September 27, 2016

A new (house) chapter...

A new home for us. Closing in less than a week. This feels so bittersweet. Maybe in the long run this won't feel so impactful, but as we sit under contract for a new house, thoughts of leaving our current house take over- and memories are so tangible it feels like I can reach out and touch them.

This house, 2260, is the place Jamie and I built our life up to this point.  I remember house hunting with Jamie despite the fact that I wasn't going to actually live there. I was just a blearly eyed post manayunk night out grad student who was helping her boyfriend narrow down the options. I sipped hot coffee and put my feet up on the heater of the car every time we emerged from a different house, as we searched during some cold winter months. Jamie and I broke up briefly during my second year of grad school, and in those short weeks Jamie finalized the purchase of the home. We weren't "officially" together, but J still messaged me (via myspace; we are old) the day he realized the pipes had exploded in this place. He and his dad went to work, tearing apart the bathroom before he could even move in.  Our time apart wasn't long, and I soon was alongside Jamie helping with everything from refinishing hardwood floors to tiling bathrooms. We often spent our evenings here on the couch eating dinner off of home depot boxes while watching whatever would keep us awake post renovations. When Jamie broke his leg mid-renovations, he had to sleep on the pull out couch and we spent so many hours watching Dukes of Hazzard and eating take out. I still laugh thinking about the CEO of his company strolling through the door (ah ING Direct, the good old days) in our haphazard environment.

Before I left for residency year in Ohio, it was this house's front door I walked through to hear music playing. I walked down the stairs to see Jamie on one knee, hand made signs behind him, because that's what my family does for big occasions. It was this house we walked into the morning after our wedding, flopping on the couch with the newly adorned JWM monogrammed pillows, before leaving for our honeymoon. We started new chapters here.

We called 2260 the Dog House when J moved in. There were some serious scratches on the floors and the not-so-faint smell of canine lingering. We whirled through renovations from the second that house was a home and we haven't stopped. I cannot even count the number of projects, big and small we tackled together.  From refinishing hardwood floors to tearing out and replacing full bathrooms to having friends help finish bathroom floors to putting in some major decorating time this house was our baby for a long time. Every room was either gutted and painted, finished, organized. We renovated a kitchen and turned it into a dreamy space.  We updated the "man cave" which has since become a play space. We gave the guest room some major sprucing up (including a DIY headboard, turned this into usable space for our cat,  We also had to treat our cats with prozac because they were crazy, and give one up for adoption. Jamie and my dad rebuilt our deck, we made this room into a cool office, and then... into a nursery.

And life changed.  Our sweet Sienna arrived. Maybe more than anything else, my heart feels like it's going to burst when I think of the day we walked through the door with Sienna. My mom and dad had a pink wreath waiting on the door.  Our house had a certain smell those first few weeks with my girl (probably breast milk and baby poop). I will always remember sinking into our couches downstairs and watching TV while nursing, and Jamie walking through that front door every.single.night ready to take her from me for awhile. Our family room was our sanctuary, and our house became even more of our home. It was in this house that I got the call (I was sitting in the kitchen holding Sienna waiting for my mom's name to pop up on my newish iphone) that Stella was born, an instant buddy for Sienna. We learned about being parents, and staying up all night, and loving more than we thought we ever would know how. Sienna turned 6 months, and then ONE, and then two, and three, and four in this place.

Then, we announced the upcoming arrival of baby sister. I almost can't remember the house without Piper in it. Piper Emily waltzed into this world (very quickly) and got blogged about entirely less than Sienna, mostly because I was super busy but also because  instagram came into my life. When we arrived home with P, Sienna was so excited she could barely contain herself. There she was, sitting on the front brick steps in her bright turquoise dress. Almost squealing she was smiling so hard. There's more pictures of P but less words, though I did a six month post, so there's that... Piper taught me that sometimes being a mom means things won't go as I plan and also that your heart grows when you have two kids. Sienna learned she has a built in BFF.

This house was also my place of comfort when things weren't so lovely. I remember after I matched in Ohio and faced the prospect of being away from Jamie, I crawled into bed there and cried eating birthday cake ice cream. There was the day my cell phone rang on the way to work with my dad telling me my grandfather passed away, when I left early - and found myself sitting in the kitchen- sun streaming in despite a cold day, with tea looking at photos of him at my wedding. I remember the day I got word that my good mama friend Sam  passed away, after having Piper, holding a newborn in my carrier and the tears flowing as I sat myself right in the middle of my kitchen floor. The house itself, of course, didn't change these things or make them better, but it was always a good soft place to fall, because we made it that way.

Now, we have a four year old and a two year old. They circle this house like it's a track.  Our girls footsteps in the hallway make me laugh. Piper constantly runs instead of walks and I frequently overhear Sienna saying "Umm Piper! You can't go on that top bunk alone!" Our whole house is the girls' playground at this point.  The backyard is their haven and they exclaim "Let's go to the fishies!" when they want to tumble down the back hill into the woods and run to the stream down their explorer path. Goodness how we will miss the stream and it's hot day reprieve from the humidity, with wildlife and water and mud- everything a kid could ever want.

They will love more space- and I'll love to not step on kid bath toys when I take a shower. I know it's time and am thrilled at the prospect of a better elementary school for our kids, another great yard, and more square footage. Still, the bittersweet factor is kicked up a notch when I think about the blood, sweat, and tears that went into this home.

This house  has been everything to us. It's where Jamie slipped the cushion cut diamond ring on my finger, the doorway we entered after we exchanged I do's, the quiet place we brought newborn Sienna into cautiously, and where Piper made our family whole. This home will always have a piece of my heart. Call me sentimental if you will, but thank you house for helping us make all these times exude joy and sorrow and love, and laughter and tons of baby tears, and for accompanying us through some of the fullest years of our lives. I hope the new family who lives in this space loves it as much as we did.

{P.S. The new house is gorgeous and has tons of space for visitors and kids' toys and a two car garage and non-basement laundry room, BUT it also has bathrooms from the 1990s, the most bizarre kitchen counter you've ever seen, a shiny black ceiling fan in the master bedroom, and the need for a new deck among many other things.... so this blog may really get dusted off in  the next few years as we do projects! Stay tuned!}

August 24, 2016

T W O for Piper!

Piper turned two on Monday. It is so hard to believe two years has gone by since she joined The Walls household. I can barely remember life without her, and yet her two years went by in a super quick flash.

Blogging hasn't been on my radar as much, but it will be back in action regularly soon (stay tuned), and a birthday post for Piper seems like the best way to start it going. So in honor of my littlest pumpkin, a list of some my favorite things about you at age two Pipey.

1. Your smile. Those dimples and the way your eyes light up. (Extra points if it's after you've done something you know you shouldn't.)

2. Your intense love for horses and dogs. You would be content to ride the horses at Meem and Pop's house or pet Ginger, our neighbors dog, all day long. Again and again.

3. The way you know what you want, and how to get it.

4. The way you say tickle daddy! and attack him every single night- especially before bed time when you're supposed to be winding down.

5. You're incredibly physically capable- you can climb on things on the playground with the four year olds and not bat an eyelash.

6. The fact that you can blow your own nose. This is sort of astounding!

7. You run everywhere. It is almost as if walking isn't in your repertoire of movement and you expect to go fast or faster. Nothing else.

8. Your face when you swing and say "push higher mama!"

9. How hard you play- how hard it is to calm down-  and how hard you sleep when your day is done.

10. You already have a preference for specific shoes. Girl after my own heart. Sorry we don't have red shoes as you requested this morning; I'll work on that.

11. I love how spunky you are. Some may call it terrible twos, but you are just the most hilarious kid when you have tantrums and I often find myself giving daddy, grammy, and grandpa a stern look to get them to stop laughing at your antics.

12. Huggies are your favorite. And mine too.

13. Those pacifiers. You call them bobbies and you adore them. They are your best buddies sometimes and it is adorable. Let people say they will screw up your teeth, you can keep them awhile, my girl.

14. Your love of "ice peam" aka ice cream.

15. The way you idolize Sienna and want to have every.single.toy. she has. I realize that it's frustrating for you, but it is also adorable. Sienna tries her best to share, too. You guys are the cutest little friends.

16. Cuddling with you every morning and after nap when mama's lap is the only place you think is good enough to sit. (Totally fine with me!)

17. The fact that you say you miss people you love. Specifically, missing "wee wa" or Olivia, is my favorite. You are only two but you already know who your people are.

18. Your love for the beach and the ocean- and new places - and for learning constantly. I know all kids like to learn, but you are a special breed of curiosity.

19. The way you talk. The sweetest little voice. It melts my heart. When you are being rocked in your chair at night, you always look up and say "mommy? mommy?' a few times just to check I am there before snuggling in.

20. You are already empathetic. When Sienna is hurt you run over and say "Nanni, it otay!" and rub her back until she calms down. You pat my arm when I am holding you and the other day gave me a kiss on the foot after I stubbed my toe. I am not sure if we teach you this, or if it's just part of you, but I'm thankful you've got this gift.

We love you beyond your wildest imagination, our sweet little firecracker!! Happy Second Birthday, baby girl!

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk: July 2016

Avalon August 2016

Avalon August 2016

Morning relaxing on my Birthday! 

Cake on my Birthday!

Being a total ham and making sure Sienna doesn't cut me out of the photo! 

Lemonade Stand with Sienna, August 2016

July 28, 2016

Rehoboth Beach Week!

We spent fourth of July week in Rehoboth with Jamie's family. Fourth of July week in Rehoboth means glow sticks and necklaces and fireworks and sandy feet and Sienna shouting, "I love Americans!" on the beach at 9pm. It also means tons of cousin time, bike rides, walks to the park, feeding turtles, building a bazillion different sand castles and digging holes (that J gets in trouble for from the life guard for being too deep...)

Beach Week at the cottage has morphed so much since the first time we took Sienna there, when she was a mere 4 months old with her chubby rolls sticking out of her bathing suit. It now means that the kids play- dare I say this- somewhat independently, and that eating dinner is a chore that interrupts pretend play and building forts on the porch. Piper was old enough this year to join in the fun, though she needed someone to "up me" aka pick her up and cuddle her every once in awhile when the big kids were going too fast or too loud for her liking. Either way, it's so nice to see the bonds these girls have formed with their cousins. Sienna and Hazel are pretty much glued together, but Sienna stated quite clearly on our way home that Keller is her very kindest best frend and often wanted to climb up on the couch and put her head on his shoulder in the morning. Pipey is equally enamored with both cousins, and you can easily win her over by playing babies with her or being the one to hand her a snack.

This summer is flying by and we are loving all the outdoor time that comes with it.  We can handle the heat when it means kids giggling and going to bed with sunkissed noses and sandy sheets.

Until next year beach week....

February 2, 2016

A heavy heart

Last weekend we got around 2 feet of snow. Two feet of lovely, white, soft snow blanketed the oddly blooming plants from previous warm spells. It shut down streets, towns, businesses. It gave us rules: don't go out unless you have to; be with your family; take care of the young and elderly. I followed the rules, but as usual, felt a little stir crazy- like I wanted to get out but there was no way. The snow, unpredictable, heavy, and totally out of my control, was here. It swept in quickly, winds whipping, and left gently, a bright soft sunshine filtering in the next day.

And that's exactly how my heart and my mind felt. Heavy, out of control, and searching for that soft sunlight at the end. Four days before, I lost a friend. The day unfolded in a manner that still shocks me. From a quick facebook message, to a text, to my mom doing what she does best and swooping in to watch the girls while I rushed to the hospital, hair unwashed, frazzled to say goodbye to Tracey. She went downhill so quickly, but I like to think that there was some purpose in that. That her children, who saw her Sunday smiling, never had to witness the intense pain or the fading. I left the hospital Tuesday afternoon after holding her hand, telling her what she meant to me, and squeezing her sweet husband another time. By evening, she was gone.

The weather turned cold, the snow was on its way. Her funeral was planned for Sunday. It was almost as if, the weather and the world were reminding me of these cycles- of the bad, the good, the light that comes again. Sunday morning I knew the roads might be riddled with icey patches, snow drifts, and folks even more stir crazy than me vying to get out of their houses. But as the sun rose in the sky, and the flakes started to melt, I got in the car and went to honor Tracey's life. The almost blindingly sunny day reminded me- she's at peace now. Her pain, like the snow storm, was unfair and out of my control. But the glow of new light was enough. Enough to get me through.
That doesn't mean Tracey hasn't crossed my mind every day since then. I met Tracey during grad school, where she was two years behind me, quiet, and kind. I always listened when she talked because if she was saying something - it was well planned and heartfelt. I was lucky that fate landed us in the same working environment by the time she was a resident. And from there, we ended up friends who grew closer and confided in each other.  Our daily morning conversations made me laugh. One of us was always running late and texting the other to open the back door. When I returned from maternity leave after having Piper, she gave me her Tracey smile, and reminded me it would be okay. She was a fierce mom- and sometimes I think people who didn't know her well, didn't quite get that. She loved those kids (and Phillip) to the point their hearts might burst open. One morning, she was tired, and when I asked what was going on she laughed and said, "Oh you know, just had Lily sleep in the bouncy seat on the floor while I bounced her with my foot and let Jack sleep next to me on the couch last night... because I guess he was lonely?" She was the kind of friend I never once felt judged around. If I messed up, she waved it off. If I did something well, she told me I was amazing. People like Tracey are true rare gems. She never had to be showy, or have the attention. She just quietly was successful, loyal, and kind.

It's still not fair. To lose a friend. To feel the intense pain. For her kids to not have their mama there to hug them, though I know Tracey's amazingly sweet family will love and cherish them and show them pictures and videos and make her legacy strong. But there is some light, the sun is shining again. I am reminded that she was a believer- and as I listened to the song, "When I get where I'm going" (thanks Brad Paisley, you do no wrong), it brought tears to my eyes.  I hope my friend is at peace, and that as the days go by my memories of her remain. Her lifetime was a gift- and she taught me invaluable things- to put my kids and family before work, to shrug it off when people judge what I do if I know in my heart it's the right decision, and to be kind to everyone you come in contact with.

I'll miss you, Tracey- I hope you're up there dancing in the sunlight.

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