September 26, 2023

Good Grief

I'll start off by saying that this is a hard post to write.  It's filled with memories that are difficult to think about, but have been on my mind lately.

It's nearly October, roughly one year since the nightmare that our family went through when my eldest was hospitalized for over two weeks with a staph infection.

Throughout the past year, I'd catch brief moments of grief, like finding a toy that reminds me of that time, or reading a book that I had read to Soren when he was sedated, or even seeing an episode of the Mickey Mouse Club, which always seemed to be on during those long days and nights spent at his bedside.

All year long, I felt that I hadn't fully processed the grief and what had happened.  It's not that was avoiding it, but it was just maybe not convenient to let it all out.  A car ride on the Interstate that goes past the hospital might elicit a few tears, but can I really sob while driving on a three-lane highway with two kids in the back seat?  Or when discovering a bag of burn-related bandages and ointments in a closet when digging for wrapping paper to wrap a birthday present?

I just feel so sad lately, and wonder if the grief has finally, after all these months, caught up with me.  There is something powerful about the change of seasons and its deep association with the events of last fall.  I could hide in swimming pools and sandboxes all summer long, but now that those damned beautiful leaves are upon us, it triggers the memory of watching that small maple tree outside the hospital window change from green to red and then remain a bare silhouette of itself.

I pulled out a few autumn decorations this week and came across a little pumpkin plate I bought in the hospital gift shop, a souvenir of the last days of my son's illness, when we were all eager to come home.  While it's a reminder of the good that came out of the experience (the amazing care and kindness of the doctors, nurses, therapists and staff, and oh yeah, that my son got better), it's still hard at this moment to not focus on the feelings of fear and helplessness that dominated our time in the hospital.  The horror of those first days, the procedures done on him and how ill and not himself that he looked in that hospital bed are forever burned into my memory.

I imagine that this is what grieving is like when approaching the eve of those dreaded anniversaries, when the control one's emotions is relinquished by seasonal reminders of the event. 

So this month is going to be a hard one for me.  I'm considering a project, like an "October Thankfulness" project, where I do something every day, whether large or small, to thank someone in the world for what they do.  I'd like to include a visit to the Pediatric ICU in that project, which I really have been eager to do with Soren, but I'm a little shy about invading such an important and often stressful (for the staff) place.  "Hi, my formerly-ill son and I would like to say hi and bring you bagels.  Oh, and I don't mind chatting while you perform a tracheotomy on an infant!"

But I do think it's important for closure for us to figure out a good time to visit.  And Soren does seem eager to go back and see the hospital again.  As far as we can tell, he has no bad memories of his illness.  A lot of it was that he was intubated and sedated for most of it, but even at the tail-end of his hospitalization he was allowed to watch as much TV and drink as much juice as he wanted, and also got lots of gifts!

There is so much for me to be grateful for, and of course I am.  I have a healthy, thriving son (two of them, actually).  However, there's still a lot for me to digest here, and I'm hoping that upon reaching the other side of this grief, things will seem a lot better and I'll be stronger.  Thanks for listening to my ramblings.

September 25, 2023

Autumn in the Kitchen #MaytagMoms

Disclosure: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Maytag. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.
The cooler months are always the busiest in my kitchen.  When air turns chilly, I'm more than eager to use the oven again for baking bread, roasting vegetables and even making apple butter in a dutch oven.
Nearly one year has passed since my Maytag Kitchen Makeover, and I can honestly say the Maytag appliances have made cooking and working in the kitchen so much more convenient that it used to be.  The dishwasher has been shouldering a lot of the burden.  It was the one appliance we didn't have in the kitchen, and now I'm wondering how we got by without one.

This weekend my best friend and I undertook our annual applesauce canning session, and the appliances were critical in helping us meet our goal of cooking, canning and cleaning up two bushels of apples.
First off, we sterilized the jars in the dishwasher, which was SO much easier than washing the jars and then boiling them on the stove.

Both the stovetop and oven were used in our canning.  The oven slowly cooked our apple butter to a dark, caramelized sauce, which left us to focus on the applesauce on the stovetop rather than having to constantly stir the butter over many hours.

The stovetop was great at keeping the canning pot boiling on the large burner as I was cooking the sauce on the second large burner.
At one point as the stovetop got too hot and steamy (I'll admit to burning the bottom of a pot of sauce at some point because I had the heat on too high #usererror), the exhaust fan automatically sensed the excess heat and automatically went on, taking some of the heat away from the stovetop.  That was a surprise, that it could sense trouble and react.
Clean up afterwards was easier than last year too.  We still had to wash the largest items by hand, but all those tasting spoons, canning accessories and cutting boards could be put in the dishwasher, unlike last fall.
More than two dozen quarts of applesauce, 16 pints of apple butter, and one clean kitchen before 9pm, which I believe breaks last year's record.
Beyond canning, I've also used the range for making a large batch of tomato sauce, as well as the usual parade of soups that simmer on my stovetop during the cooler months.
The refrigerator continues to be convenient and reliable, especially with allowing snacks and lunch items to be within reach via the refrigerator drawer.
And it's also a great canvas for those Kindergarten drawings.  While I still struggle with keeping the stainless steel looking shiny and fingerprint-free, I'm able to let that go.  With two young boys, everything stays clean only for a few minutes anyway.

You can learn more about Maytag via their Facebook page.  Thanks again to Mom Central and Maytag for this opportunity to test out these Maytag appliances over the last year. 

September 20, 2023

Paper Bag Autumn Wreath

If you follow me on Pinterest, you'll see that I have an entire board dedicated to Wreaths and Door Decor.  I like changing them out each season, and finding some creative ideas for making my front door more festive.

I've had a pin for this paper bag wreath in the back of my mind for quite a while now.  I like how simple and elegant it is, and it looked extremely easy to make.  And it was!
While I didn't copy the wreath, I did use it as inspiration for my own design.  With a little more time on my hands, I decided I was finally going to make a similar wreath.  Since I had all the items to make it already on hand, it cost me nothing, however it would probably be a craft that costs less than $10.  I had a grapevine wreath on hand (purchased for under 5 bucks at a craft store), which is probably the most costly item in the project.

Here's what you'll need and how to do it:
  • Grapevine wreath
  • 1 large paper bag
  • Paints/brush (I used tempera, since I had those on hand, but those small bottles of acrylic would be perfect)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Template for leaves (I used cookie cutters, but you could print out a leaf silhouette online, or trace an actual leaf or just make it up.  The oak leaves on my wreath are freehanded).
  • Floral wire
  • Tape
  • Ribbon (optional)
ignore the glue. I thought I was going to use that instead of wire
Cut the bottom off of your bag, then cut it on the side to make it a flat piece of paper to work on.
It's ok if it's wrinkled, actually that gives it a more interesting texture.

Paint your bag.  I wanted to use 4 colors (green, red, orange, yellow, though I wish I had had some gold paint too) so I visually divided the bag into 4 sections.
Allow to dry, obviously.

Trace your leaves onto the paper.
You should be able to cut multiple leaves out by cutting out smaller rectangles of paper (large enough for your template) and stacking them on top of each other, then cutting through all 3-4 pieces of paper.

Cut a piece of wire about 3-4" long.  Then adhere it to the back of the leaf with tape.
Then twist that wire onto the wreath form.
I chose to have my leaves all going in the same direction, but you could certainly add them in whatever pattern you'd like.  You might make them sparse, or fill the entire wreath with so many leaves that you don't even see the grapevine anymore.
I then added a bow made similar to this one.
I like how colorful the wreath is, and how easy it was to make.  You could even do this with kids, especially the painting part.  It would be fun to have them mix colors to make their own unique leaves.
It looks fabulous on our front door.
I hope this inspires you to make one for your home.

September 17, 2023

Faire Thee Well

This past weekend, the boys and I made a trip out to Lancaster County to attend the fabulous Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire.
While the Mister and I aren't D&D (dungeons and dragons) types or Renaissance "Fairies" (meaning that we don't get into dressing up and talking in "thees" and "thines", it does make for an entertaining day spent outside in gorgeous autumn weather.  We used to go every year around our anniversary, but have only been there once since Soren was born.

It was time to revisit this place of yore, with its Shakespearean-style entertainments.
On the ride home, Chris mused that he'd describe the scene at The Faire as family fun mixed with a touch of BDSM (I'm sure I'm now going to find some pretty kinky search terms that land people on this post).  There were lots of sexed-up pirate wenches and tons of leather, chains, laces, corsets and tattoos.  And women yielding birds of prey (the art of falconry is really interesting).
Personally, I enjoyed the subtle displays of traditional masculine and feminine sexuality, The performances throughout the day were also peppered with bawdy jokes that the youngsters wouldn't get.  It's nice to actually enjoy oneself as an adult, even with the kiddos nearby.

The Faire also invited many sweet moments too.
There are lots of quaint spaces to rest and relax throughout the grounds.
Here's Jude mimicking the bagpipe players using the rolled-up program.
This site was both exhilarating (I adore elephants) and sad because I'm not sure whether the elephant actually likes giving rides to people and being in captivity.
Jude was thrilled though, and probably would have spent the whole day just staring at the lovely creature.

This is a bad photo of the coolest ride there.
It's a wooden horse on a pulley that one rides while trying to lance the ring that the dragon is holding.  I'm sure in a few years, my boys will be begging to ride it.

Soren was more fond of the games, naturally because they involved weapons.
He was surprisingly very good at hitting the targets, both with the crossbow and the darts.
The hands-on Children's Garden was a hit with both boys, who needed some time away from strolling the grounds.
Coloring, music, giant chess pieces, what more could a kid ask for, especially after being treated to ice cream, a pickle on a stick and french fries.
We ended the day in shackles, and I'm not talking about us parents.
I told him he shouldn't smile, since he's in prison.  However, I was smirking a bit.

As you can see, the PA RenFaire is a great destination for all ages.  The price is a bit steep (with coupons, it was about $50 for the four of us), but it was worth it.  They even serve beer and wine (it's on the grounds of a winery) so that might entice you to visit even more.  Good day mistresses and masters.  I shall see you anon.

September 16, 2023

Men, Fathers, Writing

Something I have been encouraging my husband to do for a long time has come into our conversation yet again this weekend: starting a blog.  Yes, it's easy to encourage everyone I know to start one (maybe I'm just curious about their inner lives and experiences) however I understand it's hard to get one's feet wet when attempting such a daunting project, at least in the minds of those who haven't even kept any sort of regular diary.
Chris is a good writer, despite his protests.  While it may take him 10 hours to write a paragraph, he has a lot to say.  I can't tell you how many times sitting at the kitchen table I have said "well, if you had a blog, you would totally write about this!"

There certainly seems to be an underserved niche in blogging honestly about fatherhood and what it means to be a man.  The dad blogs I've visited tend to lean to the humorous, wry side of things rather than delving into the meat of the matter (forgive me if I'm just plain wrong; I haven't read all that much of dad/man blogs lately).
Some of Chris' dilemma about starting a blog is feeling that he has too many random things to say (um, sounds a little like my blog?).  But he is frustrated at the lack of men's magazines that are not just advertisements for $400 watches and $1200 pink suits (seriously! He was just flipping through one).

So my question is multi-layered and open-ended.  What do you think actual men you know would be interested in reading about (Duck Dynasty aside)?  Do the men you know read blogs?  Or write them?

September 13, 2023

Emerging from the Depths

Phew!  It's been nearly three full weeks since I sent my eldest off to full-day (!) kindergarten, and I must say there's been a lot more breathing room around here.

Not to say I haven't been busy with playdates and projects, like this embroidered pillow made from an old linen nursing cover,
but a lot of the stress of emotional tugs-of-war have been replaced with a calmer, more orderly household.  I'm not heaping the blame on Soren, but life with one laid-back child is so much more manageable for me.  I have the time and energy to cook meals more leisurely and to even take a walk with Jude without the feet dragging and complaining that accompanies Soren on our strolls. 

While the transition has been really hard for Soren, he's doing better each week.  He is an anxious and intense child, and quite sensitive so these first few weeks have been difficult for him.  His sleep has finally become more restful and he's eating more of his lunch at school.  I did visit him one day this week when volunteering in the school's garden, but it was so upsetting for him and he cried nearly the entire time at lunch.  Heartbreaking, it was.  But he does enjoy riding the bus to school now, and likes his "specials" like fitness, art and music.  And of course his teacher, who is awesome at communicating with parents via email, phone calls and a weekly newsletter.

As for me, I've been lax about posting here, and I'm not really sure why.  I think I get into a rhythm of posting, and then when I lose it, it's hard to get back in.  Plus I always have a lot on my mind and am not sure which topic I'd like to write about.  And that indecision leads to writing about nothing.

I've also been busy trying to refinish our kitchen table and chairs, which were hand-me-downs that clearly have seen better days.
I experimented on table's leaf, and am pleased with the results of sanding, staining, sealing and painting the apron green.
Now to find a stretch of a few hours on the weekend to work on the table and chairs. 

Between canning tomato sauce made from our garden tomatoes
walks on the trail (cue the "Rocky" music)
removing and repairing all the old door knobs in our house
and starting a new knitting project (a lace cowl using gorgeous yarn),
I have no complaints about being bored. In fact, the days still fly by like they usually do.

I'm still settling in, and hope to include updating this blog as part of that new routine.  I hope your late summer days are going well too.

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