Well, hello! I won’t even apologize for the five month lapse in posts–what else could you possibly expect from me at this point? Still, I feel the need to check in here, if only because yesterday marked one year since Ben and I first visited the house, and we’ve been using it heavily since mid-August, so post-demo pictures don’t really do it justice at the moment!
September 21 of last year, we went to see the house and I’m pretty sure I was sunk when I first saw the basement door. Yesterday I posted this to Instagram:
In many ways, that sums up where we stand. The house is painted; the doors are crazy (and there was something wrong with the paint and it never set completely–we have to repaint them, so I need to decide if I want to change the color a bit); there’s still trim to be touched up; the roofer forgot to fix that little piece so he has to come back; the landscaping is nonexistent. But still: Progress.
I wish I’d had the wherewithal to blog throughout this process. I have learned so much, and now I’m aching to get to work on another project (preferably with someone else’s money, ha!). About seven months ago, a contractor looked at me and said, “you know, most people start with a 1200 square foot ranch or something.” Forget the deep end; we jumped straight into the middle of the ocean. My only previous experience with home improvement was getting Lee St. painted before we moved in, and replacing the kitchen there with the world’s simplest Ikea layout. There was no demo, nothing moved; it took us one week, with Tom’s help.
Here we went straight to a giant 100-year-old house in need of basically every kind of repair. We had to get a new assessment last week, and I spoke with the assessor on the phone before he arrived. He asked what kind of work we had done since buying it and I started listing it:
-Gutted the kitchen, including removing a load-bearing wall (in a balloon-framed house, yikes)
-Gutted 2 bathrooms and did a cosmetic upgrade of a third, plus a powder room
-Got a new roof (before closing, actually)
-Replaced and upgraded the entire electrical system, including upgrade to 200amp service and installation of a generator
-Took the heating system from one to three zones and replaced all the exposed heat lines; changed out three radiators
-Replaced water lines in basement
-Upgraded hot water heater
-Installed propane lines for stove and generator
-Restored/reglazed all 52 windows
-Painted (deleaded) entire house, inside and outside
-Replaced roof on porch
-Rewired or replaced all light fixtures
-Repaired plaster/rehung ceilings where necessary
-Started work on eradicating several acres of poison ivy
I just kept going and going and when I stopped he just paused and said, “You’ve been busy.” Indeed. It’s been almost exactly nine months since we closed, and aside from the (miserable) electrical work, most projects didn’t get rolling until late April or May. Not bad, now that I look at it all listed out. And of course, now I know the good contractors, so I could jump right in to another project without all the mistakes of bad hires and aggravation of finding the right person. In fact, I have My Guy now, who can do anything and would be the ultimate collaborator on house flips or renovation management–we’ve been half-jokingly discussing how it would work to have me be the homeowner liaison/designer and let him just handle the construction end. Who wants to give us a try?
The kids love going out to the house. Tuck, especially, is in heaven. Tom made him a little wooden ax, and he spends hours in the yard working on trees, playing with sticks, and generally getting grubby. He’s exhausted and so happy at the end of every day, it makes it feel like the whole stressful, costly project was worth it.
Anyway, enough chat from me for now. I know pictures are far more interesting!
A wider view of the outside:
And a reminder of what it looked like a year ago:
And back in the 1970s, with the shutters on (those are coming soon!) via the seller:
Now inside. I don’t have “official” after pictures yet–our carpenters who have done the kitchen are STILL finishing up, three months late. But here are some shots from the last couple weekends:
There will be shelves on the top here, making a kind of built-in hutch in the dining area of the kitchen (this used to be the mudroom):
Way before, looking towards that mudroom from the entrance to the kitchen (I can’t for the life of me find my photos from the right angle!):
Powder room Before and Sort-Of-After:
Living room (check out those original cushions on the window seats–those things are petrified!):
I found this packing case–sent to the wife of the original owner–down in the basement!
The next phase is outside. My Guy is bringing in his brush hog (!!!) to mow all the non-wooded spaces around the house and clear the three or four acres of vines, poison ivy, sumac, blackberries, etc. that currently choke access to the woods and are keeping us from getting a sense of what we’ve got. Next year we will need to repair the driveway for drainage and non-mud-pit purposes. We also want to remove six or so gigantic white pines that block light and views, could endanger the house, and are generally just kind of ugly.
After all that, we will start thinking about an actual plan for the “yard” portions of the property. There’s a great huge front and side yard, and then there will be meadow space on the other side and down from the house after the brush hog work is done. The remainder of the property (about 22 acres, I’d guess) is heavily wooded, so we will just gradually work on carving trails into it and seeing what we see. There’s a little hidden meadow area that I found this summer, surrounded by overgrown (non-bearing) fruit trees, where I’d like to make a picnic area and so forth. That will be the fun stuff!
More soon. I can’t wait to see what everything looks like after the mowing!
We bought a house!
We demoed the kitchen!
When last we spoke, Tom and I had just begun demo on the kitchen at the country house. More than a month later, there’s been a lot more demo but not much else–our contractor got held up on her prior project and started almost a month late, and Tom did yeoman’s work getting things ready for her but eventually had to go back to stripping wallpaper and spending 8 hours at Ikea with me.
A reminder: Here is the kitchen the morning we started demo:
Here it is 5 weeks later:
Hurray, one layer of subfloor through the two rooms! I had a pretty panicky week or so after initial investigation made it look like removing the layers of old flooring (decrepit linoleum, glue, plywood subfloor, glue, older linoleum, repulsive black mastic/glue, awesome tongue-and-groove old growth fir from Tacoma, Washington (SOB)) would be cost-prohibitive, and that the height achieved by stacking up all those floors would mean laying more wood would make the kitchen a full 2 inches higher than the rest of the house….well. Misery.
I’d initially considered Marmoleum, which would be appropriate to the age of the house (1915, it turns out*), but you need an extremely smooth and costly subfloor under it, and I’d already ordered wood, so between buying the more-expensive flooring and the subfloor and eating the shipping costs on returning the floor I ordered…well. I said to go ahead and plunge forward with demo, and wouldn’t you know? With Tom’s help they knocked it out in three days and the subfloors were at one height after all. Of course I wish we could have saved the fir, but that would have taken many weeks. Tom saved enough to build a chest or something for the house, hopefully.
Now that the Ikea cabinets have been purchased and Tom has sanded all the doors in preparation for a trip through the spray booth, I’m focused on all the other moving pieces. I placed the appliance order (ouch), the floors–which of course I’m now doubting–should be delivered next week, I know which sink I want, and I’m visiting a stone yard to look at soapstone slabs for the perimeter counters on Friday.
I’d planned on Ikea butcher block for the island but they have discontinued the oak and are phasing out all their solid wood options, so then I turned to Lumber Liquidators. Has anyone tried their butcher block? It has mixed reviews (I’m looking at maple to get a light color), and we need an enormous expanse of it, so now I’m considering spending more (but saving on labor costs in the long run) to get edge-grain from Boos block, which I can buy in a sheet that is close to exactly what I need. I was aiming for 87″x48″; they sell a piece that is 84″x48″; I think I can lose the three inches in exchange for better structural integrity and a nice uniform look, right? I am just not quite 100% sure I’ll love the maple. Need to check them out in person next week.
Here’s the thing about doing a massive project like this all at once: The decisions. Everything costs an arm and a leg, there are a million things we stupidly didn’t include in our initial budget forecast (the plaster repair guy! the insulation guy!), and there are 8 million tiny details that need to be settled right. now.
For example! Let’s talk about kitchen hardware! And I don’t mean that rhetorically, I mean let’s actually talk about it, please. Here’s the plan: White/off-white/v. pale greyish blue shaker cabinets on the perimeter of the kitchen. A few high cabinets (holding wall oven, pantry, broom closet, and panels on fridge) but no upper cabinets. 2″x8″ white subway tile to the ceiling with dark grout. Dark soapstone on perimeter cabinets. Island cabinetry potentially painted a darker color (Charcoal? Darker grey-blue? Navy?) with butcher block counter. Awesome retro-ish Aga stove (impossible to find decent photos, for some reason)!
So. Un-lacquered brass hardware, which will either age up and darken on its own, or which I can get going using a bucket of ammonia, supposedly? Or oil rubbed bronze, which is in essence black? My only concern w brass (which is used throughout the house for doorknobs, hinges, etc., as you’d expect from a house of this age) is that I need to get handles for the fridge and dishwasher panels, and I think it’s cheesy to use cabinet hardware, so I want to get much longer obviously-for-appliances handles so it doesn’t seem like I’m hiding the fridge. Easy to do in the black finish, but I haven’t seen much in un-lacquered brass. Plus we all know how ludicrously expensive nice un-lacquered sink faucets are, not that I’ve seen any black ones that I like. There is a good amount of stainless trim/handle action on the stove and the wall oven, as well as the silly microwave, and I don’t want it to feel crazy.
Who wants to poke through my Pinterest boards and give me some thoughts?
Nitty gritty kitchen stuff.
Meanwhile, how ’bout a few more pictures from this week?
Salvageable flooring in the butler’s pantry, hurrah!
Attic bedroom wallpaper removal:
This stuff probably isn’t toxic at all:
Another attic bedroom before:
And after (I am so obsessed with this color; we can’t just stay with it because the walls need quite a bit of cleaning up, but I may match it. And the sheen of the old oil (lead**) paint makes me wonder about semi-gloss, is that crazy?):
Why we are spending all the furnishing budget on rewiring:
Tom teaches me to fell a tree:
Tom leaves for 10 days in Estonia this weekend. He’s going to live in a vodka-distillery-turned boutique hotel and built a timber-framed smoke sauna. Obviously. We are already weeping at the loss of our most valuable player. You should follow him on Instagram–he’s doing lots of cool stuff, including build spiffy greenwood furniture using lumber felled on the property.
*I did research on the house and found old local gossip-rag entries about the construction back in 1914-1915–we get to celebrate the house’s 100th birthday next year! It was built for the president of a big manufacturing company in central Mass, and I already bought a copy of his 1923 book on economics. So cool.
**I joke about toxicity and lead paint but don’t worry, we are having it all responsibly dealt with by licensed professionals at a cost of a kidney, a left leg, and Tuck’s indentured servitude from the age of 7.5 until adulthood. OMG.
Blogging feels like something out of the distant past, doesn’t it? (And yes, this website is still broken and using stock photos, agh.) But there’s something to be said for having a written record, especially of the big life-changers. I treasure my word docs with my old Fit Pregnancy blog posts documenting my pregnancy and Tuck’s first 18 months. Poor Ellie has been relegated to a lengthy note on my phone, but I do update it regularly.
Regardless of audience (I assume there isn’t much left!), I think I should try to keep track a bit of the journey we embarked on last fall. B and I had long discussed staying in Cambridge long-term and investing in a weekend house outside the city instead of trying to buy a single family in town. We planned to start looking next year, but of course whenever we had a conversation about the idea we started looking on Zillow, and somehow in the late summer we got really obsessed and actually went up to NH one day to see a crazy old place, and we were basically spending every evening on the iPad combing through listings in a big semi-circle around Cambridge.
In mid-September (the 14th, actually. I still have the email filed) B forwarded me a Zillow link to a huge house full of ridiculous details. I replied, “Gorgeous and close but $$ and not sure about position…” and he wrote back, “Worth seeing? Only 1 hour away.”
We closed December 16.
Of course it wasn’t simple. It was a messy estate sale; vacant 6 years (though heated throughout that time). Six siblings, including one who did everything in her power to prevent the sale. We agonized, of course. The house and grounds need a lot a lot a LOT of work. (We got a new roof put on before we even closed!) But in the end it came down to a few things:
-The only other bites were from developers, most of whom wanted to knock the house down and put up a bunch of houses on the….
-25 ACRES OF LAND
-1 hour from Cambridge
-Unmuddled, very solidly built house with all the original details (molding, floors, glass knobs, built-ins, back stairs, everything) intact
We couldn’t pass it up.
So here we are, three months after closing, and the house looks worse than it did. My brother Tom is living there on and off and helping with the work–I got to help him demo the kitchen a few weeks ago. The electrician is currently 1/3 of the way done, has been paid 3/4 of his estimate, and is at almost twice the estimated time (oops). The contractor is hopefully starting next week. I’m in a huge panic over all the decisions that need to be made. But in the end I pray it will be worth it. The woods are stunning. Tom found a perfect place, about 10 acres back by the brook, where he plans to build a shelter and maybe a wood-fired sauna. There’s a carriage house full of treasures (including a rowboat) and a collapsed barn and a rocking horse in the basement.
Here, have a few peeks:
Front hall, before and after Tom stripped the wallpaper (the plaster is mostly in amazing shape):
Treasures from the carriage house:
The woods in the fall:
The kitchen right before Tom and I started demo (one of the only areas that had been touched, as far as we can tell, since the house was built. This 1969 special was a real treat):
The kitchen yesterday:
The house yesterday, getting ready for the first day of spring (note green astrovan, Tom’s sweet ride during this project, and total muddy swamp in driveway):
I have trillions of photos, most of which I need to get off my phone. If you want to see more, feel free to poke through the ones I did organize into a set on Flickr right after we bought it. (Complete with wonky video tours!)
And if you’re curious about what I’m thinking, I have many Pinterest boards labeled “Country House.”
Thank you, by the way, to Daniel Kanter of Manhattan Nest for his many kind words of wisdom and encouragement as we started down this road. Daniel and Max, as well as Anna Dorfman from Door Sixteen, were hugely inspiring to me when it came time to commit to a big renovation on a weekend place!
I actually hope to have a really exciting project to start blogging about soon (not a book or a baby!), but in the meantime, since I haven’t posted pictures of the kids here since February (that’s what Instagram is for!), here they are:
Tuck, 3 years and 2 months:
Ellie, 15 months:
And both on Halloween (Tuck was Buzz Aldrin, obviously):
I know the site is still kind of broken–I’ve been trying to fix it but am baffled. And I’m experimenting with posting from the mobile app to see if it helps me get back here!
The spate of highly publicized rape cases lately (and the disgusting victim-blaming that has proliferated) makes me so angry. I know our rape culture is hardly news, but I am sickened and disgusted that so many people still think a girl is “asking for it” if she gets drunk, etc. In every one of these situations I wish the blame-throwers could step back and look at the facts through a different lens: What if this girl were their sister or daughter? What if terrible things happened to the football players if they happened to get too drunk one night? Would the language be the same?
As the mother of a son I want to help raise a generation of men who understand that women can’t prevent rape. We can be scared, careful, and defensive. We can dress ourselves to hide, we can decide not to drink, we can censor ourselves in a million ways, but it’s the boys and men who have to stop it. Only men can prevent rape, and it’s very simple: JUST DON’T RAPE ANYONE.
There you go! Respect women. Internalize that sex is something that is shared, not done to someone. Understand that only “yes” means yes; that blacking out at a party does not constitute consent (or indicate that she “deserves” it). (That phrase, incidentally, points out that what is being discussed here is violence & punishment; not sex.)
I posted a handy cheat-sheet on twitter earlier. This is common sense stuff but somehow things have gone haywire. If she didn’t say yes, you can’t do it. End of story. Stop.
…I will find my way back here. I am slowly coming to grips with the daily ups and downs of life with two, with the complete lack of time to get things done, and with the incredible emotional roller coaster of parenting a 2.5 year old. But I’m finding myself thinking more about what I will do with myself as things start to open up a bit, and looking forward to the end of this tunnel vision period. I know there are a million blogs that talk about how relentless and thankless being a parent is, but I still don’t think I truly got it. Day after day, no breaks, no exceptions, no sick days. I’ve been away 6 nights, I believe, since Tuck was born. I envy B’s business travel. But I wouldn’t trade it, and can’t see another path that would work for me right now. I treasure these amazing kids even when they are bafflingly difficult, and I know how incredibly lucky I am to have the choice to stay home with them.
Ellie is 6.5 months old already. She sent the world a Valentine last week:
Currently, though, she is quite under the weather. Ear infection and wheezing; we picked up a loaner nebulizer today to try for a day or two. Sad sweet girl; she’s still been a total trooper, trying her best to smile through it.
Tuck, though he has learned new and exciting tantrum techniques in these last couple weeks before he’s officially 2.5, is also delightful. Verbal and hilarious, full of unbelievable statements. (“I’m going to the airport. I’ll be back shortly,” he says, as he carries a silverware caddy and a lunchbox out of his room, while wearing a hard hat. Or, “Hush, I’m on the phone. Hewwo, Onora?”)
(This time he was going grocery shopping.)
He enjoyed cooking with his uncle Tom this weekend:
And we enjoyed a quiet Valentine’s Day picnic by the fire (B took a trip to the unbeatable Formaggio Kitchen for the second year: our favorite new tradition):
And of course, when Tom visits we always eat well:
Speaking of Valentine’s Day, Bridge said it best when she tweeted that crafting and cooking with toddlers is not how it looks on the internet. We managed to get through three valentines before Tuck got bored and refused to add any more paint. I completed the rest using art he’d made in his art class. But still: cute.
Finally, we are still getting the old CSA! It’s now year-round, though erratic in winter. Check out The Kitchen Garden if you’re in the area and want a CSA. We’ve been pleased with the quality since Stone Soup merged with them last year. And now Clover is adding a pickup on Saturdays in Harvard Sq.! B picked up the vegetables last week and brought home this ludicrous carrot:
I remember when Maggie Mason first wrote about her “Mighty Life List,” lo those many years ago. Since then, especially as she started powering through the list, I’ve started my own version many times, but I never got around to finishing it. I finally did it, which means I get to start by crossing off item number one: Finish The List! One thing I love about Maggie’s approach is that it both encourages big thinking and a focus on the joys of day-to-day life. I tried to get a good mix of things in here–as she once said, these are the things I’d be bummed not to have done by the time I take my grand exit, as well as the things I’d be shocked not to have done. There’s a healthy dose of stuff I’m a little scared of, too, because I need to push myself. Do you have a List? If it’s online I’d love to see it. Maggie hosts an invitation-only event as well as a more public camp centered around “getting good at life,” and I hope I can get myself to one of them someday.
I’ll keep the list on a static page and cross things off (and post about them) as I go.
And so, without further ado, my list:
Finish the list
Learn to dive
Do cartwheels or backflips down a long carpeted hallway
Stay in an over-water bungalow
Have real family pictures taken (hopefully to be repeated every couple years!)
Read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe out loud to the kids
Have a swing hanging from a huge tree
Find a great pair of brown boots that are actually comfortable
Learn how to do something cute with my hair
Own a huge, worn Persian rug
Make a quilt out of B’s old dress shirts
Write a children’s book
Find some form of exercise that doesn’t make me miserable, and stick with it
Run a 5K
Start drawing again, and get better at it
Get portraits painted of each family member
Buy a country place and fix it up the way we want
Have a bunk room
Learn to apply liquid eyeliner
Pull a Miss Rumphius (make the world a more beautiful place; she planted Lupin seeds)
Own a big Paul Ferney painting
Frame the painting we bought in Paris that time
Get an invite to Mighty Summit (and go)
Hang chandeliers in the trees
Try something really scary (hang-gliding? zip-line?)
Find my signature style
Pitch and sell that DB profile I’ve had floating around for all those years
Get caught up on photo books for 2009-current, plus each year for each kid
Lie out on a clear night to watch the Perseid meteor showers
Overhaul my wardrobe to focus on fewer, better pieces
Blog weekly (for at least 3 months)
Take ballet classes
See the pyramids and cruise the Nile in a felucca
Find a way for Tuck to sit in a backhoe or excavator for a while and pretend to drive
Host a pop-up dinner party
Surprise B with a weekend trip
Eat Bahn Mi in Vietnam
Knit a sweater
Crochet a hat
Learn to pitch
Develop visible abs
Find a cause, volunteer, make a difference
Eat at The French Laundry
Identify all the countries and their capitols on a map (per 9th grade geography)
Learn to make 10 great cocktails
Go on a trip with just Bridge, no kids or husbands!
Eat shave ice in Hawaii
Take my mom on a spa vacation
Go to a wedding in India (and wear a sari)
Write something for Lucky Peach
Throw 10 amazing parties
Get B, T & E all speaking French
Get the T&L chairs reupholstered
Manage a major renovation project
Go to a really fancy Fancy Dress ball in a fabulous period costume
Have a gallery show
Perfect the Julia Child wrist flip omelette technique
Start a cottage industry
Take a knife skills class
Bake and frost a cake
Take a painting class (oil or watercolor)
Own a house with perfect nooks and crannies
Go to Helsinki
Find a scale model staircase in an antique shop and buy it
Go to grad school (public health?)
Paint a room charcoal gray
Learn to play cello
Learn to play piano
Introduce Ellie to Betsy, Tacy & Tib
Go shopping in Istanbul
Wear more colors
Dance (competently) with Ben
Swim a solid number of laps (research how many that would be)
Go back to Argentina, and take a tango class
Charter a boat for a cruise in the Greek islands with our friends
Learn to sculpt
Know Paris, London, SF like I know NYC
Go to 10 art openings
Invent something brilliant
Live in France for at least a couple months
Start a business
Grow a beanpole teepee covered in vines
Further the cause of education around birth and pregnancy (midwives, etc.)
Figure out how to wear lipstick without looking crazy
Throw a huge party for our tenth anniversary (at the lake??)
Make a fort with the kids
Learn how to french braid (so that it actually looks ok)
Plant a garden and remember to water and weed
Host 5 tasting parties (fruit, cheese, prosecco, chocolate, ??)
Take each kid on a solo trip (and have them do the same w B)
See the Mexican end of the monarch butterfly migration
Act in a play or sing in a choir again
Take the kids on volunteer trips to do community service (a la my Mexico trips in HS)
Speak conversational Italian
Throw an amazing birthday party
Spend summers in France or on the Lake
Figure out what I want to be when I grow up
I’m still plugging away at the apartment, and the dining room, especially, is really coming together. As a refresher, this is where we were back in the spring: furnished, but the old doors (which barely worked) were fogged over, and really needed to be replaced.
Happily, our landlords agreed to do it–major upgrade. I bought a million yards of zigzag fabric and took it to a seamstress to have sewn into curtains while we were traveling in May. She….did it. Badly. They’re too short, barely matched, and slightly crooked. Still, at least it’s some pattern and color in the room. I just try not to look too closely, and I learned lots of valuable lessons for next time (I’d never done anything like this before).
I’ve also been trying to get some art up on the walls, and it’s turned out to mostly be the products of Tuck’s (adorable) art class! The teacher is a genius and only puts out 2 colors of paint at a time, so the paintings don’t get muddy and brown, and you can usually get something pretty great-looking out of each class. My favorite so far is this fuschia/orange creation (currently not in place, since the glass in the cheap Target frame IMPLODED the other day, yikes).
I found kid’s art frames at Target that I hung over the entry bench–they open like books so it’s easy to swap out the art, and there a pocket for storing extra pieces! Genius. I’ve seen similar things at Pottery Barn kids but these were $14.99, so… (Not the greatest quality, but I’m not too worried!)
Finally, a couple life-improvers I got back in…June? but never posted about. I read the Dinner: A Love Story cookbook in one day when it first came out, and one of the many, many wonderful ideas contained therein was a chalkboard decal where Jenny lists out the menu and activities for the coming week. I found my own, a super-simple one that took 2 minutes to install, and invested in both a chalk pen (for the static events) and really nice chalk (for the week’s menu/etc.). It has really helped me get better about meal planning and thinking things through in advance:
I also bought a clip-it strip, like the ones we used at Fortune for posting layouts. It’s also what most diners use for orders–there are ceramic beads inside so when you push a paper up, it stays, but then you can pull down gently to take it back out. Genius. That went in the hall to hold papers, invitations, etc.
I love this house very, very much. Noisy upstairs neighbors aside, it’s been a very happy-making place. Lots of open sky around us, spacious rooms where we can spread out, and tons of great light. I’m very grateful. Next on the docket: An old oriental rug for the living room. Stay tuned!
Ellie is two months old today! I can’t believe it. I thought the second pregnancy flew, and it turns out that the baby days are flying, too (though as someone said to me the other day, it’s a marathon, but each day is a sprint).
It hasn’t been easy, adjusting to two kids. I feel like I’m dropping all the balls most of the time, but each time we have a good sleep night (which last night was, after a hideous, horrid miserable weekend including one 11-1:30 a.m. period where E woke up every 3 to 15 minutes) I feel like I might just make it through to the other side. One thing that is making it go faster is keeping up with Tuck, who has classes to go to and friends to play with and doesn’t let me just sit around staring at the baby.
I found this ominous, especially since T just said “I fix baby Ellie” while brandishing his screwdriver
And now I know what we’re working towards, having done it before. As Ellie starts smiling, I turn and see Tuck making jokes. He is so very, very funny these days, all silly faces and perfect mimicry. “Gee whiz,” he says to himself when something is hard, and “oh, Tuck, silly Tuck” when he’s amusing himself. He’s been pretending to be a doctor and heal his little orange doll’s stomachache (“Make Neddy feel better”), or he puts on his hard hat and gets out tools to work on his “cherry picker” (step stool) with the “jackhammer” (grabber claws).
We had a bad scare a week ago–through a variety of misunderstandings Tuck was alone in the room with Ellie on the window ledge/changing station, and he pulled her off, three feet, onto her face. She’s too young for any “is the child acting normally” observations to apply, so we ended up in the pediatric ER until 1:30 a.m. getting Baby’s First Head CT. I was so furious at Tuck; he’d been being pretty aggressive towards Ellie and ignoring anything we said about being gentle or nice to her. But my friends Ann and Greta encouraged me to turn on hardcore positive reinforcement techniques, and a week later they finally seem to be working. Yesterday he played gently with her, tickling her feet while she smiled for a couple minutes.
And honestly, how could I stay mad at this face?
Besides, he’s just two. He’s so big that even I sometimes treat him like he’s older, which isn’t fair at all. I had a sad week or two recently when I realized most of his friends have started school this fall, so we’re on our own during times when we used to have consistent playmates. But suddenly I met a bunch of new people–mostly through the awesome block party our neighborhood threw the weekend before last–and it turns out there are lots of new babies and families with kids Tuck’s age within a block or two. It’s nice to expand the circle.
Meanwhile, Ellie, as I said, has started smiling and is suddenly much more interested in the world. She loves to lie on that ledge (now ALWAYS with an adult right next to her, sigh) and stare at our faces or at the windows. And she appears to be deeply in love with the dangling monkey rattle on her bouncy chair. I don’t have nearly as many photos of her because much of the time we look like this:
She’s so snug, she snoozes through all our morning activities, and I don’t think Tuck even realizes she is there.
It’s fun to see her starting to emerge from that newborn haze, all unfocused eyes and eat-sleep-poop. I think we’re going to like her.
And I can’t wait until both kids are sitting on a blanket with me at the farmer’s market, enjoying a grilled cheese and soaking up the early-fall sun.
Ellie is up, after a record-breaking 40 minute nap not on me WHILE TUCK IS ASLEEP, miracle of miracles. Off i go!
Next time (which will be sooner): Apartment stuff!
Tuck is two! It’s nearly impossible to remember life before he came along; and as I look at little Ellie it’s even harder to remember that my big boy started off looking like this:
Two days old
Here he is during Ellie’s newborn shoot (more on that later), just before turning two:
Anelise Tubinis Photography
Where to start talking about Tuck at Two? He is ridiculously verbal. Everything we say gets repeated, from the mundane (hubcap!) to the hilarious (he now says “silly goose!” when he decides he’s being funny or when one of us makes a mess). He remembers everything we tell him, and refers back to things that happened weeks or even months before (after spending one day with my friend Stephanie‘s son at a beach in SF in May, he said “[Son's name] trucks beach” nearly every time we mentioned a beach or lake all summer). He knows full well if he’s been or is being bad, and tells us exactly why we’re mad when we ask. (“Daddy angry. Spitting.”) (On that note, his newest trick is to fill his mouth with water and then spit it on the floor OH MY GOD WHY?) He has the sweetest voice.
At Squam last month
He’s so, so two. Combined with bringing Ellie home, he’s definitely pushing back much more than even a month ago. Lots of sudden melt-downs and seemingly nonsensical resistance. We’re working through it–I’ve been trying to spend as much one-on-one time with him as I can, leaving Ellie with my Due-for-Sainthood Mother-in-Law, and that’s helped a bit. He spends an hour or more in his crib chatting with his stuffed animals before giving in to his naps. He sings. He thinks I know a song for every tool and machine, because I made up front loader and backhoe songs.
Meeting Ellie in the hospital
His favorite toys are his tools, and he spends hours “fixing” things around the house.
He’s very active and strong, and seems pretty agile. At his gym class he keeps up with all the odler kids (he’s as big as they are, for one), and he excels at climbing ladders and balancing on the beam. He’s never happier than when Ben gets to take him to a playground.
This all seems so…surface-only. I can’t adequately explain who he is except to say that he’s a very special, sweet boy. Every night when we tuck him in before we go to bed, my heart swells when I watch him sleep; that peaceful cherubic face under the golden curls.
In the car the other day Ellie was fussing and Tuck was bored, so we asked him to tell her a story. We could just barely hear him “One-upon-a-time there was boy named TUCK.”
I can’t wait to find out what happens to him.
Anelise Tubinis Photography