Thursday, January 31, 2013

Architecting and Engineering

Dad, Brian…SKIP THIS POST!  And anyone else who likes to measure twice and cut once.    Or have a plan before using power tools.

I’ve had a half-brained idea of making a shoe bench for the cabin since, well, probably October.  Back then, I got four 4’x8’ boards for bunky boards for the kids’ beds.  Home Depot cut the plywood to the right size and now I want to make the shoe bench out of the extra pieces. 

So I started with this (thanks to Dad, who helped me cut some of the pieces on his table saw):

bookshelf 001


And some sketches on the back of a Sudoku puzzle. 

001  013

Is what architects do?  Just sketch what they want the finished product to look like, scribble a few measurements, cross out most of it, and hand it to an engineer?  ‘Cause I want to be an architect. 

I finished the work evening with this:

bookshelf 004

I’m running out of wood and will probably have to duct tape three boards together to make the middles shelves.  I’ve got a long ways to go—once it’s built, I will take it all apart again to sand and paint it and then put it back together again.  But it’s actually starting to look like I want it to look…not that I want to sound surprised.


*   *   *   *   *   *

Okay, here’s something that’s just for the ladies.  Some female engineering, if you will.  Last week, Wesley found a lost bottle of nail polish and used it.  On many things.  How to clean this up?  I went upstairs to find some cotton balls and found a box of tampons first.  Tampons made out of cotton…with an applicator to make this the perfect pencil eraser.  Dip tip in nail polish remover, erase child’s mess, cut off tip when necessary and repeat.  I was impressed with myself.  But not with Wesley.

[While I was cleaning up that mess, he got into my deodorant and lotions in the bathroom.  While I cleaned that up, he used his foot to splash water out of the toilet in the other bathroom.  I tried to sell him that day.]

Monday, January 28, 2013

Big News for Me!

Bucket Head is fully potty-trained!


And he’s trained, not me.  In fact, if I ever ask him if he has to go, it’s more likely to start a power struggle that I am going to lose.  It’s taken me a month,  but now that I’ve stopped asking, he takes care of everything himself.  He’ll be in pull-ups at night for a while yet, probably, but since he sleeps for almost 12 hours a night, I am more than okay with that.

I’ve been diapering kids for over 6 years now, and for a  few months after Wesley was born, I had three kids in diapers.  (The girls pooped trained  on their own, but were very relunctant to give up diapers.  Fine with me—easier to change wet diapers at my convenience than to potty train while nursing a newborn!) So other than still needing to remind all three kids to wash their hands, I am totally done with diapers.  And no, those 6+ years did not fly by.

Time to sell some cloth diapers on Craigslist!

*    *   *   *   *   *   *

And just a few gender-musings.  Wesley talked much earlier than his sisters and potty-trained about a year to a year-and-a-half earlier than Piper or Kyla.  But he will probably be sucking those two fingers when he studying for the SATs. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January at the Cabin

My parents took their first visit the the cabin today! I was excited to show them my little paradise and the weather was clear (enough) for a muddy, sloppy walk down the beach. I always love getting tender Grandpa-child shots. 007


Grandpa took pictures—a few where the kids were not too blurry.

cabin beach 2 

The winter tides have changed the beach pretty significantly since summer.  We have more logs to jump from!

cabin beach 3


*   *   *   *   *   *

For those who know the cabin well enough, you will be pleased to know that Jim fixed the downstairs bathroom door so now when you open it, you can immediately find the light switch.  It took him an hour and a half.  That cabin has been standing with that door hanging backward since 1980.   The other thing that has been accumulating for 32 years is the dust on the upstairs blinds.  Two were particularly bad.  One, I broke right away as I took it down to clean it (BTW, the broken roller shade that replaced the broken blinds has now been replaced by not-yet-broken curtains); the other, I finally took down this weekend and scrubbed it for over an hour in the bathtub.  It was like the outside of my car—if you touched it, your fingers would get filthy, but dirt never seemed to decrease on the original surface.   Just need one custom-built shoe bench and then….I’ll have to make a new to-do list.  It’s a disease.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Two Year Old No More

By the calendar, Wesley turned 3 yesterday, but it was more convenient have his birthday today.

We began by taking our first trip to the local roller rink.  I’ve always loved roller blading and the kids all have their own skates, thanks to Santa.

Smart phones and disco lights do not produce good snapshots, but here’s proof of our being there.  Towards the end, even Wesley was skating on his own, loving being able to skate towards me on the rink!1-19 skating 11-19 skating 3

1-19 skating 21-19 skating 4


We went to Gramma and Papa’s new house to have a family party.  Wesley wanted his menu to include dinosaur, but he got salmon instead.

Wesley's Birthday 052


But his wish came through on his cake!  I asked Julie if she would make the birthday cake (chocolate!!) if I took her kids as often as I could. She rocked the cake, though she disagrees.  Check it out:  dinosaurs and candy bars.  And it was yummy!Wesley's Birthday 045


Wesley's Birthday 051


Dinosaurs aplenty, Dinosaurs galore!  I found this cute hoodie for him.  He loves it.  Happy Birthday, Wesley!  I’ll try not to sell you this year.

Wesley's Birthday 082

Friday, January 18, 2013

Yeah, But I’m Lazy, Too

My good friend sent me this mom’s blog post which actually sounds like something I might rant about.  The biggest change I would make is that, I am sitting here, 15 feet away from my kids, because I am too lazy to get up and I much prefer talking to my friends or reading than being at the beck-and-call of three kids who’ve I’ve already scheduled my day around.  

Just wanted to take myself out of the running for Mom-of-the-Year early.

(Actually, I don’t mean that, since I parent fairly deliberately even when I appear to be ignoring my children.)

*     *     *     *     *     *

Please Don't Help My Kids

Posted on September 14, 2012 at 12:06 am

by Kate Bassford Baker


Dear Other Parents At The Park:

Please do not lift my daughters to the top of the ladder, especially after you've just heard me tell them I wasn't going to do it for them and encourage them to try it themselves.

I am not sitting here, 15 whole feet away from my kids, because I am too lazy to get up. I am sitting here because I didn't bring them to the park so they could learn how to manipulate others into doing the hard work for them. I brought them here so they could learn to do it themselves.

They're not here to be at the top of the ladder; they are here to learn to climb. If they can't do it on their own, they will survive the disappointment. What's more, they will have a goal and the incentive to work to achieve it.

In the meantime, they can use the stairs. I want them to tire of their own limitations and decide to push past them and put in the effort to make that happen without any help from me.

It is not my job — and it is certainly not yours — to prevent my children from feeling frustration, fear, or discomfort. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that those things are not the end of the world, and can be overcome or used to their advantage.

If they get stuck, it is not my job to save them immediately. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn to calm themselves, assess their situation, and try to problem solve their own way out of it.

It is not my job to keep them from falling. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that falling is possible but worth the risk, and that they can, in fact, get up again.

I don't want my daughters to learn that they can't overcome obstacles without help. I don't want them to learn that they can reach great heights without effort. I don't want them to learn that they are entitled to the reward without having to push through whatever it is that's holding them back and *earn* it.

Because — and this might come as a surprise to you — none of those things are true. And if I let them think for one moment that they are, I have failed them as a mother.

I want my girls to know the exhilaration of overcoming fear and doubt and achieving a hard-won success.

I want them to believe in their own abilities and be confident and determined in their actions.

I want them to accept their limitations until they can figure out a way past them on their own significant power.

I want them to feel capable of making their own decisions, developing their own skills, taking their own risks, and coping with their own feelings.

I want them to climb that ladder without any help, however well-intentioned, from you.

Because they can. I know it. And if I give them a little space, they will soon know it, too.

So I'll thank you to stand back and let me do my job, here, which consists mostly of resisting the very same impulses you are indulging, and biting my tongue when I want to yell, "BE CAREFUL," and choosing, deliberately, painfully, repeatedly, to stand back instead of rush forward.

Because, as they grow up, the ladders will only get taller, and scarier, and much more difficult to climb. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather help them learn the skills they'll need to navigate them now, while a misstep means a bumped head or scraped knee that can be healed with a kiss, while the most difficult of hills can be conquered by chanting, "I think I can, I think I can", and while those 15 whole feet between us still feels, to them, like I'm much too far away.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nutella: Why Piper Will Never Get Fat Off Chocolate

Wesley's Birthday 020Piper and Wesley love, love, love chocolate.  Which is why I’m so bewildered why none actually makes it into their digestive system. 

Wesley's Birthday 023

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Well, They LOOK Smarter!

It was “Wear Mom’s and Dad’s Glasses” night at the ranch.

Wesley's Birthday 002Wesley's Birthday 004Wesley's Birthday 012

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Christmas Letter

I love to write about myself, so once a year, I sit down to write our  Christmas letter.   I sent it out a month ago, but I forgot to post it here.  This is for Sheryl, who made my day by confessing she still reads my blog even though we haven’t seen each other for dog years. 
*    *    *     *     *     *      *
Dear Friends,
If the soul of wit is brevity, prepare yourself for something, at best, half-witted. Because I’ve got three kids, a husband, and one cabin to tell you about. But the real theme of 2012 for us has been walls—building them, tearing them down, inside and out. Having a degree in English, you may think I’m being figurative. But I’m pretty shallow emotionally, so Need walls are literal, not metaphorical.
Last winter, Dwayne began making plans for us to go to Hawaii (sans kids). I was on Cloud 9 for about 24 hours before I realized that I’d rather remodel our kitchen than relax for a week. If you can’t understand that reasoning, then I won’t be able to explain it. But my parents took all three kids for a week and a half, while we helped a contractor tear down walls, rip up carpet, and raise ceilings. I now have a great room that feels more spacious with easy-to-clean floors and good lighting. And unlike Hawaii, I get to enjoy it for decades.
Dwayne went looking for the property of his dreams this last year and ended up buying me the cabin of my dreams instead. Our imagined ten acre chalet turned into a real log cabin on ¼ acre on Whidbey Island. We’ve had it for three months and have already built a few interior walls (to gain a bedroom and hallway) and have comfortably appointed it. My goal has been to furnish it exclusively with used items (I’m a fan of, and excepting the obvious of building materials, fire extinguishers, and mattresses, we’ve used thrift stores and Craigslist to outfit the cabin. We love to share it almost as much as we love being there ourselves.
When Dwayne wasn’t searching for his 10 acre kingdom this year, he built some exterior walls that nearly put to shame his past nine years of empire building our two acres. It was both impressive and maddening to the wife who wants to just garden without the literal ton of bricks in my way. Or, more likely, on my flowers! Grumble, grumble. Dwayne started a new group at Microsoft this spring, hoping to just program until he got his bearings. So his first week, they made him a lead again and already he’s got more than a full team of reports. A lot of things about this new group have not gone according to plan, but this man always lands on his feet and now there are lots of new people who are now discovering just how darn likeable he is.
Kyla, now six, started half-day Kindergarten this year. She loves it almost as much as I do! [I get to volunteer in her class once in a while and it really gives me the itch to teach again. There are more similarities than you’d think between teaching Kindergarten and alternative Junior High.] Kyla is a bit of mystery to me because I think she is most like me. Yeah, I get the irony. She needs time alone daily and her greatest pleasure is listening to long books on CD. She spends a good part of the year outside doing her own sort of projects. And she has a temper, which I had no idea I had until I had kids. And we are both infatuated with Dwayne.
Piper. Piper. She’ll be five in two months. She probably won’t be ruling the world for a few more decades, and it’s too early to tell if she will be saving it or destroying it. This summer, I took off her training wheels and she didn’t care for that. So she went to the garage, got out the tools and put the training wheels back on herself. A few weeks later, she took them off and taught herself to ride a two-wheeler in less than 15 minutes. Stand in the way of this child at your own peril, whether she is trying to eat her body weight in stolen chocolate or surprising me by sweeping the entire upstairs “so you don’t have to do so much work, Mama!”
I spent the better part of 2012 trying to sell Wesley. Sure, it was his first time being two, but he’s my third two-year-old in just a few years. I’m kinda tired of cleaning up after a kid who learns how to open the sealed soy milk and then pours four cartons of it over my carpet. Or who sweetly asks for a glass of milk, and throws himself—howling--on the floor when I don’t bring him water. Or who tears his waffle in two then refuses to eat it, hungry as he is, because it isn’t whole. (You see why I couldn’t get anyone to buy him?) Sure, he’s got dimples and the there’s-nothing-I-can’t-do personality that I inexplicably prefer over good manners, but his in utero nickname wasn’t “Omega” for nothing! I remind myself that if Darlene survived raising Dwayne (sure, she sent him to boarding school—twice--but who wouldn’t?), then I can see this boy to adulthood and know that he could make someone as happy as Dwayne makes me.
I am still a half-time stay-at-mom: 12 hours of parenting a day, followed immediately by 12 “on call” hours. If you think that hasn’t gotten to me after six years, you have an inflated sense of my sanity. I continue to be an introvert who surrounds herself with unreasonable children all day long. My therapy is projects—remodeling, gardening, painting, improving, designing, anything that makes me filthy and possibly more organized. I started the year doing a polar bear jump in a bikini (‘cause I’m not getting younger or more toned) and a resolution to read at least one nonfiction book a month. I’ve read 56 books thus far this year and 26 were nonfiction. A few books from this list actually have tweaked my life—many of my actions and giving now must pass through the “does this contribute in a Christ-like way to alleviating local and global poverty, especially in terms of opportunities for girls and women?” filter. This is subject that goes far beyond the scope this half-witted letter, but I will be addressing this more in my blog ( in 2013. This will be in-between deep thoughts about play dough removal and dinner menus. And, apropos to nothing, my most surprising accomplishment—at least to me—is perfecting my bread recipe and making all my own bread.
Our family sends you our love and prayers for a meaningful Christmas, a time when every child is a reminder of the Christ child. Even Wesley….
Denise, for Dwayne, Kyla, Piper, and Wes

Sunday, January 13, 2013


One of the reasons we love the church we are attending so much is that each of our kids has good friends there.  We overlapped a little between services and Wesley and Parker headed straight for each other. 



Then I was playing with my camera and realized I had a few pictures on the itty-bitty internal memory.  This is was from last summer when Mom and I took the four kids back-to-school shopping.  I really like that my kids and my brother’s kid[s] are important to each other!


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cabin. Now more useful than ever.

We made a quick trip over just for one night to bring over a mattress and set up the “new” bed.  Here is what is known officially as “Jim’s Room”:



And our bed—so, so dated, and yet so darn useful!  It has the usual captain’s design of drawers underneath (and we can put off finding dressers for a while longer) but also a built-in headboard bookshelf and nightstand with drawers.  Finally a place to put a lamp, book and glasses on both sides!


This picture doesn’t do the it’s-not-antique-just-old style justice, but practicality can win me over, especially when I’m reading in bed at midnight.

(Hey, if anyone runs across any not-too-ugly lampshades at a garage sale or thrift store, can you give me a call?)

And now that we have room for another family to stay with us at the cabin, let me make perfectly clear the Absolutely No Sex rule currently established for when we are the other couple sleeping upstairs.  Here is what “separates” the two bedrooms:

12-7 remodel 2

That would be gaps.  Lots of gaps between the curved logs and straight drywall.  I am not that good of friends with anyone…. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nope, Nothing Happening Here, Mom!

This time, I feel like the guilty child.  My mom and I share a carpet shampooer, which means she bought it and I keep it at my house.  It’s a touch temperamental and when I started it up today, the suction worked but it wasn’t spraying any solution.  So I got out my tool bucket and started taking things apart.  (This is when Piper and Wesley discovered area carpet burrowing, possibly the next great Olympic event.)


To give myself credit, although I did take out every screw and and strewed pieces all over the bedroom, I did get it all back together again without any leftover pieces…



…and it worked properly to shampoo Piper’s entire room before I had to go pick up Kyla.  Score one for this mom!  121


For Christmas, each of our kids got two toys, one from us and one from our always-knows-just-the-right-gift family in CA.  (Okay, plus a few arts and crafts items, too—the foam “play-dough” has been a huge hit.)  And here’s why we have learned to not bother with too many toys:

Given a few unsupervised moments, Piper and Wesley turn our living room into 1) a underground shuttle launcher or 2) a mole haven, depending upon their mood and variety of playmates 




Later that day, they stripped their pillowcases and became ghosts, unhatched baby birds, and ocean swimmers.  I’m going to buy Wesley some more toys for his birthday so maybe they will leave the living room rug alone….

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Best News!

My parents moved this weekend…closer to us!  They are about 25 minutes away now, and I’m dropping Wesley off for his first day at Grandmas tomorrow!  (I’ve got a full day of classroom volunteering and Girl Scouts.)

I wanted to post a few pictures of the moving party just for posterity.  Their new home will look so much different soon that it will be fun to look back on the first day. 103



Welcome, Grandma and Grandpa!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Territory Marked

There’s no bad month to go to the zoo.  My friend and I packed the car with five children (seriously, why doesn’t EVERYONE have a minivan???)…



…and headed to Seattle, where the snowy leopard was actually out and pacing in front of his window!  Until he stopped pacing, lifted his leg, and peed all over the window.    071


I don’t know why this was so fascinating to us, but there was a large group cheering him on.  (Pretend these two are cheering.)



Here’s our leap of leopards!  079

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Playing with Fire

Forty-eight hours of 4 kids brought out the big guns—roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in the fire place. 



Hey, look!  Parental supervision!



Piper dressed up for s’mores—there’s an outfit for everything, I guess!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Polar Bbbbbbrrrrrrrr!

A few days ago, I mused aloud, “Do you think any one will do the Polar Bear Plunge with me this year?” and Dwayne said,  “I will.” 

Or something like that. 

Which is how we went from this….



to this:



Last year, it was mid-50s and sunny.  This year, we had the same sun, but there were frozen puddles still solid back out our house.   I also had a more specific goal this year—to swim to the nearest buoy.  And, hopefully, back again. 


We are the two heads closest to the buoy.  (And I saw at least a handful of women in bikinis.  Someone willing to risk hypothermia for no particular benefit probably isn’t too concerned about wearing a skimpy suit while doing it.) 



Made it!  





“Babe, hold my hand—I can’t feel my toes!” Actually, I couldn’t feel most of my body.



Kyla and Piper wore their suits so they could do a cub dive after we swam.  They both made it to their ankles before these were snapped:


Evelyn got to be an honorary family member for a little while, so she got a Polar Bear photo, too.



Whether you consider me brave, adventurous, idiotic, or worse, you have to admit—I rock that braid!119


We have a bit of dilemma for next year.  If I do it for a third time, it gains momentum and I will have to keep doing it.  This wouldn’t be so bad if we spend New Years in Mexico.  Maybe we’ll work on that.