stopping by the woods

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Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   
 
 
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My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   
 
 
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He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   
 
 
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The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
 
- Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost
 
 
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it wasn't a snowy evening, but rather a snowy sunday.
 
seven or eight beautiful, fluffy inches fell through the morning, and then the sun came out and warmed the day to sparkling brilliance.
 
overnight, the temperature fell, fog formed, and when i woke this morning at 6:30, there was a glorious layer of rime ice on everything.
 
 
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i got harper off to school, threw on clothes, boots, hat, scarf, gloves and coat, grabbed my camera, and went for a walk through my neighborhood in the brisk 5° air.
 
it was quiet, the trees were magical, and i took an hour to just be silent in the world.
 
my nostrils froze, my legs burned from the cold, my fingertips needed to be warmed after every shot, but it was all just what i needed to start this week in a much better head space.
 
 
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sometimes, even when everything is awful, the universe reminds you that life is beautiful, and this world is full of amazing things.
 
 
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we need to appreciate it, soak it in, and fight like hell to keep it that way.
 
 
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2020 game plan

it's january, in all of its first-page-of-a-new-notebook, fresh-blanket-of-snow, we-haven't-screwed-it-up-yet glory. we've recovered from a marathon three weeks of my husband's pto and the holidays and a quick visit from family. kids are back at school, christmas decorations are put away, shelves are freshly dusted, and it's now time to start the new calendar and to do lists for the coming year.

i'm resolving/intending/going to try to be better about sharing our projects. if i had staff or house cleaners or someone other than me trying to keep every ball in the air, it might be easier to bring a project to completion, clean, and photograph it. instead, i get 85% of the way there, realize i need to catch up on everything i neglected while doing the project, decide i can finish the details later, then we have to live in the space so it gets messed up, then there's never again time to brush off the last crumbs and make it look photo-worthy in the small window of time available between Doing The Work and Family Re-Invading.

like harper's room. remember when i finally got around to redoing that? (two and a half years ago.) i never shared pictures because of one unfinished thing: hemming the curtains. since then, things in the room have changed here and there, my daughter is ... not neat ... so it's never clean enough to photograph, and i gave up. but this year, i'm gonna deal with those curtains and show you the final project because it turned out pretty cute.

 

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and then there's my craft room. i teased it back in april, actually got it mostly done right away, but then dragged my feet on putting away the final stack of stuff that i really didn't know where to put ... so the room has never been officially finished. another build up and then ignore.

 

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and last summer, a whole patio situation happened.

 

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and nothing about it at all.

and this! what is this?

 

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i have so much to share.

up until this house, our MO was to move every seven years. we are now in the ninth year in the home we built, the home which we swore would be long-term ... and we're getting the itch. so instead of scratching the itch by moving, we'll scratch by doing some big-ish projects that either bring the vision we had back in 2011 more into focus, or update a room for our 2020 needs. in the spirit of that and january, and in the hopes that putting it in writing will keep us accountable, here is our punch list of 2020 house plans:

 

finishing touches

we have one or two things left on the list to cross off before these project can be declared DONE (until we get itchy again): marc's office, my craft room, the mudroom (need to hang some art), harper's room (hem those curtains, hang her high school swim team photos), our bedroom (curtains in 2020!).

 

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slighty more than minor tweaks:

tv room: this room will get an unintentional little update. we sold the keyboard (after harper got fired for the second time by a piano teacher, we realized the keyboard was neither useful nor beautiful), so now there is an empty corner in the tv room. i'm pretty sure i know what to do with it, but it will require a piece of furniture bought, another piece to be built ... which will likely cause us to re-paint the room, and there's a solid chance i'll choose to replace the rug, too.

storage: cleaning everything out of at least three closets this year and installing intentional storage solutions. and then putting nothing back in that we don't absolutely need to keep.

 

major-ish projects:

kids' bathroom: not a full-on reno, but we need to replace the sink, and that will trickle across the room to new fixtures in the shower. maybe more bead board while we're at it? and i'd love to have a light tube or two installed ... anyone have experience with those? do they really let in good natural light?

main bathroom: this bathroom has been on my hit list for awhile. like, for five years. i longed for the parakeet wallpaper for so long, before my husband gave me a not so subtle, "i'd rather you didn't." i've finally found a wallpaper he can get on board with, and we plan to replace the counter top, sink, lights ... mirror and faucet and shower fixtures are not ruled out. unfortunately, this project gets kicked down the road every time an unexpected expense pops up. (hello, trump tax bill, with cost us about as much as henry's college tuition this year. first time we've owed EVER. f*cking trump. but i digress ... )

 

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guest room: this project is the lowest priority, but i want it in the realm of possibility just in case. we really haven't done anything with either guest room since moving in, other than switch up the bedding on occasion. i would very much like to finish the basement guest room this year. ideas are always percolating. just need to make one stick and run with it.

 

and that's it. our big 2020 to do list. we're motivated, and are excited to feel like we have really moved in and made this home everything we always meant it to be.


if you give a husband PTO days

you've heard of if you give a mouse a cookie, i'm sure. it's a classic cautionary tale: one cookie, and things spiral.

well, i've written a new version, based entirely on actual events.

 

IF YOU GIVE A HUSBAND PTO DAYS

 

if you give a husband pto days a week before christmas, he's going to decide to rearrange his office.

 

if he decides to rearrange his office, all of the contents of the office will come out of the room and go all over your basement.

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if everything comes out of the office and goes all over the basement, the husband will then decide to dismantle his desk, shelves, lights, etc.

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if he decides to dismantle everything, the room will be empty.

 

if the room is empty, he will see how dirty the carpet is.

 

if he sees how dirty the carpet is, he will call zerorez and schedule them to come the next day to clean the carpet.

 

if they come the next day to clean the carpet, they're going to have to clean something else too, because they won't clean just one room.

 

if they won't clean just one room, now you have to drop everything to clear out and clean three bathrooms so zerorez can clean the grout.

 

if they clean the grout, you might as well re-seal all the grout, because now it's clean.

 

if you have to re-seal all the grout, you might as well re-color the grout in two bathrooms, because the white grout has bugged the shit out of you for eight years.

 

if you have to re-color the grout, you have to wait three days for dove gray to be back in stock.

 

if you have to wait three days, you won't be twiddling your thumbs, because remember that office? it needs to be painted ASAP, and you're the person who does the painting.

 

if you're the person who does the painting, you spend the next two days prepping, priming, painting, AND painting an accent wall, just to add a challenge.

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if you do all the painting, your husband will run to ikea twice and build new cabinets and paint all of the legs of his desk and wrap all four desktops with carbon fiber because, geek.

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if he does all that building, he can then use his remaining PTO to put the office back together.

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if he puts his office back together, you will decide the heck with waiting three days for dove gray, you make the executive decision to use black because it's in stock, and you spend the rest of the week lying on bathroom floors, re-coloring and scrubbing grout, and cursing your lot in life as The Person Who Does This.

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if you're that person, and your husband is on PTO, and christmas is now only days away, and your first born is coming home this very night for winter break, you might as well paint the mudroom and replace the light while you're at it, because you are insane.

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and if you're insane, you might just start to drop paint brushes and paint rollers and fall off the ladder because your hands no longer grip after seven days of holding a paint brush.

and you'll start to rue the day your husband decided to take the week before christmas as pto.


that time when we planned spring break in three days

we did something insane about a month ago, and i'm beyond glad we did.

my husband was in florida for a week for work, and as we were talking on wednesday evening, i lamented that spring break was starting on friday, and i was feeling bummed that we didn't think about harper and i meeting him for a couple of days at the end of his trip. something little, just to get away and get a little sun. i hadn't thought anything of yet another spring break at home, but then all of the pictures started to appear of friends on the beach with their family, and regret took over me that we hadn't ever prioritized spring breaks with our kids. sure, we took them to puerto rico once, and washington, dc once. and two years ago we all went to florida for a couple of days as a family before we left henry there with his team to swim at junior nationals. but that was pretty much it. and now he is out of the house and in college, the opportunity to go as a family had passed, and the number of spring breaks left with harp at home can be counted on one hand. and it started to really weigh on me that we hadn't done a better job of making the time and effort to get away more often.

first world problems, i know, but i was still sad. it might have been more the realization the the time of family vacations was gone, our kids are no longer little, it all want too fast, and the sadness of lost opportunity was nostalgia in disguise. whatever the reason, i was feeling it hard.

about two hours after we talked, he called me back and said, "what do you think about going to belize on sunday?"

i believe my initial response was, "belize belize? right. sure. we'll just go to belize." but then i asked why belize. turns out, once i told him how i was feeling about the spring break thing, he realized he felt kind of bad about it, too, so he started to look into last-minute trip deals and found one on delta that was too good to pass up. he suggested a week, and i told him harp had homework that was due right after spring break, so maybe four days would be good enough.

and we did it. he clicked "buy" and we just did it.

there were about five minutes of panicked "what did we just do??" but then 5 a.m. sunday morning came around, and we were on a plane. and a few hours later, after switching planes in atlanta, harper poked me in the arm and showed me a picture she took out the window: we were flying over the yucatan peninsula, and it looked like heaven.

 

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we followed the flight path on the seat monitors, and then harper would take a picture of where we were. cancun ... tulum ... chetumal ... and then belize.

 

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the tropical air hit us as we came off the plane, and it felt so right that we had made this crazy decision.

we stood in line to go through immigration and customs, then tried to find the representative for the connecting flight to ambergris caye, the island where we would stay for the next three days. it look about an hour to get that all sorted out ... because we'd planned so last-minute, our names weren't on the list for passengers needing to fly to the island. no sweat ... we were there, and it would all be fine, and life was good. the representative found our information and took us to the smaller terminal where our flight out would leave in an hour. we ate some fantastic jerk patties, and looked at some maps of where we were going and what we might like to do.

then marc was handed our boarding passes for the island plane, and he sheepishly told me, "oh ... i forgot to tell you: we take a pretty small plane to the island." and then he showed me a boarding pass that looked less like a boarding pass than a raffle ticket.

 

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as excited as he was about the idea of a "smaller plane," i knew the plane had to be pretty small for a ticket that homemade. i didn't freak out. i chose to trust that we were going to have an amazing three days and not die.

and then it was time to board the little plane, with eight other people who were also not going to die.

 

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it wasn't my favorite thing in the world, but it also wasn't nearly as bad as i feared. and the view was just beautiful the whole way to the island. i kept looking back at harp; her eyes never left the window, except for the one time when she looked at me with a huge grin and said, "i've always wanted to see water this blue!"

oh, my heart. this is why we're on this crazy last-minute trip.

after landing, there was one more short leg - the shuttle bus to the coco beach resort, which took the scenic route through san pedro, the largest town on the island, and the inspiration for madonna's "la isla bonita." san pedro looked full of things we wanted to see and explore and food we wanted to try.

but then we got to the resort, got to our "room" ... which was actually - to our surprise and delight - the top floor of a villa, with two bedrooms, a kitchenette, bathroom, living room, and balcony overlooking the resort ... and we were so happy there that we pretty much never left.

we vacationed our freaking brains out.

 

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that first day, as soon as we were checked in, we threw on our suits and headed to the pool. there was a smaller pool at the front of the resort, with graded edges that sloped into the water like a shoreline. we laid ourselves down on the edge and fought the urge to take a nap right then and there. but then we got hungry, so we took ourselves to the swim-up bar and ordered sandwiches and fries, and i got myself a rum drink.

we were giddy, and so relaxed.

we spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool. around 5:30 p.m., we went back to the room to shower and figure out what we wanted to do for dinner. but then harper fell asleep in her bed, and before it was even 7 p.m., marc and i agreed that she had the right idea. we all went to sleep without dinner.

monday morning, i was up early, but not quite early enough for the sunrise. the light over the resort was so beautiful - shades of blush and peach and lavender touching everything - that i promised myself i would get up to watch the sun rise over the ocean the next day. we again spent the bulk of our day in the pool, and again got sandwiches at the cafe by the pool. after lunch, we siesta'd in the room ... took naps, read, sat on the balcony and enjoyed the warmth. in the afternoon, more swimming ... more eating. harper ate four fish sandwiches in two days. we did literally nothing but swim and eat and rest all day long, and it was exactly what we all needed.

the next morning, day two of our stay, my alarm went off at 5:15 a.m., and i snuck out of the room and walked down to the beach. the resort was quiet ... no kids screaming in the pool, no reggae music coming from the cafe. the hotel staff was raking the sand and picking up loose palm branches and leaves and quietly skimming the pool. i walked to the beach, then out onto the end of the resort's dock to wait for the sun to come up. there was a cool breeze, and it was all so gloriously peaceful.

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once the sun was up, i went back to the room to read on the balcony until the other two were awake. we got some breakfast, then ... that's right ... back to the pool. an hour or so later, harper and i found ourselves in a water aerobics class with four retired americans who now live at the resort. we giggled our way through an hour of of exercises, getting stern looks from the russian instructor who seemed to not realize it was much easier for her to do the moves on land than it was for us in the water, buoyed by a noodle. harper and i were apparently not taking it seriously enough.

after the class, the retirees hung out awhile longer and we started to chat with them. they recommended a lunch place about two blocks down the road from the resort, so we opted to try that for lunch.

it was amazing how much hotter it got once we were away from the breeze off the ocean. we were sweaty by the time we'd gone to the two blocks to the tipsy lobster. but we sat at a picnic table under a thatched umbrella, and after we'd ordered conch fritters and more fish for lunch, the owner came over and asked if we wanted to see the alligators while we were waiting.

turns out, the tipsy lobster backs up to the lagoon, and most of the time there is an alligator or three chilling out by the bamboo fence. given the fact that the owners of the restaurant throw food to the alligators, it isn't such a surprise that they were so easy to find.

 

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after lunch, i was feeling the need to get out of the sun, but marc and harper decided to utilize the resort's kayaks and go for a paddle. for awhile, they stayed near the shore, paddling past other docks and underneath them, where they found lots of fish hiding out.

 

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but then they started to head out toward open ocean. they got smaller ... and smaller ... and smaller ... until they were just a dot, near a buoy a mile offshore.

 

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i began to wonder if i would ever see them again or if that was it ... they were just gone now. eventually, i gave up waiting for them and walked back to the pool area. an hour later, i went back to the beach to see if i could see them; in all honesty, i was getting a little mad that marc was not thinking about harper's skin and the sunburn she was going to have when they finally decided to come back.

they eventually returned, and i got to hear all about how they got out past the sand bar, where the water got so clear that they could see all the way to the bottom. they saw a ray swimming along the sea floor, and they both got out of the kayak for awhile at the buoy so they could swim and cool off. they had a great adventure, but were hot and tired and ready to jump in the pool.

(there is a theme to the first two days we were in belize, and that theme is "we rarely left the pool.")

that evening, we decided to try the restaurant at the resort and give ourselves a break from the sandwiches. but harper had gotten too much sun (yeah. i know.) and felt pretty crummy. so we sent her to bed and promised to bring back something for her to eat. then marc and i realized: date night! we opted to eat outside, under the patio lights, with the breeze blowing the tablecloth and the palm branches overhead. it all worked out quite well.

wednesday was our big adventure day. while there are a million things in belize that we would have loved to do, in the end we opted to just relax for the three short days we had and not go too far. but on wednesday, we took a four-hour boat excursion to the hol chan marine reserve and shark-ray alley.

after breakfast, we walked down the beach to the dock from which our boat would leave. we got there early enough to kill some time - what else - relaxing on some hammocks.

 

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then the boat arrived, and we all boarded, carrying our snorkels and fins and masks. we sped several miles south, to the marine reserve, where we donned our gear, splashed into the ocean, and immersed ourselves in part of the second largest barrier reef in the world.

all of the people on the boat were divided into three smaller groups, and each group had a guide who would lead us around, pointing out the sea life below us, and sometimes diving into crevices and small caves to chase out a creature. we were able to see so many kinds of beautiful fish, including a sweet-faced puffer and a fierce looking barracuda, three different species of ray, a moray eel ... too many things to remember.

we had handed harper the underwater camera and let her go to town, but i wish i'd had a camera of my own. i would have recorded the sight of her listening intently to the guide, then diving below the surface to see where he was pointing, then pointing nose-first toward the fish and swimming down to get as close as she could.

mama's little pisces.

and she got some great pictures.

 

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after quite awhile in the water, we climbed back on the boat and went another 15 minutes out, to shark-ray alley. there, the guides chummed the water on one side of the boat while we all dove off the other side. then we swam quickly around the back of the boat ... and there were hundreds of horse-eyed jacks, nurse sharks, and rays, swimming all over each other to get at the snack.

 

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and there was my girl, just diving into the melee, chasing after the sharks to get the picture.

 

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sadly, our adventure was over all too quickly and the boat took us back to the beach. i think we would have loved to spend the rest of the day out there, swimming happily, one with the fish.

but we did have the rest of the afternoon to ... shocker ... go back to the pool for a little while longer. i wandered around and took more pictures of the surroundings; the whole resort was not that big, but it was all so lovely.

 

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we took harper to the restaurant for dinner, since she'd missed out the night before. we ate inside this time, and were impressed by how lovely it was. apparently, we were early diners, because we were the only people in the place. harper and i both got fish, and marc got a filet flambe, and it flambeed like crazy.

 

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and then that was it. we took one last walk on the beach, and then it was time to pack up and go to bed. we had another long travel day ahead of us.

 

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it was hard to leave after only three days, and there are so many more things we would have liked to do. we decided that we will go back someday soon, and plan a longer trip that is mostly on the mainland. but we'll fit in a couple of days on the island, too, because it was just so beautiful and relaxing.

i'm not usually good with spontaneity, but it felt truly wonderful to just say "YES!" and throw clothes in a bag and go. i look forward to the next last-minute adventure, because it was magical in so many ways.


a new project | the craft room(s)

after nearly eight years of sharing an art room with my brilliantly talented daughter, we are both moving into our own spaces. actually, it's more of a "purge, clean, retrofit, and consciously uncouple" from the original craft room.

 

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(OMG how cute and little was she seven and a half years ago??)

when we moved in, we arranged the craft room into a space where harp and i could both work. i had grand notions of quiet days spent creating together. but like much of motherhood, the reality doesn't exactly match the daydream. harper is a bit of a slob (and by "bit" i mean omg so much slobbing!), and her part of the craft room is mainly drawers and bins of crafts she has abandoned over the years. there are also remains of the last few projects she's started, then ignored, then pushed out of the way on her desktop, creating sedimentary layers of ideas with which she became bored then moved on. the floor under her desk is a minefield of perler beads and bits of fabric and the occasional earring wire.

the solution seemed obvious: the loft space upstairs. initially, the space was for both kids' computer desks. now that henry is out of the house nine months of the year, it makes more sense for his computer to be in his room, which frees up the loft for harper's art takeover.

she is fine-tuning her interests toward graphic art and pencil sketching, and has big plans to try her hand at doll makeovers, with some latent interest in felting and clay. she needs more desktop space and access to her computer in her art space. what she doesn't need are all the drawers for all the craft supplies she's collected over the years. time for the outgrown media to find a new home, and to streamline her space into the things she loves and wants to do.

 

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this weekend i'm going to give the walls of the loft a fresh coat of paint, then we'll get intentional storage installed on the wall and make her area perfectly suited to her needs.

which frees up the current craft room for me to stretch out my arms and embrace as my own space.

and ... just for a sec ... my. own. space. the kids each have their own room. marc has his office (and, inadvertently, the entire basement). but i've always shared space. and now? i get a whole room just for me. things will stay where i put them. i don't have to work around someone else's space and needs. it will be my own. and i can't wait.

once harper's stuff is moved out, the remaining components will be reconfigured. we're planning to work around existing shelves because we're lazy and don't want to fill holes and repaint and re-level and re-drill, but the layout of the moveable parts will change.

the existing ikea alex drawers will remain, and will provide the foundation for the entire back wall of the room. however, that is all that will remain the same. here's where the rest of the room will go:

 

Craftroom

currently, there is an 8x10 red rag rug in the space that was recycled from its life in the sun room of our last house. it's been fine, but the red isn't my favorite. it has worked this long because of the red vintage metal gym locker with wire baskets that's in the room, but that's getting a coat of olive green paint. so the red rug goes. in its place will be these tiles from flor, in the colorway "smoke."

 

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three boxes of these tiles have been sitting in my garage for three weeks. it's time for them to see the light of day.

also taking up real estate in our garage for months is the campaign desk from world market.

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i bought it months ago, during a great online sale, thinking this project would get done sooner rather than later. well, sooner didn't happen, so now it's later.

the biggest splurge for the room is this amazing ceiling light from neiman marcus.

 

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i planned all the things in the room to work with the existing light - an ikea maskros pendant that i customized by painting all the elements silver and gluing pale green plastic dessert cups to each flower.

 

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i sat in our previous home's dining room for hours, painstakingly trimming each flower petal and painting everything. and i love it so much. but the light it gives off just isn't bright enough for crafting or arting of any kind. i hope to find it a nice home, but it's time for something more substantial.

and that capiz shell-covered, three-tiered, scalloped beauty holds three light bulbs. that sounds sufficiently substantial to me.

a new desk chair, shelving unit (yes, more ikea), a lamp stolen from the entryway (which means i'm on the hunt for a new lamp for that spot), and some baskets and storage will finish it off.

i'm giddy. and i'm antsy. i want it done now. but first thing first: get harp moved and settled. hopefully, that will be done within the next week or two, and my space will be fully put together before may is over.

it will feel so nice to scratch two things off the "to do" list! about as nice as having my own room ... have i mentioned that i'll have my own room?


celebrating what was and what is to come

this update is way overdue. but wow ... how fast does time fly?

one year ago, i was in the midst of stressing about when the deck would be finished, planning a graduation party, and coping with all of the emotional trauma that goes along with your first little bird leaving the nest. looking back, it was one big blur from march to august. it can't be overstated how quickly a child's last year of high school goes, and how lightning fast their last month of school is. prom was in april, dual enrollment classes ended in may, he graduated in june and left for college in august. it went faster than any four months of life have ever gone.

i'm grateful he and his girlfriend let me take way too many pictures for prom ... there's a very good chance it's the only prom i'll get. henry didn't go his junior year, and this year his girlfriend doesn't want to go to her prom. so ... one. (jury is still out on whether harper will ever choose to get dressed up and go to a school event. if you ask her now? nope. never.)

i'm doubly glad, in hindsight, that they looked happy and gorgeous and excited last year.

 

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the day of graduation came, with rain in the morning and threats of rain in the evening. but the clouds cleared and it was a beautiful, perfect night. somehow, i made it through the whole event without shedding a single tear. if i'm honest, though, i totally lost it earlier in the day while taking pictures of henry in his cap and gown, and harper lost it after graduation, which about made me lose it.

 

 

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the deck was finished mere days before family descended for graduation. it was stressful right up to the end, especially with ongoing issues with the door that still aren't perfectly resolved. the furniture for the deck was actually IN our house until just days before the party, which made it hard to clean around. but it all worked out at the last minute ...

 

... and then the day of the party arrived, and it poured all. day. long.

 

 

the tent and tables and chairs we'd rented for the backyard sat unused in the downpour. the screened room, where all the food was going to go, sat filled with folding chairs so we could get some of the people out of the house. the sign and balloon we put at the end of the driveway were beaten down by the rain, and laid all sad and soggy on the yard. just before people started to arrive, the deluge lightened to a drizzle, but it was too late to save any outdoor plans.

at the end of the day, more than 150 people filtered through our house over the course of three hours. many stayed longer. some stayed longer still. when henry's buddies arrived, they grabbed plates of food and headed to the basement to play video games. i had no idea at the time that they did that, but when i heard about it, i was tickled that they all felt enough at home to take that initiative. one hot dog full of ketchup got dropped on the white living room rug within the first 15 minutes of the party, but my mom (super stain master) was here and quietly took care of it. we ran out of food an hour in (how do you prepare food when you invite more than 100 people and get 11 rsvps??), but my wonderful sister-in-law and mom made emergency runs to the store. it was a madhouse, and i know i didn't get to talk to everyone who came, and i didn't take a single picture during the party, but it all worked out in the end and everyone seemed to have a great time. we literally could not have pulled it off without my parents, marc's parents, and his sister. even harper and our niece jumped in and helped with decoration and treats. it was an all-hands-on-deck moment, and all the hands were so appreciated.

 

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and then it was over. prom ... graduation ... the party ... all done. he was again a lifeguard for the summer, again swam on relays that got age group state records, spent time with his friends, went dorm room shopping with his buddy/roommate. then august arrived, and we drove him to south dakota and left him there to start the next phase of his life.

over the past nine months, he has excelled in the classroom (dean's list with a double major: political science and spanish, in the honors program, started his freshman year with enough credits to be a sophomore), in the pool (he was just named most improved for the season at the team banquet), and as an emerging adult. i'm not a horn-tooter for myself, and i don't want to sound braggy about my kid, but here's the deal: this is all stuff that is just true about him, and i didn't have to pay anyone half a million dollars to make it so. i continue to be amazed by the young man his dad and i created. i wish we could take credit, but he's just a freaking special human being.

his freshman year of school will be done within the next three weeks, and he will again be under our roof for three months. i can't wait. i know summer break will look different because now he's an adult and used to autonomy. but i also know our time with him at home is waning. i'll take what i get, and will be grateful to have both of my little birds home for three months. because now i know how fast three months ... or a year ... can go.


2019: the year of trying this again

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fresh year, fresh start.

2018 was friggin.in.sane. one million percent. and i have so much to share and catch up on ... so the big question is: will i?

i plan to share some little trips we've taken, and henry's graduation and grad party ... because that was high level crazy. it's so weird to think that when i started to keep track of thoughts and memories in blog form, my kiddos were little, and now one is in college and the other is filling out her high school registration.

and yet, i'm still 35. go figure.

i have been spending a lot of time in reflection lately, trying to figure out the direction my life will take in the next five years, at which point i will send kiddo no. 2 into the world (and kiddo no. 1 will have graduated from college ... wtf.) and figure out my new place in it. i've been writing more (quietly, for myself), reading more, purging more (my definition of what sparks joy might be a little too forgiving, but i'm doing it my way), doing fewer things with more intention.

there are some potential changes on the horizon that have us in "wait and see" mode. we've been in the "new house" for seven and a half years now (holy crap how did THAT happen) so we're now in the stage of making changes and updates.

oh: and i left you hanging on the screened-room. it was "done enough" a week before the grad party ... i'll finish that story later. right now, the furniture is under covers and snow. but it was nice for a few months.

 

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i can't wait to enjoy it for a full spring and summer. we plan to get the patio and fire pit done in the spring, and then we might finally be able to hang out in an outdoor space. fingers crossed we can get a few evenings in before the mosquitoes become rabid and inescapable.

so i'm back. let's see how it goes.

 

 


have you played with this yet?

(first of all ... yes, i still exist. i have no idea where the last eight months of my life have gone. between building the screened porch/deck, getting through graduation and the graduation party, summer, getting ready to move the big kid to school next week ... i've been living in a state of perpetual Keep Up!! and Do Family Things!! and GAH! DENIAL!! september will be a major life/heart/routine/goal-setting re-set, and i hope that means the blog will finally get some attention.)

anyway ...

have you seen the corian design moodboard maker?? it's way fun to play around with and daydream about new spaces and styles. not that i'm creating any new spaces in the immediate future, but a facelift of the main floor bathroom IS on deck at some point ...

to play, you first select a "mood" that best fits your style and personality - organic, minimal, relaxed, modern, refined, bohemian, and edgy. once you select one, you are taken to a page with a list of corian's countertop options, and a shape to which you can drag and drop your favorites. you don't have to fill every space, because on the next page you get to select elements that illustrate your style, and fit them into the shape to complete the mood board. each design style has different images to choose from, and i found that my closest style falls somewhere in the relaxed/minimal/organic range. interestingly enough, i ended up selecting nearly the same countertops for each style.

 

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it really does help to see the images associated with each style. i'm much more drawn to water, moody shades of black and gray, and cool natural elements than warm colors and soft textures. and i tried real hard to come up with a modern mood board - my husband really wants to live in a modern home someday, and try as i might, i have a really tough time with his version of modern: hard lines, dark rooms, sleek surfaces. hopefully that bridge to cross is a long way off.

it was also interesting to note that i'm more drawn to veining than speckles or aggregate texture. i tend toward trypophobia, so that actually makes sense. the fact that corian's version of soapstone was on all three of my design boards was a great validation that we did the right thing in our kitchen.

go play. it's a fun exercise. and you might be surprised by your choices, or you might have your preferences reinforced. either way, it's both useful and enlightening!


when the world goes to hell ...

you throw caution to the wind and build a deck.

or, at least, that's our attitude.

when we moved in six and a half  years ago,

(and ... okay ... just for a minute: our first house was lovely, but at the seven year mark we knew it was time to move. our second house was lovely, but at the seven year mark we knew it was time to move. now we're staring down the seven year mark in this house, and we find ourselves thinking that we just got here. what kind of crazy wormhole did we cross that made seven years go so damn fast?? anyway ...)

when we moved in six and a half years ago, we knew building a deck and screened room was the next phase. we assumed we would get on that a bit more quickly than we did, but decks and screened rooms aren't cheap, right? finally, last spring, we realized that in one year we would be hosting a bunch of people at our house for a graduation party, and we needed somewhere to put them that wasn't, actually, IN the house. so we called six different contractors/deck builders, met with them all, some got our vision, some did not, some called back, some did not. in the end, we decided to go with our builder, because we knew the architect would make the aesthetic perfect for the house, and we knew the siding and shingles would be seamless.

we provided a few guidelines and inspiration pictures. what we knew: maintenance-free decking (who wants to spend their summer sanding and re-staining?), gray and white colors to go with the house and other porches, open ceiling with exposed beams, casual/rustic but not rusty/farmhouse/cozy.

we showed the builder ...

 

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and my favorite ...

 

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the builder took all the info, and came back with this:

 

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and just before christmas, they showed up and started to rip off siding and put up beams.

fun fact: when you put a screened room off the back of your house, which happens to be where your kitchen is, and you have open shelves in the kitchen, you're gonna need to take all the stuff off of those shelves or the vibration from the siding removal will do that for you.

the more you know.

the guys worked so hard for about three weeks ... all the structure went up, roof and shingles went on, decking was laid, railings were installed ... and that's where we sit right now.

 

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 we're just waiting on the weather to warm enough for everything to be finished at once - siding, bead board, paint, screens, install lights, pour the patio area. once we get to the finish stage, it will go quickly. and it will have to ... we're two months from that graduation party.

hopefully, the next update will be the finished product. we've started to order the furniture to put in it, and we're already dreaming of the day we can sit out there to eat a meal ... enjoy a morning coffee ... swing on a hammock in the space under the deck ...

this is the vibe:

 

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the table and chairs are sitting in a warehouse until we have somewhere to put them, the armchairs are on the way, the lights and fan are sitting in the living room as i type. it's going to be fun to load it all in and grill some burgers and enjoy sitting outside without sitting outside.

(as long as it's done before the graduation party. that's literally all i ask. minnesota needs to warm up and the snow needs to melt asap.)


this girl.

i reflected on henry's last first day of school of his high school years, but then i drifted away and got busy and didn't give the same time to my girl.

my seventh grader.

 

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she seemed to grow up so much over the summer. there is a lot more "pre-teen" going on in our house right now. whereas last year i would have said, rightfully so, that the idea of henry graduating and moving on would leave her so lonely and adrift at home, this year she is becoming much more social, much more into her own things, much more comfortable in her own skin. after a few years of dealing with anxieties and emotions, it feels like the boat is rocking a wee bit less these days, and i have a feeling she will blossom next year when our whole world gets to revolve around her and her activities for the first time ever.

and she's such a smart, curious, funny little thing. though i say "little" like she's still seven ... girlfriend is taller than i am now, with arms and legs for days. she's gone to slumber parties with her friend group, and with her swim friend group ... and that's a whole new thing for her. up until now, she had a very hard time even spending a night away from home with a best friend, much less with a group of people she doesn't know as well. she's turning into a girl with things to do and places to be, though she still prefers home.

in august, she and i spent a few days together in michigan, just us girls, and we had the best time. we went to my favorite little town, saugatuck, had some beach time at lake michigan. then my mom joined us for a day, wandering and popping into shops and eating lunch by the water. it was so good. there was one time, however, when we went into an ice cream shop for a treat, and as we walked in the door this adorable boy behind the counter - all sandy blond hair and blue eyes and freckles and braces - had to double take at harp, then kept sweetly glancing at her as we ordered our ice cream, paid, walked out the door.

and it hit me in that moment: i've been keeping her little in my mind because henry is growing up so fast. but she's growing up just as fast, and it's time to let her be twelve-and-a-half.

 

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she went home with my mom for a few days, then had a few days with her other set of grandparents, and i finally got to tackle her grown-up room.

 

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it's done, and she loves it, and later this week i will clean it up (because about 20 minutes into having a new room, she destroyed it with laundry and hairbands and art projects, and it hasn't been clean since.) and take pictures to show you how it turned out.

school started, and seventh grade is going really well so far. her 6th grade math teacher suggested a different track for her this year, and it's been the best move. and she spent the summer collecting bugs, knowing that would be the first big project in seventh grade science - and she ended up getting 102/100 on it. her confidence is definitely higher.

middle school swim season started, and she was happy to be back in the water with her friends. she dropped four seconds in the 50 free in her first meet after a six month hiatus, and that gave her yet another confidence boost and the thrill she needed to have a great season.

 

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the biggest sign that we're entering a whole new phase of life? she has no interest in halloween this year ... only half-hearted interest in carving pumpkins at all. and just like that ... i no longer have little kids.

but you know what? i'm learning that it's okay. i like these children of mine in every new stage. so what if they aren't kiddos anymore. they are turning into fantastic people, and it's time to look forward to what comes next instead of mourning what is no longer.

also, it's very hard to think of your kiddos as babies when you have to look up at both of them.

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