Archives for March 2010

Plumbing my depths


Now that we’re going to be landlords, we have to make sure that everything actually works in the house. I’ve been far more preoccupied with how pretty everything is, but renters don’t care so much about the stuff I made to hang on the walls, they just want things to work when they need them. Silly renters.

Three of our four sinks haven’t really worked the whole time we’ve lived here. There’s a little lever in your drain that pushes the stopper up or lets it fall down depending on if you want the sink plugged or not, and all at once, that lever broke off in three sinks. It’s like it had a timer on it or something. Paying for a plumber was really not high on our priority list, so we just took the stopper out altogether and used the sinks with a wide open drain.

But that’s kind of poor form for a landlord, so we finally had to address it. A plumber gave us an estimate of $300 a sink, and after I caught my breath I decided to try it myself.

It took about three trips to Lowe’s, lots of advice from a great plumbing expert there, a whole lot of swearing, maybe a little crying, but I did it. I ran into all kinds of quirky little problems that come from stupid builders, I sawed through PVC and replaced traps, I broke out the plumbers putty and the plumbers tape and got the whole thing water tight. And I saved us $900.

When you are a stay at home mom, there are so many small rewards that get you through your day. But what I really miss are the advancements, the raises, the proof that you are doing a good job. Parenting is just one big leap of faith. You never get to say, “I improved productivity by 25% this year.” You don’t get to measure your performance. Here’s one time I have something quantifiable to hang my hat on and I want to shout it from the rooftops. I saved us $900! Somebody needs to give me a plaque or something.


2010 Year of Pleasures #13


Don’t you wish *anything* made you this happy as an adult? Oh wait. I can think of one thing, and he loves bubbles.


I can talk freely now

Welcome Home

For the past few weeks it’s been killing me to be prudent. I’m so used to using this space as the place I pour my heart out, that when something came along I really couldn’t talk about publicly, I almost didn’t know how to process it. It was like trying to talk with my hands tied behind my back – sure I was able to do it, but it felt so dang unnatural.

Anyhoo, the point is: We’re moving.

Bear’s job has been bad news for a long time now. It’s been quite the saga but let me try to tell it in the briefest of nutshells. The company that brought us down to San Diego sold the building that Bear ran. The company who bought it had a policy to always fire the boss of a building they bought and put in one of their own people, so with Atticus in the hospital and about 30 days to get a new job, we had to take the very first thing that came along.

Which rarely ends well.

We tried EVERYTHING to stay in the area, but everything just failed to work out. Timing was off, companies changed plans, every time it looked like something was going to happen, it would fall through. Finally we found ourselves out of options and with no more time to wait.

Luckily, blessedly, Bear’s first company in Modesto has wanted him back ever since we left. Where everything was falling through to stay, everything fell into place to leave. Bear’s going back to a company he loved, to run a building he loved, in a town we loved, the only bad part is leaving. We already found dream renters for our little dream house, and Atti’s entourage is helping us set up the care he’ll need up there. The only hiccup so far is trying to find a house to rent up there, but we’re still working on it.

Anytime I’ve told someone we’re moving to Modesto, they react like it’s a tragedy. It’s true, if you’ve heard of Modesto it’s probably because of high profile crimes or the drug problem. But the thing is, we just loved it there. It’s a mid-sized city plunked in the middle of miles of farmland. So you get the benefits of a large community while still getting the blessings of rural life. If we end up staying there, it won’t be hard to get the farm of my dreams. And really, the beach is wasted on me. I much prefer mountains and prairie.

I told the girls at church yesterday and it was so sad to see their faces. I love working with the teenagers, and I love *these* teenagers. That is definitely in the Con column. And then of course there’s the fact that we’re leaving my carefully nurtured little house. I’m making myself have a stiff upper lip about that one, but when we drive away leaving my blooming ranunculus behind, I expect a breakdown will be inevitable.

I’m just praying we can find something not too terrible to help ease the pain a little.


Textured Canvas

Textured Canvas
In all my home improvement and decor projects, the one area I’ve been seriously neglecting is all my naked walls. I have some ideas for them, but they have been pushed down to the bottom of the priority list over and over again. It’s time I pay my poor walls some attention.

The biggest empty focal point was right at the top of the stairs. There was this big expanse of naked wall with the stairs acting like a great big arrow pointing right to it. Something had to be done.

Even though I painted this on a canvas, it is very much a craft project. I am not (yet) a fine artist, and even if I was, this would not apply. There’s no meaning behind this, I just wanted something abstract and cool to look at that I could put at the top of the stairs. And since it didn’t require me to be a fine artist, it wouldn’t require you to be either.

Textured canvas tutorial Step 2
I wanted to create the impression of a stormy sky, so I went on flickr and looked around for inspiration. I found this amazing photo from flickr user Kevulike and printed it out as a reference.

Textured canvas tutorial Step 1
In the fine art paint section, there are all kinds of really cool texture mediums. I used modeling paste and course texture gel to build up a texture. With the modeling paste I tried to mimic the waves of those stormy clouds, and then with the course texture gel (which adds a grainy texture) I tried to define those scraggly little wisps of cloud. Let this dry overnight.

Textured Canvas
Then it’s just a matter of layering colors. I just used my acrylic craft paint since I had it on hand. I painted the entire canvas a very pale blue, then added sections of a darker gray. I noticed how the sky had an almost green undertone in the original picture, so I watered down my paint and washed it over the surface, removing some of it with a tissue to create a blotchy and uneven texture. Following the reference photo, I kept layering darker colors, removing more paint here and there, blending it in in other places.

This is the benefit of trying to make an abstract painting. It doesn’t have to look like anything. It’s way more important that it look interesting. Whenever I do a project like this, I always hate it’s guts until two days later. So if you hate it, just leave it in the spot it will hang and live with it for a while. If you’re like me, you’ll grow to love it.


Spring in San Diego

I finally got outside to do the garden maintenance I had been putting off, and once I pulled out all of the poppies that had sprouted from last year’s seeds, I found these little lettuce buds hiding underneath.

Surprise Lettuce
These will be a nice little treat to eat while I’m waiting for the rest of my garden to grow.

During that same excursion I got all my ranunculus bulbs back in the ground, and found a couple already sprouting. Either they didn’t sprout last year or I somehow missed them when I dug them all back up, but there were a couple already at work growing before I even got the others in the ground.

A couple weeks later and look what I’ve already got growing outside.
First Ranunculus

Spring in San Diego is just the most glorious time. My roses are blooming, the bees are buzzing, and Atti keeps crawling over to the sliding glass door and saying, “Outside? Outside?”

I think he’s got the right idea.


Our Visions, Our Voices

Our Visions, Our Voices

Monday night I spent nearly four hours in the car to attend a reading by Mormon women writers. Some of these women were new to me, some of them were my heroes, and I got to sit and listen to the words that belied the most tender feelings of their hearts.

Joanna Brooks, that smoking brunette in the front row, said that she was sick of books like The 19th Wife, or tales told as some sort of outside expose. We LDS women have a story. And we deserve to tell it ourselves.

When she said that, I felt pierced right to the heart. It’s no secret that I’ve long longed to write a book. That’s what got me blogging in the first place. It’s on my big crafty to do list. When she said, “It’s time.” it felt like she was speaking directly to me.

Here’s the thing. The book I want to write is a memoir. About my childhood. And I think that many family members would take exception to it, even if every word was documented fact. It’s a tricky issue – respecting privacy, even just not wanting to deal with any fallout – while still being honest about what happened and true to what I feel called to create. I have no idea how to deal with it, so I usually just don’t.

I don’t know. But I’m worrying at least four steps ahead of where I am. I should probably write the thing before I give myself an ulcer over how people would react to it.

New friends

I also got to meet up with a couple bloggy friends. Hi Lauren and Hannah! You guys made my night.

The reading was such an amazing experience. Inspiring, uniting as a community of sisters, it gave me so much hope to carry on when I feel like a square peg in a round hole. The tour has three more stops, all in Utah now, Thursday in Cedar City, Friday in Orem, and Saturday in Salt Lake. More info can be found here.


2010 Year of Pleasures #12

Cat sculpture

I totally poached this little sculpture from my inlaw’s house.

Well, I couldn’t bring myself to outright swipe it, so I really just wandered around their house for a day saying, “Wow, I sure do like this sculpture! It was just sitting in a drawer in the guest room. It sure would look nice at my house….” Stopping just short of saying, “Hint. Hint.” Finally my mother in law just told me to take it. Most likely so I would shut up already.

It’s a metal casting with a really cool patina on it, and while I’m already so perilously close to crazy cat lady territory I really shouldn’t be bringing cat-themed knick-knacks into the equation, it was just too cool to resist.


Glimpse of the future

Watching Passing Strange

A few weeks ago PBS showed a recording of the Broadway play “Passing Strange.” Bear and I both really love musical theater, but we don’t get to go much anymore, and we certainly don’t get to see something new and groundbreaking like “Passing Strange.” We’re happy and grateful when we get to see the occasional touring company of something. Having a performance filmed and aired on PBS is such a treat.

I watched it a while back when I had a rare day home with Atti. I nestled into the couch with my knitting and tossed some toys around for Atti to crawl back and forth between and entertain himself, but I don’t think he touched them once.

The moment the music started, Atti was transfixed. He watched the entire thing with me, absolutely mesmerized.

I’ve turned out to be a little bit of a late bloomer, and I’ve often wished I had more chances for education. I’ve wondered aloud many times, How did Michael Jordan find out he was Michael Jordan? What if Tiger Woods never picked up a golf club? Maybe there’s a skill buried in me that is waiting to be discovered, and I could be really good if only I gave it a try. But since there are a million and a half things to do in this world, who ever gets around to trying it all? I guess there has to be some magical moment when the talented person sees something for the first time and feels called to it.

I don’t think I’ll be terribly surprised to think back on that day, to re-read this blog post, and see that this is where it all started.


Happy Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day!

baby in a box

Cerebral Palsy is a brain injury that occurs either during pregnancy or shortly after birth. There are many causes: problems during pregnancy, infection, brain bleeds, traumatic birth, and as in Atti’s case, oxygen deprivation. Whatever the cause, the damage inflicted to the brain is in the area that governs motor skills.

The brain works like a big electrical circuit board. Messages go from the brain through a system of neurons, like electricity through wires, until it reaches the muscle and tells it to move. When the brain is damaged in this area, it’s like the wires are cut and there’s a blockage in between them.

Because the brain is a marvel, as these kids grow they can often develop new pathways. So to continue our analogy, it’s like the wire can snake around the blockage and repair itself. But this requires more work than I can find words to describe, a staff of dedicated therapists, constant stimulation, a very determined kid, just the right kind of injury, and a whole lot of luck.

Atti loves PT

I give thanks every day that so far, I have all that.

Atti loves his therapists. He loves physical therapy. He wants to move so much. He talks like crazy and I can usually tell what he means.

He is the happiest little kid. Tenderhearted and affectionate. He loves animals and music, I think he’s going to grow up to be my little poet. When we go horseback riding he spends half the time patting the horse on her fuzzy rump. He’ll crawl over to me and press his forehead against my lips for a kiss, and then lift it up and drop it back over and over and over again, making me give him kiss after kiss after kiss.

He is the light of my life.


Cerebral Palsy makes life complicated, but it’s no tragedy.

For more information, check out the CDC’s site.


Decorated Door

Grouping plans

Decorated door

AHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhh. It feels SO good to get that project done. I don’t know why this one bothered me so dang much. I guess because it was so in my face all the time, but that dang door just made me NUTS! Now this inadvertent focal point is actually something worth looking at. Interestingly enough, adding all this molding almost seems to make the door blend in *more* to me than a big empty blank spot. It’s almost like the door has frames on it now, just like the rest of the wall.

Here’s how I did it.

Decorated door tutorial step 1
I measured the door and decided how big I wanted the outer squares to be. I had to make it work so that the doorknob would land in between two of the squares, so I measured the space above the doorknob and the space below, and did a little math to figure out how I could take up that space in an even way. On my door, which I’m sure is a pretty standard size, it worked out to have, from top to bottom, a square measuring 23 3/4 in. wide x 25 in. high, a thinner square measuring 23 3/4 in. wide x 9 in. high, and a bottom square measuring 23 3/4 in. wide x 25 in. high again. The space between each panel was about 4 inches, with a little bit of extra on the bottom to make things work out visually. I used a ruler and a level to draw these measurements on the door.

Decorated door tutorial step 2
Using a miter box and saw, I cut the pieces of molding to size. The measurements reflect the size from outer point to outer point, cut at a 45 degree angle.

Decorated door tutorial step 3
I used an “all in one adhesive and caulk” and spread some of the adhesive on the back of each piece, then lined it up with the pencil lines I’d drawn on the door and nailed it in place.

Decorated door tutorial step 4
Unless you’re a finish carpenter and have skills far beyond my own, you’ll probably have to fudge a little bit to get this to line up. Molding is often not square, your cuts will probably be a little imprecise, so to give myself the flexibility I needed I didn’t nail each piece all the way down at once. Starting with the top piece, I nailed once in the middle and then at each end. Then I added the side pieces and put one nail in at the top end. Then I added the bottom piece by nailing once in the middle. This allowed the side and bottom pieces to be pulled into place as necessary. I tried to keep things level when possible, but I think it’s more important to get the corners matched up nicely.

Decorated door tutorial step 6
I repeated all this again with smaller molding to create interior squares. My measurements for the large top and bottom squares were 17 3/4 in. wide x 19 1/4 in high, and for the center panel it was 17 3/4 in. wide x 3 in. high.

Decorated door tutorial step 5
Now to clean up my mistakes. I used wood filler to bridge any gaps I left in the corners, and also to cover up nail holes. If you can sink your nails in below the surface of the molding, you can fill the rest with wood filler and it will look super clean and polished. I didn’t succeed in doing this 100% of the time, but once you get the paint on, it’s pretty forgiving of all my flubs.

To cover up any gaps and make a nice smooth surface where the molding meets the door, run a line of that all in one caulk and adhesive down the side of the molding. There are little tools you can buy that will scrape off your excess caulk in a nice neat way, but you can also use a finger. Let everything dry overnight.

Decorated Door
Paint your door with a good latex enamel paint.

I always have a twinge of apprehension when a project requires serious mess and power tools, but I accomplished this project in about three nap times. One for sawing the pieces, one for assembling them on the door, and one for painting. Not too labor intensive, but it makes such an amazing difference in the way this wall looks.