House Photos!

These photos have been a long time coming!

We moved into the house last weekend and spent the first night here Sunday. After over a year of living transiently, and 6 months before that of living in an RV...it feels GREAT to have space that is all our own again!

The upstairs of the house is done...so that is where we are living. The downstairs is still a work-in-progress. The kitchen is the next project. In the meantime, we have a little fridge and microwave up in our master closet, plus a full-size fridge and oven/stove in the unfinished part of the house. So preparing meals will be an adventure! Some of my sweet friends have brought us meals this week--leftovers that we could just heat up in the microwave, or already-made meals to easily throw in the oven. I have a feeling that there won't be much gourmet cooking around here for awhile!

We're still getting unpacked and organized. Moving is like giving birth...a part of your brain always forgets how much work it is, otherwise you'd never do it again. Seriously! We have been exhausted this week, and we only moved half of a house!

I'm not posting photos of the our master bedroom or closet...not because they are private, but because they are functioning as multi-use spaces right now, and don't make a lot of sense in a photograph. Our closet is also a mini-kitchen, and our bedroom is a living room/dining room...and both look a bit crazy, neither will stay that way forever. The bedroom and closet have the same amazing floors that you see in Rowan and Piper's rooms...and the same beautiful windows, trim, and doors, too.

Rowan's room. My girly girl, of course, wanted pink. I never in a million years thought that I would have a pink room in my house. Never. True love, that's what I say. And we compromised. I'm partial to orange, and I think pink and orange look pretty cute together. So that's where Rowan and I started...and we've been having fun collecting things for her room since the fall. All of her furniture is second-hand. My sister found the headboard for her bed for $5 at a garage sale, we sanded and painted it. The mattress itself is the one Joe slept on as a kid. The dressers I found at an estate sale for $15 a piece. Also sanded, painted, and added new hardware to those. The funky chair is from Craigslist. The big Ikea bookcase is also from Craigslist. I will have to write a whole separate post about the absurd way we (by we I mean JOE) got the bookcase upstairs. But that will have to wait.

Notice the beautiful floors. Joe refinished the floors in the entire upstairs...and I'm having trouble putting rugs over any of it. They are deep, rich, warm, perfect. He spent a week working on them...a lot of it on his hands and knees. I'm catching him every day, now, on his hands and knees, inspecting this or that on the floor, making sure the furniture isn't scratching them too much.

Notice the window and trim, too. Joe put all new windows in the whole house. Not only do they look clean and sharp...they are very energy efficient, too. We also insulated the whole house, so we're eager to see what our gas bills look like. Joe's dad did most of the trim. We love it. Thick, simple, clean, craftsman lines. Just like I am having trouble putting rugs on the floors, I'm having trouble putting any kind of window treatment on the windows. I just want to show them off!

There are more pics of Rowan's room...you can see them by following the link to Flick at the end of this post.

Piper's room. It's a lovely shade of green. The crib is the one Rowan slept in...lovingly made by hand, out of ONE piece of oak, by her Papa (Joe's dad). We adore this crib. The changing table, too, was Rowan's. A dresser we found at Salvation Army in Memphis...painted, added hardware, then Joe built a beautiful oak top for it and put feet on it to make it higher for us tall folks. I found the funky old green rocker at an estate sale this fall, and another oak dresser at an antique fair. I'm still planning on painting a few things on her walls...so I'll post more pictures of her room later. Also more photos on Flickr.

The bathroom. I have to brag on Joe here. I really don't deserve a bathroom this nice. I feel like I am showering at an upscale hotel. I feel like I am at a spa. And every single detail is due to Joe. Which sometimes drove me crazy. I wanted to pick out tile at the first place we looked. He insisted on checking every tile place in town. I wanted to pick out fixtures at Lowes. He researched and bought really cool fixtures, for great deals, online. I tend to be rash at making decisions. Let's just say he is deliberate. But holy moly, check out what he did!
Bathroom Before:

Bathroom After:

The bathroom was literally a shell when we bought the house...so we had to design it...every single part of it. It turned out better than we ever imagined. A few details: the flooring is Ipe, a Brazilian hardwood that stands up really well to water, and is really expensive. Joe found some on Craigslist...a guy had some left-over from a project (not flooring) and had about 60 square feet left, just what we needed. And sold it to us for $60! Joe had to re-mill it to make it work as flooring. The shelf is made of oak from an old barn that Joe collected a bunch of wood from when we lived in Arkansas. The vanity was made from walnut flooring that we got cheap from a surplus store. Joe put the wood flooring together and then re-imagined it as furniture! The wood is dark and varied and gorgeous. The counter-top and tub surround is all concrete. Joe built forms and poured it off-site, then installed it all around the tub and over the vanity. Joe did every part of this bathroom (with help on plumbing from his dad)...from the lighting to the tile work to the floors to the vanity to the complicated plumbing. It's amazing. You can see a lot of other details in the photos at Flickr.

Check them out here.


"Formal" Photos

Since Rowan turned 4 a few weeks ago and Piper is now 2 months old and growing rapidly, I have had it on my mind to take some photos of them with the backdrop.

Parents often report that when their children are in the care of someone else, their children are more well-behaved than when the parent is taking care of them. I'm sure this phenomenon has a name...but whatever it is, this more-well-behaved-for-others-thing applies to photographers taking pictures of their own children, too.

I'm fine picking up the camera and taking "candid" shots of the girls...but when it's time to take nicer, "formal" ones, I sort of dread it. Maybe it's because I'm less patient than I would be with a paying customer...or maybe it's because they already know the tricks I have up my sleeve to get attention or a smile...but whatever it is, I seldom have as good of luck with my own kids as I do with other people's kids. What's that about?

My mother-in-law was nice enough to help me take some photos...by getting the kids' attention and taking care of whoever wasn't in the frame. Even with the help, I seemed to get quickly frustrated. I expected too much.

Initially, my newborn was more cooperative than my 4-year-old. Piper gave sweet smiles, talked to her Nana throughout...but her hair is just so wild I couldn't figure out what to do with it, and she mostly just looked like a little old lady. I just couldn't figure out how to make her look cute...and not like I had just electrocuted her. Her smiles are sweet as all get out in person, but in two-dimensions her mouth just looks agape, like she might need some psychiatric help. Is it possible for a 2 month old to be going through an awkward phase? No magazines are calling to put this one on their cover! Oh well, here she is in all her wild glory.

And Rowan is at that great age of fake smiles. Painfully fake. And I was impatient with her. When I finally took a deep breath, I asked myself if I would ever treat someone else's child with such frustration. Of course I wouldn't. I would be undyingly patient...trying thing after thing after thing to get them comfortable and to get some genuine smiles.

So I bribed her with ice cream. Changed her outfit. Let her take some pictures of me. Told new knock-knock jokes. And finally got a few real photos.

I've only edited these few shots so far. Eventually I will put a bunch more up on Flickr...and I promise to include some of the really horrible ones. There were many.

When we were driving in the car after taking pictures, I apologized to Rowan for getting frustrated with her. Apparently I am too hard on myself--she didn't seem to think I got too frustrated, and was confused by my apology.

Piper got her 2 month shots (not photos--needle shots) today. I hate that. She cried pretty hard. She weighed 12 pounds, 9 ounces and has grown 3 inches: she's now 23 1/2 inches long. She looks healthy! And some of the clothes that were gifts at her birth, which we looked at and thought "she'll never be that big!"...yeah, she's already grown out of them.



Turning a Corner

I have waited a few weeks to post this good news because I wanted to make sure it wasn't a fluke. The jury is still out on whether we found a permanent solution, but I think we have turned a corner.

First of all, thank you to all the friends and folks who have made good suggestions for how to solve our sleep/fussy issue with Piper. Lots of good ideas.

The idea that made the most sense to us to try first came from our good friend and former pediatrician in Jonesboro, Dr. Dave Matthews. He told us about this product out of Sweden called Biogaia. It's a probiotic in drop form that babies can take. The logic behind this is that we all have good and bad bacteria in our gut, which in part aids in digestion. Sometimes the balance of good vs. bad bacteria can get out of whack and cause digestive distress. One way that the bacteria gets out of balance is from taking antibiotics...which wipe out bad bacteria, but take the good bacteria with it. I was on an IV drip of antibiotics during labor for Group B Strep...so Piper would have received some of that when she was born.

In addition to Piper's tummy pain, she also had horrible smelling gas. Much worse than a breast-fed baby should have. Also a sign of imbalance in the gut. So Dave felt like if we gave her some good bacteria, it may help her feel better. You can buy BioGaia over-the-counter, it's all natural, no side-effects. At $30 a bottle, it was worth a shot. Dave told me to make sure to give her 5 drops a day for at least two weeks...that it might take that long to see the effects.

I received the BioGaia in the mail on a Saturday a few weeks ago...gave it to Piper that day. That night, she slept from 10:00 PM until 6:15 AM with no grunting. What! The next 3 nights were similar...sleeping from 11-5 or 10-5:30...at least 5 hour stretches each night. And the biggest change--no grunting. Craziness!

The only complicating factor is that the same day I received the BioGaia, my sweet Aunt in Portland sent me a bottle of Gripe Water...which are homeopathic drops that also aid digestion and supposedly reduce colic. So I had given her a few of these drops that day as well. Who knows, maybe it was the combination of both?

After 4 or 5 nights of amazing sleep, little Piper got a cold and has spent the last two weeks doing quite a bit of night waking because her nose has been so stuffed up she's had trouble breathing. But it has been clear that the frequent night-waking this time is because of her stuffy nose, not her tummy. And she's still been doing a 5 hour stretch at the beginning of the night...it just seems like in the middle of the night her nose gets worse and the second half of the night is a bit restless. So we'll see once this cold clears--but either way, we are much improved over here!

I was hoping for an answer to her tummy trouble and fussiness, I was NEVER expecting her to suddenly start sleeping in such long stretches. Rowan didn't sleep this long or well until way after 6 months old, so I've been mentally prepared to do that again. Feels like relief...and grace...and we are thankful.

This photo is of a trick that Joe loves to do with our newborns--don't have a heart attack, he has huge hands and has those baby feet firmly planted within. It looks pretty funny to see such a little baby upright like this--and she LOVES to do it! It's one of Joe's sure-fire ways to calm a fussy baby. We figure it takes so much brain power to keep herself balanced, it makes her quit crying.

To see some more random photos from the last weeks, including a few shots of Rowan's 4th birthday party, click here.

We are planning on moving into our house this weekend, if all goes on schedule this week. So stayed tuned for some "after" photos of the upstairs....we are so close!


Random Photo

Sorting through some photos today...trying to clean up the hard-drive and find some more photos to submit to Istock. Came across this photo that my cousin KC took at Jenny's wedding rehearsal this summer. KC grabbed my camera for awhile at the rehearsal...she has a great eye! For some reason I never edited this batch of photos...but this one makes me motivated...and nostalgic for summer! I love seeing photos that other people take of my kids...of course, Rowan never wants to give me such a sweet look.

Thanks KC, I love this photo...


The tree

Back when Joe and I were dating, we had a special place in the woods where we would go to hike, talk, explore. The woods is on a piece of property that his family used to own just outside of town a bit. We spent a lot of time there while we were dating. At one point early on in our relationship, probably before we were officially "dating", we carved our initials in a tree, with the year (with no heart or + included, mind you...just JC LH 95) and that's usually where we would return on our visits.

One summer we decided to bury a box by the tree...and included items and memories from that year, plus a letter that we each penned to each other, sealed, with the intention of returning the next summer to open the box and read the letters from the year previous. Pretty romantic, huh? And hopeful, too...as we never knew for sure if we'd still be together the next summer...but both had a good feeling about it! We did this for each summer that we dated (and still have all the contents we chose stored away carefully...photos, ticket stubs, notes, rocks, etc).

After 3 years of dating, a semester that we broke up, lots of agonizing together about what our future might look like...we returned to our tree in August of 1998 to dig up our box from the summer before. This time, there were many other trees with carvings in them all along the path to "our" tree...carvings that were on 2 trees but went together, sweet messages with code names we used for each other over e-mail. This should have made me suspicious, but in those days a romantic gesture like this was not out-of-the-ordinary! It was a hot day, we were sweaty and itchy from the hike...and finally settled in around our digging work to enjoy the items in the box. When we got to the letters...he read mine first. Then I read his, and at the end of the letter was this strange instruction, which said something like "continue digging" (I'd tell you precisely what it said, but all of our stuff is in storage still...don't know where the letter is exactly!)

So I kept digging...and came to another box...and in it was a ring...and Joe asked me if I would marry him...and the rest is history. We got root beer floats afterward to celebrate, not knowing what else to do as the newly-engaged...and looked at each other with strange wonder at what was ahead.

(In case you are wondering...Joe had not planned this engagement a year ahead of time! He returned to the site and added the note and buried the ring right before the proposal...actually, I seem to remember that his dad had to bury the ring because it was only ready at the last minute before the proposal...and that it involved specific instructions to his dad about how to find the tree "go west after the second oak tree, then take 40 paces north...")

So this tree and these woods are special to us. We had not been there in many years...probably 6 or 7...but decided to take the girls a few weeks ago.

Truth be known, we went to take a hike on the first Sunday that it was warmer than 30 degrees around here...the snow was still super deep (2 or 3 feet), but it was sunny and beautiful. Some new houses had been built on the property, so it took us awhile to find our normal markers and get oriented on the land. But we eventually found the tree. Our initials were much harder to see than a decade ago...but they are there if you look closely.

Rowan wouldn't join us for a picture, but Piper is nestled warmly in the Moby under my coat. You can see her little head sticking out in a bear hat.

We stayed there for awhile...Joe and Rowan built a snow fort, threw snowballs. We identified lots of animal tracks.

Felt surreal to bring our children to this spot. We'll be married 10 years this summer...and while I really don't feel that old, having a place like this to return to and experiencing the flood of memories makes me feel grounded, with history, with a story, with a journey that isn't just beginning any more...but one which has a significant portion of it already written.

There are just a handful more photos at Flickr here.