Before and Afters of our Shoreline home

We listed our house a little over a week ago, thanks to an amazing market (from a sellers perspective) we had accepted a great offer within a few days. I took screen shots of the listing photos from when we bought the house and I thought it would be fun to show the before and afters to showcase the work we’ve done on our little abode.

We knew we wanted to buy a house when me moved to Seattle, and we figured we’d do another flip like we’d done in Cleveland. We were nervous however because the homes were at least twice as expensive in Seattle, and we heard of many people who were making offers on multiple homes. We rented our first three months in Seattle so we’d have time to look. Our price range was low, and I wanted a yard, a basement, large windows, two bedrooms and Tom wanted to be 20 minutes or less from work. By, I think, a miracle, we found our house. It had everything on our list (one of only three that did). We made and offer, it was accepted, and it was completely sans drama. We didn’t like the busy-ish road we were on, but knew that was what pushed the price down, and the quaint private backyard made up for the less than ideal front.

Updates: New front door (that I painted), I trimmed and repainted the garage door- which made it too heavy for our old garage door to open- so Tm installed a new garage door opener. Woops! We painted the foundation, and the trim. I also did a lot of landscaping- adding the burning bush and perennials in the bed in front of the picture windows and a sunny perennial bed at the edge of the lawn. We also put in a full sun garden bed (non pictured) and a raspberry patch!

We were immediately taken by the huge picture windows, vaulted ceiling, exposed brick fireplace, and exposed beam. Having done a flip before I immediately started seeing the potential- tear this wall down here, open this up there. . .

Of course the most obvious change was the wall color- which we painted twice. First with some left over paint from Cleveland (I was desperate to get rid of the dark navy.) And finally this Tapestry Beige when we finished the kitchen.

The largest project we tackled in this house was our kitchen. Literally three days after we moved in my sister and I tore down the wall between the kitchen nook and the dining area. As it was there was this awkward breakfast nook that was too small for a decent sized table, and then this small door way to a dining area that was too small for a dining room table. The floor and wall had gaping holes from where the wall had stood for years, but our table straddled it and I preferred the function to the form.

Over the first three years we lived here we slowly worked our way through our kitchen- first having a  HUGE cantilever beam installed above to support the weight of the house, and then vaulting the dining side and opening up the wall between the kitchen and living room. 

I’ve never posted about our kitchen, but it was my first large design project  and since this is my private blog I’m going to boast a bit here. Thanks to our weekend warrior renovation schedule (and since my husband only gets one weekend off a month it’s more like a mono-monthly renovation schedule) it took a LONG time to finish this space. I say thanks, because that gave me abundant time to design the space. I was grateful for the time to live and use the kitchen so I really knew what our needs were. The only reason we felt secure in putting in this nice of a kitchen was because I felt secure that it was a solid investment- given the strong real estate market. I wanted to strike a balance between what would be sellable and widely liked; and what I wanted personally. I made many many sketches of this space, tweaking here and reworking there. I knew I wanted a place for my music books to go (since there wasn’t an easy way to have them by the piano) I knew I wanted a built in desk, I wanted shelves for the shoes that crowded the walkway from the front door, and I wanted lots of pantry space. It’s fun to think about the various steps of this process. We took the washer and dryer down stairs early on- which was a huge help- moving the fridge out of the walkway really helped open things up. When we moved in, the washer and dryer were behind those accordion doors. Thankfully we had just enough space to put them in our cold storage room downstairs. Which opened up the space they were in for the fridge- a real blessing since it fit a full sized fridge without jutting out past the counter! I wanted a bar, because I grew up with one, and I love the image of kids sitting up to help prep food. Eventually this plan materialized, and I’ve completely loved it. Many people have asked me since, “Is there anything you would change about your kitchen?” And in all honesty I don’t have a good answer for them. I LOVE my kitchen! I LOVE all the pull out drawers. I love that everything has it’s place. I love the built in office area. I love that there is enough cabinetry for a drawer for art supplies, and two drawers for homeschooling books and materials. I love that all my appliances fit in drawers- and don’t have to be out on the counter. Even large appliances like a Bosch mixer, Vitamix, and instant pot! I love my built in – under the counter microwave. I love my open shelves- for their character, and for the openness they lend the kitchen. I adore our induction range. I love that we left the kitchen partially closed- you can’t see my sink of dirty dishes when you walk in the front door, and I can hide anything unsightly behind that wall when I teach.

One of the things I’m most proud of in our kitchen is the windows. I had a window guy out to give us a bid to replace them, and he said that being that they were already double-paned we’d have to upgrade with a really superior window to improve their efficacy. He suggested painting them. They are aluminum windows and they just looked old and ratty.  I’d started noticing a lot of black trimmed windows in home decor magazines and on pinterest and really liked their dramatic contrast. I was soo nervous when I first slapped on the paint, but the final results combined with trimming them in wood (they didn’t have any millwork before) is striking, and completely transformed the space. The windows no longer look old and outdated, but stylish and current. They highlighted one of the main features of our home, in my opinion, our huge windows!

It was fun to see these pictures because I’ve often felt bad about how little I’ve done on this yard. The greatest contribution has been a huge amount of pruning, tearing out, cutting down. I’ll never forget the look on my neighbor’s face then they saw me 6 months pregnant, out in the drizzling rain, standing on our heavily sloped terraced gardens tearing out salal and ivy. I’m pretty sure they thought I’d lost it. The entire first tier was covered in it, and I was determined to prepare it for a flower garden the following spring. I was also pretty proud of those huge loads of vines, branches, bushes, etc that I smashed into the bed of our truck and delivered to the dump without help. It was my first time “Securing a load” and again I’m sure I got many a snicker from passers by seeing this pregnant woman jumping up and down on this huge bed of branches to compact them down- so I could fit more! The men at the dump were equally surprised when I yanked and pulled with all my might to then dislodge the heavily compacted yard waste from the truck bed- almost falling into the pit at the dump several times!   The above pictures don’t really show the garden vignette’s I created, but at least hint at the amount of openness and light I achieved.

The yard is my domain. I still chuckle when I remember this conversation with our neighbor, John. (Please note that John is Korean and his english carries a strong accent. This conversation occurred one summer evening when I was out finishing up yard work after I’d put the kids to bed. I believe Tom was working at the hospital that night. )

J-“You work so hard! You do all the workee, I never see your husband do the workee. Your husband a fancy man? ”

I tried to explain that my husband is not a “fancy man” but rather works very hard at the hospital, and that he does many of the projects inside. (He’s the electrician, plumper, carpenter,  etc.)

While our yard was small I wanted it to have a portion of the magical outdoors my childhood yard had. It took a few years before I secured the slide I had envisioned- a cast off from a playground! Both grandpa’s helped build the fort hidden up on the hill, and careful pruning allowed for a grove of rhododendron that made for the ideal climbing environment.  I hope I always remember my children swinging under our apple tree, and reading books from the hammock we hung from the plum tree. I hope I remember how’d they’d drop down to the garden and pick sun-warmed tomatoes, green beans and strawberries, or how’d they’d lie about how many raspberries they’d eaten- the red smears on their hands and faces relaying the truth. As I was mowing the lawn for the last time, I cried thinking of all the plants that had been transplants from other people’s gardens. Sister Meringer started me off with heuchera, iris, peonies, strawberries and blue bells. Sabina gave me daisies, bleeding heart, and a few I don’t know the name of, the Mitchells gave me a bag of daffodils that bright up the dismal March’s and two Allium bulbs that stretch upward like aliens right in front of our front window and give me a chuckle with their absurd placement. They gave me one patch of raspberries and another friend from Moxee gave me the others. Sue Scruggs gave me a bunch of Fuchsia. I brought cannas from Cleveland that are HUGE and stunning next to my back door. And I always cherish the little Japanese maple that my sister grafted from her own tree in her front yard! My father fortified the front bed so I could have the full sun bed I’d been pining for since we’d moved here. He put it in the week after I had Chiara, and with every shovel of dirt and loading of wood I could tell it was his way of telling me He loved me, and was proud of me and his new granddaughter. I thought of the manure the Telford’s put on our rhubarb the spring we were living in Idaho- unable to prep our garden. How I wish I could bring all these plants with me, so I could forever have those symbols of generosity and love surrounding my home.

I took pictures of the other rooms, but they weren’t included on the listing, and I’m not going to take the time to unearth them. Let’s just say there was a huge sketch of a muscled man with a machine gun on the wall of one room.

These pictures actually don’t represent the house as we lived it. Anders room is pretty true to form, it started out as the nursery until the crib was replaced by the toddler bed. What was staged as the master bedroom was Chiara’s room and our guest room. Much of the decor in the third room originally was in there. The third room had a bright green wall with thin white stripes and was decorated in blue and green for Scotland.

This room was SO fun to stage. I splurged on new bedding and pillows and it came together so sweetly. I’m so excited to let it be Chiara’s big girl room in our next house.

I love a basement. I grew up with a basement, and it’s hard for me to imagine rearing children without one. I love having a space for my kids to be wild and crazy, to leave out their intricate playmobil worlds or lego creations without it interfering with our main living space.

We made this desk (made out of a door and two book case from UW dorms, to create this office nook. Tom’s always been a fan of a BIG desk, and this fit his criteria. For a while I kept my computer down there too, but after I moved it upstairs I’ve used the other side for my sewing machine. Obviously the staging doesn’t show our typical set up down here. We never used a coffee table- preferring to leave the space open for play, and instead had that long table over near the bookcases for kids art and play. We also had two more bookcases full of books and more toys. I’ve gotta say, I’m kind of liking the limited toy set up. We cut down on our toys by probably 60% (they either got donated or put in storage). Clean up at our house is SO much easier since there are no miscellaneous toys, and everything has such a clear spot that the kids have been surprisingly adept at putting things back exactly as intended! 

We had our master bedroom in the basement. I disliked the darkness of it, but it was ideal for Tom, since he so often has to sleep during the day. (We affectionately called it our mole hole.)

Well this post is WAY too long, but I wanted to jot a few of these thoughts down for memories sake. A more sentimental memory laden post should follow this at some point, but in case it doesn’t. Here’s something!

Chiara, Age 2

Chiara had her birthday two weeks ago. We were traveling on the date, but my in-laws were kind enough to arrange a cake and candles at the rehearsal dinner and the whole group of 30 or so people sang to her (including several opera singers, so it was quite the serenade!) She smiled with muted delight and ate her chocolate cake with serious concentration. But then, as is her style, told me all about it that evening with bright eyed excitement. “Mommy! I ha’ cake an’ can’les, an’ sing  Happy Birthday Chi Chi!” Again yesterday, when we mentioned we would be opening her presents the next day- she remembered the occasion with delight.

Chiara is an incredibly verbal child, and acquires language through the habit of parroting. She often repeats what I say, or repeats the phrases of her brothers under her breath. Yesterday,  she said off hand “Forget about it! It happens!” The same day she crinkled her nose in disgust and spit out the word “Stupid!” She knows that a burb will get a laugh and will at times fake one when she’s at a table of boys; but if she does it when her mother’s in the room, she’ll say “Excuse me.” Earlier this week she started using the word “favorite.” She often talks about herself in the third person. “Dis Chi Chi fav’ite book.” She loves to label the items in her First 100 words books, and will sometimes sit down and drill herself- “Bunny, cheetah, Zeb’a, gi’aff. . .” Last night, as I was tucking her into bed she said with distress “I nee’ give brothers kiss!” She’s taking to giving kisses and delivers the sweetest most delicate little pecks.

She has an adorable run- all bubble and bounce. Her arms flap, her curls bob, and her cheeks go up and down. You can’ help but smile and want to sweep her up into your arms when she approaches you that way!

She’s become a bit more decisive about her clothing. She loves our new routine of picking out her pajamas. Will it be penguins, cupcakes, polar bears? One day she looked into her drawer as I was picking out clothes for her and said “I wan’ my star shirt.” “Okay, Chiara you can wear your star shirt.” I grabbed the shirt and a pair of jeans. She fussed and said “I wan’ my cozy pants!” and pointed to a pair of gray leggings.

As Tom and I watched her flutter around the gymnasium this afternoon, her full pastel blue dress bouncing up and down, he voiced “We’re going to turn her into too much of a girl. You dress her so cute, and I spoil her so much too.” I’ll admit I love to dress her up, and one of the few delights I have about rainy weather is the way it makes her hair curl up.

Chiara is starting to be a genuine playmate, at least with family. We played a darling game with our puppets on the airplane, and Anders and she make me lavish meals from the school’s preschool room kitchen. She loves her friend Quincy, a 12 year old neighbor who watches the kids for an hour while I teach, and often asks “Go Kinzy’s house?!”

She’s not prone to smiling at strangers, more often she’ll offer a grimace or sneer, if not turn her head and burrow it into me in some way.  If they speak to her she’ll strength her look of distrust. At home she is  confident and independent, but in public she’s an all out Momma’s girl. Though, as our time with family showed, she’s able and willing to switch that affection to anyone who promises time, attention, and love. She took full advantage of her grandfather’s attention, enjoyed long snuggle sessions with her Grandma and still asks for “Tassie”- after their many sweet interactions.

She spends many hours playing LEGOs with her brothers and has gotten quite adept at working with the small pieces. She’ll bring her creations over to me and tell me about them. This morning it was something like this: “Mommy! Airfane! It ha’ ice c’eam” (she said pointing to the one pink brick.) “And boo. . .” (pointing to the blue bricks) “and lellow. . .”

She’s taken up singing. Yesterday, as she played with play dough she sang the whole time. I recognized clips of two primary songs, “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam,” and “Happy Family.” and often she’ll belt out her own tunes, usually with a false vibrato.

I’m always humored by the various voices she chooses; from her sweet and smiley high pitched one, to the low husky one, to the nasal strident one, to this silly one I can’t even describe.

The last two weeks she’s started to do this thing where she’ll grab my face with both hands and direct it towards hers so she can communicate her needs. This usually happens when we’re at school and I’m holding her while talking to friends. She’ll direct my face to hers and request I take her to pick out yet another handful of lego heads.

Chiara can be a tremendous helper. She’ll see me sweep and go and get the little broom and join me, or find the dust pan and bring it to me. She knows to  grab a rag and wipe up any spills she makes. She can be a tremendous picker upper, and loves to help set the table. She often helps her brothers unload the dishwasher.

She loves running, slides, her baby, shoes, milk, her Paci, her blankie, naps, books, treats, pockets, pas’a, cheerios with milk, tomatoes, cheese, her brothers, her Daddy, her Mommy, her stride bike, painting, flying in ‘airflanes,’ going to Ga’ ma’s house, Quincy, and singing. 

We love her. Oh, how we love her!

 

Little woman

I just came across this picture of Chiara, and I love it! It so succinctly portrays her strength, defiance, snark, and confidence. This little number continues to surprise me. She has desires, she makes them known, and when they are not granted she can lash out with fervor. I was thinking about her strong personality the other day and was suddenly reminded of her first act in life: she had crowned and I was only a one or two pushes away from delivering when she kicked hard- willing herself out. Moments later, after having only laid on my chest a short while, she wiggled her way to my breast and latched on- helping herself. Earlier this week, story time was getting a bit long for her tastes so she walked into her room. She got her paci and blanket from her crib and settled herself on the floor; pulling her blanket up over herself, she fell asleep. If the boys continue to do things she’s asked them not to she will look them square in the eye, and yell STOP!- her eyes bulging, her face red, and her body shaking. Someone mentioned the other day how different Chiara is from the boys, “They were always so friendly.” Chiara feels no need to extend pleasantries for pleasantries sake. Last week one of the administrators at our school stopped to comment on Chiara. “Your daughter is SO adorable. She is so confident and busy and yet, as a girl, always aware- always watching.” Last month we got a bag of hand-me-downs, Chiara was most excited about a leopard print dress. She demanded to wear it immediately. The other night, instead of the cupcake or polar bear pajamas, she chose the cheetah print. I can’t help but wonder about foreshadowing. Looking at her yesterday on “International Women’s Day” I smiled, laughed, and felt assured, that this little lady is going to do just fine!

Ward Family

Our church has recently changed some of the ways we structure our third hour meetings. Now the first meeting is spent in counsel- discussing a topic of particular meaning to the group or congregation. Last week we discussed how we can strengthen and show love to the children and youth in our ward. Reflecting on the topic I became suddenly aware of the multiplicity of people who have loved, supported, taught, nurtured, and encouraged my kids. Just that week Anders’ teacher had sent him a package in the mail with a coloring page they’d completed in class, and a small toy, and thoughtful note saying they’d missed him. Scotland’s teacher sent me a text that afternoon sharing the fun discussion they’d had in class and a picture of Scotland wearing “bug eye” glasses- in connection with their discussion that God sees all. Last Friday I went to pick up the kids from my friends house after teaching to find Chiara standing on a chair stirring eggs, as my friend made omelets. The boys ran up happy and rosy checked from their play with her daughters. I considered the people who have volunteered to sit with my boys when I need to step out with Chiara. The people who take time to talk to Scotland and Anders in the hall. I considered our bishop who knows their names and makes them feel so special. I thought about Tony who always gives them knuckle bumps and is so happy to see them. I considered Rebeccah who walked Anders to nursery for many months, while I was nursing and caring for Chiara. I thought of friends who have watched my kids, taught them preschool, and created happy welcoming places to play. Looking around the room that morning, I could name a sweet exchange with nearly everyone in the room. And it dawned on me- that’s what five years in a community will do. A sadness at leaving washed over me, a sweet sadness, a grateful sadness.

Quiet Kids? What?!

A few months ago I was enjoying a dinner of pho’ with my sister and Mom in Ballard, when I suddenly realized that there were four small children in the restaurant. It was a small place, and the fact that I was just noticing them surprised me. Why hadn’t I noticed them earlier? Because they were so quiet. They weren’t running around the restaurant, weren’t sliding under the table, and weren’t even talking loudly. Reflecting on this later I wondered, why are my children so loud? And why are they seemingly unable to conduct themselves in a restaurant or store in a polite, calm, quiet manner? Now to be fair, people have often commented on how well behaved my children are. But after a very raucous and frustrating 10 minute visit to Old Navy this afternoon, I’m wondering again: What do I need to do to teach my children to be calm and quiet in certain situations?

Do we need to do practice drills in stores- where the sole intention of the visit is to learn proper grocery store/ clothing store etiquette? I left Old Navy today SO frustrated. From the minute we walked in they were hiding under clothes racks, racing down aisles, fighting, crying you name it. Unfortunately, this isn’t a singular occurrence. We’ve had enough of these displays that I next to never go shopping with them. I’d rather do my grocery shopping at midnight than deal with the chaos that ensues when I take them. Which perhaps, is precisely the problem. Do they need more practice? As I’ve queried this over the months, I’ve come to realize that I see very few children in the grocery stores here in Seattle. And when I do see kids, I don’t remember seeing any running around as mine do. Maybe the problem is not as great as I think it is. Is my fixation just amplifying it? Maybe others’ have husbands/ or family/ or nannies they leave their kids home with. Or maybe, my children are just ill-bred! I’m beginning to wonder.

I’ll admit to lowering myself to the Santa Claus threat this afternoon. It had been a day of teasing, fighting, disobedience, screaming, whining. You know the days. Looking back they were quite calm and respectful in Joann Fabrics- granted we were looking at kids toys- so that was captivating. But at Old Navy, not so much. When we got in the car I let off a rant: “I am very frustrated! Your guys’ behavior in there was deplorable. You know, Santa Claus is watching. If. . . then. . . Threat. threat. threat.” I’m not proud of my response. Hence, this post. I’m really seeking strategies. Judging by the behavior of those calm, quiet children in the Vietnamese restaurant, it is possible for children to behave in public settings for extended periods of time. What do I need to do differently? What is the natural consequence for wrecking havoc while shopping?

All advice welcomed!

 

Ward family

Last night was our ward’s harvest festival. It’s one of my favorite ward functions because of the sense of community that arises. Costumes lighten the mood, and create easy conversation. The activities are simple but joyful, and it lends it self to much activity and sociality. I’m listening to the book Hannah Coulter. I was touched by the section where she talks about how they would use their free time in the evenings. There was no TV and many didn’t have radios. So they would sit out on their front porches and talk, sometimes it would be so quite you could hear a family talking from their front porch a mile down the road, and sometimes they would even talk back and forth from front porch to front porch. I know this sort of neighborliness still exists in some communities, but I have experienced little of it in the neighborhoods I’ve lived in. Sure I chat with my neighbors from time to time, I consider them friends. But I haven’t done enough to foster a real connection between us.

The harvest festival was followed up my a fifth Sunday combined third hour meeting, and then a potluck, and by chance our friends’ daughter’s baptism. While at first I grumped about the amount of time we’d have to spend at the church. In the end, I found it a complete delight. Its a beautiful thing to be part of such a dynamic community.

Full circle

When I chose the colors for my college quilt they were yellow, coral, orange and green. It was a summer all year long sort of quilt. An unapologetically happy quilt. When I bought a coverlet to cover our bed after we moved into our first home. I chose white.

When Tom and I chose our plates for our wedding registry I chose bright red. Not knowing if we’d get them I also bought some thick earthenware plates in watermelon green. Soon enough the red were put in the camping bin- as they clashed with our new kitchen with his calming green cabinets and pale yellow walls. The green plates eventually got donated when the boys started unloading the dishwasher and stacks of them were too heavy. And to be honest, once I started following food blogs, I could never get over how unappealing many meals looked on them. Now my plates are white. Except for two “fun” plates that I purchased as decor for our Shaker Heights kitchen. They are bright green and blue with a fun geometric pattern, the boys always choose them.

When I was in college people assumed I was from California because I dressed in such vivid colors. Now my closet is full of black, gray, and muted greens and blues.

I was so delighted when my grandmother gave me flatware for a wedding gift. With a serving for 12, all of my forks and spoons could be the same! Something I never saw in my childhood home with all it’s mismatch flatware. How I loved Thanksgiving when we would use the fine silverware and everyone’s forks would match! Now, my boys fight over the one “special” fork in our drawer- the ornate one. And they thrill to be at Grandma’s house with it’s many options.

A few months ago while studying Japan. We took the kids to Goodwill and let them each choose a tea cup. Their own tea cup. It was a strangely defining moment for me. Scotter chose a fancy French matching  tea cup and plate lined with a thick line of gold. Anders chose a dark brown clay cup with a thick plain cream plate. Tom choose a Japanese cup with no handle but ornate Japanese art in gold plate and rust orange, I chose a delicate German cup with a wildflower nosegay painted both inside and outside the cup. To accompany I chose an English plate with mauve flowers circling the perimeter and a pastoral scene depicted in the middle. The boys chose a teal espresso cup with matching plate for Chiara. These plates and cups clutter our drawer.  They don’t all stack, they definitely don’t match. But we all love them. I get a strange thrill whenever I drink tea from my dainty cup. I can’t describe the feeling, but it’s as if I am opening the door to a different self, a more feminine, gentle self- one that I have squelched my whole life. ( I’ve been an “I don’t like pink!” type of girl as long as I remember.)

Now as a homeschooling family, I’m always seeking ways to make our school-room/main living spaces more enlightening and inspiring. In so doing, I’ve realized that the style I’ve so carefully created over the past decade is lacking. My home’s pallet is calming, but it is not invigorating. My minimalist style is clean, but not creative. Slowly as I become more and more in-tune with my children, my inner child creeps up and I feel a longing for that brightly colored quilt, eclectic artsy dishes, and bright energetic artwork. I’m craving color.

With a move on the horizon, I’ve found myself considering what sort of space I want to create next. I feel a sort of dissonance when I try to force my children to inhabit and abide in a purely adult space. But as I’ve allowed them to breath life into our home- to decorate it and add their own touches. I’ve felt my own breath quickening. While I was so keen to adapt the “adult” aesthetic a decade ago, now I feel a desire to let out my inner child. While I will, no doubt, always hold on to my love of simplicity, peace, and order; I hope to give wings to my love of art, color, and movement!

 

 

Drops of Delight

Thursday:

  • Scotland was on near angelic behavior today. He made his bed in addition to picking it up. He offered to read the bedtime stories so I could rest my voice. He jumped in and negotiated with a tantruming Anders in a calm understanding way that deescalated him, and led to a more peaceful departure to the library. I praised him again and again. (Which he adores.) Finally, after dinner, he asked: “Do you know why I’ve been acting this way all day? Well, one reason is because I want to get those presents for Christmas (He has a ripped-out page from a LEGO magazine taped to his wall. An arrow points to two different LEGO sets, with the words ‘I wont these!’), but mostly it’s because it’s the right thing to do!”
  • Building block towers with Chiara and hearing her say “cash” when they toppled over.
  • Getting to talk to my sister Sabina. Being nine years older, I’ve always idolized her. And even now, though in some ways we’re more peers. I feel like a giddy fan when she calls.
  • The boys’ delight in returning, choosing, checking out, and carrying their own library books.

Drops of delight

“When we reach a point of consecration, our afflictions will be swallowed up in the joy of Christ. It does not mean we won’t have afflictions, but they will be put in a perspective that permits us to deal with them. With our steady pursuit of joy and with each increasing measure of righteousness we will experience one more drop of delight- one drop after another- until, in the words of a prophet, our hearts are brim with joy. At last the soul’s cup finally runs over!”

-Neal A Maxwell

I read this quote the other day and it really struck me. The night before Tom and I had had one of those good long revealing chats. Where he shed some new and needed light on a few things. One of the things I came away with was that I need to find more “highs” so that when mothering trials make me dip down, I don’t go as low. Reading this quote the next morning, I felt struck that a simple way that I could increase my levels of joy would be by noting the “drops of delight” in my days. I struggle with contention, and the ever present bickering between my boys. Sometimes it feels that it’s all my days are full of. And yet at the end of the day, if I look back for all the drops of delight, I realize that those moments of contention were a small percentage of the day. It’s just that I allow them to loom large in my mind.

Monday:

  • Scotland leaving an envelop with cut out hearts, two pieces of candy, and a “jewel” in an envelop near my bed.
  • Kara watching the boys so I could attend a new yoga class at the Y. The sun was streaming in. The teacher was warm and welcoming. My body was strong and flexible.
  • When I picked up Chiara from the YMCA kids zone, I asked “How’d it go Chiara? Did you have a fun time with your friends?” She looked at me sadly and said, “Andy. Scots.”

Tuesday:

  • Andy was sick. but he faced it like a gentleman. He quietly thanking me every time I cleaned out his bowl, or brought him a paper towel to wipe his mouth.
  • The delight in Andy and Chiara’s eyes when I welcomed them up to sit in the drivers and passengers seats while we waited in the van during Scotland’s musical theater class.

Wednesday:

  • Playing “Go to the Dump” and “War” with Anders. His face lighting up and his jolly laugh as we chanted, “1-2-3 War!”
  • The way Scotter leans his head on my shoulder when we read together. We’re reading “The Wizard of Oz” together right now. He reads a page, I read a page. We do it when the littles are asleep. It’s our time. A special time.
  • Chiara’s vocabulary is expanding rapidly. Today, there was a skirmish downstairs and Anders started crying. Chiara looked at me and said “Ahee Andy!” (I hear Andy.) Then she frowned, tilted her head and said “Owee!” (Anders got hurt.)
  • The way Chiara followed me into the room where Scotland was crying, and rubbed his back in sync with me. Her face motherly and caring.
  • Watching Scotland hold Chiara’s hand, and slowly guide her around the school behind me.
  • Being together as a family carving pumpkins, laughing about the “guts.” And sharing ideas of what to carve.

Chiara 17 months

I keep having these moments when I watch Chiara do something only a “big girl” could do- like climb up a step stool to wash her hands, or give another baby a Paci, or make jokes that crack her brothers up, and it hits me, my baby isn’t a baby anymore! So, an update. So I can remember.

The largest change has been her desire to communicate. She is signing with her hands, speaking more words, and more than anything making constant facial expressions! This is a girl with a flare for the dramatic. She’ll often scowl, just for effect, and then smile and through her head back with glee afterwards. She likes to look out of the sides of her eyes, or lower her eyes and look up through her lids. She has gained great common of both her eyes and lips, and is often impressing us with her new use of them!

She’s discovered and embraced the power of the step stool. She now likes to join me when I’m baking in the kitchen, likes to get up to the sink to wash her hands, or just climb up to explore what’s on the counters. (Sigh!)

Chiara continues to LOVE books. She will often bring one over to me, then gesture for us to move to the couch- my designated reading spot. I She loves to curl up with me and point to all the animals, birds, and flowers. She’ll sign all the words she knows and squeal loudly and point any time she sees something of interest. One day she picked out a large pile of books, and it was so hilarious watching her try various methods of getting her six or seven books from the bookshelf to my lap. She tried stacking them, but she didn’t have enough balance, she tried holding them horizontally but they kept slipping out. She eventually gripped three in one and and three in the other and worked her way over, dropping and picking up as needed.

She is moving out of her anti-social stage. She will now wave and say “Hi” or wave goodbye. And will smile and flirt with people around us. She tends to be warmer with men then women.

These days, Chiara is about as likely as her brothers to be running around the house wielding a sword, protected with a shield and helmet. Her brothers LOVE when she joins in their play and will pretend to run from her, or gently duel with her.

One of the most joyous progressions has been her comfort with her brothers. Scotland has been more playful and gentle with her of late, and she has taken to her quieter pattern. Several times the past two weeks I’ve been able to say, “Scotland will you take Chiara and play with her for a few minutes while I finish this project?” (I’ve been painting our front door, a tricky one to have a toddler assist with.) He happily agreed and invited her down to play our out to ride bikes, including her in his play, and comforting her when she needed. It’s been so sweet to see, and SUCH a help. She’ll give the boys hugs at night, and sometimes just go up to them to cuddle of her own fruition.

Words she’s saying are: Momm-ee, Daddy, Shooz (shoes), “Shoes on!”, Ahwahnsum “I want some!” She’s also used that as a question- offering me food and saying “Ahwahnsum?!” Zeezuz (Jesus), dog, uh oh!, wow, Owee! (She will often yell this at the boys or another child as an accusation of hurting her. “Owee!!” I swear she’s said “Stop!”  before. Peez (please), Cheez (cheese, yeah, No (in varying volumes!). Now if she squawks and complains, I can say “Chiara will you please use your words?” And she’ll sign something instead. Usually between signing and using yes no questions I can figure out what she needs. But thanks to her increasing communication her tantrums have decreased substantially. She signs: Drink, water, eat/hungry, kitty, dog, rabbit, up/pick me up/I want out, Hold me, bird, diaper change, and then she does a lot of pointing to indicate her wants.

Chiara Loves shoes. She will often request to change hers a few times a day. She also requests that her hair be done, and if she had her way she would wear #allthebows. The above picture was from a sweet afternoon when Scotland helped get her up from her nap. He thought it would be fun to “dress” her (though she was dressed), So he opened up her drawer and let her pick, she picked this skirt. He then led her to her closet and apparently she picked out these shoes, and these hair accessories. He happily obliged.

She’ll now join the boys for their racing games up and down the hall. They also play chase. I’ve been so impressed by the boys willingness to be slow and gentle or change their game to include Chiara.

Scotland will often ask Chiara if she wants to dance while he plays the piano. She’ll come over to the rug and twirl and run and stop or back bend over the couch as he jams. And he’ll cheer “Go Chiara!”

I let Chiara pick out her own books at the library a few weeks ago. I was surprised that she understood the privilege! She was thrilled with “her” books, and wanted to read them everyday. (The boys had each helped her pick one, and they were equally proud of their thoughtful selections. One was a book on baby bunnies, the other on baby animals.)

She loves bugs, and her instinct is always to hold them. One day while I was nature journaling she was watching a patch of ants with her cousin Tells. The two of them would place their little pointer fingers to the pavement until an ant walked up, and then they’d squeal with delight as it crawled all over their hand.

She loves slides.