Why We Stay

Since we announced that we are expecting our 4th child, we have been asked (and have asked ourselves) many times whether we plan to stay in the city. I would never presume to know what is right for another family, or for our own family many years from now, but right now, we know Fell's Point is our place, tiny rowhouse and all. It seemed like an apt time to re-read, and re-post, my piece from 2012, which was originally published on the DBFA Blog.

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Every morning, I pack up my children, Elsa on my back and Fiona in the stroller. We take a long, wandering walk through our little corner of the big city. A few blocks to the coffee shop and another few to the harbor, we stop every couple steps to chat with our fellow early risers. We pick up some groceries, stop by a neighborhood shop and catch up with the owner, then head back to our two hundred year old row house, where Polish immigrants lived before us with their five children, two in the attic and three in the bedroom. We know this because one of those grown children knocked on our door the week we moved in. He wanted to say hello and take a look around. The whole kitchen used to be Pepto-Bismol pink, even the damn cabinet doors, he told us.

In the afternoon, we venture out again to drop in the bar where my husband and I met one tipsy night many years ago. Today, my stepson, Elijah, performs magic tricks in front of that same bar with a little hat and collects money from passersby, fifty cents a trick. Fiona is greeted with hoots and hollers from the regulars as she skips in. Captain Kai beckons her to pull his white beard and Gaz starts a debate about the proper name for crisps. They’re called po-ta-to chips, Fiona insists. Bernard makes a joke from behind the bar about kids not being allowed in this establishment and naughty grins spread across the children’s faces.

We live in Fell’s Point, an old waterfront town founded by ship builders, home for centuries to the tobacco, flour, and coffee trades and miraculously avoided by the Baltimore Fire of 1904. Over 200 years, scores of immigrants have built a life here and have come together to create a community rich with culture and diversity. In the 70s, we almost lost Fell’s Point to a highway, but locals rose up and fought for years to save this magical place. And they won. I hadn’t even been born then, but the men and women who spearheaded that revolt still live here. We know them, hang out with them, and are grateful beyond words for their efforts. We just celebrated Bob’s 83rd birthday at Tony and Laura’s house. Fiona wore a fancy dress for the occasion.

But this place we love, that they fought for, isn’t perfect. I know a day will come when we’ll have to explain to our children why one of our neighbors acts differently from one day to the next. Substance abuse, we’ll explain, changes a person. A homeless man rants at his station outside of the coffee shop, scaring the tourists, but we know better. His name is Mike and he wouldn’t hurt a fly. He suffers from mental illness, we’ll tell the kids, and he deserves our kindness. These lessons are real and raw and they are right in front of us.

These people who have become ingrained in the fiber of our everyday, the shop owners, the men selling roses, the homeless, they aren’t people we see at natural parenting playgroups or soccer practice. We don’t meet at 4pm on Tuesday. We live our lives alongside each other, with each other. We don’t share a background, political ideology or age. We share something much deeper and more permanent. We share a place.

We don’t choose who we run into on the way to pick up groceries, who moves in next door, or which children happen to be at the park in the afternoon. But it’s in the not choosing that we find something beautiful. This city, our home, has created a tapestry richer with community and history than one we could have ever woven on our own. And for that, we do choose to stay.

Fiona's Art Shop

We invited family over this weekend to celebrate Fiona's birthday with a morning of food and art. Fiona has been planning and dreaming for months about selling her artwork at an art fair, so for her birthday, we made it happen.

I bought some blank cards and envelopes, set out our usual art supplies of graphite pencils, colored pencils, beeswax crayons and watercolors, then Fiona, along with her siblings and cousins, created designs on the blank cards. When they were finished with their cards, we tied a little string with a tag with the artist's name on each. After cake and singing, the adults were invited to purchase cards for a quarter each.

Fiona loved it. I have a feeling this isn't her last fair.

Family, food and art. Ah yes, good stuff.

my darling dancer

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If there was any doubt before, I believe this post makes it official that there is nothing cuter in the whole wide world than a little girl in a leotard. Well, perhaps two little girls. (Soon, Elsa!)

Leotard cuteness through the years... if you can handle it:

Ballet Class, Oh my! (2012)
My Prima Ballerina (2012)
Baby Gymnast, Part Deux (2011)
Baby Gymnast (2011) (So little!)

Love & Joy

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Just like our holiday card mailing list, the blog is getting our holiday wishes a little late, too. The holidays were really great this year, but I have to admit the amount of House Love work I had to get done did cast a tiny shadow on some of the festivities. I hope that next year I'm able to manage my workflow a bit better! I am finally catching my breath and hoping to take a week or two off after finishing up some orders this weekend.

This year, we continued many of the family traditions we've established over the years, including little gifts of homemade peppermint bark for teachers, friends and family. This year, we included a bar of Sweet Mint Soap made locally by Biggs & Featherbelle, too. And for the very first time since having Fiona, we have an official family holiday card! So sweet, right?

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I printed out Phoebe's illustrated gift tags from the Taproot Blog and used Whole foods bags as wrapping paper for many of our gifts. They turned out so cute! The kids had a lot of fun distributing our cards and little gifts to friends and neighbors.

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I hope you all enjoyed your holidays! Here's to 2014.

Two, I Love You So

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Sweet Elsa, my baby, turned two last weekend. I love two. There is nothing like the experience of watching a human being unfold before your eyes. At two, that unfolding seems to ramp up. Every moment reveals something new. Oh, so this is what you're like! I find myself thinking daily, hourly even.

What are you like, Elsa? Well, you are very silly. You make the craziest, most exaggerated expressions, sending your family into hysterical laughter many times every day. You know how funny you are. When you smile, your mouth takes up your entire face. It is the best. We have long and complex conversations. You can be very serious when you are explaining something, furrowing your brow and responding with a clipped, "yup" when I show that I understand. You love to help. You are the first to jump up and sweep or put toys away, singing our clean up song while you work. Tick tock goes the clock, what does it have to say? 

I often watch while you play quietly and am so comforted by what I see: Your dollhouse Mama is so tender with her dollhouse baby, you love to carry your baby dolls around (up, up) and make them their favorite meal of cookies and grapes, you even take your stuffed animals for long walks around the house. To see this beautiful world expressed through your play fills up my heart and reminds me that this life we share is deeply good, and full of so much love.

Happy birthday, Elsa. You make us all so happy. We love you.

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Birthday Boy

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I'm a little late posting this, but what's new? Elijah turned nine on Halloween. We had a small gathering of friends at our house for pizza, cake, and trick or treating. Each year on his birthday, Elijah brings together both sets of parents, three little sisters and friends from school with such grace; One moment joking with a boy his age, the next picking up his baby sister.

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Loving, funny, smart, and gloriously silly. We love you, Eli. Next year, double digits. Oh my.