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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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Finding Moments

It’s been a long, crazy weekend here.  Grateful for sun after three days of rain and the coolest spring I can recall since moving here, we kicked off the weekend with strawberry picking at one of my favorite farms.  Saturday morning was a raucous game of soccer, or as close as can be had with a bunch of three-year-olds.  And still drunk on blue sky and warm breezes, we came to realize that nothing would make the weekend more perfect than a night spent under open skies.

Really, there was no “we” in that realization.  I have this idealist vision of camping, memories of my mom cooking a huge breakfast on a griddle while my dad helped me and my brother find worms and nightcrawlers for fishing.  When I was a kid we spent a lot of time in campgrounds and took first our truck camper, and later Winnebago, all over the country.  I’ve either blocked out the bad parts, or it was AWESOME.  I dream of a pop-up camper; so far the furthest I’ve gotten is convincing my husband that sitting around a campfire and sleeping in a tent a few times a year won’t kill him.

Anyway we packed up Big Blue, got the dogs and kid in the car (J, at sixteen, was just way too cool for camping),  and headed outside the city.  Of course by the time we got there, set up camp, scavenged enough wood to start a fire, made dinner and made our way back and forth to the communal bathroom several times, T was so exhausted he was crying to go to bed even before making “fo fo’s” (marshmallows).  As the fire started to burn out and the temperatures dipped, we noticed we didn’t have the tarp for the top of our tent.  We huddled together on the air mattress that managed to spring a leak since the last time we used it, staring up at the stars through our unimpeded view.  And finally, finally, the squirrels, deer, bears, mountain lions, and other guests stopped their partying long enough for me to fall asleep…only to wake and repeat the chaos of toddler-caring, fire-making, food-preparing and the rest of it.

Batshit crazyBy the time we packed up I was more than ready to go.  T had been whining non-stop for nearly two hours, I found myself repeating and REPEATING simple directions such as “stop throwing rocks!” and “stay away from the fire, it’s hot!” and I wanted nothing more than to be home and the sweet solace of T’s naptime.  And I’m sad to say that, while I strive to use kind words and toddler-level reasoning with him every day, by the time we got in the car my frustration and short temper were starting to spread like toxic mold.

We did make it home, an uneventful trip except for the ginormous spider I found crawling on my shirt (seriously, I almost died).  A too-quick nap and T was awake and still acting up, incapable of listening out of shear exhaustion.  But as I tried to get some of the laundry started and dishes washed and camping carnage put away, I kept passing him lying, quite peacefully, on the couch, watching a movie.  And I recalled that it can wait, all of it.  I have not doubt that pile of greasy pans will still be in the sink after he goes to bed, or even tomorrow morning.  But for this moment, of T being three-and-a-few-months and just the two of us lying together, watching Toy Story, still smelling like campfire and sunshine, I have no such guarantee.  So I took it, and he put his hand on my head and smiled, and life was good.

Camping.6.2014

 

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Three!

My sweet son –

Happy birthday! You turned three today…it hurts my heart a tiny bit just to say it. You are tall enough now that I can rest my hand on the back of your head and kind enough to permit me to do so. You are changing so fast, every day brings something new – words I can’t fathom how you know, skills I can’t believe you mastered so quickly, and play I can’t figure how you imagined.

I’d like to tell you every day is perfect, but you are old enough now to realize that’s not true and tell us when you are hurt or scared or mad, and acknowledge when one of us feels the same way. There are moments of incredible frustration, like when Daddy and I took you to the National Air and Space Museum to see “rocketships” but you were having none of it, pitching a fit on the floor while school kids milled around. But those times are balanced by moments of such gentleness and love; one of my favorite times of the day is when you first wake and come in to snuggle with us, smelling like lavender and sleep. We yell and cry, and are by no means a quiet family. But there is love to spare and you are so quick with yours that it sometimes takes my breath.

You’ve accomplished so much in just one year. Within weeks of turning two you Houdini’d your way out of your crib, grinning at us as you monkey-climbed down the other side. You learned to ride bike, made friends at the park, spent hours reading to yourself and us, helped mommy cook, discovered a love of superheroes and baseball. And your language….one day during the summer I found myself staring at you, trying to decipher your baby tongue, only to realize you were speaking in entire sentences. You have such a way with words and I am so proud to see you try them out, it sometimes looks as if you can almost taste them on your lips. You take on each day with bright eyes and infectious spirit, and I find myself inspired.

As I tucked you in the night before your birthday you pulled my hand down and whispered “You make me happy.” You have no idea, my son. No longer a baby, my heart will not yet allow me to call you a big boy. But you are, without a doubt, my Sweet Boy, and I wish you the happiest of birthdays.

Happy birthday Sweet Boy!

Happy birthday Sweet Boy!

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in family, Parenting, Remember

 

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Amazing – A Letter to My Son on His Birthday

Dear T –

What a difference a year makes!  You turned two today and greeted me, as usual, with a smile and a “Hey!”  I lifted you out of your crib with the realization that this time next year you will more than likely be in your big-boy bed and the hope it would be the only change to our morning routine.  We headed downstairs and I recalled, as you asked for milk and jumped on the couch and helped open your gifts and tried to stick your entire face into your cake (yes, for breakfast!) that this time last year you had just taken your first solo steps.  When we spent the afternoon at the National Zoo, you pointed to and named the animals and it reminded me that age one you fell asleep every night with your giraffe.  And tonight, when I tucked you in and you blew me a kiss for the very first time – well, that was just perfect.

Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn, on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born. - Nancy Tillman

Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn, on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born. – Nancy Tillman

For you each day is an adventure! You took your first steps in the days before you turned one and have been non-stop action since.  You’ve learned to jump, climb, and run, and scared the crap out of your father a few weeks ago when he found you half-way up a 6′ ladder.You smile and say hello to people we pass on the way to the market, ask “what’s that?” or “hear that?” a thousand times a day, and your eyes light up when we head to the park or the zoo or even somewhere new. And it is so exciting to see you running around the playground, making friends and kicking the ball around. You are curious and inquisitive and do not shy from new experiences, and I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.

You already have quite a way with words. Most mornings your Daddy and I wake up hearing you talking or reading to yourself, and with the exception of nap time it’s pretty much non-stop until bedtime. You started using your signs asking for “more” borsch (of all things!) in July; since then you’ve learned hundreds of signs and words and each day it seems you know a few more. You have questions for EVERYTHING, usually more than one, and there are days when I am grateful for the silence when you’ve fallen asleep. But I would not trade it for anything else, and I pray you retain your excitement for language.

And perhaps most incredible is that, at the age of two, you are the first to notice if someone is upset, or sad, or hurt, and ask “you ‘tay?” and offer a hug or a hand on the arm. I don’t know where you learned that compassion, but my wish for you is that you never lose it.

You’ve accomplished so much in the days since you turned one and are, in a word, amazing.  I say that knowing, if you ever read this, you will be horrified and embarrassed and may go so far as to deny me as your mother.  But it’s true, so there it is.

Happy birthday, my sweet peanut. I look forward to seeing what the next year will bring.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Remember

 

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What’s in a Year?

My husband has a terrible memory.  TERRIBLE.  He makes all kinds of excuses as to why (insomnia, too much youthful partying, yadda yadda) but I really think he was just born without attention to detail. Which is especially sad for me today since his inability to recall even the tiniest detail has resulted in the loss of my camera.  The one with my pictures on it.  ALL of my pictures.  Because the roof of the car is the only place to put a camera before you get into it and then drive down the highway for 40 miles going very fast.  But before I start making a list of places to stuff his body, I thought I would take a few minutes to recap the year in pictures.

T’s first birthday, St. Patrick’s Day parade and festival, trips to the zoo and the super cute pic of T and daddy feeding the giraffe (his favorite animal).  First steps.  Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  Sailabration.  First artwork – chalk marks on the sidewalk- and riding his little car on the sidewalk in front of the house.  J’s graduation and pics of him and DH working on the house.  Our vacation pictures including 4th of July and T’s first fireworks, plus a great pic of the four of us standing on the mile-high marker at Grandfather Mountain.  Playing in the fountain downtown. Eating corn on the cob.  Our trip to the fair last week. Progression on changes we’ve made to the house.  Photos of grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles we rarely see.  Random cool stuff, like the 200 year old farmhouse down the road from my parents, the double rainbow we saw one day, and the water tower in the shape of a giant butt peach.  All the evidence I’ve gathered in my quest to rid the neighborhood of permit parking.  And who knows what else is on there?  I’m surprised I remember that much.

Yeah – I’m pretty sure it’s not in there.

I almost feel sorry for DH, he’s feeling pretty bad and spent two days driving up and down the highway and passing his business card out to the construction guys along the way.  He actually found the case, minus the camera, and there was a spark of hope that someone had picked it up and just ditched the case.  And miracle of miracles, someone called and said they found it!  Unfortunately is was pretty obvious it got run over by something pretty big and of all things, the memory card and battery were missing.  So close, and yet so far.

Great news, I just realized that the memory card was new just before T’s birthday.  That means I’ve only lost six months of unrecoverable memories, hooray!  I’m still a little sniffly but I’m pretty sure DH didn’t get a chance to close up hole where we were working on the ceiling so I’m off to find a tape measure.

Photo Credit: Anne Taintor

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2012 in family

 

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July? Hello??

Oh, Summer, how I hate you with your heat and humidity and ginormous electric bills.  If only you could be like Fall, so beautiful with her pretty colors and crisp air and trips to the orchard to pick apples.  Although I do enjoy your lazy weekends and  long days…

AHAHAAAA!  That’s hilarious!  The only thing I spend more time doing during the summer than sweating is wishing I’d become a teacher (or at least a professional student) so I could have them off.  More hours of daylight are great, but there is really no such thing as a long ENOUGH day when you work full-time and have kids.  Which doesn’t change my desire to make sure the boys get the full summer experience, it’s just a bit more challenging.  Luckily (for me and the boys at least, if not DH) my body seems capable of moving not only at warp speed, but also on little sleep this time of year.  So we’ve been boating, camping, and to the beach, went to visit Grandma and Grandpa, saw fireworks and an airshow, spent time at the pool, went to the fair, planted a garden, learned how to run and jump and swim, built a fort, went to ball games, made friends, saw concerts in the park, watched movies on the pier and at the drive-in movie theater (yes, we still have one!), and then I looked up and it was August.

There are times when DH catches me standing, watching, and will ask what I’m doing.  I’m just trying to remember, which is impossible of course but there are so many perfect (and even some not-so-perfect) moments that I want to keep forever so I can replay them like a video recorder.  So before I forget them all and since a good number have already slipped by, here are a few of the things from the past several weeks that I hope to keep in my mind’s eye, in no particular order:

1.  Waking up to the smell of my Dad making pancakes on a Saturday morning.  I’m not sure where he got his culinary skills and don’t recall him doing it when we were kids, but he started a trend a few years ago and I look forward to it.

2.  T, in all his toddler glory.  It’s been a month of firsts – the first time he said Mama (seriously, my heart still skips), climbed up on the couch, saw fireworks, played on swings, used the signs I’ve been showing him since he was three months old, brought me a book to read, climbed up on the couch, climbed down the stairs by himself, sat in his little rocking chair, discovered he could also get into the big rocking chair and then rode it like a surf board.  I love watching his face, the wonder and excitement with every discovery, the sounds he makes while he investigates, takes it all in.

What video games do to your brain.

3.  DH’s face when he gets to spend time with J.  Even when they are just playing video games, they really enjoy each other’s company.

4.  J finished eighth grade. I knew this day was coming but it just seems surreal, and I am definitely not feeling old enough to be stepmom to a high schooler!  There have been so many challenges and adjustments but he’s a good kid, I have faith in him.

5.  My brother brought a girl home to meet my parents.  This makes the list because it has NEVER happened.  Ever.  Unfortunately they broke up a few weeks later but she clearly did not know what a catch he is and was therefore not good enough for him anyway.

6.  Baseball.  Because it’s summer, and I love baseball!

July went so fast, and August seems to be on the same track, that there are days it seems I should remind myself to breath.  There will be plenty of time for that during the dark days of winter but here’s wishing a happy August, in case I once again fall into the speed warp.

The Griswalds vacation – minus the dogs, fighting, bathroom breaks and surprisingly light on the luggage.

 

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