wednesday morning in the garden with both my girls

It’s been a long time since I’ve had both girls at home on a Wednesday morning. I’ve been looking forward to this change of schedule for awhile. They were slow to rouse and slow to rise, but we finally got there. Once there, they wanted to go everywhere until I reminded them of our time limitations. Next week they’ll get up a little quicker.

It’s been a little rough around the edges here lately, and I’m glad it’s finally Friday. I’m ready for the weekend pace. I’ve had some disconcerting symptoms that started out of the blue about a week after we returned from D.C., and I’ve had a series of tests in May. Since last Friday I’ve been waiting to hear something – anything – from my doctor, and yesterday they finally called, and then called again later for a lengthier discussion. The things that scared me the most are off the table, and that’s a relief. I can deal with the rest, even the unknown parts. It’s hard to be patient and focus on daily life and work when the mind wants to wander. We’ve had other major things surface, and have spent a lot of time organizing our workspace and our headspace. So many decisions to make and indecision to counteract. It’s draining.

But summer is here, and it’s glorious. I don’t even mind the heat because it means sunshine and sandals and lengthening days that I can fill up with more of the things that I love. Vacation is on the horizon, and the ocean puts everything in perspective. I welcome that. I can smell it already.

I’m so grateful for this space to walk, to clear my head and stretch my legs. I watch the girls ahead of me and they are ageless and timeless and it swells my heart.

Summer will be good for us, I can feel it.

mantel story(ies)

I started sharing a few mantel photos on Instagram, and I thought I’d pull together a few more in a post here. M was working on the mantel in our room, but that story actually begins in the living room just below it.

The photo above is from our beautiful living room when we first bought the house. Stunning, I know. You can see the line of where the mantel used to be affixed to the plaster, but it was actually hanging out in another room of the house when we first saw the place. The fireplace was never a traditional fireplace in the wall. Instead there was a freestanding stove that sat in front of it, with a flue that went up and turned into the wall (and chimney flue inside it) at that hole you can see further up the wall.

We refinished the mantel eventually, and reinstalled it once we furred out all the exterior walls of the house and reinstalled all the trim. We found a cast iron summer front in an antique shop in our neighborhood, and attached it to the wall inside. These summer fronts were used to close up real fireplaces for the summer when they weren’t in use – but in the case of simple, working class homes like ours, the heat source was from a stove, so no summer fronts were needed. But because the house is Second Empire, and Victorians love their ornament, there is still a mantel!

There were actually quite a few mantels in our house. The first floor mantels were more decorative, with a simpler design for the second floor unit. You might remember that we installed an interior stair on the fireplace wall of the middle room in our house, so those mantels were not needed. We moved the more decorative mantel from the first floor up to our bedroom and installed it on the wall and painted everything white. I know it looks sort of strange to have a “fake” fireplace, but it’s really not that weird in houses from this time period around here. We always thought we’d keep our eyes open for another summer front, but we got busy with kids and life and we honestly never poke around salvage yards and antique stores anymore.

But then we installed a real working fireplace in the first floor living room and we had the old summer front hanging out in the basement. A few months ago M attached it to the wall up here, and we’ve just been waiting for the time to figure out a trim detail.

He ended up building up a few pieces to create this frame, matching the egg-and-dart detail on the cast iron. We’ll fill the holes and paint the whole thing black, and it will just blend in and look like it’s always been there. It’s a huge improvement already.

That made me think about the mantel that we relocated up to the third floor when we first finished our attic space and carved out the cutest nursery in the world. Instead of looking for a summer front for this mantel, we chose to do what is typically done in the center of these “fake” mantels – tile! And since I was starting from scratch, I decided to have fun with the tile.

I painted a scene from The Little Prince, and I added several of my favorite quotes. Then we surrounded it with glass tiles in the greens and blues and it came together just like I imagined it. I actually painted the tiles while I was pregnant, and I wasn’t convinced until the end that it was going to work out.

But it was perfect. Then…

…and now!

And that reminds me of a family movie that we just watched that was lovelyl! The Little Prince on Netflix. It’s so beautiful – the characters, the animation, the story within the story. Listening to E saying the phrases on her wall along with the movie was the best part. She’ll probably remember those words long after she leaves this room behind.

lately in the garden

I promise that I’m planning some new posts on the blog that don’t feature garden photos in them! Lately it’s been the only time I’ve gotten the camera out of the closet, and sometimes it’s easier for me to put some thoughts down here as I go through the ritual of uploading these photos once or twice a week. May is always a busy month, but this one has barreled along with several big things simmering just below the surface. So there is a stress knot that’s taken out a short (or sort of long) term lease on my stomach that is requiring a whole lot of maintenance to unwind again and again. I do some of that in this place, so this is all I have to share at the moment.

Some of these photos are from my morning with F – it was our last morning of the school year, just the two of us. E will join us next week for the summer, and I’m looking forward to that. This summer will mark the fifteenth year that we’ve been wandering here. I owe it all to E’s daycare – they used to be located just across the street, and they’d visit the garden several times a week. I got into the habit with her as a baby, and it’s such a part of us now that it’s hard to imagine a week without a visit.

The other photos are from Saturday, when M joined me for an early walk together. The girls spent last week with my parents and sister’s family, and we had a quiet house of slightly different routines in their absence. I took advantage of a morning window to run before the temperatures heated up too much. But running helped with that stress knot I mentioned, so some days I went back for more running after work. Saturday was so warm that the garden was already toasty for our walk. Afterwards, I left town to pick up the girls and it rained and stormed at home while I was gone. I thought about all the white wedding chairs being set up earlier that day. I hope they squeezed in the ceremonies around the showers. I love the idea of a garden wedding, but I wasn’t brave enough to sweat the weather for ours. There are mornings when I turn a corner in that place and the breeze is perfect and the light is divine and I think that if I could, I’d get married again right there in that spot. Maybe we could have walked together until we stumbled upon the moment instead of planning for it. It’s sort of a charming thing to think of while I walk.

The girls discovered a high school scrapbook of mine in my childhood closet that was apparently VERY interesting, particularly the photo booth shots of me kissing someone other than their dad. For the first hour of our return trip they made me start at the beginning of the story – or at least my senior year – and tell every juicy detail that led me from there to here. The miles went by quickly, although I was hoarse in the end. It’s a funny concept – especially to an eight year old – to imagine a parent with a life before you entered it.

It’s Monday night, and I’m still worried and tense. I’m also tired and ready to fall asleep, but there are still a few things to do before I surrender to my bed. This summer schedule already feels so much better to me, despite the running around to various camps. The girls are big and self-sufficient. They make their own lunches and pack up their checklists and shower off their sunscreen and sweat on their own. F has a lot of new summer camps this year – big kid camps and sleep away ones. She’s so excited about everything that it’s contagious. She wants to tell me everything, but she’ll be asleep before her head hits the pillow. So will I.

Zig-zag bridges are designed to scare away the evil spirits that cannot follow you along the twists and turns. The thoughts and worries that keep you up at night are linear; they begin to drop off at each new corner as you navigate the shifts with ease. Even the stubborn ones can’t keep up with the turns. I’ve walked it twice, and it sort of works. The iris help too.

It’s summer in the garden, and that’s a gift. We’ll wake up Wednesday and see what’s new. And what we can leave behind us as we wander.