the daily course of normalcy it really helps to have some criteria regarding what additional stress, if any, I'm willing to take on. I've been able to let go of some things that usually really bother me, and it's been extremely liberating. I started with my morning routine and decided not to make anything for breakfast that Jack would want to help with, so we don't begin the day with a big mess and a cranky Mom. I'll miss the multi-grain pancakes with berries we used to make, but it's also nice to sit at the table with Jack and chat over some nice cold raisin bran. Less stress, less mess to clean up, happy family. Unless Jack wants to, I don't clean anything while he's awake and I have absolutely let go of getting bent out of shape over the messes he makes. I realized that when he dumps out an entire basket of toys he's just being a two year-old, so I should just be a mom and let him. Having a good relationship with my son is way more important than having a tidy living room, and I realized that sometimes I was choosing the tidy living room over Jack. Stupid mistake, not to be repeated. I will rejoice that my son is happy, healthy and active, and that he knows his mama finds him delightful and not a source of stress. We will play and have a good time, and the toys will get picked up later. Another good trick has been procrastination, ironically. I wouldn't normally consider it a helpful tool, but lately it has been. Yesterday morning Jack was dying to go play, so I called up Anna and she invited us over for lunch. I packed the diaper bag and loaded Jack's tricycle into the trunk, then considered cleaning the kitchen before leaving so I'd have a clean sink to come home to. Jack was getting antsy and frankly I didn't want to do the dishes right then, so I decided to save them for later and take care of them sometime when it wouldn't frustrate Jack and therefore me. We had a great day at Anna's having lunch with Anna, Jamie and baby Hayden(12 weeks) and I didn't stress about the dishes that were waiting for me at home: what I was doing in the present moment(drinking lemonade in the shade while Jack and Talia ran around the backyard) was working for everyone involved, and I was not about the disturb the peace. Then things just got better and better. I decided I didn't care if Jack napped; if he got too cranky we'd go home and he'd fall asleep in the air-conditioned car or he'd be okay without napping. He decided he did want a nap and he slept peacefully for an hour in Anna's room then woke up cheerfully. Aaron called and wanted to join Albert for a beer, and since Anna had a spa appointment in Fremont the boys decided they would watch the kids and send the girls out to shop or have dinner, so we did both. I actually found some really cute maternity clothes at Gap and then Anna and I had a leisurely, leisurely dinner at Il Fornaio, dragging out our after-dinner coffee so long that we were the last patrons to leave the restaurant. We both came down with food poisoning during the night, but even that wasn't enough to dampen the afterglow of the Amazing Day. Aaron came home for lunch and played with Jack, so I cleaned the kitchen and the boys had some man time together. The dishes got done a whole day later than I'd normally let them sit(I'm not a neat freak, but I absolutely hate old dishes. My kitchen is the one place in my house that's normally clean) and my kitchen chairs are still peacefully situated around the table. I cleaned and vacuumed while Jack was napping and my living room is cool, shady and organized. Jack is still sleeping and I'm sure I could find some laundry to fold, but I'm going to make an iced coffee and watch Oprah.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

With a Lot of Help From My Friends

It's been one of those awful weeks, the kind when I thought to myself at least 27 times a day: "How the $%&@ am I going to take care of two kids and stay sane?" Yesterday I had a little meltdown and drove myself to Briana's in tears, where Jack played nicely in the back yard with Kateri and Briana made me coffee and assured me I wasn't crazy, at least not any kind of crazy that every single mother who's ever had a two year-old and/or pregnancy hormones hasn't experienced at some time or other. The other day my long-suffering husband came home from work to find the kitchen table denuded of its chairs. "Um, where are all the chairs?" "In the garage." " come?" "I threw them there." "Did any of them break." "I don't know." That's what kind of day it was. Now, that's not the kind of thing I normally do. I usually have a very positive attitude when it comes to frustration, and most of the time I'm pretty resilient and don't have a hard time bouncing back from life's little setbacks. Not lately. Lately I have been a basket-case, a weepy, needy, hormonal mess my former(usual) self neither recognizes nor approves of. The day that I threw all my chairs into the garage it seemed that every little thing that happened was the final straw, the very last thing I could stand, but I felt like that from the moment I woke up. Now, it seems to me that the qualities necessary for successful, meaningful, effective motherhood are things like patience, understanding, kindness, cheerfulness, maturity, etc. So why is it that two year-old boys and hormones make those qualities so $%&@ing difficult to cultivate? It has occurred to me that the problem might be spiritual in nature and that I need to strive to be holier, but I quickly realized that daily Mass will not take the wiggles out of my two year-old or keep him from unloading the dirty dishwasher, nor will it cure my heartburn or keep me from crying for no rational reason. Not the mention the purely practical obstacle of getting to Mass in the first place, which would require that I be at least semi-clean and wearing something other than pajamas. Early in this pregnancy I promised that I wouldn't let myself go, that I would paint my toenails and wear cute maternity outfits and keep my house clean but I have been deeply humbled. I have seen the error of my ways and meekly accept that at this point in my life I need to recognize what my limits are and save my energies for important things. To that end, I have resolved to avoid anything which has the potential to frustrate either myself or Jack and concentrate on a few priorities and a few priorities ONLY. I will not try to do the dishes or clean the toilet while Jack is awake. I will not take him grocery shopping before a nap. I will not cook things which require long periods of standing guard at the stove, trying to distract Jack from "helping." Someday there will be a time in my life when I am thin, well-rested, well-dressed and every room in my house is neat and tidy. That day is not today, nor is just around the corner. More than likely it will not come along for quite some time, and I'm okay with that. In the meantime I will only be friends with people who are okay with my messy house, who have children themselves and understand that sometimes kids have diapers that leak poop on important personal belongings, and who can enjoy a good cup of coffee and a good cry amidst all the chaos. Today was actually a really nice day thanks to Anna, who made me a delicious lunch and had cozy knitting/tea time with me on her couch while Jack and Talia played in the backyard. Jack fell asleep in the car on the way home so after I put him into bed I made myself a deal: if I unloaded the dishwasher I could spend the rest of Jack's nap time drinking coffee and writing in my journal. As I sat on my comfy couch enjoying my latte and personal reflection time I thought about my blog and the things I put on it. Everything I've posted about enjoying marriage and motherhood is absolutely true but it seems like a lie to leave out things like throwing my chairs in the garage and having emotional breakdowns over nothing. I think that a lot of moms(myself included) are reluctant to admit to the enormity of the challenges of motherhood because of the disdain society has for our vocation, but I don't think we're doing ourselves any favors by keeping quiet. Before I got married, a very wise woman I know told me: "It will be hard, but remember that just because it's hard doesn't mean it can't be beautiful." The inverse is also true, and just because motherhood is beautiful doesn't mean it isn't really, really hard. So I would like to declare that I will henceforth be sharing the hard stuff; the failures, the struggles, the mood swings, the tantrums(meaning mine, not Jack's), the stretch marks, the fatigue, and all the other wonderful shortcomings that come with doing the most important job in the world. I give myself permission not to feel pressured to perform for people who don't understand me, my lifestyle, or my life choices. I give myself permission not to want 12 kids just because I'm Catholic. I give myself permission to consider myself a faithful, practicing Catholic even though I don't attend Mass daily or wear long flowery skirts on a regular basis. Or ever, actually. I give myself permission to share inappropriate information on my blog because it fulfills my need for catharsis and my resolve to be an integrated, authentic person. If you choose to visit here be forewarned: it may get ugly, but it will always be true. If you want something light and fluffy, go read a Nancy Drew book. If you want way too much information about my personal life, sit down and stay a while. Sometimes I get a little crazy, but I always have a good story and hot coffee to share.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Things that Grow

This is the garden that was a household effort. I started tearing up the ground underneath it in early April when it first started to warm up, but my efforts were sporadic at best. While we were on vacation in May, Ryan built the frame and filled it with dirt as my birthday present(funny what can be an exciting birthday present). When we got home, Aaron dug up some compost from the back yard and Jack and I dug out a bucket of rocks. We got a few more bags of dirt to supplement what Ryan started and then picked out some plants and seeds at Home Depot. We're growing three different kinds of tomatoes, two different kinds of carrots, three kinds of lettuce, cucumbers, and bush beans which Tristan started. Jack absolutely loves watering it, and every morning he wakes up and asks to go check on the vegetables. I can't wait to see the look on his face when the carrots are ready to pull up and he can pick ripe tomatoes. The only problem so far is that sometimes Jack takes his watering duties a little TOO seriously and I have to bribe him to water the grass so as not to drown the lettuce. I'll be sad to leave our little family garden behind when we buy a house, but we can make a new one I suppose. We looked at a house last night in Lynnwood that is definitely in the fixer-upper category, which I'm both excited and apprehensive about. I love the idea of Aaron and I working on a house together that we actually own, but six months pregnant is not the best time to begin construction projects. The back yard is huge, borders on a forest in a park and is fully fenced, so Jack would have a perfect place to play while I stripped and painted kitchen cupboards. The idea of leaving our Brier house is really sad to me, but I love the idea of owning something and being able to do whatever we want to it. Plus, Aaron in a tool belt is one of my favorite things ever. Aaron bought me these flowers yesterday; there are things in this bouquet that I've never even seen before. I love that he picks non-conventional flowers. Roses are beautiful and I love them, but they feel a little formal for frequent flower-giving.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Scrapbook Fever

I decided to try finishing at least Jack's first year's worth of scrapbooking before this baby is born, so I've been going through a lot of old pictures. I forgot how chubby Jack was, and impressive feat considering he once weighed in at a mere 5 pounds. I'd also forgotten how bald he was, and, well, downright funny-looking, but of course at the time we thought he was beautiful. And he was, which is the beauty of parenthood. It's been really fun going over his tiny baby pictures and thinking about having another one that small; Jack already seems huge to me, and after the baby's born he's going to seem gigantic. The other day he was tugging on my leg about something so I reached down to pat his head and it suddenly struck me that I don't have to bend down to touch the top of his head: it reaches the top of my hip. I'm glad he's growing into such a big boy; I feel like he had his turn being the baby and now he's ready to share Mom and Dad with a little brother. He likes putting his hand on my belly and feeling the baby kick him, which the baby usually does in response to Jack putting his hand on my belly. I think it'll be really fun to have a pair of boys; I feel like we'll be an official family once we have two kids. One certainly kept me busy, but we didn't feel big enough to really constitute a family. That's not a slam on families with only one baby, just a reflection of what I'm used to. Of the married siblings in my family I have so far contributed the least amount of grandchildren. I'm okay with that and don't feel any particular need to compete; I like taking things one baby at a time.

Banana Pancakes

I could only resist Jack Johnson's subliminal messages for so long, plus we had a lot of bananas and Jack has been obsessed with pancakes lately. We found a recipe that called for sour cream in the batter, and I knew it was going to be good. Jack helped out with the stirring and the tasting of the dry ingredients, but accidentally tasted too much baking soda. I gave him water to rinse out his mouth, and he had some interesting burps.