When I rock my crying baby and he slowly calms and falls asleep on my shoulder, it is magic.
At well over six feet tall, my youngest brother is certainly no baby anymore. He is eight years my junior, which means he was in kindergarten when I graduated eighth grade.
Over the past few years, he morphed, in the way siblings do, from a squirt into a real friend. He is smart and kind and brave, and it is difficult to believe that he will graduate from high school in a few short weeks.
My baby brother–the French horn playing, retreat leading, academic whizz with a wicked sense of humor–is growing up. It’s weird and right. My kid is lucky to have an Uncle Poncho (name is currently under development–I’m sure Poncho will never stick. Oh, wait…).
Our neighborhood is great, and there is an ineffable quality that comes out in that thirty minutes between when night is falling and day is done. The slowly failing light makes the azaleas and dogwoods seem brighter. The nice weather makes everyone more amenable to chatting and making introductions. Right before everyone returns to their homes to go about their separate lives, the streets turn on for those few minutes in a manner completely unlike any other time of day. It is the perfect time to walk with my family.
It happened like this.
My grandmother mentioned that she wanted to get rid of the pile of bricks behind her storage shed and the bricks lining her flower beds because they were in the way. She asked if we wanted to take them. Since our house is brick and the backyard has a brick path lining the exterior, we said absolutely.
Then we realized how many bricks she had. Our bright eyed, optimistic plan was to spend an hour on a Saturday morning getting the bricks and a few plants from her and then stacking them neatly at our house for use on a future project. Three hours tops. [I laughed the entire time I wrote that sentence.]
We got to her house, loaded down our midsize car, called my dad to ask for his truck and manpower assistance, loaded down his truck, went back to the house [having only removed half of the bricks], unloaded everything, fed my dad lunch [three hours after we started] and called it a day on the bricks.
We didn’t plan on making a path that weekend, but we suddenly found ourselves with access to more bricks than we had imagined. Our driveway isn’t very steep, but it is narrow and does butt right up against a hill, which makes it super inconvenient when trying to push a trashcan or a stroller up to the house. Greg had been thinking about how and when he wanted to fix the situation when the solution came to us in the form of many pounds of construction material.
The next weekend we got to digging. We dug out a fair chunk along the side of the drive. [I was not the brains behind this operation. Greg did the measuring and gave me clear instructions on what to do. For these types of projects he is most definitely the ringleader and I am the additional labor.] As we got towards the bottom, we were moving some serious amounts of dirt. Thankfully, we had borrowed my parents’ tiller and wheelbarrow, which made the process easier.
We laid the bricks longways, moving down the drive and cutting out a lot of tree roots as we went. We worked for most of the day and then picked it back up on Sunday, finishing laying the bricks, starting the retaining wall to keep the yard from closing over the path and using the first bag of paving sand to set the path in place. The second bag will go on in a few weeks when the bricks have stopped moving.
Actually “we” didn’t do anything with the retaining wall. Greg built the wall. Credit where credit is due. He poured concrete on the small space at the bottom of the drive where there was a gap between the bricks and the sidewalk. I stuck some beads that I had leftover from a summer at camp along the seam. Because I wanted to.Greg took Easter Monday off from work and finished the wall in the afternoon. The project would have been finished here if it hadn’t rained, which caused some of the mortar to not set. So on Saturday, Greg will finish our “three hour” project. Three weeks after we started.
It looks awesome.
Cost–low (under $100)
Labor–high (over 15 man-hours)
Impact–high (easier access to the house, easier to move the trashcan and the stroller)
1. Don’t wake up the baby.
2. Replace toilet paper.
3. Offer to refill coffee mug.
4 DO NOT WAKE UP THE BABY.
This Lent felt longer than the past several, and I think it was a combination of factors that made it so. We don’t eat meat everyday in my house regardless of the liturgical season, but we made it a point this year to abstain on Fridays and to have at least one other meatless dinner a week. We did it so that we would be thoughtful of the season because it certainly isn’t an actual sacrifice for us. I like singing in Latin, but after weeks of Sanctus, I was ready for the Holy, Holy, Holy. I didn’t fast because I’m currently feeding myself and my kid, which makes for a perfect storm of caloric needs. Nevertheless, the season felt long.
The result was that I was very ready for a joyous celebration. We were able to go to Nashville to spend time with half of our family and to meet our newest member. At twenty days old, my nephew may have been the youngest person at mass. Despite really, really wanting to celebrate Easter inside the beautiful, packed church with the excellent choir, I spent the homily through communion sitting on the stairs outside and wandering through the outdoor stations of the cross. A few things happened–I forgot my medicine, the incense was strong, the hand bell choir rang their bells nonstop through the Gloria (another song I was really happy to sing again), and–most critically, because I could definitely handle everything else had this not happened–my favorite baby kept me up all night for the fifth night in a row. He was out of whack and woke me up roughly every forty-five minutes. I drank too much coffee to attempt to stay awake through mass, which was the crucial mistake. I could feel the wonky feeling turning into a hot flash and a solid dose of panic, which I took as my cue to exit quietly.
You know what? I’ve always felt closest to God outside. My Easter in the outdoor garden under the trees looking at the flowers and getting myself together was exactly right.
Me. I need sleep. If my kiddo gives me more than 2 hours straight tonight, I will be one happy lady. If he gives me more than 3, he will be my hero. More than 4 and I’d seriously considering buying him a pony.
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
One of the things I’ve been reading this week is The Professor and the Madman about two of the many makers behind the massive Oxford English Dictionary that took seventy years to compile. One of my coworkers asked me how I possibly have time to read these days. Basically, I love reading and don’t have cable so when its time to feed the kid, I read. I found this book on the library’s ebook site and got hooked by the title.
The parts about murder and paranoid insanity in Victorian England are interesting, but Winchester tends to use arcane words just because he can. I get that the book is about a dictionary, but I’m not convinced that it’s ever a good editorial move to use words that people are not going to know. I feel like it’s probably helping me up my Sunday crossword game though.
My husband and I bought a house almost exactly a year ago. Actually, we found out we were having a baby on a Tuesday and learned that our offer on our house was accepted on a Wednesday. It was a big week for us.
I was pregnant when we moved and got big and awkward soon afterwards. I am not graceful under normal circumstances so adding a growing human to the mix brought out a whole new level of clumsiness. The point of this explanation is that we spent the past year mostly maintaining our house and dreaming of the projects we wanted to do. To be sure, some projects were undertaken and finished (like Greg’s dining room table and kitchen cart he built us), but mostly, we [and then just he] tried to keep things clean.
But now! The city has thawed, my body has healed and my brain and hands are itching to turn our house into our home. There’s projects we have already finished this spring and more that are underway and many, many more that are free floating thoughts under constant revision. I’ll put up what we’ve already done sometime in the future, but for now, I have a baby who’s waking up and asparagus crowns to plant.
My name is Caroline, and I want a place to keep track of ideas and thoughts. I also want to share them. I am a lot of things–a new mom, a wife, a daughter, a homeowner, a feminist, a Catholic, an aspiring gardener, a museum professional, a reader, an adjunct professor, an environmentalist, a Southerner…frankly, the list is long. Sometimes I feel like my mind runs a million miles a minute, which can be a great thing. It can also suck. I had a blog in the past that I had a great time doing until it wasn’t fun anymore: http://pictorialliterature.blogspot.com. I anticipate this blog going the same way.
I have been reading a lot of Dr. Seuss to my kiddo lately, and my favorite so far is Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! That’s where the title my lack-of-sleep addled brain thought up came from.