Thursday, May 27, 2010

In The Interest Of Saving Lives

Dear Children,
If I die, please take time once each year to go through your father's belongings (being sure to check in all of his closets, shoe boxes and suitcases) and throw out or give away anything that he hasn't noticed in the past 365 days. Truly, this will save you all from sure suffocation when his hoarding in way back spaces causes the walls to cave in.
All my love,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another Check Off The List

I just signed and sealed away our big, hefty middle payment to the adoption agency. It's such a bizarre feeling, to transfer money over in those amounts and count our pennies and feel concerned about affording this. We had to pay for most of Berit's many treatments, tests and medicine out of pocket, and for all of Marta's prenatal care and our entire hospital stay, including delivery. With Berit we were ready, though we didn't know we'd be using our let's-go-on-a-two-week-vacation-whenever-we-feel-like-it-fund for baby stuff. But thank God we had it. With Marta we were still recovering from our first pregnancy's expenses and we were able to handle it, but just.

And when we wrote those checks, we were so filled with anxiety. How would we get back to our ideal place?

We knew how much adoption would cost going in, so there are no surprises. We have had surprises, however, during our home renovation process and it's making our adoption fund exceptionally tight. But still, we know. It's so weird, to be this prepared. It's kind of nice, to have it all out of the way -- God knows we'll have our hands full when the baby's here. And even though it's not fun to send large sums of money away, we're not overly stressed about this. It's not part of an even bigger stressful event, like having a new baby and recovering from delivery (unless you count remodeling a house and living with your in-laws in the meantime).

And while every single day I wonder if we're doing the right thing, the process is so slow and gentle, it's practically fun. Last night we came up with a new name for the baby. You'll just have to be surprised.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Because I'm such a reader myself, I had assumed that Berit would be one, too. And she does love books -- most nights not going to sleep until she's had time to read a stack on her own, after the ones we read together. But I never saw a spark for it, or, let's just be honest, an advanced level of comprehension or ability. Yes, I expected it. She was my first -- I also expected her to wean herself, eat baby food from jars and sleep with predictability.

But tonight, while sitting up in bed reading her stack, she called me. I went in and she pointed to every letter of every word, whether uppercase (which they go over but don't really push in preschool) and lowercase (which they don't do at all), then told me what they spelled. I know she memorized the words, but still. Still. She was so proud of herself, and can't wait to take the book to school and show her teacher.

For the record, the book is Ariel's Friends. Groundbreaking, no. Heart melting, yes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Findings From Division Street

In the basement:
There's a square about the same size as the kitchen above it -- roughly 10x10 -- made from two outside walls and two 6-foot walls of stone and concrete. It was used as a cistern, with several pipes coming in from the eaves of the house, and a water level line all around, so we know it was well-used.

Confirmation from a woman who worked for the family that:
There was an elevator
The owner enjoyed pound cake (helpful)
The lady of the house died there

The ramp out front, a few doors down, was part of a rail system to take luggage from the trains at the station up the hills to the homes.

Behind a shelf in the master bedroom closet:
Flat cardboard butter packaging, with "Margaret Christopher, New York" written in cursive on the blank side
Petoskey State Bank deposit slips
A bridge score card, with an advertisement for "premium drinking water" in cans that look like beer on it.

The house used to be very dark greenish-brown.

New news:
Windows were delivered today.
The great color debate rages on.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Take Note

This is the baby
Who went pee-pee on the potty for the first time today.

She is very proud.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Marta Speaks

Upon waking this morning:

"I'm going to get a tattoo of a cow on my belly. No, a horse."

And when Trevor put a blue shirt on:

"Daddy! That's a cool sweatshirt.... Cool, dude."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Berit's "Best Night Ever."

Last night, as we were running through a parking garage, Berit said, "Mom, this is my favorite part of the night."

We were singing "Let's go to the movies..." from the movie Annie while we ran from our car to DeVos Hall, where we were to see The Lord of the Dance.

Berit has long been enamored with Irish dancing, ever since she saw it on a kids' program. She's tried doing it for the past year or so in the living room, and routinely asks when she'll learn. Our local program starts the kids at 5, so she's waiting. She claims to love it even more than ballet.

So when I saw that Grand Rapids was hosting The Lord of the Dance, I bought tickets. It was exactly how I hoped it would be, and instead of watching the show, I watched her face. It wasn't just that she was enthralled, caught up, totally into it. She was at home. I had wondered if she'd be aching to dance on the sidelines or would be over it in about an hour, but she sat on my lap, spine straight up, never relaxing, just... existing with it. Not exclaiming (though there were questions, as I had invented a storyline to explain the "pirates" and the hooded figures holding torches and the fight scenes), not moving her feet (though she did try, once, to move them as quickly as the show's star and realized that, of course she can). She just sat up, for two hours, and studied everything.

There were two bits of comic relief. When a singer came onstage in a long evening gown, Berit was enchanted by her air of loveliness (though the singing? Oddly not great) and during a pause in her song, when the room was completely quiet, she said loudly, "Her lips are as red as a rose!"

And later, during a STRIPTEASE, the girls tore off their dresses to reveal black undergarments and another lull in music carried my motherly "Oh MY" right through the hall.

Afterward in the car, when I asked if she wanted to watch a movie as we started our long drive home, she first requested Sleeping Beauty (which she insists we call "Aurora") but then decided she didn't want anything with scary people and asked for Mary Poppins. I said, "Are you feeling a little silly inside from the pirates?" And she said "Yes, that really is how I feel." And later, "Mom, I'm still feeling silly from those pirates." So we talked about the dancers, how one stuck his tongue out to prove he was really pretending, how at the end they took their masks off and danced and laughed. Then she was OK and went to sleep.

The real gem of the night, though, didn't happen at the show. It was the turnout beforehand, at dinner. My family will think I'm the one being silly but when they met us for dinner -- my whole family, my mom and dad, brother and sister -- I was completely touched. I live three hours away, and they all live within an hour of one another. I miss them terribly. Knowing that they would all get together just because I came to town for a few hours was so important. They fawned over Berit of course, and I talked too loudly and made stupid jokes to cover how weepy I felt by having everyone together, all dressed lovely for a special dinner. I know they go out for fancy nights and it's not a big deal, but it was for me. I don't do that these days. I don't get dressed up, order appetizers and desserts and cocktails and have people put napkins on my lap. I show up and ask my dad for some cash for the parking garage, that's what I do. And I could, because he was there and my dad, not three hours away. Oh this is funny and stupid, but I've got tears writing it. Maybe some of you will understand. There's just something about knowing your family is there. Anyway.

Berit fell asleep at midnight, and while she slept in her carseat, she sang.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Packing, Again

We are... in transition.

We have to move out of the Lake House this month. Where we'll go, we're not sure. We had planned to live with Trevor's parents for the few months it'll take to get into the new house, but we've been considering renting a house from friends a few blocks from the remodel. I love this idea, as it'll keep us where we want to be (downtown, and just a stroller ride from Trevor, who'll spend every extra second at the new house, and we'll miss him), but it's not free and I know that makes a difference. Especially since our summer jobs have recently morphed into fall jobs (which is not making the remodel any smoother, let me just mention).

So we don't exactly know where we're going, but we do know that it's another temporary living space. I'm not that kind of girl, so every night as I pack one more portion of we-won't-need-this-for-awhile stuff, I talk really quickly to Trevor, wringing my hands and darting looks around like I'm a confused preteen.

So I've scheduled trips for practically every weekend; I'm pretty sure it's some psychological effort to run away from the impending move into uncertainty. I should be planning trips for June, July and August, to keep us busy while Trevor works on the house and to be independent from the in-laws' house (assuming we do live there; of course we love them and they love us, but anyone would get tired of having an entire family living in their house for that long).

Trevor has taken the girls to the park so that I can work on packing, but I wish I were with them instead (another effort to pretend we're not moving again). Marta keeps asking if we can go "home to the Cedar Creek house," and Berit comes up with stories all the time about what we did there and how much she loved it. I miss it; I miss the girls having their own rooms with their own beds and their own things (even if the furnishings here are far more lovely that anything we'll be able to afford for at least another decade). I miss the security of knowing what was ours, and what we could do with it. I don't like hiring cleaning people to sweep up behind us as if we were never here.

The thing is that we are so lucky to be moving on, to have been here, to have places to go, that it seems wrong to feel strange about it. It's just the children, that's all. I want their lives to be flawless, to never know adjustment or change, though I get it that those things make them into better big people. I know we're lucky that this is all we have to worry about. We are infinitely blessed, and looking at the dark side just makes it easier to do what I want to do today -- be with the kids at the park instead of packing, for instance.

Anyway, onward and upward (or somewhere, at least). And clean sweeps behind us to make room for messy little girl bedrooms ahead.