Monday, June 29, 2009

Annie-isms, Jemma-isms, Summer 2009

Annie, when told something shocking or interesting: "For real?"

Annie, when proposing a plan: "Deal?"

Annie, when she comes out after rest time and sees that Jemma is still sleeping: "Hi Momma. Let's have special Annie-Mommy time."


Jemma, when asked a question to which she doesn't know the answer: "You Kink?"

Jemma, when affectionately called baby, honey, Rooie, cutie, etc.: "I not ______! I JEMMA!"

Jemma, unable to say the "sm/sw" sound: "Mommy, you fush that bug please?" "Can I fell that?" and "I am cold. I want a feater."

Who Doesn't Love a Venn Diagram?

I came across this weeks ago and can't stop thinking about it. A little roadmap for my future, I think, and the future of anyone who hopes to make money doing things they love. As for the girls, maybe I will pull this out when they're having a lot of angst trying to choose a major in college or are struggling through that first, crappy job. I'll remind them that my first memorable experience with a Venn diagram was teaching a bunch of second-graders the differences between birds and bats after reading Stellaluna, point out how different my life looks now than it did when I stood at that blackboard, reassure them that almost every experience can inch them closer to that sweet spot in the middle.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Our Own Sidewalk Cafe

I am typing this at the outdoor table that's been in our front lawn all weekend.  It was one of those one-thing-after-another few days of quintessential summer weather plus a parade of people going in and out of our house, so we set up meal service there starting Friday.  Today, back down to our little family of four, we grilled burgers and ate lunch out here; tonight, we brought out platters of miscellaneous leftovers and ate dinner even as we yelled across the street to neighbors.  And now, I just don't have the heart to move it back to the side patio where it belongs.

On Friday afternoon, when some extended family was over to visit us, one relative in particular was full of questions for the girls.  "Annie, do you have a boyfriend?" he asked, one of those questions I actively HATE because, Hi, she's FOUR, let's not get ahead of ourselves.  She didn't miss a beat:  "Yes.  I have LOTS of boyfriends," she replied - meaning, I think, that she has lots of friends who are boys.  Everyone laughed, and the relative persisted.  "But who is your number one boyfriend?"  And of course she got a little quiet and said, "Ben," just like I knew she would, especially after seeing him at the pool the previous night, where he enthusiastically invited her over for a sleepover complete with a Drumstick for dessert if she ate a good dinner.

There were questions for Jemma, too.  "Who's your best friend?" was the main one, and I giggled inside, hoping she'd say one of the various answers she's given lately.  (The other morning at breakfast, we were talking about her birthday being near Christmastime, and out of the blue she announced, "Santa Claus is my Best Friend," as though she has any memory of Santa or anything else to do with Christmas.  She also bonded instantly with a little girl at the park one morning last week.  After being on the teeter-totter with her for .2 seconds, she leaned her little head back and said, "Her Is My Best Friend."  She's full of love, our Jemma.)

On Friday, though, she gave the answer I hope will be the real answer for a good portion of her life (teenage drama notwithstanding):  "Annie."

So, a good - if busy - weekend; at least we were at home, no suitcases to lug or car rides to navigate or essential items to forget.  I ran ten miles with Sarah on Saturday morning instead of doing the Reed's Lake 10K by myself, and I have to say, I was even more pleased by the fact that I can still knock out ten than I would have been with a "good" time in a race.  Jason took the girls for a bike ride this afternoon and I got to stay home and bake Banana Bread with Chocolate and Ginger (Molly Wizenberg, you are rivaling Ina Garten for my culinary affections) and lie on the couch slothfully.  We have Things to look forward to:  our traditional 4th of July events up north, Michigan strawberries, a new writing assignment for me, more time at the beach, and lots, lots more lazy summer Sundays, eating meals at a table in the front yard.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


It's somehow the end of June, a fact I can hardly believe except that our days are passing in such a blur of color and heat and motion that I suppose it does make sense, a little.  We run in and out of the house, flinging a bathing suit over a door knob to dry, piecing together lunch out of some yogurt, frozen grapes, and crackers.  I bought a new two-pack of sunscreen at Costco yesterday because I could see that our current stock was not going to last us through July, much less through the rest of the summer.

Jason and I went to see the Indigo Girls last night at Meijer Garders with Matt and Sarah.  We feasted on cold chicken sandwiches with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, and pesto.  We gobbled down orzo salad and fruit and peanut butter cookie-Nutella sandwiches.  We drank giant cups of summer wheat beer with rivulets of sweat pouring down our backs.  We sang along to "Galileo" and "Closer to Fine" and "Power of Two."  The sun set, the breeze came up, and I felt so incredibly lucky to have that moment - outside, surrounded by happy, mellow concert-goers, everyone smiling.

Sarah and I were talking between acts.  "I'm the most flexible I've ever been, right now," she said.  And I agreed (not that this is saying much for me, as I'm still on the far end of the Consistency and Routine spectrum), realizing that we've been staying at the pool a little longer, pushing dinner back a little later, stretching bedtime out to enjoy a few last minutes outside in the sprinkler.  The house is in no way CLEAN, and I couldn't care less.  I'd rather go for a late-night run than get down on my knees and wash the floor.  I'd rather be playing outside than cooking dinner, so dinner is sometimes chicken nuggets and sometimes homemade pesto on pasta, and either way, everyone is FINE.

The girls are happy, glad to be free to run and splash and play.  They had their first lemonade stand the other day, an idea Annie came up with all on her own.  I squeezed the lemons, they did the rest, right down to pouring the cups and collecting the money and making the sign.  They were so proud.  Later, they were so sticky.

Another friend e-mailed me this week.  She wrote, "Are you sometimes just awestruck at how joy-filled life can turn out to be?  Sometimes I feel like I don't even deserve all this blessedness."  Deserve it?  No.  Feel grateful for it?  Yes.  Every single second.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

This is Your Life, Cheesy Jason and Stephanie Edition

The wall outside Cosmo hall where Jason was sitting the first time he saw me run by with Suzy Velazquez and considered asking me out.

Treehouse, the site of our New Year's Eve kiss.

Sprite, the white house I lived in my senior year before we got married.

Jason's 8th Street apartment.

Outside the Gilmore door where we had our first "real" kiss.

Lambic at Butch's.

Where we hung out the night before the wedding.

The church where we were married.

Anniversary Weekend, 2009

Flies When You're Having Fun

The girls spent the weekend at my parent's house.  They kept busy by playing in the kiddie pool, going to the library and the farmer's market, going out for ice cream, painting with watercolors, playing with the giant stash of Polly Pockets my mom keeps on hand, and being generally spoiled.  At one point, Jemma apparently announced, "I must see some cows."  So, my parents loaded them up in the car and drove a few miles to fields where they hoped they would see cows.  They did.  Then, they went out for ice cream AGAIN, because cows = milk = ice cream, CLEARLY.

Meanwhile, we had a glorious weekend of our own, doing so many things we normally only dream of doing (eating our own food, drinking alcohol in the middle of the day, having uninterrupted conversations, browsing in stores, driving in the car without listening to a Disney movie . . .).  After we dropped the girls off at my parent's, we ambled around downtown Holland and revisited all the places we spent time ten years ago this weekend, the weekend we were married.  

Back in 1999, I had been living in an old white house on the corner of Lincoln and 14th with some of my best friends; Jason had been living in a windowless room in an apartment above 8th Street.  Before that, we had our first-first kiss in the basement of a Cosmo party house called Treehouse on New Year's Eve.  After we started dating nine months later, we had our second-first kiss outside the door of Gilmore Hall.  We walked past all those places and took pictures, doing a cheesy "This is Your Life" and, yes, kissing outside the same door, just for old-times sake.  

In 1999, we spent the night of our rehearsal dinner with all our out-of-town guests at Butch's and drank our first bottle of raspberry lambic, a gift from the owner of the restaurant when he learned of our upcoming marriage.  So we went to Butch's on Thursday night and had an appetizer and, of course, a bottle of raspberry lambic.

Then we moseyed on down to Douglas and had a very happy dinner at our very favorite restaurant on this side of the state, Everyday People Cafe.  We even took pictures of our food.  Because we liked our food, and we are shameless.

On Friday, we woke up, grabbed coffee and chocolate croissants, and headed for Chicago with a brief stop in Michigan City at the J. Crew outlet.  We scored a last-minute great deal on a room at the Intercontinental right on Michigan Avenue and I found a sketchy-but-cheap overnight parking garage right around the corner (no, thank you, $53-per-night Intercontinental valet).  Once there, we walked to a French-Vietnamese restaurant called Le Colonial that I've always, always wanted to try and had a wonderful lunch.  Again, pictures.  Again, cheesy and shameless.

After that, we wandered for a while, stopping for coffee or popping in a store here or there, until we hit the Art Museum at 5:00 (free on Thursdays and Fridays in the summer from 5 - 9!).  We took (flashless) pictures on our phones to send to Annie, who has been lately obsessed (in a good way) with Vincent Van Gogh.  We saw the current modern art exhibit by Cy Twombley, Jason remarking, "I could totally do that" just like he always does.  It was pouring rain off and on while we were there but just sprinkling by the time we left, around 8:00, to run across the street to The Gage for dinner, a place that was recommended by a friend whose taste in food and beer is much-trusted.  There was an hour wait, time we gladly passed at the bar with some Affligem, Delerium Tremens, and Tripel Karmeleit.  We shared amazing cheese fondue and an equally awesome burger and bistro fries for dinner, then capped the evening off with a walk through Millennium Park and back to the hotel.

The next morning, we ran along the lakeshore in the sunshine with all the other early-risers (couldn't sleep in, even on vacation).  The rain had gone, and with the sun had come the heat and humidity.  As we ran, we decided that, as Michigan has two driving seasons (winter and construction), Chicago has two walking-around-downtown seasons (freezing cold windy and smells like hot poop).  Other than that, Chicago, we loved you!

We came back yesterday after a late breakfast, spent a few child-free hours on the beach before picking up the girls and spending one last night at "the cottage."  Last night, after the girls were tucked into bed, we sat out on our deck and shared a bottle of wine we bought in France exactly six years ago and had been saving for our tenth anniversary.  It was every bit as good as we had hoped.  The time, it truly flies.  Ten years.  Ten years.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"No person ever died who had a family." - Ray Bradbury

Today I stood in a standing-room-only church and watched as another one of my best friends said good-bye to her dad.  I thought, we are too young for this.  I thought, what if it was me in the black dress following a casket down an aisle?  

At funerals, as well as at weddings, the moment that always gets me is when the family is walking down the aisle.  When I see that teary, gorgeous bride and her dad or that teary, devastated family - no matter how well I know them - I always tear up myself, just thinking of how surreal a moment it is, either way, exquisite joy or exquisite grief.  Today the girls and I stood around, one foot rocking an infant carseat base, one hand holding another sleeping infant, four hands holding Christmas-themed travel-sized Kleenex scavenged from the bottom of my purse.  We hugged each other, on a day when hugs really count for something.

Later, I came home and kissed my girls.  Lots.  Jason came home and I was inordinately glad to see him, my husband of ten years on Friday.  Tonight, I'm newly-aware of how brief it all is and more determined to do it well. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Packing It In

An incomplete list of things I did today:

-gave Jemma two time-outs before 9:00 a.m.
-took Annie to Safety Town
-five loads of laundry
-returned books to the library and got new ones
-went grocery shopping with Jemma
-got this week's CSA pick-up of TONS of veggies
-reapplied sunscreen to everyone
-ate lunch at the pool and swam after Annie was done with Safety Town and spent the last half hour with a cold Jemma snuggled against my chest under two towels for warmth even though it was 80 degrees
-marveled that Annie just SWIMS now
-made an obstacle course in the driveway for the neighborhood kids
-made white bean soup with pancetta and tortellini to use up the rest of our kale and swiss chard
-had a new babysitter over to meet the girls and play (she was a hit!)
-talked on the phone to Connie at least four times
-paid bills
-emptied trash
-let the girls get soaking wet in their clothes outside just before bath time
-went running by myself
-watered the garden
-put Jemma to bed
-drank a beer


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Status Updates

Stephanie is . . .

-so obsessed with the new Basil scent of Mrs. Meyer's handsoap that she could not stop washing her hands and smelling them at her in-laws and had to drive immediately to the hardware store in Petoskey to buy some during the girls' naptime.

-sad that Tom's Mom's Cookies was closed when she tried to go there last night.

-officially tired of Jemma's "glare" that she does when she is unhappy.  Used to be sort of cute, is now just rude.

-doing this thing where she submits query letters to publications, gets the green light to write a piece, and then doesn't feel like actually doing the writing and procrastinates it until the night before the deadline.

-thinking about getting a cleaning service.

-drinking orange Izze.

-wishing she and her husband could ever be on the same page about having/not having a third child.

-impressed with how amazingly well the girls did on the drives this weekend.

-super, super, SUPER tired of hearing Annie and Jemma sing "Once Upon a Dream."

-pleased that she somehow knew what flotsam and jetsam were when it came up in conversation in the car tonight.

-still recovering after being party to a conversation that covered the likelihood of underground concentration camps in the U.S. run by the New World Order (Clintons, Rockefellers, Gates', Bushes, Obamas OBVIOUSLY).

-clearly tired of the packing/unpacking drama of the last five weekend since she forgot to pack underwear this time (!).

-looking forward to celebrating TEN years of marriage on Friday.

-hoping to take the girls to the pool tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer So Far

We're on week three of unscheduled days and so far, so good, I guess.  We've had more than a few moments (read:  hours) of Parenting with Love and Logic scripts gone awry, time-outs that degenerated into Annie, held captive in her room, whipping a zippered sweater at her bedroom door for the satisfying "clank" sound it makes, yelling "Jemma's poopy!" while Jemma holds my leg and insists, "I Not Poopy!"  We're all tired at the end of the day in a way we weren't just a month or two ago.

And yet we're getting into a routine, too.  Mornings, I push them in the jogger and sometimes stop at Starbucks after my run.  We play at the park for a spontaneous hour here or there, have a picnic in the front yard, bake a chocolate cake for no good reason.  We run through the sprinkler or take a scooter ride (Annie is unbelievably quick on her Razor).  We reapply sunscreen.  We feed the tadpoles.  We grill.  We eat popsicles and wait for Jason to get home.  I am seduced by the late-night light and stay up way too late, reading Dandelion Wine like I do every year in June.

We've been gone the last four weekends in a row, and we're headed up north this weekend.  So the suitcase sits, open, on our bedroom floor, and anything I packed for last weekend that didn't get dirty remains inside, on call for the next trip.  I do laundry constantly, and there is always a swimsuit hanging to dry over the edge of the tub.  The Red Wings announcer's voice floats out from the living room.  The herbs in our garden are tall.  It's really, truly summer.

"It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed.  Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow.  You had only to rise, lean from your widow, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer."
-Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Another Weekend at the Beach

Our plan was originally to leave first thing Saturday morning for "the cottage," but because the weather was glorious on Friday (and forecasted to be not-glorious on Sunday), we hightailed it down there on Friday afternoon and met up with Nate, Charmaine, and Evie at the beach.  The girls were instant friends.  We played, talked, caught up, cooked some dinner, and opened a few beverages before putting the girls to bed.  Uncle Dennis and Aunt Susie came and hung out, too, and the grown-ups played The 80's Game far, far too late into the night.  

We got to bed after midnight and were awakened at 5:30 by Annie's lusty singing of "Once Upon a Dream," followed by her loud crying when I went in to inform her that everyone was still SLEEPING and she should rest/go back to sleep/Not Make Loud Singing Noises for at least another hour.  We went through a good amount of coffee once we were all finally up, then spent four solid hours out in the sunshine - at the park, at the beach, having a picnic on a grassy spot downtown surrounded by the farmer's market, acoustic guitar music, and lots of classic cars in for the weekend.

We headed home after dinner last night, just as it was starting to cloud over, cool down, and sprinkle, but not before getting Sherman's ice cream, of course.  A whirlwind thirty-some hours, and totally worth the tiredness today.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mmmmmm . . . Lettuce

Even though I love a good salad (preferably one with lots of cheese, fruit, and nuts to jazz it up), I hardly ever make one for myself for lunch.  Today, though, with this gorgeous lettuce sitting on my counter, I couldn't resist.  It was officially the first delivery from our CSA and look, it's making me eat healthier already!  I fed the leftovers to the little group (herd?  rookery?  litter?) of tadpoles that now lives in a bucket in my basement. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Compromising, Romanticizing, Improvising

Not to be outdone by Jemma, Annie had to get her hair cut, too.  She wanted it short (like, well above her shoulders).  I didn't.  We compromised.  (At what age do you give your daughter creative control over her hair?)

You would think that it's all giggling and eating watermelon and sunshine around here every day.  You'd be wrong.  (But it was, on Memorial Day.)

So far, we've only had one or two truly gorgeous, sunny, warm "beach days" during our weekends at "the cottage."  In spite of that, we put on our bathing suits and go to the beach.  The girls beg to stay every time we try to leave, so we make one more sandcastle, do one more round of swings/slide/monkey bars, take another walk, eat some more pretzels, re-apply sunscreen, and listen to the sound the waves make for another hour or two.

The lawn really needed to be cut.  I know you're shocked that Jason didn't get right on that, given his penchant for yardwork and all, but it was clearly out of control.  We finally broke down and hired a lawn service after I spent part of the previous weekend crouching in the front yard, trying to trim it with hedge clippers.  (Surprisingly successful; unsurprisingly back-breaking and a good quad workout.)  

We also dug around the bottom of the bag of pretzels to scavenge for salt to put on our corn on the cob and edamame for dinner on Sunday night.  We also hang two beach towels from the curtain rod in Annie's bedroom in lieu of actual curtains and use an old sheet of my parents' from the 1970's as our beach/picnic blanket.  It's pretty bare-bones, down there.  In a good way.