It’s been almost four years since we renovated our old guest room to turn it into a nursery, and I still haven’t documented the work that we did. Why must I document all of the work that we did? Is it because this is the Internet and we must document all of the work that we do, no matter how trivial? Is it because I needed an excuse to use the wide angle lens on my dSLR? Is it because the cleaners came today and I wanted to prove that we don’t always live in our own filth?
It’s because this is what the room looked like when I was like a million months pregnant, heavily nesting, and trying to not lose my mind over the entire process:
Somewhere out there, someone is frantically googling “Can my baby still get into Harvard if they spend the first month of their life sleeping in a cardboard box?” (Answer: yes. It’s called the entire population of Finland ).
Welcome to my website, frantic googler. Everything is going to be fine. Have your partner make you a nice cup of chamomile tea, elevate those swollen feet of yours (I assume you are nesting, and therefore pregnant), and take a nice, deep breath. I think we finished our renovations on time (I honestly can’t remember, which just goes to show how unimportant this stuff is in the long run). Even then, our daughter spent the first few months of her life in a co-sleeper attached to our bed. Babies will sleep pretty much anywhere. Put them somewhere safe, and they’ll be fine.
Now I get to brag a little about how cute the room finally ended up.
Note the distinct lack of construction debris. I really feel that it adds to the feng shui of a nursery when the closet is no longer crumbling into dust. That closet ripped my Dad’s hand open (twice!), but it’s now the nicest closet in the house. I should probably have opened up the closet doors for a picture, but there is a very nice Elfa system in there (thanks Uncle Andre and Auntie Michelle!).
(I am so totally jealous of that closet, even if the hanging rods are all sized for someone who is only a couple of feet tall).
I think the room is a nice mix of classic and modern pieces. Or, as I like to put it, “stuff that people gave us for free, and stuff that we bought on-sale at Ikea.” The crib (now a toddler bed) is new (because: safety), but the other big pieces were in my sisters-in-law’s room when they were little. We didn’t have to do anything with the furniture except to give it a good scrubbing.
The wall hangings were all made by my grandma, who is a truly talented quilter. I made the curtains, some of the cushions, and that butterfly mobile. It’s a little hard to tell, but there is a quilt stand in a corner that has a whole bunch of homemade blankets on it, including a blanket knitted by my great-grandmother. That rocking chair is a family heirloom that my grandparents had re-caned. There is a plush cthulhu doll sitting on it, because how awesome is it that someone gave Lilian a plush cthulhu?
I intentionally hung a lot of the pictures and other decorations low. I mean, it’s a room for a tiny person. She should be able to look at everything. My mom gave us a really lovely gift that I put right at Lilian-height: it’s a recipe for her grandmother Lillian’s snow pudding. Lil was the OG, even if we did accidentally change up the spelling. It’s a beautiful frame, but somehow it always ends up slightly askew. I kinda dig it though, because every time I go to straighten it out, I have a nice little moment thinking about family history.
(I’m not OCD. I can stop straightening picture frames any time I want. I just choose not to.)
I kinda wish that the rest of the house was as nice as this room. We’re (slowly, oh so slowly) getting there, but this is the first room that we really planned out in advance, and then saw it through to completion. It’s also the easiest to keep clean, even if it houses a tiny cyclone. Kids’ stuff was made to be purged when kids aren’t using it anymore, so there just hasn’t been that accumulation of crap that you don’t know what to do with. I’m sure that someday soon it will all be bursting at the seams with random plastic toys that she can’t bear to part with, but for now it’s nice to be able to do a quick sweep and put everything in its place.
I wish my closet was half as organized. I wish my closet had real walls!
So there you go, frantic googler. You can rip apart your nursery and patch it back together before your baby arrives. I don’t know that I would recommend it, per se, but it is technically possible. I would highly recommend taking advantage of every friend and family member that offers to help. We sure did, and it’s the only reason that it all got done. That crown molding didn’t hang itself. It took two very tall friends and a shorter friend to supervise.
I also wouldn’t recommend getting knocked up as a ploy to get your friends and family to help you with your house. But it was also a pretty effective technique. So is marrying a very handy man. Kristian did a lot of the work in this room himself.
I am really glad that I took before photos, and that I remembered to go back and take after photos as well. Because, after all this time, I am actually kindof in awe at the transformation.
First things first, how cute is this?
We have had a lot of fun with Alexa. She tells some truly terrible jokes. And I’m sure that I will in no way, shape, or form regret teaching our daughter how to turn the lights off on us.
My hilarious work stories are all currently classified, so here are some more photos of my Splendid Sampler blocks.
I had to pick this one out and re-do it like 7 different times. Or, as my grandma likes to say, I had a lot of reverse sewing to do. There were a lot of little corners to line up. And the directions were not completely clear. They randomly switched back and forth between referring to fabrics by color and letter. And one of the colors wasn’t even accurate (she calls it pink and it’s red in the illustrations). I think maybe I was just really tired, but I had a hard time following along with this one. I’m pleased with how it came out, though.
This one looks pretty simple, but was actually a little hard to line up. Possibly because I had to keep an eye on Lilian while I was working on it. And she kept making a play for my permanent/fabric markers.
This one was actually easier than it looked. And I put a bird on it!
We had a nice little weekend… low-key and not too stressful. None of us slept enough (Lilian woke up in the middle of both nights, and got up super early both mornings). But we got a lot of work done around the house, I got to do some sewing, and Lilian had a very sweet play-date with one of her friends from school. They played together unbelievably well while Kristian and I sat on the back deck with her friend’s mom. It was just what we all needed.
Oh, there was that little bout of food poisoning I had on Saturday night. That was not quite so relaxing. I guess that’s the power of chilling out in the sunshine. I’d almost forgotten how miserable Saturday night was.
I am so excited for it to be warm again!
I’ve been feeling really stressed out lately. The combination of pet and house problems , plus a travel schedule that’s kindof bananas, plus living with a toddler, plus never sleeping enough, plus I don’t know there’s probably some other stuff on that list… has done a real number on me. So, I’ve been sewing. A lot. I go upstairs to my craft room, crank up some tunes (or a podcast), and then just lose myself in the creative process . It’s done wonders for my mental health.
How do I find the time to sew? Well, the combination of listening to the Note to Self Infomagical series after reading this post from my friend Vicki got me thinking about how much time I spend randomly scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. And so I gave myself a new mantra. “There is probably something better I could be doing with my time.” I still spend far too much time staring blankly at my phone, but I am so much better about it these days. I cleared out a bunch of RSS feeds that I wasn’t really enjoying anymore, deleted all the podcast subscriptions that were piling up, and have been making more of a conscious effort to put my phone down somewhere when I get home and then just leave it there . And now, I remind myself (again and again), “there is probably something better that I could be doing with my time.”
Lately, that something better has been to sew. Lilian goes to bed and I wander upstairs to spend the evening. The only problem? Sometimes I get so immersed in what I’m doing that I stay up way too late. Which is somewhat counter-productive (see: never sleeping enough). But! I still feel better than if I was spending my evenings watching TV. Plus, I managed to make some pretty things.
I am doing not one, but two quilt-alongs. I like the Crossroads Quilt Along, but new blocks only come out once a month. So, I decided to do the Splendid Sampler as well. I am way behind on the Splendid Sampler, but I have been just loving the blocks. I splurged and bought myself a bunch of orange and pink fabrics. I’m making this one for myself and it’s all about the prints that bring me joy. Lilian has been bitten by the sewing bug as well, so she and I have been making some things together. I am working on a quilt for her that just needs to be quilted and bound, but the hand-basting is taking me forever. I have another project that I’m working on as well, but that one is a present, so no pictures until it’s done!
My first four blocks for the Crossroads Quilt Along. I am using these awesome Scandinavian-inspired prints in pink and grey for this one. I had to re-do one of the blocks, because Lilian got her hands on it and cut it with her little scissors. I was steaming mad about that one, but it didn’t end up being too bad a fix. And it was a great lesson that Lilian can reach a lot farther than I thought!
This is block one from the Splendid Sampler. I used a decorative stitch from my sewing machine, which is something that I’ve been bad about doing. I’m trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. The decorative stitches are so much easier to use than I thought! I just have to remember to switch to my walking foot. I think I must have tried one with a regular foot and then convinced myself that I couldn’t handle them.
Here is block two! I didn’t like the busyness of that grey pattern, but it’s growing on me. I will probably sew all of the blocks together with a solid sashing, and then it won’t be too busy at all. One of the things that I really like about the Splendid Sampler is they give you the block designs, but also some suggestions on how to improve your technique. The idea is to learn a bunch of new ways to sew as you’re putting all of the blocks together. The tutorials that went with this one were really helpful. I think the corners came out much better than similar blocks that I’ve made in the past.
Here is block three. This one was harder than it looks! Lots of little corners to line up. I whiffed on one or two of them, but I don’t think it’s worth ripping out to re-do. This is the first block I made with a bunch of the new fabrics that I bought. They make me so happy!
And, finally, Lilian and I have been making some applique projects together.
This is a pretty genius pattern design . You trace the design onto a piece of backing, both the front and the back of it. Then, you iron on fabric scraps to the front. You don’t have to worry about staying in the lines, because you have the pattern traced on the back as well. Once everything is ironed down, you flip it over and cut it out. Very easy, but the lines come out perfectly! Lilian loves cutting up little pieces of fabric for me to iron down. This is what we were working on when she took the scissors to one of my blocks. Note to self: nothing but scraps on the table when we’re working on these. It was a bit of a pain to sew everything down (I only had medium weight Heat N Bond on hand), but she is so pleased with her new pillow. The only problem is, now she wants a million more! We’ve made a kitty and a unicorn using the same pattern, but I haven’t sewed those down on anything yet. She asked for a new duvet cover, but that seems like an awful lot of work.
I feel like I never have time to blog these days, but then I reminded myself this AM that blogging could be that something better than scrolling through Facebook. So, maybe I will try to make a habit of posting a little more often. We’ll see. Usually I say I’m going to post more, and then disappear for a few months instead!
(Spoiler alert: I’m dusting off the ol’ blog to let you know about the passing of my beloved cat, Tabitha. This is a total bummer of a post. You have been warned.)
Nothing good ever came out of the phrase “can I talk to you in the hall for a minute?” Monday was no exception. I was getting ready for a flight to Canada, and Lilian was hanging out with me in our room. Kristian stepped out into the hall with me, but he didn’t have to say anything. I already knew it. My cat, Tabitha, was dead.
She hadn’t been doing well for the past year or so. She was peeing all over the house, and she suddenly seemed really, really old (she was about 14). We spent a lot of money on vet visits and blood tests, and they finally figured out she had hyperthyroid-ism. Getting her thyroid levels under control seemed to make a difference, but she was still peeing all over the place. We moved her up to the third floor to minimize the damage. She started declining again. And then she really started to go downhill. Sunday night, I told Kristian that I didn’t think she was doing very well. She was kindof listless, and she cried when I pet her. He was going to call the vet on Monday. But, well…
Kristian went upstairs to take a shower and he found her. She was curled up like she always slept, she looked really peaceful. I’m glad that she went peacefully. And I will be eternally grateful that Kristian didn’t have to make the difficult decision to put her down while I was away on business. It also made a real difference that I got a chance to pet her one last time and say goodbye to her. I picked her up and put her in a tote for Kristian to take to the vet (an Amazon box just seemed to un-dignified). I told her that she was a good cat. I told her that I loved her. And then I had to get on a plane and go do my job.
This is what I wrote about Tabitha on Facebook:
My cat, Tabitha, died last night. I got her when she was a tiny kitten and I was a junior in college. [My friend Vicki
] said that she would see me through a lot of major milestones, and she was right. Tabitha was there for bad breakups, new jobs, moves, and all of the bumps and bruises that come from being in your early twenties and having no idea what the fuck you are doing. I knew Kristian was a keeper when he met her for the first time and helped her with some sensitive grooming. I used to joke that having a cat meant never drinking alone, but Tabitha was the buddy I came home to instead of a tiny, cold apartment. She was there when I got married. She was there when I had Lilian. I almost can’t believe she won’t be there anymore. She had a rough time of it this past year. Part of me is glad that she died peacefully before her quality of life went way down. But I’m gonna miss my little companion. Even when she was crotchety, old, and slightly incontinent I still loved her. RIP.
I thought that maybe people would think I was being overly dramatic about a cat, but I was completely overwhelmed with love and support from my friends. It brought real comfort to me that so many of them remembered her so fondly.
Poor Kristian had to deal with all of the aftermath on his own. He brought her to the vet to be cremated. He had to pick out the box that they are going to give her back in. We elected to wait to tell Lilian until I get back, but he’s spent all week knowing that he’s going to have a very difficult conversation on her hands if she notices that Tabitha is gone and asks him about it. Tabitha spent half her time hiding under the bed upstairs, so Lilian might not notice. Fingers crossed that I can be there to tell her with Kristian tomorrow.
I’ve listened to this podcast , so I know it might not be her we get back. Or all of her. Or just her. But I also know that I need more closure than the few tears I shed before I had to pull my shit together and get to the airport. So, we’ll bury her remains in the backyard this spring and have a little ceremony for her. Tabitha was a special cat. She was my cat. And I don’t think I’ll ever have another cat as special to me as she was.
After all of that, I got to Canada and Immigrations decided that all of the paperwork that has been perfectly sufficient for all of our previous visits was not enough. I honestly think that the look of “holy fuck my cat just died, I can’t believe you’re going to send me home” on my face is what made him decide to let me into the country instead of putting me on the next plane back home. I did manage to get a lot done this week. And then they boarded my plane home while I was in the bathroom and I got stuck here for another night (the story of how that happened probably deserves an entire post of its own).
You have to laugh or you’d cry, right?
(I may or may not be crying in my hotel room right now).
This week has put me through the ringer. And now I have to get up at 4am tomorrow, fly home, and help Kristian tell Lilian that our cat is dead. Facebook tells me that three-year-olds are pretty oblivious about this stuff. I’m really hoping that she is oblivious about this. At any rate, I am very much looking forward to getting home to her and Kristian. Who has been amazing this week. And who took the news that he’d be solo parenting for another 12 hours with a lot more aplomb than I would have. Even on one of the shittiest weeks I can remember, he still makes me feel lucky. For that, I should be grateful.
(I’m mostly grateful.).
(But fuuuuuuuck this week has sucked.)
Halloween is pretty much my favorite of all the holidays. I love the candy, the decorations, the costumes… (when I was a freshman in college, I outfitted about a half dozen friends on the spur of the moment with just what I had in my closet). I love love love making costumes for Lilian.
Her first Halloween, I was too exhausted to get all that creative. So she wore a hand-me-down Lobster costume and I tried to not eat her.
Next year, I got to have a little more fun! She was a winged monkey from the Wizard of Oz. I loved how the little fez came out (it was a mini Ben and Jerry’s carton that I covered in red felt).
Last year, she was Sulley from Monsters Inc. It was a fairly easy pattern to sew, but fake fur is no joke! I think I broke about 17 needles while I was working on it. At the last minute, she almost didn’t wear it, which would have just about broken my heart. In the end, she got very excited about going “rawr!” and people giving her candy.
This year, she was Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon. We thought we’d be all smart and spend the end of September/beginning of October getting her excited for her costume. Which was a great idea… until the power in our attic went kablooey and I had to start sewing with the help of an extension cord from the bathroom. Not a lot of light up there these days. I almost wished that I’d just bought her an Anna dress and called it a day. ( Almost ).
I did one thing right, which was to get started early. I did some research (aka, spent an evening on Pinterest), gathered up most of my supplies, and started sewing with plenty of time to spare.
For those of you who are interested in these sorts of things, I got most of my inspiration from this post . I started with her basic process and then went from there. The little skulls and spikes are all model magic. I painted mine using some glittery acrylic paint, which ended up being the biggest pain in the ass. Model magic isn’t porous at all, so I had to dab the paint on with a foam brush. It took forever and got all over my hands. After it was all done and dried, I read this post about how you can color model magic with markers. I soooooo wish I had done that instead. Lilian loved the sparkles, but I have a sparkly marker set that probably would have worked just fine.
The skirt I pretty much improvised on. I measured Lilian’s waist, divided by 10, and then used that number to cut out a template for the maroon flaps. The leather under-skirt and headband I made using a bag of leather scraps that I got on Amazon (these are all affiliate links). If anyone is desperately trying to figure out how to make one of these things, feel free to leave a comment, but I pretty much made it up as I went along. It was pretty gratifying to know that I have enough sewing technique in me to put it all together without a tutorial.
The “armor”, I’m pretty proud of. It’s just regular quilting fabric from Joanns, but I sewed interfacing into it to make it nice and stiff. This one I also did without a pattern, but I can say that it’s three rectangles, each one about an inch shorter from the last. I sewed it directly to the shirt, and it held up really well. I folded it in half and then ironed it to give it some of its shape.
The shirt I ended up sewing from scratch. Partially because I didn’t have much luck finding a ready-made one with the right kind of stripes, and partially because Lilian fell in love with the fabric when she saw it at the store. It’s not really the right colors, but like I said, Lilian loved it. And isn’t that what really matters? It’s also super soft. I might have to make her a non-viking version. The pattern is this one . I didn’t bother with any of the ribbing/hemming. Partially because I wanted a little bit of a rough viking look, partially because I was under a time crunch at that point (I ended up having to travel for work and lost a few sewing days the week of Halloween).
My sister Melissa recommended epoxy to glue all of the skulls and spikes on, and I should have listened to her! We didn’t have any epoxy, so I used hot glue instead. I figured I’d see how they held up during a trial run, and if they didn’t stay on I’d get some epoxy. We took Lilian to visit Beans at work the afternoon of Halloween, and everything stayed on just fine. Of course, when it came time to get dressed for trick or treating, everything started falling off. I ended up pulling off anything that felt loose, scoring the backs with my fingernails, and then re-gluing everything. Luckily, hot glue dries super fast and we only lost one spike after that.
Lilian wanted me to dress up as Astrid as well. But that would have been a) weird and 2) way too much work. So, I bought this dragon hoodie instead. “I’m going to ride you mama!” was Lilian’s response. Eeks.
Gracie was a dinosaur with a little caveman riding on her back. Dinosaur/dragon, caveman/viking, potato/potawto. Pepper made her own dragon costume and joined us for pictures and trick or treating.
I got Lilian a little axe and shield to go with her costume. Which was probably a terrible mistake, but was also a lot of fun for all of us. She was surprisingly good about not whacking us all with the business end of the axe. She mostly just banged it on her shield to make her mama dragon go to sleep (she remembered that from the movie). She’s starting to push her limits with the axe now, but is good about settling down when I remind her that she’s not allowed to hit anyone (or anything but her shield) with it.
Trick or treating was a lot of fun. It seemed like there were a lot of neighbors (even more than last year) that just turned all of their lights off, but the ones who were participating put up a lot of decorations and got all into it. One woman had a super detailed Ghostbusters costume (including backpack, gun, etc). We also saw a lot of parents in costume, which made me feel like a little less of a weirdo in my dragon hoody. Lilian was really good about saying “trick or treat” and “thank you,” although she did yell “let’s go get some morrrre cannnnddyyyyyy!” as we left most of the houses. Anytime she got to pick, she either went for the M&Ms or Whoppers. Whoppers ?!? I have no idea where she got that one from. I gave her a pack to eat, just in case she was just grabbing them because she liked the color of the wrapper. At least I won’t be tempted to eat all of them while she’s asleep.
Pepper loved the shadow that her costume made. It was pretty sweet.
We did about three blocks, which took us a couple of hours. We had a great time chatting with all of our neighbors, and showing off Lilian’s costume. Nobody had any idea who she was, but they all thought that she looked adorable. She very proudly told everyone, “I’m Astrid!” I like the idea of her seeing herself as a strong viking who doesn’t take any guff.
Next year, I will probably get no say in Lilian’s costume. Hopefully, she will pick something fun!