Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fevers > Hurricane & Earthquake

Though last week we had an earthquake and a hurricane, both boys had bad fevers for several days, which proved more disastrous for our household.

Not that the earthquake wasn’t unnerving. I was putting the boys down for a nap when the house started shaking. My first thought was that it was an earthquake, followed quickly by, “But we don’t have earthquakes here.” I had no idea what do to. Take the boys both in my arms down three flights of stairs? Corral all three of us in a doorframe? Instead I think I shrieked like a lunatic because then Clark ran around like a little a parrot shouting, “What in the world?!” Their toy barnyard started mooing up on the shelf, some books fell down, and the icemaker was kicked on in the freezer. I turned on the TV but all that I saw was soaps, Sesame Street, and the local “live” weather channel that seemed creepily prerecorded. I thought maybe the shaking had been an extremely low-flying aircraft of the super-spy type until Brian called and said it was an earthquake. Scary. It took awhile for my heart to stop racing and my hands and the flowers in my window boxes to stop shaking.

Then Saturday we were excited, in a way that only a natural disaster can make you excited, about the imminent hurricane. Probably no one but hardcore surfers would admit to being excited about such a thing. Perhaps nervous or wary, but not excited. So we hunkered down for Hurricane Irene. (great word, hunkered) We had water, we had ice, we had lights, we had batteries, and we had a really long and boring day inside with two fussy, feverish boys. Later at night the wind and rain picked up but it wasn’t even strong enough to knock over the dying pine tree in the front of our building that I really wanted to fall down, or wake up the boys.  Our lights didn’t even flicker. Overall a real letdown for us and our preparations, though I know I should be glad. Tons of people had damage and power outages; there were even sad situations where people lost their lives. I should count our blessings…and I do. I was just hoping for a bit more spectacle.

Cal gets even better bed-head when he's feverish.

Sandwiched between the earthquake and hurricane was the onset of two fevers. Clark fell asleep on the floor one night early and soon after was burning up with a fever. The next day I had sick little Clarky who only wanted to rock on the rocking horse and listen to Jimmy Buffet, (That seriously was the only thing that would make him stop crying a few times.) and active, happy Cal who wanted to run and jump and play… on top of Clark. So we were stuck inside and away from friends and then inevitably Cal caught the fever, probably from all the open-mouth kissing he likes to do. A lot of inside hours of Tylenol and Ibuprofen-administration and mom-worrying like I shouldn’t do, but always do anyway. Overall the fevers were much more off-putting and long-lasting for us than the natural disasters…but I guess fevers are disasters of nature as well.

Jet Ski Pictures

Because I messed with the HTML code on my recent post (and I might add, fixed the problem without any help) called "Water and Suchnot," and because I don't know that much about HTML or Blogger, and don't have a lot of time or patience, I can't figure out why Blogger won't let me edit the post anymore. All that to say, here are a couple pictures of the boys on jet skis from last week that I wanted to add but can't. We plan to go back to lake this coming weekend, so I'll probably have even more water pictures then!

Clark the Brave Shark

Jet ski? Yeah, no big deal. Just another day in my awesome life

I LOVE THIS! I'm really driving!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Summery Blackberries

I went blackberry picking at a small Virginia farm a few weekends ago with my dear friend Missy. Since her GPS thought it knew better than both of us (let’s be honest, it probably does, but this was an exception) we ended up winding through some small rural towns on the bright side of a rainstorm. It was truly charming countryside and made me remember that I like to live in Virginia. Sometimes I forget how beautiful and rural much of the state is. The little towns were founded in years with four digits that start with 16s and 17s and contain stone and brick buildings along two lane highways. It was all green and summery and fresh. A lot of tall church spires and tilting tombstones and whitewashed brick. Signs hanging from wrought iron outside shop doors. I wouldn’t have been terribly surprised to see an aproned woman in a pilgrim dress and bun in her hair poke her head through a window wielding a rolling pin.

Missy and I had a fabulous time, as we always do when I can manage to get away from the kids and she can manage to get away from her fast-paced job on Capitol Hill and we can be real people again. She’s from Idaho and has lived in Virginia/DC since two years before I moved here, and two years with me, and she gets it. She gets me and Idaho and Virginia and coming to terms with living on the East Coast instead of the Wild West because we married guys here. And I get her. 

All that background simply to say that it is good to get away to a pretty place with a good old friend and that blackberries are tasty, plump, summery treats that I adore. They also make delicious cobblers.

Blackberry inspector approves the berries


Partially-eaten cobbler 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday Thesicle

Cool guys sport blue patterned ties and have big brown eyes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How the Teddy Graham Won (and Other Toddler Tomfoolery)

We’ve had a couple breakfast battles lately. The boys used to love oatmeal but they haven’t for the past couple months. A few weeks ago we told them they couldn’t go to the store with Brian if they didn’t eat their oatmeal. It was a struggle for awhile but Clark finally took some bites because he wanted to go shopping. Calvin didn’t. So Brian and Clark went to the store. For over two hours Cal refused to take a single bite of the oatmeal with the fresh peaches they loved eating plain. He didn’t sit at the table the whole time, but I wouldn’t let him eat or drink anything else and I told him he couldn’t watch their favorite video series Signing Time. I warmed it up when he said he was ready to take a bite and he’d turn away. Whatever. Finally he took a bite and (of course) loved it and polished off the whole bowl in a couple minutes. I gave myself a mental high five.

Monday it happened again. I cut up banana in little pieces in Cal’s oatmeal and strawberries for Clark. Refused to take a bite. Yep. We were planning to go listen to Mr. Knick Knack at town center with their friends and so I foolishly(?) boxed myself in and told them we weren’t going to see Mr. Knick Knack unless they took just one bite of oatmeal. An hour passed. I sat there at the table with them for over an hour as they refused to take a single bite. I tried to be calm. I sipped my coffee. I read a cookbook. We talked about the weather. I took deep breaths. I was in it to win it even though I didn’t want to be. They moaned, they wailed, they laughed, they changed the subject. Finally Clark acknowledged defeat and humbly took a bite. Shocker, he then took a bunch of bites because EVERYONE KNOWS OATMEAL WITH MILK AND STRAWBERRIES IS DELICIOUS. Arg. He elicited loud praise from me, and even Cal said, “Sharky did a great job!” but he refused to take a bite of his. What to do? Clark wanted to see Mr. Knick Knack, and as much as I wanted to leave Calvin at home in his chair with his nose in oatmeal, I had to take him too. I packed up the oatmeal and a spoon.

Oatmeal Standoff, mid squirms
When we got there I ran into a friend who usually has snacks and told her not to give Cal any until he ate his oatmeal bite. However, I didn’t get the message to another friend in time and he had climbed up in her lap and had a couple Teddy Grahams before I could turn around. HORRORS! I didn’t let him eat anymore and whipped out my tiny container of oatmeal and a spoon. He of course refused. In the blink of an eye she dug a Teddy Graham into the oatmeal and served up a nice pile of it on the cracker to Cal. Of course he ate it. Who wouldn’t eat it served by a pretty lady who had not been raging a battle of wills with you for the last couple hours, and on a Teddy Graham?

So that is how Cal can beat me even when he’s not actually beating me.

Yesterday morning it was eggs and bacon and bananas. First of all the charming part: when I took the raw bacon out of the wrapper and held up two pieces to show the boys, Calvin said, “like a butterfly!” It did look a little like a butterfly because the strips were pretty wide and I was holding them up from one end and parallel to each other. That’s where the charm ran out. They ate their bacon fine. They had to be coaxed to eat bites of their eggs by being promised another bite of bacon. I left the room for a tenth of a second and when I came back all the eggs and bananas were on the floor and the little boogers were giggling. As I stormed toward them, Clark piped up, “How about a little Jimmy Buffet?” Small brain explosion. Instead I dragged the garbage can over to the table and made them get down and pick up the carnage. Of course that was nearly impossible because they kept changing the subject and wanting to look in the garbage can and talk about the banana peel and the old coffee grounds and Jimmy Buffet. Finally, after I had managed to get them to pick up a few of the bigger chunks, my friend Gen came over to go for a walk and when I turned around she was picking up the eggs.

Egg carnage
Good thing I have helpful friends or else I would not know the power of a Teddy Graham and would have a house covered in eggs. I'm not sure it's worth fighting battles over food...but it feels like I need to.

I’m praying for a better breakfast day this morning. I could always go the easy route and march them across the street to the bagel shop. But the free-bagel-upon-purchase-of-a-beverage coupon has run out so it’s less tempting. Ice cream? Teddy Grahams? Mimosas?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Water and Suchnot

First, some background on the clever little non-word suchnot: On our honeymoon we took a tour of Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii and were fortunate enough to have a fabulous tour guide. She was plump and in-charge. I’ll call her Wanda to preserve her anonymity. At one point as we were on the little bus, Wanda stood up in her faded Wal-Mart genuine Hawaiian print shirt to make an announcement about something we were seeing out the window and out of her mouth came the word, “suchnot” along with whatever else we were supposed to be looking at. But we didn't need to look at anything else. Brian and I were delighted to hear it and from then on we occasionally use the non-word word in our daily conversation.

Enough about that.

Really, Mom and Dad? More water?
An update on boys’ water-phobia: we took a trip to Brian’s parents’ lake house this past week. The first day they played in the sand on the beach, completely happy and immediately responding, “NO!” when asked about going near the water. Gammy tried luring them into the water by playing catch from knee-deep in the water. Cousins were frolicking in the water. Brian was jet skiing in the water. Aunts were kayaking in the water. Cal and Clark were sand-flinging and sifting, a good 15 yards from shore. Eventually they were tricked lovingly coaxed into putting their little toes in the water as they retrieved balls from Gammy. One tiny step for them; one giant leap for their water-phobia’s demise.

Other noteworthy events from the week:

·         Cal emphatically said he wanted to go on the jet ski with Brian, boldly climbed on, and absolutely loved it. Clark didn’t want anything to do with it the first day, but the second day he climbed bravely on also. During the second trip on the jet ski, Cal ordered Brian to stay out in the lake and squealed in fear and wet his pants like his mom does on jet skis, shrieked with courageous joy as they went over the waves. So for whatever reason the boys are okay with rapidly moving, deep, dangerous water and spraying wakes, but deathly afraid of the shallow beach water. Just another riddle to solve in the puzzles of their little minds. (I have some great pictures of the boys on the jet ski that I will put on this post as soon as I get them.)

·         They both loved the boat rides with Poppy and Cal especially enjoyed “driving” on Poppy’s lap.

Victory at sea lake! Toes in water
·         Clark fell off the dock. We think he was trying to climb up a set of stairs that leads from the main dock to the floating dock where everyone was sitting waiting for a boat ride. I turned around for a split second to jump up the stairs and grab something, looked back, and he was gone. He fell into the water by the stairs, and under the taller dock. The lifejacket flipped him right over onto his back and I flew down the stairs and skidded on my knees like a drunk bear cub a lightning-quick superhero across the dock to pull him out. He was shaken up of course, but he actually recovered faster than I did. What struck me was not only how quickly he disappeared off the dock, but also how he was literally several feet from five other people when he fell in and I think Brian, on the other side of the dock and I were the only ones to notice he was gone. It was so easy for him to go unnoticed.

·         Clark discovered air hockey and I think he’ll be a star as soon as he can do more than stand on his tiptoes to look over the table and watch his cousins.

·         I was reminded of how seductively silent a lake can be when I’m on it alone and how beautiful the sound of gently dipping oars are in the water. Ahh.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thursday Thesicle

Even two year-olds get blisters from hitting too many golf balls.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What's That Fing, Mommy?

As those of you who know our kids and/or read my blog often know, Cal is a very figurative thinker who is astute at voicing similes. He called bowtie pasta “like a ceiling fan” the other day. I have a necklace with a round pendant on it that he says is, “like a tire swing.” Clouds are blankies, half-eaten crackers are stars, bears, Gammy's Kitchen Aid mixer’s front knob is its nose, etc. Lately both boys are not only soaking up anything new by asking, “What’s that, Mommy? What’s that fing? (thing) when they see unfamiliar objects, they also test me constantly. They pick up something familiar, like say a crumb from their toast, and say, “What’s that, Mommy? What’s that?” in their most inquisitive voices. Hopefully I pass the test by naming the toast crumb and they smile with a reassuring smile and say, “Yes!” I’m waiting for the day they hand me a gold star sticker or a free homework pass.

So Cal likes to ask what something is and then add his simile in there as if he is guiding me to see things the way he seems them I love it. Only occasionally does something happen like he grabs my or a girl friend or aunt’s or grandma’s chest and ask, “What’s that, Mommy?” Awk. Ward.

Constantly listening to, “What’s that fing?” over and over does get old after awhile, but seeing the world through their eyes is still exciting. As we were walking past a restaurant the other day Cal asked, “What’s that fing? What’s that restaurant?” Nice. I told him it was Macaroni Grill. He immediately responded, “Eat it?”
navigating the metro system

Clark likes to ask what things are and then respond with, “like on TV!” with great enthusiasm. Since they see all kinds of things on their favorite movies to watch ever, the Signing Time series, (which I HIGHLY recommend) they see, for instance, stalks of corn growing in a field at the farm we’ve been to a few times and say, “like on TV!” That is when I grimace inside and try to come to terms with the fact that it’s okay that my kids aren’t growing up in gardens and barns and forests like I did, where novel things on TV were cities and buses and professional sports. Which is more practical to know, how to plant potatoes and grow beans on poles, or how to navigate a bus system? It’s hard to say. But I’m pretty sure there are more buses than bean poles in the world and so I hereby proclaim that it is okay to raise kids here. And then they point at the baby chicks at the farm and scream, “like on TV!” and I grimace again, but not as much because I remember the unpleasant chicken coops I had to clean when I was little. 

Then I go home and wash all our hands well and order takeout from one of the twenty restaurants across the street from our house. After dinner we sit on our balcony with wine and watch the airplanes come and go in the twilight. The stars aren’t as bright here as in rural Idaho, but I do overall feel a bit cleaner and less chicken-y. That’s worth something…right?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cal's Little Right Eye

I’ve been thinking back to two years ago when we found out that Cal had PHPV (Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous) in his right eye. Within a couple weeks' time the pediatrician said he thought it was PHPV, the ophthalmologist said Cal had probably never been able to see in that eye, and the retina specialist said that his retina was detached and that he would never see and quite possibly not only be blind in that eye, but that it would probably die and have to be extracted. It was the worst news I’ve had in my life. Even compared to my big car accident and finding out all the bones that I had broken and being in all that pain, it wasn’t as bad as this. Knowing that your son will go through life with only one eye and with the cosmetic repercussions it will doubtlessly play in his social and psychological development was a lot to digest and I’ve never felt so hopeless.
After his LONG initial surgery
Brian and I would have gladly given anything to be able to lose an eye instead of him, with his whole life ahead of him. I hated thinking that my world, the world I see, would never be exactly the world that he would see. 

But Calvin has not only his surgeon, but his father, my persistent and determined husband, to thank for his vision. Brian never gave up. When I thought we should just be resigning ourselves to his diagnosis and preparing for all it would mean to be his parents, Brian stayed up all night researching the mysterious and rare condition called PHPV and its support groups and specialists. He sent all Cal’s records up to a highly recommended doctor in Long Island, New York. The doctor called us back late on a Thursday night to tell us he saw an inconsistency between the dictation on a chart and the diagnosis. We hung on to hope and made the five hour trip up there with our two infants. 
On the way home from Long Island...eye drops in the van

As the doctor performed the sonogram Brian and I exchanged looks as he kept going over and over to look and look again at what he saw on the monitor. What he said made my heart skip a beat and pound mercilessly at the same time. Cal’s retina was not detached. Cal would see! This doctor saw the mistake the retina specialist had made and knew how to fix the eye. I stared at Cal's little face in the parking lot afterward and cried. My little boy would see and it was the happiest news I could ever imagine receiving. There was a long road ahead of us full of surgeries, eye drops, eye patching, high risks of glaucoma, contact lenses, and glasses, but we were so thankful to even have the chance to tackle them. After the nearly four-hour surgery two years ago tomorrow, we couldn’t have prayed or hoped for a better outcome. In the first surgery he had his natural lens taken out because it was mostly a mass of scar tissue. The doctor painstakingly removed all the other scar tissue he could that was binding up and essentially killing the eye. 
After his second surgery-- a minor one

Cal has had a surgery since the initial one and several exams under anesthesia. He had to remain mostly head down and on his right side for three weeks after the first surgery to allow a minor tear in the retina to heal. For a period of time we were giving him around 20 eye drops a day. We learned to put a contact lens in an infant and take it out again. We learned to patch him all waking hours except one to allow the weak eye to grow. Purposefully taking away the vision in his good eye in order to strengthen the other eye broke my heart, but we were encouraged by the fact that he could clearly see something with his weak eye. Patching hours have decreased and we now patch him from 3-4 hours per day. He is amazing about it. He doesn’t like having it put on, and always asks for a hug and kiss before we do it, but he keeps it on and takes it off by himself when we tell him he can. He loves to “smash it up and throw it in the garbage!” when his time is done. 
Happy Cal at the park last summer

We have finally found a contact lens size that fits him after losing many, many expensive lenses. We only have to put it in and take it out once a week. He still fights getting it put in but he always requests that Clark sing Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes, as we put it in and of course wants many hugs and kisses throughout. I don’t know if he’d be so affectionate (he’s the best hugger I know) if it weren’t for his eye problems. We have frequent checkups with him and will average two exams under anesthesia per year until the threat of glaucoma is significantly less. He functions well while he’s patched. We think he can see decently up to about 12 feet away. After that he has a hard time tracking anything. 
Best friends-- the boys last fall

The doctor recently told us that he probably can’t see in both eyes at the same time because his one eye is so much more dominant. She didn’t suggest any rigorous way to try to combat that though, and since we know that a child’s eye is developing until he is 6 years old or so, we’re getting a second opinion with another doctor next month. This has been such a journey for us and for Cal. After the doctor did the initial surgery he told us that the eye was even in worse shape than he thought and that it probably would have died and had to be taken out in a few months. That would have resulted in all kinds of problems with the growth of his head as well as the cosmetic issues that come from a child with a glass eye.

Cal with a windchime this spring
We are so thankful for all the prayers and support we got from family and friends on Cal’s behalf while we were going through the worst of this. Calvin’s little right eye is a miracle and I try to thank God for his vision every day. I can’t believe it’s been two years, but I’m so glad it has and that we’ve had no real problems since then.  

Next step-- getting used to protective eye glasses

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How the Striking Verizon Workers Stole Our Internet, Resulting in a Cleaner House and Better Meals

That's about all.

The Bed Stories: A Juxtaposition of Fairytale and Mystery

Once upon a time the boys left their cribs for beds. I was nervous. I had visions of being up all night flattening them to their beds while at the same time prying toys from their sweaty, tired fists. In those visions there was always a soundtrack of deafening heavy metal and fingernails on chalkboards and cat fights. They also looked cartoonish, more like an angry Dobby the House Elf (R.I.P.) than little boys.  Needless to say, it was with great trepidation that I said farewell to the cribs that have served us so well the past 27 months. Brian was much more confident than I was.

I remember putting these up...long, long ago in a land far away
Cal was a little sentimental as Brian took his crib apart, but as soon as he could bounce on the new mattresses he was sold. We bought one top bunk mattress, which is basically a futon mattress (no bounces!), and a regular mattress. We are using them on the floor for now, but as soon as we decide the boys are ready for bunk beds we will be all set to plop them in place. They picked out their sheets and pillows with Daddy. Sports for Clark and transportation for Cal. (wheels go ‘round and ‘round like ceiling fans!)

This is bouncier than the crib mattress!
I was sure they’d have trouble getting up and running around, possibly climbing large pieces of furniture and playing trains or something, but about an hour after we put them to bed the first night we peeked in on them and they were like little angels—still under the covers we put on them. They hadn’t moved at all! Honestly, I was shocked and exceedingly happy. (insert montage with previous vision) It has been that way every night since. In the mornings they now wake up about an hour before they used to and when we go into their bedroom they are usually sharing a mattress and reading stories, or over by the bookshelf picking out more stories.
A whole new world unfolds

Or, like this morning, thumping their feet loudly on the wall so that I catapulted out of bed to hopefully save the neighbor below us from waking up early to loud foot booms above her. No word yet, so I’m hoping her sleep was spared. Anyway, they are clearly rockin’ the new bedtime. It’s a fairytale.

Nap time, on the other hand, is a different story—more like a mystery or horror than a fairytale. They start off great—all snuggled in their chosen blankies with their stuffed comfort objects and a stack of books by each of their heads. Before I can even begin to load the dishwasher I hear them up, playing with the doorstop they’ve been fond of since they started crawling, choo-chooing the trains, and occasionally attacking and conquering the other boy’s bed, followed by the loud whoops of victory and the horrific wailing of defeat. 
The mysterious sleepers

So I separate them. I hate to give up our bedroom to a sleeping boy, but I would hate even more to give up nap time completely. At first it was nerve-racking listening to the silence in our bedroom after I put Clark in there by himself. I was hoping he wasn’t surfing the web or climbing the blinds or flinging laundry from our drawers all over the room. Here I go again with the visions… in my mind Clark looked like that ETrade baby from the commercials, working on his stock portfolio at a computer. I don’t know what it will take for them to finally take naps in the same room. It’s a mystery.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thursday Thesicle

Even caped superheroes kiss their uncles.

High Chairs That Aren't Highchairs

Condo dining room idea: We have such a small dining room that having two highchairs in it would make it impossible to navigate or even enjoy a meal in. When the boys starting eating we had one of those plastic highchairs that attaches to a regular chair, and a narrow wooden highchair we put in a corner. It worked okay, but it did make things crowded. We always had the one chair tied up with the highchair on top and two spots with towels on the floor for catching the enormous amount of crumbs produced by two little people learning how to use utensils. It was gross. So Brian had this idea. I must admit I was skeptical. Out of foam that we originally were using on top of a short piece of furniture as a window seat, he made two throne-like seats that easily sit on top of the dining room chairs without being strapped on. They provide several advantages:

1)      We have all four dining room chairs empty and available for anyone to sit on at any time.
2)      We have no floor space covered in towels or blocked by high chair legs.
3)      The boys also use the chairs in the living room when they watch their movies.
4)      We are forced to keep our floor vacuumed more frequently because we don’t always keep the chairs in the same spot with towels underneath them.

Though that last one can be a pain, it is so much nicer overall. I mean, really. It’s not hard to wheel the vacuum out and vacuum our tiny dining room every couple days, and it looks SO much better than towels of dried bread chunks and petrified applesauce splotches under chairs.

Brian used spray-on adhesive to hold the sections of foam together after he had cut the foam into eight pieces—four rectangles for each chair. The truly amazing part of this whole project was that somehow Brian’s mom managed to sew together custom-fit covers for the chairs. The covers are two pieces and connect to each other and themselves with wide pieces of Velcro. We can take them off to wash them. The boys picked out their own fabric during a fleece sale at JoAnne Fabrics. I’m sure fleece is not the most practical fabric to use. Probably something that is easier to wipe off would work better, but the boys liked their soft fleeces and we liked the price. 

Having the chairs has cleared up space and crumbs for us. The boys also enjoy standing up and slowly tipping them over backwards, which has only resulted in a few minor bumps and meltdowns.     

the chairs pre-coverings, sitting perfectly on the dining room chairs

practicing living room use

amazing covers! 

Elmo has never been so awesome

a clear, useful dining room table with all four chairs!


the twin bears prepare for their meal

Cal and Ava share snacks

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dimmy Muffet in Paradise

401-Clark: our retirement plan, baseball-style*
I’m no Parrothead, but I do like myself some good Jimmy Buffet tunes when the mood strikes. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to fly on a whim to Margaritaville or Saint Somewhere and sip boat drinks, but that’s not really the way my life is shaping up. No complaints, though. Maybe retirement will involve soaking in rays, running into chums with bottles of rum, and being the only bait in town. It’s hard to say. As long as Clark keeps practicing that left-handed fastball and dirty curveball, his pro baseball career could fund an island retirement for us. Maybe we can lie on some Little League forms soon and get that action rolling.

seriously swingin' in Dimmy Muffet shirts*
Anyway. I had a Buffet hankering a few weeks ago and so I turned on a greatest hits CD and mentioned his name to the boys. ONE TIME. The following week I had something else in the CD player, (I know, CD player, how archaic. I don’t even know how to use an iPod.) I don’t remember who, and Calvin yelled, “Dimmy Muffet!” which cracked me up, so I promptly turned on Dimmy Muffet. The boys wanted to rock, one in the recliner and one on the rocking horse, side by side as Dimmy sang. They then started saying, “See Dimmy Muffet? See Dimmy Muffet!” so we watched some YouTube clips of Jimmy singing. They loved it and now they request his music on a regular basis.

As soon as they start requesting cold draft beers, brand new tattoos, and pencil-thin mustaches, I may have to be more selective in which songs they listen to. But for now it’s pretty fun. I wish the Barenaked Ladies had a different name or maybe I’d introduce them to that band too. Sigh. Bring on the wholesome Dan Zanes and Veggie Tales, I guess.

*Thanks to Uncle Ken for the 401-Clark nickname and to Aunt Kelly for the tire swing picture

Monday, August 1, 2011

How the Storage Unit Disappeared: Shelf-topia

Last week I was thinking about how I could help people out with my blog. I realized I can not only share what we’re learning about parenting and parenting twins and parenting boys and trying to eat healthy and entertaining friends and family with our tales, but I can also share ways we’ve learned to deal with raising a family in a small space. In addressing these issues I’m sure I can also learn tips from other small-space dwellers about ways to make the most of every square millimeter of home. 

When we decided we were going stop pouring money into a storage unit and store everything at our house, we redid all of our closets. It was a Christmas break project that Brian took on and he did a brilliant job. The biggest and most life-changing, to be dramatic, project was the coat closet/pantry in our entryway. When we moved in it contained simply a rod for coats and a shelf directly on top of the rod. It left a giant amount of unused space above the shelf. Brian put in one shelf up above it and we used it that way for a couple years. It morphed into an embarrassing combination of coat closet, pantry, and shoes receptacle with food stacked on the floor. During Operation Storage Unit Migration he made a custom closet/pantry that, like I said, basically transformed our kitchen life. Our canned goods and such had been in a small cupboard by our sink. With them moving to the pantry, I could move more dishes into that cupboard, taking away from the other very-full cupboards.

 Surprisingly, when we took out the rod and shelf THAT HAD BEEN GLUED TO THE WALL (WHAT??), much of the wall came out with it. That was distressing, but with some of that wire wall fixer-upper stuff and enough spackle to fill a kitchen sink, we repaired it. (This disaster we called “Afghanistan.” It was not as bad as the living room wall fiasco in our old house we dubbed “Iraq,” mostly because it was in the closet.)

the pink spackle (Cal called it yogurt) fixed it up

The end product provided adjustable shelves on the left side and a closet area on the right. There was also room for several boxes of storage stuff. We now store the boys’ extra set of carseats (for when friends drive us around) in the back below the coats, and in front of them we have a shelf with shoe cubbies.

Clark and I arrange everything it alphabetical order (that's a joke)


By the way, Brian didn’t know how to build these shelves he just sort of made it up as he went. A creative and resourceful guy to have around!

Off our balcony we have a small storage unit that was poorly arranged. We couldn’t fit our bikes in there and so they were just sitting out cluttering up the balcony—fine for a single couple—not for two climbing toddlers. The end result allowed for much more user-friendly and adjustable storage, including room for our bikes and car-top carrier that contains all our camping gear. The way we have it now is different than the picture, but because it is all adjustable, we can change it to fit the shapes we need to store.

balcony storage unit shelves

He added more shelves and pegboard to our linen closet, which we relocated in segments to the two room closets, to make space for all his tools and other fix-y type things like our painting supplies, etc. Below the shelves we put a see-through set of drawers. I call it his garage.

the garage

And again...

In our dining room he put three shelves on the wall for desk-type things. It’s basically my office. I keep my laptop on it and music for the boys, computer bag, camera and video camera, etc. It’s not pretty to have next to the hutch of beautiful china, but it gets the job done.

In all other closets he added shelves up above the existing shelves, even in the hot water heater closet. He put pegs behind clothes in our closets to store my purses and scarves. Another big feat he accomplished was also in our bedroom. We had a lot of books that we wanted to keep, but many of them had been sitting in boxes since we changed the office into the nursery before the boys were born. Brian put a row of shelves across the top of three of the walls in our bedroom and we fit all our books on it. They are displayed so that we can actually find them and read them! He also put cute little white lamps in all four corners on the shelf since we don’t have overhead lighting in the bedrooms. In the boys’ room he put a couple shelves up high, one for a lamp and the other for out-of-the-rotation toys. Quite a handy guy!

part of the bookshelf

another part of the bookshelf...

It is a snug way to live and it takes work to keep it all functioning. Sometimes we forget where things are. But now we don’t have to pay $60 each month and keep a bunch of junk we don’t remember we own.

And that is how our storage unit found a loving home.
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