May 26, 2013

6 months // 3 years & 2 months

Today our Livvy Lara ("Lou") is a half year old, and she is more marvelous than ever before. We're celebrating the occasion and the Memorial Day holiday by having friends over to play badminton in our backyard, eat shish kabobs, and drink bottles of cold beer. Also, Nekos is in the kitchen right now coaxing a watermelon into absorbing a bottle of vodka. Livvy is napping, Tessa is at my mom's for another few hours, and I have time for a moment to sit down and write about my children, who infuse so much joy into my days (especially when they're napping and away at grandma's).

Lately I've been reveling in the sweet relief I feel now that the newborn stage is over, and we are on our way to the walking-talking stage of babyhood that thrills me. New this month for Livvy: She started eating some table foods (an occasional cracker, a pinch of pancake, along with the pureed fruits and veggies I've been giving her here and there). After all, she has two sharp milk teeth, and she wants to try them out. I'm trying to be more consistent about feeding her solids, but there are still several days in a row that will go by when she gets just mother's milk. And I know that's fine, too. Our "nursing relationship" is better than ever. Most impressively, Livvy now sits up nice and tall all by herself without falling over. It's been so neat to be able to put her down just about anywhere with a couple of toys and have her play; this small bit of independence seems to have made both of us much happier. Her newest feat is getting up on all fours and rocking back and forth like a marathon runner right before the gun pop, so I know crawling is in our near future. I'm not in such a hurry for that though. 

Oh My God: Livvy started sleeping through the night this last month. In the last 10 days she's only woken up once in the middle of the night. She generally sleeps from 7:30 p.m. to about 7 a.m. If she does wake up to eat, it's around 5 a.m. and then, belly full, she'll happily go back to sleep for another couple hours. Lastly, Livvy is a snuggle-holic. Girlfriend loves to kiss and hug and throw her arms around my neck and nestle her head under my chin when I'm carrying her around. She is a happy, easy baby, and she brings me so very much joy. 

As for Tessa, who is 3 years and two months old: Reports from the frontlines had me believing that age 3 was going to be a real bitch. And I know I'm only two months into it, but so far it's been anything but. Tessa throws fewer fits (and they don't last as long when she does have them, though they are still remarkably loud and annoying), and she is hilarious on a daily basis. Best of all, she lives entirely within the four walls of her imagination. I like to crawl in there with her sometimes and check the place out. It's a hell of an amusing place to be. Tessa is in a naked phase and doesn't like to have clothes on if she doesn't have to. So her scrumptious naked brown belly and booty are common sights around here. Tessa picks out almost all of her own outfits now and dresses herself every day, usually while I'm upstairs scrambling to get Livvy dressed or fed or bathed so I can get us all out the door. Tessa's independence has been handy, but it's also been coupled with a sweetness I haven't known until now. She regularly requests time to "snuggle" with me--every night before bed but also randomly throughout the day. I don't know if it's her way to steal some mama time away from Livvy or not, but whatever the motivation, I am totally down with it. This little girl has my heart; she is my heart. Oh, and also: We pray now. After books, before snuggles, we say all the things we're thankful for. I've always found prayer really soothing and grounding, even though I do it inconsistently, but I love sharing these quiet moments with Tessa, in the fading darkness of her bedroom with our hands pressed together and our heads bowed. 

Dear God, I am grateful for Tessa and Livvy. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.


All the crocheted accessories in this post were a generous gift from Nakia Kammerzell, who I met through my blog ... or maybe through Instagram. She lives in Washington, runs a darling little Etsy shop called nakiaKhandmade (check it out!), and needed a couple of little girls to model her wares because she has two boys. We were happy to oblige!

May 24, 2013

Dining Room Updates

I've been reimagining our dining room for a couple of months now, and finally feel like it's done enough to share here. (I do still want to add a big ol' jute area rug at some point.)


The first thing I did was sell this Pier 1 table that we'd had since right after we got married. We wanted something a little longer because we like to have dinner parties, and lower to the ground because we want the girls to be able to sit at it comfortably. Plus, I've had my eye on farm-style tables. I sold our table and chairs to a friend after I found a guy on Craiglist who made these farm tables pretty inexpensively. I bought one off of him, and he kindly delivered it. Nekos rewired our chandy (which we also bought at Pier 1 long ago and still really love) and repositioned it over our new table. Then we outfitted it with Edison-style bulbs that we found at Home Depot.

This whole dining room redo started, funnily enough, when my friend Simone gave me a pair of chairs (one is pictured below) because she was doing a purge of her house. I loved the chairs and gratefully accepted them but had no place to put them because our existing dining room table was bar height. That set in motion my entire dining room switcharoo.


I painted these two chairs with some of the front porch ceiling paint I had leftover, and recovered them with a stained tablecloth I had and loved. Then I lightly distressed them with sandpaper.  

We needed a little bit more seating but we didn't have any money to devote to this project so I pulled in one chair from our office (the white one) and my friend Faith gave me another chair that once belonged to her grandmother. I painted it with Annie Sloan's "Paris Gray."


Then we pulled a coffee table up from the basement that my aunt gave me a long time ago but that has always been too formal for our house. To repurpose it as a bench, Nekos unscrewed the top of the table and removed it because it would have made the "bench" too long to fit under the table. I used the "Paris Gray" to paint the legs of the table and then had some red oak boards cut at Home Depot to fit the top of our new bench. We screwed them in and I painted them a creamy white. I plan on making a cushion for this bench at some point.

We also moved our bar to a different wall of the dining room, against the upholstery fabric wall I created a long time ago.


And Nekos made a cool art collage on the main wall, using a couple of prints we love and some of our favorite vacation photos.


Nekos isn't a big fan of our starburst mirror, which I think we also bought at Pier 1 a real, real long time ago, but I still love it and I like the way it brings light into a room. It got hung on a different wall opposite our table. 

And that's it! Other than our little living room, this is the first room you see when you walk into our bungalow and we are pretty thrilled about the way it looks now. It's very us. This wall color (Behr's "Plum Blossom") is the only paint color we haven't changed in the six years we've lived here. It's unconventional, but it brings so much personality and punch to our place.

Thankfully, we spent only about $250 on this project. Our only expenses were buying the new table and the boards for the top of the new bench plus some supplies to rewire and rehang the chandelier, but selling our existing table and chairs helped diminish those costs. I'm trying to use more restraint when it comes to spending on our house. I used to love to buy clothes (and, gosh, I definitely still do), but in recent years I have spent more of our hard-earned money on feathering our nest. But I love what can happen when I'm forced to work with what we have; the results are usually even better.

May 7, 2013

To the Eastern Shore and Back.

This past weekend Nekos photographed a wedding in Cape Charles, Virginia, right along the choppy gray waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Tessa, Livvy, and I tagged along, taking advantage of the free hotel room and rental car and chance to visit a place we'd never been. This was our first vacation as a family of four, and we went with not a little apprehension and a whole lot of excitement. Cape Charles is a beautiful, tiny town where time is standing still, in the best possible sense. (My girls, however, were not standing still.) There is one coffee shop, one pub, one old-fashioned soda shop, a handful of locals, and a smattering of vacation homes bumped up right against the beach. Most everything there is beaten by the weather and blown by the wind, and many of the old train stations, service stations, and warehouses are abandoned and all kinds of spooky. It used to be a railroad town and major ferry port but hasn't been since the 1960s, and lots of the buildings have been just chilling there, essentially untouched for 50 years.

I loved learning about this part of the country. I did not know, for instance, that the Chesapeake Bay was formed when a meteorite punched a 53-mile-wide hole through the earth 35 million years ago. I also didn't know about the existence of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which is a seriously breathtaking 23-mile-bridge-tunnel over the Bay. I didn't know how tasty a soft shell crab sandwich could be or that there's a place called Chincoteague Island where wild ponies run free. (We incidentally came across more pony poop than ponies.) When I've been to beach towns in the past, they've been well-to-do areas with double-decker beach houses that make my heart ache with envy, but Virginia's Eastern Shore surprised me by being very working class from end to end. These weren't your run-of-the-mill pristine beach towns, but towns that have ridden out more than their fair share of ups and downs.

We were there for four days, and each day was punctuated by good and bad moments. I'm so used to getting regular breaks from Tessa since she goes to school four days a week, and it was honestly really trying to be with her all day every day. The kid talks a lot. A lot, lot, lot. She can also be very sassy, which can be exasperating when we're tired. And her picky eating at home was magnified when we were out of town because we didn't have our healthy go-to's on hand, and we hated paying for meals at restaurants that she left untouched or threw a fit about. Plus, there was the matter of putting both girls to bed in a hotel room when we're used to them both having their own room.

On the day of the wedding I had both kids to myself for eight hours. We visited the aquarium in Virginia Beach, and Tessa loved seeing the sea turtles and blue and yellow fish. I loved getting to sit and nurse Livvy in a darkened room in front of an aquarium as big as a house. Another time I nursed her on the shore, sitting Indian style in the sand. And another time pulled over in the car, watching the sun sink over the Bay. Definitely my most picturesque baby-feeding experiences to date. At the end of that day I drove back over that 23-mile bridge (and then some) with Livvy screaming her head off in the car the whole way. She wasn't hungry, she didn't have a dirty diaper, and I had been holding her all day. I never could quite figure out what got her goat, but it sure did make for a hellish ride back to Cape Charles. Luckily, the tail end of the wedding festivities awaited us, and Tessa got to break it down on the dance floor and Livvy got to get back into my arms, where she is most happy. But shew, man. It takes a toll ... hearing that much crying. Somehow, in just the few days we were away, Livvy cut her second tooth, which is mad cute, and she started sitting up on her own for several minutes at a time. Now that I think about it the tooth may have had something to do with the crying.

Needless to say, this was one of the least restful vacations I've ever taken. It seemed like a whole lot of work in fact. And it turns out that Virginia is not actually for lovers when you share a hotel room with two little girls who are thrashing around and waking one another up and protesting bed time with all of their might. I'm hopeful that vacations will get easier one day when they're older and their needs and schedules are better aligned. In the meantime, this little whirlwind of a trip has given me a bunch of new memories and pretty new photos to hang on our walls. It's given me a new appreciation for home and for childcare and separate rooms and places to put the baby down and a little bit of time to myself.