Monday, November 26, 2012

Ragged and Worth It

*tap tap tap*
Is this thing on?
Is anyone out there?


I figured it was time for a post.  I mean, I know it's only been A MONTH since my last check-in, but I'm an overachiever. 

We are settling into being a family of four, and I am just ridiculously busy between caring for babies, working more than full time, nursing/pumping/changing diapers and all the other boring blahblah minutiae that comprises a life.  I wave at my husband in passing...  If we're lucky.  First world problems, I guess.  And trust me when I say I always remember how blessed I am. 

Here's the reality of my life at this point, which I don't mind sharing with the interwebs. My house is a mess.  My hair usually air dries and ends up in a ponytail (thank you God for a casual workplace), I don't wear anything that requires ironing, and I am typically quite sleep deprived.  My horse barely recognizes me and I haven't found time to start the post-baby workouts I crave.  I'm not organized, and I will not be participating in one of those "show the contents of your purse" reveals anytime soon because it might scare even me. The laundry is never completely clean, folded, AND put away.   I am not Supermom. 

My blog is totally neglected (surprise!) and when I tried to get in to share this post, I discovered I've reached my photo storage limit.  Aaaaand in trying to fix that issue, I created another.  So with that note I'll ask you to please ignore the yawning black holes of nothingness where photos formerly resided in my posts. 

This is when you should take a moment to marvel at my AWESOME COMPUTER GENIUSNESS RAY-Of-LIGHT READY-FOR-HIRE. 

Anyway, I'll fix that little photo apocalypse problem.  And then I'll pay the extra storage fee I was trying to avoid.  Lesson learned.   

So yes, I'm feeling a bit ragged these days and it's easy to start to think I'm in over my head.

But.  Then there's this.

She melts my heart.

And this tableau confined my perspective to the three people who comprise the center of my universe.

 Suddenly it doesn't seem to matter if I'm in over my head.  We'll figure it out together.  Together, we share sweet moments of fleeting infancy.

We have everyday joys fueled by cookies as we ruin our dinner.

 There is wonderment while we watch our baby girl becoming a big sister. 

And finally, there's this. 

Yes, that's right.  We got a donkey. Her name is Roxy.  


Monday, October 22, 2012

Hello Again

Hi, friends.

Sorry for the disappearing act.  I hope you'll understand that I took some time away from blogland for the happiest of reasons.

Our son was born September 9th at 10:16pm.  Since then we've been learning who he is, learning about being a big sister, learning about being a mother and father to two little ones.   

Now that I am re-entering my normal life, and trying to find my balance with an even busier pace, I hope you'll bear with me still.  I do intend to continue this blog and have much more to share with you, even as my days have become fuller.  My goal is to carve out time to write regularly again because I miss doing this, and sharing our life, and hearing from you.

Thank you for reading and sharing your life as well.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Soft Landing for Old Furniture: Recovering Chair Cushions

Have you heard?  I look like this.

I am unwieldy.  I am misshapen.  I am a twofer.  And I cannot take an iPhone self portrait.

This baby is due in 12 days.  12 days!!!  It's been great sharing my body with him and everything, but GETOUTGETOUTGETOUT!!! 

I'm normally still pretty busy but toward the end of this pregnancy there has been some of this action.

A little R&R is needed.  But mostly, lately it's been all about crossing things off my to-do list.  Call it nesting if you must, but I really believe it's the accurate realization that I will soon be attached to another person whose needs will be unpredictable, round-the-clock, and very demanding.  Add to that my toddler, husband, animals and full-time job and... well... it's gonna be a while before I resurface to tackle any projects. 

Nesting = Planning.

So the house is relatively clean and organized, the laundry is caught up, rooms are rearranged (more on that in another post), and I've been cleaning out cupboards and storage areas.  We need room for baby stuff again.

Nesting = ...nesting?  *maybe*

One thing I knew I could tackle easily and inexpensively was recovering a little footstool Beep likes to carry around.  Because how else is she supposed to reach all the forbidden FUN STUFF?

The stool belonged to Cabbage's grandmother, and who knows where it came from before that.  It's old and sentimental and I didn't want to change it too much, but seriously.  Look at the upholstery.

It was time.

If you've never reupholstered a chair, trust me when I say it's one of the easiest DIY projects to tackle.  It usually requires no more than new fabric, a scissors, a couple of screwdrivers, and a staple gun.

In this case I turned the stool over to reveal some ancient screws securing the pad to the base, and old nails holding the crumbling upholstery to the pad.  Most of the time, though, you'll find a few screws holding the cushion to the base, and staples attaching the upholstery.  Carefully unscrew the base and set it aside.  Then pry up the old staples (in this case, nails) to remove the old fabric. 

This bad boy revealed yet another layer of even older tapestry, which was crumbling with age.  I happen to think that's cool, so I left it there for... whatever.  Historical records? 

I opted not to replace the padding (hellooooo people, that would have required EFFORT and MEASURING), but if you wanted to do so, now would be the time.  The foam is sold at fabric stores and you can cut it to size (plan to overlap the base a little which will give nice rounded edges) with a straightedge razor.

Next I centered the cushion on the pattern of this great aqua ikat-esque fabric I ordered from  I carefully cut around the base, being sure to leave enough to wrap around the cushion to the back, plus a couple of extra inches on each side.

Testing the wrappage factor.

Take your time making sure you're happy with the pattern placement.  Then, it's just a matter of wielding ye olde staple gun.  It usually works best to staple opposite sides as you go, rather than all down one side at once.  If your cushion was a clock you'd staple at 12, then at 6, then 11, then 7, and so on.  That method helps ensure your tension is even and the fabric stays straight. 

Stapling isn't an exact science, and I don't see any need to be super picky about it as long as the top side looks good.  But, if you want to try to make less of a hash job of stapling in a straight line than I did below, be my guest.

Please also try to get your toddler to be your hand model.  Child labor, it's the next big thing.

Continue to staple opposite sides until you approach the corners, but leave them loose for now.  Then rotate the cushion to staple the remaining sides.  Trim any excess fabric from the sides.

The corners can be dealt with several ways, but I usually just make a neat fold and try to ensure each corner's fold matches the others.  Then staple away until it's nice and tight and flat.  Trim as needed.

Flip over and review your work.  If you notice any unevenness, this is a good time to tweak or add staples.

Reattach the pad to the base, and away you go!

Take some crappy pictures of your child playing with it in a messy room and enjoy the satisfying results of 15 minutes well spent...

Until the next project, which is this nice little mission-style rocker my aunt snagged at a garage sale a few years ago.

It's in good shape and the size is perfect for Beep's room, but the upholstery is old and grody. (I'm bringing grody back, by the way.  Hey, 80s, how've you been?)

I removed the cushion from the base, popped off the upholstery you see above, and found this stuff which looks pretty original. 

...And is stuffed with straw.

Nope, didn't replace that either.  I left the green fabric alone and cut out a new square of my happy aqua fabric to match the stepstool.

This one required a little more planning because two sides will show- one in the front and one in the back.  I simply creased and folded the fabric and stapled it firmly in place wherever the staples would be hidden.  Where they will show, I tacked about three staples down the side, with plans to add some nice little upholstery tacks down the line.  (Translation: when the new baby is weaned in a year or so.  If I remember.  Which I probably won't.)

Continuing around the sides, trimming and cornering that bad boy, I soon had this nifty little number.

Reattached, the rocker now looks like this.

And these two separate pieces, though not matching per se, now relate to each other. 

I love how they turned out.  Though the chair will stay primarily in Beep's room for bedtime stories and midnight rocking sessions, I chose a pattern and fabric that would work anywhere in our house.  That way, as my little helper navigates a world made for people twice her height, her great-grandmother's little stool will be welcome wherever it lands.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Toddler Art

Recently, we needed a few thank you presents for family and I am not good at sending thank you cards, presents, or other follow-up tokens of appreciation.  I don't know why.  I'm just not.

I realize this is not my most charming quality.

In this case, though, I was determined to best my own flawed nature.  I doggedly searched high and low for ideas for a great gift.  I needed something small, something that Beep could help create, and something that would ship well.  With our crazy schedule I needed something quick, simple, easy, and still heartfelt.  Nothing I ran across seemed quite right, so eventually Beep and I came up with our own project: little canvas masterpieces.

I purchased pre-stretched, primed canvases at Wal Mart for just a few bucks per 2-pack, and sat Beep at the kitchen table with an assortment of washable markers in (carefully edited) colors.  After a slow(ish) start Beep got the hang of it and took a lot of pride in her paintings.  And by "pride" I mean "diva attitude" with a lot of marker-grabbing and "No me do it!" toddler attitude.  They weren't done until she said so, she insisted on coloring on the back of the stretcher frames, and she specifically informed me about the theme for each picture.  It was a whole thing.

When the madness was over, we had several customized paintings color-coordinated for each recipient's home.  I wrote the title, artist's name and date on the back and cleaned up marker smudges with a damp paper towel.

Wrapped, packaged, and mailed, each one cost just a couple of bucks in postage but made a big impact with each of the recipients.  Granted, they were all family who would probably like anything Beep did, but hey- this is at least somewhat decorative.
I made sure we also had one extra to keep for our house, and I love that abstract little gem.  This is such a fabulous little project for a toddler and I could easily see repeating this during any rainy day, trying it with other media (finger paints/cray pas/glue and torn construction paper), and even staging it at regular intervals until we have a nice little assortment of canvases hanging in a hallway gallery.   

I hope you try this project and enjoy it as much as we did!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mission Accomplished

I am 37 weeks pregnant, and it's usually about 100 degrees outside.  Because those facts do not, in fact, happily coexist in any universe, my time outside is extremely limited these days. 

As in, I avoid it like the plague.

When I do venture outside, it's usually done grudgingly and quickly, with a specific (and limited) objective in mind.

One night, Beep and I set out on a mission, which was thus:
Hoist Beep onto Mama's hip
Find Sam
Love on Sam
Waddle inside ASAP

Puckering up

Planting one on Sam

Horsehair-y faces are easily washed clean (eventually)

A little hand loves well

A big hand loves, too

Mission accomplished.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Flower on the Vine

"You have horses?  Oh, how fun."  I hear that comment often when talking to non-horse people. 

Yes, the world is divided into two kinds of folks: horse people and non. 

With the first kind, they understand the happiness of silently watching peaceful horses while gripping a water bottle or a beer.  They understand this will be done after a long day working to support normal living expenses plus horse costs, and after a long drive because horses don't usually live in the city or the burbs.  This quiet moment will be after you arrive home, tired and with an already-constructed To Do list in your brain- because you'll have dinner to fix, always more housework to do (horses are dirty and so are their people), and barn chores to complete.  You'll unload the car, change into washed-out barn clothes, and debate mud boots. 

Instead of pouring a glass of wine, you'll gather up dogs, cats, and babies and head outside.  Into the heat and dust and toward the work that awaits.  You'll walk past the yard that needs mowing to the barn that needs sweeping.  You'll automatically search for the horses in the pasture, making sure they're all upright and quietly content. 

An hour or two later, after your dinner and theirs, your family may steal a few minutes for that water or beer overlooking the pasture while the baby plays under your feet.  You are, without exception, dirty.  Grubby.  Sweaty, with hair sticking to necks and dampness in the small of the back.  But everyone is here that's supposed to be.  They are all fed, or quietly munching, giggling or swishing tails or chasing sticks.  It makes for a good night. 

Eventually, already past the baby's bedtime, she will be gathered up and you will go inside, and as you go you will turn off the spigot that's been refilling the water trough.

Horse people know this routine.  They also know how it tugs and pulls to have that routine diverged by changes in the herd.  We have undergone some changes here lately.  Some have been good, some not.

We sold Goldie.  She needed a job, needed a sweet family to love her, and needed to move on to her next stop in life.  As much as we enjoyed her sweet personality, we had never intended to keep her as a "forever" home, and it was time to try to help her find that place.  She now belongs to a family who needed a kind horse to bond with their teenage daughter and provide her companionship.  We are thrilled with the match, and took great care to educate them and set them all down the path toward success.  We wish them, and Goldie, happy years together.

There was another change, this one very hard.  Last summer, I spent a lot of time thinking, praying, and even writing "Come on, Junior.  You can do it."  Our beautiful colt fought through a colic until we felt we had no choice but to throw financial sense to the wind and have surgery done.  He recovered, came home, and has been on our minds lately as also needing a new home.  We hoped to sell him, and that he would go on to have a successful show career where his insanely good looks and bold personality would doubtlessly earn him not only many ribbons but also a quality, caring home.

When he came home last summer after his colic surgery, we were relieved, and cautiously happy, and maybe a little triumphant.  I thought he had done it, thought he proved he could overcome a life threatening illness.  It turned out he couldn't.

Saturday night he suddenly fell ill with another colic.  Until Monday he battled the exact. same. colic. as last time, attended at the same hospital.  When his illness didn't resolve relatively quickly, it became clear that this was not going away.  He wasn't a candidate for a second surgery, so we made the difficult decision to let him go.  Cabbage went to the hospital to make arrangements and say goodbye.  Junior was buried and we will soon receive a small box with a lock of his hair. 

We feel confident in our decision, and after all our time, and expert management, expensive surgery and painstaking care... we know that this must have been caused by something wrong inside of him.  He wasn't fixable, even though we tried and the vets tried.  I still believe in good outcomes from colic surgery (after all, look at Sam).  It just wasn't Junior's destiny, and we are sad.  It is sad to watch a flower die on the vine.

So now both Cabbage and I feel a little tender when we look toward the pasture.  It's strange to see just Sam and Cedar, and even stranger to grab just two buckets of feed and balance smaller piles of alfalfa on my arm.  I try not to think about Junior's long forelock or his tornado-shaped strip. I push back the memories of the others lost for different reasons, and I remember to turn off the spigot when it's done refilling the trough.  I drink a bottle of water, looking at our two horses, and watch them quietly munching their dinner.  I'm grateful they are here, and healthy, and content.  I'm happy my baby can plant kisses on Sam.

I'm lucky to have her here, with her constant "Up, Mama" requests which keep me from sinking into melancholy.

I love the distraction of having her help feed and carry buckets...

And I relish the chuckle I find in revealing a stash of stale crackers Cabbage has put aside as treats for Tabor.

In thinking about everything that's happened here over the past week or so, I find that I don't want to talk about it to anyone, but especially to those without horses.  My reluctance is that those well-meaning people in my life just can't relate.  They may not be able to close the gap in relating to the daily lifestyle choices, in the time constraints of feedings and chores, and especially in internalizing the unbelievable frustration of having a combined sixty-five years of horse experience and still burying four horses in five years. 

I still choose this lifestyle, with its long stretches of quiet, its satisfying and fulfilling moments, its spikes of joy, and its sometimes broken hearts.  I choose to be grateful for these two remaining horses, and to spend the few quiet moments afforded in my busy day overlooking the peace of a pasture bathed in long swathes of light.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dance is Spelled D-N-A

My dad is a lover of music and has a knack for staying current despite being able to get senior discounts at the coffee house.  He has great taste in rock, but a spin through his CD changer will reveal an eclectic assortment of albums that change often, and may include Amy Winehouse, Bob Marley, Van Morrison, the Rolling Stones, and whatever else strikes his fancy.  He has better taste than most people and definitely better taste than, well, me.

A related talent is his fabulous dancing ability.  Many times he's taken to a crowded (or empty) dance floor and proceeded to spin, gyrate, wiggle, point, and shake his way into the dancing hall of fame.  To the casual onlooker (or mortified offspring) it looks a bit... weird.  Like something he should only do in the comfort and privacy of his own living room.

Fortunately, I know what it's really about.  Music moves him.  It moves him in ways that bring him happiness, and unselfconsciousness, and he just has a good time.  And why not?  I love to see him dance.  It makes me laugh and reminds me that happiness and mirth and a sense of abandon are all a healthy part of balancing life in our microanalyzed world.

This is where it gets even more interesting.  Soon after Beep was born, my dad gazed at her tenderly and, in an awed tone, made a profound and profoundly sweet comment on the family genetics carrying on into the future.  And so they will, in our sweet little girl with my eyes and her grandpa's long fingers. 

But if Grandpa ever needed proof of her lineage, he need look no further than this video I shot of the two of them dancing in the car.  Music moves her, too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Conversations Heard In Our House Tonight

So it's been a while since I posted "Things Heard in Our House Tonight,"  and those posts have obviously been missed.  At least by me.  Tonight's edition will be a sequel- a brother- a cousin, if you will- to the typical "things heard."  It will contain riveting conversations. And by riveting I mean mildly amusing to a small portion of the population (on a good day).

Me: "Tongs! Tongs! Tongs!"
[Cabbage grabbing tongs and following the line of my pointed finger]
[Cabbage picking up disgusting, invasive, ill-fated scorpion with said tongs]
[Squishing of scorpion]
Cabbage, to scorpion: "How do you like me now?  You wanna come in our house again?"
Scorpion: No response.

Me: "Baby, do you want ice cream?"
Beep: "No thank you."
Me: "Would you like a cookie?"
Beep: "No thank you."
Me, to the room in general: "I brought home the wrong baby."

Me: "I bought these new cookies tonight."
Cabbage: "Oh, good.  What kind are they?"
Me: "Keebler Coconut Dreams."  Mmmsnarfscarfmunchmunch.
Cabbage: "Let me try a bite."
Cabbage: "Those aren't very good.  They need more testing." Mmmsnarfscarfmunchmunch.

Me: "There is a huuuuuge baby in here." [pointing at 32+ week belly squirming with baby]
Cabbage: "Noooo.  There's a cute little baby in that cute little belly."
Me: "H.U.G.E. Baby. Huge.  There's not enough room for both of us in here."
Cabbage: "It's little."
Me, motioning from chest to groin: "This?  Is ALL baby, my friend.  ALL BABY."
Cabbage: "Little."
Me: "Stretch marks.  Heartburn.  Cantbendover.  Cankles.  Not little.  Big."

Me: "Ni-night, Baby.  I love you."
Beep: "I love you, Mama."
Me, a minute later to Cabbage: "I love our baby girl so much."
Cabbage: "She's something, isn't she?"
Me: "Yeah... Maybe we should've stopped while we were ahead."
Unborn baby: [cackling with glee and rubbing tiny hands together in anticipation of havoc yet to be wreaked]

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Hi guys!  Sorry for the absence, but... We have been on vacation!  We traveled to Wisconsin, land of beer, cheese and my childhood. 

We had a great time with friends and family and I have stories to tell... but we arrived home late last night, after airplane delays and standby flights.

By the time we landed, we all felt like this.

Today I studiously avoided unpacking a crapton of gear in favor of feeding carrots to horses and enjoying having a little playdate for Beep.  Let me assure you that our house is a disaster- filled suitcases boobytrap our bedroom, everything is dusty, and there is a weird-stale smell I can't trace. On the plus side we did manage to get by the grocery store today to get milk... and then the whole gallon leapt out the truck door to commit suicide on our driveway.  Oops.

Keep me in your thoughts while I am blazing away in re-entry...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Demise of the Baby Mullet

Cabbage and I have had some heated disagreements about the fate of our baby's mullet.  He didn't see it as a mullet at all, even though it was.  [this is my blog, so I win]  He referred to it as Beep's long, pretty hair.  As it grew longer (and the hair on the front half of her head remained short), I felt more and more that my baby was walking a dangerous line into Hair From the Eighties.  I didn't like it at all, but I was stuck.  I'd told him I would never cut her hair until or unless he agreed.  As weeks passed, I was so. tired. of looking at her scraggly ends and I sensed this could go on eternally... so I straight-up browbeat him into accepting a truce of sorts.   

I cajoled, pleaded, reasoned, and finally harassed him about it, telling him "You'll have to speak up if you want her to hear you- she can't hear you through the mullet."

He reluctantly agreed to (or at least shrugged and walked away when I AGAIN suggested) a trim of only the longest hair, just to clean up the ends.  I was gonna to take the heat outta that mullet.

Here, kitty kitty kitty.  Nice little baby mullet.

Snip, snip, snip in a line across the back, a little shaping angling up the sides, and I had just enough trimmed to save in a baggie as her first hair cut.

And my baby had a cute, neat little style.  I need to take more pictures- it really is adorable, it looks like a tiny bob.

And with that we bid adieu to the baby mullet. 

I suppose I shouldn't hold it against Cabbage that he was so attached to her old style.  After all, I have it on good authority he proudly wore one during the eighties.  It was long, proud, and P.E.R.M.E.D.  Yes, that's right.  So he was probably just feeling nostalgic every time he looked at her little hairs cascading softly against her collar...  Business in the front, party in the back.  Those were the days.