We’ll Have To Find A New Room For The Maid: A Victorian House Remodel In Petoskey, Vol. 4

Tick, tock, the princess clock.

This is a common phrase within my family, of unknown origin but most likely linked to our oldest daughter’s bedroom clock, featuring Disney princesses, and Trevor’s penchant for making rhymes or songs out of thin air.

Tick, tock.

If you say this, “Tick, tock,” about anything – a child recognizing a clock, for instance, or while waiting for your turn in a board game – someone in our family will follow with, “the princess clock.” No one even laughs or giggles; it’s so much a part of our lexicon.

I’ve started saying this when I drive past our house, not meaning to but not being able to help myself. Tick, tock, the princess clock. Soon, they say. We’ll be in there soon. Tick, tock. The princess clock.


When I was 10, my dad bought a clinic in Greenville, three hours north of our hometown near Detroit. It was his first solo practice, and was located about two blocks off of the drive to downtown Greenville, to our schools, to church. And every time we left the house as a family, we had to drive past the clinic, just to look at it.

As a preteen I’d toss my permed hair back in irritation, “Gol, the clinic again?” Why those two blocks were such a bother I don’t remember, but I’m sure it had something to do with friends and not having talked to them since, like, last night, so, like, let’s get to school already.

Now I do the same thing to my daughters, using any excuse to drive past the house. Even when our destination is on the other side of town, or when I could bypass our street by staying along the bay, I waste the pennies in gas to park out front for a few minutes, just watching the progress. It’s not safe to take the girls in yet, so I do my admiring from the curb on most days. That’s how we saw this…

become this…

and now, this.

There’s still detail work to be done on the front porch and columns, but the body and most of the trim are finished on the front. I’ve had people pat me on the back for our color choice, and others ask, “Is that just some sort of primer coat?” We love the green, and can’t wait to see how it looks with the color on the rails and columns.

This is the man who spends his days hanging off the sides of our house, Gary McNeil, from Withey Painting:

Soon he’ll have the sides and back finished, I’m sure, but the front was the most important for me. Such psychological progress.


Tick, tock, the princess clock.

We had hoped to be in the house by November 1. Trevor professes that it continues to be a possibility, but it’s difficult for me to imagine as I see all of the dust, the bare bulbs, the complete lack of a kitchen. Although, this…

became this…

and is currently this.

Which is an improvement, and helps the imagination fill in colors, appliances and cabinetry.

So much gets done each week, and so much has happened already. In about a dozen days the attic was finished, the house was insulated, the roof was replaced, the front of the house was painted, the widow’s walk was started, the heated floor was put down in the mudroom and pantry room, our old garage came down and the new one was started. Drywall was finished on the second floor and started on the main floor, a leak was discovered in a radiator and the radiator was replaced by another salvaged from a remodel two streets over. Tile will go down on the main floor, and tile was finished in the new master bath:

Trevor tells me that it’s time to choose the wall colors for the interior, and we’ve discovered that we absolutely positively must hang wallpaper in our dining room, after finding a charming retro print that we’re a tiny bit obsessed with. OK, I’m a tiny bit obsessed with.


When Trevor came home from work tonight, after putting in a full day on his regular job and then working four hours at our house, he said, “About this November 1 move-in date…”

He claims it’s OK, that we could be in by halloween weekend. He still plans to bring our furniture out of storage in late October. But he doesn’t want to rush it, he says. He needs it to be perfect; he needs to not worry that he’s letting me down by moving the family in a week or so later.

Of course, proper marriage etiquette prompted me to tell him what a great job he’s doing and so on, and that I wouldn’t be let down. A week or so won’t matter, that we’re perfectly comfortable living with his parents (lovely, wonderful, but still, living with his parents) and that I will not rush him.


In the mornings, here at his parents’ house, when we reach for the clock, we either hold up his phone for the time, or we look at our oldest daughter’s watch. Pink, digital, princesses. Our clocks are naturally all in storage, packed in who-knows-which box, a box I packed thinking we’d only need storage for a few months and in that time I’d remember where everything was, so no need to mark the contents on the outside. A box I packed over a year ago.

I have this feeling that when it comes time to move in, and Trevor is still painting edges and I’m unloading boxes, it’ll be me asking politely for more time. I was not prepared for this, I’ll claim. For the time it took to get here, to change this, to move into this space, with this bigger family. I had no idea it’d be like this, with such a house, and such rooms, such charms all around. How will I settle, in that one weekend, in that big rush to finally be where we want to be?

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