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This Old House

It seems whenever there is too much going on, DH and I have the inate ability to just tack on more.  This go-round, we are in the midst of getting ready for vacation when DH gets the urge to finally finish the upstairs hallway.

A few years ago, on the eve of Hurricane Irene, we were hunkered down with then-five month old T when we heard the unmistakeable sound of dripping water.  We soon discovered the source, coming from the roof through the ceiling in T’s room, placed some buckets and crossed our fingers.  The aftermath of Irene involved replacing the now-soaked horsehair plaster ceilings throughout the upstairs, as well as the electricity that shorted when it got wet.  The final piece, a five by five section of hall, sat exposed to the roof rafters for THREE YEARS.

I love our house.  And hate our house.  I love to hate it, and sometimes hate myself when I’m in the midst of hating it.  But I absolutely cherish the history of our home and neighborhood.  I moved many, many times growing up and into adulthood; we are now blessed to live on a street with multiple neighbors who actually grew up on the same block.  We bought our home from a gentleman who was raised in it and still lives on the corner.  And I am beyond excited to celebrate the centenial of our house next year.
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Yes, the horsehair plaster that covered splintery pine lathing strips to create walls was beyond disgusting.  As was the black soot from the chimneys, which fell from the ceiling and covered EVERYTHING.  But it amazes me to see how these rowhouses were built, pieced together with the adjoining house.  To peel back the layers (and layers) of wallpaper.  Pull the floor to the original hardwood and wonder what long lost coverings filled the voids left behind.  Find little tidbits of the past in the walls and ceilings – square nails, broken china, a spoon.  My husband indulges me as best he can as I plead with him to “be careful!” pulling floor boards so they can be repurposed, or find a spot to put our found treasures- now carefully wrapped with a note to future owners – before he covers whatever hole he’s created.  It’s about karma, really, and respect – that Old Lady was there way before us, and will continue her reign long after we are gone.

For now, another project done.  If the pattern holds, the dust will have plenty of time to settle before my next chance to peek into the past.

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Playing Chicken

A good friend of mine was in town last week, one I haven’t seen for a year.  In this small group of friends she is the one capable of bringing clarity to any situation and we were all saddened when she moved to North Carolina with her husband.  Incidentally, she would not be offended if I admitted that we were equally distraught to lose both the friend and the fantastic food creations that she prepares.

So why did I spend the evening sitting in front of the television drafting this blog, instead of meeting her for dinner?  Excellent question, I’m so glad you asked.  Remember the good times you used to have at the beach or grandma’s pool, swimming and playing games of Chicken?  Well those days are back my friend, only this time the prize is a little something I call PT – Parent Time. 

2 parents + 1 child + 2 events in different locations =

“I made plans first!” “What? Mine was on the calendar for weeks!!”

Once you and your significant other realize there is a PT conflict, the challenge is on to see who will come out the victor. Now PT is a finite and ever-diminishing resource, kind of like gasoline but typically more volatile, usually in direct relation to the number of days (weeks? months?!!) since the last PT.  The scarcity of quality, child-free time, enjoyed with or without your spouse or significant other, is one of those topics seldom talked about outside the parent circle.  I’m sure there is some conspiracy theory about how parents keep these tidbits outside the mainstream in hopes of luring new and unsuspecting folks into the “parent trap.”    Now that I’m on this side of it, I’m more inclined to think we’re just embarrassed by the predicament we’ve gotten ourselves into, being held hostage by a being not old enough to wipe his nose or tie his shoes.

When such conflicts occur some couples may have calm, polite conversations about which event or appointment is the more pressing matter.  And for a long time we did…until it dawned on me that I was always the person who ended up staying home.  Always, as in I was “socially active” only to the extent my friends posted their comings and goings on Facebook.  And so it became a game of who would blink first.

Are you lookin’ at me?

I don’t care how much you love your cherubic child(ren) or your spouse, if you hope to have any PT at any point over the course of the next twenty years you will wise up and remember a few simple rules:

1.  All is fair in love and war.  This is war.

2.  Map your exits.  Last spring the City Fire Department made rounds through the neighborhood to give out free smoke detectors and help people plan routes out of the house in case of emergency.  We already had detectors but those guys spent thirty unwitting minutes helping me visualize my escape.

3.  A few strategically placed toys (or baskets of clothes, or dogs, or piles of books, whatever) make excellent boobie traps; just remember where you placed them.

And so I missed dinner with my good friends last week.  And a happy hour after that, when DH insisted that his monthly “meeting” (read:  a bunch of guys getting together the gripe about politics) could not be missed.  I’ll admit, I blinked that time, but in my defense I was pretty tired anyway.  But tonight….let’s just say this old chicken learned some new tricks and tonight it’s margaritas all around!

DH did not look nearly that happy to be staying home instead of playing poker…

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Parenting

 

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Thanks Dad!

I love my Dad – love him!  Unfortunately we did not always get along….there was a long, awkward period (i.e., high school) in which we could barely stand to be in the same room together.  Okay, I could not stand to be in the same room.  But lucky for both of us my Dad is super awesome and didn’t give up on me and one day I woke up and realized what a jacknut I’d been.  And so we live happily ever after, except for the fact that Dad likes to remind my of my jack-nuttery by occasionally reciting (usually in front of company) some horrifically embarrassing tale.  In honor of Dad, here are a few things I’ve learned, in no particular order:

1.  Be happy.  (Yes, it’s that simple).

2.  Like what you do.  Refer to No. 1

3.  Friends count, so don’t count friends.  In other words, it’s the quality, not the quantity.

4.  What would Grandma think?  I don’t remember a time when my conscience didn’t have Grandma’s voice!

5.  Family matters.

6.  Laughter can fix anything, so use it early and often.

7.  Pitch your tent on high ground.  And don’t forget the rain-flap.

8.  The car WILL need gas to go.

9.  Nothing tastes better after a hard day than a cold beer.

10.  Just because you have money doesn’t mean you need to spend it.

11.  Just because you don’t have money doesn’t need you can’t help someone less fortunate.

12.  The great outdoors is wonderful and terrifying and awesome.

13.  It doesn’t matter what the Jones’ are doing unless your name is Jones.

14.  If it’s important to you, keep trying.

15.  You don’t have to be perfect to be a great Dad.

Photo credit: do512.com

“When your daughter is in high school you’re the stupidest person alive, in college at least you have half a brain, but it’s not until she gets married that you become the smartest man she’s ever met.”- Dad

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2012 in family, Uncategorized

 

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Memorial Days

I’ve been feeling a lot lighter these days.  Sure, work is work and life has its hardships, but overall I think the biggest thing that affects my mood is the weather and we have been having some glorious spring days.  But even better this time of year – and the warmer days – remind me of my grandmother.

My Dad’s mother was one of those people who makes things look easy.  Her house was always clean, she was a great cook, and she and my grandfather had a slew of friends from one coast to the other, the result of years of travel.  On any given day warm enough to sit outside, you would be offered a glass of fresh iced tea and a lemon square or other treat.  My grandparents’ garden seemed to harvest exactly enough to feed whomever ended up at their table that day, with spare for canning and freezing.  Ever money-conscious, as so many folks of that generation, my grandma would hang her sheets outside to dry on the line whenever it was not so cold they would freeze solid.  Grandma’s flower bed would rival Martha Stewart any day, and I swear the weeds didn’t dare grow there.  After thirty years as a nurse, she waxed poetic about the practicality of wearing white pants – always perfectly clean and stain free, of course – and I never saw her wear jeans.  Each spring she ordered geraniums from one booster club or another (low fuss, always in bloom) for the front porch, where they hung proudly on either side of the American flag.  I can hear her voice, see her face and the yard, smell the grass freshly cut by my grandfather, feel the coolness of the gazebo and hear the clang of the metal chain on the swing, as if I just left after stopping in for lunch, when it’s been nearly eight years since I’ve driven down that country road and pulled into the gravel drive.

I don’t know if Grandma’s gift of “making it look easy” was inherent or a learned skill, but at this point I’m pretty sure I’ll never have it – my living room looks like a mine field of toys and I barely have time to pour cereal in a bowl most mornings, let alone make fresh desserts for people who happen to drop in.  Luckily, there are plenty of things I picked up from her that don’t rely on baking or cleaning or being organized (phew!).  I finally talked my husband into installing a clothes line in our tiny backyard, and actually look forward to washing sheets in the summer so we can enjoy the warm, sun-kissed smell of them.  The sun-tea pitcher sitting on the back wall is a constant well into the fall.  We started a garden, and each year I experiment a bit more with what does well – and what doesn’t – in our sun-challenged backyard.  I even learned to can; too late to inherit Grandma’s huge collection of supplies, but I think she would have been proud of the tomatoes I put up, not to mention my ability to use the summer’s bounty to get my family through the winter months.  I’m like a kid in a candy store when my lilacs bloom; Grandma had the most gorgeous lilacs, you could smell them from across the street.  A few years ago I planted a peony similar to the one that used to showcase her flower bed and was thrilled to see (finally!) three of the most gorgeous, fragrant buds appear.   

Grandma would have been 86 last week and I have no doubt that, if she were still with us, she’d be picking flowers for the table and offering up some iced tea.  Neither my husband nor my kids had the chance to meet her, but I like to think she is part of their lives through me – and I can only hope that someday T’s kids will be talking about how my house was always clean!

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in family

 

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Kid Stuff

This week was a blur and as I sat down (!) this evening I realized it’s been a while.  So here I am.

My husband and I have always maintained very active lifestyles.  Whether it was getting up early to head to the farmers’ market, thrift shopping, or road trip, or heading out late to hit a concert or meet up with friends, we were pretty much non-stop.  And we walk – a LOT (one of the benefits of living in the city).  When I was pregnant with T, my dad was constantly asking how I was doing, wondering if I was working too hard or staying up too late or not getting enough rest.  I did my best to reassure him (i.e., white lies about earlier bed times and restful weekends) but I think T got used to all the activity that was actually taking place.  That kid is definitely mine – he’s up at the crack of dawn and wants to be moving every minute he’s awake. 

Photo credit Getty Images

I am reminded this time every year why I love city living and why I’m glad we have the good fortune for our kids to be raised in this City in particular.  One of my favorite things to do in the summer is grab the picnic basket and a bottle of wine and hit the free concerts in the park.  DH hates these musical events (likely because I make him carry the basket) which, unfortunately for him, are a nearly weekly occurrence.  There are outdoor movies on the Pier, festivals for every nationality, bocce tournaments, wine and jazz festivals, baseball, more concerts, block parties, boat races, yoga in the park, free swimming pools, fireworks, corner snowball stands, and celebrations for all sorts of historic events.  And we do all of them – and more – as a family.

Our kids haven’t slowed us down and bit.  Oh sure, there are changes – scheduling around nap times and play groups, more breaks for snacks, missing that last inning when it is well past bedtime.  And we’ve cut out a lot of our bar-hopping (because really, who brings a baby to a bar?).  But other than the time we no longer spend drinking and, er, recovering, it was a pleasant surprise to realize we still do most of the same things.  As a bonus, we get to act like kids along with our boys – my husband can swing to his heart’s content without anyone pegging him as the creepy guy at the playground, and no one thinks twice about a woman singing or dancing like an idiot when her toddler is in tow.  I’m sure the day will come when the boys want nothing to do with us, but for now I just hope they are having as good a time as my husband and I.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in family, Parenting

 

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