Monday, March 16, 2009

Her Favorite Color is Yellow

I thought of naming Anna "Sunny." She is loving yellow above all other colors now, so maybe it was an appropriate name to consider. The way her personality is developing, "Sunny" might be a great nickname for her.

Happy St. Urho's Day to the folks out there who know about him! As a 100% Finnish person, it's my duty to spread the Finnish cheer and craziness at all times. Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen!

The kids and I are going to the library soon. Time to refresh my audiobook selections, and it'll be nice to get the kids out of the house.

Anna is looking out the window and waving bye-bye to all the cars that go past.

And she has a new word! "owie"

How cute is that? She's been constipated lately, and it hurts when she poops. She'll run to me, grab her butt and yell "OWIE!!" over and over again. And when she fell down, she started crying and saying "Owie!"

I think it's terribly appropriate that her first two words while living in this house were "Tickle" and "Owie." After all, she does have Ben for a big brother.

Ben's vocabulary is tremendous now. The other day he was eating a piece of pizza. After the first bite, he said, "That's delicious!" I was thunderstruck.

It's really not surprising. I try not to limit the words he's exposed to. When we do the "what word does this letter start?" game while playing in the bathtub with the foam letters, I get creative. I add at least two big words to the list of simple ones each time. "U" "U starts words like umbrella, under, ubiquitous, and uvula. "X" "X starts words like xray, xylophone, and xenophobia." "B" "B starts words like boy, ball, Ben, baby, big, burgeoning, backwards, and bicker." "A" "A starts words like apple, after, antelope, apricot, affection, apathy, and analytical."

Chris gets a big kick out of it. We celebrated our 4-year wedding anniversary yesterday. We had a fantastic date and went to sleep safe in the knowledge of our wonderful relationship that grows deeper and sweeter every day.

When we were leaving for our date last night and getting the kids ready for their own playdate at Katie's house, I glanced at the door and saw the following picture. I shrieked and burst out laughing. Anna decided it would be appropriate to wear our firefighter helmet with her spring jacket. It was the perfect image of our comedic genius, the Amazing Anna Girl.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Voice from the Past

Am I irrelevant now that I'm not blogging all the time? Does that really matter? Frankly... no. Here's the deal. I'm living offline right now. Some days, I don't even check my email more than once. *gasp*

Rather than work my cute butt off by building up the "Cheryl" brand online, I've retreated back to life with my kids. I'm focusing on quilting and cooking and praying. Chris and I joined the nearby Catholic parish, and we're in the process of becoming confirmed in the faith. It's exciting and thrilling and ultimately fulfilling in unexpected ways.

And oh, the quilting. After finishing Valerie's quilt, I jumped into a quilt to use as my "nap blanket." This one was so much fun to plan. I was able to choose the fabrics that I loved the most. I found a stimulating pattern that would offer a lot of variety with fabric combinations. I think it's beautiful and sweet and cozy-looking. I backed it with flannel in a different color scheme than the front in case I get tired of the patchwork side. I'll post pictures of it once I get the binding done.

While I've been plugging away at that beast, I've had two other quilts "pending." My dear niece Alisha provided me with a pile of fabrics that she liked last summer, full of bugs and butterflies, and I chose a pinwheel design. I was finally done with the pinwheels and able to add sashing and backing. Because of the design, I knew I would have to machine quilt it instead of simply tying it, so I was hesitant to do that on my old machine. The tension never was right no matter what I did, and I didn't want it to look terrible.

An early birthday present landed a new sewing machine on my table, and I've happily been machine quilting every day. Woo-hoo! Other than washing it and double-checking the seams, that one is done just in time for her birthday. I'm so excited.

The other one I was working on was a blue and cream quilt that I had started for Anna but then decided against the baby-ish colors. That turned out really pretty, and I think I'm going to donate it to the church for them to either give to someone or to sell at a crafts table this summer.

Next up is another attempt at a quilt for Anna. I think I have enough fabrics for it, and I think I've finally narrowed down on a pattern I'll use. I want to use the same quilt pattern for both Ben and Anna's quilts, but use different fabrics. So once I pick a pattern, I have to like it a lot.

On the kid front, everything is great. Ben's vocabulary is burgeoning. He's speaking more clearly every day, and he's delightful. Naughty at times, but still sweet and kind as a rule. Rambunctious and curious and cantankerous. A normal three year old. And on Wednesday, he's going to an optometrist because he failed his vision exam. It'll be a new challenge to have a toddler who wears glasses, but I'm thrilled at the new world that is going to open up to him once he can see clearly. I wonder if he'll be able to articulate the difference. And I also wonder if he's going to be responsible enough to take care of them.

Anna is. Well. Dear Anna. Last week she had a stomach virus for three days while we were on a mini-vacay at my mom's house. Vomiting all the time. This is in addition to the runny nose and cough she had for a few weeks. After her tummy settled down, the teething started again. I think there are at least three different teeth coming through right now, including two molars. She's spiking fevers and miserable for most of the day and night, though she's having more and more "happy" hours, which is good. Still, she was very unhappy when she woke from her nap this afternoon, and after a cuddle with Daddy, she fell asleep and has remained asleep. I checked on her, and she's still breathing. :)

Chris is ultra busy at work lately with some new projects he's championing. Hopefully, it'll benefit his career plans. He's also taking two classes right now. And I'm working more than 15 hours a week when he's not working, so we're like two ships passing in the night, often.

I'll leave you with a couple pictures of the latest quilts. Love ya!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Romance From Afar

As many of you know, Chris and I married after being matched up by eharmony. We committed to each other very quickly for reasons we're not really sure of. We just went with our intuition, and thankfully, it's worked out well for us. We'll be married four years this March, and we're still finding new reasons to love each other every day.

Silly Valentine's Day. I'm not an overly sentimental, mushy person. I don't hold onto many keepsakes, and I don't think those reminiscings are all that important. What is important is the day to day love and kindness and grace. Waking up every day with a commitment to someone, with shared dreams and lives.

Forgive me, then, if I take a moment to reminisce on the mysterious origins of my marriage. A couple weeks ago Chris was going through his emails, and he came across one of the first emails I sent to him after we graduated from the eharmony process. I thought you might get a kick out of an excerpt:

I came into work this morning, shivering from the cold. I had to wait
fifteen minutes in my car for the darn thing to warm up enough to melt the
frost off the windshield. And I refuse to get out the ice scraper before
November. I'm dressed in khaki pants, leather sandals, and a huge yellow
sweatshirt that says "Big Daddy" on the front. (It's one of the thousands of
products we sell, and I got it for five bucks. I find it amusing). I combed
my hair but didn't wash it. Left off the makeup. Didn't even brush my teeth
yet. Just crawled over here to check my email.

There are two people I'm corresponding with on a regular/serious basis right
now. You and a guy named Ben who lives about 45 minutes from me. For the
past month after I shoved myself onto the market, I've been juggling. And
I've narrowed down the field to you two. And I have to be honest. I want
you. I sat down here at my desk, read through the latest email from Ben that
was sent to my work account. And he mentioned that I shouldn't be surprised
if he called me this morning. And then I got online and checked my hotmail
account, and there you were. As alive and pulsing as anybody... so real and
tangible even though you really are just words on a screen. Halfway through
your email, with my pulse racing and an idiotic grin spread across my face,
my damn cell phone rings. And it's Ben.

He's a very nice guy... incredibly stable. Owns his own home. Has a loving
and great family. And if you weren't holding me so close to your heart, I'd
probably throw myself at him. Which would be a mistake. Because no matter
how ideal he appears, "it" just isn't there. That divine spark of knowing.
The flutter. The chemistry and pheremones that glues me to your emails.

We'll figure out the rest. What matters most is the connection we have
already. This nameless force, this thread that seems to bind us together,
even though we probably haven't been closer than a thousand miles to each
other. We could probably ignore it. And move on. But I don't want to. I feel
deep within my body that you're mine already. That it's a foregone
conclusion. Does this scare you?
Happy Month o' Love Everyone!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Life Along Side the Quilting Table

I am in full-fledged quilting mode, spending at least four hours a day at the task. I have beautified my sewing table and laid in a cache of unheard audiobooks. I have more fabric than I know what to do with thanks to too many trips to the fabric store.

I have had many questions as to how I manage to quilt while taking care of the kids. The answer is complicated, but I'll give you a picture to describe it, a picture of words, that is.

My hair is pushed off of my face with a headband, letting me forget for a bit longer that it's been two (or is it three?) days since last I washed it. My shirt, crusty in places from snot and breakfast, tops off a careless outfit that may or may not include jeans, which I consider to be "dressier" than my pajama pants. The children are clothed and fed and washed; I have standards, don't you know.

In the adjacent bedroom, a Little Tykes slide plays host to numerous activities... the conveyor belt of flashcards, a launching pad for trucks, a laundry chute for disheveled children. Duplo blocks are scattered across the hardwood floor. Don't they make such a great sound when dumped from their bin?

After teaching Anna how to safely go down the stairs, she now as free reign of the house. She frequently makes the trek downstairs to grab a sippy cup or a cozy blanket or a shoe. Every once in a while, I move to the floor to sit and reach for her. We cuddle and giggle together, and I will nurse her until boredom moves her elsewhere or sleep overtakes her. Her favorite spot is on my lap, and when I'm just sewing and not brandishing the rotary cutter, I'll often hold her precariously on my lap, my arms reaching around her to hold the fabric steady under the jumping needle. Her joy is letting one of the widgy-gadgets bop up against her outstretched hands as the machine jiggers along.

Ben will sometimes be content to play upstairs or watch TV. Often, however, he goes downstairs where I have mommy radar going, listening for naughty sounds, or, worse, naughty silence. Mostly, he pulls out toys and plays by himself, entertaining himself without my assistance for up to two hours at a time. Sometimes I come downstairs to minor disasters, like washable marker on the floor or a roll of toilet paper in the toilet.

Before snacktime, lunch and naps, clean-up time occurs in at least one zone of the house, and that's when the fun begins. The quilting table is tidied up, and I give the kids my full attention. I try to make clean-up fun. My strokes of genius include putting the end of the slide on a bucket and using the slide to put toys away. It's much more fun to collect them in buckets if you get to push them down a slide. Or maybe I'll put a broom handle on the floor two or three feet away from a bin, and I'll play referee while Ben practices his free throw skills. That one takes longer, but it's more "play" than "chore," so it's definitely worth it.

Slowly but surely, the quilt gets completed without bloodshed, without too many tears, without resentment and regret. I'm in the homestretch with my dear niece Alisha's quilt right now, and I feel overcome with blessings of a magnitude not yet experienced.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

From One Thing to Another

First off... I shared this story with Chris today. Heard it on Catholic Radio, got warm fuzzies. I think it's a good lesson to learn.

A momentous occasion occurred today when Chris brought Momma Val's quilt to the post office. I was so glad to pull it out of the dryer this morning and see that all the stitches held, the colors didn't bleed, and it looked cozy. Mission accomplished. Whenever I look at it, I see all the little mistakes I made. I hope they are not as noticeable to Valerie and her sweet little boy.

Here's a picture of the quilt during one of the last stages of completion:

I had started this quilt early last summer at the end of a quilting binge. I started working, my health was "iffy" and life was chaos. I just didn't have the heart for quilting anymore, so I stopped. Unfortunately, that meant that Valerie didn't get her requested quilt in a timely fashion. Oh the guilt that festered. She never bothered me about it, but I didn't forget entirely.

Fast forward to the beginning of this month. We moved our bedroom upstairs, and I decided that I should bring up our six-foot table to put in the extra wide hallway at the top of the stairs. On there, I could put my sewing machine, and I'd even have room for my cutting board. Bingo. I set it up, and the quilting bug happened again.

It didn't take me long to finish her quilt once I started. I had most of the blocks completed or nearly completed. I just had to cut out the white blocks and put it all together. Happiness, thy name is "matching seams."

And now it's done. After the quilt for Alisha, I have four more quilts planned. A nap blanket for me, a quilt each for Anna and Ben, and a quilt for my nephew Gage. Happy times ahead.

On the kid front... Ben's vocabulary is burgeoning still. He's hard to understand at times, but he's trying. He's "using his words" a lot, even if it doesn't do any good because it sounds like gibberish. He can count to ten and can recognize all of the numbers. And he has most of the alphabet down pat, but he won't say it, just points them out and names them when he sees them. Colors are memorized.

His personality is adhesive. He loves stickers. If I give him a sheet of stickers, he will either put them all over his face (including eyelids), decorate a table top (or my laptop) or add them to random pages in his book collection. A couple days ago I went into the living room to turn off the TV quickly before we left to run errands, and I was greeted with the sight of a TV screen covered in stickers. Ah, Ben.

He's acting more interested in what I'm doing, and most of the time, he wants to join in. Kneading bread dough, washing dishes, picking up laundry, washing the table, etc. "Ben try?" I hear that a lot, except when he doesn't want to do something. Then it's "Mama try?"

Anna's infected boil is slowly healing. The infection is gone, but the spot remains. I'm glad the doctor ran labs on the specific bacteria (ostensibly to rule out MRSA) so that we could get a targeted antibiotic. Unfortunately, with antibiotics comes a terrible diaper rash. She's kind of annoyed by that and the two molars that are still halfway out or just under the surface. Intermittently, she's either jolly and rambunctious or she's whiny and clingy.

I wish you all could see her adorable facial expressions. The "stinkface" with a crinkled nose and pursed lips. The "oh-hi!" where she squats slightly and grins like she's ready to jump for joy at seeing you. The "oh-really" where she raises her barely-there-blond eyebrows and smirks, letting loose a deep-throated chuckle.

That's all I can do for tonight. Hope you all are happy and well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Back to Business

Last week was manic in its activity. I squeezed in 20 hours of work and at least 10 hours on the quilt. As I systematically took care of business and nudged myself towards efficiency, I even had the emotional nerve to start going through the bills that have piled up. We still can't pay any of them, but at least they'll be at hand when we finally have a surplus again.

It's nice to feel capable again. I've had a rough couple of months. I don't really know what it was all about, but I'm very glad that I'm snapping out of it.

The new stuff happening in my life:

  • New contributors at I've adjusted my duties at the site to better fit my new priorities. Now I'll be mainly coaxing and nurturing our new writers. It's quite satisfying to encourage people in their writing. I feel like a conductor of a fine orchestra. They have all the talent, I just blend their numerous skills together into a beautiful medley.
  • The sewing station. I never got back to the sewing machine after my surgery last year. It's regrettable, and I'm ashamed. So I decided that I'd set up my life to reduce the excuses. I hauled up the six-foot table from the basement and set up a sewing station in the wide hallway outside our bedroom door. I got to work and quickly finished piecing the front and back of Momma Val's quilt. I spent extra time on the new piecing to make sure my seams would match. I'm pleased with the result, and now I'm just waiting for some more supplies. While I'm waiting on that, I'm doing more pinwheels for my niece Alisha's quilt. It's colorful and fun, and I'm excited to see that one finished as well.
  • The kitchen. Why is it so easy to let the kitchen get disgustingly dirty? We didn't have dish detergent for a few days, so the dishes were put off. Then a plop of spaghetti sauce landed on the floor and splattered everywhere. It just went downhill from there. Now I'm just a day behind in the dishes, and there aren't any sticky messes festering.
  • Laundry. This was frustrating. A while back, I was completely caught up on laundry. It was miraculous. But you know what? If you don't do laundry for more than a week, there's going to be a mountain waiting for you at the bottom of the laundry chute! I sorted Mount Washmore yesterday and completed three loads. There's still at least three more waiting down there. I think I'm going to try to make it a habit to go down there every morning after breakfast to move laundry up again. At least that will keep the system moving forward.
That's my life, folks. I hope January is treating you well. It certainly is cold up here. The temperature won't get above zero again until Friday, and that's not even mentioning the crazy wind chill temps. Yikes! Thank God that we have a roof over our heads and a functional furnace. We have food in the pantry and warm hearts. Yay!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Ben Turns Three

Chase after me, little boy.
Let's race and see what wonders we can rouse from the ordinary.
Hold my hand and explore this world with me.

Count to ten. Say the alphabet.
What color is this?
Roar! A lion is attacking.
No wait... it's the tickle monster!

Worlds of expression dance across your face.
Anticipation for a trip to the library.
Consternation when you can't find your airplane.
Fury when Anna plays with your train.
Adoration when it's snuggle time.

Say "I"... "I"
"love"... "Yubbs"
"you!" .. "You!"

Last night, Ben asked me if we could put his jacket on the cat so she wouldn't be cold when she got stuck in the attic. "Mama? Cat too cold in attic. Cat put on Ben's jacket so not cold."

I love this boy so much. He's the best tagalong, the best companion in this march through time. My little budd started hip-hop dancing when we started singing "Hark the Herald Angel Sing" at Christmas Eve service.

Two mornings in a row, I've found him sleeping on the couch when I come downstairs in the morning. During the night, he'd snuck out of bed, grabbed a peanut butter cookie from the kitchen, ate half of it and left the remainder on the arm of the couch next to four or five favorite cars, lined up carefully in a row. Twice, this has happened. The stinker.

Ben turns three today. *Sigh*