Thawing Winter

Last night ice crystals formed on our single-pane, leaded-glass windows that frame our front door.

This morning, I noticed the most beautiful ice formations on the window in our half bath, accentuated by the early morning sun.

And then Owen climbed up on the stool to wash his hands and … nothing.

I looked at the ice crystals and let out a slow and heavy sigh.

We had forgotten to let the faucets drip overnight.

I read some “how to thaw frozen pipes” articles online, all of which talked about the importance of prevention. I called Andy at work. I turned on all the other faucets in our house (which were still working) to a slow trickle. I turned on the half-bath faucet, too. I put a space heater in the half bath, turned it up to 70° and shut the door.

Our house is more than 100 years old. The half bath was an addition. There is nothing below it, except a crawl space (which we discovered after moving into the house was used to store piles of slate tile that once served as the roof on the house—we’ve since turned several into mini chalkboards).

“You have to go into the crawl space,” Andy said, over the phone. “You have to find out what’s going on in there.”

On went my boots, coat, mittens, hat and scarf around my face. I bribed the kids with Neccos (yes, it was still morning) and TV. Out I went. Except the four-foot door, made out of wood and lattice and held on with rusty hinges, wouldn’t open. I looked down to see that a block of the concrete sidewalk had risen high enough to block the opening of the door.

I pulled, and pulled, and pulled.

Back inside, I called Andy.

“The pipes are more important than the door,” he said. “Do I need to come home?”

“No,” I said. I was determined to handle this mini household emergency myself.

I dressed again, and went back outside with a hammer. I looked for a pin to pull out in the hinges, but everything was ice-encrusted and rusted over. Still, I hit the hinges with my hammer a few times. Nothing.

So I lifted up and pulled on the door, with all my might, thinking if the door broke, so be it.


I crawled into the crawl space, smiled at the piles of slate tiles and wondered about the old moulding and hooks that were also down there. I could do something with that, I thought. I tried to focus.

I could (obviously) see no pipes. All I saw was cold stone foundation, and some poured concrete.

And then, I heard screaming. Owen screaming. A blood-curdling scream followed by sobbing.

I ran out as fast as I could to find him on our icy deck, in his winter coat on but upside down, barefoot.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” I screamed, scooping him up and rushing him inside.

As I rubbed his feet to warm them up he said, “I wanted to help you and I couldn’t find my shoes.”

(He’s fine.)

Back outside. I cleared out some debris and carried another space heater down to the crawl space (where, conveniently, there was a plug). I plugged it in, turned it up to 70° and shut the door.

Then I went back inside and read up on the dangers of space heaters, freaking myself out well enough that I checked on it (which required re-dressing for the weather) every 20 minutes throughout the day.

Around 3pm I noticed the ceiling of the crawl space bulging. I could see the insulation peeking out. I also noted past water stains.

Surely, I thought, our pipes had cracked and the space was filling up with water.

I went back inside, called Andy.

“Drill a hole,” he said. “See what happens.”

So I grabbed our drill, chucked a 3/8″ bit into it and didn’t think about the possibility of accidentally drilling into the pipe until I was halfway through the drilling job. I pulled the bit out, held my breath and waited.


Back inside. Back to peeling clementines, building Lego towers, insisting on Christmas thank-you notes, soaking a doll’s hair in a concoction of water and fabric softener, negotiating TV time, fruit snacks and games on the computer.

Back to checking the crawl space.

Over and over.

And then, something clicked. The space heater running in the bath wasn’t pushed up right next to the pipe. I was simply using it to heat the space, in general. I felt the pipe, behind our pedestal sink, and close to hardwood floor it was, indeed, very cold. So I pushed the space heater up practically against the pipe and set the temperature for 75°. And while peeling clementines (for the 10th time that day) I heard the noise of rushing water—it was from our faucet, into our sink.

I’m still holding my breath. Having only lived in 100-plus-year-old houses since Andy and I have been married, I’m used to things not working out. In fact, I still keeping checking the crawl space, expecting to find water everywhere.

But for now, we have running water. And for now, our pipes haven’t burst. And forever more, I’ll run a bit of water every time it gets this cold (that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?).

Fingers crossed.

“Three feet of ice does not result from one day of cold weather.” —Chinese Proverbs quotes

That Look

Andy comes home today! Sophie has quite the welcome-home plans for him …

My parents came over and treated us to dinner last night. And earlier in my week of solo parenting Owen and James spent the night at my parents’ house, giving me time to tackle my piles while Sophie was at preschool. My mom took this picture of Pop Pop reading to them during their stay.

Also, the sun is shining today.

“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” —John Denver

Solo Parenting

I took the kids to Skyline for dinner tonight. Randomly Owen and James started yelling out Reds baseball player names, including Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto, with great gusto. For Christmas, my dad gave James framed pictures of baseball players to hang in his room. My dad often reminds Owen and James the names of the players. I’m sure this is where the spouting of names came from but I have no idea why it happened in the middle of dinner tonight. But with the snow still falling as we ate, and all of us in dire need of baseball weather, it was insanely cute. So I grabbed my phone and recorded it.

I have no idea why there’s (a) no sound and (b) why it’s posting as a picture and not a video.

If Andy were here, I’m sure he could fix it. Just like he could fix the toilet upstairs that is suddenly constantly running. For now I open the lid and jiggle a wire forcing the stopper to close every time someone flushes. I’m sure there is a better (and easier) way to handle this.

Andy’s been out of town since early Thursday afternoon. And he won’t be back until late Wednesday afternoon.

Seven days.

Six nights.

It’s gone better than I expected. But it’s a long time.

He’s been gone for good reason. He spent several days in Florida, visiting with extended family. And now he’s in Denver, for work.

In some ways, I feel more on top of things. Knowing I’m in charge of everything, and I don’t have anyone else to fall back on, I make sure things get done. I worry too much to let things slide.

Still, Owen’s wearing a pajama top covered in heart stickers in the video/picture. It was a battle I chose not to fight. Owen and James also are wearing their snow boots (because it’s snowing, of course) but sans socks. I’d like to say that was another battle I chose not to fight but in reality, it was a shortcut I insisted on.

I think about all the mamas and papas out there who do this on their own, without any support from the other biological parent, always. Or the ones whose spouse/partner travels for work, or is away for months at a time, with the military. I admire you. And I’m sorry. I imagine posts like these are hilarious or infuriating (or, perhaps, both). It’s a week. One small week.

Still. I look forward to not being the only one running up the stairs every five minutes at bedtime. Sometimes, for good reason: a dirty diaper. Chapped/bleeding lips. A dropped Piglet. But the other times: “It’s important, Mommy!” “What’s important?” “I don’t know. But don’t leave.” Or, “Which engine is this?” while pointing to an engine in a Thomas book. Or, “I forgot to make a mask for Emma today!”

The calories I burn, running up those stairs … it’s how I’m justifying the popcorn drizzled with truffle oil and covered in parmesan cheese, which I’m eating right now.

And in some ways, it’s nice. Andy hates the smell of truffle oil. And now I can eat it without complaint. I can not watch basketball (although I should point out “Peach Baskets”—my bracket—is currently ranked fourth out of 240 entries). And not once in the past five days have I encountered a bathroom sink full of little hairs, which is what I always encounter after Andy shaves.

But then, I like arguing about the merits of truffle oil. And it’s weird to not have basketball on in March. And washing those little hairs down the sink isn’t all that bad, really.

There’s a reason they say absence make the hearts grow fonder.

I miss him. I miss us. All of us, all the ways we work and don’t work together as a family of five.

Soon. (And for that, I know, I’m lucky.)

“Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” —Kahlil Gibran

Woodfill’s Big Top Festival (Year Three)

I love everything about this festival. I love how kid-centered it is. I love how inexpensive it is (although as the kids get older, we’re discovering it becomes more and more costly). I love how everything is run by volunteers. I love how all the money earned benefits the school. I love how excited my kids get over cheap plastic rings and lollipops. I love that we can walk to it. I love the community feel of it. I love that afterwards, we can walk to a local park and meet good friends and then walk to Anita’s with said good friends for good Mexican food.

I spent most of my childhood living in houses on land. That land was surrounded by more land and everything was so open. Views, from everywhere, included fields and tree lines and yard, yard, yard. Often, in Fort Thomas, I feel closed in. The neighbors (as much as I love them) seem too close. The traffic from 27 sounds too loud. The lights from the gas station on the corner seem too bright. The fact that there’s a pseudo-junkyard behind our privacy fence, which you can see from our second-floor windows when the leaves are down, drives me insane. I lament how few stars I can see—my children can see—and that it’s impossible for my children to play tag football or softball in my backyard. As much as I’m crazy-in-love with my house, I wish I could move it to LAND. (Although, while I’m wishing for things, a first-floor laundry room and garage would be nice, too.)

But there are advantages to living so close to the city. A short work commute for Andy (something I strongly believe in). Sidewalks. The ability to walk to parks, restaurants, the library, school, the local Y, farmers’ markets and shops. A sense of community (we will long be newcomers in Fort Thomas but already I feel like I know—and am friends with—many). Accessibility to everything Cincinnati has to offer (the zoo, museums, restaurants, sports, the river). Afternoons and evenings spent like the one pictured here.

It could be better, I say. But I think, no matter where I was, I’d think it could always be better. I’m working on that, about myself. It’s slow-going. And the truth is, it could also, easily, be a lot worse. Practicing, working on, gratefulness.

“The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.” —Robert Fulghum

A Summer Day With Family At My Parents’ House

Earlier this summer my cousins Emilie and Wendy, and Wendy’s children Makenna and Mavvie, visited Ohio from their hometown in Kansas. We see them so rarely—their visit was a treat. And we spent a wonderful summer afternoon at my parents’ house.

Sophie, Makenna and James jumping on Nini and Pop Pop’s bed

Mavvie, James, Sophie, Makenna and Owen eating popsicles on the porch

kids + Emilie, Pop Pop, Nini, Wendy and my grandma

porch view

porch popsicles

Mavvie, Sophie and Makenna

porch feet



Mavvie (photo taken by Makenna)

Sophie (photo taken by Makenna)

Owen (photo taken by Makenna)

my grandma (photo taken by Makenna)

James, a notoriously slow popsicle eater


my mom and grandma

Owen throwing a tantrum and “running away”

Mavvie trying to console Owen

Great Grandma and Owen

Makenna’s cartwheel

Great Grandma + children



my mom’s lavender, drying

more fun in Nini and Pop Pop’s bedroom


wrestling with Pop Pop

the boys’ favorite snack

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” —Henry James

The Porter House (aka A Little Dream of Mine)

This is the post in which I confess my obsession with a house that (according to Andy) we will never buy.

We don’t want or need to move. I love our house. I love our community. The schools are great, Andy’s commute to work is reasonable and we have many good friends here. But, from time to time, I tend to become obsessed with the unreasonable. This is my current unreasonable:

I took these pictures (on multiple occasions as the different seasons reveal) with my cell phone. Now, it’s not like I drove all the way up to Glendale (where the house is located) on multiple occasions just to peek through windows on private property trying to get a better look at a house I will never buy. But every once in awhile the boys would fall asleep in the van and if I stopped driving, they would wake up. So I would drive. First around Fort Thomas. Then up I-71. And somehow my van just always ended here. The Porter House.

According to my research (yes, I did research) the house was built sometime between 1855 and 1867 by John H. Porter and family owned until about 1905. It’s considered a “pivotal structure” (doesn’t that sound so important?) in Glendale. It has two acres and is on a gorgeous, tree-and-sidewalk-lined street with several other beautiful old houses. It has a detached four-car garage (that’s falling down but we’ve been without a garage for so long I don’t think that matters), a gorgeous original staircase, built-in bookcases with a rolling ladder in the library, a balcony, a terrace, new kitchen (which is not at all fitting to the house and doesn’t seem complete but, whatever), 12′ ceilings and five fireplaces.

I love it.

For a long time the price was unreasonably high, for the amount of work it clearly requires (the outside looks, I don’t know, moldy and I’m pretty sure the roof needs replaced and you sort of have to navigate through overgrown bushes and vines to get to the front door—don’t ask me how I know that—and one time I visited there was, what looked like, a big sinkhole in the yard with caution tape all around it). But this week the price went down to a price I never thought the bank would allow it to go down to, given how big the home is and the fact that it’s on two acres. The problem? I’m sure it requires at least the asking price, if not more, in funds to fix it.

But oh, what a beautiful home it could be! Andy (apart from the many, many, many, exhaustingly many reasons he comes up with on why we can’t buy this house) doesn’t understand why I even like it—the outside isn’t necessarily my style. But I still think with paint and landscaping and love it could be my style. And the inside … I could fill it with estate sale finds and then spend my days alphabetizing my books while the kids take turns climbing the ladder in the library.

I know you’re supposed to be content with what you have. I know this little dream of mine is completely unreasonable. I know, in reality, I probably need to just let.it.go. But sometimes, I think it’s fun to have a little dream, something completely and totally unrealistic to think about. Like those moments when all hell is breaking loose in your house and you imagine yourself on a beach blanket on sun-warmed sand listening only to waves crashing and seagulls calling. Or those moments when you open yet another rejection letter from a literary agent and you imagine yourself at a room-filled book signing, telling loving readers how many rejections you received before achieving your bestseller status. (OK, so these may be other little dreams of mine but still, you get the idea.)

Anyhow, I know (a little sadly) that I will never own The Porter House. But I just hope that the family who someday does doesn’t tear it down but it embraces it, fixes it, loves it—brings it back to what it once was and what it still can be. For then my dream will (sort of) be filled. Even if it is filled, vicariously.

“Dreams are extremely important. You can’t do it unless you imagine it.” —George Lucas