Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chair Re-Cover

Okay, so I lied. But it was a little white lie. Or, rather, a little brownish greenish lie.

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I tackled a sewing project this weekend. I have these light green chairs that have seen better days, before the cat and the residing in the children's rooms for a few years.

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Bad kitty! They needed to be recovered. The metal legs screw right off, so I figured that fixing the chairs would be quick and easy. (Which it was.)

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I wanted to cover them in a darker fabric; the light green, aside from being dingy and damaged, was too close in tone to the gray walls. When I saw this deeply discounted fabric a while ago I knew I would end up going back on my words to never recover another couch. Although... these are chairs, so maybe I didn't REALLY break my promise to myself after all...

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It's taken me more than seven years to get over doing that couch!! I felt like it was time to give sewing a cover another go.

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After pinning some expendable fabric to the chair and outlining the profile, I added 3/4ths of an inch to every side (1/4 inch for wiggle room; 1/2 inch seam allowance).

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Then I simply cut out the fabric, sewed the edges, and slipped the cover on.

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Oh how I wish I had a huge padded table like my grandmother did in her basement, for making draperies.

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I secured the material to the undersides of the chairs with staples and re-attached the metal legs.

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I still might spritz the fabric with a bit of water to get it to fit more snugly; not sure if that will help or not. I'll let you know if that actually works. The effectiveness probably depends on the type of material.

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In the meantime, the chairs look much cleaner and I like the way the darker fabric works with the wall color. Not bad for a $30-something fix!

(I don't want to think about how long I have before the cat starts pulling out threads with her claws. She's lucky I love her!)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Losing the children to time, age, and wisdom.

We were discussing our long-term plans for the house the other day. It was exciting to think of what we could accomplish in ten years from now, what debts would be paid off by then, the family trips we might be able to plan, and how much more financial freedom we would theoretically have at that point. Ten years out always seems like an optimistic, settled, happy time. So much good can happen in a decade.

That's when the realization hit — our oldest, our daughter, will most likely not be enjoying that phase of life with us.

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She'll be preparing to head off to college and will leave the house. Then she'll get married, move across the country, and we'll be visiting her at her home one day. Suddenly, the 10 year plan didn't seem so alluring. I felt a bit of panic, actually. I had gone through the pangs of watching children pass through phases before, but this was different. This was essentially erasing her from the picture we had just constructed.

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Ever since my first was born I've been worried about the bad things that could happen, as parents tend to do. A lot. I have been focused on shielding her (and her siblings) from illness or injury or general sadness. (By the way, she made a full and quick recovery from her migraine the other day. It was actually pretty short as far as migraines go. Phew!)

Protecting and loving my children is so innate. I wasn't prepared for the depth of emotion, or the power of the anxiety I would experience as a new mother. It took me by surprise. Literally. For the first week or so after my daughter was born, the motherly instinct was so strong that it caused me to hallucinate. I thought that she was standing next to my bed every time she cried in the middle of the night. (Because, you know, it makes total sense to have an infant standing at eye level. Apparently logic isn't so important when it comes to hormone-induced hallucinations.)

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The desire to help her and protect her and keep her close to me was so strong that my mind constructed her face standing beside me in the darkness. It scared the crap out of me; I thought someone was in our bedroom. I'd wake my husband up in a frenzy, only to realize in the half-aware delirium of the newborn phase that there wasn't someone there, and that my daughter was just crying for me in her nearby bed. Never underestimate the power of hormones, love, and instinct!!

I have been so focused on protecting her from bodily harm that it never crossed my mind what it will be like to lose her the natural way to the very maturity and responsibility we work so diligently to instill in her. That loss never dawned on me until we realized that she wouldn't be with us to enjoy the 10 year plan.

At some point, I'm going to have to let her go. I will find out about her life through facebook rather than through daily interactions. I'll have to witness the choices that she is going to make for herself — good and bad — and I'll have to watch that from a distance. I won't always be able to make everything better; one way or another, she is going to get hurt.

As she's gotten older I have come to accept that she will grow up, but I never thought about the actual separation that comes along with growing up. I can't imagine life without this little one who takes such great pride when setting the table that she writes everyone's names on their napkins and makes sure the adults get non-plastic cups and plates. She is going to leave a big hole at the dinner table.

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It comforts me to know I will always be mom to her and her brothers and I'm thankful for that. It seems natural to me that God would honor these profound relationships that we form, and that we'll still be a family even after we pass on. But at some point during mortality there's going to be some letting go involved.

Is 10 years going to be enough time to prepare for that eventuality?

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I hope so. I hope that as she depends less on me, I won't feel such a strong pull to make everything all better. I hope she'll learn coping mechanisms to help her deal with the inevitable problems. I hope for all the cliché's, that she becomes a wise and capable and responsible adult who is strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I hope the parting will be gradual and natural. And, in the process, I hope I don't end up being the main topic of discussion at a weekly therapy session.

To parents who have been through this already — you have my respect. I'm starting to understand why the typical remark "you'll always be my little girl" is so... typical!

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As optimistic and settled and happy as ten years out seems to be, I'm not ready for it. Not yet. I'll get there.

At least, I'm not ready for the separating part. As for the vacations and the finished attic part of the ten year plan, bring it on. I've never been to Hawaii; this must be remedied!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Her first migraine.

I should have recognized the symptoms. I should have known the series of events were connected.

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Earlier today, my 7 year old hit her head pretty hard. Not hard enough to leave a mark, or to cause her to cry for more than 5 minutes, but hard enough to hurt. I sent her to her room to lay down until she felt better and calmer. I checked on her a few minutes later. While she was in there, she forgot the bonk and picked up the book she was reading, one of the Ramona series.

Half an hour later she came out to play with her brothers. "Hey Mom," she said as an aside, "it was weird when I was reading, the letters started turning white!"

"Huh, that is strange." I replied, figuring she had been staring at the pages for too long in poor lighting. It never crossed my mind that this could be a pre-migraine visual disturbance.

Later, she heard the neighbor friends playing in the court and wanted to join them. I told her she could go. While she was bending down to put her socks on, the pain started. She came to me, hand on her head, complaining that the right side was hurting a lot. I inspected her head to see if there were any sign of the hit to the head, which there wasn't. Not even a red mark.

By the time I put one and one and one together, I knew it was too late. Her headache had progressed to the point that ibuprofen couldn't do much to keep the searing pain away, and she's too little for stronger medicine without consulting a doctor. She needed the ibuprofen at the visual disturbance stage to have any hope of avoiding the misery. I gave her some right away, along with a glass of Mountain Dew for the caffeine, and helped her understand what was going to happen next.

I called my medic to get his opinion too, since the event was preceded by a hit to the head, just to cover my bases. And I'm always hesitant to label something as a migraine when it's the first time. I worry that I'll jump to the headache conclusion prematurely since that's what I know. He agreed that it was "just" a migraine. He himself had never experienced one until several years into our marriage. I took care of him, much in the same way that I'm taking care of my daughter today.

"I want you to go lay down in the guest bedroom, where it's dark and quiet," I told her. She was in tears due to the unfamiliar pain.

"...But how dark is it going to be?" She asked, for some reason developing a sudden fear of the dark.

"Oh, it won't be that bad. It's just that light and noise will make your head hurt worse, and you don't want that, do you."

"No!"

She crawled into bed and I showed her some techniques to help make the pain manageable, like pressure points, tugging on her hair in just the right spot, the benefits of the gentle pressure of a pillow on the top of her head, and massaging her neck and skull muscles. I told her what to expect, from how bad the pain might get to possibly throwing up. She relaxed as the medicine began taking the edge off the pain. "I just want to sleep now," she told me. I left the room, only to be called back 15 minutes later. "Can you pull my hair some more?"

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I helped her cope with the headache and we quietly talked. She asked about when I had my first migraine. I told her about how it happened at school, and my mom took me to my grandma's house so that someone could keep an eye on me while I got better. I told her about her dad's first one, too. She commented on how unlucky he was to have such short hair that couldn't be tugged. Then she felt special for being the youngest person in the family to get a migraine. Poor girl!

It's hard seeing her go through this. I know how she feels, and I hate that there's nothing I can do about it.

She's still resting and lamenting that I won't let her watch t.v. while she recovers. Just moments ago the neighbors knocked on the door, which caused her to jump up, which caused her to throw up. "But I feel better now, Mom!" She exclaimed as she brushed her teeth again. She doesn't understand why I won't let her go outside. And now she and her brothers are discussing the finer points of what it's like to throw up.

Sigh. At the very least, if one of the boys gets a migraine, she'll be an eager little nurse with lots and lots of grody details to entertain them with! And if she's feeling well enough to talk about vomit, she must be on the mend. The difficult part now is going to be convincing my 7 year old that she needs to be all the way better before she gets up to play, or else the headache might return. So far, she's not buying it. The desire to play is stronger than the pain. This is one lesson that I hope she doesn't learn the hard way!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How to remove a big, dead tree. (I'm sure there's a life lesson in this somewhere.)

Yesterday was an exciting day around here. A week or so ago we got word that the HOA was finally taking care of the big dead tree that was dropping big dead branches in our yard. We were informed that the tree cutter-downers (I'm sure that's the technical term) would be at our place sometime between the hours of whenever and whenever on Tuesday.

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"Mom," asked my 5 year old son, "are they going to come when I'm at school?" His sad, concerned eyes showed that I had better not say that he was going to miss this event.

"I don't know, honey. We don't really know when they'll show up."

"...But why can't they tell us?"

If he only knew he was asking one of the great, unanswerable questions of life!

"That's just the way it works, we don't get to know when the workers will actually make it." I took him to school, and told him that the odds were in his favor that they would not show up first thing in the morning.

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This particular tree has been problematic. It's just outside our property line, so it's not technically ours, but it keeps dropping hefty branches in our yard.

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Oh, and it's in the way of the only view of the lake from the house. And it looks kinda creepy. The result is usually this conversation: "Ooh, there's a nice sunset tonight!" Click. "Heh, we need to see if the HOA can take that tree down."

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So I was really excited when ownership of the tree was established and the HOA dealt with any legalities and set up it's removal.

Lucky for my Kindergartner, the tree cutter-downers didn't knock on the door until ten minutes before I picked him up from school.

"Mom!" He cried out from the window that he had plastered his nose to by the time I got his little brother out of the car. "There's a man in the tree!!"

I was wondering how they were going to take the thing down. Most of my experience with cutting down trees has been of the small, DIY sort. This was new to me. Sadly, the rest of my concept of how it works came from an episode of Mighty Machines about loggers. Sigh.

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Joining my son at the window I saw that there was, indeed, a man in the tree. I had assumed that they would cut the tree down at the base and then chop it up into little bits with a swarm of chain saws. But apparently, that is not how it's done. The actual procedure is much more precise, and produces much less collateral damage. (I had a crazy dream about the workers coming to our house in military vehicles, creating a swath of destruction along the fence line down to the dead tree. It was apocalyptic. Way more collateral damage! And there was a tornado. And my husband was sent home from the station half way through his shift, after being exposed to some sort of environmental toxin. But I digress...)

The daunting task is actually taken care of one branch at a time.

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The guy in the tree carefully adjusts his harnesses and ropes and ties off each branch before he saws it off.

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The team at the bottom controls the chunks of tree as they fall to the ground, guiding the pieces through the live branches to spare them.

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For the most part.

The boys set up their trucks and transformers in the window sill to fully appreciate the event.

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Finally, after several hours, the tree was down.

The workers kindly chopped up a huge pile of fire wood for us, and left the larger logs on the other side of the fence should we want to keep those as well.

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My daughter missed the fun but carefully assessed the situation when she got home. She approves. So do I. The view from the window is much less Halloween-y, and I no longer have to worry about those branches falling off.

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For the record, the boys lost interest less than half way through the tree removal. I guess they were hoping for the military vehicle swath of destruction approach!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy Birthday to our marriage!

Fourteen years ago, give or take, I met a guy.

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Then this happened.

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That was our engagement photo. How creative people are these days! We just went to a photo place and got 'er done.

Then, thirteen years ago, this happened,

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and this,

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and this.

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I had no idea what was going to happen next. I had no idea at the time how deeply I would love the life and the people we would make together. I only knew that I wanted to spend the next day with him and saw no end to that desire.

There is still no one I'd rather spend the next day with.

I looked through our photo files to find the wedding pictures and had the experience of the last 13 years together flash before my eyes. Literally.

(Well, except for those 5 years before we had children and digital cameras. Just imagine me fat and happy and working in a depressing cubicle and you'll get a good idea. And we lived in a tiny apartment... never mind. ;) Oh, and the friends and games, always. Then I lost 35 pounds, which triggered me to finally get pregnant for some reason, which triggered the purchase of our first "nice" camera which triggered the interest in a blog to share pictures and stories with our family, which triggered this blog. Funny how those things happen! I can look back and say that those 45 pounds I gained during the first few years of our marriage are responsible for much of the happiness I have now. Thank you, fat! We'll reassess the nature of our relationship after this baby is born...)

Here's a tiny summary of the life I saw flickering before me in picture form:

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Hey. You. The incredible man in these photos that has given me so much to adore. I love you. And I love how I know you're part of my life, like when I go to pick up the Kindergartner and I find that my seat has been pushed all the way back, and the radio and headlights pop on when I turn the key. I'd miss that if you were gone. So stay safe, okay? Okay then. Happy anniversary!
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