Indiana Thanksgiving.

fall2016-236It’s taken me awhile to get some photos up of our Thanksgiving adventures in Indiana, due in part to the trauma detailed at the end of this post, but mostly due to the daily distraction of that squishy little ginger baby:fall2016-243I used to wonder why parents talked about wanting to eat their children. I no longer wonder. Everything about that baby is delicious. Did I consider just cooking him up along with his adorable new cousin and those massive homegrown sweet potatoes from my MIL’s garden?fall2016-247Yes, yes I did.

We headed back to the Midwest to spend Thanksgiving with James’ family, which is always a treat because the food is unparalleled. I ate my weight in stuffing and 5-onion soup, a wonder only rivaled by the epic Thanksgiving sandwich I created with allllll the leftovers the day after Thanksgiving. The sandwich form will almost always be my favorite form of something.

But enough about food. It is also my greatest joy to see our extended family loving on Henry. We were all together for the first time in a year, and with the addition of not one, but two babies, which meant the visit was that fun chaos of juggling tiny people’s needs and our own desire to just talk for hours. As he is my extroverted FOMO baby, Henry was thrilled to get passed around and chew on Spoon, the most loved of all toys.  fall2016-251I am pretty pleased that Henry will have cousins close in age, and he would periodically try to excitedly lunge at William when he saw him playing nearby. Alas, being not yet mobile, this just meant lots of face-planting into the floor or whatever toy William had discarded close by. fall2016-256fall2016-266And of course, I forced everyone into a family photoshoot in matching attire.  We did the all-plaid look for our last group photos 2 years ago and decided it was nice (meaning: easiest) to just continue with the same look. fall2016-268fall2016-269fall2016-278fall2016-300fall2016-307fall2016-317fall2016-330fall2016-333I was nervous about the trip because Henry the Urban Snob does not like the carseat and I dreaded 9 hours of screaming. We only ended up with about an hour and a half of screaming on the way there, but traveling with babies means the era of  10 minute stops are over, and it took us almost 11 hours to make the trip. On the drive back Henry was doing great… until the engine started angrily screeching halfway across Pennsylvania. We pulled over to find the oil cap, all the oil gone, and the engine completely fried. There was a lot of stress, some begging of tow trucks to find one that could haul us with a baby, and then a weary night in New Stanton PA, a place we had sworn to never return to after the Hotel of Death Smell 2012 incident.

The next day included a lengthy lunch at the bar of the local Bob Evans, where the waitstaff just passed around Henry and gave us free coffee cake, before being rescued by my brother and his wife returning to DC from Kentucky. Yes, PA is not on the way from KY to DC, but Lyman and Ruth are just better people than the rest of us and didn’t complain the slightest that this is now the second year that they have had to rescue us after Thanksgiving. Ruth insists that it is practically tradition, their only Christmas one beyond cutting down a tree together, which they still did on the drive home while I nursed Henry in the car. fall2016-349fall2016-350We still have no word on how car repairs will work out, or when we will make it back to PA to fetch our car, and that is really frustrating and stressful. But not so much of either that it makes me forget the many blessings that Thanksgiving confirmed in our lives. My MIL likes to say that it is just the best when you get to be related to your favorite people, and she is right. Thankful for every last one of them! (And pie. Always thankful for pie.)

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This November

novemberThis November was the most beautiful I can ever remember DC looking in the fall, with the trees a constant kaleidoscope of gold and red. We went on so many walks, and I took too many pictures of my feet on the leaves because I couldn’t stop looking up and down and feeling impossibly blessed to live here.

This November Henry officially stopped waking at night. We have been (mostly) happy Baby Wise followers over here from the beginning, but Henry never responded to the 10 pm “dream feed” opting instead for a 4:30 am “snooze button feed.” It honestly wasn’t terrible, because he slept solidly from 7:30 pm-7am other than that feeding, and I didn’t mind so much our quiet moment together before he went back to bed. But I started gently weaning him and then he just stopped on his own. And I was happy and sad all at once, a phrase that applies to so much of parenthood.

This November I spent hours researching childcare for the spring, interviewing people, mourning that I can’t be with him all the time, and hoping and praying that we find someone good to love our boy when we are far from him. Our babysitter from this fall has been absolutely perfect in every way, but is leaving next semester and it feels daunting all over again to find someone to take care of my baby. And I started understanding why so many women stay home after kids – not just because you want to be with them, need to be with them, and realize the importance of shaping tiny minds and caring for tiny bodies – but because perpetually finding childcare is so hard and costs so much money.

This November marked a year since my last half-marathon, at 12 weeks pregnant, and I ran my first one since. It was slow, gloriously beautiful, and it reminded me of the strength in this post-partum body of mine, even if it is tired and squishy and not always something I like to look at.

This November was when I had planned to stop breastfeeding, as Henry is 6 months and that is the minimum recommended. I hated nursing in those early months, feeling helpless and shackled to a task that just didn’t work like everyone said it did. But somewhere along the way, things changed, and when this November rolled around, I realized that not even a tiny part of me was ready to give up those moments with my boy. He takes bottles easily, and we joyfully supplement with formula daily (and now real food!), but I’m not ready to stop nursing him.

This November makes one year since our accident … and commemorated it with the engine frying on the drive back from Thanksgiving due to a poorly done oil change. Don’t worry- you will most assuredly not be spared that story in all its details, but for now, this November reminds me how grateful I am for family who comes to our rescue time and again.

This November experienced an election that I am still trying to find words to talk about. This blog isn’t the place for politics, but living in DC, our lives and those of so many of our friends are affected swiftly by changing political winds. We don’t have the luxury of not discussing politics, because that means not talking about the livelihoods of most people we know. Politics affect us quickly and tangibly. Not only in the grander sense, of changing tides for our nation, but in the daily reality of whether or not James gets to come home in time to see Henry during the week, or whether or not some of our friends still have jobs. This election brought so much fear and anger and hatred to the surface – on all sides – and I said things I regret, and didn’t say things I regret too. And I think the only truly bipartisan consensus is that all of us are uncertain and concerned about the world we are building, and I’m trying to have grace if others are trying to build it better in a way that doesn’t make sense to me.

This November, like all Novembers, went too quickly, ending in a final flourish of vibrant leaves carpeting the city and cold rains washing us clean for December.

Till next year, November – you’re always my favorite.

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This & That

Have you ordered your Christmas Cards yet?  Please tell me no so I feel better. And if yours are ordered, addressed, and about to go out- just don’t ever talk to me again, ok? My brain has fired at a lower setting since Henry was born, and even though I swear every year that I will be more on top of it… I’m not. But we did recruit our friends to take some pictures right before Thanksgiving and we have this gem from them:fall2016-211

Babies in flight + fall foliage + primary colors + hats with antlers = my personal heaven.

Moving on.

Even though I wrote a bare bones birth story- I love reading them. Fran just wrote hers and it is hysterical. I will forever be grateful for the advice she texted me shortly after Henry was born and I was curious about recovery, warning me simply to resist the urge to break out a mirror.

This article is more than a little traumatizing. It encourages me in my desire to teach Henry good sleep habits, but it is also a good reminder that sleep is not the only gauge of parenting:

“This is parenting, then: trying and failing and reaching and missing and sometimes getting it right, and always loving.”

And speaking of sleep – is it normal to go to bed at the same time?

Though my current schedule is so wonderfully flexible, I think a lot about balancing work and home, and this was an excellent reminder of the need for empathy, and its impossibility.

I love following Humans of New York on Instagram and their recent series of posts from Macomb County  have been extra good.

One time I read a novel that described the main character making pasta in such detail, that I tried to follow the fictional description and make my own. It was a disaster and I haven’t tried to make pasta since but this is tempting me to try.

I am obsessed with every last thing about this house– even the goats. I mean, especially the goats.

In January we are going to get serious about health and do another Whole30 and I am pumped to do a slight variation of this salad.

Cyber Monday sales! I love Kiehl’s and but they usually are so expensive that I restrain from purchasing them- even if they are made from fairy powder and unicorn tears. I love that they are giving all sorts of freebies away today and used it as an excuse to finally restock in a couple things I love. I also hit up the sales from Gap, Old Navy, and H & M to get some stuff for Henry’s 6-9 month wardrobe, which was pretty sparse.

That’s all, save one more photo from last week- because he’s six months old now, and James informed me that this means we are 1/36 of the way to him moving out of the house and I just about DIED. fall2016-209

 

 

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Of Disaster and Donuts.


fall2016-56-1fall2016-58-1fall2016-55-1fall2016-61-1fall2016-57-1fall2016-59-1In case you are a longtime reader of this blog and you were on the age of your seat just waiting and wondering if the major life changes of the last year would preclude is from our annual donut making EXTRAVAGANZA- fear not. I tried to figure out some way that we could have the party at 11 am and in a park, as that is a prime moment for babies and toddlers, but it proved impossible. Instead we decided to have everyone we know and love in our apartment, with their babies and toddlers, deep frying things in hot grease at the exact moment when all tiny people were losing it. Because what more do parents want than for someone to hand their bedtime-flaunting 2 year-old a donut and a bowl of spiced sugar?

Other than the promise of donuts, the Friday that we held the party was a really bad day at the end of a really bad week. Henry was weathering the terrible waters of teething plus a schedule that just couldn’t recover from Daylight Savings Time, and he had inexplicably cried most of the day, refusing most naps and wearing through every last shred of patience I possess. I was so haggard and tired and angry, and James had a crazy week at work and he came home to find me still in pajamas, trying to make donut dough that still needed to chill, frantically trying to clean because it was the first time hosting a big party in our “new” apartment, and just losing it in general. It is really hard to get yourself, your home, and some food ready when there is a tiny person who is over it – and you don’t even know what “it” is.

James jumped in and tried to get Henry to take a power nap to make up for all the ruined naps that day while I tried to finish up everything and in the process, I knocked an entire gallon of cider off the counter to have it explode. Cider in the rug. Cider on the floor. Cider on the table. Cider everywhere, approximately 20 minutes before the party started. Obviously I did the mature thing and started sobbing in the middle of the kitchen and announcing that the party was canceled, followed by angry sobs of don’t you dare cancel it because I have done SO MUCH WORK. James rightfully assessed the situation and jumped into action, strapping a screaming Henry to his chest in the carrier, and mopping the floor while kicking me out of the kitchen to put on actual clothes.

It’s funny, because when I look back on last year, it seems that a very similar pre-donut disaster befell us, and I wonder if I will ever learn that the people about to pour into our home do not care if my hair is done, the centerpiece is perfect, or even if their feet slightly stick to the floor because the cider took a couple rounds of Swiffering to clean up. I love the joy of extending hospitality under perfect circumstances and I love giving the gift of a lovely and clean home and polished hostess to people who pass through our doors. But it’s not always possible. Sometimes there are crying babies and ruined plans and myriads of little disasters that befall us.

In the end, in spite of any disaster, there were full bellies and tiny sticky hands decorating donuts and detracting from the sticky floor. There were people sitting on every surface with no space to notice that I didn’t get to making a centerpiece. There were donuts and toppings and old friends who turn up every year to celebrate my love of fried carbs.

So even though I swore moments before the party that the following year we would just decorate donuts I bought at Krispy Kreme… I’m pretty sure that next November will find me once again frying up dough and throwing open our doors for the people who make our lives ever sweeter by braving the disaster to come inside.

PS: Years 1, 3, 4, 5. Year 2 is buried so deep in the archives even I can’t find it. For the second year in a row, Anna hand lettered our sign – thanks Anna! This year we made these again, though I decided halfway through that, while I prefer yeast donuts in general, homemade ones are better cake. I retired our standard pumpkin ones in favor of these and they will be returning next year. I also decided to exclusively do donut holes next year, as they prove the best vehicle for toppings.

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Food for fall, food for all.

Let’s talk about food, as it is one of my favorite things. Henry happens to agree:

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If he is this excited about oatmeal cereal and the occasional bite of smashed avocado- just wait until he discovers cake.

The other night I made a particularly tasty dinner and James announced that fall food is where my cooking really shines.* This might just be because fall usually inspires me to take a delicious hiatus from clean eating, whereas winter demands some rounds of the Whole30 (gearing up for one in Jan already!). But I think it is universally true that fall food is awesome. You have such a bountiful and beautiful selection of produce, there is a chill in the air that makes food taste extra good, and it just seems like the right time to gather those you love around the table for a feast.

I wanted to share some of the fall recipes from around the web that I return to, partially so you can enjoy them, and partially so that I have them all saved in one place. Some are mine, some I actually haven’t tried yet but want to, all are warm and hearty and make you want to tuck in for a bit.

Blackbean pumpkin soup– I leave out the ham and tomatoes.

Kale, raisin, walnut salad.

I have my eye on making this gratin this weekend.

Butternut squash toasts. In case you couldn’t tell- there’s a Smitten Kitchen devotion in our home. And a toast devotion. And a butternut devotion, in constant conflict with my loathing of peeling and slicing the things. My SIL made these recently and I have been craving them since!

Kale and sweet potato salad.

Ok, really just kale everything – like chicken and with pomegranates too. (Ever since the Whole30, I’ve been making the kale chicken with less cheese and almond meal instead of crumbs, and I genuinely think it’s an improvement!)

Grilled sandwiches with brie, bacon, Honeycrisp apple, and jam. Or cold ones on crusty baguettes with brie, turkey, apple, and Dijon.

Any Trader Joe’s seasonal item, with a special love for their soups (carrot ginger!), gingerbread, and pumpkin items.  We are also devoted converts to their fire-roasted frozen veggies, adding them to pretty much anything and everything.

Pumpkin gooey cake

2-ingredient pumpkin muffins.

Pumpkin ravioli (we love the TJ brand!), tossed with peas, bacon, Parmesan, and browned butter.

I have always been too intimidated to make chicken and dumplins, but Neena has me thinking I might even try it.

Crockpot fajitas. (Not super fall-ish, other than being easy and hot and from the Crockpot.)

What are some of your favorite foods for fall? Bonus points if it is inexpensive, and can be assembled quickly or in advance or prepared by my personal chef, aka the Crockjpot

*Before you get any lofty notions that I just prepare delectable feasts every night for James to gush over, just know that we are staunch supporters of the Trader Joe’s frozen food section, lovers of canned green beans, and we totally had to throw away the lunch I made on Sunday because it was repulsive.

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Taking Stock.

fall2016-173fall2016-174fall2016-176fall2016-179fall2016-181fall2016-183fall2016-185Making : Breakfast taco’s. So easy, so good- so obsessed.
Cooking : Trader Joe’s soups.
Drinking : Coffee, and loving how excited it makes me for cool mornings.
Reading: Just finished Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames.
Wanting: Thanksgiving and Christmas and snow and eternal fall, all at once.
Looking: At these pictures of Henry on the playground from a couple weeks ago and wondering when that scrawny newborn turned into a giggle baby with chubby cheeks.
Playing: This game every time we get a table full of people.
Wasting: [more like wasted] Way to much time picking out wrapping paper today. I know it doesn’t matter, but I love picking out paper for Christmas gifts.
Sewing: Mostly I just leave this one on these lists so that I feel shamed into actually sewing buttons back onto the things in my mending pile.
Wishing: That somehow an extra day would appear in this week where we could go hiking as a family to enjoy all the fall colors.
Enjoying: The way that Henry laughs at the weirdest things, like me doing squats, which makes me do so many that my legs are sore by the end of the day from squatting for my baby.
Waiting: For all the library books I requested from all over for my dissertation to slowly trickle into my greedy little paws.
Liking: All of the Ikea Christmas decorations, because I love the Swedish Ski-Lodge aesthetic.
Wondering: If Hamilton will actually live up to all the hype when James and I finally listen to it on the way home for Thanksgiving.
Loving: UberEats- because hellooooooo date night on the couch with fancy food!
Hoping: That we find someone soon to take care of Henry for the spring… the searching and interviewing and reference-checking just makes me sad that I have to miss a single moment of how sweet he is right now.
Marveling:  At how deeply entertaining talking to my nonverbal infant is.
Needing: More sleep. Forever and always.
Wearing: These jeans on repeat. Obscenely priced, but I saved my pennies and waited for a sale and they do dark voodoo for post-baby baby belly.
Following: This Instagrammer, because her sketches of baby life are perfectly accurate.
Noticing: The wrinkles and lines that are forming across my face. The way that Henry sticks out his tongue when he smiles.  How fast the days go.
Knowing: That I will someday look back on this stage, where we have siblings close enough to oversee Henry’s first time down the slide, and remember it as one of the best times of life.
Thinking: About the election last week, about what it means for our country and what our country meant by it.
Feeling: Like the task of teaching Henry right and wrong is going to be really hard, but I can’t imagine if any parent, at any time, has ever thought it was easy.

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Apple picking with my people.

fall2016-172I’m going to just continue beating my obnoxiously loud drum over here and declaring that living near your adult siblings is the best thing ever. I will never quite know how we managed it, but we live 9 hours from both sets of our parents… and yet have one brother and his wife on our street, another brother in the neighborhood, and another brother and his wife just a couple hours away.

Last weekend we headed to Charlottesville for a quick visit to Zach and Liz. [What’s that? You wanted the links back to their wedding? So glad you asked – here and here. ]  Since sleep-training Henry, we have loved the ease of traveling with him. Because he is our true car-seat-hating urban baby, we bathed and fed him Friday night, and then tucked him into the car-seat instead of his crib. There was a brief period of resistance at first, but his firm bedtime kicked in and he passed out, leaving James and me to enjoy a ride of conversation and podcasts, rather than baby screams.

Charlottesville is just the prettiest town, and it has some of the best orchards. I went to Carter Mountain a couple years ago, but this was James’ first time. James and I have very different approaches to apple picking. For him, it is simply that – apple picking. For me, apple picking is more of a metaphor for “bask in autumnal concepts and eat donuts.” There were probably more pictures taken than he would have liked, but we did pick enough apples to snack on and consumed some quality donuts, so I’m calling it a win. Henry also got to gnaw on an apple after I chewed the peel off (such a mom thing!), and he could barely contain himself from the excitement. I guess when you’ve had nothing but milk and oatmeal cereal, an apple would be truly exciting. You will see below when we tried to take the apple away for him to have a photo with his aunt and uncle and he was NOT PLEASED.

But enough words- on to photos!fall2016-145fall2016-146fall2016-150fall2016-151fall2016-154fall2016-147fall2016-148fall2016-156(Side note: Can someone explain to me how we are supposed to be tucking in our shirts these days? I see the full tuck, half tuck, side tuck, and I am confused. Explanation with photos please.)fall2016-158fall2016-159fall2016-161fall2016-162fall2016-163fall2016-166“GIMME BACK THAT APPLE.”- Angry Hank. fall2016-167fall2016-169fall2016-171Our return trip was slightly less tranquil, as it fell during the Witching Hour of Certain Screaming instead of the Bedtime Hour of Powerful Sleep Drive, but we survived. And I would do it again in a heartbeat for a sunny fall day picking apples with my favorite people.

 

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