Day 30: Matthias!!!

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This was the plan all along, to save the best for last. There were many days during this project that Matt would say, “So you still haven’t written about me yet” and it was all I could do to not yell out, “Look, I’m saving you until the end so I can bow out with a bang!!!” Here’s my bang!

I love him deeply. Matt told me he loved me over five years ago and I can’t imagine being with anyone else. Sometimes I love him painfully like when we’re watching a movie where the couple looses the other to illness or an accident. I picture my life without Matt and I lose it every time. I shouldn’t even think about it but if I lost him I honestly don’t know what I would do. He’s my family and I love him desperately.

Marriage is interesting because it’s both amazingly divine and unbelievably annoying and exasperating. One minute they are the most attractive, funny and desiring person you’ve ever known, the one you want to spend ALL of your time with. The next minute you could be asking yourself if there is a secluded cabin that you can escape to for about a week just to stare at your OWN mess or not have to kiss a prickly, unshaven face.

This past week Matt has helped out around the house and with the kids in ways that I’ve really needed him to since I’ve been in a lot of pain (tooth issues) and it’s reminded me of how involved he is in our marriage. Some husbands check out when the wife needs them the most.  He adds a strength and a beauty to my life that would never have been here if I had stayed single or married another.

When Matt and I started to like each other I had noticed a lot of mature changes in his life  which made him more interesting and attractive to me. After we started dating I told him that I had seen so much growth and goodness in him lately and he said, “You know why? Because I knew that I liked you but you’d never even consider me if I didn’t get somethings in my life sorted through”. To which I thought, “Good answer, brutha! You’re going to make a damn fine man for me!”

I can see the tender father and the giving spirit of Claude and the compassion and dry humor of Francine in their firstborn. This is what they’ve created: a loving, tender and compassionate father and husband who drops the stupidest puns you’ve ever heard into daily conversation, then laughing at his own jokes.

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He engages with our kids as they are growing little humans. He plays with them and puts down what he’s doing to throw or toss them and make them giggle. He comes home and the house is alive again. The kids yell, “PAPA!!!” and overwhelm him with sound and touch; squealing and pushing to be the first to be held.

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He’s never slept on the couch because he’s never needed to. Every argument, even the bad ones, end with calm after the storm. He’ll always walk away and think about what was said rather than dig his heel in the ground in order to remain  unmoved …that’s my job! He’s the man of peace in this house and the steady form that I need as I stress about all of the little details of life.  He gives me peace and the gift of touch, one that I take for granted. I don’t feel that I ‘need’ to be touched or loved but when it wasn’t a part of my life I longed for it so much that I would sometimes cry. Now touching and gentleness is mine and I almost forget it’s there. Yet, I’m so thankful today that he’s that way. He’s the toucher and the giver. I’m the helper and the doer. Every morning our first encounter is a long and intentional hug. Usually I’m limp and unaffected until caffeine comes into contact with my bloodstream. But I notice it; I notice him. I notice that he lets me sleep in every morning as he wakes with our little, early risers. I notice the dishes, the trash, the kitty box, the times I go out alone to get refreshed, the little gifts, the emails and the phone call every day from work. I’m always watching and thinking, observing him as he plays with our kids or plays his new piano.

I’m watching, my love and I like who you are. You impress me!  Your art is beauty. What you have made is lovely and slick. Well done, babe. I’m celebrating you today because you are worth my posting.

Let’s have 50 more years together to love, annoy, tease and create a life together. I have saved the best for last!

Sincerely,

Your Lady

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Day 29: Home, sweet home!

There she is!

There she is!

We moved into this house three years ago seeing it as a fixer upper to be flipped and sold as a profit six months later. Three years later we are still here. The housing market took a turn recently and we are still trying to work on the finishing touches that we had hoped to have as an afterthought thus far. The first time I saw this house ( we pulled up with our Realtor friend as we were randomly driving past and saw it’s for sale sign) I said a silent prayer, “God, I really want this house” and I’d never even seen the inside. I likely wouldn’t have prayed that if I had. Well, that’s not totally true. Matt and I were looking for something to make shine and sparkle with our decorating niche so walking through this place and seeing the fake wood paneling on all the walls, trashed kitchen and bathroom, scuffed beyond recognition hard wood floors and missing dining room ceiling we said, “Perfect! We’ll take it!”

We’ve had both of our kids living in construction (Oliver more than Chloe. Most of the major stuff was finished by the time she was born) and we work on projects when they are napping and when the weather is warmer so we can open windows and ventilate. This process has slowed our efforts down to a tortoise like pace in which we have lamenting moments of beating our bosoms wondering why the ‘eff’ we bought said property. The hard part is not comparing your life to others and most of our friends have purchased homes. Their situations have all been different than ours though (parents co-signing, not having kids in home so as to actually get construction done, having an already finished home, or having money to remodel with). For the most part it has been Matt and I doing the work ourselves and we have redone nearly every inch of this house whether it’s been a new wall being put up, tiling or just a coat of paint. I should look at our efforts and be proud and feel we have rocked it like a hurricane but I confess I have my moments of wishing I was out of here and done with all of this. Last summer I was at my end and decided we’re selling it and moving in with friends to save money for a real down payment. Then I realized I can handle no more tsunami like transition in my life so here we stay.

Recently I have been having moments where I find myself with that safe and glorious feeling inside my belly as I sit inside my house with kids napping, windows open on a sunny day, sitting in the living room with a book and fresh coffee and I feel taken care of in here. It’s our place! We made it what it is (interior, front yard and back garden) and we’ve worked damn hard on it. I told Matt when people walk by or come over I want them to see a home that is cared for and loved not a place where stuff is thrown together or put up just to get it done. I want to create beauty in this place that was so ugly, abandoned and taken advantage of. The former owners put up everything slap-dash just to get it done and trashed the place when they left. They didn’t fix things that broke and never put an ounce of creativity into the aesthetics of the interior. I won’t even go into how unkempt the front and back gardens were. To this day I still uncover trash (nails, metal bits and plastics of many variations) when I garden in the back yard.

So here we are three years later, still working on a home with two kids in tow and a husband who works full time and a budget that constricts us from hiring workers or paying top dollar for materials. Yet our home is a home, not just a house! It is cared for; we brush out her ugly tangles and wash her dirty face when we gain momentum to return to her face lift once again. She, in turn, keeps us dry, warm and secure or she just allows us to be ourselves inside her walls and relax with friends or relax alone. We’ve washed, waxed, sanded, pasted and painted her so she doesn’t look ugly anymore. Now she shines to the neighbors because we have taken away her shame and finally she is cared for.

One day left….

living room before

living room before. You can't tell but the floors are so scratched.

Living room today. Never mind the clothes and toys on the floor

Living room today. Never mind the clothes and toys on the floor. All the walls and trim were redone

Second nastiest room of the house. Bathroom! Moldy bathtub and drop in walls. Tub likely used to mix meth.  Fake wood paneling on walls.

Second nastiest room of the house. Bathroom! Moldy bathtub and drop in walls. Tub likely used to mix meth. Fake wood paneling on walls.

Refinished tub. Painted, put in floor, new sink and potty and tiled shower.

Refinished tub. Painted, put in floor, new sink and potty and tiled shower.

The first nastiest room in the house, the kitchen. I can't believe people lived here. Fake walls, nasty sink, lame pantry, mice everywhere! Vinyl floor

The first nastiest room in the house, the kitchen. I can't believe people lived here. Fake walls, nasty sink, lame pantry, mice everywhere! Vinyl floor

New Everything

New Everything

Knocked out the wall to open up the space. Never mind the dishes!

Knocked out the wall to open up the space. Never mind the dishes!

Fake wood on the walls. No ceiling, scratched floors.

Fake wood on the walls. No ceiling, scratched floors.

New everything. Color, light and beauty

New everything. Color, light and beauty

Day 28: an artsy day

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and books written by stay at home moms who are creative and crafty, putting their kids to the grindstone with their flare and crafts. I see photos of moms and their boys doing stuff that my son would balk at, being the active and spirited boy that he is. He may get into cookie cutter art projects that involve pastels and feathers but I’m pretty sure he hates to draw and color so anything that involves making pictures, gluing beans and making stupid bird feeders out of pine cones and peanut butter has always been out with him. Chloe on the other hand will get her face two inches away from the paper just to make the balloon looks precisely the way she wants it to look.

I have this great and open creative side that I’ve wanted to revive now that I’m home more but my dilemma has been tiny hands and fingers dipping into my projects rather than making them with me. Each time I get materials out for sewing or tiny seeds out for planting they all end up on the floor or wrapped around a child (string, thread and ribbon that is). I’ve put any sort of art project on hold until the wee ones go down for a nap over the past six months but lately I’ve been really sad that I’m not able to dip into their creative genius in this specific way. Not that worm catching isn’t creative but it’s not really my thing. I do it out of love for my kids.

So I’ve been reading a book about  being a creative family and incorporating creativity into your everyday life with your kids.  In some ways I wanted to throw the book across the room and scream at the author. “Who does she think she is to write a book about helping your kids develop their art and imagination when she doesn’t even know what it’s like to have the kids I have?” Now that I’m a mom I know for a fact that there is no one size fits all to parenting. People who aren’t yet  parents, or who have easy going kids can think this all they want but they haven’t really understood yet. So I just chuckle at them in their naivety. It’s really been a work out for me being in touch with my children’s cues and following their leads as they grow and I try to help them learn and develop into awesome and wonderful humans. I’ve tried a lot to get them into the artsy groove. Oliver has a groove but he’d rather groove with Legos and rockets than wood fairy’s and cowboys.

However, I went to the thrift store yesterday for a variety of sewing stuff, dress up clothes and picture frames for art work that may be hung up someday. Today was the test drive of our new finds. It’s funny because I took the kids with me to the thrift store to retrieve these items and almost wept at how hard it was to keep them with me. They ran all over the friggin store touching porcelain and glass objects. At one point Chloe took her shoes off in the show aisle to try on heels. We almost lost her girl shoes because she left them in an aisle and someone who worked there must have put them on the shelf with the other girl’s shoes. We seriously almost left Savers with a barefoot two year old .

So today I took the big mirror off the wall and gave them their clothes. They were able to see themselves in these outfits, dance around (which Chloe did; I got her a tutu) and make faces at themselves. They had a blast. We also made spoon people (total random idea I had this morning and it was a huge hit) which they played with for hours. Next we headed to the park in our outfits and sat on the swing which I told them was a pirate ship. Oliver kept saying, “No mom, this is a swing”. Shush, boy! But they went with it. They even grabbed sticks and fished. After Chloe went for a nap I put some of their old art work in frames on the wall and showed Oliver later. He was stoked to see his work on the wall. Now we have a family art wall. He also tried his hand at embroidery for the first time. He got bored fast but liked making his very own napkin.

I’m not going to push creative projects with the kids but it was so refreshing to get them involved in stuff that I actually like to do as well. Most of my days are spent playing duck, duck, goose (a game I’m not particularly fond of) and playing hide and seek (another work out for me). But today was a great day of engaging my kids in their imaginations. We also had a lot less stress and arguments  because Oliver was entertained and happy.

What are you thankful for?

Only two more days to go….

Our spoon people with fuzzy arms. Oliver took this as his 'nap toy' today

Our spoon people with fuzzy arms. Oliver took this as his 'nap toy' today

They played with these weird things for hours today. Wish I would have done this sooner

They played with these weird things for hours today. Wish I would have done this sooner

For some reason he kept looking in the mirror saying, "I'm electric"

For some reason he kept looking in the mirror saying, "I'm electric"

Top left to right: mama's embroidered flower, papa's Calm 7, Oliver's rocket, Chloe's....????

Top left to right: mama's embroidered flower, papa's Calm 7, Oliver's rocket, Chloe's....????

A vintage kitchen towel inside embroidery loops, turned into kitchen flare

A vintage kitchen towel inside embroidery loops, turned into kitchen flare

Oliver's embroidered napkin. It was a lot of loooong lines. Looked a bit 80's

Oliver's embroidered napkin. It was a lot of loooong lines. Looked a bit 80's

Day 27: The amazing race!

I am ashamed that I should be done with my 30 days of thankfulness by now but due to some serious irritation at life and really busy days I was unable to write….when i say, “unable” am I using it loosely, of course. I was ‘able’ but just had a few moments of being overwhelmed where this was the last thing in life that I wanted to do. Funny how I chose to do this project to get me into a clearer perspective of my life but, you know, I’m still me and have days where I fly off the handle and wish to read or garden myself into a comatose state hoping that kids and others are a distant voice in the background….sort of like smooth jazz. You don’t mind it playing as long as it’s really faint. If it’s turned up too loud you might as well be dealing with road rage.

Today a few friends of mine were partners in a fund raiser for the UW sports department, which rakes in a chunk ‘o change for Madison and the college in general. I paid $15 bucks to hang with some friends in a torrential downpour that flooded our sneakers as we walked, which was the pace of mall walkers I might add. At some point after the race my friend, Sarah, asked why my shoe was bubbling. I had no idea what she was asking until I looked down at the sudsy wonder that was spewing out of my jogging shoe. Just the left one! I must have had a sock with too much detergent used because it was like a bad episode of I Love Lucy. Zany and oddball!

I do realize I paid to walk in the pouring rain but as soon as we got out near the capital to wait for our green light I was super thankful to be there with some of my closest friends. Even though the hubby was gone it was a gift to be sans children in the miserable rain (they would have been so unhappy),  and to giggle with friends over a cup of sarcasm (you have to let the sarcastic humor fly if you’re going to survive being cold and wet plus throwing down 15 clams for the festivities).

At one point there was a rather heavy woman in the race who was clad in tight jogging pants and donned her small radio which looped “Gettin’ jiggy wid’ it”, to which Sarah put the spin on “Gettin’ jiggly wid’ it”. Nice one! You gotta laugh or you’ll weep.

After the event we headed for Dotty’s Dumpling Dowry for a burger and a beer (yep, at 11am we opted for a micro brew due to the fact that they were serving Bud Light at the race.  We couldn’t bring ourselves to drink it even though it was free). So we ate our rad burgers and sipped our micros in mushy clothing and there was nothing better in that moment. I had a great three hours with friends, creating memories that we will laugh about in just a few days time. I’m thankful for Jen watching the kids while I allowed myself to smell of wet dog in downtown Madison and I’m super thankful for the time where I could get jiggly with some friends and 17,000 midwest strangers.

What are you thankful for?

At Dottys Dumpling Dowry, dripping wet. Someone commented on how wet the floor was getting

At Dotty's Dumpling Dowry, dripping wet. Someone commented on how wet the floor was getting

Day 26: Boy Brandy

We have two Brandy’s in our life and one is our housemate whom our kids refer to as Boy Brandy. We have had a few housemates in our day and I have to say that it takes a special someone to inhabit a basement room. We’ve had one who not only endured but loved living there and loved living with us. She was a shining star of a roommate who loved our kids and felt a bit like part of our family.

Well this new housemate has been giving her a run for her money. He may not be a babysitter or come and eat with us every dinner time but we really dig having Boy Brandy around…. when we see him, that is. He works late so we don’t always see him but we usually do hear him. I can hear him practicing music from time to time and it really brings a lot of sound and life into this quite house. Well, sort of quiet. The kids are enough noise for all of us. But at night when the house isn’t stirring it actually is life giving to hear him playing downstairs.

Occasionally he and Matt get to play video games (and because of this Matt loves him more than words can say) and he has commented on the noise that the kids make as being, “a sound that life is in the house” rather than a ‘bunch of racket’. So already he has our vote for ‘bitchin roomie’!

He’s our first male roommate and I have to say he’s been worth the wait. I’m thankful that he’s here at night when Matt works late, or here in the day when Matt is away at work, even though I’ve never needed to call upon his brute strength. It’s just nice to have a dude in the house. He likes our kids and our kids like him. Chloe will see him in the morning and show him her clothes or just start rambling something incoherent at him, which he politely says, “Ohhhhh…”. Oliver shows him his legos and occasionally Brandy will even build something with the boy. That’s the way straight to a kid’s heart.

At any rate, we’re thankful and glad that he’s part of the Bonjour madness.

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Day 25: Habibi

Matt and I have been discussing the nature of family in the Biblical sense and what God intended family to be as a unit. There is a place of security, empowerment, support, being nurtured and strengthened that is really lacking in our culture today. Most families don’t even live in the same state anymore so when you need family around for support, or anything else, you sort of have to struggle through life alone instead.

A few years back Matt and I were lamenting the fact that we had no blood relatives living around us (his whole family is scattered through the US and then some in Switzerland- mine are in WA) and how this is unfortunate for our kids growing up without aunts, uncles and grandparents in their lives on a regular basis. So we began to talk about having Matt’s father living in Madison to be closer his family and easier access to his other children in the US. We only saw him once or twice a year for a few weeks then he was gone again. Our kids would have a week or two grandpa time to tide them over until next year.

Last year he moved to Madison and it’s been so refreshing to have him around. His grandchildren have come to know him as, “Habibi” which means ‘beloved one’ in Arabic. When he walks in the door Chloe squeals, ” Hi, Bibi!!!” I think she thinks his name is Bibi or Baby. It’s really sweet. Oliver likewise calls him Habibi as though that’s his name. “Habibi, can you fix this for me?” or “Habibi, can I have a snack?” Our kids love having their grandpa in their lives to play with them and love them and Matt and I cherish the dynamic of family living in our own area.

We are very lucky and thankful for having him in Madison. Not all men, fathers, or grandpas are nurturing, compassionate and playful with little people but he definitely is. He loves to watch them so Matt and I can have dates together or to just stop by to see how the wee ones are doing. Our kids always love it when he comes over or when they go to his house. He is a presence in their lives that adds history, culture and a taste of the good life that they will seldom find living in the Midwest. As they grow they will hear words that ring of their heritage as Swiss children and they will be reminded to love and enjoy life they way grandpa does. I am thankful for his presence in their lives, as well as ours, and  that our kids get to know their grandpa growing up. Now the rest of the family needs to move here……

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from back in the day with his own kids

from back in the day with his own kids

Day 24: Tiny Dancer

Lately Chloe has been showing very girly characteristics in how she prefers to dress, how she has started to randomly sing and la-la-la, and how she likes to hold live and play babies. Today I held her on my lap as she held a newborn. She delicately petted his soft, fuzzy head while she smiled a grown up smile. When I dress her in the mornings she tells me she wants to wear a “princess” which is another word for skirt (I love toddler-ese. These little humans have a true language all their own) and she literally throws a fit if I put pants on her. What has happened to my ragamuffin?

This morning I had music playing in the through the computer and, for whatever reason, I needed to come  into the living for something, which is where I found something priceless. Chloe was dancing all by herself to the music, and she was dancing well. I just stopped dead in my tracks and tried not to scream because of how cute she was. A funny thing happens when you catch you child doing something super cute. As soon as they see you watching them they get embarrassed and stop. So when she looked up at me I pretended not to notice her…and she kept going.

What a doll! I love this girly girl. This chic can hold her own with the boys. If a little dude tries to take her toy she’ll tell them off and then some. She still loves to roll around in the dirt, strip down to her underwear even when we’re outside in 35deg F weather, and she even laughs when she farts. In some ways she’s not frilly and fuffy, but in other ways she’s just the sweetest little darling and as a female myself I am totally enjoying it.

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twirling in her 'princess' and stocking hat

twirling in her 'princess' and stocking hat

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