October 18, 2013

raising eleven

So it's been, what three months since I found myself in possession of an eleven year old boy? Yeah, that seems about right. Three months so far of eleven. Eleven is good. Mostly. Not that we don't have horrible, terrible, very bad days. Not that I don't wake up some mornings wondering if I am really old enough to have an eleven year old. And not that I haven't said "Shut your hatch and go to BED" at least a million times these past three months. Hatch, by the way, being literal. As in, he climbs up a ladder and through a hatch to get to his room. Trust me, he loves it. And I don't have to look at the mess (or smell the stink that is eleven year old boy) unless I decide to climb the ladder. Which I don't.

But you know what? I love eleven. It reminds me of four. I love four. Its that final year or so before they make that next big leap. From toddler to elementary schooler. They are independent but still lovey. Eleven is like that. Almost a teen, but not quite. Still young enough to want a hug and a cuddle and to have a story read at night. Old enough to get up and make his own breakfast. Or move furniture when Dad is working late and mom is impatient to finish the bedroom switch. (No, really, he and I moved that great honkin bed up a flight of stairs. In that moment, eleven wasn't just great, it was awesome. It helps that he has an engineer mind and can say things like "If you swing it that way mom the angle will be right to not break the lamp when we go by")

Old enough for serious conversations. About life and hopes and struggles and even sometimes death.

Yesterday, ahead of a big school function, we had a long talk about bullying while we did the dishes. I'm not going to lie, the story out of Florida has really touched a nerve with me. Twelve years old. That girl was twelve years old. One year older than Briton. I have a hard time grasping that someone just a year older than my crazy, leaping, sweet, lovely boy could be that desperate about her life. Or that another child could make her so.

But it wasn't just that. At the last school event, Briton stood up to someone picking on him and got smacked in the face for his trouble. It was awful and terrible and I spent several days so angry at this KID who DARED to touch my son, I still have a hard time not growling when I see him everyday at pick up time. But some good things came out of it. First, my faith in our school was upheld when the teachers, principal and staff took swift and just action. And second, Briton learned that he had friends in his corner, which was probably worth a fat lip. Friends who stuck by him and dusted him off and came to find me and spoke up about what had happened instead of pretending they weren't there.  And that's what we talked about yesterday.  Not about the poor girl in Florida, because while I'm pretty open about things with him, I don't think he needs to know that, not yet. But about what to do, about being a friends. About how even if it's the kid who hit you who is being bullied, you still stand up and say, "Hey, come with me, let's walk away. I got your back." You know what it feels like to be hurt and look up and find a friend. Make sure you are that friend to people too.

Sometimes I feel like every new step in this parenting thing is like walking on a frozen lake. Pushing your toe out to test the ice, hoping it will hold, hoping you wont fall into the freezing water. Hoping you are doing it right. Or at least not so terribly wrong. Eleven is so very close to being grown up. It feels closer every day. I want to freeze time and keep him safe and away from everything that is horrible, but instead I have to send him out there and hope, oh please, that we did enough right. And also to enjoy eleven while I've got it. And I do so enjoy raising eleven.

October 15, 2013


When Evie turned two, she got a new bedroom for her birthday. Well, not exactly a new room, it was the same room, but new furniture, a real bed, new sheets and blankets, a newly painted dresser and a spindly vanity table. I'm sure she got other things as well, clothes and toys, but her big gift was the "Big Girl" room. The bed and vanity we picked up from a neighbor, they just seemed, even at two, so very Evelyn. And the dresser, which had been Briton's once upon a time, was repainted and re-knobbed to match. The over sized (for a wee little thing) bed was excellent for those nights when mama or daddy needed to lay with her, and the vanity, which we've always called a desk, made an great work surface for her "projects".

And then we moved and the kids needed to share a room, so the "big girl furniture" got put away, exchanged for a simpler twin bed. It wasn't until we came here that it emerged again. And while it made for a very pretty room, it didn't, in the end, leave much play space for her. So this weekend we had a little furniture switching dance.

Up from the new room came the bed that was Briton's, and before that my brother's and before that mine. The perfect bed, in my opinion, for kids. With drawers and a shelf and no possible way to junk up the under bed area, it's almost the only furniture a girl needs. Almost. Because up from the basement came my old roll top desk, just the right size for my little artist, who needs plenty of drawers for her markers and paints, and a place to work, and nooks and crannies for "precious things" as she calls them.

Her furniture was rerouted to our room, which makes me happy since I've always been a little jealous of that bed and vanity set. And our old bed and dresser headed down to the new room, where it will make a much better guest bed than the twin. Lots of lifting and shifting and a little painting and digging in the closet for better fitting blankets and sheets for new beds. Everyone is happy. Especially the Calico Critters who now have a whole neighborhood set up in the now wide open corner of her room.

Next, Briton's room (if he'll allow it).

PS.  Please excuse the pictures. The lens on my DSLR that I use for indoor photos got dropped by the "cats" and so I've been playing around with instragram for indoor shots. Fun, but not my long term solution for photos.

October 10, 2013

desert island appliances

Once upon a time, when Will and I were young and crazy (as opposed to now, when we are middle aged and totally sane) we packed up our ten month old for a backpacking trip around Ireland. It's one of those vacations full of nutty stories. Like the time that I got off a train in Cork to buy a scarf and the train, my husband and my baby left for Dublin without me, resulting in one breakneck cab drive and one mad dash through a countryside zoo to get to the next train station so I could catch them (this was pre cellphone - how did we survive?) Or when we waited in line at midnight to buy the next Harry Potter book from a bookstore in Limerick. When the newspaper came to interview us for being among the first three in line I told them I really wanted to read the book before my other friends, so I skipped a few time zones (which was not entirely true, but I did read the whole thing before the sun came up in America). Or how Briton learned to walk on the green in Wexford and insisted on spending the entire flight home walking up and down the aisles. Also, sharing a 12 bunk hostel room with 10 drunk Australians and a toddler who wakes up at 6 am turned out not to be a great idea.

See? Bat shit crazy.

But that's not the point of this story. Before the trip ever began, we stood in an REI trying to decide how small of a backpack we could get away with to hold everything three people, one of whom was still in diapers, needed for the trip, and listened to the woman next to us explain to her boyfriend that she needed a bigger pack because she could not possibly go to Europe without her hairdryer and her curling iron and her flat iron and her curlers.

I'm not that kind of traveller. In fact, I'm not that kind of girl. You could take away my hairdryer or my curlers or my hairspray forever and I'd be ok with that. I'm not bragging, not at all. Because although I may not be soft and wimpy in that way, I'm soft and wimpy in other ways. I can live without hair products, a dishwasher, a dryer, all those things. But what I could not live without is my electric kettle.

You laugh, but it's true. I've had a plug in kettle since high school and I use it every.single.day. Multiple times a day. In college I could make a fantastic array of food items with a kettle and a rice cooker. I wouldn't have survived without them since I tended to miss meals in the dining hall.  It was the first thing I bought when Will and I moved in together. And the first thing I bought when we later (after the backpacking trip) moved to Dublin. It stays with me during moves the way our social security cards, bank info and birth certificates stay with me.  It's my desert island appliance. The one thing that plugs in that I would take with me (you know, if desert islands had electricity.)

So when my kettle up and died on me in the middle of making a cup of tea two days ago I nearly cried. No tea! No coffee! (And to make matters worse, we though we had a propane leak and had to disconnect the stove for the same 24 hours so no stove as a back up).

It was not a pleasant day and a half before the UPS truck arrived with it's replacement. (I love you Amazon Prime) I've never been so happy to see a brown box. Not even when it's full of yarn.

OK, maybe I'm still bat shit crazy.

Anyone else have a desert island appliance?

October 4, 2013

little fox, little fox

My oh my, these mittens have been a long time in coming. If you're not a knitter, well, sorry, this is a knitting post. Over on Birch Hollow Cottage I've (finally) released my Little Fox Mittens pattern. While the pattern was a lot of work to get polished and perfected, the knitting itself is easy, fast and fun. I hope some of my knitters friends give them a try!

October 2, 2013

in progress

As always, we've got several projects going right now. Will and I both have a hard time sticking to one project at a time. We've been puttering away for months at the sing area in the kitchen and still haven't gotten much further than getting most of the time in, but not grouted, and the new shelves up. There is a wall in progress in the basement to create a seperate utility room and trim to be put up around the new drywall in the living room. Lots of little things to finish. Which did not stop us from starting on a big thing, which now needs finishing. The new room and smaller porch, which were both once one long underused sun porch is, as I mentioned, habitable, but not done. The inside needs tape and drywall mud and paint. And furniture. and the outside needs the rest of the trim and shingles. But it's coming. And already the house feels more balanced. The porch had been an add on after the rest of the house was built and I don't think it ever really worked well. When we looked at the house it was used as storage. So you walked into floor to ceiling boxes and then into the house. The new room will be a guest room/craft space we think, but only after we cycle everyone through it while we overhaul the upstairs bedrooms over (I hope) the next month or so. Much easier to paint a room without Legos all over the floor.

So we are still in progress. But making progress. Also in progress, but stalled, is our coffee table cart. I like it the way it is, cleaned up a bit from when we first brought it home, but eventually we will get some new (old- we're looking for barnwood) boards to replace the planks that are plywood and not really sandable and we hope to get the random bits of spray paint off the metal. Someday. For now it's fine as a functioning work in progress.

The leaves are in progress too. Every day, more yellow and red. Today I could smell the leaves, really smell that dying leaf fall smell. It's one of my favorites. Fall in progress. House in progress. All good things.