I bought a bike this past weekend. It’s blue. I also bought a kids trailer for the bike, so I can actually go for bike rides every once in a while without having to burn any precious “me time.” Natalie signed up for Capital Bikeshare, too, so that she can bike home from work a few times a week, and also so she can join us for the occasional leisurely family bike outing.
Biking is hugely popular in our city. If you want to know how to get around town super fast, traffic and parking be damned, biking is the way you do it. It seems like everyone bikes, even us uncool parents. I’ve seen plenty of kid trailers hooked up to bikes scooting around town. It all seemed so wonderful.
I turned 31 a few weeks ago. Though I received awesome pampering (waking up to a candle in a glazed Boston cream doughnut along side a coffee was heaven), I still dealt with the typical trials a stay-at-home-parent must face on a regular day.
The children were less than appreciative that it was my birthday. There was fighting. Loren’s potty training broke stride. Both kids decided against napping for the day.
But we returned home from Loren’s preschool in good spirits. The trip from car to apartment was smooth as can be. We made our way upstairs and I told the children that I needed to go “potty” before I could make lunch. As I walked down the hallway I heard Loren exclaim that he, too, needed to pee. This isn’t unusual. As any stay-at-home-parent can tell you, trips to the bathroom are almost always a group effort. But I decided this one would be different.
“OK, buddy, I’m going to get started first, ” I said to him, “then you can join and we can have a ‘swordfight’!”
After all that, for the briefest of moments, we were building again. And then we showed up to Camp D last Friday to discover our main water line had frozen and busted during this second round of the blasted polar vortex. And despite having a plumber out to jump start us back to normal and flowing, he discovered that while he could fix our main line, it wasn’t going to help because the pipe between our house and the well was frozen solid too.
That pipe is buried three feet directly below our living room.
We’ve got more progress to report from the front lines of the Camp Davis renovation project. This time it’s cabinetry. And an island – a huge one. After a few weeks of using the courtyard as a refrigerator, cooking everything in the microwave or on an electric griddle and washing dishes in the bathroom sink, the kitchen is on the brink to being functional once again. And also badass.
That’s all thanks to this guy, of course:
My card-carrying Lumberjock extraordinaire father-in-law.
It’s not that he helped us install cabinets and an island – which would be huge in itself. It’s more that he custom built the whole thing from scratch and then drove it out to West Virginia where he quickly assembled it like he was flown in from Ikea headquarters in Smirgden.
He shows up with a truck-full of carefully labeled, perfectly crafted cabinet pieces, then unloads a few tools and gets to work.
You hear the drill buzzing here and there, items are shuffled about.
A few minutes later and it starts making sense. What was a stack of wood begins to resemble kitchen cabinetry.
“Oh man. We are so uncool.” That was Natalie’s first comment after we got home from an objectively* cool night on the town, sans kids, to celebrate our eight years of marriage. Although she pronounces it “coo-ool” (and always has), that wasn’t the reason she believes we’ve lost every last ounce of whatever tiny amount of coolness we once had. No, the reasons go much deeper, and no amount of speech therapy could correct it.
*That I must define possible instances of coolness “objectively” says a lot in and of itself.
My Instagram followers would know that we went to see Jim Gaffigan at the Warner Theatre this past Saturday. We even went out for drinks beforehand. Natalie’s mom came over to watch the kids, we got all gussied up, had a quick bite to eat, then hurried out the door for a fancy night of freedom!
As I mentioned previously, we are finally back on track at Camp Davis. With the structural rebuild complete, the biggest sticking point left was the floors. We had the contractors install unfinished New England White Pine – in part to save money and in part because we had a very particular look in mind that we knew we probably couldn’t achieve (especially in our price range) if we went with factory-finished flooring or if someone else did the finish job for us.
Of course, we had no idea if we could pull it off ourselves, or if the wood we chose would be worthy of the image we had in our heads.
Fortunately, when the contractors laid down the bare pine flooring we absolutely loved it. It was super knotty, rustic, very pale with hints of pink here and there, and we knew right away we wanted to skip staining altogether and go straight to sealing in it’s natural goodness. The wood flooring looked like wood. It felt like wood. This led us to pursue more research, trying to figure just the right method and product for maintaining such a look. We visited many websites, we spent many hours on Pinterest.
Then, seemingly out of the blue, within a week my dad and I sanded them, and I returned alone on a few day trips to seal them and then add two coats of finish. With that, they were complete. We drove up as a family just after New Year’s Day, with the snow falling and the fireplace roaring. Not surprisingly, the first thing we unpacked were the kids’ toys.
There is barely any sheen to the finish. In some ways you can hardly tell we finished the wood at all.
Which was exactly the point. This is Camp Davis after all.
In twilight and at night the floors glow warm, romantic even. In the daylight, they whiten and really pop. At any time they feel great underfoot – a total contrast to the ice cold ceramic tile that was there before the renovations.
And now that I’m looking through pictures I can’t help but notice just how closely this floor coloring resembles the Rooster’s hair. Totally a coincidence…right?
We sealed the floors with BonaSeal, then finished them with two coats of Bona Naturale. The application was relatively simple, though it took a few Youtube tutorials and write-ups to decide on a game plan. Each coat of sealer or finish was allowed to dry a full 24 hours before the next. That’s not because I planned it that way (all that waiting lacks the requisite instant gratification I yearn for in a project like this), but because I never had enough time to do more than one coat per trip.
So far the finish is holding up as well as I could hope. Ruthie, ever the messy eater, has dropped a good bit of every food group on to the floor with each meal. It wipes up easily with a damp paper towel. It hasn’t yet taken the spilled red wine test, and I’m sure that’s bound to happen sooner or later in a beverage-heavy home like ours, but I think it will be able to handle it.
We have a long way to go before this renovation is complete. Fortunately, with the floors finished we’re now free to get to everything else.
We moved.* We enjoyed the holidays. We ran away for a week to a seriously, unbelievably improved Camp Davis. And now we’re back. Natalie heads to work tomorrow. The kids and I go back to doing whatever it is the kids and I do during the week. Life marches onward. We have a lot of catching up to do.
*I know. Again. We’re nomads. We signed a two year lease this time. That’s practically forever, right?
This post was supposed to be about Camp Davis – for the most part anyway. After a year (a year!) of hemming and hawing, planning and drawing, scheming and pushing to make it whole again,** we were finally able to spend a lot of time at our home-away-from-home with the majority of the structural renovations complete, the floors installed and finished, some walls painted, a most incredibly bad-ass custom-built kitchen island installed, and – I can hardly believe it – the justifiable urge to furnish and decorate. Because that is how far along things are now.
**Long story short: someone drove a car into our house, which led to major renovations and much fist shaking. Long story longer: see excruciating blog post here.
That was the plan for my first-of-2014 blog post. I pulled up Picasa to start sorting through blog-worthy photos of our recent exploits – a normal writing habit that helps jog my memory before I get typing – and then my plans changed. That’s because I ran across this one:
Loren and Ruthie color together. It’s not the most eventful video I’ve taken, but it somehow manages to capture a lot.
Underneath every interaction lies that hint of sibling tension. Ruthie just trying to get comfortable ends up a little too close to Loren. Loren, a little too bossy, ends up making matters worse. “Ruthie, you’re squishing me in my face,” he says, forcing a wobbly little sister to fall back on top of him as she attempts to readjust to his protests.
It never devolved past this little give and take that night – it helps that they were both in a great mood – but you could see it going that way if attitudes were just a little different in the moment. Instead, Ruthie simply moves on to the next thing and walks away.
Those are the default titles my camera gave these two photos, which were taken in succession. IMG_7748 and IMG_7749. One moment all is harmony. The next…less so.
Awkward Family Photos may have taken the internet by storm (and rightfully so), but I feel like there is a niche opening for someone to start Honest Family Photos. Maybe a seemingly perfect family portrait is ruined by an obviously high teenage son. Perhaps another might be an engagement photo, where an up-close shot of the fiance’s ringed hand reveals fingers-crossed.
Most, I imagine, would show young siblings embracing with something less resembling love than, say, combat.
The odd thing is that our two kids love on each other plenty throughout the day. Yet they have their dust ups on the regular as well. The triggers never make sense – they can be anything. Proximity isn’t even always an element. They can be a room apart and suddenly, it’s on. Which is frustrating, because most of the time they are good or at least OK to each other. Occasionally they are great to each other – like that first photo, which captured an actual moment.
But parenting is nothing if not a constant reminder of the definition of “moment.” Children live in them in a way that we as parents can barely comprehend. From the highest highs to the lowest lows in under a second. I’ve seen it. It’s manic. It’s passionate. It’s baffling. And it makes me crazy.
So what’s the answer?
There isn’t one. This is parenting. Our job is to deal with it – all of it – and hope they turn out ok. One minute all is calm, the next is euphoria, the next is catastrophe. Here’s hoping you’re good enough with a camera that you catch some of it to laugh at later. Also, alcohol.
There was a big shuttle launch out of the NASA station at Wallop’s Island tonight that should have been visible from many hundreds of miles away. We didn’t see it from our balcony (since we were too busy watching Loren wash dishes in the kitchen for the first time), but the thought of Wallop’s Island brings with it a flood of memories from my childhood and teenage years.
My family has owned a little vacation place just around the bend from Wallops Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore for years. It was passed down from my Grandfather to my Father and, eventually, will be passed down to my brother Chris (at least that’s what we’re all assuming, since he seems most up to the task and has put enough time and effort in to it that we couldn’t imagine anyone else getting “dibs” on it). We also all assume my brother Donnie will inherit our childhood home and the place where our parents still live. I don’t really understand how that came to be. It just sort of happened, joking over a lot of beers, and now it’s become family lore. I don’t know what Katie and Steven have their eyes on, but I’d like to go ahead and call dad’s books as well as that secretary/hutch that’s resided in the living room for as long as I can remember. There’s something about the way the drawer pulls sound when you let go of them that will forever be home to me.
Anyway, my parents are totally healthy and rocking it. I’ll stop burying them now.
But seriously, the books and the secretary and I’ll sign any paperwork you need, dear siblings…