All summer in a weekend


A few weeks ago, a story came out on our neighborhood Facebook group about a black family a number of blocks up experiencing some pretty intense race-based harassment by a neighbor on their block. Another neighbor on the street called it out and a number of people expressed their support for the family that was being targeted (and also noted that this woman is apparently notorious throughout the area for calling the police on all sorts of perceived violations and instances of “blight”). At any rate, it was decided that there ought to be some sort of show of support for the family, so a block party was planned…in February…in Michigan. I have to admit that while I offered to bring chili (it was a chili cook-off and BBQ) I had some real concerns about the temperatures and how this would all shake out. By some miracle (or more likely as a result of climate change) it was 60 degrees and sunny all weekend, and the block party went off without a hitch.

This entire weekend felt like a preview of what spring and summer are going to feel like in this neighborhood, and I have to say that it was spectacular.

The block party was a number of blocks from our actual block, so we didn’t expect to know much of anyone, but we ended up running into two families from preschool and being introduced to a few others, and having a really wonderful time chatting with people. The kids ran around in the sun with a bunch of other kids, and I just felt good about where we live. We’d already invited one family over for an after-party, and we ended up inviting another family we’d only just met (another preschool family). As K and I put out cheese and veggies and wine glasses in anticipation of everyone’s arrival, we talked about how fortunate we feel to be here, how proud we are of our home, and how good it feels to share it with friends. In New York I hated hosting, but I’m realizing now that those feelings were very closely tied to our space. Sure, I still get stressed out about cleaning and prep, but even that feels easier now that we have places to put things. We had a really lovely evening and I’m excited to do it a lot more often.

Since I’m still an introvert no matter how much I’m learning to enjoy hosting, after six plus hours of socializing I need a day to decompress, so today we planned to get out into nature on our own. K proposed the farm at the Nature Center, and the kids were really excited about it. Unfortunately we drove out there only to find that it didn’t open for an hour and a half, and that the farm portion was actually closed for the season (oh right, it is still February after all). We headed to a playground instead, and then came home for lunch and decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon just playing in the yard. Over the past couple of days everyone has been outdoors, so we’ve spent some time talking to three neighbors we’re very familiar with, as well as meeting another family we’d never met before, a couple who struck us right away as fun and down-to-earth and who apparently have five girls between the ages of 6-19.

This probably sounds like over-the-top gratitude, but I’m so thankful to have a driveway and a big front yard, and to know that we’ll spend time out there and we’ll run into our neighbors and that they’re wonderful. I experienced so many “I love our life here” moments this weekend. And I now feel much more confident that yes, we’re going to make friends and build a community, even if it’s going to take us a little while to do it.















I’m going to New York solo on Tuesday night for four nights and about three and a half days, and while it was partly my choice (a good friend and colleague is moving on professionally, she lives in Los Angeles and will be working out there now so this is my last chance to cross paths with her in NYC) my feelings about the trip are all over the place. I’ve missed my work friends tremendously and I’m looking forward to seeing them, not to mention my good friend-friends up in Westchester (I’m spending Friday night up there) but this weekend I’ve really begun to panic about how it’s going to feel to be away from these guys. I’ve never left the kids for this long. We left Jonah for two nights when K was pregnant, but that’s it. I was in the grocery store this evening and I was already thinking about how excited I’ll be to come home. I’m really afraid of how lonely it’s going to feel when I get off the plane by myself late at night, tired and hungry and missing my family, standing in a taxi line and just wanting to cry. I know that I shouldn’t put that expectation out into the universe, but I’m really feeling sad about it.

Some good family friends of ours have agreed to come over at the crack of dawn Wednesday through Friday to get the kids fed and dressed and driven to school because K can’t do it with her work schedule and our preschool’s hours. I feel guilty about having them do it and worried that Jonah will have a meltdown over missing me or something in his morning routine not being quite right. K has been so supportive and really wants me to have a great time, so I’m really trying to look forward to it. We’ll see.

Living in the great room


A few evenings ago, when I was driving home and saw five or six deer cross the road and turn down our street, I went inside and quickly scooped up the kids to show them the spectacle. Two of them were still standing in the neighbor’s driveway and the others were further back behind the house. I love the deer in Kalamazoo, maybe just because it’s something I never saw in New York and I see them all the time here. While we were standing out in the street we noticed some family friends who live a few houses down standing in their driveway also watching. We chatted briefly and she told us that on Sundays when their daughter and her family come over for dinner they often talk about stopping by to say hello, but it always looks as if no one is home. That’s partly because I never turn the porch light on. (Is that unneighborly? I have no idea, it just seems like a waste of energy if we aren’t expecting anyone, but maybe I’m totally unaccustomed to neighborhood customs). But it’s also partly because we kind of live in the back of the house.

When we bought this house we were especially impressed by the way the great room extended the kitchen and added a whole new living space to what would otherwise be a pretty small 1950s ranch. The couple we bought it from added that room almost as soon as they bought it, a big 14 x 24 room that connects to the kitchen, with six skylights, six windows looking out into the backyard, and sliding glass doors on two sides. What’s interesting is that when we first set foot in the house, I actually thought that the great room felt much smaller than I’d expected it to feel, given the photos we’d seen and the dimensions. I now think that was because of the colors and the odd furniture placement.



We hated the floors, and the salmon pink was not our style, but we knew that this room really made the house. Everyone who comes in, starting with all of the folks who did work before we moved in, comments on how unexpected it is (the front elevation is nothing to write home about) and how it’s by far the best room in the house. We were so excited to put wood floors in here and to paint and decorate it the way we wanted it. It feels huge now, and in the evenings we’re pretty much always here and/or in the kitchen, so the house always looks dark from the street.

We went a couple of months without a sofa in here because we ordered something from a custom shop (Joybird, which we’ve been really happy with). We love it now that it’s here and the room feels so much more complete. The kids love it too, clearly; we do a lot of reading here.




Originally I really wanted a sectional because I wanted to be able to spread out, but after way too much deliberation we decided that it might not fit the room properly and wouldn’t give us any flexibility to rearrange. We ultimately went with a sofa and ottoman, and I’m really glad that we did.


Before we moved in, Kristin couldn’t stand that green countertop / bar that extends out from the kitchen. It matches the one under the far bank of cabinets that you can see in the photo above. Both were added during the addition (the rest of the countertops in the kitchen are cream colored). She was dying to rip out all of the countertops and replace them so that they matched, but that wasn’t in the budget. Once we got this room painted and put together my mom pointed out that with all of the blues and greens, the green counter isn’t quite as ugly as it once seemed. It sort of blends in, which is a happy accident.



The teak furniture came from my parents’ house (we love having a space big enough to leave the leaf in all the time), the rug came from West Elm, and the bar stools came from Wayfair (we love that they’re wipeable, because kids).

We cannot wait for summer when we know that we’ll be doing a lot of indoor/outdoor living from this room. We have some inherited patio furniture that needs welding and probably a coat of paint (my parents had it as far back as I can remember), and we have a swing set promise to fulfill. Until it’s warm enough for all of that we’ll just enjoy the days growing a tiny bit longer each evening, and the way this room brings the winter sunlight indoors.

Valentine craftiness



I have to admit, a couple of weeks ago when I began to wonder whether the kids’ preschool would suggest that they bring and exchange valentine cards, I was feeling a little bit grinchy about it. I pictured the entire classroom buying boxes of character cards and handing them out completely at random (since none of the kids can really read or write anyway). It felt completely devoid of any sentiment, and for some reason I tend to be really character-averse when it comes to things like…well, almost anything really, but mostly things like clothing, backpacks or other items that aren’t specifically a toy that allows some imaginary play; it feels like free advertising. We have a billion Octonauts toys (see our most recent Halloween for evidence of my own hypocrisy), so it’s not as if we don’t do characters at all, but I’ve never loved those valentines. I was sort of hoping to skip it, but then a blogger I enjoy posted something on Instagram about her plans to do all sorts of fun, over-the-top things throughout the month of February, and I realized that there was joy to be found if I made some effort. Not everything has to be so utilitarian, and sometimes I need a reminder. So what if exchanging Valentines doesn’t do anything; it’s a reason to do crafts and bake cookies.

I spent Thursday night, all day Friday, and all day Saturday at a super intense anti-racism workshop (which was powerful and necessary and gave me a lot of hope for Kalamazoo because of all of the wonderful people representing local organizations who were there making commitments to real change) and knowing that I was losing a lot of precious weekend time with the kids made me want to pack even more special moments into Sunday. Now before you start down the “I’m not a Pinterest mom…” or “I wish I could do things like this with my kids…” path, know that at one point early in the day, Kristin stopped me and gently asked “Is this the most relaxing way for you to spend the day?” which was a poorly disguised way of saying “This seems to be causing you a great deal of stress, do we need to do this?” But it was important to me, and by then I was committed and nothing was going to get me to back down. She later apologized for calling me out and pointed out that she did observe many moments of real joy. I’m still glad that we did it.


We didn’t attempt one of those adorable, candy/valentine combos that usually involves some sort of clever play on words. I just bought a crapload (it was actually a “party platter” if you must know) of foam hearts and a bunch of additional stickers, along with some markers and glue sticks. It was WAY more than we needed, but the kids were honestly really into it! So I’m glad we had extras.






Even after we took a break to bake cookies Vivi said that she wanted to do more art, and went back for more.



The wardrobe change is because it was post-cookie-mess, and they were completely covered in flour.


It’s so funny and wonderful, Jonah is at this age now where he takes on crafts and activities with so much more independence than ever before. He was just cranking through the valentines totally on his own, and the same was true for the cookies. While Jude just wanted to roll everything flat and poke a variety of toy kitchen implements into the dough, Jonah was busy cutting out hearts and dutifully carrying them over to the cookie sheets. Vivi actually tends to be the same way which is somewhat surprising given the age difference, but her over-the-top independent streak is probably the explanation.



It was so cute watching them watch the cookies bake. They could hardly wait.



Unfortunately the afternoon got away from us and K and I ended up doing all of the decorating solo after the kids were asleep, but I did decorate one for Jonah before he went off to bed and we saved a few more for tomorrow. The rest are going to the kids’ teachers because I cannot have this many butter-frosted sugar cookies in the house or I’ll eat myself sick.

Fun on a freezing beach

Despite Jonah insisting that we all get up and keep him company while he ate banana bread at 6:30 this morning (that’s what I get for baking banana bread before going to bed last night) which started the day off with a bit of a power struggle (I was determined to stay in bed and ignore him, which didn’t go over well), it actually turned out to be a lovely lazy Saturday morning. By 8:15 I noticed actual sunshine streaming in through the mud room windows, and that glow stuck around to make the living room magical for awhile. Sunshine in Michigan in February feels like a tremendous blessing, so I’ll take every sparkle and make the most of it. Kristin was the one pointing out that I ought to grab the camera while Vivi rocked in the rocker, and I’m glad that I did.




We laid low till around noon when we bundled everyone up in snow pants, made some grilled cheese for the road, and drove out to South Haven for a winter fest. We saw lots of interesting ice sculptures (no photos, sorry – the crowds were bananas) made some s’mores, and stopped by North Beach to see what it’s like in February. Jonah had been freezing and begging to go home, but by the time he’d been in the car for 10 minutes and saw the playground equipment on the beach he begged to get out again. Why not?





I have no idea what Jude’s pointing at there, since he obviously can’t see out from under that hat. It was SO COLD, but the kids did not want to stop swinging. Oh Michigan.

Master Bedroom Makeover

Continuing with the theme of sharing “after” pictures of the house even if they’re not perfect, this photo shoot involved tossing a bunch of clothes from the “worn at least once, semi-clean and re-wearable” pile on the bed to the floor on the other side of the room and out of the photo frame.

I really love our bedroom, even if I rarely sleep in it (#musicalbeds). I’m actually surprised by how much I love the color, because I let Kristin choose it and wasn’t jazzed about it at the time. It’s honestly one of my favorites, and maybe my absolute favorite paint color in the house; it’s Benjamin Moore Mozart Blue. We put the same neutral carpeting in every bedroom.

In case you need a refresher, here’s the room when we closed on the house:


It’s hard to tell in that photo, honestly, but it was mauve. We kept the curtains since they were relatively neutral and it saved us from having to buy new ones. We also haven’t changed out any light fixtures in the house so far. The couple we bought it from was really into ceiling fans, so nearly every room has one. This room has a particularly tiny one for some reason. One evening, Jonah was laying on the bed with me and said “Mama D, aren’t you sad that your fan is SO tiny?”

Here’s the room now, photographed in a rare moment of sunshine:





Our duvet cover came from West Elm, the photo on the wall is from Urban Outfitters, and everything else came with us from NY (IKEA nightstands and a matching dresser that’s out of the frame, and a bed frame that I’ve had since college but amazingly still like a lot). The chest at the foot of the bed was my maternal grandparents’, it’s made of camphor and there’s a story about my grandfather having local porters help him sneak it onto a military ship overseas where he was working at the time, and stow it where no one would find it. I love the way it smells when I open it.