Monday, February 28, 2011

The State of our House

"You should see my house" has been my compliment comeback of choice for some time now because first, it's true--some area of my house is, at any given moment, likely to be in shambles--and secondly, I've wrongly assumed you're always supposed to shoot back compliments with some stupid self-deprecating statement. Just because someone tells you they like your dress doesn't mean you have to cancel it out with how disgusting your kitchen counter looks. It's okay to own a compliment and not everyone needs to be spoonfed the fact that if a woman is pulling it off in one area, there's another area falling apart. I'm now assuming this is a given, and from this day forth, any success in my life comes with the disclaimer that somewhere, something looks like hell. And if, by chance, it doesn't, don't say anything 'cuz, God forbid, you'll jinx a miracle.

The thing is, I'm not a good housekeeper, and snapping back with a forced laugh and a "you should see my house" is getting old. I'm tired of using heaps of wrinkled laundry for toss pillows and tripping over doctor kit pieces scattered like shrapnel across my living room floor. And I'm ready, when complimented on my red dress, to smile and reply simply, "Why, thank you. Red's my favorite color."

Photobucket

But the house thing has gotta change. Over Christmas break, our neighbors came over and, while I tried the old company stand-by of room spray, candles and a lot of closed doors, their kid ran into our bedroom. I'm pretty cool with being up front that I'm not the Type A Cleaner, but we're still in the first impression stage with these neighbors and I wasn't ready for full disclosure or the explanation that our room is where we dump every pile that doesn't have a place two hours before company comes. You have to desensitize cool neighbors first--with my buffalo chicken dip and free beer and our whole hey-we're-really-cool-friends act, and we hadn't quite yet sold them for the second stage of here's-who-we-really-are. ...pigs.

Photobucket

So, I run to close the door and shoo kids before anyone sees, but it was too late. Cool Neighbor Friend Dad walks in and, swear to God, couldn't hide the horror. If I recall, it went something like "Holy S@#t, what happened?" And I honestly considered two lies. One: We're moving. Two: We were robbed. Instead, I bailed. Ran out of the room in embarrassment without any explanation and, from another room, called my friend Laura laughing so hard, I couldn't spit out the punchline...the "Holy S@#t, what happened?" part.

And I say this all for two reasons. It might look from the blog like we get a lot done and I craft and I bake and take pictures of spring cupcakes, and yes that might be good and inspiring, but there's always not-so-fun stuff that gets left out here. Cleaning house is one of many. But also, sometimes writing about something helps me overcome it, and it feels good in that proclaiming-New-Year's-resolution way to publicly sign a declaration of Hey, I have a problem and Hey, I wanna fix it.

Photobucket

I will never regret letting the house go to spend important time with my kids and that will never change. I couldn't care about fingerprints on windows if I tried (in fact, I kinda like them). But, there has to be a happy medium, and a love seat slip cover made of wrinkled t-shirts is not it. I'm confident in the fact my kids will grow up in a relaxed environment knowing we chose Candyland over dishes, but I also want them to feel the security and comfort that comes from order and the beauty of aesthetics. Besides, clutter in the home inevitably interprets to clutter in the mind, and I'm a better mama when I make efforts to avoid chaos and attempt simplicity.

Photobucket

So, I'm going to try really hard to change this problem. This week, I'm weeding out, tidying up, and reorganizing some priorities. For my family, for my kids, but mostly for me. Because I'm really good with new challenges.

But oh, you should see my house.

Photobucket

* And the best part about cleaning house is rewarding yourself afterward. Try an antiqued mirror, a vintage inspired soap for your guest bathroom, or some pretty glass milk bottles for displaying spring blooms from sponsor, Timeless Settings.


And the gift certificate winner for Tahnie's Stella and Dot shop is Comment #54, Jen Green:

1. Silly easter hats that I loved...they were hideous
2. The one year I got an easter basket
3. The first sunburn from a spring soccer tournament and going to church with crazy burn lines.
4. Smell of lilacs
5. Washington states spring rain showers...nothing compares to the smell.

Love your blog and I laughed out loud when you said you had to break your CD's...so close to home.

Jen, e-mail your info please to kellehamptonblog@comcast.net. Thanks!


Happy Monday.

Photobucket

Friday, February 25, 2011

Our spring, your spring.

Totally loved the last batch of comments and laughed at how many people share a CD destroying past and fear of cops. For all of you, I will make up for the past and have a ceremonious blasting of speakers today while I clean house. Ace of Base, Baby. Just because "all that she wants is another baby" doesn't mean she's goin' to hell.

It feels like Spring here. Like Warm and Cool have exchanged vows in a beautiful blue-skied ceremony and have brought forth a love child who dwells right here, right now. She is splendid, this love child, and she brings with her breezes that send our curtains fluttering and call the babies outside.

Photobucket
Photobucket

The garden I thought was a lost cause has suddenly been born again or, as Brett says, "goin' nuts," and I'm in a rare mood to plunge my hands into sudsy buckets and slop wet rags along floors and base boards and clean some house.

And since most of the country still has a snowy hump to summit before surveying blue skies and blooming crocus, I will bring you Spring. I'm a good sharer, so you can have some of ours.

Photobucket

I remember two main times in my life when I think of Spring. One was about seven years old. I remember our neighborhood, the kids who thought 55 degrees meant shorts and jellyshoes and the adults who washed their cars in their driveway when you could still see your breath. I remember picking out Easter dresses, new white tights and black patent leather shoes I'd lose a week later.

The other memories are much clearer as it was more recent. I lived with my grandparents when I attended college. In a small blue house on Dorothy Lane in a town known for two things--its Free Methodist church and its Free Methodist college. The juxtaposition of a young girl trying to find her place in the world living with her eighty-some-year-old grandparents very secure with theirs was interesting and made for a very enlightening, nostalgic and sculpting-of-the-soul experience. Regardless, I'll never forget a Spring Arbor, Michigan Spring. How the amaryllis my dad gave my grandma every Christmas finally bloomed and how my grandma would call him up to tell him. How snow melting off the deck swing meant it was time to tidy up, pull the grill out, place pads on outdoor chairs. I remember bright yellow forsythia blooms were the first to show their colors against the gray leftovers of winter and how they signaled yard work and longer walks with Koko, the one-eyed cocker spaniel. Spring meant a good cleaning--the smell of Barkeeper's Friend, a glossy finish on the gold linoleum, a switch-out of grandkids' pictures in frames. Spring meant I'd attempt to clean all the crap that had multiplied over winter in the back seat of my teal Ford Escort wagon with the duct-taped fender (a.k.a. "The Staysh") because it was the one thing I owned and cleaning it gave me a sense of control even though it didn't really matter if it was clean or not. I mean, come on. It had a duct-taped fender and the passenger door didn't open because I ran that side of the car into a tree which is a moot point, but still.

And now, I merge the past with the present in my love of Spring. I plan my girls' Easter dresses, search out some good jelly shoes, and slip a can of Barkeeper's Friend in my grocery cart...for old time's sake.

Behold, I bring you Springish things we're loving. A sneak preview of things to come your way.


Pastels

Photobucket
Photobucket


Easter gloves for Dress-up

Photobucket



Apple Blossom Candles

Photobucket



Mirror Makeover

Once dull and goldish and unnoticeable. Now red and vibrant and happy. Brett said yesterday, "What are you doing to our house? You're, like, spraypainting every day." And, as my friend Nadya coined, "I'm debeigeifying," I tell him. Important in homes just as it is in our personalities. Debeigeify. Color it up, Dude.

Photobucket

Besides, red looks really nice with our $10 blue tablecloth.

Photobucket
I know, the creases. Iron, much?

I'll have you know the inspiration I got from setting that table yesterday fueled me to clean the bejesus out of my kitchen.



Reemergence of Vibrant Clogs

I dug out the hot pink clogs I bought five years ago and have only worn maybe three times. That's about to change.

Photobucket

And pink clogs plus pink skirt plus pink bike screams pink in a way that says "Hey, I'm high on life, how 'bout you?"...which is how I like to greet people anyway, so it works out great that I get to save my voice.

Photobucket



Bare Feet

Photobucket
Photobucket


Swimsuits

Photobucket
Photobucket

And Flower Cupcakes served with Butterfly Napkins

Photobucket
Photobucket

And if that wasn't enough to carry some Spring over to your weekend, then how's about a Pre-Spring giveaway?

New Sponsor, Tahnie Woodward and her Stella & Dot shop are climbing aboard the sidebar, and we're loving everything her shop has to offer. After you order, shoot her an e-mail (tahnie@gmail.com), and she'll refund you 10% off.

Favorites?

These badass spring green earrings. Long and dangly and very catch-your-eye but still comfortable. I'm in love.

Photobucket

...and a whole line of Little Girl jewelry. Lainey loves her new necklace, the Little Charlotte (and the pretty canister it came in that's now home to one Laffy Taffy, three Squinkies, a barette, a lipgloss and a fuzzy Dora sticker that lost its stick).

Photobucket
she's wearing Nella's size 3 month vest too. Ha.

A random comment will be selected to win a $40 gift certificate, provided by Tahnie, to her Stella & Dot shop. So tell me five of your favorite past spring memories. Did you make kite collages in kindergarten or chart your In-like-a-lion and In-like-a-lamb predictions for March 1st? Did you convince your mom to buy you one of those silly broad-brimmed lavender Easter hats or shape rice crispy treats into bunnies and chicks? Do tell.

Photobucket

Now pardon me, I have some Ace of Base calling for a dance with the mop.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Alone, Together

I drove alone yesterday—only a half hour to the pottery place downtown to pick up some pieces Lainey had painted and intended to give away for Christmas, but in true Hampton fashion, we forgot about them and they’ve been sitting, homeless, on a shelf since December 21st.

Photobucket
Family, see anything you like? Make your dibs.

Brett stayed home with the girls and I had a small window of time to get there and back as Nella had therapy and I like to be there for it. But traffic was a real rhymes-with-witch-and-starts-with-a-B, so come the third red light on the way home and getting stuck behind some old man who might as well have pedaled his bike along 41, I was tense, tapping the steering wheel and muttering a whole lot of "Oh, Come on"s. Until I realized I needed to chill out. I was alone, and I'm never alone. And though I love tilting the rear view mirror to catch a blonde head behind me to the left and chubby feet kicking to the right, sometimes it is nice to breathe and think and replenish the parts of myself that are separate from the all-encompassing title of Mama that defines so much of me...even though I wouldn't have it any other way.

So I rolled down the windows, cranked up the volume and sang with gusto Sheryl Crow's Strong Enough so loudly, I'm pretty sure the old man who should have pedaled his bike heard it too. I know every word to that song. I owned that CD when I was 16. Except a week after I got it, my church youth group said it was worldly and evil and coaxed me into breaking it in half along with the other 12 worldly CDs I had just scored for free from my BMG music club subscription, and I've never gotten over it. It makes me sing that song really passionately. Pent up anger.

I want my CD back.

I called Brett and told him I'd be home in two seconds. Which means "I'm going to Dairy Queen by myself and I'm not going to tell you."

Photobucket

So, while Lainey helped Jonah coax Nella to stand and stay on all fours and Brett waited for me to roll in the driveway in my promised "two seconds," I hovered over a hot fudge sundae with extra whipped cream under the old red A-frame roof of the Naples DQ and downed my ice cream like a Hoover vac.

Photobucket

I picked a hidden picnic table in the back, but I saw one of the workers watching me eat from a window where he was making a Blizzard or something, and I was embarrassed because of how fast I was eating. I inhaled that poor sundae, scraping the last bits of hot fudge with my fingers and licking them clean. But, oh you have to do that sometimes, eh?

I drove the rest of the way anxiety-free. I waved on anyone who tried to cut in front of me. I smiled. I pulled my left knee up on the seat all cool and casual and heard my driver's ed teacher yelling in my head. I tried to memorize the words to the new Kesha song on the radio and imagined how I'd bust out the lyrics later when I had it down pat. Maybe I'd throw in some cool moves. Definitely something my old youth group wouldn't approve of. To get back for all those CDs they made me break.

Oh, but I'm off on quite a tangent. Redirecting...

I returned for the last fifteen minutes of therapy and Jonah joked I should have stayed away. Because my girl is stretching and reaching for me and she'll have nothing to do with crawling and standing now. I love that my girl stretches and reaches for me.

Photobucket

Photobucket

I missed them. I missed them for two silly hours and though I very much liked my car solo and riding with the windows down and learning the words to the Kesha song (hot and dangerous, if you're one of us then roll with us cuz we make the hipsters fall in love when we got our hot pants on and up and yes of course we does...okay, that's all I got and I'm good at botching lyrics)...where was I...yes, though I happily swim in the tranquil waters of my rare alone times, I even more happily cannonball into the vibrant ripples of the good, the loud, the empowering laughter and neediness and loveliness of my family.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Today, we drove again. A different drive. One where I was reaching back to shovel wheat puffs in a little mouth and asking Lainey to stop kicking Daddy's seat. And after a few errands, I asked Brett if we could just drive.

"You just want me to drive?" he repeated.

"Yeah, can we just drive for fun...like a local road trip?"

And he smiles and turns the opposite direction of home. And I am happy.

Photobucket

We ventured down hidden streets and found secret horse farms and empty lots. And on the way home we passed my favorite tree, and Brett pulled over so Lainey could pick some fallen flowers.

Photobucket

Photobucket

And the funniest part of this story is that A, you should know I'm terrified of cops. Like I think I'm going to get arrested at any given moment. Like I'm not kidding, if I go in Dunkin Donuts to get a coffee and there is a police officer paying for a donut, I am quite certain he is going to think I stole my coffee and cuff me. And B, while we are picking flowers, I see two men on bikes. They are pedaling toward us and they are wearing white shirts and ties. And I freak out and say to Brett, "Here come the cops." Because I just know they're coming to get me for picking flowers and they are going to cart me off all cuffed and arrested on the back of their bikes. And I'm not joking. Brett starts laughing and says, "Kelle, I think they're Jehovah's Witnesses" and I suddenly see their backpacks with their Bibles and my shoulders drop and I am so relieved I'm not going to jail. Even though I know there is nothing illegal about picking fallen flowers in an empty lot.

Photobucket
Photobucket

I love how Alone and Together live in harmony. Like orbiting planets pulled together by gravity. We don't have to be defined by motherhood because there's an intricate infrastructure of talents and dreams and passions that makes us women who are strong enough to stand alone. And yet, ask any mother and she'll probably tell you there's nothing more incredible she'd rather be defined by than the amazingness of her littles and her family.

Lovin' my solar system tonight.

Photobucket

Photobucket

And thrilled to lick and turn the pages of the next chapter, soon to come...spring is on the way. Brett predicts the significant cold fronts are over, and we're in for the steady incline of blue skies and hot sun. We are preparing appropriately with popsicles and garden hose showers.

Photobucket

Photobucket
Nella's first popsicle, but you would have never known it. She knew just what to do, thanks to watchin' her sister like a hawk.

Photobucket
Photobucket

Happy Sunny Skies.

Photobucket

The winner of the Tiny Hiney onesie is Commenter #426, Emily: We curse tile, too (and hard wood, and concrete...the boy has a BIG head!) Beautiful analogies and gorgeous pictures. That Millie is adorable, as are her big sis AND mama! Craving frozen yogurt (and a sunny afternoon to enjoy it!) now...

Congratulations, Emily! Please send your contact info to kellehamptonblog@comcast.net.

Photobucket

Monday, February 21, 2011

Falling Softly

I can count on more than one hand the number of times I froze in panic during a real life emergency—the kind where, for one second, I wondered if maybe this was it. If maybe that semi pushing 70 merging into my lane on I-95 on the way home from my teaching conference would indeed end it all. If maybe my sister wouldn’t cough out the goo-goo cluster she was choking on and we wouldn’t laugh fifteen years later that her near death experience involved the word “goo goo cluster.” If maybe Lainey finding a bottle of hydrogen peroxide at someone else’s house meant more than just a hysterical mom on the phone and a vomit-it-all-up episode five minutes later. Unfortunately, I know what the inside of an ambulance looks like and I’ve clutched and pleaded and superstitiously made silly promises to God if he’d come make a quick fix. But, thankfully, things have ended up okay.

Saturday morning, Nella flipped back from a sitting position too abruptly and hit the back of her head on the tile (and before you brace yourself, let me preface this with…she’s totally fine). Every baby’s probably done it at some point during their first year, but this time her cry was a little off. Brett and I ran, and I scooped and pressed her close to my chest waiting for that hysterical second round of wailing that always follows the first cry and that long inhalation. But it didn’t come. She went limp, fluttered her eyelids and just kind of passed out. And I went nuts. I like to believe that during these times you’ll strangely rise to the occasion and pull yourself together like I calmly did during the RSV episode, but this time not so much. My heart took off in a wild race, I swear I stopped breathing, and I walked—in circles—stroking, patting and muttering over and over and over “She’s not okay, she’s not okay, she’s not okay.” And Brett tried to calm me down, assuring over and over and over “She’s okay, she’s okay, she’s okay.”

Photobucket

It lasted only about thirty seconds. In those thirty seconds, I lost my mind and found it again, and yes, it was scary as hell. She finally opened her eyes, scanned the room, flashed a “you people are nuts” look and smiled. And I fired commands to check her status. “Nella, clap. How big is Nella? Wave bye-bye, Nella.” And she did every one of them. Our pediatrician okayed the situation and Dot (friend/nurse) came over to help us keep an eye on her and joked that after a bump to the head, Nella can speak fluent French now. Because, after really scary moments pan out to be okay, there’s still a bit of an uncomfortable emptiness, and humor fills it perfectly. Like all those “she can finally wear yellow” jokes we made when Lainey’s freaky prolonged jaundice got the all clear after our newborn spent ten long days in the hospital. Humor is a welcomed breath of relief.

Brett’s taking it out on the tile, cursing the poor porcelain squares that line our floor as if they have a personal vendetta against our kids’ heads. And, appropriately adapting to the Men are from Mars profile, he wants a solution and thinks carpet is the answer. “That’s it,” he yelled after Nella finally came to. “Blank this blankin’ tile. We’re getting carpet.” And I smile and laugh and let him have his moment because he needs it. The thing is, I get him. I get wanting to fix problems, and if we can buy cabinet locks to prevent future peroxide accidents and my sister can swear off goo goo clusters for the rest of her life, then there should be something we can do to secure the possibility that this won’t happen again.

Photobucket

But you can’t cushion your kids. You can’t send them into the world bubble-wrapped and helmeted even though you want to. You can’t carpet their universe, hoping their falls will always land softly. You love and let go and thank the modern world of advancements in safety for airbags and outlet covers, baby gates and bike helmets. And when our kids fall—and they will—you scoop them and hold them and tell them it’s okay.

Photobucket

But he’s still not kidding about the carpet.

Photobucket

By late Saturday afternoon, I pretty much forgot it all happened, reminded here and there by a quick flash of her grin. And the rest of the weekend proceeded with a nice brew of nothingnessness plus somethingness that equals a whole lot of good.

*****************************************************************************

Friday night, we met Baltimore family Ryan and Lauren and their beautiful girls, Ava & Millie, for sunset and now I wish they lived here because we hit it off big time.

Photobucket
Photobucket

This sweet family is just starting off on this new journey as Millie is only 12 weeks old. And though Down syndrome seems to be a little common area in our lives, we shared a lot more in common too. I loved that moment--that first hug between me and Lauren--between two mamas whose futures took a little tangent last year. And in that one hug, there is a magical transfer of pain and hope and celebration you can't explain. But we can explain that we love Millie and her beautiful family.

Photobucket

********************************************************************************

Lainey wanted to wear a "fancy dress" for our frozen yogurt girls date Sunday.

Photobucket

...and Swiper swipes again.

Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

Our family knows how to rock out some ice cream if you haven't noticed. It's our treat of choice. Except during Girl Scout cookie season...then it's Samoas and cold milk.

Photobucket

Cue a change of ice-cream stained clothes followed by lazy Sunday afternoon with a trip to the lake where we pretended to fish with big sticks and cooked our invisible catch over a bundle of pinecones and dried leaves. It was delicious.

Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

My favorite lately? When Nella steals Lainey's puppy and Lainey flips and tattles on her.

Photobucket

So, we're good. Avoiding tile but happy.

Photobucket
Lainey fell asleep in her chair last night.

Photobucket

The Meg Shop $40 gift certificate winner goes to Commenter #41, Happy Fun Pants: Early morning runs - they help me feel rejuvinated, focused, and refreshed!

Congratulations, Happy Fun Pants both on your win and your awesome screen name. Please send your contact info to kellehamptonblog@comcast.net

And another commenter will be randomly selected from this post to win a shirt or onesie from The Tiny Hiney, featuring some super soft, blinged-out baby style.

Nella's rockin' her Tiny Hiney bling:

Photobucket

Have a fabulous Monday! And if you fall this week, may you fall softly.