Thursday, May 30, 2013

Riding the Rails

As we anticipate the arrival of Baby 2, most of the prep work involves getting Bert into his big boy room and making the nursery available for his little brother. We already had the furniture (it was mine as a kid), and the room had been functioning as a guest room. Because the furniture is dark green, we opted to work with what he had and go for a woodland/rustic look. We aren't totally finished, but Bert has already moved in.

The first step was replacing this beauty of a light fixture. Not only was it ugly, it only operated by the pull chain. Not the most ideal function in a child's room.

So after much cutting, climbing in and out of the attic crawlspace, and grumbling,

we had a light switch,

This is what happens when Keith does home decor shopping at Cabela's.
 and a working light.

The new fixture looks kind of funky here, but it actually has a really nice aged copper look in person.

Now, on to painting. We went back and forth on color a bit, but finally settled on a light tan called "Blonde Wood." I washed the walls and taped off the room one day while Keith was at work, then we edged the room together and he rolled it on a weekend. For the second coat, I edged during the day and he rolled it in the evening when he got home.

Next up was blinds. Like almost every other room in the house, the were old roller blinds that were really grimy and brittle. I found some room-darkening cordless blinds online from JC Penney, and they were really simple to install: just screw two brackets into the window frame, and snap the blinds in.

They really do darken the room and the color almost exactly matches the walls.

Here's a sneak peek at the art that will go on the walls. It is all in frames but we haven't hung them yet. Keith and I are in agreement that we both really hate hanging pictures, mostly because of our old plaster walls. That and one of us must have one leg shorter than the other because we can't agree on what looks level.

All of that leads me to my now-it's-funny story. We had everything done in the room that needed to be done prior to Bert moving in, except for one thing: bed rails. Since the bed doesn't push up tight against the wall, we wanted a set that had a rail for each side. So last weekend, we headed off on a shopping trip for a bunch of things, one of which was the rails. We found a double-rail at Babies R Us and though I was a bit vexed that I couldn't find the 20% coupon that I knew came in the mail just days before, we went ahead and got them. We planned on putting Bert in the bed that night so later that afternoon, we opened up the box and deciphered the confusing assembly instructions, only to find that they wouldn't work on the bed. Because it is a "captain's" bed, with drawers underneath, there is no box spring. Which means sandwiching the rails between the mattress and box spring is impossible. We tried every configuration we could think of, contemplated buying a box spring or building something to allow the rails to fit below the mattress before finally calling it a day and putting Bert to bed in the crib.

After the little man was settled in for the night, I started searching online for a different bed rail option. On Amazon, I saw some foam bumpers that went under the fitted sheet. Then a lightbulb went off: in one of those forwarded emails about household tricks you wished you had thought of, I had seen pool noodles used as bed bumpers. I told Keith and he looked a bit skeptical at first, concerned that a single pool noodle wouldn't be enough to keep Bert from rolling out of bed. Then we hit on the idea of putting three together in a sort of pyramid formation to create a higher bumper. At this point, it was after 9:00, but we were so anxious to see if this would work. Keith called the first of our town's two grocery stores to see if they had pool noodles. We were cracking up as he waited on hold, picturing the guy who answered the phone searching the pasta aisle for pool noodles. Strike one, they didn't have any. So he called the next store. Yes, the girl said, the did have them, 2 for $4. Score. So Keith went out and got an armload of them. He said the women working were very intrigued as to what kind of fun he was going to have that late at night with a bunch of pool noodles, and the bed rail idea was kind of a let down.

But here's the thing: they absolutely work. A little duct tape, a half dozen pool noodles, 5 minutes, and we had bed bumpers for a fraction of the cost.

Bert has two nights and three naps under his belt and they stay put just fine and he hasn't rolled out. He has climbed out, but that's to be expected. The only disappointing thing is this morning on our walk, I saw pool noodles out front of the dollar store. It could have been a $6 project instead of $12.

All that's left for this room is painting the inside of the closet, hanging art, figuring out some curtains, and putting his quilt on the bed.

I got a little teary on Monday afternoon, laying him down in his big bed for the first time. He's our baby, and he's growing up.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Grounds for the Ground

My mom recently told me about hearing that coffee grounds are good for blueberry bushes. It has to do with blueberries liking acidic soil and the grounds making the soil more acidic. Beyond that, I don't know much about the chemistry.

Our two blueberry bushes have seemed fairly healthy, so we have never tested the soil but I figured the coffee grounds couldn't hurt. I searched online a bit and the consensus seemed to be that roughly a pound of used coffee grounds per bush was plenty, and unless they were already in highly acidic soil, the grounds would help but wouldn't change they pH levels enough to harm anything. So, for about two or three weeks, I saved the grounds from Keith's daily pot of coffee. When I had what seemed like roughly two pounds, I took it out to the blueberry bushes, pushed back the straw we had underneath them, and dumped the grounds on.

Then I simply pushed the straw back up around the bush. It was recommended not to work the grounds into the soil because the roots of blueberry bushes are shallow and would be damaged by working the soil. Rain and watering will allow the grounds to break down and release their acidic properties until the soil and down to the roots. Or so I've read. It would probably have been most beneficial to do this earlier in the spring as the bush started growing, but I guess better late than never. What I read said it can be done twice a year, so I plan on doing it again in the late summer or early fall. 

Now we just have to wait a little longer for our blueberries to ripen up, and hopefully they won't taste like coffee. While I was out there, I had the pleasure of finding a few of these beauties ready in the strawberry patch...

By yesterday, there was almost a quart ready for picking (there would have been a quart if a certain little boy hadn't been "helping" with the picking) so of course it was time for strawberry shortcake. Summer has officially begun as far as we are concerned.

Funny little story...after picking the strawberries yesterday and having juice all over his hands, Bert was running around inside and came to me in the kitchen and told me he had stepped on a strawberry. I looked down and his big toe was bleeding. I still haven't figured out what he did, but it must not have hurt and he just assumed the blood was strawberry juice and kept insisting that he had stepped on one when I asked him what happened.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Windows to the World

Well, maybe windows to our world would be more accurate.

In an earlier post, I wrote about how we planned on replacing the windows of our laundry/mudroom was our big-budget project for the year. It was going to be the project for last year, but we ended up needing to replace the roof, so we waited until this year after we had saved up a bit more to tackle the windows.

We had a local company quote the job last summer, and were blown away by how much they wanted to replace five windows and the back door, and add a storm door. Early this spring, we got a quote from Lowe's and felt much more comfortable with their price (and the products were comparable) so we went with them. Besides a little mix-up with the install dates, everything went very smoothly.

So we went from a heavily-used room with windows that didn't have screen, blinds brittle with age, no storm door, and being able to see daylight between the door and door frame, new, bright white capping outside...

 ...and a new, much more secure and better insulated door and storm door...

...and five brand-new windows with screens.

We are thrilled that we were able to get windows with the same grids as we had before, which match the rest of the house. It cost a little extra, but we were also able to keep the transom above the door which we love because the front door and the door between the kitchen and laundry both have them as well. If you are passing by the house, everything looks consistent and true to the original style. 

It has already made such a difference on these warm days to be able to open up the windows in the back and get a breeze moving through the house. And we are looking forward to losing the draftiness we dealt with through the winters from this room.

We still have plenty to do to get this room to where we want it to be, which means freshened up and more functional. I already bought this bench cushion for a storage bench I'm going to get Keith to build (are you reading this, dear?). The room desperately needs to be painted, so this cushion also works as a jumping off point for picking a paint color.

The shelf (you can see it in some of the photos above) needs some more organized storage baskets (and I think I've got that wrapped up so I'll post a picture as soon as I have them in hand and organize things.) The washer has gotten very noisy lately, so we are going to swap out the old washer and dryer that were here when we moved in for the pair we have in the basement from when we were renters. A stacking washer and dryer would be ideal in the long run to free up more floor space, but we aren't rushing into that purchase since we have another working set. We would also like to put a new floor down, but it can wait a bit. Mostly, we noticed how easy it was to move around back there when we cleared things out for the window guys, and want to deal with the storage issues first. And blinds. Since  the back of the house faces west, it gets all the afternoon sun so we do need to get blinds for all five windows (we did get a door with built-in blinds) and get them up. But painting first! Keith, what were you planning for the weekend? (As if I could make a decision on paint color that quickly...)

And if you are wondering what happened to our turtle, Cash, who used to reside back here, he has a new home in the chemistry classroom of the school where my aunt teaches. We were happy to find someone who wanted him and was willing to give him a good home. And Keith was relieved Cash wasn't going to become the specimen for a biology class dissection.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Little Boys Are Made Of

Way back in this post, I was already anticipating the combination of little slimy creatures and boys. And this weekend, it came true. Keith was outside planting a new rosebush, but it wasn't long before he came in with his gloved hands cupped around something, requesting a peanut butter jar. What he had was a handful of salamanders.

After he was done with the rosebush, I suggested he find the little plastic tank we had in the basement and put some dirt in it so Bert could look at the salamanders a little longer. Outfitted with some rocks, dirt, twigs, and leaves, the salamanders had themselves a nice little hotel for their overnight stay. They weren't even here long enough to name, and I had a few good ones in mind: Sally, Salome, Salvatore...

There wasn't much excitement in viewing them, as we could only see the occasional tail.

When Keith got home, he and Bert let them go in the garden.

Well, it was a bit more flinging than gently letting go.

Then there was some dirt dumping.

I guess the future holds more of this, times two!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Did We Mention?

If you are family or friends (and really, just about everybody who reads this is), you probably already know this news.

First off, we are having another baby! The due date is October 1, which seems like both a long time away and not so long at all.

The second part of the news is that we found out on Friday that we are having a boy! We are so excited for Bert to have a brother to play with. And though I won't get the pleasure of buying little girl clothes, I am already anxious to pull out all Bert's outgrown clothes and see them used again. There are so many little outfits that I loved and it seemed like he barely wore things before he outgrew them.

(He was very uncooperative at Friday's ultrasound so there aren't any great images, but all the measurements and the heartbeat were good and healthy, and that's all that really matters.)

Unlike Bert, whose real name we had picked long before we even knew we were having a boy, we aren't set on a name for this little guy yet. He is right now affectionately referred to as "Baby 2" while we throw ideas around.

Keith and I were talking recently about how this second pregnancy has a different kind of excitement to it. It is much more mellow. We are thrilled to be adding to our family, but not having all the anxious preparing and knowing what to expect at appointments allows us to relax and enjoy it a bit more. Most of the prep this time around involves getting Bert's big boy room ready so the crib is available for the baby (more on that later). Also, Bert himself takes a great deal of time and attention and significantly reduces the amount of time available for daydreaming about the tiny human on the way. I have some other goals, like preparing more meals for the freezer ahead of bringing a new baby home and making baby food this summer as we harvest things from the garden. I have some high hopes of potty training Bert towards the end of the summer so that we are only dealing with diapers on one kid, but I also don't want to push him before he's ready because I've heard that can backfire.

As for what Bert thinks, he knows there is a baby growing in Mommy's belly and occasionally lifts up my shirt to say, "Hi baby!" before yanking it back down and saying, "Close it!" Sometimes he peers into my belly button, as if he could see in there and get a look at his little brother. It will be interesting to see how he handles it when his brother arrives, but I think he will be excited and we'll see a gentler side of him.

We'll keep you all posted on how things are going and what projects we are doing to get our house and family ready for Baby 2.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mommy's Day

Mother's Day (or Mommy's Day as Bert called it) was a pretty simple affair. I requested a picnic, and Keith delivered. We headed to a man-made lake about half an hour away. We had never been there before and we very impressed by what we found. There is a small beach area, a nice playground, tons of picnic tables and pavilions, and lots of trails. We didn't do any of the trails, mostly because we couldn't figure out where they started (the maps left a bit to be desired) but we were quite content to lounge about on the picnic blanket, watch Bert scamper around the playground, and hang out on the little sandy shore. Bert was even excited to get in the water, which surprised us both, so we rolled up his pants and let him wade around, with Keith nearby so he didn't go under. (Do I get a mom point for thinking ahead to bring an extra pair of pants for him?) We were happy to see him so excited about the water, and hope that he still feels the same way for our Maine trip this summer.

Lunch was turkey-cheese-and-spinach sandwiches, grapes, potato salad, and sweet potato chips.

Bert was happy to have a big fork like the grown-ups.

Nice hair, huh? It was a breezy day. And this is the only picture of me from the day.

Little cheesecakes for dessert. Eaten to the refrain of a tiny voice pleading, "'Nother bite?"

The man that made it all happen.

Keith laid down and Bert wanted to lay down too. It lasted about as long as it took to get a picture of it.

Bert was wildly impressed by the discovery of a big piece of wood.

We managed to keep Bert awake on the drive home, so he took a nice long nap, which was the icing on the cake of the day. And they made me a really sweet card complete with Bert's handprints, which might have to go in a frame. Last but not least, my Mother's Day gift was a label maker so pretty much anything that doesn't move around here is getting a label.
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