From the trenches: Please love my kid and don’t take all my money in the process.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetI always took childcare for granted growing up, always just assumed that the amazing babysitters my mom found for the couple days a week that she worked were just plucked easily from the vast reserves of the Good Childcare Providers, a place that most surely existed where mothers can find quality care at good rates with a single phone call.

Which is proof that a) I was delusional and b) The Babysitters Club books really shaped my view on reality.

When we were a couple months pregnant, we went to add our name to the list for the well-respected childcare available through James’ work. It wasn’t cheap, but it was a better deal than many options and it would be convenient. We assumed that we were on the ball, signing up when I was a mere 10 weeks pregnant…until we found out that the waitlist was 2.5 years long. You are already 10 weeks along?!?!? Most people sign up when they consider trying to get pregnant, James was told,  You’re behind!

And thus we were thrust into the neurotic subculture of DC childcare.

I started doing my research, calling and learning about waist lists that lasted years, lotteries that decided elite playgroup participation (and have, I am sure, a direct correlation to future earning potential), and rigorous curriculum for 2 year olds. I learned about “Boogie Babes” and baby yoga and the fine points of DC nanny laws. I did math and stared bug eyed at numbers I calculated, remembering when I was paid $5/hr for babysitting. I spiraled into total despair about the cost of childcare, praying every night that we could actually find someone who would keep our kid alive — even if they didn’t have an advanced degree in Essential Oil Based Baby Meditation and Inspiration Soothing Techniques.

Several things crystallized during my hours of stress-googling.

  1. Being a mom who works outside of the home means that you spend at least half your time and potentially more of your income trying to arrange childcare.
  2. DC is a seller’s market, where there are 5 families clamoring for every spot/nanny/sitter that exists.
  3. I am not willing to be away from my baby full-time, even if that means putting up with all sorts of obstacles to arrange the part-time yet amazing childcare of my dreams. As my friend Bekah wrote, there is no parent who does not sacrifice, and I think moms feel this acutely, whether they are staying at home full-time, working full time,  or some combination of both. No mom escapes the childcare stress, even if she is the one giving all of it herself. Researching childcare helped me to assess what sacrifices I am willing and able to make in terms of finances, mental sanity, time at home, etc.
  4. If possible, it was not my preference to have Henry in a large group childcare at a young age. I have zero judgement for anyone who puts their kid in daycare. If anything, being a mom has taught me that we are all just doing the best we can and finding what works for our own families, and I know that daycares can be so wonderful and often the only financially viable option. But given our part time, academic calendar needs and my desires for Henry, it was not my first option. (Plus they all have forever long waiting lists, even if it was my wish.)

In the fall, we got lucky. I was only back to work about 10 hours a week, and a single posting on a church forum had a single applicant who was singularly perfect for our family. Susan watched Henry all fall, putting up with my first-time parent neurosis and constant theorizing about what we should do to make him __________ (eat/sleep/play) better. I had a different system practically every day and she flowed with all of them, allowing me to scribble suggestions on post its all over the house and not judge my crazy. She would wander all over Capitol Hill with Henry in a bear suit and text me excitedly when he actually pooped, as he was a once-a-week-pooper back then and it was an EVENT. Susan was the perfect nanny to teach us how to have childcare. She loved our boy so well and allowed us to know that he has having one-on-one care at a time when we (even more than him perhaps) needed it.

But for the spring semester, Susan was leaving DC and I needed more hours per week given my work schedule. I started searching again, imagining that it would be similar to last time. I placed ads… and got nothing. I cast the net wider, posting ads on various childcare sites, calling any and all possibilities, questioning everyone I knew about potential if their cousin’s sister’s ex-boyfriend’s neighbor might be able and interested. No one wanted us. No one wanted to care for my absolutely perfect ginger baby, with the finally perfected sleep skills, multiple bear suits, and the deep laugh. At least, no one wanted to do that on our limited budget and very part-time hours.

Sometimes I imagined what a perfect scenario would be. Cloning was my first fantasy, a second Hannah to stay home and mom it up 24/7. Home Hannah would organize museum outings and park dates. She would have diaper bags full of healthy snacks and toys and endless bottles of bubbles to dole out to children at the park, earning the love of all little people in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. She would speak French to Henry at home and keep the house clean, the baby happy, the fridge stocked. Because of her, Work Hannah could focus on teaching and finishing her dissertation with the full knowledge that her baby was also getting all of her. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

But as it seems like you folks over in Science World (a world so far from Humanities Kingdom that I’m not even sure where you are) haven’t figured out cloning yet, my dream was to find another mom to include my kid in her life a couple days a week. She didn’t need a fancy house. I didn’t care if she went to Baby Yoga or boogie babes or served up organic chia seed pudding. I wanted her to be willing to crawl on the ground at the park and hug him when I couldn’t.

I found Cassandra’s name and number on a Capitol Hill mom listserve, and we clicked when we first talked. She watches 1-2 kids along with her own toddler, and after 4 interviews with her (I know- I’m rolling my eyes at me too), I found myself begging her to take us, to choose Henry from several kids whose parents were also vying for a spot. Please love my kid. Please keep him safe and make him laugh. And give him vegetables instead of crackers and pick him up when he face-plants on the playground.

She picked him, in spite of my neurotic questions and James’ intensity in drilling her about her homeowner’s insurance. And I count Cassandra as one of the biggest blessings in our life. Henry is obsessed with the two toddlers he is with. He is exhausted when I pick him up, and so happy. She texts me videos every day of Henry on the swings, dancing in the living room, whacking happily on a tambourine. One day I arrived and found a giant furniture box on her porch and she proudly informed me that her neighbor was throwing it out but she saved it so the kids could turn it into a fort. If I can’t be with him all the time, than I am happy knowing he’s with her.

I see people looking for childcare on the mom list serve all the time, and the diversity in families is great. Some have several kids, others just one. Some need part time, others full time. Some want specific languages spoken around their kids, others want a caregiver who focuses on activities around the city. But under all the requests, we are all just asking for the same thing, from the corporate DC lawyer who hires a private nanny to speak Italian with their toddler daughter, to the hourly wage earner who drops their baby boy off at a large daycare center.

Please love my kid. Please keep them safe and make them laugh.

I imagine I will spend a lot of my laugh thinking that, though now I can actually say it aloud. I can request that of the people that I pay to have around Henry. But someday he will go off to school, to camp, to sleepovers, to college, to jobs and life and people far away. I will watch him walk off into crowds of humans who can be so cruel to each other, so dangerous, so callous. I will breathe it like a prayer every time he goes out.

Please love my kid. Please keep him safe and make him laugh.

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This & That

Henry is 9 months old. NINE MONTHS. That can’t be possible. But it is. I didn’t get around to taking 9 month pictures, so instead I’ll just throw up one from a particularly wonderful day recently of mother-son clothing matching.

James is so ashamed. And Henry probably would be too if he had any idea what was happening.

Some things from lately…

I’ve decided that it is time to submit to the mom sneakers. You know the ones, the ubiquitous Nike’s or New Balances that all the moms wear to chase kids at the park. I am kind of intrigued by these instead of the usual versions.

Ok. I usually think it is kind of stupid when people freak out about someone “using” their baby name. No one is original. If you try, you end up with really awful names, and being original at the cost of dooming your child to a crap name forever – not worth it. We knew when we named Henry that his has never, and will never, be a unique name. Don’t care. Not only is it a family name (which I know everyone uses as their excuse, but it really is! And not just in the abstract second cousin twice removed had it as a middle name deal), but it is just a solid name. BUT. When we named him Henry Wilberforce, we were excited to use a name of important historical significance. And then the Duggar girl went and used it and I am a little displeased about being associated with her. So let the record show – we had it first.

After I mentioned making biscuits a while ago, someone shared this recipe and I can’t wait to try it.

Love the looks of this sweater.

I am like Sisyphus, cleaning up at least 8 times a day, only to have the mess begin again. Loved these thoughts on mess and a cleaning playlist.

People love to talk about living in small spaces, but what constitutes a small space is drastically different for everyone. I think of our under 1000 square foot (and no additional storage beyond a massive Tupperware bin in the crawl space with our camping gear) as small, but it was fun to look at these different apartments.

Love these suggestions too, for some simpler days.

And finally, a friend threw this quote up as her Facebook status the other day, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it:

“What’s prayer? It’s shooting shafts into the dark. What mark they strike, if any, who’s to say? It’s reaching for a hand you cannot touch. The silence is so fathomless that prayers like plummets vanish in the sea. You beg. You whimper. You load God down with empty praise. You tell him sins that he already knows full well. You seek to change his changeless will. Yet Godric prays the way he breathes, for else his heart would wither in his breast. Prayer is the wind that fills his sail. Else waves would dash him on the rocks, or he would drift with witless tides. And sometimes, by God’s grace, a prayer is heard.” –Godric, Frederick Buechner



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Set a timer.

winter2017-103I remember sitting at so many baby showers before I had a baby, listening to that moment where everyone shared advice for the mother to be. Some was good (“Take ANYTHING from that hospital that isn’t bolted down!”), some was bad (“Make getting your body back for your husband asap a high priority!”), and some just didn’t make sense in the moment (“ICE PACK PANTIES”).

Now that I have survived about the same time with Henry out of the womb that he was in it, I have my own advice:

Set a timer.

This timer will be your link to sanity, your Inception-esque spinning top, the thing that let’s you know that you might feel like you are losing it, but you can do this – because what feels unbearable is only a matter of minutes. And you can do anything for a matter of minutes. That timer will be what you cling to when the short period of pain or suffering or tears feels like it will never end and it will swallow you. Set that timer and hold on – you’ve got this.

In the beginning, when nursing hurts, and it seems like all you do – set a timer. You will hear that baby cry and you will hate yourself for it, but sometimes you won’t want to answer. You will want to roll over and stuff the pillow over your head and go back to sleep, or walk out of the house and let someone else be stuck in that chair for another endless nursing session. But you can’t do that. So set that timer, and settle in. When you feel like it has been ages, just look over and know that it was only 28 minutes, and you did it, and you can do it again. And you will watch the timer get shorter, as you both learn what you are doing.

When you decide to start pumping, to make those bottles that give you little slivers of freedom – set a timer. Because nothing sucks worse than pumping (pun very much intended), and you will hate it. Because if nursing hurt, than pumping might really hurt, and you will sit in the fetal position on the floor, sweating and crying and staring at the picture of the smiling woman on the hands-free pumping bra box. And you will scream profanities at her in your head, because her hair is done and she is conducting  a conference call in a suit while she pumps and there you are, working so hard and getting so little. And your husband might suggest that maybe you should try pumping in a pencil skirt, and you consider hurling the pump at his head, but decide to laugh instead. And you feel like that pump is eating hours, days, of your life, but then you look at the timer and see that it’s been 6 minutes, and you relax, just a little.

And when you do manage to pump enough for that bottle and you break free from the house – set a timer. Partially because you aren’t footloose and fancy free anymore and you have to be back, but partially to remind yourself the power of 49 minutes alone walking around the block or grabbing a coffee down the street or driving to Trader Joe’s by yourself just to eat samples and buy flowers.

When you are working on developing a schedule, trying desperately to carve order from the chaos of your life – set a timer. Work on a rhythm, even if it will take a long time for that repetitive pattern to actually be a set schedule. But those intervals, looking down and seeing that ah yes, it has actually been 2.5 hours since the last feeding, so the baby is probably just crying from hunger not because they have contracted a rare viral disease that will kill them, those will keep you sane.

If you decide that it’s time to sleep train, and you know there will be tears – set a timer. There is no pain like hearing your baby cry, that baby that you love more than life itself, the one who desperately needs to get and give more sleep. So you have decided to let them fuss just a little, in hopes that they will start learning to sleep somewhere other than your exhausted arms. That seemed like a good idea when they were cooing in your arms, but now they are there in the crib, screaming, and you are sobbing outside the door because you are the meanest-worst-no-good-awful-hateful-mama EVER. Or at least, you are until you look at the timer and realize that it has been 2 minutes and 36 seconds. Because no one told you that crying babies slow time to such an extent that eternity slips in. You say you will give him till 4 minutes to stop crying… and it happens. Or it doesn’t, and the timer justifies you in sweeping that baby back into your arms and trying again tomorrow.

And then one day, and I promise you, Oh Weary and Haggard mama, you will realize that you forgot to set the timer before you nursed. You just picked him up and nursed him, without special pillows or covers or props or chairs. It didn’t hurt, and you wouldn’t have minded if it lasted longer. And he laughed at you afterwards, and you laughed at him, and you aren’t even really sure how long he ate but you know he’s ok.

And you stop using the timer when you pump or go out, because those things are easier now, and that tiny baby isn’t so tiny and can go longer without you. He eats food now, and you long ago accepted that formula will not be the thing that keeps your baby out of college, and you do what both of you need to do to survive.

And the schedule doesn’t feel daunting anymore, because it is just there like a simple outline of how the day might go, but it bends and flexes, creating order, but also space, in your days.

And he doesn’t cry at all when he goes to sleep, and sleeps long and deep. You barely remember those early tears, only the way he giggles and flaps all his limbs when you come in to get him after naps. You aren’t upset when he wakes in the morning, only excited to go in and cover him in kisses.

But then you start thinking of the other timers.

6 minutes until he is too fidgety to nurse any longer and wants to speed crawl away from you and explore. 3 months you guess, until he won’t want to nurse anymore at all. 4 years until he starts school and your days won’t be cycles of snuggles and naps and piles of books on the floor. 7 years until he doesn’t need you to read the books for him.  10 years until he starts getting too cool to want to hang with his mom. 17 years until he goes to college. 20 some years until he maybe gets married, and you aren’t the most important woman in his life.

And that timer? The one that kept you sane? You hate it. You thrust it far away, not just out of sight, but deep into the recesses of darkness that lap at the corners of life. Go slow time, you whisper as you see that little boy sucking his thumb as he sleeps at night. Slow down.

So set a timer. And know that one day, you will stop setting it. And that, dear Mama, is the best and worse news that I can ever give you. winter2017-110

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He is fun.

winter2017-89winter2017-92winter2017-97winter2017-100winter2017-105winter2017-107winter2017-112winter2017-116winter2017-117winter2017-118winter2017-119winter2017-121winter2017-61winter2017-62winter2017-63winter2017-71winter2017-72winter2017-75Sometimes, as I have blogged before and will most certainly blog again, being a mom is Not Fun. It is sometimes Hard But Good Work.

But other times, it is really fun.

I don’t think I really got this before having kids. I knew I wanted to have children, wanted to have a family that grew together, knew I would love the stage when my kids were old enough to be friends. But I didn’t expect the fun of this stage. I knew there would be sweet joy and tender moments, but I didn’t expect the fun of hanging out with my baby.

My sister-in-law and I were talking recently, and she mentioned that someone made a comment recently about how it was “lame” that her husband wanted to hang out with their kids on Saturday mornings while she left to do a pilates class. Before having kids, I would have applauded the noble husband for giving his wife a break. But now, not only do I emphatically insist that husbands aren’t babysitters, but I know the truth: you want to hang out with your kids, even young ones. Because they are fun.

Henry is experiencing the world for the first time and it is BLOWING HIS MIND. He recently realized that he actually knows his way around our apartment and can transport himself from one room to another to find things he likes. He gets so excited about crawling into a new room, and we are not above crawling alongside him to explore the fascinating world of our 980 square foot apartment. He learned that he can take all the books off his shelf and shake them open, flipping pages and looking at pictures. He loves to swing and go down slides and be tossed high in the air. He loves to laugh, to catch balls, to make silly faces and splash. I love him,  but I also like hanging out with him. He is uncomplicated and his joy is pure, his fun complete.

Let me tell you what ruins this fun: too often I forget to just play with him. I try to multi-task, or check my phone, or stress about what I “should” be doing. Then what was fun becomes work. Obviously, life can’t be an endless stream of park dates and book chewing. Sometimes I have to sit on the floor and grade behind his back while he crawls in piles of puzzle pieces. Sometimes I respond to student emails as he plays at my feet, or fold laundry next to him. But I have learned to love the fun of playing with my boy, rather than just shepherding him through his day. He is an excellent teacher.

This long weekend was so good to us. The weather was unreal, and even though I still spent all of Saturday afternoon working, we had a lot of fun. We trekked this boy around Capitol Hill, played at the park, crawled in front of the Capitol, and spent lots of time giggling around the house. (And yes, I did wear the same shirt Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Not ashamed.)

Children are hope. They are work. They are purpose. They are an investment. They are a sanctifying challenge. They are exhausting. They are love.

But they are also fun, and I don’t ever want to forget that.

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The Laziest Whole30

As promised (threatened?) a recap of our latest Whole30!Winter2017-56.jpgI highly recommend doing Whole30’s in January. Not only do you feel so disgusting following the gluttony of the holidays that you have extra motivation to get through it, but everyone else feels likewise so you can usually con other people into doing it to. The sneaky secret to a Whole30 succeeding is having enough people on board that you can all have dinner parties where some roasted nuts are dessert and no one bats an eye. Decaf coffee instead of wine? Totally normal. No cheese plate or bread basket? Acceptable.

But even with a team on board, it is an eating plan that is very labor intensive. And frankly, the days of labor intensive dinners are over. So here were the rules for this round of Whole30, the laziest Whole30 designed to feel better, but not to devote all your energy to the philosophical perfection of the plan:

  • Meals had to be easy or cheap, and preferably have leftovers. Carefully crafted meals that only made two servings and had complicated ingredients? Nope. Not happening.
  • Meals did not need to be creative. I had a rotation of a dozen meals that I planned at the beginning of the month and then just rotated through them.
  • Breakfast is no time for creativity.
  • Neither is lunch.
  • Condiments should be purchased, not made. Yes, I can make my own compliant mayo, dressings, creamer, ketchup, etc. But I could also spend just a tad more and buy them and not spend all my time in the kitchen. Yes please.
  • Frozen and canned veggies should be embraced. Many are compliant, cheap, and can be stocked on hand so that meals can be thrown together at the last minute. The ones we kept on hand were canned green beans, canned tomatoes, frozen broccoli, frozen diced onions, frozen diced peppers. Just check labels first!
  • If a shortcut is found, take it. Like when I grabbed a bunch of pre-roasted sweet potatoes and chicken from Trader Joe’s. Slightly pricier than doing it myself, but easier. Worth it.
  • Keep the kitchen stocked with the frozen and canned veggies, a variety of potatoes (sweet, red, yellow), onions, fruit, peppers, prosciutto, greens, and nuts so that a meal could always materialize if needed.
  • I would also roast a whole sheet of sweet potatoes, and then just reheat them as needed. This was helpful too as Henry loves roasted sweet potatoes, but asking a hungry baby to wait an hour… is not a thing.

Here is what we ate for the month:

Breakfast: Every week, I made one large spinach, sweet potato, and egg frittata. Then I ate a portion of it and a piece of fruit every day for breakfast. It was fast, filling, easy, and cheap. And I love repetition, so knowing the same breakfast awaited me every morning was wonderful. I used frozen spinach, one large sweet potato roasted, 8 eggs whipped with 1/2 cup coconut milk. Bake on 350 for an hour.  On the weekends, I made a brunch of breakfast hash with bacon, potato, and kale

Lunch: Leftovers! In the sad absence of leftovers, I ate a lunch of “Whole30 Tapas,” (fruit, celery, nuts, almond butter, and mini sweet bell peppers wrapped in prosciutto) or a salad.


  • Meatloaf+mashed potatoes + green beans (canned or roasted)
  • Almond fried chicken + roasted sweet potatoes + broccoli (frozen)
  • Chicken sausage sauteed with cabbage and onions
  • Stir fry chicken and broccoli + cauliflower rice (I used coconut aminos for the sauce)
  • Beef stew or potroast (as they two are really only divided by the size of the meat chunks)
  • Steak + salad
  • Shepherd’s pie
  • Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup (and you can use frozen diced onions and peppers, which makes this an impossibly easy and fast meal!)
  • Crockpot pulled BBQ chicken or pork +cauliflower mash + green beans
  • Roasted potatoes, carrots, sausage + some green veggie (all tossed on one pan)
  • Taco salad (pulled spicy pork from crockpot + greens + Trader Joe’s frozen fire roasted peppers + avocado)
  • Burgers (Beef or Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Turkey Burgers ) + onions, mushrooms, spinach, avocado + sweet potato fries

And you know what? Even without spending forever in the kitchen, without creating ground breaking recipes, without making my own mayo or complicated dishes  – our Whole30 was awesome. We feel great, ate great, and didn’t have to stress about it much.

The laziest Whole30 was a fantastic success. winter2017-55

If you have done more than one round of Whole30, what tricks did you find made them easier as you went on?

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Weekend update.

I keep on putting off blogging until I have a nice chunk of concentrated and calm time to write something of substance and quality… but then that never happens. And so in lieu of that illusive post, here’s a weekend update punctuated by only the highest quality of grainy cell phone snaps. Consider it my early Valentine’s Day gift and may it hold you over until I find that magical moment to wow you with a scintillating post of Crockpot musings or a recap of the world’s laziest Whole30 that we finished. Get excited.

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Baby free and crayyyyyyyyy.

I am a firm believer that couples need dates, even after babies come and suck all your time, energy, money, and a hefty chunk of your brain cells. Time away from tiny people with not-so-tiny needs reminds you that you do in fact like Other Parent, and have liked them since long before you routinely saw them covered in spit-up. Of course, I can enjoy the distinct snobbery of being a Parent Who Routinely Goes On Dates because we have a posse of siblings nearby why are ever eager and willing to babysit the Hankster. Were I to actually have to pay for an evening sitter, and you might find me changing my tune real fast.

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Ignore Henry’s highly skeptical expression. He knows that Aunt Ruth and Uncle Lyman’s house is approximately six thousand times more exciting than his own.

But Friday night was extra special because my brother and his wife invited Henry for a sleepover! And we happily agreed, because we are not idiots. We left Henry with them Friday night and hit the town in time to get dinner and a movie (LIKE IN A THEATRE! WITH PREVIEWS AND POPCORN AND IT IS ONLY THE SECOND MOVIE I HAVE SEEN IN A YEAR!), and still made it home in time to be in bed by midnight and milk every last second of our baby free night to sleep in the next morning.

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All about the bear-meets-dino aesthetic that the Hankster has been sporting lately. Which makes sense, since he doesn’t dress himself.

And Henry? He maybe didn’t miss us at all, sleeping a solid 11.5 hours before partying hard over breakfast and then passing out again in his bear suit.

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So serene! Meanwhile, at home, Henry was attempting to remove every single pot and pan from the shelves.

After returning Henry home, I slipped out to snap some pictures of our friends’ newborn baby. She is all that is perfect and tiny and I am just over the moon about more babies arriving in our posse of friends and neighbors. A new baby also gives me an excuse to make these and then eat way too many of them.

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Y’ALL. This baby was the sweetest. And so much beautiful black hair!!!

Somewhere between Thursday and Saturday, Henry took to crawling, and we were ECSTATIC for all of .68 seconds, before realizing that we live in a death trap with cords, outlets, sharp angles, and zero baby proofing. Our TV perches precariously on a bookshelf with tantalizing wires hanging from it, and our router just sits beside the couch, beckoning Henry’s preferred method of exploring, which is to shove any and all new objects into inquisitive mouth. At least, any objects other than food, as the kid has zero interest in feeding himself.

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Seconds before he almost launched himself to the floor, and hours before the crib was set to the lowest position. Only 78,658 death traps left to remove.

We went out to Virginia for games with friends Saturday night and I ate lots of chocolate cake, as it was our first day free from Whole30. That chocolate cake mix had taunted me from the cabinet the whollllllleeee 30 days, but alas- I am triumphant. There is no picture of the cake, as my presentation was lacking, since I used an upside down Tupperware bowl in the absence of a cake carrier.

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Oh hey, white dishes. Just like everyone else on the internet.

On Sunday we had friends over after church for brunch, and I made these biscuits. Mine still didn’t rise up like the evasive biscuits of my dreams, but we survived. And thrived. And ate lots of them.

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Breakfast sandwiches!

Plus, these two babes and besties took great naps and then looked awesome in their sleep sacks.

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When they go to the prom together someday, I am going to request a similar pose. And outfits.

We finished the evening with Apollo 13, as seeing Hidden Figures on Friday had us excited to watch anything where the question of will the heat shields hold??? was at the forefront. Halfway through we tried to pause it and had to find a whole new way to finish it, since Henry has drooled in the remote to the point of short circuiting it and we couldn’t find our scene again after accidentally restarting it.

And that’s enough excitement for one weekend, so – the end.

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Now that I’m a real adult, I drink coffee.

Remember when I wrote this? So young! So innocent! So well rested!

Because though I happily and easily spent 28 years and 9 months never needing or drinking coffee (frothy and sweet concoctions are a different story and obviously don’t count), 6 weeks with a newborn had me bowing before the carafe alter.winter2017-34And I love it.

Scenario 1: I teach MWF this semester, and after those glorious 2 semesters in a row of not teaching, thus, not having to really do my hair as much (because one does not simply show up to teach without coiffed hair!) and rolling in when I wanted – I have to get it together. And it is not easy. We need to leave at 8:15 to get Henry to childcare and me to my office, which means waking up early (for me- I know some of you start days way earlier and bravo for you). I know that I have to get up by 6:15 for the morning to not be hectic, that I have to do everything but get dressed before Henry wakes at 7. The hour and some change that we are up together is consumed with final details, nursing, breakfast, cuddles, etc. I also know that my days need some quiet and calm at their beginning, and I have always been notoriously bad at actually making it out of bed to read my Bible for a bit.

But then coffee.

I do not like drinking my coffee on the go, and when my alarm goes off and alllll I want is more sleep – I realize that if I can just make it into the kitchen and to the pot – it is going to be ok. I will have my calm, drink my quiet, and be ready to start the day. Because I want that time, I make it out of bed.winter2017-32

Scenario 2: On Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, I get to be home with Henry and I love it. I don’t have to roll out of bed early (because helloooooo dayjamas at home!), but the couple hours before he naps at nine are still a kind of crazy time of being with him and working a little on all the myriad things that need doing. Starting laundry, tidying up, unloading dishes, starting dinner (because we crockpot HARD in this family!), extracting objects from his mouth, his hands, his hair – it flies by. I also start thinking through my lofty goals for naptime and the day. The pages of my dissertation I need to write, the emails that need sending, the workouts that will (not)happen, and it pretty quickly rises to overwhelm me.

But then coffee.

I don’t drink it early on those days, saving it as my naptime reset, telling myself during the flurry that if I can just make it to 9:00 – I can make it forever. Cup poured, scripture read, emails done, and I feel ready to conquer anything by the end of that coffee soaked naptime. He naps easily and predictably now, but when it was still a battle, that promise of coffee and calm to come sustained me.

Scenario 3: Coffee dates, Saturday mornings, lengthy brunches, Whole30 reduced menus, instant bonding over universal addictions – coffee is the answer.

Because coffee is energy. It is ritual. It is pause. It is community. It is warmth. It is serenity, not because of any one aspect of what is in it, but because of some conglomerate of virtues, qualities, and associations that make it a very, very special part of my day – however that day might look afterwards. It is a soothing liquid flowing underneath the bridges of busy days and tired seasons.

I know the rest of you are rolling your eyes because you have been here for a long while, but though I am late, I’m happy to join you. I know it’s basic and unoriginal and cliché and ridiculous, but that universal appeal of a totally normal thing is its charm.

Let’s pour a cup and settle in. winter2017-30Side note: James made fun of me at length when I asked him to snap these pics and he actually jotted down this list while I was pouring a cup, only to reveal it afterwards and mock me for hitting every cliché in the book. Thanks husband, for keeping me humble and fighting that urge to be an Instagram husband. Also for knowing me well. winter2017-35

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Some things for your pause.

Henry is 8 months! I have no clue how, because I’m pretty sure that he was born yesterday, but here we are. He devotes lots of energy to protesting against his limbs’ lack of coordination that frequently results in face plants into the floor or belly slides, à la Bambi on ice. But mobility is soon to come, which means the ease of the potted-plant baby days will soon be beyond us. Still, in its place is a fun little boy who is discovering the world more and more every day and everything is SO EXCITING AND EDIBLE AND MUST BE TOUCHED.winter2017-44winter2017-51winter2017-50

And now, some other things.

This looks really tasty, easy, cheap, and can be seamlessly transformed to be Whole30 compliant. Check, check, check, check.

Small space, big life. We considered moving last weekend when an opportunity came to DOUBLE our living space for just a couple hundred dollars more a month. It was tempting, but we crunched the numbers, factoring in uncertainty about my employment, and decided that while it was a steal, it wasn’t wise. I read this article shortly afterwards and loved it.

Also loved Mary’s words about making decisions about your home. While she is on the other side of the grad school experience from me, so much of it rings true. (Of course, given that I share one of Mary’s articles almost every time I do a reading round-up, I obviously love her words on everything.)

It’s been strangely balmy these past days, and I’m kind of hoping winter comes back with a vengeance, at least for a little while. It lets me continue hibernating in this sweater that I snagged on sale recently. Yes, it is totally shapeless and objectively unflattering, and James wisely chose to complement the color when I asked him how it looked – but I do not care. SO COZY.

Speaking of cozy, the world is obsessed with hygge these days. It also makes me want to read this.

I have slowly become a skin-care junkie. I only get a few products at a time, but I love reading reviews and I keep a list in my phone of what I want to try so that when I need a new _______, I can experiment. Thus, I loved Sharleen’s list.

Easier cookies, means more cookies, which means better life.

I am in the process of an office renovation. And since my “office” is a tiny nook that is about 4 feet by 6 feet, that just means I am in the market for a new desk. I have fallen hard for the Mid-Century look. I love this one, but am intrigued by the more price friendly options of this one and this one.

You will notice that there are no political links on this list, and if you are reading this in America, that should strike you as off since our country is a hot bed of opinions lately and I am nothing if not Very Opinionated and Eager To Speak My Mind . This isn’t because I don’t have a heavy heart for all the serious issues that are ripping our country apart at the moment, or that I haven’t read so many articles that express things I wish I could say. I get frustrated when times are stressful and people are venting their feelings on social media, and someone starts posting puppies and being like “Let’s just forget and hold a puppy!” Yes, I love puppies too. But they can’t fix everything, and it is insulting to those who are genuinely concerned, heartbroken, and engaged in civic discourse – as, I might add, we all should be. I have read so much over the past weeks that has been shared on social media, some good, some bad, some ugly, but all beneficial. Even if something is blatantly biased, it succeeds in showing you how someone is seeing the world. We can’t fix it if we can’t understand it. But yesterday I was anxious and frustrated all day and I finally confessed to James that the Internet was stressing me out. Not the trivial stress that can be cured by a puppy, but the deep heavy heartedness that cripples and paralyzes. I just needed a little pause, a deep breath, before returning to reading and reflecting on what I can do to impact the world around me. I’m sure that you have already read any article I could possibly share, and I am equally sure that very few minds are changed by an angrily shared article. So I hope that some of the above links can be a little pause for you too, before heading back out to fight the good fight in the world of ideas.

Also, this is way cuter than a puppy:


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Whole30 Cran-Apple-Pear Crisp

You might already be tired of hearing about our Whole30, since I reference it obnoxiously and no one cares about anyone else’s restrictive eating habits. But – my blog, my rules.winter2017-20One of the hardest parts about doing the Whole30 is the lack of desserts. It’s not even the taste of dessert that I miss, but the ritual ending of a meal. I love that moment where everyone stays at the table, holds on to their forks, and lingers over something sweet. Since the Whole30 doesn’t allow you to make imitation baked goods, or use sweeteners like honey or coconut sugar, dessert is easier to just forget. Dinners end in just an anticlimactic trickling off instead of a grand finale.  I have tried variations of sautéed spiced apples in the past, or fruit salad, but they just lack the pizazz of a real dessert.

winter2017-17Over New Years, my mother-in-law made the tastiest baked fruit dish. Like a cobbler, but with none of the doughy topping. Hers had butter and brown sugar, which was delicious, but I started thinking that a version could be possible that was permissible during the Whole30. I think I’ve made it at least 5 times over the past couple weeks, tweaking it until I found a combination that had enough sweetness to offset the tart berries, but not so much that it delved into the forbidden “paleo junk food” category.  Some might still deem it SWYPO, but I feel that the lack of any grain, sugar, or dairy substitute absolves it. Just fruit, nuts, and spices doing their thing.

And it means that dessert can be back on the table when we have people over for dinner. It means that we can have a sweet treat on a rainy Sunday night. It means that we can deliciously linger over meals, dipping out yet another scoop of sweet and tangy goodness. winter2017-21

Whole30 Cran-Apple-Pear Crisp

  • 2-4 apples (mine were tiny ones so I used 4), sliced in wedges, skin on
  • 1 pear, sliced in wedges, skin on
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 4 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 TBS Cinnamon
  • 4 TBS ghee
  • 4 TBS coconut oil

All of these are approximate measurements, and you can tweak them according to what you have and like. The pear and dates are important as they offset the tart cranberries, but you can play around with everything.

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease baking dish.
  2. Toss apples, pears, cranberries, coconut, dates, walnuts, and cinnamon.
  3. Melt ghee and coconut oil and pour over apples.
  4. Bake for one hour, or until berries are popping and apples are tender.


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January snippets.

winter2017-23winter2017-12winter2017-11winter2017-4winter2017-3winter2017-2I said that I hadn’t taken any pictures during our time in Indiana over Christmas, but I uploaded pictures from my camera and was pleasantly surprised to find a couple Midwest gems in there. I’m tossing them above with some other random shots from lately, and then plastering some disjointed words from life these days in hops that two means of hodgepodgeness makes at least a consistent mess. Yes? No?

We, along with half the world, are doing a round of Whole30 this month. This is our 4th-ish one, meaning we have done one other hardcore one and 2 that were “mostly Whole, Maybe 30,” a much more sustainable version, where you follow the spirit of the diet at home, and give grace when out. We are falling on the strict-ish side of laid back this time around, which means a couple allowed premeditated moments of weakness and the occasional use of butter before I made it to the store to get ghee. Because if butter is wrong, maybe I just don’t want to be right, you know? It feels easier this time around, partially because I just don’t have energy to focus as much, and partially because I set out to do the World’s Laziest Whole30. This meant planning a simple rotation of about 10 meals all month long before the month started, using my Crockpot as much as possible, and purchasing any and all compliant condiments. We have loved the Tessamae’s ketchup, BBQ sauce, and dressings, and Nutpods are my life saver, as this is my first W30 (that’s right, we are on a abbreviation basis) as a coffee drinker. If you follow along on Instagram, you have probably seen some of my lazy recipes through Instastories. Even in our lazy, I-have-no-time-to-experiment Whole30ness, I feel really good. I needed a cleansing reset after the holidays, and months of just slow decline in healthy inclination. I’m reading the book of Proverbs alongside the plan, a chapter a day. Wisdom for the body and mind. If you have any easy Crockpot Whole30 meals, feel free to dump them in the comments so I can dump them in my Crockpot/mouth.

I am late to the party, after having first arrived and found it highly overrated. But alas- I submit: Hamilton is kind of catchy. And by that I mean that Henry and I listen to the full thing at least once a day, preferably when he’s eating and I do really intense dances to accompany the rap as I feed him. I know, he’s one lucky baby. He also might start associating the Revolution with pureed vegetables.

Our ability to enact said daily dance party is due entirely to the fourth member of our family, Alexa. Y’all. I was skeptical when we got her as a gift, but she has revolutionized my home-vibe. I query her on the weather approximately 678654 times a day, because I CAN. Whereas I used to have to find music to play, I can now just call from the bedroom “Alexa- play Enya!” and walk out into the smooth ambiance of a car commercial.

This month it is back to work. My job includes teaching and an administrative role along with my own academic work, but I have had two semesters in a row with only administrative duties. I know, you were wondering if I actually worked. Yes, but gimme that sweet sweet academic schedule forevvverrrrr. It was beyond wonderful to have last spring to devote more time to writing, and this past fall it was absolutely priceless to have so much time home with Henry. I can’t imagine a better schedule for welcoming a baby into our lives than the one I have enjoyed the past year. But I really miss teaching and I am looking forward to stepping back into the classroom on Wednesday.

And then of course, there is that pesky dissertation. I have been too frazzled for New Years resolutions, but if I had to make one it would be:


Finish that dissertation, finish school forever. Finish well, finish strong. Graduating “on time”- an idea in perpetual air quotes for PhD students because HA – would mean finishing writing by mid March and that will not be happening. I really thought I could do it, graduate on time with a dissertation in one hand and a baby in the other. But I can’t, or at least, I can’t unless I seriously compromise the quality of both. I don’t want to write a crappy dissertation… and I am unwilling to miss out on Henry’s first year of life to devote all my time to writing a good one. So I’m dragging it out just a tad, but I’m determined to finish before 2018.

I have all sorts of blog posts and thoughts cluttering up my brain and drafts, but every time the myriad of daily things is done, they don’t get written. So in the meantime, just a couple January snippets of the things filling our days.


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