October 25, 2013

I should start by saying that it took two full days of plowing and digging and raking and shoveling in the back yard to even realize we had a beautiful brick patio. TWO DAYS. In the end, the outside took three weeks of work (spread out over the year) to get it to where it is now. We removed several trees, built a new deck and fence and tirelessly dug down 6" in nearly every nook and cranny of yard space in order to rid ourselves of fifteen years of mad ivy takeover and gobs of poison sumac. The final piece to the yard puzzle was seeding in September and building a fire pit.

As for the exterior of our house, the work was extensive and thankfully, most of the big ticket items were contracted out. :) We had a new roof put on, asbestos siding removed, insulation blown in, our maple was trimmed away from the house and new siding installed. I installed new windows in much of the house and we painstakingly updated the porch by removing lead paint, replacing rotten posts and painting the door, posts and porch ceiling. There was also a mess of an awning that adorned our sidewalk entrance, which was a delight to smash down and then reuse to build Stella a small tree house. A little landscaping went along way.

This is what our house looked like when we first laid eyes on it (siding caked with asbestos, half of the window trim was rotted out, layers of lead paint caked on everything and missing gutters). It's hard to believe we could fall in love with such a mess.

Some progress shots: 

And the finished version...

October 21, 2013

He poured the foundation slab on Halloween night, 1979, three months after I was born. Two years later, my grandparents were able to call their cottage in the woods complete, though when I asked my Grandpa how long it took to finish the house he laughed and said thirty years.

I have spent my entire life heading up to Grandpa's house, back when they had horses in the barn and scooters in the garage. The inside is just about the coziest place you can imagine, with a huge fireplace, beautiful windows, thoughtful carpentry and a loft full of books and treasures my Grandma has collected over the years.

Their home sits on 10 acres of pure Northern Michigan goodness, and the woods and isolation and hills have always been a playground for my sisters and I. And when you add my loving, generous and happy grandparents to this place, well, it feels like such fortune.

Sadly, they are selling their cottage in the woods, thirty-four years after construction began. My sister and I took the older kids up this past weekend for one final visit, to experience with our own kiddos what we have been doing for all of these years.

Au revoir, happy cottage. I'll miss the popcorn and card games and fires and getting freaked out by the basement.

October 2, 2013

They are starting to really play together, interacting in the most primal ways, with hand gestures and grunts and facial expressions. Today she set up a fort and he knocked it down and she said good job lee and that was that, as if that was her intent all along. She tickles him. He lights up when he sees her. You can see the evolution taking place, slowly, week by week, as his awareness reaches new levels and his coordination begins taking shape.

You can't really call it fighting, but they are definitely starting to push buttons and wear on each other. He steals her juice.  She lords over his food intake in the back seat of the car. She says no, he screams. They are working it out though, one dilemma at a time. She never looks at us for intervention, and I hope he learns to do the same.


After a year of Leo struggling and crying, with the dominant mood being needy, I treasure almost every hour of this boy's happiness. He is as happy as I can imagine a kid his age being, which is something six months ago that I couldn't imagine. He is playful. He jokes. He wakes up satisfied, eats like a boxer and cuddles and kisses his lovey in a way that suggest some kind of mysterious real friendship.

She is tough. Independent. Comfortable in her skin. We knew these things about her, but they seem to grow in sync with her own growth. Her vocabulary, the way she strings certain words together, has been surprising me almost daily recently. When she couldn't sleep a few nights ago, she picked out a learning book and spent most of her time solving math problems, shouting out six! and three! as she added numbers together. I can already feel her slipping out the back door sometimes, heading off into the night for some grand adventure. I treasure the hugs and afternoon waltzes and the way she looks at me when she tries on a new dress.

I am reminded these days how little actually matters to me. As my two living children roam the house together, searching for climbing mechanisms or lost toys, I am at peace. This is enough, I think to myself.