Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm Confused and Obsessed, And I'm Taking You Down With Me

Go on, take it... Everything will be perrrfectly fineeee...

We are officially house hunting. Our big plan, once we sold our house, was to build on some land downtown that Trevor's parents own, that we want to buy from them. But as we plotted our house, we realized that we could do better financially by buying something at these crazy low rates.

How hard could that be? (Cue eye-rolling from any reader who's house-hunted in his or her lifetime.)

Our main request is that the house be in downtown Petoskey. We would like it to be on the northeast side of downtown Petoskey if possible. We would like for it to be incredibly charming. We would like it to cost zero dollars.

We are learning that looking in the winter, specifically around Christmas or New Years, is a poor choice. Apparently most sellers list in the spring (ahem, like we did), and aren't overly concerned about people who need to be out of their rental in May.

We have great Realtors. Our forever Realtor is a family friend, and another friend recently became a Realtor, and they are both actively suggesting and re-suggesting houses for us. Which is helpful, except we aren't loving the houses and that probably doesn't make their day. And they are our friends, and we sometimes feel badly for shooting them down and being picky. But, you know, our house.

We have fallen completely in love with a yellow house on the main drag in downtown Petoskey, surrounded by lots of lovely, large, historic homes that people love and take care of. It needs A LOT OF WORK. But we're oddly excited by this, probably because it means we can make it into something even more fabulous, in our own little nerdy ways. Built-ins! Hidden staircase! Tiled entry reminiscent of 1895 grandeur! It really is calling us, making us absolutely sick with wanting to own it. We are being 16-year-olds about it, and it is being the newest style of Guess jeans.

It's a for sale by owner property, and we've dragged the poor owner over there more times than she'd care to go, we think, but we can't. stop. There are only two things holding us back from making an offer on it tomorrow:

1. It's pretty pricey, considering what needs to be done inside, and since it's FSBO, no Realtor is telling the owner that the price is too high. We are armed with a stack of comparables and bids for what it will take to bring the home up to working order, but each time we visit it we're told how it's such a gem, that nothing needs to be touched, they lived there for 40 years and never lifted a finger because it's perfect.

2. Our Realtors keep telling us there's something better just around the next turn. While the street that the yellow house is on is fine -- the main drag, yes, traffic, yes, PARADE ROUTE, YES -- we don't mind so much. One of our Realtors in particular thinks it's a bad pick, claiming that no one will want to buy it from us if they have a family or a dog, but... we have a family and a dog, and we love it. But now we're wondering, are we just so infatuated with it that we can't see that it's a bad spot?

Also, there are three streets we'd prefer, anyway, and our Realtors believe there are a couple of options coming up on them. Problem is, we need a new home soon, and they're not listed yet. While it's nice to think our Realtors might push these people along just for us, it's not very realistic. And what if, while we're waiting for these mystery houses to pop up, the yellow house sells?

So, what to do? What would you do? I'll tell you what we do. We scour the MLS almost obsessively (which does not change, ever), talk about the yellow house constantly, drive those three gilded streets every other day, wondering if that house could be one going on the market? Eeew, what if it's that house? OMG, it could just as easily be that house!

Tonight I sent an ad over to the local newspaper, with a HOUSE WANTED headline and a DOWNTOWN PETOSKEY address. Will we get anything interesting? I kind of think so. We've already had three people call us with homes they'd like to sell but haven't listed, because they've heard from a friend we're in the market. And we don't even know these people. Small town, indeed.

I think we mostly want a reading of our future. "There will be a house you love on the perfect street. You will be able to afford it. It will make you happy. Just freaking relax."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best Day

I know this post should be about the amazing Christmas we had, and it was -- we're still savoring the fun and the memories, and we think it might have been the very best in a long time -- but I have to write about the fun we girls had today.

We woke to another yucky, wintery morning with no school. I discovered that the Great Lakes Children's Museum, just outside of Traverse City, had a craft week going on with volunteers helping kids do all sorts of fun wintry stuff, and decided to make the 1 1/2-hour trek. Marta whined the whole way down, but let me tell you, this non-car sleeper snoozed the whole way back.

"I made this. I MADE it."

"Yellow jingle bells. RING!"

"No, Mom, I WANT it in front of my face."

Oddly, she was nervous to go through this short tunnel at first, and tried to get Marta to do it.

"In the waterfall!"

Marta = Obsessed with water.

Berit = Obsessed with posing.

OhMyGosh we're on TV.

Berit, doing the bulk of her physical activity for the week.

She was smiling just before and just after I took this, but I can never catch her in the act.

Absolutely cracking up at the videotaped fish that swim in the entryway.

You can't see them here, but they're swimming around their feet.

So, after the museum we went to the mall where the girls rode the carousel and we all got a pretzel hot dog. Marta crashed on the way home and Berit said, "Mom, turn on the lullabies so Marta can have a nice sleep." She then sang them under her breath for the rest of the ride, gazing out the window.

When we got home, I pulled out the best Christmas gift ever, from my sister who put together a bunch of folder games for the girls -- matching, shapes, concepts, etc. -- and thought, "Wonder if they'll be able to understand any of these." Berit did each one in 2 seconds flat, and Marta did most of them right after.

Sigh. One of those days where I feel so good about being my girls' mommy, from morning to night.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Various Photos I Just Found On My Camera

Oh Christmas Tree, Part 3

Decorating the tree (in reverse order)
Each girl chose an ornament of their own this year, and Marta promptly broke them. She went on to break 90 percent of the others she held, causing Trevor to lose his Christmas spirit entirely. Being perfect, I giggled with the girls and said annoying things like, "Oh, this is what having kids is ALL ABOUT."

Oh Christmas Tree, Part 2

I know! Let's get a nice photo of the girls in front of the tree.
Attempts 1, 2 and 3:

Oh Christmas Tree, Part 1

As per tradition, we found our Christmas tree on the Monday after Thanksgiving. This year, we went to Bill's Farm Market on a very cold, windy day - one of the first of the year.

"This is SO MUCH FUN! I want to touch all the trees. I want to run up and down the aisles. Come on!"
"Hey Berit, let's go! Berit! Berit? Where are you?"

"Hi Mama. This is fun. Trees. Berit's being funny."

"Are you going inside? Are you going to pay? Can I come inside? Where can we go inside? Is it warm inside? Can we stay inside? Do they have candy canes inside?"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Birthday Morning

Scene: Marta's bedroom
Marta just woke up. Trevor and Lisa creep in.
T&L: "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to -- "
Marta: "NOOOOOO BIRTHDAY!" Thrash, wail, yell, scream.
T&L: "Um, happy birthday dear Marta..."
Lisa: "Do you want to go open some presents?"
Marta: "Yes! Good morning!"


THEY HAVE A SWING! Best. Birthday. Ever. Refuses to open more presents.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Momentary Quiet

Hi! Just wanted to drop in and tell the world (a.k.a. my readers, a.k.a. my sister and two of my mom's friends and one devoted college friend) that I'm at a coffee shop by myself. Writing.

Just thought I should preserve this moment in posterity (a.k.a. the internet blog that could blink out at any second and I wouldn't know how to fix it).

At least you four know. Raises empty coffee cup, smiles at weirded-out barista.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It Takes So Little...

Our house on the lake doesn't have a mailbox, so we've purchased a post office box in the village. I originally thought this would be a teensy pain in the butt, because on Cedar Creek we loved running out to the mailbox together to discover the treasures inside. Sometimes, when it was especially cold or snowy, that trip to the end of the driveway was the extent of our outdoor excursions for the day.

I have absolutely fallen in love with the post office box. The post office itself is a small room, really, that is largely unstaffed but is surrounded by P.O. boxes. My secret dream job is to be a mail carrier, walking to each unique house and meticulously emptying my bag as I chat with neighbors and enjoy the outdoors. I would now settle for a small-town mail clerk, I believe, with the room full of different-sized doors and a satisfying angle of letters in each one.

The most exciting part of having a P.O. box in Walloon Lake is that sometimes, after turning the key to your own special room of mail, you might discover another key is waiting for you. This new key has a number on it, and you get to search the room for a bigger P.O. box with the same number and open that, which will have a package in it for you. A package! Behind a locked door! For which you have the key! Which you found in your own little locked box!

Each time this happens to me, I think about the ridiculous amount of joy I feel and wonder how incredibly happy I could make the world if I were able to bottle that excited energy I have while I'm racing around, looking for my treasure chest.

Once, I happened to run in while the post master was working. I had a little card in my box that told me I needed to sign for a piece of mail, so I ran up to the desk and rang the bell. I heard her in the back working on something and so, after waiting three whole seconds, I rang it again. She came out and I'm not kidding, I nearly jumped over the desk and hugged her.

"HI, I'm Lisa Doublestein and I have a P.O. Box rightoverthere and I found this yellow card in it and -"

"Oh yes, box 618?"

"YES, GOOD JOB! That's me! Well, that's me and my husband, Trevor, we just moved here, just for the winter, really, though we're not new in town - well, we're new in the village here but we lived in Petoskey, well my husband actually summered here in the village most of his life - that little pink cottage? On West? I think it's West. You know, that little pink one? Anyway, he also builds on the lake so he's out here all the time, so it's not like we're exactly new. We're staying in a house he built, actually, out on North Shore."

"Hi. My name is Terri, and I'm the post master here."

"Oh GOSH, so good to MEET you Terri. I'm sure we'll be seeing lots and LOTS of each other."

"Mm-hm. I see you with your little ones every now and then."

"YES, we see you, too! That's why I wanted to introduce myself. They're Berit and Marta and sometimes we even see you walking back from lunch, you must love being able to walk home for lunch, we always wave but you didn't know us so I wanted to introduce myself." (Realizing what a complete fool I'm being...) "Um, bye. See you next time."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

So A Priest, A Rabbi and A Railroad Supervisor Walk Into A Bar...

My Grandpa Temerowski died tonight. I am completely certain that the first words out of his mouth when he saw God were some sort of ridiculously inappropriate joke, and that he is probably still laughing at it to himself.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

All I Want For Christmas...

Every now and then, Berit is asked what she wants for Christmas. All along she's said, without fail, a purple sparkly dress with purple sparkly tights and purple sparkly shoes and a purple sparkly crown. We don't know where this comes from, but whatever. Unfortunately, Santa will not be delivering this to her, because when we first started Christmas shopping, we thought this was a passing fancy. Then, to tell the truth, we forgot about it. Now we're feeling like we don't want to buy anything else. The good news is that her Mimi and Grandpa are getting this for her for her birthday in February, so she'll eventually end up with this purple ensemble she's dreaming of.

Marta, on the other hand, just doesn't understand yet that Santa will be bringing gifts on Christmas. But I asked her tonight anyway, since it was a very Christmasy evening and we talked a lot about who's coming to stay with us on Christmas. Here's how it went:

Me: Marta, what would you like Santa to bring you for Christmas?
Marta: Nom-nom-nom eats dinner with a silly look on her face
Me: Would you like Santa to bring you toys or books?
Marta: I want Santa to bring breakfast.

And frankly, if Marta opened a big box full of pancakes on Christmas morning, I think she'd be thrilled.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Too Cute To Correct

Lately Marta has been skipping her naps, and by about 5 p.m. she's slow and glassy-eyed. Every now and then I say, "How're you doing, little one?" And in a quiet, sleepy voice she says, "Mama, I'm lost."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Christmas Spirit

It's rest time at the Doublestein House, and the kids are too wired to sleep. We've had a really exciting two days, what with the mountains of snow, terrifying trips up and down the driveway, school and pick-up (wherein Marta has the Most Fun Of Her Entire Day, because in the tradition of little sisters wanting to be as cool as their big sisters, she thinks school is the epitome of WONDROUS ADVENTURE).

Yesterday after school Trevor took the girls sledding outside (result: Berit crying, SURPRISE!), and then we put on layers and layers and more layers to head downtown for Petoskey's annual Christmas Open House.

The open house is such a fun night. The streets are all closed off and Santa lights the giant Christmas tree, all the shops open up for wandering and goodies and wine or champagne punch, people bring their great burly dogs and the kids are all stiff from their layers, over-sugared and jumping face-first into the snowbanks. The Steel Drum Band plays and there are big pots of bean soup and chili and everyone's skating in the slush and ice down the street, and the fire trucks are lit up like Santa's sleigh.

We began our evening with pizza with our good friends at the Noggin Room, and the four girls all had one of those crazy fun times, where they ran and screamed (whoops) and giggled and felt as if the entire night was All About Them (cue running onto the restaurant's little stage and performing as loudly as possible for all diners made-up Christmas carols) (cue my leaping over chairs and tables to remove them) (cue the dads ordering another round of beer because why should we get them outside?). It was chilly but we were bundled and layered and the kids even took off their mittens to consume candy canes and cookies shaped like candy canes and drinks flavored like candy canes. They sang legitimate Christmas carols and Berit gave a performance of much bottom-shaking and bouncy-squatting during a stretch of upbeat Steel Drum Band songs, much to everyone's candy-fueled delight.

Marta continuously asked, "Where's my car?" in a sad, sleepy voice, and let me know about a thousand times that it was well past her bedtime by bonking her forehead against mine and pressing it there, breathing slowly as if she might just fall asleep that way.

Whenever she's overtired it leads to a restless night's sleep, and she was up from about 1:21 a.m. (you know, roughly) until around 6 a.m. Therefore she's not napping now, and has instead discovered that she can reach the light switch to the little hallway in her room from her crib. On, off, on, off, "THERE! I DID IT! I'M WAKING UP!"

I need nights like last night, I think, because so often I get caught up in the ridiculous snow and cold (which I could say sianara to forever and ever amen) and swear to move downstate or down-continent all winter long. But gathering as a community is so warming and festive, with friends around every corner with their children and dogs and hats and mittens and runny noses, that I feel I couldn't leave Petoskey if I tried.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Little People, Big Questions

Berit has been sleeping sans Pull-Ups for about two weeks now. She begged to do it every night, and I kept putting it off saying, "If you wake up for five mornings in a row with a dry Pull-Up you may wear Big Girls to bed." (Big Girls = underwear.) And do you know what convinced her to not pee at night? A competition. Trevor told her that her cousin, age 5, was still wearing Pull-Ups to bed (we don't even know if this is true, he made it up on the spot) and that Berit could, quote, "BEAT HER" and "WIN."

Berit's not an aggressive gal but boy did she want to win, which makes me secretly a little happy because my side of the family is fraught with rifts over my sister cheating once at Cranium and my mom cheating... all the time at any game she's losing, and so on, so I relish the competition gene's emergence. So anyway, she did it.

Last night was her first accident, and after I changed her sheets and got her new stuffed animals and fluffed her pillows, I left her with Trevor to get her jammies on and I went back to bed. I could still hear them on the monitor, and as I was falling asleep she said, "Daddy, when I'm a grown-up, I'll have a mama belly." Trevor mumbled something in the affirmative and she said, "Daddy, how does a baby get in a mama's belly?" And I was wide awake, willing him to say my right thing that I'd planned to say when she asked me that question.

He changed the subject.

Growing Pains, Smart Assery and Potty Humor

Whenever the girls are unnecessarily cranky, Trevor always says, "They must be growing." Then I groan and stomp and roll my eyes because by then I've been analyzing every word, every morsel of food, every hour slept, every step taken (did they step on a dog whisker? do they have a mystery wound?) trying to decide if I should take them to the doctor.

So when we were at the doctor's office yesterday because Marta had been unnecessarily cranky for a couple of days (and sleepless, and a tiny bit runny-nosed), and when the doctor said, "No ear infection. She looks fine." I thought, "Could this be growing?"

And I have been noticing lots of growing lately. All of a sudden -- literally, in a matter of days or maybe even hours -- Marta has become a Great Big Chunk of a baby (ahem, almost 2-year-old). Her 2T jeans won't button (but need to be rolled up twice at the ankles), her shirts bulge under her belly, her cheeks are gigantic.

Berit, our bird, is suddenly taller. Her 4T jeans that I bought this fall and had to roll and belt are now about a half-inch too short (note that she's not even 4 yet). She's not whisper thin like her cousins but she is a skinny little thing, obviously because she never eats a thing in my presence (grandparents all insist she's a GREAT EATER, but then again, what do grandparents feed children? Candy, candy-flavored cereal, and ice cream, right?).

I've also been realizing every day that the girls have outgrown the learning we've been doing, and I recently called my sister in a half-panic wondering if they're going to fail college because I haven't been on top of learning for the past few months. Yesterday Berit cut up a bunch of paper animals and I cried because I didn't know she could do that. She laughed at me.

(Also yesterday Marta took her own paper animals and colored poop and pee all over their butts, then cracked up. See what I mean about not being on top of learning? Do you see what's happening to their brains?)

It occurred to me that when it comes to teaching kids... I've got nothin'. I don't know what to do with them right now, and I've started researching appropriate learning games online and now I know there's so much that I haven't done with them that I feel a bit like a fake-good mom. Like I've just been going about my stay-at-home business, playing Barbies and blocks and they're happy but their minds are all Poop. Pee. Heh.

I pulled out a couple of old standby projects and Berit had no interest. She literally mopped the floor (counter) with that coffee filter craft I posted last year. And when I asked her what she wanted to make for her grandparents for Christmas, she gave me a look like, "Lady, we buy those kinds of things."

So it looks like we're headed into changes for the new year. Bigger and better learning, along with their bigger and cuter bellies and longer and more kid-like limbs. And I have a feeling that I'll need my video camera on-hand for when they want to teach ME a thing or two.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Green Lantern

When we were little, we typically were given an ornament by our grandparents or our parents each Christmas. I believe it was a tradition with my grandparents, actually, so we have all of these neat ornaments now of whatever we were into at the time -- ballet, cheerleading, porcelain masks (yes), Mary Poppins.

But one year my mom and dad took us to Franks or Michaels or some hobby-type store and let us choose our own ornaments. My sister was maybe six and that would make me nine. I don't remember what I chose, but Andrea picked a green lantern, like the kind you take camping, that was about three inches tall with a rusty brown top and maybe even a spot to put a tree light in the candle part but we never did.

My parents tried to show her other ornaments that would more appropriately suit a six-year-old girl, but she was firm about the lantern. And let me tell you, each year that we hung that lantern, we talked about that story, and about Andrea and her wonderful, positive personality that found a dull camp lantern to be beautiful.

Now 28, she is still that person -- she finds goodness in all and devotes herself almost completely to caring for others. I think, if given the chance, she would pick that green lantern again today. There was something secret about it that was charming to her, that the average person couldn't see. And she picks this out in everyone she meets.

A few weeks ago Trevor mentioned to me that he thought we should get the girls exciting ornaments that they'd like to hang on the Christmas tree this year. At first I was into the idea of Berit opening a ballerina or Cinderella ornament, or Marta ripping apart a box containing a piglet or doggie ornament.

But then I remembered the green lantern, and we decided to let them choose for themselves.

Doublestein Family, November 2009