Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Little Woman

Has it really been a year, my sweet Eloise?  Can it really have been that long since we greeted you as you made your way into this world?  How can it feel like only yesterday?

I want to tell you about the time just before you were born, Eloise.  Your Mama and Papa were very excited about you, though they did not yet know your name....or even whether you'd be a little boy or a little girl... but they were prepared for both.  (I think your Mama knew in her heart you were a little girl -- that she just kept an open mind about it when everyone assured her she was carrying a boy).

There was a full moon a couple of nights before you were born.  Joe and I admired the moon and were just getting ready to head to bed when my phone rang.  I checked the time... it was 3:15 AM and I knew it must be your Mama calling.  She assured me there was plenty of time before you were actually going to arrive, but she suggested I come over after I took a couple hours to nap.  It looked as if you would be born that day, December 10, 2011.

I can tell you, Eloise, it was NOT easy trying to take a nap when such an exciting event was about to occur.  But I did try.  I slept maybe three hours and then I arose, packed some clothes, stopped at the grocery store to get some supplies, and I made the 2 1/2 hour drive to be with your Mama and Papa during your birth.

Your birthday falls during a very exciting time of the year, Eloise.  Everyone is bustling about, making plans and securing gifts for loved ones, because many people celebrate Christmas, Hanukah and other special, traditional holidays during this time.  Your Mama had not yet put up a Christmas tree.  Now, she wanted to do this, not only because it would be YOUR first Christmas, but it would be THEIR first Christmas in their new home.

When I arrived in Rochelle that day, we decided, even though your birth was imminent, we would find the perfect Christmas tree and put it up in the living room.... it might not get decorated for a while, but there would be a lighted tree.  Now, by the time we were hunting the tree, your Mama's water had been broken for more than 12 hours.  But you had not yet made it an imperative that we stay near home, so, we went out and found the perfect tree and managed to decorate it with lights.
Since you were still not ready to greet us, we all decided to try to get a good night's sleep, and we headed to bed.  I did sleep well, Miss Eloise.  When I awoke, though the sun had not yet risen, the house was cozy warm and I smelled Italian food..... I thought for a moment, in that stage between dream and awake, that the heating system in your house was quite delightful, pumping out both warmth and fabulous aromas.

Of course, that was just plain silly, for when I made my way downstairs, I discovered your Mama had been up early cooking...and baking... (for future reference, sweet Eloise, this activity would fall into the "nesting category.").

Now your Mama and Papa had a plan.  They wanted to bring you into this world in the comfort of their home, your home.  They did not want harsh hospital lights and halls of germs to be your first experience in the world.  They had worked with a mid-wife who would help coach them through your delivery.  But before any of that could happen, you had to make your move.  You had to get things rolling, and by now, the time was getting critical.  This is something you'll discover when you have your own daughter, Eloise -- the medical professionals like a baby to be born within 24 hours of the "water breaking."  We were now beyond that desired time limit, and the mid-wife suggested we start trying some "inducers."

The first inducer was a good long walk.  So, Mama, Papa and Gami (that's me, Eloise) bundled up and took a walk.  We walked at a pretty fast clip, but unfortunately, the result of the walk was to make the limited contractions less strong.  So, inducer number one was determined to be a failure.
Inducer number two was some homeopathic thing, of which honestly, at this writing, Eloise, I cannot recall the name.  But suffice to say the results were in line with the brisk walk.  At 36 hours after you broke the water, your Mama tried inducer number three....
Now, this will help you, as you grow older, Miss Eloise, to understand that your Mama loved you very much, even before you were born.  She loved you so much that she agreed to the rather unpleasant sounding inducer known as cod liver oil....mixed with juice/and or ginger ale.  Well, the recommendation was to take two "doses" of this, one hour apart.  Your Mama didn't look like she enjoyed the taste, but she kept the first dose down.  Afterward, she and your Papa worked on wrapping Christmas presents for all of your family in France.

Did I mention, Eloise, that your Mama had asked Gami to make split pea soup earlier in the day?  Well, we ate some of that soup, and it was really tasty.  A little while after eating, it was time for the second dose, and, your Papa and I sat at the table, sipping our coffee and tea, while your Mama drank the second dose of the odd concoction.....this time, sweet Eloise, she was not successful in keeping it down.  In fact, I was laughing as I watched her try to hold it down.... she was so beautiful, even in her discomfort.

Just as I was laughing, I was drenched!  That cod liver oil concoction had decided it was NOT going to stay down, and it brought everything with it! (Except you of course -- you were NOT going to be hurled into this world!  You were arriving on you own time and at your own pace.)  Nevertheless, the cod liver oil concoction won... I was no longer interested in savoring my tea, thank you very much.

Eloise, you did decide shortly thereafter that MAYBE you were ready to start your journey out into this brave new world.  Gami monitored the "contraction app" on Mama's smart phone (I wonder what they will have when you are becoming a Mama?) and Papa helped Mama work through the contractions.  Talice monitored us all, keeping a watchful eye on your Mama.  And the midwife and her assistant arrived to go the distance with them through your birth.

They worked really hard on making sure you could arrive at home, Eloise.  Your Mama was so tired and your Papa was so tender with her.  But you still had not arrived by 11:30 PM on December 11th, and it was now approaching 48 hours since you broke the water.  The midwife was getting nervous, and after another examination, recommended going to the hospital for delivery.  Your Mama and Papa decided it was the best thing to do, not wanting to jeopardize your health, sweet Eloise, or the health of your Mama.

We were so happy to find the hospital was not full of bright lights, and that the birthing room into which your Mama was invited was clean and had a homey feeling.  I think that allowed your Mama to relax a little, Eloise.  Once we were at the hospital, the doctors and nurses and the midwife worked to make your Mama comfortable. She was even able to catch a couple of hours of sleep while the medicine they gave her helped the contractions progress.

After a few short hours (long if you are Gami awaiting the birth of her first grand child), your Mama was ready to push.  That meant you were REALLY on the way, Miss Eloise, REALLY on the way!

At 12:18 PM, on December 12, 2011, almost 60 hours after you broke the water, my dear Eloise, we were blessed with our first glimpse of you.  You were beautiful.  Never mind the normal trappings of birth, you were a delight to behold.  And behold you we did.

How then, is it possible that all of this excitement, that seems so vivid in my memory, could have taken place a whole year ago?  As beautiful as you were to our eyes then, Miss Eloise, you have grown even more beautiful with each passing day.  I wish I lived where I could see you every day.  I know your other grandparents wish they could see you every day.  But we all know we are incredibly blessed to be able to watch you grow, even if not from right next door!


I look forward to watching all of the miracles that will transform you as you grow through the years.  Your lovely smile, your beautiful eyes, your sweet dimpled chin and cheeks will, no doubt mature into a beautiful young woman's face.  You will learn caring and compassion from your Mama and Papa.  You will, I am certain, speak both French and English, sing and play music, grow beautiful flowers and gardens of vegetables and fruits.  And, my dear Eloise, my most sincere wish for you is that you will live knowing how very loved you are.

When I was a teenager, Eloise, I spent a lot of time with my friend Becky, in their home.  Her mother Sally sang a song that I love to this day.  I sang it to my children  (your Mama and your Uncle Stephen) when they were very young and I have sung it to you. I leave you with the words to this song, my dear Eloise.

"A tiny turned up nose,
Two cheeks just like a rose,
So sweet from head to toes,
That little girl of mine.

Two eyes that shine so bright,
Two arms that hold me tight,
Two lips that kiss good night,
That little girl of mine.

No one will ever know,
Just what her coming has meant,
Because I love her so,
She's something Heaven has sent,

She climbs upon my knee,
She's all the world to me,
To me she'll always be,
That little girl of mine."

You are Gami's Little Girl, Eloise.  Happy Birthday!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

And Now It's All Up to Us

Today was the day for which Joe and I had been waiting, and waiting and waiting.

We'd been eager to embark on the renovation of the old farmhouse we'd purchased more than two years ago.
When we started our "project," we had different ideas of how long it would take.  Before we pulled up the first floorboard to discover what lurked beneath this old, sagging farmhouse we'd purchased, Joe was predicting we'd be in the house by Christmas.  I suggested it would be five years.... that was in February, 2010.

Still, we had decided we first needed to make the garage apartment a reasonable place to live while we rehabbed the old farmhouse, so we had a carport built on one side of the garage, a deck built on the other and lots of windows and doors installed in the garage and the apartment.

Making the garage apartment really livable turned out to be a good thing, for when we did pull up the first floorboard in the old farmhouse, it became clear that Christmas 2010 was a rather unlikely expectation. Joe was CERTAIN we'd be celebrating Christmas 2011 in the rehabbed old farmhouse.  I was still suggesting it would be closer to Christmas 2014.

Quite a few local tradesmen have been employed for small parts or large parts of this rehab.  We've had help for demolition of the ancient abandoned chimney the previous owners had "built around" in some of their remodels, which resulted in major constraints in the kitchen and one bedroom.  The same demolition team helped us tear up the original floors...which we found under the old carpet...which we found under newer OSB.... which we found under "new, but very soiled carpet.

And under all those layers, we found the reason for sagging, swaying floors.  Our next goal was to tackle the beams and joists, all of which needed replacing.  To make them viable for years to come, we also had to have more than a dozen piers built, as the original piers were crumbling, or had already fallen apart.
The contractor we employed to do this beam, joist and pier work continued in a somewhat steady employment, helping us rehab this old house.  He performed a variety of tasks ranging from jacking up the house to achieve level, to raising the ceilings upstairs, to give us a full 8 feet.  Before he was done, he added a three room addition onto the back of the house.

Of course, we had the mason, and the electrician and the plumber and the HVAC installers, and the gutter installer, and the counter-top installer, who each performed their magic to help bring this house into a livable condition....despite the fact that our realtor assured us that, "some people would just move in," we were not too keen on moving right into a house in such a bad condition.
But today, December 8, 2012, almost two years after our main contractor started working with us, he wrapped up the last of the details for which his services had been commissioned.  He put all of his tools back into his trailer, which had been resident in our yard for quite some time, hooked the trailer up to his truck, and, after goodbyes, headed on down the long driveway, the driveway down which he'd first driven in January, 2011.  I know he was happy to finally be done, and I know we are happy that he has finally finished....
Of course, that means that the rest of the work is up to Joe and me.  We still have lots of caulking, painting (touch-ups and trim).  We have to seal and finish the red oak stairs.  We have closets in which to hang shelving, bathrooms in which to install shower rods and towel rods, and other odds and ends to complete.   BUT, we are finished with the daily procession of construction material deliveries, the endless scheduling of tradespeople and the maddeningly persistent delays.  Our "move-in" date is now entirely up to us.  We are shooting for Christmas 2012.

We've met a lot of interesting people during this whole rehab process.  And we have learned a lot.  I'm not sure we would have been so willing to embark on the adventure, had we known the incredible amount of work it would be, but we are both happy we did take that leap of faith and commit to the rehab.

We celebrated the completion of contracted labor tonight over dinner.  We were halfway through our dinner of beef and potato hash and homemade bread when we decided we should commemorate the night with a toast. As luck would have it, we had part of a bottle of wine (courtesy of my son-in-law).  I added some sparkling cranberry soda to mine, and we toasted the completion of the project. Perhaps twenty years from now, this project will seem to have taken only a little while, but today, it feels as if it has taken a lifetime!  We are SOOOO looking forward to being able to put on our warm winter caps and snuggle down for our long winter's naps!  (HA!!! --- That'll be the day!)