Saturday, April 30, 2011

In Honor of the Royal Wedding

Yeah, I know. I'm so behind. But this "royal couple" was too cute not to share. They're even riding around in a convertible. The funny thing is that there was a wedding taking place on the other side of the lake, and Daniel was convinced it was the real royal wedding.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Milestone


We had a big milestone in our family yesterday. Literally, a MILE-stone! Finally, after 12 long years, my old Ford Explorer turned 100,000 miles! I bought that truck in January 2002 with 18,000 miles on it, and it has taken another 9 years to put on the next 80,000. What's so amazing is that this truck has actually seen the entire expanse of the United States. I drove it one summer from Texas to California and back, up to Wisconsin when we moved there, here to live in the Carolinas, and I think we might have driven it on one of our trips to Disney World (don't quote me on that). Still, this car has been around the block for one that has taken so long to hit 100k.

That poor truck has been through the ringer. Within a few months of buying it, it was side-swiped in a hit and run outside the house where I lived in Dallas. I never did get it fixed, so it's had the same long, flat dent for 9 years. About 6 months after that, it was broken into outside my seminary apartment and had the stereo stolen. And another 6 months after that, some thugs literally cut off the side view mirrors while it was parked outside "ghetto apartment." If you don't know about ghetto apartment, just ask me about it sometime. It's quite a story.

For awhile now, I've thought it was funny that my least favorite car is the one I've kept the longest. It has been surprisingly reliable, and since Mark started driving it almost 2 years ago when we got rid of his, he swears he will drive it for the next 10 years, if possible. As long as I keep getting the new cars, that's fine by me!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I have a new blog!

"The Sluders" blog isn't going anywhere, but I've started a new blog chronicling a cooking journey I'm embarking on this year. It's based on the new Rachael Ray show, "Week in a Day," which allows you to do most of your cooking for the week (2 weeks for us) all in one day. I decided to do it to break up the monotony of our dinner menus and to simplify nightly meal preparation and clean-up.

Check it out here:

http://weekinaday.blogspot.com/

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Coming Soon

I'm working on several Christmas and New Year's posts, but I had to post this adorable photo my friend Anna snapped at Catherine's Christmas parade. Each class dresses as something from the Christmas story or Christmas themed. Catherine's class this year was "Kisses for Jesus" and passed around kisses along the parade route. It was so sweet. Literally ;)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chimney Rock: A delayed day-trip report

 I think I've already mentioned this, but one of the advantages of going to church on Saturday night is that we have all day Sunday to spend as a family. We have been trying to make the most of it, especially before the winter weather sets in. We took advantage of some nice weather and headed up toward the mountains to Chimney Rock Park. It's in a cute little town, and the hiking is pretty easy, and because it was Sunday it was much less crowded than it might be on a Saturday. Catherine managed the hiking pretty well, but we did have to trade carrying her on the long hike to the waterfall. In retrospect, I might have rented one of the backpacks they have there and just carried her on my back, but she really was fine. When we first got there, we took the elevator to the top, went out on the rock and had lunch with this gorgeous view. The pictures taken on an iphone don't do the fall colors justice at all. It was a rainbow of fall hues! We just might make this a yearly fall trek, or check out some of the other Carolina mountain areas in the fall. It's definitely worth the couple of hours in the car from Charlotte.
A cave where they used to make moonshine

Up at the top

The actual Chimney Rock

Catherine getting a closer look at the scenery

Our lunch view

Out on the Rock

A waterfall on one of the hikes

Catherine petting a salamander
 Chimney Rock has this fun trail designed for kids, with stations along the way that have animal sculptures and educational signs. Some of the sculptures were beautiful, particularly one of an owl made out of copper. Catherine loved "interacting" with the animals. If you go with kids, it's a must see!
She climbed under the turtle for a closer look

Checking out the bear. Two other bears were in the tree!

One last shot from up top

Thanksgiving Visitors

The turkey didn't brown quite as much as I'd hoped, but it was SO good!

Nonna and I helped Catherine decorate a gingerbread house.

Working on the roof

The finished product

Us with Nonna and Grandpa Jim

Jim and I putting the finishing touches on dinner

The Jubys came over for dessert, and this is Anne Botts, one of Catherine's "besties"
I know, it's almost Christmas, and I'm just posting about Thanksgiving. What's new? My mom and Jim came for the long weekend, and Mark's parents came down just for Thanksgiving Day. The reason they aren't in any of the pictures is that Mark's dad is the one that took them all! I made everything this year, from appetizer to desserts, and I'd say it all turned out just about perfectly! My friend Anna (of the Jubys) graciously watched Catherine for a few hours on Wednesday so I could prep to my heart's content without distraction. All of the prep work was SO worth it. I was really able to enjoy the day with our parents and not worry about cooking. Almost everything just had to be put in the the oven, and between the garage and the kitchen, we had 2 kitchens going. I tried something different this year with the turkey. I roasted a relatively small turkey (about 12 pounds), and then I also did a boneless breast roast. The breast meat is always more popular, so we had plenty to go around, plus some leftovers. I'm definitely going that way again in the future. We were so thankful to have both sets of parents with us this year. Being surrounded by love (and extra helping hands) was a real treat!

Then came Black Friday ...

Several years ago, I caught the Black Friday bug, and I've been going out every year since. I've shopped in California, Texas and the Carolinas, just within the past few years. Wherever we are, we go! Mark is a real trooper about it, too. I drag him out there every year. One year I didn't, and that was a mistake. Black Friday is a tag-team event. We've never been in the market for the big-ticket items, but I have scored some great deals over the year. I can usually get much better gifts for the money, so I make the sacrifice of sleep. And this year I was up all night! I went out to Wal-Mart (which is only a mile from our house) and Old Navy at midnight, came home for awhile, got Mark up to hit Target's opening at 4:30, came home again and laid down for about an hour, only to be awakened by my mom at 7:30, ready to hit the stores! That was a shocker because she has never gone out in the morning with me. Afternoon, yes. Morning, no so much. She and I hit Ulta and Southpark and were home by noonish. The crowds weren't even that bad until we were nearing the end of our trip, too.

After a nice nap, we went out to a really nice, fun dinner at Firebirds with mom and Jim. Catherine was SO good, and the food was excellent. We hadn't been there in ages! On Saturday, mom, Mark and I took Catherine to see Tangled. I'm sure Catherine would say it was the highlight of her weekend. Mark loves how she calls Rapunzel "Furpunzel," although she is starting to pronounce it correctly pretty often now. Mom and I left Jim and Mark at home to watch football while we went to church on Saturday night, and then they left early the next morning. It was a short but sweet visit, and since they live in Virginia now, we can see them more often anyway. In fact, we will be there for Christmas in just a few days!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fall Fun

Riding the carousel at Carowinds with Nonna
 We've had a lot of fun this fall. I feel like we had something almost every weekend. Not necessarily big stuff. We just tried to take advantage of the weather and the million-and-one festivals going on around here. Plus, with going to church on Saturdays now, we have been trying to make Sunday a family day and do something together for part or all of the day. I've had to do a little bit of writing and Bible study prep on the weekends, but for the most part, Sundays have been great to have "off!" In early October, my mom and dad both came for back-to-back visits, which we loved, of course. Mom flew in from Virginia for the weekend, and she enjoyed the luxury of just an hour-long flight instead of the SIX that it used to be. We hope this means she'll be coming often! While she was here, we went to Carowinds, and she rode two roller coasters with me! Otherwise, we just hung out and went shopping. A good but short visit.
 Two days later, Nonno got here, and we had a busy week! He and I tackled the looming task of installing the quarter round on the baseboards, in the areas where we had the new flooring installed several months ago. Dad assumed the role of carpenter and I was the geometry expert (which is hilarious, since geometry was not my strong suit!). Anyhow, we only made a few small mistakes, and in the end have a finished product that looks great! Mark worked on the yard while we did the baseboards, and his hard work has started to pay off. His precious lawn is coming back to life. Dad did some other small projects, as well as babysat while we went out on a date one night.

We drove out to York, SC on Saturday to attend a little fall festival at The Peach Stand, and while the weather was a little summer-like, Catherine still had a ball. Most everything was free, and everything else was very inexpensive. We picked up a bag of apples, and I baked up a couple of apple crumb pies, too.
Catherine getting her face painted

Running the hay bale maze with Daddy

Playing a pumpkin version of corn hole

Jumping like crazy

Planting a pansy with Daddy

Happy to hold a bunny

Painting a pumpkin

Putting together a puzzle with Nonno

 During another weekend, we drove up to Winston-Salem to visit with Mark's parents and go to a corn maze with our friends Matt and Kristi. We really wanted to do the big maze, so we decided to leave Catherine with Granny and Papaw for the afternoon. The website said the average time to complete the maze was 1.5-2 hours, and we figured she would have tuckered out after about 20 minutes. I learned that, while I have an excellent sense of direction, I am terrible at navigating a corn maze! If it wasn't for Matt, we would still be in that maze. Since we were so lost, Kristi and I just followed along and talked the whole time while the guys attempted to find all of the clues. The maze had the theme of FSI: Farm Scene Investigation, so you had to visit all of these stations to punch your card and figure out who killed the farmer.
Up on the viewing platform in the maze

 Catherine had lots of fall fun at school, too. Of course, many pumpkin-themed art projects came home and adorned the refrigerator. This picture is from the day of her class party, where they feasted on junk food and got their faces painted. Earlier that week, they visited the "pumpkin patch." A local pumpkin lot sets up a pumpkin patch in the field out in front of the church, and all week, the classes take turns going out there. The visit is complete with a hayride! I had to miss the hayride because of an appointment, but Catherine reported that she had a great time.
We joined our good friends, the Vespas for trick-or-treating this year. With Halloween being on a Sunday this year, our county had the brilliant idea of telling people to go out on Saturday. What?!! Who trick-or-treats on the wrong day?! We aren't home on Saturday nights anyway, so we had to figure out a way to go in Charlotte instead. Of course, Catherine was delighted to join some of her best buddies, including "Batman."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Alone-ly

Catherine is really a people person, even at the ripe old age of 3. The greatest punishment she can ever receive is banishment to her room. Of course, this sentence is meted out from time to time, and she usually emerges with a better attitude. However, she seems to think that she should NEVER be left alone, whether it's in her room playing, downstairs watching a movie or using the bathroom! Whenever I try to encourage her to do these things alone, I'm met with, "But I'll be alone-ly." It's strange because she doesn't say it or pitch a fit when it comes to being alone in her room at bedtime. It's only when she's awake and knows I'm around. I'm sure there will come a day when she begs me to leave her alone, locks me out of her room and spends all of her time with friends, but until then, I'm trying to help her strike a balance between being by my side at all times and spending her days all "alone-ly." Good thing she has preschool, Bible study, gymnastics and church, or we both go mad!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sweet Girl

I'm feeling a twinge of mommy guilt over my rant yesterday. Don't get me wrong, Gramma is still driving me nuts. If you can believe it, I only heard about her twice today. I feel compelled to share some of the more endearing qualities Catherine has been exhibiting lately.

Recently, when I arrived to pick up Catherine from preschool, her teacher said that they had inadvertently forgotten to schedule a "special friend" for the day (they get to be the line leader and have other privileges throughout the day, and they usually bring snack). Since they didn't have one, the teachers decided to choose a child who was being an especially good friend. And they chose Catherine! I have to say it's not a surprise. This child loves her friends SO much. That's not a surprise either because I love my own friends so much ;) She is truly delighted when she sees them and insists on giving them a hug and a kiss when she says good-bye. In fact, after a couple of meltdowns in the car after forgetting to give said hug, we rarely ever forget that formality before loading into the car.

She's always thinking about the people in her life, evidenced by how much she talks about them. She also might have a career in journalism in her future because she reports all sorts of information to everyone she encounters. It doesn't matter to her that they have no idea who she's talking about. She gives a full report. I admit that I occasionally would like to edit her.

I can't tell you how many times Catherine blurts, "I love you, Mommy," out of nowhere. One time recently, she walked up to me while I was cooking dinner, put a sticker on my shirt and said, "You're a great mommy." Yeah, I kind of melted with that one. I also can't resist the spontaneous, "Mommy, you're my best friend."

She's developed quite a little conscience. Obviously, we have tried to foster that, but I certainly don't think that's something you can force in a 3-year-old. When she misbehaves or does something wrong (and has served whatever punishment), after awhile has gone by she will just say, "Mommy, I'm sorry for not listening," or "I'm sorry I yelled at you." or whatever it is she has done. Often, she will already have apologized at the moment we addressed the issue, but it shows me that she's been considering what she has done.

So that's some of the sweetness we've been getting from our girl.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Gramma"

Catherine has developed quite an imagination. She makes a delicious "soup pie" that can't be beat, and she plays with her dolls and stuffed animals like any normal little girl would. But what began as a few innocent references to someone named "Gramma" has grown into an entire world. If I'm going to be completely honest, it's starting to annoy me. It actually started with her imaginary pets, "Coskrina" the dog and "Cabrella" the cat. Your guess is as good as mine as to where those names came from. From there, we added an imaginary brother, and the family has apparently grown by three sisters (only 2 of which have names, and the brother is nameless as well. In fact, I haven't heard about him in awhile. Maybe she kicked him out). The matriarch of this imaginary family is none other than "Gramma."

If she kept these characters at home, I might be able to handle it better. Lately, it seems like every person we come in contact with gets an earful about Gramma. From Catherine's preschool and Bible study teachers to her real grandparents -- geez, even the Trader Joe's cashier -- heard something. It's usually something very sweet like, "I like to sing this song to my Gramma." or "My Gramma gave me this." And when they respond with "Aw, isn't that sweet," or, as in the case of her preschool teacher, tell me the story of the sweetest thing Catherine said that day, I had to let the truth to known. Sometimes, it will get a chuckle. Some will reminisce about their own child's imagination. Some just give me a look that says, "Lady, are you for real?"

I know she's only 3 (And a half. She won't let you forget). I know she's just expressing her little imagination. But it's getting a little embarrassing. Not to mention that she is technically lying when she tells these stories. I don't know how to not discourage her creativity without letting her walk around telling completely made up stories to everyone we see. Should I make this a matter of truth and lies or just grin and bear it til she grows out of it.

The only encouragement is that my mom says that both my brother and my uncle had wild imaginations that included imaginary friends. In fact, they had much crazier names like "Chitty" and "Jinxie" and "Uncle Sally," so I guess Gramma doesn't seem so weird in comparison. Since the two of them turned out alright and, to my knowledge, no longer entertain invisible friends, maybe I shouldn't worry about it so much.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

From here forward

So ... I've been thinking I would get a chance to catch up on all of the things I haven't posted, and I didn't want to post new stuff until I did that. Now I realize that I might NEVER get that old stuff up, so I'll just pick up from here. If I get to the old stuff, I do. If I don't, I don't. But just so we don't forget that this summer ever happened, let me sum up:

- Catherine started swim lessons in the spring at Charlotte Aquatics that ran through August. She made lots of progress in the pool! She also took a pre-gymnastics at Charlotte Jr. Gym and is doing that again this fall. Photos may or may not ever get posted. ;) 
- Failed IVF cycle in May
- Catherine wrapped up her first year of preschool with a sprinkler party outside with her classmates and parents.
- Flew (alone, what bliss!!) to CA for Marisa's wedding in Early June
- Taught Bible at Vacation Bible School at Church at Charlotte
- Another failed IVF cycle
- Went to Virginia for 10 days to help Mom and Jim get settled. Cousin Riley also was visiting from Texas, and Catherine had SO much fun.
- Follow-up with doctor led to a 2-month break to try a new protocol of supplements and estrogen before another try.
- Lots of trips to the pool, Carowinds , and other fun places with friends and neighbors
- Worked as a contributing writer for Elmbrook's Women2Day study this year, "Epic." Still working on that through October.
- Surprised Mark on his 30th birthday with a trip to Washington, DC. He was shocked to learn that we were leaving the next morning! I really do hope to do a separate post on that.
- Catherine spent a few weekends/overnights with Granny and Papaw, which always yields lots of fun. She also got to spend a little time with her Sluder cousins while she was there.
- Catherine started a new year at preschool and hit the ground running. She loves her teachers and has started to make new friends easily. Most of her old class is together in another class, and because we switched days at the last minute, we had to take the spot we could get! Most of the kids in her class are older, Oct-Dec. birthdays, but she hangs with them just fine!
- Went to the NC State home opener in Raleigh with our friends, The Reichs and watched the Wolfpack start with a win.
- Started teaching Bible study for the fall
- Started "Making Saturday our Sunday" at church. It's a little strange not seeing everyone that we usually see on Sunday, but we might make an appearance once in a while on Sunday! We are also taking at least a semester off from our Wednesday night couples small group. 
- Visited a mine where Catherine found lots of  "gems."
- We are preparing for a potential 2 IVF cycles in the next couple of months. Those appointments, plus acupuncture (started that in June), plus preschool, activities, the writing gig, and teaching Bible study, and this is one crazy fall!
- Both Nonna and Nonno are coming for back-to-back visits in the next couple of weeks. We are SO glad that each of them is coming!

I think that's it. I'm sure I forgot something, but at this point I don't care!

So that's the short, photo-less version, but at least I provided lots of links for entertainment, right? Now that we're all caught up, I should be able to post more frequently. Catherine has been saying and doing a lot of post-worthy things lately! If our never-ending computer issues ever get resolved, I might even post a picture. If we could get one laptop to work well for more than a few months at a time, we'd be set! I'm not holding my breath ...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Are we alive?

Ready to hunt bugs

At Vacation Bible School in June
Jam-packed in the car with Riley and Carlo for a slumber party at Nonna's

Playing at Imaginon with Daniel
Yes, we're alive. We've had a busier-than-expected summer, and I can't believe it's almost over. Here are pics a few things we've been up to. I haven't pulled out the camera much, as you can see. In fact, these are just from my phone. More to come on the rest of the summer (as well as the end of spring!) soon. I've picked up a little freelancing and have a deadline at the end of the week, so hopefully I will have time over the weekend to post several updates. Catherine is going to be in preschool 3 mornings a week this fall, so I likely will be able to keep up! 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Elephant in the Room

Ugh. Blech. Grrrrr. Ahhhhh!!

I don't even want to write about this, but I feel like I have to. Perhaps I need to. So I'll just come right out and say it: we're infertile. To be exact, I'm infertile. Mark's swim team apparently could give Michael Phelps a run for his money, but these days my equipment is running about as well as a 1982 Ford Pinto.

We started trying to have another child early last year, and since I already monitored myself pretty carefully, I knew within a couple of months that I simply wasn't ovulating or I was ovulating at the wrong time. I visited my OB/Gyn, who was willing to be as hands-off or aggressive as I wanted him to be. I really appreciated that. He wasn't concerned at the time, but I was close enough in age to when fertility naturally begins to decline that he wanted to make sure there wasn't a problem.

After 3 cycles with zero response from Clomid (which actually took more than 3 months because my cycle was so messed up), he referred me to a Reproductive Endocrinology (RE) group here in Charlotte. The months followed with countless blood draws, ultrasounds and rounds of fertility drugs, all of which have failed. Not just failed, but miserably failed. Months rolled by that we didn't even get to legitimately "try" because my ovaries simply didn't respond. There wasn't even an egg for the little guys to try to find.

I suppose I should explain what's even wrong with me. One benefit to recent advances made in reproductive medicine is that doctors can often figure out what's causing the infertility. They might not be able to fix it, but at least you're not left trying in vain month after month for years on end without knowing the underlying issue. In November, I received a call from my doctor's nurse explaining that one of my tests had come back and indicated that I have "low ovarian reserve" or "diminished ovarian reserve." It means my ovaries are running out of eggs, and when they start running out of eggs, the hormonal cycle gets all out of whack and presents the challenges we've faced since discovering this. Just to give you an idea of how "low" my reserve is: I looked up the range for the particular test that she called about. There are ranges for very high, high, normal, low and very low. The very low range on this test is something like 0.3-0.6, and then low starts at 0.7 and goes maybe to 0.9, and so one. Mine was 0.1, lower than the low end of the lowest range. I'm not even on the scale. My ovaries are pretty much on life support.

Because of that diagnosis, we had to skip entire classes of drugs and jump straight to the big dogs. Still, my RE remained cautiously optimistic. He was hopeful that, because of my age (which is actually still OK as far as eggs go), that if he could just get my ovaries to release an egg (or eggs), that the quality would still be good and pregnancy possible.

At one point, my ovaries were so confused that they were in a seemingly constant state of ovulation, which is kind of a catch 22 with my condition. Because there are so few eggs, my ovaries don't have the capacity to send the hormonal signals to my pituitary to stop producing the hormones that ready eggs for release. You'd think that ovulating every couple of weeks might help. Twice the chances to try, right? Wrong. Your uterine lining and other hormone levels have to be in the right place, too, or pregnancy can't take place (or be sustained).

So here we are, almost 6 months since my first round of the big dogs. Most cycles have been canceled or have failed, although we are in the waiting game for now on the current cycle to see if it worked. Most women on the level of drugs I was on would produce 12-30 (or more) eggs or be so overstimulated that their ovaries would practically explode. I topped out at 40 shots in one week (all self-administered because Mark faints at the sight of a needle) and produced ONE egg. Granted, there may have been others that they couldn't see, but still mostly a failed response. The bruises are just about faded, and I'm glad to get a break from the shots, the blood draws, the ultra sounds and the drives downtown. I've traded the shots for a pile of dollar store pregnancy tests. I think when you've been through what we've been through, you've got a right to pee on as many sticks as you want. Three a day if that's what you need to get by. At a dollar a pop, who cares. I don't actually test that often, but I wouldn't judge anyone if they did.

There are some things we are grateful for through this process. First of all is Catherine. We have no idea when my ovaries started to malfunction, but we are thankful that it didn't interfere with conceiving her. We appreciate her more than we ever have before.

We also are thankful that we live somewhere that has the level of medical care that we've been able to receive. In many parts of the country, people drive for hours or even fly to see the nearest Reproductive Endocrinologist. Not only do I see an entire group, they aren't even the only ones in town.

We also have pretty good health insurance coverage. On paper one might say it's outstanding because it covers procedures at an amazingly high rate. However, our drug coverage isn't so great. For the most expensive drugs, we pay almost the cash price, which runs into the thousands for a single cycle. Unfortunately, we have needed drugs more than procedures, so we haven't even be able to take advantage of the "great" insurance that we have. Thank you, Murphy's Law.

We are thankful for supportive friends and family. I don't know how people can keep this struggle completely private. I guess it's hard for me to conceive because I'm not a particularly private person. I'd rather have people praying for us and pulling for us than wondering why I'm acting like a freak all the time and canceling plans for "appointments." I think it has prevented about a thousand "When are you having another baby?" and "Don't you want more children?" questions that I surely wouldn't have answered gracefully. I know people do what they have to do to survive, and being somewhat open has been helpful.

We are thankful to have experienced no miscarriages thus far (before Catherine or since), and while not achieving pregnancy at all stinks, I cannot imagine the devastation of a pregnancy lost.

Still, this is hard. Catherine has moved out of the nursery, and it feels like a little ghost town whenever I enter the room. I'm not even sure what to do with it because I assumed she'd have a sibling kicking her out of there by now. It's a mess because I don't want to be in there long enough to clean it up. We've had to discuss medical, ethical, spiritual and theological issues that we never dreamed we would have to tackle. And all the discussion in the world doesn't necessarily provide answers. Even though we have the answers to what is causing our infertility, we don't know why. We probably won't ever know. We've asked God, and frankly, he doesn't owe us an answer. In fact, He doesn't even owe us another child, but it has been hard not to demand it from Him because we want it so badly. We believe He is good. He's not out to punish us or make us miserable, and when we take into account our life outside of this particular struggle, we have a great life.

And so we wait. And pray. And hope.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Home Improvements

One reason for the infrequent posting lately is that we were doing some work on the house. It doesn't seem like we did much, but when you empty an entire room and have to figure out where in the world you're going to put the contents of that room (permanently!), we found it takes much longer than expected. We cleared out the guest room and turned it into Catherine's big girl room. While we believe she would have slept in the crib until she turned 5, we thought her third birthday would be a good time to make the move. We talked about getting a big girl bed with Catherine for awhile before we did it, and she had slept in a bed for several nights at Nonna's house, so we knew she would be fine. She had no idea we were re-doing the guest room for her, so she was ecstatic when we unveiled the room to her.

I had been scoping out this bed at IKEA for months because it not only has 3 drawers of storage underneath, but it also pulls out into a big bed (a double or almost a king depending on which way you sleep). Since we still need her room for guests, we thought the bed was a perfect solution.

I made that mural with wall decals affixed to a canvas

She has a little table now to color at and have tea parties.
The other home improvement was new flooring for the downstairs. I have wanted to replace the carpet since we bought the house more than 4 years ago, and I never wanted carpet in the dining room in the first place. We picked out a wood laminate that looks like tile and took it all the way from the entry, through the dining room and into the kitchen and powder room. We LOVE how it turned out, and I think it made the entry and dining room look so much bigger. And it really does look like tile. A guy came to work on our DirecTV, and he commented on how his parents had just put tile in their house, and I said, "Oh, that's not tile." He was shocked! The carpet is perfect, too. I was vacuuming the old carpet almost daily and shampooing almost monthly because it showed absolutely everything. We chose a thick, tall, multi-tonal carpet, and now I only vacuum when I clean. I feel like I've gained hours of my life back! ;) The only downside is that I had just bought a new vacuum, and it can't adjust to the height of this carpet. Ironically, I have to use the old cheap vacuum on it because it can adjust!

We still need to do the molding around the baseboards.
From the dining room into the kitchen
Catherine had a heyday running around on the carpet before we moved the furniture back in the house. She was amused by the lines her baby stroller made and shouted, "Stripes! Stripes!!"