Wednesday, January 30, 2013

DIY Train Table

First step: think of an awesome gift idea for your kids two days after Christmas.  Presents are even more fun when you're not expecting them, right?!  We started with this Ikea Lack coffee table in black/brown.  It costs $39.99, but we had a gift card kicking that just abut covered the whole thing.  

Next I found some leftover plywood in the garage, that happened to be the exact right length that we needed, right down to the quarter-inch.  My husband cut it to the right width, and then worked some magic with a nail gun and some plain trim to make a little lip along the edge of the rectangle so that the board would sit snugly on top of the coffee table.  After the construction was done, I used some wood filler to mend some of the more noticeable imperfections in the plywood and any gaps between the trim and board top.  Next, I used a couple of coats of primer, and then played train tracks while the kids were sleeping sacrificed my time to methodically arrange and rearrange the train tracks to maximize the play space.  I made some markings with a pencil the general layout of the tracks so that I would know where to put the river.

Remember this sneak preview?

The most fun part was, of course, the river of glitter.  I did several more coats after this picture...

....until it really sparkled.  I also changed the bear-scat mountains into something that was supposed to look a little bit better.  Now that I look at the picture, however, I'm not so sure!

I really wanted to use some real sand along the edges of the river, but I didn't have the patience to wait for dry weather to collect sand.  The trees and bushes benefited from the addition of some fruit and flower embellishments, and the mountains got a dusting of sparkle snow.  Three coats of polyurethane finish later, the table was shiny and ready for action.

Hubby and I worked together to glue the tracks down onto the finished board, and set up some trains, people, trees, and buildings for the big reveal for the kids in the morning.  

They were thrilled, and we're hoping that the novelty doesn't wear off anytime soon!  When it does though, at least we can just take off the top and we still have a functional coffee table underneath.  We used a non-skid mat between the board and the table to hopefully protect the table.  

It was actually a fun little project with very little cost.  Since we already had the tracks, most of which were bought over the past four years from thrift stores, the plywood, the paint, and a gift card for the coffee table, I think we probably only spent about $15 on our custom DIY train table for wood filler and the edge trim.

I feel like a very useful engine mother (those of you who have watched Thomas will understand!).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Silver in the Grey

A few days ago, I made the mistake of asking O if he liked my "silver" hair, while we were looking in the bathroom mirror together.  My usually diplomatic son did not mince words and told me that he did not, in fact, like my "grey" hairs, and asked me with a tinge of urgency in his voice if I could colour it back to "black brown."  I tried to give him an age-appropriate explanation of the dangers of using chemical hair dyes, and how I didn't want to colour my hair at this point.  Maybe some day, but other than dying it, I really have no control over whether my hair is brown, black, silver, purple or green.  He started to get a little bit teary and asked if my hair would be all grey when I become a grandma someday, to which I responded that it likely would.  I tried to temper his growing concern about me getting "really, really old" with listing off all the people we know who probably have grey hair that has been coloured, and that they aren't "really, really old."  My apologies if you were on that list, and if O announces it in public.  I don't remember what else I said, but when I asked him about it again today, he had decided that he liked my "silver" hair, and my "black brown" hair.  Change is difficult, even when you are four years old.  Anticipating change is, perhaps, even harder.
In a couple of weeks, my grandmother and step-grandfather will move out of their home and into a care facility.  My grandma has lived in that home for forty years, and in the house next-door , where my parents live and where I grew up, for the eighteen years previous to that.  It was a strange, uncomfortable experience walking through her home the other day, watching the cuckoo clock come off the wall, vases and trinkets come down from the shelves, and seeing the depressions in the carpet where furniture had been resting for decades.  I can imagine her emotions as she tries to divide up the things she can't bring along, things she's been collecting all her life.  I'm surprised at the intensity of my own emotions walking through her half-empty house, and overwhelmed by a flood of memories that will perhaps slip away when the constellation of her house, the things in her house, her garden, and her presence there, are no longer there.
Sometimes I wish hair didn't have to turn grey too.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Mid-January Post

Health is gradually returning to our household, and I'm reminded anew what a gift it is to have a body that functions well!  Little did I know, while writing my last post, that my body was fighting a true flu, and not just the sniffles.  Our tenth anniversary "getaway" was hijacked by the virus, although thankfully it was just me who succumbed to sickness.  My hubby wisely got a flu shot this year, which I think may have saved him from a similar fate.  Because of my allergy to eggs, and lingering concerns about vaccines after working alongside a serious conspiracy theorist at my last job for five years, the only year that I took a flu shot was the year my husband had cancer.  That was the last year in memory that I didn't come down with a single cold or flu all winter.

I'm looking forward to having a social life again once we can all emerge from the fog of cold and flu season.  I enjoyed dinner at a friend's house last weekend and realized how long it has been since I've had some social interaction.  I just may have talked some ears off.  We are heading back to our old hometown in a couple of weeks for a friend's wedding, and I'm excited about connecting with some old friends.  Also, the Fraser Valley has some of the best thrift stores in a 100km radius, so I just may hit up my fave between the ceremony and reception!  A few of my favourite recent finds:

This cute knitted giraffe was only 25 cents, and I thought I could use it to figure out a similar crochet pattern.  Little did I know that these things sell for $34 new!   
I couldn't resist this book even though it was 1 or 2 dollars.  I know, I'm cheap.  I'm used to getting 10 kids books for a dollar at my favourite thrift stores.  The colours in the illustrations are so rich, and hedgehogs are just the cutest, aren't they?  Also, it's so rare to see any mention of nursing in kids books, even just in regards to animals.  
A cute little gold purse (I'm told this size is a "clutch" ?) made in Montreal.  $1.99!  Just needs a little repair on the chain end.  

One of my favourite Christmas gifts this year originally came from the thrift stores: my sister found this AUTOGRAPHED Amy Grant "Lead Me On" CD last year and it made its way into my stocking and my eleven year-old heart at Christmas.  If only I could go back in time and tell eleven year old me that 2012 would be the year I met Michael W. Smith and got an autographed Amy Grant CD.  Wowsers.  

I've been working on the train table project and discovered that it is much harder than it looks to paint an aerial view of a landscape scene.  Good thing my children do not have a keen sense of artistic talent as of yet.  They think it is amazing so far, even though I can't even explain what the brown blobs are (mud? brown hills?), and the black "mountains" at the bottom look kind of like bear scat.  Sigh.  The glittery river is quite fabulous though in person, if I do say so myself!  

A few nights ago I attended a French Immersion kindergarten information session at the school we are hoping to send O to, and I had a moment.  A "where-did-the-time-go, how-did-my-baby-grow-up-so-fast" moment.  My Dad used to be the principal at that schools, so I have some vague memories of running around in that school when I was a kid, and now my kid is going to be attending there!  I've been so fortunate to be able to be a full-tim mom since he was born.  We are financially stretched, and our lifestyle is much different than when we had two incomes, but I wouldn't have traded this time for anything.  He's such a sweet, interesting, funny little person, and I'm seriously going to miss spending my days with him once he's in kindergarten.  I was having a rare "good hair day" today, which, at first, I thought to be a bit of a waste since I wasn't leaving the house today.  However, O randomly told me today that I was "pretty, beautiful, and all kinds of handsome" so I suppose the good hair day was not wasted after all!

I'm also having some moments in regards to little T.  Somewhat unintentionally, I weaned him in the past few weeks.  I cut out the pre-sleep nursing a few months ago because I was so tired of still being woken up several times every night to nurse him back to sleep.  After my car accident in October, my neck and back would hurt every time I sat in the nursing position too.  He was then only nursing first thing in the morning in our bed when he woke at five or six a.m.  Somewhere in the midst of all the colds, flus, dental issues, and our four nights away from each other, he hasn't nursed in over a week, and I think it's finished.  I've decided that I can refer to him as my baby until he's at least two years old, though.  Maybe longer, like ten or twelve if I can get away with it.

I think I'm struggling with them reaching new stages because it's becoming more apparent that we might not have any more kids.  After having two flus in a row, and remembering what it felt like to be sick for many days, both my husband and I were exhausted and thinking that we likely would not choose to have another pregnancy.  Unless there is some new miracle drug approved in Canada to cure hyperemesis gravidarum, we might be stopping at two.  All the sick pregnant people in Canada want access to Zofran, and all the sick pregos in the States want access to Diclectin.  I don't know if I could handle another nine months of extreme nausea and vomiting, especially with two young kids.  If you count the first three months post-partum recovery, it would basically be a whole year of me being useless to my family, other than creating another human being.  I don't know if I want to take the chance of another miscarriage, either.  I'm two for four so far, so I'm only running a %50 chance of getting a reward for pregnancy.  Coming from a family of three kids, however, I've always envisioned us having three or four of our own.  I'm open to adoption, but it seems so financially impossible. do you or did you decide how many kids to have?  Is there always a lingering doubt whether you should have more, or do you really just magically "know" when you are done?  Stories, thoughts, comments welcome!
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