Friday, December 30, 2016

Five Things: The Grieving, Giving In, and Greenville Artworks Edition

What Grieving People Wish You Knew At Christmas

1. This post from Desiring God on What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas. This has been a hard year for so many of us — either hte grief is new or it's simply getting a bit sharper with time. This post speaks very honestly about how holidays can be intensely bittersweet when you're grieving.

Dad died over a year ago, and the first Christmas without him was one where momentum largely carried us through it. We barely stopped long enough to let ourselves think about it.

This year's different. This year, we've had plenty of time for it to settle in. This year, my brother and I weren't able to come back to Illinois like we normally do, so the holiday wasn't quite so full for any of us.

This year, I have friends who are mourning babies they don't get to hold, I have family mourning. We're missing something.

This blog speaks well to how it feels, to what we want people to hear from us even if we can't say it out loud. How you can want to say, "I don't want to talk about it" even when you're aching for someone to understand just why you don't want to talk about it.

This Christmas, to be honest, has been harder.

It's harder to have a Christmas with two babies, one of whom my father was never able to meet (although I think he had his hand in her arrival, anyway). It's harder to have this Christmas without being there with my mom, my sister's family, my brother and his wonderful wife. It's harder to miss Christmas in Illinois while missing my dad.

And it's comforting to read people who 100% understand what I mean by that.

Kate Whitley Little Things Studio

2. This lovely print (and all of her other lovely prints) from Kate Whitley over at Little Things Studio. Her prints and designs are gorgeous, and the quotes that she chooses range from hymns to more secular quotes like that above.

I suggest just clicking over to her shop and kind of wandering through everything. Even her abstract designs are beautiful.

I ordered her 2017 Hymn Calendar as part of our Christmas present for my mom and ended up ordering one for myself as well. Just beautiful.

 The Season of Giving In

3. This perfect post from Tue / Night on The Season of Giving In.

To be a parent is to live in abject chaos 365 days a year, and nothing gets more chaotic than the holidays. Pressure is added to buy presents and get them wrapped and prep for Santa and just do everything on top of the everything you're already doing.

The post talks about the difference between "giving" everything to your children and "giving in", and how the latter is what allows you to really make the most of the moment.

We read the phrase "giving in" as a negative one, as succumbing to something, as giving up. But to say this is the season of "giving in" is really just another way to say we'll make this the season of "saying yes". Of giving in to the moment. Of living in the right now, the way that our kids do.

Seriously, the post is lovely. Go read it.

Fall in Greenville by Meredith Piper


4. This encased wall hanging by Meredith Piper, entitled "Fall in Greenville."

Meredith Piper is a local artist I just stumbled onto while scrolling the #yeahTHATgreenville hashtag on Instagram. It's the "official hashtag" of our city here in South Carolina, and I really do love just scrolling through it to see what everyone else here is up to.

I ended up seeing a really pretty work Meredith had done and clicked through to her shop, to find this, which is essentially my favorite colors in one place and put together in a really interesting way.

Check out her shop here on etsy, she has more traditional paintings as well. 


5. To end things essentially where we began, I guess... this beautiful post from Sarah Bessey: A Prayer for the Broken-Hearted at Christmas.

If Christmas was hard for you, whether grieving a death or a different kind of loss or hardship, Sarah Bessey's prayer is for you.

 Sarah's one of my favorite writers (I own both her books and I'm a pretty shameless fangirl waiting for her third), and she writes about Jesus and faith and the difficulties surrounding life as a Christian with beauty and enthuasiasm, someone who knows you can be full-hearted for God and also balk at the way Christianity tends to present itself these days.

Her prayer for the broken-hearted is beautiful, and painful, and wonderful.

It seems the perfect post to end with.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Whole New Way to Feel Guilty (And Grateful)

Working Mom Guilt

With my change in jobs between Audra and Ellie, I also changed how my maternity leave worked. With my last job, working for local government, I had access to twelve weeks unpaid FMLA. From the second I went into the hospital to have Audra until the day I went back 10ish weeks later (due to a surgery recovery the year before slightly overlapping in time), I had no paycheck.

The same FMLA qualifications were true in my newest job, but with one incredible, amazing shift — my boss offered me six weeks of that leave time paid.

That's right.

Paid maternity leave in the United States.

I can't tell you what a difference it made in how I looked at things right then and there — especially when I went into labor three weeks early and delivered Ellie before literally any aspect of our lives was 100% ready for her.

I love my job.

I love my coworkers and I love the work I do. I have literally the best boss I have ever worked for. The idea of being away from work for twelve whole weeks simply wasn't something I even wanted to do.

But I also wasn't ready to put my tiny itty bitty newborn six week old in daycare. I knew I wanted my baby to be at least three months old before she ever had to spend whole days without us.

So... I went back to work from home.

I've been in the office a couple of days a week, on those days that Jason is home with Ellie, but otherwise I'm scrambling to work a full-time job while performing the duties of a whole different full-time job... keeping Ellie alive.

I have this whole new level of respect for stay at home moms (who are, after all, working their own full-time jobs and not getting any kind of compensation for it)... but my respect is quadrupled for women who work from home while managing children, because let me tell you — I cannot do that.

I can work. I can take care of Ellie. I can take care of the house. I sure as hell can't do all three of those things.

I pick two.

Well, let's be honest.

I pick Ellie and work and I let my house fall to pieces in the interim.

Once a week I go on an insane hour-long cleaning spree to get things back to decent. Sometimes I stretch it out to two hours and my house looks almost presentable for the afternoon, until our Audra The Destructor gets home and ten seconds later the whole house looks like this photo of her room:


I just am not built for a Work From Home life, and that's become increasingly obvious.

Let me reassure you as well that if I'm not built for working from home, I am double-so not built for staying home. I go crazy during maternity leave.

I invent ridiculous reasons to leave the house. I go to Wendy's because I just have to have a baked potato. I go to Starbucks and then just sort of drive for a while, with Ellie napping in the backseat. I watch a lot of Frasier and I watch a lot of Cheers.

I watch Ellie nap. I watch Indy nap. Then, of course, my maternity leave ends and I go back to work, but those three days a week I'm here in the house I...

watch Ellie nap.

I watch Indy nap.

I go to Wendy's for a baked potato and also for chili, just to switch things up.

I leave the house every weekend, sometimes with Jason and sometimes with friends, and I just go be places that aren't my house.


Ellie goes into daycare next week when her spot opens up. She'll be three and a half months old, about a month younger than Audra was when she went into full-time outside-the-home daycare. I'm nervous, I won't lie — but I'm not as nervous as I was before. I know these women now, and they know me. I know how they loved Audra and nurtured her. I know how she was excited to see them in the mornings. I know how she still is ready to run out the door for school and know that Ellie will get the same care and love.

Will I cry when I drop her off for the first time?

Probably.

She's still so little.

But I have always been a woman built for life outside my house, and I have to tell you all honestly that I cannot wait to go back to the office full time and have the two places — work and home — be separated again.

I feel a lot of guilt around that, sure. I know that it's supposed to be my utter desire to be home with my babies all the time forever, but... it's just not, and it never has been. I've said before that having children was always in my life plan, right from early childhood, and that's true... but staying home with them really wasn't. After all, my mom worked full time my whole life.

A working mom was the first version of a mom I knew and I built my plans around that.

I thought about quitting to stay home while I was pregnant with Audra, I really did. If we could have afforded it, I might have given it a try.

And I would probably have gone utterly insane from cabin fever by now.

I do feel guilty that I don't want to stay home all day. I love the weekends, and I love holidays where we're together all day... but I also love working. I love my job. I'm terrible at doing crafts and I end up staying shy at home rather than taking the girls out to places where I might have to befriend strangers.

That's the truth of motherhood, though, isn't it?

Everything you do, every choice you make, is just another way to feel guilt for whatever it is you aren't doing. Especially as we increasingly insist that mothers' entire identities should revolve around their children, this gets rough.

Audra and Ellie and Jason are my whole heart, it's true.


But I am my whole heart, too.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Second Time Around

Stress and Stars Ellie baby

I drink a lot of coffee these days.

I realize that drinking coffee is an innate aspect of my personality and that everyone who reads this already knows that I drink a lot of coffee, but let me explain — I drink a lot of coffee now.

At a friend's Christmas party, a friend of mine who has become a mom for the first time pretty recently asked me what it's like having two babies.

I asked her if she had ever seen Jim Gaffigan's standup when his fourth was born.



The sentiment is roughly the same.

Imagine you're drowning, and someone hands you a baby.

It's a bit less like drowning when it's two, but there are days that Jason and I, even working as a unit, struggle to keep up with the demands of two very small people, one of whom needs us to do literally everything for her and the other just really wants us to do everything for her, especially now that there is someone else competing for our attention.

Add to that the simple truth that our new baby Ellie hates sleep exactly as much as her older sister did.

I spent the first six weeks of Ellie's life mainlining coffee. I've spent the second six weeks of her life cutting back from probably enough caffeine to damage something important to only enough caffeine that people continually remark on how much caffeine I'm drinking.

I'm okay with that amount, really. That seems like a good amount.

Jason and I parent as a unit and that means we share it all — we share the sleep deprivation and diaper changes, as well as the big gummy smiles and toddler tantrums. We share one of us keeping them both while the other goes to have a social life or hobbies.

We share that look of mixed love and desperation when one of us returns to find the other all but hiding beneath a mound of toddler chaos, holding a cooing infant who is already head-over-heels in love with her big sister. We share the destruction we discover after turning our backs for just a second.


We share nights spent watching over one child or the other. Audra never learned the art of sleeping well. We read all the books and tried all the tricks, listened to all the well-meaning advice from loved ones, and Audra stubbornly went her own way anyway.

If I can just get her to channel that bull-headed strength for good and not for making-Mommy-and-Daddy-exhausted, she could be some kind of superhero.

I suppose that is what happens when two people who are stubborn as sin find each other, get married, and create new little people. We didn't cut in half our stubbornness as it manifests in our children...

we doubled it.

I was worried Audra wouldn't like Ellie. I don't know much about close-in-age sibling relationships. I'm five and seven years behind my siblings respectively, and by the time I came along they had their dynamic down pat. I was worried Audra's jealousy would be an issue.

I was worried for nothing.

Audra is jealous, to be sure, off and on.. part of her remembers when it was just the three of us still, part of her knows there didn't used to be competition for our attention. But she also kisses her little sister good night and sometimes won't even go to bed unless she gets to.

Sometimes she sits next to Ellie on the couch, where we have her lying down for a nap while we sit nearby, and just watches her for a few seconds, transfixed. Her little body vibrates with all the energy she has for the day, but still, she sits like a statue watching Ellie for a few seconds.

If Ellie wakes up, Audra smiles.

"Ellie's eyes are open," She will announce to no one in particular, hop off the couch, and go racing off to destroy something, as is her way.

One night Audra woke up and I happened to already be up with Ellie, who had just woken up wanting a bottle. The three of us sat in the dark for a while, one of my arms curled around Audra and the other holding Ellie and her bottle, just barely balanced so she could eat.

"Ellie not sleep too," Audra said, snuggled into me. "Audra and Mommy and Ellie too, not sleep."

I just sighed, a little bit, and tried to remember if it was 2 or 3 AM.

"No," I answered. Ellie sighed contentedly from somewhere near my right elbow.

"Mommy and Audra and Ellie, too," I said into the dark. "None of us are sleeping."


So... I drink a lot of coffee these days.

Sometimes, though, I switch things up and drink a lot of caffeinated tea.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Pumpkins


For the last two months of my pregnancy, Audra was convinced that her little sister lived in a box in the kitchen.

Our friends had gifted us a present for the Baby-to-Be in August, when we threw Audra her second birthday party. It happened to coincide with what I fully expected to be the last two months of my pregnancy (more on how that, uh, didn't exactly go according to plan later on). We had begun trying every day to explain to our toddler daughter that her little sister would be here soon, and that she lived in Mommy's belly right now until she was big and strong enough to come say hello.

My friend Liz gifted us with a toy that came inside a large cardboard box.

We didn't open the box, because we knew Audra would immediately claim whatever it was and it would be ever harder to give the gift to its actual recipient.

Somehow, those two facts — the existence of a new cardboard box that we never opened and the existence of a baby that would soon arrive — became mixed up in Audra's mind. She became utterly convinced that Baby Ellie lived in the box in the kitchen.

"Where is Mommy's baby right now?" I would ask, trying to coax her to connect with an abstract concept that I knew very well she really couldn't grasp. I just wanted to say the words, to say the name, so that not everything about this would be a scary change for a child just old enough to crave the same routine every day.

Audra would consider my question quite seriously, and then nod to herself in satisfaction that she knew the answer this time. "In the box," she would say solemnly. "Baby Ellie (whose name mostly came out Baby Eh-yee) in the box."

After a while, we stopped trying to correct her.

When Baby Ellie did arrive, 3 weeks and one day ahead of her scheduled appearance, Audra wasn't thrilled. She did not like the squirming, crying potato in the hospital crib-bed with wheels. She did not like the unfamiliar hospital with its strange hallways that her grandparents carried her down to visit us. She definitely did not like the sight of me in the hospital bed, wearing a weird pink hospital dress and trying to explain the concept of greeting her baby sister.

Ellie is nearly three months old and almost a whole year seems like I've been away from here too long.

Amazingly, the day that Ellie chose to arrive, absurdly early but not dangerously so, was the first anniversary of my father's sudden death. I had scheduled a day off from my work, with my plans consisting of three things: driving to a bookstore, getting a latte, and sitting around moping about how much I missed him.

Apparently, my father did not see the value in my plan.

Instead of crying over his strange death on September 19th, I had a baby and wondered one more time at the strangeness of birth.

Instead of moping, lattes, or bookstores — instead of my planned leisurely day of being sad — I had contractions at 3 am, a semi-frantic trip to Target before 9, and a baby before one o'clock in the afternoon. Somewhere, I heard my father's voice griping about the way the day is half-done by noon, but hey, Dad, I did what I could.

All this to say, hi.

It's been a while.

We are four pumpkins now, not three.

How are you?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Gnawing Off My Own Arm by 2:15


Every once in a while, I decide I'm going to eat healthy.

This usually last about as long as it takes me to remember my innate love of gas station taquitos, or when I remember that fried chicken is a real thing that I can really eat whenever I want because I'm an adult, damn it.

You can see the problem, here.

So anyway, I decided that I would be putting more effort into getting healthy. I'm terrible at remembering the "be more active" part of "eat better and be more active", but I've at least (mostly) trying to stick to the "eat better" part.

And I'm starving.

I mean, not really.

I'm only starving until about 5 pm every day.

I'm not really eating significantly less than I was before. I just replaced unhealthy snacks with healthier ones, cut down on my caffeine consumption, rearranged my breakfast to match all those "what you should eat in the morning for sustained energy" articles, basically did everything you're supposed to do.

So now I get up in the morning and eat a healthy breakfast. I get a cup of coffee. I should be fine, right?

Nope. Starving by mid-morning.

I eat lunch at 11. My lunch right now is a lot of homemade chicken salad (made with twice the vegetables the recipe calls for, lots of chicken, almonds, greek yogurt in the dressing, grapes and apples, the whole shebang) with two slices of bread. It's actually really good. It's filling! It has lean proteins and healthy fruits!

I'm gnawing my own arm off by 2:15!

I come home and share a snack with Audra, usually some cheese crackers and fruit or something.

Starving by 5 pm.

We eat dinner, and usually I'll be good for the night after that. Tonight we had chana masala. The other day I did a healthified chicken and dumplings.

After 5 o'clock, everything is A-OK.

Until that, I just never. stop. being. hungry.

I'm not eating less than I should. I literally just replaced my diet with roughly the same amount of healthy food instead of unhealthy and water instead of coffee.

It's becoming increasingly obvious to me what my real problem with food is:

My body doesn't recognize any recipe that doesn't involve either frying my food or covering it in cheese as actual food.

I'm pretty sure my body thinks I'm eating grass.

And I really, really want some fried chicken right now. Or taquitos.

Or taquitos with a side of fried chicken.

I feel like if I tried to do that 'shake' diet, I would literally murder someone for their tacos by day three.

Monday, February 22, 2016

At Least She's Verbal?


We're going through a little bit of a bedtime rebellion these days.

It's not all the time, but more often than not in the past couple of weeks somebody's stubborn little daughter will "go to bed" just fine. Obviously it can't be my daughter, it must be Jason's daughter, as I have absolutely no stubbornness in me whatsoever. None. It is in no way the defining characteristic of my life.

She'll have her bedtime drink, get her teeth brushed, maybe play quietly for a few more minutes, then go right to bed after our bedtime song.

Approximately an hour later, the crying commences. Sometimes it's half an hour. Sometimes fifteen minutes! She likes to keep us on our toes.

It doesn't even sound sincere half the time, the half-hearted sort of good-natured wailing of a toddler who absolutely knows that sooner or later she's going to have to go to sleep.

Lately, she's been adding a truly pitiful little "Moooooommeeeeeee" or "Daddeeeeeee" at the end, her unerring child instincts telling her how much it physically hurts not to immediately run to her rescue.

She won't stop there. At first, she'd push herself up to a sitting position. Eventually, though, she'll end up laying down and falling asleep anyway.

Now she's gotten clever.

She forces herself to stand, arms draped over the side of her crib to keep herself that way, managing to do the one thing she knows will keep her awake.

After so long, of course, we do go in. We count the minutes or the amount of times she cries our names as though about to eaten by ravenous wild beasts, and eventually we go in.

Sometimes, if we don't go in fast enough, she switches things up and attempts to take her clothes off. She can't figure out how neckholes work right now, though, and ends up with one arm sticking through it and the other stuck halfway through the wrong sleeve.

Then she'll sob extra dramatically until we come to fix it.

Which we eventually will.

Because we are suckers.

Of course, then she needs some milk to drink to calm back down. Oh, and snuggles, and maybe a few more minutes of playtime.

Last night, rather than do the general dance of turning off all the lights and the TV in the living room and having one of us sort of hide so she doesn't know that we're still awake and have the temerity to be interacting with one another without her presence, I just picked her up and took her straight to our room to lay down in the dark.

In a span of about seven minutes, she cried piteously, sat up on top of my stomach, bounced until I was about to throw up, laid back down and snuggled, sang along with me, cried again, sat back up, rolled over to lay down next to me, kicked the blankets off of both of us somehow, cried some more because now she was cold, pulled the blankets back up but somehow over both of our heads, climbed back on top of me, attempted to stick her finger up my nose, and finally rolled back off and laid down next to me again.

Then she sat back up.

"Mommy mommy mommy," She said cheerfully.

"You are obviously sleepy," I said, I thought reasonably.

"No."

"Are you sure you don't need to sleep?"

"No."

"I'll give you a choice. You can lay down in here next to Mommy or you can go to bed in your room. Which one would you like to do?"

She was lost in thought for a long time.

"Audra? Do you want to lay down with Mommy or go to bed?"

"No."

So I picked her up and said, "Nope, that's not one of the answers, so you're going to bed."

I carried her into her room, laid her back down, and sang one more song.

She had a cheerful conversation with her stuffed animals and then went to sleep a few minutes later.

It was 8:30.

I was exhausted.

Friday, February 5, 2016

5 Things - The Sleep-Deprived Self-Acceptance Edition (Sort of)

I mostly just wanted to use all those S's.

photo credit: passing time via photopin (license)
1. This post on learning to accept how life has changed your body from Addie Zierman.

Addie is a writer I've only fairly recently gotten into. Her first book, When We Were On Fire, is a searingly honest look at what happens when everything you felt was certain in life (marriage, faith, community, and family) start seemingly tumbling away from you.

This new post of hers, "Size Up", is a post about buying a new pair of blue jeans. It doesn't necessarily seem like something to turn into poignancy; no one likes having to admit they've gone up a size or three from the clothes they used to wear.

Addie turns this moment into a rumination on how life changes us inside and out, and there's something to the acknowledgement and acceptance that your body must evolve alongside you, and sometimes that means accepting that the number on the tag is going to change, too.

It's a beautiful post, and I highly recommend it.

In fact, go click and read it now.

I'll wait.


2. This dress.

I haven't ordered from Boden in a long while, for a variety of reasons, but this. dress.

I don't even wear dresses, and I love this dress.

I love the color, and the longer arms, and the drawstring and and and and.

Love it all.

So I'll go back to staring wistfully at it.



3. This post from Sarah Bessey, "The Nightwatch", on the way that parenting a non-sleeping baby is horrible and also simultaneously full of perfect sweetness.

The thing about parenting is that to have a baby who just. won't. sleep. is to have everyone tell you that you just haven't tried the right thing, yet. And it doesn't matter how many things you have tried, and it doesn't matter how many times you tell people you have tried everything, they will all try to tell you that the problem is just that you haven't tried hard enough.

Audra isn't a good sleeper. And neither is Sarah Bessey's girl Maggie, who is nonetheless a smile-all-the-time pile of happiness, the fourth child and the subject of no small amount of sibling adoration.

Reading this, I just kept nodding my head.

We are tired, in our house, and have been tired since she was born. (I've been tired since I was four months pregnant, granted, but it became a team effort in August 2014.) She sleeps through the night usually only just enough to throw us off guard before three more days of waking up again.

Sarah writes so well the way that sitting with your little one at midnight... and 3... and 6... can involve such moments of exhausted desperation and simultaneously be so full of happiness. Which I suppose is parenting, in a nutshell.

Exhausted, desperate happiness.
4. These shoes from Target, which would just go perfectly with that Boden dress above, right?

... right?

I don't do much window-shopping these days... or at least not for me. I do a ton of window-shopping for toddler clothes, but when it comes to my wardrobe I'm basically just living on blue jeans and cardigans out of the back of the closet. But I think with the dress and the shoes? I could be pretty damn adorable this spring.

You know, the two weeks of spring South Carolina has before it's suddenly blisteringly hot and summer.

In April.


5. I'd like to end with a post from my friend Rachel, "Snapback". I've already shared it ALL OVER Facebook in like six different places, so a lot of you have probably already seen it.

Here's how it starts: "I look rough these days. That's not fishing for compliments, I promise."

Rachel has a little one a few months younger than mine, and we've been kind of right alongside each other in becoming first-time moms. We even both live in the South, although she's a bit further down there than I am.

Her thoughts on postpartum bodies meaning more than just "get your body back six weeks/six months after baby" and being a little more of acknowledging how you are changed, and no Insanity workout takes that change away. About accepting the bit of stomach that is perfect for your little one to rest on, about acknowledging that maybe you have become that mom, wearing yoga pants and a T-shirt while your child is impeccably dressed.

About acknowledging that that's just part of the journey.

If you haven't read it, I suggest you do. It's just perfect. I know all my "reads" in this roundup have been parenting-related, at least somewhat, although I think Addie's resonates for anyone going into their thirties or forties and facing the changes in our bodies and in the mirror.

But I adore Rachel, and I saved her post for last for a reason. Go read it, and get to know her, and you'll adore her frank, honest take on motherhood, too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In Which Dreams Are Weird


Last night, after a night of Audra waking us up every two hours like horrible magical clockwork, I had this dream that Jason and I were back in Illinois visiting my hometown.

It wasn't exactly my hometown, not really - this version of it was full of bustling shops around a busy Main Street, a place where the grain elevator was never torn down and there was still a grocery store next door to my childhood church, with a tanning salon on the other side that I think maybe isn't a tanning salon anymore and that was, once upon a time, a bank.

It wasn't a dream that took place in a true past or anything - McLean was never so busy in my lifetime as it was in this dream. There were shops that have never existed there, so far as I know. But I guess it was kind of the town we all would have liked it to be.

We were walking, all of us - my husband and I and my parents, glimpses of my siblings and my little niece, too, though they are fuzzier. We turned a corner where a barber shop used to be, the barber inside always seemed eternal until he suddenly wasn't.

He used to give me Dum-Dum suckers sometimes.

We were talking about the barber, who waved at us while working on an older customer. I think I remembered them both perfectly, far better than I do while awake.

I think Audra was with us - but maybe not.

Dad and I were joking about the Highlander movie, how 'they can only make one', laughing about the ridiculous joke. I remembered feeling sort of flushed with warmth at this great moment. We waved back at the barber and moved on, walking past an empty spot of grass where a library currently stands, next to the post office, which of course is exactly the same.

I said something to Dad, and he replied, and I remembered quite suddenly within the dream that he was dead.

I remember looking at his face, really looking, to see if he had noticed. As though perhaps he just didn't know it yet. He was laughing, something about the Highlander movie again. I was startled and deflated and just so mad, in the dream, that I couldn't just have a little bit more time where I didn't know.

He looked away from me, over across the town square, and he was still laughing.

I woke up. I had slept right through my alarm.

Or, to be more exact...

The alarm had gone off and I actually moved to pick it up off the floor next to the bed, physically turned it off, rolled back over, and gone right back to total sleep, apparently without a break in the dream. Or maybe the alarm had been the break, the point at which I realized something was off, and I just... didn't want to wake up just yet.

Despite it showing that I was thirty minutes later getting up than I should be, I wondered if maybe I just rolled over again, I could go right back to the dream.

Audra made a noise from her room. Not awake, not yet, but her psychic awareness of times that I want to lie in bed for just five more minutes was prodding her towards it.

So I got up and made myself a bowl of Cheerios, fed the dog, and squinted outside into the grayish dawn.

I still kind of wish I had been able to just keep sleeping.

I'm still pretty mad.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Currently


 Reading… Don't Put Lipstick on the Cat by Kersten Campbell, which is my fizzy-bright funny relax-after-the-baby's-in-bed read right now, alongside Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches (sensing a theme, guys?) by Rachel Jankovic. Both are short books, quick reads that are nonetheless taking me forever since I find myself with twenty minutes or less of reading time most nights. Hoping to find a little bit more time  at some point and finally start on People of the Songtrail, the newest in a series of books that I have written about my frankly unreasonably intense and irrational love of before.  

Seriously. Those books are crack cocaine to me.

Watching… So. Much. Daniel. Tiger. There is no possible problem that I do not have a short, catchy little tune to sing in reply. "I'm not going to let my daughter have time with television until she's in school," I said. Then I started being late to work every time I decided to have a screen-free morning or nearly an hour late with dinner once she dropped her afternoon nap and decided it was more fun to literally hang off my leg saying "mommy mommy mommy mommy" over and over again for literally no reason whatsoever while I tried desperately to cook.

There is no entertaining TV in this house. Only Daniel Tiger. At least he's adorable and listens to his parents.

It could be worse; she could be watching Caillou.

I'm totally up for the Mother of the Year Award.

Listening… Mostly just to NPR on the way to work in the morning. JD McPherson's new CD on the occasional day I remember it lives in the CD player. To my toddler's half-shriek laughter when we spend about thirty minutes just saying "tickle tickle tickle" and wagging our fingers at each other, which is apparently her new favorite game.

To the voice in my head telling me I need to go eat crepes.

Eating… Not crepes, sadly... yet. This last week I made borscht for the first time using Martha Stewart recipe, which turned out to be a serious surprise hit with Audra. She loved it. We strained out the liquid and just fed her the cooked beets, carrots, celery, onions, and beef. She nearly ate as much as I did. And ate it really well the next night, too (I never cook in less than twelve-person batches, somehow).

Tuesday we ate Annie's White Shells and Cheese with steamed broccoli, because steamed broccoli is healthy and she loves it and Jason was hanging out with friends that night and pffffft, macaroni and cheese is awesome don't judge me.

Mother. Of. The Year.

I made up for it I think when we made dinner for our friends and their kiddos two nights later and I made these vegan enchiladas, with a side of black beans and sauteed corn-and-zucchini. Which I immediately added crumbled up Mexican fresco cheese to, because vegan ain't my bag, baby.

And they were wonderful, and it's a pretty inexpensive meal to throw together and is going to be in regular rotation from here on out.

Oh, and eating blueberries, because Audra is going through a blueberry obsession and it turns out I super like blueberries, too. I'm surprised my skin isn't turning colors at this point.


Drinking… Well, coffee. That never changes. I was going to try to drink more water, then discovered that if I replaced coffee with water, I was suddenly very much aware of how often it is that we don't sleep through the night. So I'm back to drinking too much coffee. Lots of cream, little sugar.

Coffee coffee coffee.

Loving… Headbands. Seriously. I'm not even being sarcastic, I'm actually going through a headband thing right now. I picked up a couple of the reversible headbands from Natalie over at Natalie Creates with Christmas money, and once they showed up (alongside our new planting calendar for the We-Are-Actually-Going-to-Garden-Like-Adults year we're planning) I have basically not taken them off. So, obviously I spent the last of my Christmas money on two more.

I'm a reasonable human being who in no way makes impulse purchases when gifted with spending money.

Nope, not me.

(I also used some of the last of the Christmas money on this T-shirt and I regret nothing.)

Hoping… Mostly just that 2016 will be kinder to us, in the end, than 2015 was. I could stand to have time enough without any crises to get a little content for a while.

Celebrating… Audra's day-by-day development explosions when it comes to speaking and walk-running, and discovering the world. Jason being able to actually get some blacksmithing done, with his new job giving him more time to work on it. How much I love my own job. How much Audra loves her daycare. My mom moving into a house that will be perfect for her. Lots of things.

Disliking… Distance, always. The ache of grief at a point where I am no longer comfortable openly showing that particular emotion.

 That the word Audra grasped most readily and has the greatest command of is "no".

Not having a cat in the house for the first time in eight years, during a time in my life when I would really like to have a fuzzy cat to snuggle with sometimes in the evenings.

All of Jason's incredibly reasonable and well-thought-out arguments as to why now is a bad time to add another pet.


Starting… to try and take a better interest in the house. The thing is, we've lived here for three years, three and a half at this point, and we still live a bit like the apartments dwellers we were for seven years. We painted one wall, which I love, but have never really made permanent changes elsewhere. This is the year I'm painting the kitchen. I've decided. And maybe we'll finish the living room, too.

This is the year we're going to really work in the garden. We've bought some great seeds to try out and I'm actually looking forward to starting things up once it's warm for good in the spring. It's a strange feeling, to be excited about planting corn.

I imagine my father would find that pretty hilarious.

Discovering… alongside Audra each step in the process of learning to be a person. I have watched her mimic our facial expression in infancy, and now in toddlerhood she mimics our motions more easily. She 'helped' Jason mop a couple of days ago. She'll bring the dustpan over for me when I'm sweeping.

She knows that 'cooking' is a thing I do on the big white thing that I tell her is too hot too touch, and then food happens after I stand there for a while. I pick her up so she can see the steps I'm taking and narrate through them. She tries to repeat any word she even vaguely recognizes.

She figured out that shoes mean going somewhere, and so watches closely to see when we put our shoes on to gather from that what we'll do next. She insists on wearing shoes all the time whenever she can right now.

She tries to help take her clothes off and put the new clothes on. She will watch me get dressed, intently, following every move I make to try and figure out what it is I can do that she can't.

So, I discover right with her how the steps unfold to figuring out how to grow up.

It's wonderful.

Although I do occasionally wish it was happening more slowly.




Now it’s your turn! Answer any of the above prompts in the comments or create your own post and leave me a link! I snagged the idea for this post from Sarah over at Sarah on Purpose.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Priorities


Sometimes, the choice comes down to one of two things.

Either I can try to convince my one-year-old that she doesn't actually need to take her favorite stuffed animal and babydoll and sippy cup in her stroller all at once and deal with the inevitable public tantrum and hat-throwing, or...

I can just let her have all three things if it makes her happy on a Saturday morning when it's cold and you're dying for some coffee and it's like a four block walk to M. Judson and at least she'll keep her freaking hat on for five minutes.

You can obviously see what my choice was.

I regret nothing.

Well, I do kind of regret the part where she figured out she could force  the sippycup to spill if she pushed down on the top the right way and then completely soaked through her stroller and her own pant. Which I didn't notice at first, because she was in a stroller and at her own insistence was hugging Riff Raff the Giraffe and Baby still. I couldn't even see her sippycup.

In retrospect, that should have been a warning sign.

The reason we went to M. Judson?

Not just because of coffee, surprisingly - although their coffee was really good and came in a real, lovely coffee cup and not just a paper one. Twice a week they do a morning storytime for little ones, and Audra has been super into reading books at home lately, so I was just sure she would love it.

She lasted about one and a half minutes.

Then she wandered off to stare intensely at a couple of people who were just trying to eat in blessed child-free silence in the cafe area, and when I redirected her she then set off at a determined, unsteady clip to see how far into the community room she could get before I stopped her.

Eventually, though, she went back over to the storytime lady... where she found new people to make uncomfortable - a pair of 5 or 6-year-old girls who were actually listening to the story.

She started out at one end of a couch, kind of leaning against it, and they were at the other.

Then she inched closer.

and closer...

... and closer.

The poor girls gradually became pretty obviously uncomfortable, at which point I pulled her away.

And that's when I figured out she had spent the last twenty minutes covered in apple juice.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

This Winter is Full: A #Wholemama Post


My winter world is full of trying desperately to make sure Audra actually wears shoes outside the house, full well realizing the irony of two people who hate wearing shoes as much as we do having to try and convince our progeny to wear them anyway.

Winter has been saying the word "shoe" seven billion times in a row and clapping when a tiny person uses a fork correctly, then dodging wildly before she can accidentally stab me in the nostril with it.

It's full of miniature blankets that are so much softer and warmer than mine, it seems, and sounding out the names of dinosaurs in her very favorite book. Sooner or later I'm going to figure out the right way to say "Troodon" and no, don't try to tell me, Jason tells me over and over again and somehow I never quite get it right.

This winter has been feeling myself dig in to faith because there are nights when I realize that my father never actually experienced a Christmas with my daughter and I really need God to answer at least three of my fourteen thousand questions about that.

It's full of encouraging Audra Grace to eat more than two green beans and four tiny pieces of corn for dinner while she stubbornly ignores delicious veggie enchiladas, then sitting back wide-eyed the next night as she inhales breaded pork chops and sauteed zucchini with wild abandon.

It's full of realizations about just how weird Dinosaur Train really is, once you think about it.


Winter this year is finding Superman in the Nativity scene and an angel steadfastly tucked into the horse stall in the barn.

It is hunting all over the house for Audra's new baby doll while she wails inconsolably, only to discover the doll was in her crib, literally sitting within arms' reach directly behind her, the entire time.

It's watching the sun rise a little earlier and set a little later each day, and feeling my spirits start to lift accordingly.

It's never quite getting used to never really needing my winter coat in South Carolina. No matter how long I've lived here, I expect my fingers and the tip of my nose to freeze and yet they never do.

It's trying to do the "read the Bible 16 pages a day" challenge and instead having to read like 15 pages every two to three days, because whoever designed that challenge obviously did not have a toddler and a full-time job.


It's trying not to let myself go to bed as soon as I'm sleepy, because I slept away half of September and October that way and I don't want to lose January, too.

It's trying to take my goal to "nurture" seriously and trying to buy kitchen rugs at Target and finding literally not a single kitchen rug that didn't just look like they came from the Land That Happy Colors Forgot and giving up and going back to shopping on the internet.

It's buying a 'Choose Joy' shirt because damn it, at this point I have to.

This winter has been full of hugs and kisses and "bye bye" each morning before work, and watching her face light up when I walk in to pick her up from daycare at the end of the day.

It's been full of watching her get her walkin' feet, the slowest stumble-steps turning into a confident meander around the house.

Yesterday she tried to run.

That... happened fast.


This winter has been the winter of being tired, and happy, and sad, and joyful, and grieving and then terribly homesick all within a thirty second span.

This winter has been full of Audra's everyday, and brunches downtown with friends, and sneaking away to coffeeshops to stare my social anxiety in the face (and then slink off and away to a different one.)

This winter has been the winter of pulling myself together and putting on my grown-up pants and powering through anyway, but it's also been a winter full of all those little moments where I watch my daughter's mind really start to burn with her fierce need to know things, and those little moments are the ones that will shine for me in the end.

This may be the second winter in a row of 3 AM wakeups more nights than we'd willing to admit to, it's true.

It's also been a winter full of Audra's arms and her smile and the way she resolutely insists that she will carry her snack tray all by herself.

Even if she then promptly spills her snack all over the floor.

Which is why it's good we have a dog.


Today's post is my fifteenth while participating in the #wholemama link up. This week's theme was "winter". You can find the linkup here over on Erika Shirk's blog Overflow. My other posts as part of the linkup can be found by clicking the #Wholemama tab on the blog's menu or just by clicking this link. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

In Which I Hop Right On That Bandwagon


There's a take on the idea of the New Year's resolution that is very popular in Blogland, or at least when it comes to the blog circles I run in. The idea is to pick a word instead of a resolution. Just one word, meant to represent your goals and your life for the upcoming year.

Natalie over at Natalie Creates has done it a few years in a row - you can see her post on it here. I've also seen it making the rounds on several other blogs I regularly read.

It seems like the popular word for this year is "present" or "presence" - the idea of really being in the moments of your life. With our constant social media connections and ever-present phones, we're always pushing our brains to be fifteen places at once, taking pictures of a memory instead of actually creating it.

"Presence" seems like a good word, but it just didn't sing to me.

But I'm a sucker for the kind of bandwagon that lets you get creative, so I figured I'd hop on it myself.

My word for 2016 will be...


Nurture, I think, just works for what I've been thinking about. It's a verb, but not the most active one; you can nurture without leaving home, and that's kind of what I'm thinking about.

I can't really emphasize enough how important it is to pick a word that lets me stop being indescribably lazy step by step instead of expecting me to suddenly have energy and motivation all at once.

In 2016, I want to work harder at taking good care of myself, my house, our garden, my family, even the dog. It's easy to let a lot of that go. I've been up to my elbows in busy and by the time Audra goes to bed, hardly have the energy to sweep the kitchen floor, let alone the kind of serious care a house requires.

So in 2016, I want to start by nurturing myself.

I want to work harder at getting some rest, finishing the books I pick up to read. I'm trying to focus more intently on wearing clothes that I really love, not just getting through the day in an old baggy T-shirt that might be comfortable, but I don't feel particularly good in. I want to go out to eat less often and eat healthier food at home. I want to pick recipes out of cookbooks to try something new. I want to drink less coffee, because whether or not I'm willing to admit it, there actually is such a thing as too much coffee. I want to focus on being more frugal, because I'm prone to nickel and diming myself out of every extra penny.

I want to nurture my house.

There's an extent to which we still live like renters. We've only really painted the one wall, our furniture is slapdash hand-me-downs. I never seem to be able to prioritize building a home that looks like we own it. I need new kitchen rugs but it seems like such a strange thing to spend $25 on when I could go buy books or coffee instead, and therein lies the root of our home issues. Everything needs organized, and before that it needs cleaned. Audra's toys are taking over literally every square inch. I need to reign the chaos in. I am not exactly what you call a natural housekeeper - I'd usually rather play video games than dust or wipe up the countertops - but I'm committed to trying a little harder this year.

I'm currently picking away at a bookshelf reorganization. After that, I want to tackle the kitchen in general. Maybe I'll even remember how badly I want to do this for more than a week or so this time.


I want to nurture our garden.

Our foray into gardening last year started out strong but sort of fell apart towards the end - we just weren't putting the effort into the garden that we should have, and it led our early promising tomato and jalapeno harvests to turn somewhat lackluster later on. Also, we kiiiiiiiinda let the okra just sort of grow wild, and I'm not going to be surprised if we begin next spring with like fifteen semi-wild okra plants showing up at random.

This year, I've bought a gorgeous planting calendar and I'm going to make a bigger effort to not just run out to Home Depot to pick up random plants and seeds, but to really plan things out and purchase heirloom vegetable and fruit seeds that let us grow varieties of food you can't just pick up at Walmart.

I want to nurture my family.

I take a lot of photos of Audra. The problem is, it's been proven that taking photos of a moment actually makes it harder for us to impress the memory of that moment into our minds. We rely on those tangible things we can hold to recall details, rather than keeping that memory within us. This year, I'm going to work harder on being there with Audra, even when she refuses to stop playing in the bathtub and seriously kid, how long am I expected to be interested in you splashing? The answer is exactly as long as it takes before you don't want me in there anymore. I plan to really think about the way it feels when she reaches up her hands for a hug, or the way she tucks her head under my chin early in the morning.

I want this year to have more date nights with Jason, where the two of us can remember when it meant to be just you and me and not we three. Maybe we'll bond over gardening or something, who knows. Things could get crazy exciting over here.

In 2015, for both wonderful and terrible reasons, I saw a lot more of my immediate and extended family than I normally do, for how far away we live. Between my brother's wedding in April, our usual Fourth of July visit, Audra's birthday in August, everything we had to do for Dad in September, my mom visiting for Thanksgiving and then our trip to Illinois for Christmas, I had so. much. family time compared to what I've gotten used to. Everything with Dad made it so clear how much I've taken for granted. So in 2016, I'd like to work harder on maximizing the connection and contact I do usually get. I haven't decided how I'll do that yet, since odds are good we won't be around my family so often this year. But it's definitely on my list.

I want to nurture my dog.

The problem with toddlers (and babies in general) is that they tend to steal time from everything else. Indy isn't really getting the attention he deserves, at least when it comes to getting him outside to exercise regularly. He's a dog that deserves a good long game of fetch or weekend walks on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and we just haven't been providing. I want to make a bigger effort to be his person this year (even if Jason is his actual favorite person).


Nurture seems like a good all-encompassing word for what I'd like to accomplish this year... which is, essentially, to spend a little more time making my world work, top to bottom.

Have you picked a "one word" for your year? What is it? I'm obviously vaguely obsessed right now with seeing what everyone else has chosen.

Although, after a night spent wrestling a toddler who is very much testing her independence and how quickly she can commit suicide by jumping backwards off the couch, I'm kind of thinking my word for 2016 should be "beer", because I'm going to need a lot of it to get through the Overwhelming Ones.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Two Weeks, Huh?


I know, I know.

Surely I didn’t go a whole two weeks in which absolutely nothing remotely humorous or meaningful happened to me, right? Not with Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, and Hurricane Baby here to keep things interesting?

Well, it’s true. The last two weeks have been both humorous and meaningful. But I’ve been way too busy to sit down and write about them! Part of the issue is that I spent about a week at my mom’s house, and she’s never quite gotten around to getting internet. The up side is family togetherness time — the downside is that I got absolutely no work done during my vacation and came back utterly swamped by the eleventy-billion work tasks that were now overdue.

Then, after a single day back at work, Jason and I found out last-minute that Audra’s daycare closes not just for New Year’s Day (which we knew about and Jason already had off) but also New Year’s Eve (which we obviously didn’t know about and neither of us had off). So I stayed home Thursday and did what frantic work I could during Audra’s naps, but otherwise lived my life around the whims of a toddler who wanted crackers but then didn’t want crackers, she just wanted to say the word crackers and point at the crackers, but how dare I think that might mean she’d want to eat crackers, now it’s time to cry for ten minutes about this travesty.

Yesterday, Jason was able to give me a couple of hours for more frantic worktime, where I wrote work-blogs and work-emails as fast as my little fingers would fly. Much of that I did while Audra napped. Jason, who had gone to a party the night before and was running on very little sleep, laid down himself to take advantage of the quiet while I worked.

Guess who woke up literally five minutes after Jason laid down for a nap?

Then I had another brilliant idea! I would just go to a local coffeeshop Saturday morning, pick up a coffee and maybe a snack, and get some work done outside of the house, where hopefully I’d be able to give more attention to what needed done. So I settled in a couple of hours ago at a local place with a nice mug of “coffee for here” and set things up…

... aaaaaaaand then the WiFi password simply did not work. I asked about it once and was given a different password which also did not work, but by this time my social anxiety made the whole process of repeatedly interrupting the baristas trying to do their actual jobs with my internet problems simply untenable (since my retail experience tells me they know about as much about why the WiFi isn’t working as I do)…

So I gave up, pulled up a new blank Word document, and started writing work-blogs and work-emails there, to load them into their actual destinations later. I could have gotten up and left and gone somewhere else, you see, like the Starbucks literally a block away, but… then they would have seen me walking out right after asking about WiFi, and then I'd be that person who can't just enjoy their delicious cup of friggin' coffee without being wired in.

Then I could never enter that coffeeshop again.

I just couldn't handle the shame.

Eventually, though, it became clear that I badly needed the actual internet in order to accomplish anything, or at least to accomplish enough for this little break away from home to have been worth the cost of the cappucino I am currently drinking.

So now I'm sitting at a Starbucks, typing away, because Starbucks doesn't make the whole process of using WiFi so painfully awkward I can't focus on my caffeine.

Starbucks understands me.

So this is basically a note to let everyone know that I absolutely am around, and I’m paying attention, and you’re all quite lovely and I miss rambling madly about my day at you and I absolutely planned to have something up the day before Christmas, and then two days after Christmas, or maybe once we got back from Illinois, or whatever... but I haven't had the time and then when I had time I had no internet and then I was home where Audra takes any sign of me near a computer as a communication that she needs to attempt to climb on top of my head right this second...

So.

That’s how things are going over here.

How're you? Things good where you are? You doin' good?

Is there a toddler on your head?