Friday, January 29, 2016


 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


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...


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?