Thursday, October 30, 2014

5 Things - The Mountains, Tomboy Heaven, and Mice Edition


1. I don't know if any of the rest of you are reading Jillian Lukiwksi's incredible blog The Life and Times of the Noisy Plume. I've mentioned her briefly before, but it's been a long time. She was one of the first blogs I really became completely enamored with and I continue to follow every single post.

Jillian's an artist who works primarily with metal - creating intensely beautiful nature-based jewelry from earrings to necklaces, bracelets to rings. They contain natural elements - stones, flowers, bones and petals, leaves and moss. Everything the world has makes an appearance in Jillian's work.

She also is a wonderful photographer, posting what amounts to photographic essays of her time out in the wild with her two dogs and her husband. And her photos of the mountains always just leave me speechless, like the photo above.

Please. If you're the type to read blogs, absolutely go check her out, you will not regret it.

She's probably my favorite artist right now. I'd give my right hand to be able to afford one of her pieces. Well, not really. I like that hand. But you get the idea.



2. I realize that Lands' End shows up just an insane amount in this blog - I wear it, I daydream about it, I write things in which the sole purpose of me being somewhere was to shop there... I get it. I probably talk too much about a brand that you've seen a lot of peoples' moms wearing. I understand!

But let's give Lands' End a chance. They've really changed up some things and I have fallen in love with them more now in my twenties than ever, and they are knocking it out of the park with their fall and winter stuff for this year.

I know, I know; I'm biased due to my obsessive love of sweaters. I know. But still!

I am just loving their stuff right now. They even have me badly wanting one of their boiled wool coats, and I only wear a coat that heavy in South Carolina for like maybe four weeks, and that not even consecutively. But look at the beautiful colors this year!

They're doing an up to 40% off sale on sweaters and tops right now and I am squinting. I am squinting very, very hard.

And thinking to myself I love THIS one and I love THIS one and then there's this one and this one and this one...

Okay, so the last one (which happens to be my favorite - prooooobably because I love pumpkin-orange) is from the mens' department.

Pfffft.

When has that ever stopped me before?


http://palachinkablog.com/ajvar/
3. I mentioned briefly in my last post about having eaten with some friends at the best Middle Eastern place in Greenville (okay, I don't know it's the best, but seriously... it's the best) - Pita House. When you eat there, you get two sauces - tzatziki sauce, that tradition of traditions of cool cucumber and yogurt... and this spicy red stuff that we weren't sure about.

Pita House also has a small grocery attached. When we were there we bought manna salwa, a fantastic candy that looked a lot like divinity but is actually entirely not at all divinity, some little coconut candies, and... the red sauce.

At which point I dedicated myself to researching what it is.

I believe I have figured it out - it's ajvar (or something very similar to it), a dip/condiment made of red peppers, eggplant, tomato, and lots and lots of spices. It doesn't have to be spicy, although Pita House's version definitely is.

We bought it last Saturday. We've had it six days.

Half the jar is already gone.

So far we've eaten it with smoked sausages and eggs for breakfast, on potatoes with sour cream for dinner, dumped it over gumbo once and will most likely eat it on a root veggie casserole I'm planning for tomorrow night.

Ajvar is my new favorite everything.

Ajvar forever.

Ajvar always.


4. I've discovered tomboy heaven, you guys. It's called Duluth Trading Company.

It's a men's and women's outfitters store that primarily focuses on work clothes worn by the kind of people whose work clothes take a beating; contractors, farmers, landscapers, horsemen and horsewomen - and it's a Midwestern brand originally started in Minnesota.

Basically, that means there's a lot of flannel.

I'm in love.

It's fun to click through the pages and see - whoever's writing their text is hilarious and has a nice wry sense of humor that works well with the common sense nature of what they sell. They have huge bricks of soap that even caught Jason's eye, mens' work pants made out of the material they used to make firehoses out of, 100% cotton t-shirts and a series of awesome gadgets you didn't know you needed.

And also SmartWool socks, which let's face it; you've got me sold the moment those show up.

They even have a section for their "Longtail" tee-shirts; tees where they've dropped the hem about two inches lower than most reatilers' t-shirts. For me, who routinely has to wear a long tank top under shirts so that I'm not flashing belly thanks to my amazingly long torso (too bad it didn't come with amazingly long legs but I'm not bitter) this is an answer to a problem that no other store seems to notice exists.

Add to that, they've got some beautiful colors, and I am just daydreaming and daydreaming.

My favorites? That flannel up above, this gorgeous leather purse, this beautiful burgundy dress, and the ENTIRE LINE OF LONGTAIL T-SHIRTS.

My long-torso'd fellow women, let us rise up and buy all of them!

Maybe if we do, retailers will notice we exist!

Or at least we'll support the only one that seems to!



5. And because apparently if I do a single blog post that doesn't include a photo of Audra, I will be asked where the photo of Audra is...

My favorite onesie of hers! I love the little mouse. It was part of my complete lapse of willpower during a particular sale Carter's was having. It was totally worth it.

Carter's and babyGap are our two favorite baby clothing stores right now. I'm not much for dressing babies in overly grown-up clothes; it looks so so so cute, so I always think I'm going to end up dressing her that way... but when I'm shopping I always end up gravitating towards cute animals (primarily foxes, for some reason) and onesies, not T-shirts and pants or grown-up silhouettes. I don't know why that is, exactly.

The only problem is of course the Biggest Problem Of All - finding baby girl clothing that ISN'T six kinds of pink, ruffles, sparkly, or otherwise trying to shout at every passerby that THIS IS A GIRL JUST IN CASE YOU HADN'T NOTICED YET. I seriously don't particularly care; babies all kind of look the same to me, and she'll spend enough of her life being told what is or isn't "girly" enough; while I'm in charge of her outfits she'll wear whatever I think is cute. And that just rarely involves ruffles or That Color.

That said, I am also a massive hypocrite, because I love this adorable tiny sweatshirt, pinky florals and all from babyGap. I think it is the cutest thing ever. And the outfit shot I found of it somewhere had it with these tiny green cargo pants, and these wee little boots. And there's this eerily similar outfit I found displayed on Carter's...

I blame the hormones.

My heart melts, people.

IT MELTS.

Someone help me. Stop me before I buy her the fuzzy bear hat.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

3 Months

Twelve Tuesdays ago, Audra Grace came to say hello.
 
 Well, mostly she came to sleep a lot and eat like a horse. But I'm confident that eventually she'll say hello.


Here are some things about Audra at three months:

- She fights going to sleep with a stubborn purpose, far beyond what she was doing last month. We are in the very, very earliest stages of sleep-training, where we start laying her in her crib for naps whenever we can (or when I can stand it). She seems to have a psychic connection with us that allows her to know exactly when we are going to lay her down and pop right up to yell. Her sitter has even reported putting her down, exhausted, for a nap and listening to her yell and protest for a shockingly long time. I'm kind of proud of her bull-headedness even as I realize what that means for what lays ahead.

- On a related note, when she will sleep on her back in her crib, she does so by flinging her arms out above herself as far as she can. She lays in the same position Superman flies in.

- She has begun trying to roll over! She, uh, can't do it. But she's trying!


- She has befriended the ceiling fan in the living room. I caught her babble-talking and smiling at it the other day, just as happy as can be. The ceiling fan must talk back in a voice grown ups can't hear, because I would swear she was pausing and listening for its reply before babbling and cooing again.

- I caught her watching our older cat a couple of days ago, just staring with the slightest, fascinated smile on her face. She just watched our cat lick her paw and clean behind her ear the way I might look if I saw an actual honest-to-God angel; full of awe and delight.

- She really hasn't gotten much longer in the last month, but she's definitely chunkin' up. She cycles through what we call 'growth spurt' days shockingly quickly. It seems like every other week she'll do two days of constant eating and sleeping and then suddenly she's significantly heavier. She has multiple chins. She has fat little arms. I love it.


- She looks an awful lot like my husband's sister. Which sometimes I make squinty faces, because I kind of wanted a daughter who looked at least a little bit like me. But noooo, even her hair is coming in the same reddish-dark-blonde that Jason's hair becomes if he's out in the sun a lot in the summer. I'm going to be in family photos where everyone is tall and skinny and then there's me. Me and my short femurs.

- Tummy time is less of an ordeal. I even caught her smiling. Yesterday I laid her down for tummy time and was trying to show her how to lift her own head up and move around like that. She was grinning and making a sound that is almost, but not quite, laughter when I realized my daughter had tricked me; I was lying on a hard wooden floor doing what amounts to lazy push-ups while she laid on soft soft blankets and laughed at me. My child tricked me into exercising.

- Postpartum hormones are insane, guys. And they don't even stop like you think they will! Saturday, Jason laid Audra down in her crib after she fell asleep to try and get her to nap there. She woke up within about five minutes and just let out this horrible sad wail and I discovered I had physically leaped backwards over the couch to go get her before I was even fully aware of it. Then I clutched at her and cried for like five minutes even though I wasn't upset. Then I was fine. It felt like I'd been hit by a truck full of feelings.


- I have no fewer than three different versions of books that purport to explain your child's first year. Two of them go by months, one by weeks. I triple-reference them repeatedly. This does me absolutely no good, because babies are actually human beings and so each one will do things differently. It does, however, turn me into a nervous wreck, so I'm sure that's fun. For someone, anyway.

- I have an incredible ability to tell whether or not she is tired simply by looking her in the eye. This kid gets huge bags under her eyes the minute she's even remotely past where she should be falling asleep. Of course, then the fussing and fighting begin shortly thereafter so it's not like those bags are much of an early-warning system. But still. It's amazing how deeply exhausted she can look when she was playful and cheerful and bright-eyed less than five minutes earlier.

- We went out to eat with some friends of ours last Saturday to the Pita House, a great Middle-Eastern restaurant and grocery and kind of a Greenville mainstay. She fell asleep during the drive there and we had assumed, similar to our last dinner out with our friends, that she would remain asleep through dinner. Instead, the bustle and activity of the place kept her up and watching, fascinated, every little thing that happened around her, from her 'cousin' Molly's attempts to stab falafel with a fork to an elderly gentleman walking across the room. No matter how wobbly her head got or how tired those little eyes were, she wanted to take in every last moment.


So do I.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We Lost the War Before the First Battle Was Fought


Cheerful and trying to roll over in her first morning outfit.
Shortly before she ruined it and had to be redressed.

My baby is kiiiiiiind of my worst nightmare.

She's totally a morning person. 

Normally, my alarm goes off at 5:30 and I drag myself out of bed and sort of mumble and mutter and groan through the same things at the same time every day. Today, because I am a masochist, I actually turned my alarm off and went back to sleep until Jason's alarm sounded a half-hour later, which meant that not only was I woken out of a wonderful doze into the harsh reality of life, when I basically just threw myself dramatically off the nice warm bed into the cold cold air of our bedroom I had lost a half-hour's worth of my somewhat carefully timed hour-and-a-half morning routine.

Jason, normally a morning person himself, slept horribly last night and it took all his effort to get up, too. Audra popped awake with a gurgle and a few fussy hungry faces and once fed, she is just full of smiles and wiggles and happiness and seize-the-day optimism.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to decide if I remember how to make coffee or if I'm so tired I've forgotten how to do those things I need to do to live.

One of the cats decided they didn't like their food all that much and left a gross vomit-y present for us (why do we have cats again?), so Jason cleaned that up. One of the fire alarms was out of battery power and chirping at us. The baby needed fed, the pets needed fed we needed fed and all of this was just too much at 6 AM.

I fed the animals and made breakfast while Jason fed the baby and cleaned up gross and dealt with the fire alarm. I let the dog out to run in the yard (this is important) and we went about our grumpy morning business.

While Jason ate, I made sure Audra's diaper was changed and put her into a cute outfit for the day.

Cute outfit number two. She made it the whole day in this one.

Then I entertained her while Jason changed, in preparation for getting her ready to go.

She promptly leaked spit up all over her outfit, necessitating a last-minute outfit change. It's fine. We got her into her carseat in her new outfit and were only a minute or so late for our usual timeline.

This is the time where you'll remember I had earlier let the dog outside, and then had not mentioned him again. Jason asked if I'd heard from Indy in a while. I shrugged, because sometimes he doesn't come right back in in the morning. No big deal.

With the baby strapped into her carseat, Jason went outside to get in his truck and leave for work...

and notices the gate to the yard is open, and the dog is nowhere to be seen.

We called to him, I shook the cookie bag, and then Jason saw him - across the street, determinedly marking the bushes in our neighbors' yard while their gigantic white mountain dogs bark their fuzzy heads off.

Jason was able to essentially herd him back into the yard and I got him back in the house and then I blinked at the clock and tried to remember what I was supposed to do next.

Right. Brush my teeth. And hair. Wait, am I still wearing pajama pants?

Somehow, we made it to our respective workplaces.

I drank a very large cup of coffee today.

It wasn't enough.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Because Of Course I Got Sick


This photo is just to trick you into reading my whiny post about being ill.

I went back to work last week, with much angst and general sadness.

Turns out, Audra just loves being with my friend Sarah all day, and Sarah's fantastic mothering skills translate into a baby who's exactly as happy there as she is here. Sometimes, probably happier. Which is both cool and vaguely distressing.

Right. So.

Last Tuesday, I go to work and on my way get a text from my coworker telling me he's sick and he's taking the day off, he'll see me Wednesday. In my head, I think, good, he'll get it out of his system. I'd hate for the baby to get sick.

Well, he didn't get it out of his system. He was back on Wednesday still feeling pretty grody. He powered through, and by this week is feeling pretty much entirely better.

The good news is, the baby didn't get sick.

But Jason and I did!

Saturday afternoon I started to really feel a tickle in my throat, bugging me enough to drink even more water than normal. By Sunday I woke up with a full fledged sore throat and the general inability to do anything other than mumble to myself about how gross I felt. We were moving slow like glaciers all day; an attempt to meet up with Jason's family for lunch "around noon" on Sunday ended up with us arriving to watch a movie with them about an hour later (although delicious pizza was still available. nom.)

Sunday Jason had started to notice he wasn't feeling well either.

Monday I was a pile of misery, and unfortunately Audra chose this weekend to hit her next growth spurt and was a clingy fussbucket. No naps were forthcoming for this new mother; I was too busy holding and rocking and feeding and soothing and cajoling and singing and holding some more. Exactly once during the day, she napped for more than twenty minutes. I took a gloriously steamy shower that made me feel better for exactly the amount of time I spent in the shower, and then I felt like the walking dead again afterward.

I drank endless cups of tea, repeatedly pouring new hot water in as each grew too cool to be much help before I could finish it. I whined. Jason felt grody at work. He came home and I whined at him, and there were tea mugs all over the house and we went to bed like forty minutes early, as soon as the baby was asleep.


I slept like a rock, and felt like I barely slept at all.

I got up today and went into work, and I can't breathe out of my whole face because the whole face... just, the whole thing feels full of awful. There are gremlins in my sinuses and someone gave them water after midnight, basically.

I've had two cups of tea and about three cups of cafe au lait from a local coffee place in the town I work in. Jason and I are going through Kleenex at an incredible rate. Despite said coffee and tea I am exhausted and can barely keep my eyes open. We are coughing and sniffling and sneezing and drinking even more tea.


 Ha! Look! You're still reading! The cute baby photo bribe worked!

Audra, however, is cheerful and bright and smiley and bouncy and just wants us to hold her and talk to her while she coos at us and play with her and have lots of energetic fun!

All we want to do is lie very still and wait for all the horror in our sinuses to leave.

My only solace is that if the baby gets sick, I've already told my coworker that I'm bringing her to work with me and he can deal with taking care of her all day.

Also I get to kick him in the shins. He agreed to this.

This is my consolation.

This is what I cling to, to get me through this plague.

If the baby gets sick, I will have my revenge. 

My weak, flailing revenge.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

5 Things - The Tea Leaves, Christmas Dreams, and Foxy Things Edition


1. So, subscription boxes are all over the internet now. Everyone's probably heard about Stitch Fix, Gwynnie Bee, and the other clothing-centric boxes. You pay a certain amount per month and get sent a box of clothes, based on a questionnaire you fill out giving your interests, sizes, style - that sort of thing.

And those are all well and good, but I guarantee there's no one who is going to pick out stuff I like with any consistency, because I am an inconsistent and fickle person. And they would probably choose too many neutrals and my love of colors borders on the clownish.

So those definitely don't work for me. I just skim any blog post talking about them and move on.

But this post by Kaelah Bee? Well, that caught my eye.

Tea Box Express is a new subscription box being started up based around tea. For your monthly payment, you get a different tea each month and a set of accoutrements based around a certain "theme". For example, the theme for October was bees - so all the things in the box were bee-themed.

I gave some thought as to whether I could afford to sign up for it, although I'm nominally planning a Year of Stop Trying to Figure Out If I Can Afford Things - where I have this idea I'm going to live more frugally. I have it all planned out! I have great intentions towards saving more effectively!

But I am so weak.

(who are we kidding, though - if I just stopped buying Starbucks I'd be able to afford it just fine.)

Who doesn't need more tea? I need more tea. We all need more tea.

But... coffee.

Hm.

This is a dilemma.


2. I am unapologetically baby-clothes shopping still.

Okay, it's mostly daydreaming - Do we need baby clothes? Not really. But after my impulse-sale-shopping on Carter's website one night, I've ended up with a series of onesies I really love and am putting Audra in nonstop.

I've gained a terrible sense of power, and have a child who isn't old enough yet to be pouty about getting clothing for Christmas.

We're about to pull the 3 - 6 month stuff out, as she's rapidly outgrowing 0 - 3 (which is kind of a heartbreak in and of itself, isn't it? She'll never be that small again.) and it's got me staring, rapt, at line after line of baby clothing on Target, Old Navy, and... Gap.

Gap has a lot I love for babies this fall/winter. The dress above is... it's calling me. I'm trying to plan out some kind of family photo shoot, and this gives me an all-too-convenient excuse for trying to find something spot-on perfect for Audra to wear. I've found a dress, and navy leggings, and wee little shoes... The world is full of adorable baby clothes.

So I stare.

And click.

And stare.

... and click.


3. Wheeled and Free is a blog I just picked up recently - it's a couple (and their dogs) who have decided to sell all the stuff tying them down, take off in an RV, and see the country. I'm the kind of person who is always inexorably tied to the landscape I'm living in; I'm not much for longer-term travel because I love coming home to the mountains or the flatlands (depending on where I am).

Matt and Kate, though, decided to do things in a little more vagabond.

I've been following along as they packed everything up and started up their trip, with their first destination being, oddly enough, Alabama.

What's actually kind of surprised me is how much I enjoyed reading their RV Remodel posts. I'm actually not very into the whole DIY/Remodelling trend, so I didn't think I would like those posts and initially skimmed them, but have gone back over them since when I realized I was kind of fascinated.

The idea of living in such close quarters is pretty fascinating, and I'm looking forward to seeing where they go.

You should follow along too. Because I said so.

I'm a mother and I get to say that now.


4. This article from The Daily Beast that a friend of mine shared on facebook, called "Why Are America's Post Partum Practices So Rough on New Mothers".

They really are.

I was exceptionally lucky; I was not injured all that much. I did not have to have a C-section that would have made my recovery take longer. While I do feel like hospitals shove you out before you're really ready to try this whole 'parenting' thing out on your own, we were reasonably ready and I think for us the forty-eight hours was the best choice.

This could, of course, be affected by the part where we had been living in the hospital since Sunday night at that point, even though the baby decided not to show herself 'til Tuesday evening.

I did not go home to a house devoid of help. I had Jason with me for six weeks - which I would argue was the best piece of fortune. We took shifts right off the bat so each of us could have at least half the sleep we needed.Having a partner available nonstop for that long is pretty rare in the American workplace. Although his time off wasn't paid (granted, neither was mine), we had both been working to save enough to make it possible for us to take the hit of losing both incomes for that long. We were both working jobs willing to give us that much time off, no questions asked once the doctor faxed the forms in. We'd been fortunate enough to live near family who could be called on, to have friends willing to clean our house so that we came home able to do nothing but take care of the baby and the animals.

I was able to take almost ten weeks off, in the end, between being put on bedrest and then the eight weeks after Audra's birth.

But my "exceptionally lucky" would be your average Canadian woman's "exceptionally unfortunate". They would look at my eight weeks, and then at their full, at least partially compensated calendar year, and shake their heads. In America, we treat the aftermath of pregnancy as a niggling discomfort, something a True Woman can just shrug off and move away from. We say "Well, you chose to have kids, you should have known" while not actually educating women on all the things that are going to happen afterward. We treat it as an annoyance that we are forced, occasionally, to uncomfortably acknowledge but which we would prefer to ignore or avoid. Women are shamed for wanting time off from work. Comments are made about them "taking a vacation". They face a reduced chance of a good yearly review, as being seen as less than "committed", because the American concept of work/life balance is primarily to work its employees into the ground and then wonder why they're too tired to stand.

This is definitely true when it comes to the time after having a baby.

A woman nursing in public can rapidly find herself a pariah, but we simultaneously roll our eyes at women who aren't up and out of the house within just a couple of weeks. That nursing mother is name-called and shamed and harassed while we simultaneously push "breast is best", leaving her very little options beyond becoming an unwilling face of public breastfeeding or isolating herself inside her home - even knowing that isolation is one of the key triggers to post-partum depression.

Like I said - I got very, very lucky... or, at least, I was very lucky to have the options I did in the place I live in. But even my 'lucky' is a very definite 'we can and should do better than this.'


5. Um. Why do I not own these already?

FOX. SLIPPERS.

That is all.