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.

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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A perfect weekend.

untitled-1Last weekend was perfect, or at least I told James that it was so at least 20 times.

What makes a perfect weekend?

Nothhhhhiiinnnnggg.

Or at least, the absence of Something. It had been 9 weeks since we had a Saturday that was profoundly lazy, one without travel, stress, excitement, etc. The weekend before proved extra insane, as I went to Philadelphia for a conference, James drove to PA to (FINALLY!) pick up our car, Henry spent the day with friends, and then Sunday I drove back to dump a weekend’s worth of pumped milk in the freezer before we all headed off to the airport. We flew home to KY to celebrate my grandmother’s life and mourn her death, before turning around and flying back, collapsing in exhaustion from all the travel, stress, joy, sadness, planning, visiting, and frustration that the last two months have held.

But then this past weekend came. And it was empty. Glory.

Of course we filled it, but with the sorts of lazy activities that send reserves of rest rather than excitement into your spirits.  We had friends over Friday night, the type of friends who schlep their baby along and can halfway doze off on your couch at the end of the evening and no one minds. On Saturday we had more friends over for brunch… which lasted 4 hours before anyone noticed the time. We were finally back in the pews of our church Sunday morning and my brother and his wife came over Sunday night to watch The Bachelor. And then James had Monday off so I went to Trader Joe’s by myself, a luxury second only to a solo excursion to Target. We had a fire going in the hearth all weekend, made dents in books and magazines, and caught up on some good TV. We went for walks around our neighborhood and lazed about in bookstores.

I only halfway remember those early months with Henry, but I do remember thinking that we would never get to eat a meal in peace again, never have naps that were dependable, never be well rested again, never be able to host friends without feeling utterly chaotic to the core. Obviously, life doesn’t go back to pre-baby normal. But this weekend I slept well. I was able to make brunch without feeling harried, and Henry went down for naps on time and with no fuss in the midst of our visitors. Life didn’t feel like it was spinning out of control. It was calm and happy and easy.

Dear Newborn-focused, exhausted, overwhelmed Hannah (who will no doubt reappear with any future kids): perfect weekends will come back. They will look different. They won’t be full of dinners out and activities around town. You won’t sleep till noon and you won’t stay up late. But they will be good, and full of warmth and joy and a whole new sort of perfection.

 

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Home for the holidays.

I know that the holidays seem long over for everyone else, and that you have all settled into wonderful January’s full of resolutions made, and perhaps broken already.  But I just now feel like the busyness of the holidays is coming to an end and am finally digging out some pictures from our time with family over Christmas. We always see both families over Christmas, involving many long hours and the car, hours made longer by a carseat-hating city baby.christmas2016-2Don’t be misled by his innocent smile. He can hit decibels not usually created by the human voice when confined in a dreaded vehicle.

I didn’t ever get out the big camera while we were in Indiana visiting James’ family. His mom gifted us with two days of babysitting and dates, so we spent our time blissfully sleeping in and going out, and never remembering to take pictures, unlike the onslaught I shared after Thanksgiving. But when we were in Kentucky, I tried to bring it out to capture the precious time with my family.

Henry got his first man cold during the early days of break, necessitating lots of extra snuggles and nursing sessions, and swiftly undoing all our careful sleep training. Even if it meant some rough nights while there, and rough days of transition when we got home, it also meant lots of precious co-sleeping moments that we don’t usually have. He seems so grownup, this little boy, and some of my favorite parts of the break were the naps he and I took cuddled together.

My mom got a walker to stay at her house and amuse Henry and all future grandkids, and Henry loved it. We spent a lot of the break just playing “fetch” with him and making him scoot across the kitchen. This kid is desperate for mobility, but completely uninterested in any movement method that requires him to be on all fours. christmas2016-6And of course, I can’t come to Kentucky without getting my hair cut. My beloved KY stylist came out to the house Christmas Eve morning to trim my scraggly locks and she sadly confirmed that I have lost a good portion of hair. At least now what hair I have left is looking a little fresher. christmas2016-5Someone was prepared for the holidays with a whole array of seasonal pajamas:christmas2016-9Am I still making him wear Christmas pjs even though we are well past all 12 days of Christmas? Yes, yes indeed.christmas2016-11Usually, my mom organizes our traditional Christmas Eve party, complete with games and general revelry. But this year was a little different. My mom has spent the entire fall caring for my grandmother in her final days of her battle with cancer. As Christmas rolled closer, my little brother, his wife, and I offered to step in and plan the activities. christmas2016-17I am pretty pleased of those two hats that I glue-gunned together. DIY-ing with the best over here. We made our own Christmas version of Speak out, because nothing says Christmas like dental cheek retractors. christmas2016-8christmas2016-23Christmas morning with my tiny elf!christmas2016-22christmas2016-20…who was maybe slightly overwhelmed at the whole thing…christmas2016-30… but still pleased to rip open some boxes and chew on the paper.

It took us close to 12 hours to actually get through all the gifts, due to stops for nursing, naps, visits to my grandparents’ home, and finally – christmas2016-34christmas2016-36-the annual family photo shoot. Everyone participated, even if some pointed out that maybe we should try to have a more unique look for next year.christmas2016-64christmas2016-67christmas2016-86christmaspicschristmas2016-102You know, it’s a hassle traveling with babies. People like to gush at the joy of introducing a child to the world, and while that may be true, it is also a lot of work. There were more than a few moments during our endless drives where James and I insisted that were were done with traveling. jamsessionchristmas2016-1But then there were moments like that, where my tiny son snuggled up to my dad and kicked his feet to the music his grandad played. I saw my grandma, mostly unresponsive these days, break her silence to give a little giggle at Henry’s chortles. We watched our parents love on their grandson, our siblings on their nephew, my grandpa holding his great grandson and it makes all the trouble seem infinitely worthwhile.

On Monday we were once again in Kentucky to attend my grandmother’s funeral. It was sad and joyful and painful and good all at once. We sat around late that night, talking and laughing and telling stories, our whole family together in one spot for the first time in several years. And I’m reminded that whatever it takes to spend some time with family is always worthwhile.

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2016 sounded like heartbeats and hymns.

christmas2016-4It seems like everywhere I turn I hear people lamenting 2016 as awful, a horrible year that we are happy to chuck to the curb. I get that. This year has been marked by evil and loss around our world, and awareness of horrors that we feel powerless to prevent. 2016 in America sowed discord and pain in a way that feels impossible to move beyond. If we were to condense the year into a soundtrack, it would be one of yelling and weeping and spiteful words and painful silences.

But that is not completely how it sounded in our lives.christmas2016-5January 2016 sounded like silent snow falling across the city. It sounded like that gentle crushing of boots against snow, a muffled dance as we trudged to see the Capitol blanketed in white and squeezed into the only bar open in the blizzard-swept city to devour mozzarella sticks with friends. It sounded like stillness and calm, and that swish that only snow can make as it paralyzes us and gives us the gift of a pause from our busy lives.

January also sounded like the echoes in our new apartment as we worked to expand and fill the (slightly larger) space with objects and friends, and it sounded like the bittersweet emptiness as we turned the key in the place that had been home for our whole marriage.

The spring months sounded like constant names spoken aloud, testing them on our tongues and seeing if they could work for our baby boy. They sounded like late night laughter and mornings that were still quiet, and the creak of our floor as I woke up to pee 4,5,6 times a night, juxtaposed with the obnoxious words that people tell you when you are pregnant, to sleep now because when the baby comes you won’t sleep through the night, and I would wonder who these pregnant mothers are who sleep soundly in those last months. They sounded like the chirpy music at barre as I slogged through late-term workouts. They sounded like confusion and fear, as we watched primaries roll in and I did frantic math daily as the pundits sputtered and James’ job had long nights. They sounded like customer service hold music, as my version of nesting entailed mostly fighting with various customer service reps about returns and exchanges. christmas2016-7April sounded like New York streets and celebrations and my huffing and puffing on the stairs because this baby was coming soon. It sounded like frantic fingers on the keyboard because I was trying to get as much of my dissertation typed as possible before a certain tiny boy made it more difficult.

And then May, and our country started clamoring and name-calling about unforeseen political prospects, and all of that was drowned out by a thumping heartbeat, broadcast through a hospital room, and following by the sounds of a tiny baby’s cry.

The sounds of June are the most beautiful song I have ever heard. June sounded like Henry’s still feeble cry, but they were swiftly followed by the hushing of our families as they gathered around us. It sounded like music at a wedding as we danced our tired bodies beside my brother and his new wife.  June sounded like my mom reading aloud from the journal she kept when I was a baby and endless hymns over a tiny ginger head.

July and August blur together in a whir of tears and screams and finally a tiny baby giggle that is the sweetest sound of 2016- perhaps of all of time. Maybe that laughter is why I can’t fully join the masses that claim that 2016 sounded like nothing but a tale told by an idiot. Because when your days are punctuated with the giggles of an innocent soul, you think that maybe everything will be ok, is on it’s way there now.

The fall sounded like laughter, yes, but also like tears. Henry’s as he grew into vocal chords much stronger than those newborn cries, but also mine. There were hard weeks, where I didn’t sleep, lying awake and listening to every sound, listening to the words in my own head, the ones I repeated that I was not ok. I was tired, I was anxious, I was weary, and those emotions became a loudness that drowned out a lot of early October. We watched the news and debates, and our nation murmured worried thoughts, scornful words, snarky quips, and I listened to the sounds and wondered what a country we are building. christmas2016-10November sounded like equilibrium at our house, like (finally!) a schedule that gave us quiet moments and routine expectations. It sounded like more laughter and fewer tears and nights that at last were quiet all the way through. November sounded like the crunch of sneakers on leaves as I ran another half marathon and the squeak of wheels on sidewalk as we pushed Henry all over the city to enjoy fall. November ended with the angry grating of metal on metal as our car died on the way home from Thanksgiving, and the Christmas season sounded like an incongruous blend of optimistic carols and terse conversations with claims agents. But it also sounded like Henry’s breathy gasps over Christmas lights, and repeating the old words of a baby who came to deliver ever-new mercies.

2016 sounded like The Office and Homeland and Sherlock and Westworld, as we love to get hooked on good TV together. It sounded like the angry noise of sleep training followed by the beloved and predictable daily promise of a bedtime that sounded like dinner together and jazz music. It sounded like hard conversations about what are we doing? and how are we parenting? and what does what’s happening on the news mean for our jobs? It sounded like the sing-song poetry of children’s books, and the descriptions of my dissertation chapters that I speak aloud to Henry in French as we do chores around the house. It sounded like family dinners and weekly bible studies, like late nights and early morning, like every last stanza of The Battle Hymn of the Republic because it has a hypnotic effect on Henry.

2016 sounded like new life and weary work and endless joy and pain and laughter all at once, and in spite all the hard moments- I would be lucky if 2017 sounded half as loud. christmas2016-19PS: How 2013 tasted and 2015 looked.

 

 

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This & That for Christmas

This December has been marked by car disaster. We had our oil changed at Wal-Mart before Thanksgiving, and they neglected to put the oil cap on correctly, which meant our oil drained out and fried our engine, so we have been car-less and begging them to cover the damage (read: TOTAL LOSS) all month. Of course, they have refused to do so, so the moral of the story is.. do not get your oil changed at Wal-Mart, as they are a soul-less corporation who gives zero cares about you and your crippling loss.

But. Thanks to family and good friends, we have had cars to borrow when needed the past month and we made it to KY last night for 2 weeks between our families for the holidays. And just before going out of town, we sent these happy faces out across the world to our near and dear:christmascard2016frontWhen Henry asks someday why he is wearing that hat in practically every picture taken in his first year, I will just explain the concept of a “signature look.”

I will probably be light on the posting for the weeks to come so we can enjoy quality family time, but I wanted to leave you with some links and thoughts and total ramblings that have been rolling around in my head.

I did 100% of my shopping online this year and it was amazing. So many people/magazines/websites have gift lists floating around, and most of them seem like impersonal clutter. But I thing that Mary has the best list of gifts for kids I’ve seen. Can’t wait till Henry is old enough for some of these.

I think I’m going to need to make these cookies in the very near future.

I have failed to rummage up a good collection of crying Christmas commercials this year, but here is a good list from around the world. I started anticipatory crying about 30 seconds into #1 and it was JUST AS GOOD AS I HOPED. Seen any good holiday commercials? Feel free to fill up allllll the comments so I can have a delightful cry fest.

I have really struggled to stay working out since Henry. Thus, while I usually hate following fitness people on Instagram, I love this mom of twins, who has inspired me to do squats and other tiny workouts throughout the day which at least gets my blood pumping and Henry finds it hi-lar-i-ous.

No then. Let’s talk about the Gilmore Girls reboot, which I finally finished last week. I have loved hearing everyone’s thoughts, especially this podcast and this article. While it was obviously not as good as the original and had some things I hated, I liked it. Here is my hierarchy of things I wanted.

  1. Emily-Lorelai resolution
  2. Luke-Lorelai marriage
  3. Quality Stars Hollow shenanigans
  4. Rory-Jess union

I got three out of 4 (not telling you which in case you are the other last fan alive who hadn’t watched it yet) so I am all in all pleased. Of course, I too hated Rory in the reboot as she is categorically the worst. I also can’t resonate with her shiftless existence because I have spent the decade since the finale trying to build a life, a family, a career, a home. Rory doesn’t seem to have done so, and it was hard to empathize when you see her making one terrible decision after another. So here were my biggest pet peeves:

  1. Rory is the worst, and in a way that completely changes her character.
  2. The birthday letter that Emily brought up in their therapy session and accused Lorelai of having written? Lorelai refuted it and we never found out what happened. That drives me crazy.
  3. Was the Amy Schumer conversation used in the promo ever in the episodes? I don’t remember it.
  4. That musical. IT WAS SO LONG.
  5. Ditto for the scene of Rory and Co just walking around to music. No. Just give us more Kirk and Taylor please.
  6. WHERE WAS THE THEME SONG?

And my favorite things:

  1. Cameos by all the Parenthood peeps. I missed Adam Braverman and it did my heart good to see him as a park ranger.
  2. Jess, and that long final look with music that gave me hope that maybe the reboot will get a reboot.
  3. Emily managing to rebuild a life post-Richard that didn’t negate her life with him. The whale museum guide? LOVE.

What are your thoughts?

Merry Christmas friends!

 

 

 

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Lessons From the Trenches, Vol. I.

In the trenches of the first six months of Henry’s life, I’ve learned a couple things.fall2016-404I’ve learned that the solution for every single problem is to order more stuff on Amazon Prime. This won’t solve the problem, of course, but it will momentarily give you a feeling of Doing Something, and sometimes that brief feeling of Knowing What to Do helps you actually know what to do.

I’ve learned that my mom was right about everything. About the white clothes I loved that became impractical the second Henry started solid food, about the cute changing pad covers that are a nuisance, about the formula that Henry needed when he was fussy around 2 months and I was too stubborn to realize what he wanted.

I’ve learned that you can do so many things with one arm. You can go to the bathroom, put on make-up, vacuum the floor, cook dinner, and unload the dishwasher.

I’ve learned that any meal that requires 2 hands to cook just might not be a good idea for the couple months in between people bringing meals, and some element of sanity returning.

I’ve learned that the best way to get a reflux-y baby to have a burp spit to calm them down is to put on a clean shirt, as they will promptly spit up all over it.

I’ve learned that trying to have a “Where are we going in our lives” conversation at 4:30 am when the baby wakes you and your spouse up is a bad, bad, idea. Because no one is going anywhere good at 4:30 am.

I’ve learned that if the baby is in a snuggly mood, you should ALWAYS snuggle. Because otherwise you will lie in bed at night and ache for the snuggles you gave up because you had to “get something done.”

I’ve learned that a baby giggle can erase the memory of the baby scream that preceded it, and tiny moods change fast and erratically, but mine needs to be steady for us to get through the day.

I’ve learned that baby clothes that are complicated to get off just shouldn’t even get put on, and that comfort and ease often trumps style… for both of us.

I’ve learned that a walk outside can turn any bad day good. That fresh air and a coffee that you paid someone else to make can convince you that you have this mom thing down, even if you don’t, even if the only thing holding your hair-do together is spit-up, even if you and the baby have pajamas on under your coats.

I’ve learned that I might sleep train, and you might co-sleep; she might wean at 6 months, and she might nurse till three years, and she might give formula from day 1; she might make all her own organic baby food, and she might serve up Gerber pouches; she might go back to work after 6 weeks, and she might decide to stay home permanently; she might diffuse oils, and she might give Tylenol. And we are all just desperately trying to do the best we can for our babies, for our families, for our very souls.

And I’ve learned that it’s that trying, that dark-night-of-the-soul searching, that crying while the baby cries because you want so desperately to do the “right” thing but you have no clue what it is, that worrying and loving and feeling like your heart will explode because you love a tiny and perfect and infuriating little person so much – that’s what we all have in common. And it’s the most important thing.fall2016-403

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Woolies for the Winter, books for me and you (A Giveaway!).

Until relatively recently, Henry hated literacy.wooliesOr at least, that’s what we would joke about, as he would contort his body and cry if we tried to sit still and read a book. He has recently changed his tune a bit, but mostly because he likes to chew on the binding and pages, which means that we are strictly in the board book camp for the present moment.fall2016-393Confession: most board books are unspeakably dull.

There are some notable exceptions, like the Nancy Tillman books that make me cry with their perfection at expressing the love parents have for their children. Or this book that, while not exactly super original, manages to have a father in the I-love-you-so-much role usually reserved for mothers, which I appreciate, or even this book, which has sing-song lyrics that are fun to read. We have some board books that people gave us that I enjoy paging through as Henry drools on the pictures.fall2016-390fall2016-392But on the whole, most books for babies are tedious for parents to read and offer little beyond a teething surface for babies. Which is unfortunate, as I want Henry to learn to love reading. I want him to have an ear for poetry and an eye for beauty, and that should start with his first books. I also want to enjoy reading it, so it better rhyme, and I want the images to be the first art he learns to love.fall2016-394fall2016-395fall2016-397Which is why I was thrilled when my sister-in-law Laura started talking about the children’s book she was illustrating and women’s publishing house she was starting with another talented mom. Laura and Betsy have really thought about the books they are producing, really focused on poetic words that are a pleasure to read, and beautiful images that come from someone’s hand- not a computer. Laura was telling me about how it took forever to find a printer who could succeed in reproducing the delicate water colors, but that was absolutely necessary. They want children to engage with the images as something where the creative process left its mark.fall2016-407fall2016-408fall2016-405fall2016-409fall2016-398I ordered a couple books when they did their Kickstarter last fall, and they came this week, leaving me speechless at how beautiful they are. Laura and Betsy managed to transcribe in words and images the hilarity and sweetness of the endless bundle necessary to go outside. I think of the words when I try to get squirmy Henry into his winter wear and out the door, loving how they made poetry and beauty of the mundane.fall2016-399fall2016-400And because it’s Christmas, and I am positive you will love this book as much as we do, I’m giving a couple away!

To enter, just leave a comment below with your favorite children’s book anytime between now and Sunday night at 8pm.  I will send this gem of a book your way (sorry- no international shipping). I’m giving a second book away over on Instagram, so hop on over there if you want to enter twice! You can also order a copy here… and get excited for the spring, summer, and fall books that are coming out over the next year!fall2016-401fall2016-402(And thanks to Suze who snapped these pictures when she and her daughters came into the city to hang out with us this week! Yes, Henry is wearing two outfits in these pictures…and an entirely different one over on Instagram. Doing things with babies sometimes takes several days and as many outfits.)

 

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