Happy Housiversary

Today marks six years since that rainy first day we moved into our house. It is only fitting that I finally reappear now to say hello to you, dear readers.

We have done so much to the house that I have chronicled in pictures that are safely stored on my computer but haven’t been shared. And I have tried so many Pinterest tutorials (all successful!) and done crocheting and ventured into baby food making (also successful!) but finding time to post all of it has seemed an impossible task.

I’ve made notes on my calendar countless times reading “update blog” but the reminders come and go. That’s because the past nearly nine months have been consumed by a now 20 pound bundle of joy named Alexandra.

For now I will leave you with my favorite newborn photo of me and her and promise you that one day soon I’ll come back and share with you all the joy that has been going on in my life and my home.

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furry family friday

The Man’s parents came down for a visit on Thursday and are staying with us for the weekend! Abby couldn’t be more excited to have more human playmates. We were all together in the kitchen talking when I realized The Man and his dad had worn similar outfits so, of course, I had to torture the three of them with a picture with they humored me with…

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and then Abby got jealous…

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and it was all downhill from there 🙂

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Hope everyone is having a beautiful Friday and preparing for a fabulous long weekend!

A very Merry Christmas

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It was a very Merry Christmas and we are finally recovered from all the cooking and present opening and dishes. Because our living room wall hasn’t been repaired yet from the plumbing work I was hesitant to decorate for Christmas. Then on Saturday the Man and I were like elves on speed and out up a lot of our decorations.

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Then we all packed up and headed to my mom’s house to celebrate. We got to see both sides of our families which was lovely. Christmas morning brought lots of fun gifts for all of us, but especially for the youngest member of our family – Abby.

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She was spoiled. And we learned she is VERY good at opening her own gifts. I wish we had been ready to record because she was adorable tearing into wrapping paper and tissue alike.

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Luna is home being watched and getting a vacation from the puppy so we will just call this “furbaby” Friday. I hope everyone had an amazing Christmas! I know that we did and were very blessed to spend it with our families.

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a snippet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery time I go to see my mom I end up bringing back things from her house.  Sometimes it is just an interesting newspaper article or a magazine, sometimes clothing or trinkets from my childhood. This time when I went home, I received a tischtuch – a table cloth.

Margrete, c. 1940

Margrete, c. 1940

Born in Vegasack, Germany in 1908, my father’s mother, Margrete Oltmann, was a simple woman. I only ever knew her as Oma. When her mother died, Oma was only a young girl, but inevitably took on the duties of keeping house and tending to the other children until her father remarried in the late 1920s.  As the story goes, she was devastated. Having been replaced by another woman and no longer the sole object of her father’s affection, Oma was bitter and decided to travel to America for a job as a live-in housekeeper for a middle-class family.

In 1938, she married a butcher from Bauthen who had come to America in his twenties. They spoke the same language, and shared the same culture, and so instead of love, the marriage of convenience occurred and they moved to a house on Stanley Avenue around 86th Street in Brooklyn.  Soon after my father was born, and then his sister.

My father and Inga, 1946

They never expected to live in America long; they were going to move back to Germany. There are pictures of my father in lederhosen and handmade clothing.  Their life in Brooklyn was simple, even meager.  You could call Oma cheap. She darned socks, after all, well into my father’s adulthood. But with the expectation of going back to the “old country”, my father was raised speaking exclusively German, and when he began school at around six years hold, he returned the first day crying. When Oma asked him why he said that the teacher told him he had to bring a tischtuch to school. Oma went to the school, upset, and tried to tell the teacher they didn’t have enough money for him to bring one.  The teacher then explained she didn’t want a tischtuch – a tablecloth – but wanted them to bring tissues.

I only have snippets of memory of Oma. Her silver hair pinned up with bobby pins, her dark rimmed glasses. The smell of her house. Her love of candles. I never knew the woman who embroidered handkerchiefs, napkins, and tablecloths.  She had begun embroidering a tablecloth and napkin set for her daughter as a dowry.  But her daughter, Inga, died when she was three of Leukemia.  Oma never finished the set.

In 1950 my uncle Dieter was born. And when Oma died in the 1989, Dieter was left everything. The snippets that I have went with him, and not until I was in my mid twenties did I really begin developing a relationship with Dieter. Now, my house is full of her furniture that Dieter gave me.  The only piece that holds a memory attached to it is my dresser, which was hers. I remember nap time at Oma’s as a child.  The center part of the dresser has a door with a latch that I would lay in my sleeping bag on the floor in front of and flick until Oma would get annoyed and tell me nap time was over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd now I have one of her tablecloths in my own house.  Oma was a hard woman. German and stubborn, bigoted and bitter, and old fashioned.  Perhaps as a young woman, back in Vegasack, she had been kind, but there are few happy memories of her to pass on. Oma never finished the set that she began for Inga. My mother encouraged Oma to finish it at one point but she always had an excuse not to. Her eyesight, her aging hands. I don’t remember her voice or any real specific events. But now I have one piece of her from before she was so bitter. One tischtuch.

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another year

Last Saturday, I turned 31.  It’s not a huge milestone, other than that I’m officially in my thirties. Even saying that seems odd to me, and I wonder where time has gone.

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The man surprised me by inviting a few friends out for a surprise dinner. Two of the friends were two of the dearest I have from college. As we ate bruschetta and had drinks, the story telling began. By the end of the night, the thing that shocked me most was that more than a decade has past since I entered college.

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a few months old

Last week at work we started interviewing candidates for a graduate program. As I listened to all the young twenty somethings talking about their dreams, desires, and the goals they’ve had since they were children, I began thinking of my own. I wondered where they had gone. Somewhere, way back when, I had wanted to be an English teacher like my mother had been. And somehow, I’m not even close to that dream.

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me & mom, just hanging out

I became depressed that night, and it stayed with me for nearly a week. Thinking about goals that have been pushed aside in favor of real life is never comforting. I can imagine where changes in my life could have taken me had I not lost my father, or had I applied to different colleges, or had I moved home after graduation.

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the first two men in my life: Dad & Ken

I dreaded my birthday this year, for the first time in a long time. I’m used to my birthday being shoved aside because it is so close to Christmas, but I’ve never truly dreaded it the way I did this year.  There was a pit in my stomach as the day approached.  There would be no party hats and birthday cake or singing.

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Mickey’s Fun Cottage birthday party

But somehow it all turned out to be amazing. The dinner with friends. A weekend with my mom and aunt. My coworkers surprising me by decorating my office and even baking me a black forest cake – my dads specialty.

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me & Aunt Susan at my Communion

And somehow, suddenly, 31 wasn’t so terrifying anymore. I may not have the perfect car, or the perfect job, or the perfect wardrobe.

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But I do have a lot of things. Married with a house and two cats. A job that pays the bills (most months). Dreams that are waiting to be fulfilled, not dead. That is enough.

Happy Birthday to me.

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vintage birthday cake by dad – 1984

remembering

One of the photos that sits on the piano in our house is from my college graduation in 2004. All of my mom’s brothers were able to make the trip to Philadelphia. I used to joke that my family only got together for weddings and funerals. I don’t joke anymore. The last time all of us were together was my college graduation. And even then, my two older cousins weren’t able to make the trip.  My family has always been scattered across the country, but we did our best which is better than most.  Phone calls, cards, and when we could, visits.

One of my last memories of Uncle Jimmy is feeding him in the hospice. His hands were trembling as he tried to peel back the top of the packaging on a hospital container of rice pudding.  So I helped.  His hands were weak then, so I moved my chair over to the side of his bed. He tried eating himself, but he couldn’t get the spoon to his mouth without his hand trembling so hard that what he had managed to get on the spoon started spilling off. So I helped. It was slow, he didn’t really have an appetite, but he ate. Rice pudding was, after all, one of his favorite things. He seemed to examine each mouthful, seeming to move it around in his mouth to get more of the flavor. I knew that his taste buds had been off for the past few years and wondered if he could even really taste it.

At one point he told me that I shouldn’t have to. Shouldn’t have to see this or feed him, I wasn’t sure. But he felt guilty. I only felt love.

After my father died, Jimmy became like a surrogate to me. Not a replacement, but a presence that helped ease some of the hurt.  He wasn’t there everyday, but he lived close enough that if I had needed him, he would have been there. He took the role of godfather seriously. After he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2005, he and my mother braved the long road of healing together: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, more radiation. My mom would take something to crochet or a book with her, and sit through all the doctors visits. Jimmy even lived with her for a while and stayed with her after treatments. My mother was an angel. A saint. A sister that anyone would be proud to have.

There are so many things I could share about Jimmy – his mishaps, his humor, his quirks, his faith, his hard work. But so much of that is private. And this isn’t the place. Or the time.

My husband dressed in Marine Corps Alphas for Jimmy’s funeral to honor him. Jimmy was so proud he had been in the service. It was a beautiful tribute. Jimmy was buried in Calverton Cemetery on Long Island, a military cemetery, on a hot day in August with clear blue cloudless skies. My other uncles had decided that the flag should be presented to me. It sits in my living room, in a display case, which I rub when I walk past.

Jimmy died three years ago today. The wound still fresh. I can’t bring myself to take his birthday reminder off my calendar. I wonder what he would think of my house. I still expect to see him at the holidays and stop myself when I go to ask aloud what time he is supposed to arrive.

Three of Four siblings: Mom, Uncle Jimmy, and Uncle Joe. January 2008