March 24, 2013

Maybe you're here
Or maybe you weren't
Maybe you
Touched somebody
And got burned
The silent sun
Has got me on the run
Burning a hole
In my brain
I'm dreamin' of you
That's all I do 

- Bob Dylan

She's tall. Off the charts, like her sister. Blue eyes, dark hair, even though I still think of her with golden locks. She had her first haircut recently, a trim, short bangs. She threw her head back in rebellion before the sheers made the first cut. Stubbornness runs in the family.

The two of them fight and dance and giggle and then wake up and do it all over again. Stella leads her around from room to room, ordering her every move. You be the frog and I'll be the princess, Stella says cooly, as if she's been through a thousand dress rehearsals. She plays along most of the time but isn't afraid to walk away in protest when she needs to.

She walked at twelve months, talked at thirteen. Exactly like her sister, even though I thought she'd be walking at ten months and talking in sentences by a year. Poor girl. High expectations and kids are never a good mix.

Sometimes I dream of having a son, of his eye color, his mannerisms, what kind of boy he would be.

The sun calls to my girls and having two of them ask about the beach, in addition to their sun soaked momma, means on days off we end up at the ocean more than we end up in my beloved mountains, which is fine by me most of the time. Go water? were some of the first words she successfully strung together.

People say they look nearly identical, but I can see the differences. The youngest has bigger hands and less forehead. A more pronounced Jackson nose like her grandfather. Her lips are slightly thinner.

Lately, while Stella is at school, we've been pulling her mattress into the living room and using it as a launchpad for games and wrestling and forts. And lots of tickling. Underneath her chin. Her left rib. I tickle her feet with my scratchy beard and she wriggles and screams when I don't let up. Nooooooooo daddy, she squeals.

Last night was like most other nights. I crawled in Stella's bed and my girls followed suit, curling up to me on either side, playfully fighting over which two books I'd read before bedtime. I read in my best British accent, which is really a mix of southern twang and Scottish and just about the worst accent you've ever heard. The girls giggle and beg me to read in my normal voice, a request I rarely indulge because reading Owl Moon for the six hundred and twelfth time requires some creativity. We discussed birthday plans and Stella does her best to keep secret the presents waiting for her sister. I squeeze them tight before turning out the light. You. Are. My. Favorite. Girls. In. The. Whole. World. I whisper slowly, carefully, making sure they understand, even though they've heard it nearly every night of their lives. 

Goodnight, Stella Rose. 

Goodnight, Margot June. 



March 22, 2013

Thanks to, the two winners are EM (cars) and AMY (polar bear). Em and Amy, please contact me ( AT gmail dot com) with your details!

Special shout out to all who participated. If you haven't already checked out Little Adventure Toys, give it a browse and tell your friends about it. :)

March 20, 2013

It just so happens that my sister launched her new business in the very same year that this blog is turning ten years old. And what better way to celebrate than to give something away! The first and last this blog will ever see! :)

Her sweet little toy shop is called Little Adventure and she specializes in designing and handcrafting toys for infants and toddlers, all of which happens in her small studio in Grand Haven, Michigan. I may be somewhat biased, but I love all of her creations! From wooden animal teethers to customized state and country teethers to little vehicles to blocks and dolls (coming soon!), there is just about something for everyone, whether for your own child or a gift for another. To read more about Joni and her toy creations, please feel free to browse around her website.

Little Adventure and I are teaming up to give away two separate toys, which means there will be two winners! :)

The first is a set of two wooden mini cars, handcrafted from beautiful hard rock maple and finished with organic beeswax and olive oil, making the cars safe and chewable (the painted car is a non-toxic, AP certified paint).

The second giveaway is one of my favorites in Joni's shop. The fierce polar bear teether! This little gem is also handcrafted from hard rock maple and finished with handmade organic beeswax and olive oil.

Two winners will be randomly chosen on Friday night, which means this post will only be up for a few days! All you have to do is leave a comment below and denote which giveaway you would like to have. Nothing fancy and nothing wordy is required. :) A simple POLAR BEAR! or CARS! will do. The comments are open to everyone from wherever you live in the world! (Except, perhaps, our mother). :)


March 10, 2013

She still likes pink. And black, green and every other color except brown, as she mentioned a few days ago.
She spent last weekend at her Grandma's house, both Friday and Saturday night.  As she was walking towards Grandma's car on Friday evening, I could see in her eyes that this moment was an important one for her, her last moment to make a decision whether she would go or stay. She seemed torn. Alone. Independent. And just as I expected her to change her mind and run back towards the house, she turned and blew me a kiss goodbye.

Her most recently thrifted stuffed animal was a furry teddy bear. She watched it spin in the dryer for the duration of it's somersaults, her legs crossed as she viewed intently. Poor bear didn't survive. Lost it's stuffing. She recovered quickly, as she does in these kind of losses.

Watching her hold and play and chat with Leo is almost too sacred for words. Her love for him seems endless, right from the very start until these days as she protects him from small objects and echoes words of affirmation and feeds him in the back seat while we drive, among other sisterly pursuits. I long for my M in these moments and the life with a doting Stella that she missed out on. I ache for what Stella lost in sisterhood.

She and her cousin Miles wrestled a little while back, rolling on the ground over a plastic arrow, each trading punches and slaps and tackles until they grew tired and retreated to their respective parental corners. It was a thing of beauty, watching the two of them work it out on their own, the familial bond growing.

If there is one thing to be said about the current state of my Stella, on her fourth birthday, is that she's a real trooper for tagging along on her parents sudden whim to move to Indiana in the middle of winter. She is cold and homesick and taking it all in stride.

Happy fourth, my sweet babe. Where has the time gone?

March 3, 2013

While the first order of business on Fletcher Avenue was to simply clean up the place (we filled two massive dumpsters), the next item on the agenda was to restore the downstairs floors to their original state of intent, which seemed like a pretty straightforward idea. Carpet covered the dining room, living room and Stella's bedroom. The front parlor room (our bedroom) and Leo's bedroom were covered with old 12" X 12" tiles. The kitchen was covered with linoleum. Six rooms, 1464 square feet.

We had no idea. :)

Underneath the carpet in the living room was more 12" X 12" tiles and underneath those tiles was a layer of hardened glue that was 1/8" thick and underneath that was a thick layer of black tar paper.  Underneath the tile in Leo's room, our room and the kitchen was more of the same. Underneath the carpet in Stella's room was a layer of particle board that featured nine nails per square foot of board, which means each square foot was removed one nail at a time.

After trying just about every tool imaginable to get up the glue and tar paper, and enough Google searches and forum reading to last several days, we finally found the best tool for scraping up the tar paper was a good old fashioned paint scraper. So we got on our knees and scraped, inch by inch, hour after hour, until finally we had all six rooms completed (with lots of help from family, friends and some day laborers) and ready for the finish to go on. Our hard work paid off in the form of original 1870 poplar floors, which are vibrant in color and full of character.


Looking towards the dining room. Taken on our first day in the house.

The tar paper in the living room.

This was after we used boiling water and a chisel, which didn't do much of anything. We also tried a heat gun and a wallpaper steamer.

After five hours of scraping, I was able to sand this little section. Those beautiful green and vanilla colors are what kept us going.

After another full day in the living room.

Getting closer!

View of our bedroom, with living room and dining room behind it. The bedroom had as much of the black tar as the living room. This was the last shot taken before the finish went on the entire downstairs.


March 1, 2013

I'm writing over at Glow In the Woods this week, talking about grief and how it has evolved privately. Please feel free to stop by Glow and read my post, Quietly Forward, and join the discussion.