I was supervising Lego’s bath today, and Duplo and El Guapo were bored and kept coming into the bathroom to say so and to bug Lego. Also to fight with each other. Anyway, in a fit of desperation, I told them to run to El Guapo’s walk-in closet, turn on the light, and do 10 jumping jacks.

They ran off to do as I asked and promptly returned, asking what they should do next. I eventually ran out of ideas, but here’s what they did before then:

  • Twirl around twelve times in my bedroom
  • Crawl from the chair in the living room to the front door
  • Do three pushups
  • Tiptoe from the Lego table (a table that permanently has Legos on it, not Lego’s table) to my desk in the basement
  • Roll from the crib in El Guapo’s room to the toddler bed
  • Slide down the stairs, feet first, on their tummies
  • Hop across the kitchen
  • Do a somersault
  • Do a headstand
  • Do a few situps (Lego’s idea because he was getting into it too)

Any other ideas for next time they’re bored?

El Guapo is two!

January 11th, 2014 | Posted by Brinestone in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Note: I wrote this back in November, and I thought I had posted it, but apparently not.


Okay, El Guapo’s birthday was actually in the middle of July. But apparently I was so busy then that I didn’t take the time to do what I did with Lego and Duplo for their second birthdays—namely, write out a long post (or a series of posts) about the funny/frustrating/cute/interesting things they were doing. Even though his birthday is long gone, I’d like to do something similar for El Guapo because it’s amazing how quickly I forget these things.

1. El Guapo is two. He tells us this over and over, every day. He even uses it as an explanation for things: I like cookies because I’m two. I don’t want to take a nap because I’m two. You get the idea.

2. El Guapo’s favorite color is pink. In his words, because he’s two. Yesterday, at the dentist, he chose a pink balloon and a pink no-cavities bracelet.

3. El Guapo is obsessed with Disney’s Cars. Obsessed, I tell you. His absolute favorite toys are his little Lightning McQueen and his Mater, and the other matchbox cars that have become other characters in the movie: a purple car is Ramone, an antique navy blue one is Doc Hudson, a white Porsche is Sally (though we seem to have lost that one), etc. The only “lullabies” he will allow me to sing before I put him to bed are the happy birthday song, addressed to various Cars characters. Anything else gets dismissed with a loud, “Not that song! Sing happy birthday to The King!” He watches part of the original movie, or the half-hour-long Mater’s Tall Tales on Netflix, or random videos on YouTube about Cars, every single day. This has lasted for at least the past four months. We are all a bit tired of Cars. Well, all of us but El Guapo.

4. El Guapo is having a problem with being kind with his body. He mostly picks on Duplo, but we all get pinched, bitten, hit, kicked, head-butted, etc., from time to time. He seems to do it with absolutely no provocation, or even reason. Sometimes it’s as if he thinks his “victim” will think he’s being friendly or funny as he throws a toy at their face. He’s been having quite a few time outs for this lately. I know consistency and patience will win the war, but I sure hope it’s not a very long one.

5. El Guapo is learning to identify his alphabet and numbers. So far he knows O, S, I, T, Q, R (sometimes), G (sometimes), J, and Z. He also knows 2 (of course) and 0. He points out letters he knows all the time, and asks, “What’s that?” about the ones he doesn’t know.

6. He knows his colors completely, and has for some time. Actually, I’m not sure if he consistently gets black, white, and gray right. But still. He’s only two!

7. El Guapo will only wear socks and shoes if we are not at home. The moment we walk in the front door, he insists on them being removed from his feet immediately.

8. El Guapo also loves Star Wars. At some point, we started watching the whole Star Wars series, little by little. Each time we ordered pizza, we’d sit down and watch another 20 or 30 minutes. Well, now it’s tradition because El Guapo insists on it. Quite a few of his first words involved Star Wars: “shimma” for “lightsaber,” “Doodah” for “Yoda,” “Bup Boop” for “R2D2,” etc. (The only one he still says this way is Bup Boop. We’re a little sad about that.) He learned to sing the Star Wars theme song before he could even talk well.

9. El Guapo is an animal lover. From a very young age, he’s been enthralled by the dogs and cats in our neighborhood. He’d trot around chasing them and petting them if they’d let him (our next-door neighbors had two dogs, our downstairs neighbors had a dog, and random cats would wander through our back yard). He’s surprisingly gentle and quiet with animals, so they tend to tolerate him pretty well. I kind of wish I weren’t so allergic to animals so I could get him a pet someday.

10. El Guapo is suddenly really into coloring. He mostly just scribbles all over coloring books, but he colors a LOT of pictures every day, and now we have no coloring books with pictures left in them. I know what he’s getting for Christmas. (Psst! Don’t tell.)

11. I don’t know if I’ve said this on this blog before, but for a couple of months or so, El Guapo would rush to help me every time I was emptying the dishwasher. He would take the things out and hand them to me so I could put them away. After a while, he enthusiasm waned a little, but he still helps me cheerfully from time to time.

12. He also loves to help me cook. This is a lot less fun for me than #11, but I try to let him when I can. He is pretty insistent on doing things he is too little to do, though, like stir food cooking on the stove.

13. More so than the other two, El Guapo is kind of clingy and demanding. He tends to want to be near me (or Jonathon, if he’s home) all the time, and he wants us to be interacting with him much of the time. He even freaks out and wants to come if I go and check the mail, and any time I go somewhere and leave him with Jonathon or a babysitter, he’s very nervous. There are a few exceptions. He seems to like his nursery leaders in this ward quite a bit, and when we pass the church daily on our walk to the school, he points it out and says, “There’s my teacher!” One of his teachers knitted hats for all the kids (like, 15 or more!) and gave them to them last Sunday. El Guapo loves his hat.

14. He’s trying to decide whether he takes naps. Or, maybe more precise, I’m trying to decide if he takes naps. Sometimes he’ll take one early enough that I’m fine with it, but his naps are irregular and often too late, and then he’s up late. But if he doesn’t nap, he’s super cranky in the evening while I’m hurrying to make dinner, and he’s fallen asleep on the couch before dinner a couple of times. When he does that, he wakes up in the night starving, and I have to stumble downstairs to find him a snack so he’ll go back to sleep. Not my favorite.

15. El Guapo loves to make his family laugh, and he loves when we are all doing something together. He loves having a family and knowing where all of us are and what we’re all doing. When we pick Lego up from school, he’ll run and give him a huge hug. (He doesn’t do this when we get Duplo because usually he’s buckled into his car seat, since I drive to pick up Duplo from kindergarten rather than doing the walk to and from school a third time each day).

16. One cute thing El Guapo says is that he’s “too” anything. He’s “too hungry” or “too poopy” or whatever. Sometimes when I tell him to be nice to Duplo, he’ll say he’s too tired. I sometimes wonder if he thinks he’s saying he’s “two hungry” because he likes being two so much.

17. He has absolutely no interest in potty training. He has only tried sitting on the potty chair a few times, and always with all his clothes on. There is a temper tantrum if anyone suggests anything else. I guess we’ll wait a while on that.

18. He likes to point out the same things on our walk to school every day: the inflatable witch (now replaced by a turkey) on someone’s porch, the pink flowers growing in someone’s yard, the dog in someone’s back yard, the giant pumpkin growing in someone’s garden, and then the smaller pumpkin suddenly appearing on the same vine, then both of them disappearing one day (they had been placed on the gardener’s porch), the water fountain at the park, the slides at the playground, the lights on the school, the circle of pink spray paint surrounding a drain or some such on the sidewalk, the flag pole. Then, turning around, everything in reverse. If something changes, he’ll tell me about it every day for weeks afterward. He still tells me about how the giant pumpkin is gone, even though it was moved a week before Halloween.

19. El Guapo recently learned to count to ten and sing the ABC song. He still can’t count actual things yet.

20. El Guapo mostly pronounces things correctly. His R’s and vowels aren’t always quite right, and he’s been talking too fast lately and mumbling, so our comprehension of what he says is currently lower than it was, say, a month ago. Our other boys have gone through this stage too, so I’m not too worried. He’ll figure out that he needs to slow down and enunciate better. One thing he doesn’t say quite right that’s really cute is “humby” for “hungry.” I have caught myself actually asking him if he’s humby, which is probably not helping, but it’s so dang cute.

I’ll probably think of more things later, but I think that’s enough for now. We sure love our El Guapo. 🙂

Sometimes I feel so mean

January 11th, 2014 | Posted by Brinestone in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

My kids love making art. They seem to especially love making art if it involves tape, scissors, staples, and garbage. The more of these things go into any given art project, the more they will love it. So, reusing an old water bottle by taping cut-up paper onto it and filling it with water and glitter to make a snow globe? Pretty much awesome in the kids’ book.

Which, you know, is kind of a cute idea. I was impressed with Lego’s creativity when he came up with the idea. But then Duplo had to make one too. And El Guapo had to make one too. And since the taped-on “snow villages” don’t really look like much besides little bits of paper taped onto water bottles, and since the glitter settles to the bottom, it looks like I have three water bottles, stripped of their labels, with paper attached with tape, filled with water sitting proudly on the hearth. And they’ve been there for over two weeks.

At some point, I’m going to have to throw them away, but I know there will be tears when I do. I know. But children don’t really understand that even if you dress it up, garbage isn’t meant to be kept forever. The water bottle snow globes are just one in a series of dozens of similar art projects the boys have done over the years. It never gets easier to toss them, but really, can I keep a water bottle snow globe in their file folder of best art projects ever?

There have been plastic bag parachutes and glasses made with cut-up Ziploc bags for the “glass” and ornaments made of toothpicks and “inventions” made of straws and stuffed animal houses made of Kleenex boxes and phones made of tin cans and string and all sorts of things made of bubble wrap and and and . . .

And don’t even get me started on tape and scissors. If the boys feel they are free to use them, they use a whole roll of tape in a week or two. If I make the tape available but require them to ask permission first, I’ll say, “You may use two small pieces,” and they’ll use their two, then come back and show me how the art project in question MUST have four. Or they’ll use two large pieces. Or they’ll use their two, and then half an hour later, need more tape for another project. Or they’ll use their two and leave the tape where El Guapo can pull three feet of tape off it before he’s caught.

Sometimes I (or Jonathon) just make a tape ban altogether. I know that I can’t (or shouldn’t) just never let the kids use tape until they’re teenagers, but sometimes I just need a month or two where the tape battle is on hiatus.

And scissors. Any time scissors are used, for any reason, there will be many tiny pieces of paper left all over the table, chairs, and floor. Every time someone says, “Can I use scissors?” I say, “Yes, but you have to clean up all the bits of paper afterward.” And they roll their eyes and say, “I will! I promise!” and they don’t. Every time.

Jonathon is a talented painter; I’m halfway decent at art myself. I shouldn’t be surprised our children love making art. Some of the stuff the boys make is actually really good. I want to encourage the development of their artistic talents. But can we please do it without tape, scissors, staples, and garbage?

Dear Santa

December 20th, 2013 | Posted by Brinestone in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

All I want for Christmas is three more days before Christmas. I know, I know. Children everywhere will hate me. But hear me out.

Tuesday I woke up and stretched, and something went CRACK in my neck. Suddenly I felt a jolt of pain, and I soon found that I couldn’t move my neck left of center at all or raise my head any higher than eyes-straight-ahead. Raising or moving my arms sometimes caused me intense pain as well, so getting the kids ready for school was a real challenge.

Speaking of, Lego woke up with a bad cold, so I kept him home from school. In an effort to be able to go to Costco for a whole bunch of things we couldn’t go even one more day without, I lay on the couch with a heat pack on my neck for half an hour, after which I had slightly more mobility. Checking blind spots hurt a lot as I drove to Costco, but I did it. Carrying groceries inside hurt a lot too, but I did it.

Then I picked up Duplo from school, fed everyone, and took a nap, hoping my neck would be somewhat better when I woke up.

Except it wasn’t. It was worse. Way, way worse. I no longer could move it more than a small circle right around the center, and sometimes random jolts of intense pain would run up my neck and down my shoulder, just to keep things fun. The rest of the day was a complete wash.

Luckily, my neck felt significantly better the next morning. Unluckily, El Guapo woke up sick and needed to be snuggled on the couch almost all day long (as in, if I got up and left him there, he’d follow me, crying to be held again). The errands I was needing to run (remember, Christmas in a week!) were off the to-do list. With Lego still home sick and now El Guapo with stomach flu, no way was I going anywhere. I actually kind of relished snuggling with my sick toddler all day, but I also really needed that time to, you know, get ready for Christmas and clean the house after doing almost nothing the day before.

That night, El Guapo threw up at around 3:00 a.m. If I thought he was clingy and needy on Wednesday, Thursday was worse. By now, the appeal of sitting and cuddling all day was wearing off, and the urgency to do stuff was building. Plus, a big snowstorm had hit, so I had shoveling to do along with all the cleaning, errands, baking, etc.

Jonathon’s work actually sent him home early yesterday because the roads were so bad, which was great because he could take turns holding El Guapo. The bad news is that the roads were so bad that I would have been an idiot to try doing my errands. So while I did a little cleaning (not nearly as much as I would have liked), I still need time to get groceries, bake a whole bunch, run other errands, vacuum, do laundry, clean the basement bathroom, etc., etc.

I lost three days due to a bunch of craziness all descending together. Perhaps if I didn’t need to sleep this weekend, that would do it. I eagerly await your reply.

P.S. I’ve been a good girl this year. Give my regards to Mrs. Claus and the reindeer.

Disclaimer: PLEASE! Nobody use this post as a how-to for refinishing furniture. I made some mistakes that maybe you can learn from (bolded), but I am not in any way an expert. If you want good tips on painting or staining furniture, try this blog post.

About two and a half years ago, I was very pregnant with El Guapo. We were living in a two-bedroom basement apartment. While the second bedroom was large, the closet was where the laundry hookups were, so all the boys’ clothing, toys, shoes, laundry, and other stuff needed to be inside the room itself. Every inch of wall space was used, and while at one point we’d had bunk beds (for Lego) and a crib (for Duplo) in the room at the same time, we’d gotten some more toys and toy storage since then. We might have been able to move some of the toys to the living room, or get rid of some, to fit the crib, but storing the baby’s clothing was going to be a problem. We’d been looking at three-bedroom apartments in the area with no luck, and so I’d basically decided that if we were going to stay, we’d have to figure out a way to make it work.

I found a dresser at a yard sale that seemed just perfect. I wish I’d taken before pictures of it. It was in bad shape, with deep scratches on the top and long cracks on both sides where the “wood” was actually splitting away from the furniture. The finish was very dated and ugly. But the top and drawers were solid wood, and there were eight good-sized drawers (two columns, four rows). I could picture giving each of the older boys three drawers and the baby the top two, since his clothing would be smaller. Replacing their dresser with one that was a little bigger but that would have enough room for all three boys’ clothes would allow us to, hopefully, squeeze everything into that one bedroom. I bought it for $50 (and I probably overpaid, in hindsight).

Anyway, I started sanding the top down and bought some spray paint, just in time for us to actually find a new place to move. The new place had tons of built-in drawers in the second bedroom, so the dresser wouldn’t be needed. I kept working on it a little at first, but I hit a few snags and mostly gave up.

The first snag was that I spray painted in November in our garage. It was probably under 50 degrees outside, which felt nice enough to work in. What I didn’t know was that in colder temperatures, paint takes much longer to dry. So, even though the paint can said you should wait 10 minutes between coats, paint can still be wet if you leave it to dry overnight! I thought I was home free painting another coat on one of the more intricate drawers after leaving it all night to dry, but the moment I started spraying, the paint bubbled, making a web of really awful-looking blistery wrinkles all over it. I immediately tried to wipe the paint off with a paper towel, but that just made everything worse. It became apparent that I would have to sand the drawer down completely in order to paint, and of course it was one of the top, really intricate drawers that would be an absolute pain to sand.

In the end, there was no easy solution. I did have to sand everything down, and use paint stripper in the places where I couldn’t sand. It took lots and lots of elbow grease, but it worked. I’m pretty pleased with the result:


The second snag was that I didn’t know what to do about the cracks in the sides. When I bought the dresser, the guy I bought if from said he’d bought a piece of particle board to replace the worst side, and he gave me his number so I could call him. He said he’d come by and replace it for me. Once I got home, though, I just felt weird about calling a stranger to come and fix a dresser he’d already sold to me. And what did he have in mind? The side wasn’t just a solid rectangle. Did he have a band saw? Would I even like his “repair”? Eventually I lost his phone number.

The blog post I linked to at the top of this post was a lifesaver. It had occurred to me that I could glue the crack shut with wood glue, but there would still be an obvious crack. Realizing that putty could look that good once painted was a revelation! But how would I get the crack to stay glued shut?

In the end, I just rigged something totally stupid up. I glued the crack closed and pressed a phone book up against it. I then tied the phone book as tightly to the dresser as I possibly could so that it would stay there. I recommend using rope for the tying part, but I actually used old shoelaces knotted together because, for some reason, I couldn’t find our rope at the time. It looked really silly, but it worked. The only problem was that the cover of the phone book got glued to the dresser in the process, but I just ripped it and sanded the stuck part off.

After moving here, we needed the dresser finished ASAP, so I bought some wood putty and applied coat after coat of it to fill in the crack. I’d sand after each coat and then add another until it was mostly smooth. I did get to a point where more coats didn’t really improve things, so I called it good. If you really look, you can tell something’s not quite right in that spot, but I doubt you’d guess that the crack I repaired was as horrible as it really was. It’s on the left side of this picture, where it looks slightly darker and shinier. (This is also the best picture I have of the finished dresser, by the way.)


The third snag was that I had ruined quite a few of the pulls by being stupid and leaving them out to dry while sanding the top of the dresser. I probably don’t need to tell you not to do that. You’ll end up with your pretty, painted hardware covered in a fine layer of sawdust. I had to soak them all in paint thinner and wipe the paint off before repainting them. Don’t be stupid like me.

The fourth snag was that I couldn’t decide what to do with the top of the dresser. The easy thing would be to paint it off-white like the rest of the dresser. But I’d seen a picture of a white dresser with a stained-black top that I kind of fell in love with. The problem was, I couldn’t find black stain. The solution in this case was to wait two years and try the same stores again. Voila! Ebony stain. Two coats and I had this:




One thing I was really surprised by in the whole process was how many coats of both paint and primer it took to get a good, even off-white look. Even now, some of the drawers look slightly splotchy and uneven. Everywhere that’s off-white took 3-4 coats of primer and 4-6 coats of paint. After we moved here and I had a big garage to work with, I just kept everything out and would quickly do a coat of primer or paint on whichever part of the dresser I was working on each time I went out to the garage for something, usually two or three times a day. If you’re doing a project like this, don’t skimp on paint! I actually thought I was done with some of the drawers, only to realize once I got them inside that they didn’t look as good as I’d thought. Back out to the garage they went.

You think I’m done with snags? Not yet. So, I mentioned that the dresser sat in our garage for two years. In that time, the drawers that I’d actually “finished” with got dinged over and over by bikes, car doors, kids, whatever. Paint peeled off in lots of tiny spots. In this case I was kind of lazy. I was just tired of working on it and wanted it done, so I just painted over them unless they were especially bad. I learned later that a coat or two of clear coat would have protected the paint better. My finished dresser has clear coat all over.

Which brings me to the final snag. I was finished painting one of the very last drawers (the very last? I can’t remember) and wanted to spray on the clear coat. I grabbed a can with a clear lid that didn’t have any color label without reading it closely. Yeah, it was the black Rustoleum I’d used for the pulls. I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. Luckily, it sanded right off, and the drawer looks fine now. So yeah, look before you spray.

Here’s another look at the finished product.


It’s definitely not perfect, but I’m proud of it. I had such a hard time with it, though, that I’m not sure how eager I am to try another project of this type. A lady I was talking to the other day said she repainted her entertainment center (which was gorgeous!) in two days. Is such a thing even possible?!