Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sweet Sixteen

Is it appropriate to wish a boy a sweet sixteenth birthday? Well, since this boy is so sweet, I think I will do it whether it is appropriate or not. Yes, Sammy is 16 today!

Where to begin? I hate to start comparing already, but I have to have a preface to my story of Sammy's birth, otherwise I fear people will think I am just plain crazy. Well, I'm sure people think that already, but not necessarily in this context.

So, we found out early on that Sammy would be a boy. We named him Sammy. We started calling him Sammy in the womb. As the pregnancy progressed, it became pretty obvious that Sammy was going to be a relatively large baby. Relatively for me, possibly not for some other, better equipped woman. I could see the concern in my OB's eyes. They tested me for gestational diabetes--twice!! Now, here is where the comparing starts coming in... you see, Joey was a VERY difficult delivery. Many things went wrong, but possibly the two biggest problems were the paralyzing (literally) epidural and maybe the size of Joey. At 8 pounds, 3 ounces, he was a pretty big baby. So, after every OB appointment the doctor asked me if I wanted to have Sammy by C-Section. I was very distraught over this. I had heard horror stories of how long the recuperation time was, that you can't pick up your other children, that you can't drive and Michael did not have ANY vacation time. So I would be on my own. How would I do it? Plus, I wanted to prove I COULD do this. I was bound and determined to have this baby on my own with no drugs. I was convinced my body would prove itself worthy of the challenge. So my OB begrudgingly agreed. Sammy was due on November 2nd (my Mom's birthday which was kind of exciting).

Moving right along, we had a regularly scheduled doctor's appointment on the morning of Friday the 22nd of October. The doctor was very concerned, Sammy was growing so large; they scheduled an ultrasound for that afternoon. They estimated Sammy would weigh over 9 pounds if they delivered him right then. What? There was no way I was going to deliver a baby that day... we were in the middle of selling our house. The buyers were coming the next morning to sign the papers. AND it was Michael's 30th birthday the next day and I had a party planned. Plus, if we went in that evening, most likely he would have been born on Michael's birthday and I didn't want him to share his Dad's birthday (for some reason sharing it with his Grandma was okay with me?) So, I told them we would be ready to deliver on Monday.

We arrived at the hospital on Sunday night at midnight. This way Michael could get up the next morning, take Joey to daycare and possibly get in a couple hours of work (remember, he was down to NO vacation). I mean these induced pregnancies take FOREVER. Plus, I was not going to take any paid meds, so they wouldn't be cranking up the pitocin too high. I really did not want to take any drugs, but there was no other way to get the party started without pitocin. So, they started inducing at about 7:30am. By 10:00am I was already bored with it. There were only minor contractions with really no pain to speak of. They upped the pitocin. An hour later they increased it again. Things slowly started working and I was in great spirits. At a little after noon, my OB came in for an exam--Michael was not there yet. The doctor got a very worried look on his face. Sammy had developed a prolapsed cord during labor (basically the cord was wrapped around his neck) and they would have to do an emergency C-Section. He was so sorry, but all I could think about was that MICHAEL WASN'T THERE YET!!! I started hyperventilating. This was no trick; the baby was in real danger. The anesthesiologist became concerned and threatened to put me under if I couldn't calm down. My blood pressure was so high and then Michael walked in the door. Sammy was born at 1:30 in the afternoon just as pink and perfect as can be. No complications whatsoever--at 9 pounds, 1 ounce. My OB, who I trust with all my heart, stood at my bedside and said "... there is no way you could have delivered that baby, I'm glad it worked out this way."
(Above: One Day Old, yellow musical elephant is a present from Aunt Tiffy)

So, the C-Section turned out to be no big deal after all... maybe because my body did not have to go through any labor trauma. By Friday afternoon I was taking a walk in the park with my boys.
(Above: 3 months old, we loved Baby Gap)

Sammy was the perfect baby. He slept 22 hours a day for his first 3 months. Other than during growth spurts, he slept through the night from the day he was born. He held his own bottle at 4 months and ate like a champ from day one. He was completely entertained by his older brother and smiled almost non-stop.
(Above: one year)

Joey would take a toy away from Sammy, but Sammy would just find another--and smile. Maybe Sammy knew all along that he would soon be bigger than his brother, much bigger. We have a video around here somewhere... I will have to track it down. It is SO Sammy. We are at the Oregon Coast, Seaside if I remember correctly. Sammy is 4, Joey is 6. We are trying to teach Joey to ride his bike without training wheels. We are on the boardwalk. Joey is too scared for us to let go, meanwhile, in the video, Sammy is riding by, back and forth--no training wheels, at age 4, saying "Joey, you can do it, you can do it". Such a sweet brother.

(Above: my favorite picture of Sammy)

When he was little, Sammy's favorite books were Runaway Bunny and Are You My Mother? We read them over and over. Sammy also had the most beautiful blond curly hair. I knew it wouldn't last, so I took as many pictures as possible.
(Above: two years)

Sammy's first words were ball and blue. He was--and is--all boy. When Sammy was three, I laid out a peach colored shirt for him to wear to preschool. He took one look at the shirt and said he would not wear it--it was pink. I explained to him that the shirt was peach and asked him why he would not wear it. He said that color was for girls???
(Above: Legoland, age 3 1/2)

Sammy has always loved balls and sports and anything to do with cars. When we visited legoland the summer of 1996, all he wanted to do was drive the lego cars. Eventually we had to drag him away from the cars.
(Above: Halloween, age 4)

Sammy could be quite mischievous in a very adorable kind of way. It was really hard to get mad though when you knew he really just wanted to have some fun and did not understand why pulling up tulips at the tulip farm was unacceptable behavior.
(Above: Woodburn Tulip Festival)

And then it happened. Sammy got his first major haircut and many of the curls were gone. His blond hair slowly started turning darker. Sammy's best friend from preschool had very straight hair. Sammy no longer liked his curly hair and thus began Sammy's "buzz cut" era. From the age of 5 to oh, about 10 1/2, Sammy wanted his hair kept very short. I must say, I really missed the curls, but the short hair was very easy to maintain.
(Above: Sammy in Nara, Japan, Age 6)

Sammy attended the Japanese Magnet Program and we loved our trips to Japan as a family. Sammy went to Japan for the first time for spring break when he was in first grade.
(Above: Sammy's first year playing tackle football, age 8)

For five years Sammy played tackle football. He also started playing golf and tennis at the age of 4, played T-Ball from age 5 and then baseball nearly every year since. When Sammy gave up tackle football (because the guys on the other side were just getting too big), he picked up soccer and played goalie and defender. He has also played basketball since middle school. Like I said, his first word was ball, and this kid loves sports.
(Above: Sammy's second trip to Japan--after 3rd grade--eating yakimeishi in Kyoto)
(Above: Sammy on a train in Japan, his 3rd of 4 trips to Japan, so far. Fifth grade, age 11)

So have you noticed? Sammy's long curly hair is back. Some time around Joey's Bar Mitzvah, both Joey and Sammy decided they would let their hair grow long. Perhaps it was the "rock band" stage for both of them.
(Above: Same boy... different ball, Mt. Tabor Middle School Basketball Team)
(Above: Sammy's final year playing Wilson Youth Football)
(Above: Sammy's Bar Mitzvah. He still gets mad at me for his hair being so long??? Somehow this is my fault? I think it looks great)

Sammy did such an awesome job at his Bar Mitzvah. He really stepped outside his comfort zone, got up in front of a crowd, SANG, and totally earned the big party he got that evening!
(Above: Sammy's Middle School graduation with his good buddies Austin and Andrew)

It was really hard for Sammy to leave his friends behind and move on to a new high school. Notice how he has grown out of the whole "pink is for girls" thing!
(Above: Sammy and Lily at Cannon Beach, February 2009)

We have loved taking family vacations with our boys. Whether it is a quick trip to the Oregon Coast or to Seattle for a Mariner's Game, or all the way to Europe for a Mediterranean Cruise or spending Thanksgiving watching American Football in our hotel room in Edinburgh, Scotland, it has been a pleasure traveling with our kids and we hope Sammy continues to travel and share his sweet, kind and generous personality with the world.
(Above: Celebrity Cruise off the coast of Italy, July 2009)

Okay, so the word Fraternity immediately comes to mind...

What happened to my sweet little baby?
He turned 16 today!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

This Old House: Living Room

We moved into our house the week after Thanksgiving 1996. Next month we will celebrate 13 years of working on this monster fixer upper. Honestly, even if you have a new house (which we have had), there is still always something to fix or clean or caulk or grout... or even replace. With this old house, however, the fixes are always bigger, and more expensive. When we purchased the house, it took every penny we had just to close the deal. The basement actually had to be tackled before we even moved in and that was rolled into the purchase price. We ordered two inspections and although we knew the furnace would need to be replaced asap (the ducts were lined with asbestos), we also knew that the deck off the second floor living room was partially rotten and far from code (with a 'take your breath away' scary metal railing a mere 30" high). So, the plan was... first the furnace, then the deck. We were heading into winter anyway, so the deck could wait.

Oh, and did I mention, the night before we signed the papers, 'The Money Pit' was on TV--and we watched it! Although that is a hilarious movie, it did make me kind of nervous... what an odd coincidence. I told Michael that if a raccoon jumped out of the laundry chute, we would sell--I promised! Well, so far no raccoon has jumped out of anywhere (except the backyard), but upon entering the house for the first time, the living room was completely FLOODED. It took me a bit to figure out that the water was not coming from any of the doors or windows or the ceiling (the living room is on the middle floor), but in fact the water was coming out of the fireplace. As it turns out, the brick on all the chimneys was in desperate need of 'tuck pointing'. Yeah, I had no idea what tuck pointing was either. Tuckpointing is the process of filling in missing, cracked or deteriorated mortar joints and apparently all three of our chimneys (the house frustratingly came with four fireplaces) had to have it--and quick. The water was coming in through these cracks and in large enough quantities to flood a room with at least a couple inches of water. Ugh!!! There went the money we had put away for the furnace. Well, that was just the beginning of the drama for the living room. Actually that very first day, after cleaning up the "flood" I removed the peach draperies from all the windows. Man were my sinuses working over time. I'm not sure how many decades those drapes had hung in the living room, but my guess is they had never been cleaned. After the drapes, the five layers of wallpaper had to go and the cracked mirror over the fireplace and the cracked 'art deco' fireplace surround and the saga continued... for years....

The picture below is quite embarrassing. You see, this house was so much bigger than our previous house, that we had no problem living in just a few rooms and still feeling like we had extra space. So whole rooms ended up being used for storage. In this picture, we are storing our new kitchen cabinets (along with a lot of junk). The kitchen cabinets actually resided in the living room for approximately 18 months before we had the money to have them installed in the kitchen. Really, remodeling the kitchen ended up costing me about half of what it would have cost to have a designer and contractor come in and do it all at once, but it took twice as long. Not sure the trade off is worth it in the long run. Thank goodness I was still in love with the cabinets when they were finally installed. The range sat on a pallet in the garage for 6 months... what was I thinking??? Ah, but this is not a post about the kitchen....

In the end, we did get all the wallpaper off the walls, we replaced all the windows and doors (even removed a window), replaced the mirror over the fireplace, got some new fancy window shades and removed the art deco fireplace surround. To this day we still have not replaced the fireplace. We merely stuck some extra kitchen cabinetry molding pieces on it for a mantel and called it 'loft style'... I am currently trying to decide what to do with it. Again, we lovingly call our house eclectic. My talented designer friend Ruth has diligently tried to help us marry our styles, but the living room has mostly an Asian feel with just a touch of traditional/french country thrown in.
These three beautiful pictures were all taken by another talented friend, Elliot.

Oil Painting by Joey (many years ago), Manzanita at Night

And now, 13 years later, the living room is mainly used as an art studio by both me and Joey.

Above: work in progress, Winter Figs by Kari

Below: work in progress by Joey
Although I think all four of us would agree that our house is really still too large for our needs (especially when it comes time to clean it), we are very happy to have such a functional living room/art studio.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Collecting a piece of the past...

Spending so much time the past few weeks hovering over Halloween folk art and watching people flock to a coveted artist and then quizzing people and listening to their stories of why they LOVE folk art or why they LOVE Halloween or any piece of art or a particular holiday or just collecting in general, got me thinking.... Why do people collect things? Standing in line in Northville Michigan behind a couple from Houston Texas I started to realize there are definitely different kinds of collectors. This "older" couple does not collect anything old, vintage, antique--whatever you want to call it, but they DO collect. They admitted to purchasing their house because it had more display space and more storage room for their collectibles. She collects ornaments... not just Christmas ornaments, ornaments for all seasons and holidays (thus being at a Halloween show nearly 1400 miles from their home), just no antique ornaments. They have something like a dozen Christmas trees and they leave at least one up year round to display seasonal ornaments (Easter, Halloween, etc... ). He collects marbles, but not antique marbles... huh? I did not even know there was such a thing as modern marble collecting. Apparently it is quite an art with marbles that look like eyes and also animal print marbles, flowers, unique colors and a variety of sizes from very small to very large. Possibly I have seen these glass art marbles before, but just never thought of anyone collecting them. I'm sure they make for a beautiful collection. I found this couple fascinating. They definitely represented a breed of collector that I had never talked with before. Since many of the items at these Halloween shows are contemporary folk art pieces, it was clear that most of the people were either Halloween fanatics who had moved into the realm of folk art or folk art collectors grabbing up really amazing Halloween theme pieces.

As I said in my last post, I am not obsessed by Halloween nor am I a folk art collector. I enjoyed my time with an old friend and I did pick up a couple of items that I thought were cute.
Above: metal art pumpkin party hat purchased at Halloween & Vine in Petaluma and displayed in our dining room on one of the pumpkins from our garden

Below: Willet the hand crafted Halloween Party Bear purchased at Ghoultide Gatherings in Michigan
But honestly, I usually do not even decorate for Halloween (I know, I know, I'm an old fuddy duddy). For me it is like thinking about making dinner after getting home from work at 6:30pm. I have to decide what to make, possibly pick up a few groceries, prepare the meal and then clean up after the meal. As much as I love to cook, its overwhelming and not really enjoyable to be cleaning the kitchen at 9:00pm. Same with decorating... with those extra few hours (not to mention dollars), do I choose to go all out and decorate the house, or spend a few hours oil painting or working in the garden? There are definitely trade-offs in life and for me, a few pumpkins and the colors of the leaves on our dogwoods, quince and japanese maples are enough to keep me in the Halloween spirit.

So back to the question of collecting. I think people collect for a few different reasons. First I think some people collect because they have an affinity for a specific holiday, or artist or item, like marbles or purses. I also think there is a type of collector called a "hoarder" or pack rat. Someone that just wants to collect as much stuff as possible without ever getting rid of anything. We bought our house from a hoarder... she collected everything from antique china to sheet music to costume jewelry. She spent hours at estate sales and thrift stores. There were rooms where you could not even open the door for the piles and piles of treasure she had accumulated. When a woman in the neighborhood died, she would lobby the widower to purchase her entire wardrobe whether it fit her or not. There were fur coats from size 6 to size 14. We had a pretty crazy awesome estate sale here before we could even think of moving in. There are collectors who consider their hobby an investment, like many sports cards collectors, and coin and stamp collectors. And then I think there is the kind of collector that wants to grab a hold of a piece of the past and embrace it, envision its humble or not so humble beginnings, reminisce about its life, where it has been and who has held it before... and then never let it go.

I was a teenager when my Grandma Elsie died. She knew she was dying, of stomach cancer, and before she passed, she called me and my Mom and my Sister to her house and gave us things that meant a great deal to her... things that had been in her family for a long time or had special meaning in her own life. She let me hand select my favorites of her English Bone China teacup collection. I still collect the most amazing china tea cups although it is rare that I find one special enough to join my Grandma's collection.
She also gave me her collection of pink depression glass. Her green collection went to my Sister. I occasionally pick up pieces and sometimes I receive them as gifts like this beautiful tea cup I received from my Mom....And then there is my collection of miniature vintage American Pottery vases. My original miniature vase was actually Swedish and was also a gift from my Grandma, but unfortunately it did not survive the childhood of a couple of rowdy boys named Joey and Sammy. I have continued to love these little vases that I have collected in honor of Grandma's vase and I pick them up whenever and wherever I can. They are not that common which makes them even more special.

Below: a sampling of my miniature vases. Chloe is inspecting the largest, a beautiful red vase approximately 5 1/2 inches tall.

Below is one of my favorite pictures. Me, Mom, Great Grandma McPeek and Grandma Elsie.
So I have decided that I am a collector, a collector of the never letting go kind, a collector of childhood memories of my Grandma. These little pieces of history remind me of a time she represents and that will never be forgotten.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wickedly Awesome Folk Art

Seriously, I have never been the biggest fan of Halloween. I LOVE autumn, its my favorite season of the year... and don't get me wrong, I like Halloween. It is certainly an over-the-top theme holiday with so many possibilities for decorating everything from your front yard to your face. And the food... I remember moving to Arizona for college and spending Halloween with the Godsey family in the Caballero Circle cul-de-sac drinking homemade root beer from a "steaming" cauldron complete with dry ice and everything. I remember Halloween themed college parties with hayrides and barn dances, but I guess I have just never been obsessed by it. I remember carving pumpkins as a kid and with my kids. Who doesn't like trick-or-treating and bringing home bags of candy that you cannot possibly eat without getting seriously ill?

And the years and years of fun costumes (certainly this is one of the joys of being a parent right... dressing your kids up in silly, I mean cute, costumes... )

Of course Joey is the turtle on the left and Sammy: Winnie-the-Pooh!

and I will never forget the year Sammy dressed up like Austin Powers and celebrated Halloween with the Ellsworth Family. Taylor walked in and said, "who are you supposed to be... Elton John???" Ha, too funny!!!!

So this year I reunited myself with my old ASU college roommate, Tracey. I say I reunited because I stalked her on the internet and finally found her, sent her an email and anxiously awaited her reply. It had been 17 years since I had seen her. Its kinda crazy how 17 long years have gone by and yet we get together and it is like no time has passed at all--except that we have 17 years of stuff to talk about--like we needed anything more to TALK ABOUT!

Now Tracey IS obsessed with Halloween. She has the most awesome house and it is just filled with beautiful antiques and one of a kind folk art, mainly holiday pieces.
Above: Tracey's kitchen island decorated with sweets for a Halloween Party

When Tracey asked me to go with her to a Halloween Folk Art Show, I honestly was mainly looking forward to spending some time with Tracey. We had grand plans of hanging out in San Francisco and seeing the play 'Wicked'. Probably doing some shopping and visiting an old friend of Tracey's who owns a bakery (yum!). But in the end, the show ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip. Halloween and Vine was in Petaluma (just north of San Francisco) a couple weekends ago and I didn't realize how amazing some of the folk art would be. In the picture below, the artist has crafted some beautiful pieces out of fabric and then hand painted them. She makes the eyeballs and everything. Not exactly wickedly evil looking, but amazingly constructed.
Speaking of wickedly evil, Tracey ended up purchasing the couple below. They are each at least three and a half feet tall and come with their own death certificates:
After the show, we spent some time enjoying Petaluma and then also had to find a TJ Maxx so Tracey could purchase another piece of luggage to house her treasures. The couple above were not the only purchases Tracey made that day.

Then, if spending a long weekend in San Francisco wasn't enough, as it turns out, the even better Halloween Folk Art Show was to be the following weekend (last weekend) in Northville Michigan. Of course I would not be crazy enough to spend two weekends in a row out of town with Tracey at Halloween Folk Art Shows.... would I... ???

Ghoultide Gathering was really in the most ideal location and the weather totally cooperated. Yes! It was 50 degrees, windy and raining!!! Ha, if you are going to love Halloween, you can't expect it to be 95 degrees and sunny (like it was in Petaluma). This was true Halloween weather and I truly got sick, but hey, the folk art was AMAZING. They did not allow pictures inside, but the little village where the show was being held was really fun. We trudged around in the mud and, of course, Tracey bought more amazing folk art.

We were greeted by this guy:
and this guy:
The buildings at Mill Race Historical Village in Northville, MI (outside of Detroit) are all historically significant buildings that were facing demolition in their original locations and were moved to Mill Race Village. Its a fun gathering place for the town and also a great way to learn a little bit about the history of the buildings. Also a great spot for the folk art show.

Finally... Tracey with her "Buddah-Head" Pumpkin... (don't ask).