Friday, April 30, 2010


We have a bird. Berit's named him Bladdy. He lives in a tiny little nest at the top of the column out the front door. He's starting to get used to us, but he doesn't stick around when we go in and out of the door. Hoping to hear the sound of baby birds! Hm. Better revise my pronouns...

Berit, always dramatic, has had this attitude reminiscent of me at age 13. She comes down the stairs in the morning with a look of boredom and slight disdain, accepts the parental hugs and spends the rest of the day telling people what to do, talking back, and getting in trouble for both. Of course she is wonderful, but I do feel like every time she walks into the room lately, things get tense for all. Terrible 4s? Early adolescence?

We finally made a decision about Berit's preschool for next year. We hate to leave PCN, but with the new baby coming and Marta already desperate to go to school herself, we just can't swing the volunteering twice a month per child. We're really excited about St. Francis preschool, which holds afternoon class (no more rushing in the mornings), is within walking distance from the new house and is at our church, so it's super familiar. Berit wants to start today. Because they have My Little Ponies.

What's she doing lately, at nearly 2 1/2? Climbing stairs (up and down), not napping, coming up with I Spy subjects all on her own (so the rest of us have to figure out what she spied), counting backward from 15, counting forward to 20 and sometimes 30, picking out her own clothes, going down the biggest slides, being: fearless, reckless, purposely funny. Every morning she asks, "Can I go to school today?" and when we pick Berit up she asks, "How was school today, Berit?"

Last night was our last swim lesson. It's been going really well -- Berit is losing a lot of fear in the water and is taking chances. She's jumping off the bottom step and is trying to move between grown-ups without help (not quite swimming, but sort of leaping and splashing). Marta swims on a noodle completely on her own and jumps off the top step, provided we don't let her go under too much when we catch her. She stands on the bottom step and puts her head under water up to her eyes for a quick second. She's desperate to just take off in the water. Last night I was standing with another mom, her daughter, Marta and the instructor in the middle of the pool. Marta was on a noodle, and the other little girl asked for the one that was floating next to me. I turned to get it, and when I turned back Marta was sinking to the bottom. I know this happens to kids all the time, and Marta was fine after a second of sputtering when I pulled her out. But this has shaken me to the core. I can't get the image of her, helpless, flailing under the water, out of my head. I also know that this is probably only the first time Marta will scare me crazy with her daredevil stunts, but still. I think I'm a good mom, and if I wasn't paying enough attention, what should I expect from other caregivers, like her sitter and our family? OK, this is definitely extreme, but I can't help freaking out a little about this. If you're someone who cares for Marta, I apologize now for the list of warnings I'm going to give before I leave. Also, for the phone calls making sure all is well.

By the way, Marta was back on the noodle -- standing on it, this time, trying to balance in the water -- within minutes. Oh these children; they have no idea what they do to our hearts.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First Haircut

About a month or two ago I trimmed some of those flyaways from Marta's hair, but this morning was her first official haircut. When it was Berit's first trim there was all this attention about "Oh, you'll be so beautiful" and "Isn't this special?" And this morning we were like, "Oh hey, Marta, want to get your hair cut?" And she said, "Yup." She proceeded to be alternately "whatever" and over it while we were there:

Not accurately portraying the mullet, but still the last picture of her untouched-by-professional-hands hair.

Leaning back for a quick rinse. Doesn't she look like a baby?



"Get this cape off me!"

"Over. It."

Running away.


Snack at Julienne Tomatoes afterwards.

"Ah, food makes me happy."

The Sunshine Painting Crew

Oh right. And these guys. Who come everywhere with us, all the time.

Side note: That shirt Marta's wearing is a really soft, velvety swing top by Zutano that we bought when Berit was one. It's sized 12-18 months, and both girls have worn it ever since we bought it. It has fit in every every season, every size. Paint has come out, food, chocolate. It's amazing. Just thought you'd like to know, from one mom to another. :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Night

On most days you'd have a pretty tough time convincing me to get the house in order before the kids went to bed, and to get said kids into bed waaaay early. Like, 6:30. But tonight is the end of a long, long week -- my grandmother died on Friday, we had company over the weekend, Trevor's cousin has been here all week and the two of them have worked on the Division Street house from sun up to sun down, Berit's preschool conference, checking out potential schools for Marta's extra energy, two pressing deadlines, our final adoption report came in and needed reviewing, we had remodeling loan drama and a dog who might have had cancer (but didn't -- yet still needs surgery). Both girls had colds all week and Marta has been up at least twice every single night for at least the past two weeks. Maybe two months. I don't know.

This is not to say that I'm not thrilled with my existence on this planet, in this house, in this family, in these situations. As my friend Kelly says, I'm just sayin'.

But man, did I ever need tonight. My house was spotless by 5 p.m., the girls bathed and in bed by 6:15. We did our workout together today and even I have been freshly showered since 5. I love this space, this quiet, totally alone. I always have. I rarely do anything during these times besides surf the web and talk to my sister on the phone. I had planned to fold clothes while watching a movie tonight. Not looking good for that. You know, internet and magazines.

Right now, no one needs a decision on a roof color. No one will read anything I write for my deadlines (though I should shouldshouldshouldshould be using this time to write). There is nothing to be faxed, learned, or walked. It's like this closet in the universe where I can sit in the semi-darkness eating peanut butter from the jar and try to work out everything I did, or was supposed to do, this past week. It's also where I swear it'll all get done next week.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Trevor's cousin Chris has been at our house all week, helping Trevor do the dirty work on the Division Street home. Trevor's been so glad to spend the time with his buddy, and I've been so pleased to spend our evenings with Chris, who is genuinely interested in the house. They've found some treasures so far, and Chris even snapped a few pics for us while he was there today.

The entire attic was filled with the oddest assortment of ancient belongings: Beds, teensy, tiny dressers (for grown-ups), metal high chairs, fencing swords, steamer trunks filled with hundred-year-old clothes and shoes. The furniture drawers contain letters, photos and pages from books, and the family name is plated on the back of the dressers, cabinets and vanities. In the basement they found boxes and boxes of French and Chinese china, beer steins, curb feelers for white-walled car tires from the 1950s, antique glass bottles (like, ketchup bottles), and what seemed to be an original Pat the Bunny book. There's even a toilet in the basement, cemented into the floor with a detached tank that hangs on the wall. The inside of the porcelain bowl is painted and carved in intricate detail.

Per our agreement with the seller, all of the belongings need to go into storage so she can look through them and decide what to do with it all. Oh, I wish I could be with her when she discovers each piece and remembers its history.

I may have mentioned before about the little faux panel in the entryway, which looks as if it's part of the woodwork but actually pushes back to reveal a box-like space that'd be perfect for hiding a small child. The guys learned that there used to be one of those elevator chairs up the back staircase, and today Chris pulled away the plastic lining the kitchen walls and revealed a strange rectangular window (see photo) in the wall. It's against the current powder room, which used to be the coat closet. So why the window? Any votes on what it was? We'll be taking that part of the wall out entirely so we'll get a peek into what's above and below it. 

On the roof they found the original shingles, which were red with flecks of blue in a very classic Colonial scheme. They found wood under the kitchen floor and today Chris uncovered part of the upstairs bathroom linoleum and found layers of wood on top of tile that was backed with what looked like tightly woven threads -- like burlap, he said. 

There's the marble sink in one bedroom that is very old -- the seller said she used to watch her grandfather shave there, and it's of the two-fauceted variety, so you have to fill the basin with hot and cold water to make warm. We can't figure out why it'd be in a bedroom upstairs, and the seller didn't know.

Just inside the basement door are two bells -- kind of like old school bells, which have sort of a hammer that clangs against a round bell. Trevor assumed they were old fire alarms, but Chris wondered, after checking out the wires connected to them, if they weren't bells to call the maid. There's also an old laundry chute just outside of the maid's bedroom upstairs that's been boarded and dry-walled over. 

It doesn't seem that the electricity was put in with the house (though the guys did find a few ancient lightbulbs in the basement), because when Chris was pulling the plastic off the walls in the kitchen he noticed that the electric lines were really choppy and wavy and carved into the plaster. The tiles on the front of the fireplace are, according to the guys, several inches thick. They think there used to be another two-way swinging door from the kitchen into the butler's pantry (there is currently one from the butler's pantry to the dining room), and the existing door has a neat foot plate for hands-free opening. 

Four days of treasure hunting. 
So... what's with the window to the back of the closet? Anyone?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Again With The Boobs

Note: We NEVER discuss this part of the body unless someone brings it up. Which is, like, never. Except when I've told you about it. So, maybe, twice. Therefore: Marta has a mind like a steel trap that fondly remembers nursing.

After swim lessons tonight, in the family changing room. I change out of my suit and try quickly to put on my bra and shirt.

Marta: Look. Look at those. Those are breasts.
Trevor: Cracks up.
Me: Yup.
Marta: Can I drink from those?
Trevor: Has morphed into high school sophomore.
Me: Nope.
Marta: I used to drink from those. When I was a baby. I was in your belly and then I drank from those.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Warm Wind

Marta is standing in front of the open window, mesmerized by the lake, her pigtails flipping in the breeze carrying wildly through our hot house.

I got the call today; the answer. It's good news. It's so good, I need to cry but I'm too happy to cry. I'll have to cry later, because I feel like I'm just brimming with tears. Our adoption is on track, everything is fine, there is nothing left to worry about (except, you know, the adoption itself). The girls are safe, my choices are safe, the new baby is safe. Everything, just now, is as it should be.

Marta Speaks

Instead of yes: "Shhhhoooooore!"
And: "Yup-yup."

She has also begun increasing her compliments:
"I LOVE your ears."
"I LOVE your hair."
"I LOVE your whiskers, Daddy."

She started doing this a long time ago to obvious things, like people's scarves and earrings. Now she's simplifying, I guess.

In the car yesterday, on the way to pick Berit up from school:
Marta: "I want my Daddy."
Me: "Daddy's at work, but he'll be home soon."
Marta: "Daddy's SO CUTE! Daddy is my cutie-pie."
Me: "And what's Mama?"
Marta: "Mama is my BEST FRIEND."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Take-Back-Control Yesterday

So, we did the thing. And then we ended it, walked away, said we wouldn't be back for the dozen more (each) we were scheduled to have. After we came home, Trevor and I were both sick about going through with the first one. We felt like we let ourselves down, let our kids down, and we couldn't reconcile it. For us, for ourselves -- not for anyone else, not for any other family. So I don't know where that leaves us, except more sure than ever of our own decisions.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Loss-Of-Control Eve

Tomorrow we're taking the girls, our unsuspecting, happy-to-oblige-this-stop-in-our-day girls, to do something we firmly decided we'd never do. I can't write about it; I will someday, but for now I can't. It's not scary or bad or really that controversial; I just can't write about it because it involves the part of our adoption that's private right now.

The problem is that I can't not write about it. Five years ago we researched, prayed, wavered, then decided a path for our family, and now we're being forced to go a different way. It was nearly a deal-breaker for us on the adoption, as simple as it may seem to some people. It's the forced part of it, I think, that makes it so unsettling.

I have a mantra of "They'll be OK, they'll be OK" running through my head. I won't sleep tonight; last night I had nightmares about it. And really, it's probably no big deal. But it is a big deal, because as a parent you make decisions -- you choose which schools to attend, which shoes to buy. Which food to feed and which dog to own. You pick babysitters and sidewalk chalk and TV shows. And no decisions are ever very simple. The hard ones are really hard. They change lives, for the ones you love the most. So when you make a decision based on research and consideration and pure gut instinct, and then someone comes along and tells you that no, you can't have that choice anymore, you feel like turning your back and saying "forget it then. I'm going back to my life before I knew you."

Oh, but that's not an option, is it? I mean, I suppose it is, but that baby is already in someone's womb, and you've already started loving him or her.

I never thought this would be easy. But I didn't think that adopting a baby would challenge my core values as a parent. Rather, I truly believed this process would enhance them, strengthen them, grow them into a better, more productive set.

I don't think I'll be entirely sure that we're going through with this until it's done. There is a chance I'll pick the girls up at the last minute and excuse us, and then our adoption will be over. I hate to sound so ridiculous, but I feel like stomping my feet and saying, "It's not fair." It's not fair to the girls. It's not fair to be so regular about it, so whatever, after I've spent five years knowing and re-knowing that it's right for us.

Ah, when I write about it (if I have the time and brainpower once the little one is here) you'll laugh and say "Really? Because it sounded much more important than that." So I'm sorry if in the end I sound whiney and silly. But tonight, just before I have to do this, this thing that is apparently the one thing wrong with my parenting skills, the one thing they have to fix before they'll allow me to adopt an orphan, I am feeling whiney indeed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sugar Buzz

On Easter morning the girls found their baskets in good time and, thankfully, asked to be read their new books before discovering the candy. But once they did... we didn't even go bananas on the candy, but I don't believe there were many moments on Sunday without candy being chewed. Church. Yes, church, but that's where they ran it off, so it doesn't count. We let them have at it, the only day of their entire lives when they could make their own call on candy consumption. They didn't hold back.

Marta was absolutely delighted by this little stuffed bunny she received, which makes a funny chirping sound when you squeeze its belly. She quickly took over Berit's, too.

I dare you to find one photo of Easter Sunday where Berit's not eating candy.

First Peep ever.

OK, only photo with Berit not eating candy. It's also the only photo that comes close to an Easter dress picture (poor Marta, didn't even make this one), and we only took it because my mom's been asking to see Berit in this coat.

Egg hunt in the backyard. She's starting to get the hang of it.

Those fairy sleeves kind of make it hard to gather eggs, but she did a fair job.

Spaced. Out.

Just look at her eyes. The sugar has taken over.