Today: An afternoon in the pumpkin patch.

Reasons why I am the least enjoyable person to be around this time of year (an abbreviated list):

  1. The only pumpkin-flavored things I like are pumpkins.  I don’t want my coffee to taste like a gourd.  I want it to taste like coffee.  Same goes for my M&M’s and my gluten-free beer.
  2. And don’t get me started on fall colors.  I love our condo.  I don’t want to make it ugly with brown and orange stuff.
  3. I am allergic to wool.  Your sweaters had best keep a safe distance from the hives that are about to creep up my neck.
  4. I’m not ready to say goodbye to tomatoes.  If summer tomatoes were a person, and that person was my boyfriend and that boyfriend broke up with me, I would not give his stuff back.

Ward's Berry Farm pumpkins

Nick (who is very much a real person and was once my boyfriend) and I were married in the fall of 2012 and our caterer nearly sent me to a home with her “festive” dessert display at our menu tasting.  I like to think I was a pretty easy-going bride (don’t we all?) and also thought I had made my firm “no fall colors” policy quite clear, so when she rolled out a table festooned with fake leaves and plastic pumpkins, I barely contained a simmering rage.

baby in pumpkin patch

This year, though, I can’t help but look forward to cooler mornings, crinkling leaves and carving pumpkins.  I am guessing I have my daughter to blame thank for that.  Seeing her experience new things is just the best, whether it’s her first time in the water, her first time eating solids, her first time being held by a strange man dressed as the Easter bunny or yes, even her first Fall (I felt like capitalizing the season would help you see that I meant that, and not that I delight in watching her tumble over and potentially become injured). Watching Grace reach for a giant pumpkin and squeal in delight as she grasped its stem has me changing my ways.  All those adorable fall outfits hanging in her closet don’t hurt either.  And if I really dig deep, I guess I could cop to an affinity for soup and scarves.

[Tweet “Check this off the fall bucket list: visit a pumpkin patch”]

This weekend we took advantage of the late summer (very-nearly-fall) weather and spent the afternoon at Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon, Massachusetts.  It’s about 30 minutes from the city and not far from where I grew up.  After walking around a bit, we ventured out to the pumpkin patch to find that their healthy, growing pumpkins were bigger than our healthy, growing child (and too big, frankly, to fit underneath her stroller… or like, in my handbag).  So instead of picking one up there, we took 100 photos and then ventured back to the farm store and purchased a smaller, much more portable, sugar pumpkin.

white pumpkins

I also picked out a few of these gorgeous heirloom gourds and white pumpkins.  They’re like the gateway drug of fall decor… fall-ish, but not brown and orange.  I am dying to make one of these succulent topped pumpkins I saw in the fall issue of Country Gardens (side note: I am 900% obsessed with Next Issue… which is how a city dweller with no garden comes across such gems as Country Gardens.)  Perhaps I can make green and white the new black brown and orange?  And then maybe I will get a show on Netflix about my life as an over-tired working mom who wastes time making succulent topped pumpkins when she should be, like, sleeping?

heirloom gourds

In addition to a tremendous selection of farm fresh produce and local treats, Ward’s is also home to Sunny Rock 4H Club’s barnyard animals.  Grace was sort of ambivalent about the goats, but Nick got right in there.  The man never misses a chance to feed the animals.

goats

Did I mention they have mini horses?

fly fly lil sebastian

If you asked me who my all time favorite television mini-horse is, my answer would obviously be: It’s a tie between Lil Sebastian + MiniDuh.

You know, fall’s looking pretty good, after all. (But do not tell that caterer I said so.)

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s on your fall bucket list?

Today: My first Labor Day.

We’re heading into Labor Day Weekend, so why not talk about having a baby?  (I couldn’t resist.)  I know the holiday is technically a tribute to the American workforce (and feels mostly like a symbolic end to summer), but it’s nearly impossible for me to hear Labor and not think of… labor.

It’s been nearly seven months since we welcomed Grace.  I’ve come this close to sharing about her entry into the world several times now, but always stopped short of clicking publish. (Can I just say, the expression “birth story” creeps me out?  It reminds me of that TLC show that one of my college roommates always watched.  Terrifying.)

My labor and delivery were rather uneventful (which was sort of the goal), but ultimately, I think that’s why I want to share it with you.  I can’t tell you how many horror stories I heard while pregnant.  So-and-so was in labor for 89 hours.  My friend’s cousin’s yoga instructor’s neighbor delivered a 16 lb. baby.  That woman that I sometimes see at the dog park, her sister had a really great birth plan… and it went completely to hell.  My uncle’s third cousin’s dog groomer got a flat tire on the way to the hospital and delivered her triplets in the back of a Subaru.  (It’s always a Subaru.) Sound familiar?

At one of my postpartum check-ups with my midwife, I told her that I felt sort of awkward when people asked about our experience with childbirth — that I felt a bit guilty (and yes — grateful, most of all) that things went so well.  She told me that people need to hear the good stories too.  And I think that’s true.  Remember when I talked about fear being unproductive?  Those horror stories produce a lot of fear.  I hopeful that hearing a good story about childbirth will have the opposite effect.

[Tweet “Want to hear a good story about #childbirth?”]

So, with that longwinded intro aside, here’s one of the good stories.

Oh, important note: I’m not going to talk about body parts, really, or like measurements or anything that might make you (or me) faint.  That’s just not my style.  And I’m 103% certain I’m wrong about at least a few times and timing and hours, so please don’t check my math.  And I’m sure you understand my desire to maintain at least a bit of mystery privacy, especially when it comes to my family.  

My first Labor Day and welcoming Grace

About two weeks before Grace was born, I was sitting in my office with our auditor (which is one of the 45,000 places I didn’t want to be when I went into labor… and yes, I had spent 9 months fine tuning that list) when I started getting sharp pains in my lower back.  They were bad enough that I couldn’t stay seated, but when I stood up, they sort of got worse.  It’s a life goal of mine to not to be shady (especially in the presence of an auditor), but I had to keep coming up with excuses to duck out and attempt to walk waddle it off.

Grace at 1 month

After a couple of hours of coming and going, the pain subsided.  I figured I was dehydrated.  Or maybe my maternity pantyhose was too tight.  Grace wasn’t due for over a month, and I assumed what I was feeling was normal for late pregnancy.  Truth be told (with the exception of dragon-level heartburn), I felt really good during my second and third trimesters.  (The first trimester was sort of a blur of morning all-day sickness, sleeping for 20 hours at a time, subsiding on a diet of crackers and lemonade, and feeling extremely frumpy.)

The next day, though, I just felt off.  The back pain had returned (it turns out these were actually contractions and not random back pain… evidence that I did not read any childbirth pamphlets), my feet were swollen, and my appetite was gone.  I stupidly waited all day to call the doctor, and instead Googled things.  If I can impart any wisdom to future parents (or just, people in general) it is this: When it comes to pregnancy or childbirth or labor or really anything medical or important or not related to cute dog photos, don’t Google it.  Just don’t.

I spent the following day hooked up to a fetal monitor, drinking gallons and gallons of water, calmly reading US Weekly one minute and freaking out about the big work event I had coming up the next.  If Grace arrived today, what would my colleagues need to know? What was left to be done?  What imaginary scenarios could I cook up and then create solutions for?  Again, the contractions subsided and I was sent home with strict orders to relax. (Bhahahahaaha)

The work event went off without a hitch the following Thursday.  I wore sequins.  I wore heels.  I did not go into labor.  I did eat 5 desserts.  For the next few days, it was business as usual.  I still had a feeling Grace might come early, though, so each night before heading home, I cleaned up my desk and laid out detailed “just in case” instructions (which I would then promptly recycle the following day, only to begin again).

On Monday night, I woke up in the middle of the night with a start, and sat bolt upright.  I vividly remember this moment in particular, because for the previous month or so, sitting up was nothing short of a workout.  I must have gone back to sleep, because the next time I looked at the clock it was 5 A.M… and my water had broke. (Is that grammatically correct? I have no clue.  But I am sticking to my own rule of no Googling body part things.)

I have never seen Nick bound out of bed so quickly.  In the span of three minutes, he was somehow dressed, his teeth were brushed and his contacts were in, and he was assembling our co-sleeper/mini crib.  Meanwhile, I followed our midwife’s instructions and called the office’s after hours number.  They told me to call back at eight. Um… what?  Knowing me (and I do, quite well), I am still surprised at how calm I remained.  I took a shower.  I blew out my unruly curls.  I painted my nails (yes, really).  I ate a snack.  I un-packed and re-packed our hospital bag (which is good, because we didn’t exactly ace it the first time around).

By 8:30, I was back on the fetal monitor at our doctor’s office, but not before riding an elevator with a bunch of gentlemen in sharp suits headed to work, while my water continued to break.  There’s nothing quite like the sensation of actively peeing your pants (that’s kind of what it feels like) in public.  I wasn’t sure what the protocol for being in labor in a rush hour elevator in the Financial District was.  Should I press the alarm button and make an announcement?  Instead I tried to be cool (wholly impossible), but continued to look at Nick like, Oh my word, I am sort of peeing.  And he continued to look at me like, This is the greatest day ever.  And it was.

We checked into the hospital around 10:30 and when the attending midwife asked if we had a name picked out for our daughter, I cried as Nick answered, Grace.  Saying her name, one we had kept secret for so long, made her pending arrival feel more real than any contraction (or awkward elevator ride) could.  Saying her name made everything feel so holy and sacred and good.

Once we knew for certain (I mean, I knew that at 5 AM, but it helps to have the hospital bracelet to prove it), we called our parents and siblings and let them know that we were at the hospital, that we were all doing well, and that Grace would likely be born today.

Our birth plan was pretty much this:

  • We will be open minded
  • We will trust our our midwife, doctor and nurses to help us make the best decisions

In other words: We didn’t really have a birth plan.  I wanted to labor without medication, but um… I had never been in labor before, so I didn’t want to rule anything out.  We spent the next six hours managing my painful (real talk: they were painful, but I survived… obviously) back contractions by taking short walks around the labor floor, getting checked by the midwife and nurses, and sitting and standing and leaning and bending and bouncing.  We never broke out the deck of cards we packed, nor the crossword puzzle book.

At the nurses’ encouragement, I gave the shower a try.  I had heard that many women find showering during labor to be really comforting.  Meanwhile, I spent about three minutes in there before throwing in (and asking for) the towel.  It was sort of the opposite of comforting for me.

All I could think was:

  • Great, now my hair is frizzy again
  • The shower curtain is touching me
  • Why is this shower so small?
  • And why is there so much plastic furniture in here?
  • Everyone can see my bum

By now, I was uncomfortable enough that I was having trouble relaxing between contractions.  Our labor was progressing, but it could still be hours before Grace was born, so we talked with our midwife about options.  An anesthesiologist joined us to answer any questions we might have about an epidural, which we decided was the right choice for us.

As with all things labor and delivery related, I’m not sure how accurately I can describe what getting an epidural feels like, or how it feels after.  I could still feel everything (including my limbs), but the pain was much less intense and I was able to relax between contractions.  I hadn’t eaten more than a few crackers (I was nauseous much of the day), so as soon as the nurses told me I couldn’t eat after getting the epidural, I basically wanted to eat everything in sight.  I started getting restless, but going for a walk was no longer an option, so we watched a little TV.  I could barely contain my jealousy (nor my lack of sensitivity, apparently) as a Biggest Loser contestant devoured an entire pizza in his “before” footage.  TV was a bad idea.

Grace at 2 weeks

At some point (and this one is entirely on me — Nick now has a firm “no voluntary studies” policy), I agreed to participate in a study about epidurals (how they are administered, and if that affects their, well, effectiveness).  At some regular interval, a doctor would come into the room and ask me about pain and nausea and then (this is the absolute truth) poke me with one of those little cocktail swords (not something that looked like a little cocktail sword, an actual little cocktail sword) to determine where I did or did not have feeling.  Being in labor is surreal on its own, but this sword thing?  It was really bizarre.  The nurses (and my husband) kept reminding me that I could opt out of the study at any time.  Meanwhile, I had developed a strong craving for maraschino cherries.

Nick went to grab some coffee and as 11 o’clock approached, I wondered if Grace would, indeed, be born today.    I talked to my parents and siblings (and was denied my requests for an entire pan of baked ziti and two bags of cool ranch Doritos) and focused on the affirmation that seemed so silly a few days before, but that helped me so much during those last few hours: Grace will come at the perfect time.

[Tweet “Grace will come at the perfect time. #birthstory #laborday”]

I repeated this over and over in my head and soon enough, I felt like that perfect time was upon us.  A new midwife had just come on shift (I feel like I could write a whole book about how wonderful these women are) and she and the nurses started preparing for Grace’s delivery.  She got sort of close to my face and said, “You have carried this baby inside of you for nine months.  Are you ready to bring her out?  Are you ready to get started?”  Part of me was like, Um… I don’t think I could stop this if I tried and the other parts was like, Yes! I want her here so badly!  In my emotional memory (which is likely not fully accurate), Jock Jams started playing and Nick and the midwife high-fived.

Nick and Grace

Remember when I told you that a blizzard prevented us from completing our childbirth class?  This is where that missed information would have been helpful.  One nurse asked if I remembered my breathing.  I had no clue what she was talking about (it turns out, you kind of just… well, breathe).  We were similarly surprised to find out just how active a role Nick would be playing in Grace’s delivery.  I guess we sort of imagined he’d gently stroke my perfectly coifed hair and tell me I was amazing, but instead he was holding one of my legs and coaching me through the pushing (and telling me I was amazing).  Another surprise (sorry, this is kind of unpleasant, but I am feeling like it might help to know this): some people throw up, like a lot, when they’re delivering.  Apparently I am one of those people.  Also, I somehow managed to get a (clean and very much empty) bed pan stuck inside my hospital gown.  So there’s that.

Everything felt so charged and intense during the delivery.  I remember melting into the hospital bed between pushes, and asking Nick to cover my face with a cold cloth.  I have never prayed like I prayed that night.  I felt weak and exhausted, and at the same time, stronger and more powerful than ever.  It was nothing like the movies (and I mean that in the best possible way).  There was no yelling or screaming (though I did kind of involuntarily roar at one point), no real dramatics.

It was very fleeting, but I did have a quick rush of panic that I might not be able to do it.  That I was too tired.  Or too weak. I thought (this is so, so ridiculous… but also so, so funny to me), Maybe I can skip this next contraction and rest a little.  Nick saw right through that one and encouraged me to be a normal person keep going.  Our midwife calmly whispered, “Don’t be afraid.”  Just then, the miniature sword wielding doctor entered the room for our next round of the study, and Nick (politely) told him to hit the road.  For a million reasons, I am so grateful for my husband.

I am sure the nurses and midwife were talking to me, but at this point I kept my eyes on Nick and watched his posture change as the energy in the room intensified.  I hadn’t noticed that a baby nurse had come in, and that the midwife and nurses had put on masks.  “She’s coming so soon,” he said.  “She’s really coming.”  It was 12:16 A.M. on Wednesday.

Grace (and her adorable nose) at 6 hours, Elizabeth in need of a flat iron

I used to think that if I had a baby, I’d want him or her “cleaned off” before holding them.  I thought I’d be squeamish about all the, you know, stuff.  I thought I’d want everything to be neat.  In reality, I couldn’t get my hands on her fast enough.  I reached for her and Nick, desperate to have our little family together for the first time.  I kept saying “I love her so much” over and over, and then turned to Nick with the biggest smile of my life (he just reminded me of this – I wanted him to read this whole thing before I sent it out into the Universe) and exclaimed, “I would do this a million times!”  So… there’s your proof that happy, pain-killing hormones are real.  Or, that I am delusional.

Once Grace was on my chest, and I could see her tiny nose and eyes and fingers and cheeks, I cried for the millionth time since first knowing I was pregnant with her.  I felt like my heart was outside of my body.  I couldn’t see anyone else, I couldn’t hear anyone else, I couldn’t think about anyone or anything else.  I had no idea my love for her would feel like that.  And still, when I think that love can’t get any bigger, it somehow grows.

Grace at 6.5 months

Just this week Grace started putting both her hands up and reaching for me.  I can’t help but think, every time, about that night when I first reached for her.  That night is my favorite story.

It’s the story I tell myself when I miss her during the day, or when feel discouraged about my “body after baby” (whatever that means), or when people ask if she’s sleeping through the night, or when I have to pump in an airport bathroom while traveling for work (the glamour of life abounds), or when I find spit-up on the back of my dress halfway through Mass, or when there is not enough time to do it all or be it all.

Because that story and how it ends and what it gave us, that is it all.

Also On Tap for Today:

How are you spending your Labor Day Weekend?

Today: From marathoner to beginner.

As I shared shortly after the Dirty Girl Mud Run and approximately fifteen showers, I started following the Couch to 5k program in an effort to get back in the running groove in a smart, sustainable, strategic way (i.e. not in a “Hmm, I wonder how far and fast I can run today?” way).

from marathoner to beginner

Going from marathoner to beginner is both exciting and humbling.  Humility: that’s sort of my life’s keyword these days.  

I’ve run two marathons (Disney and New Yorkclick through for the world’s longest, most emotional race recaps of all time), and yet here I am, proud to be able to string together a few minutes of running at a time.

For the past four weeks, I’ve followed the Couch to 5k plan to a T.  I’ve walked when I am supposed to walk, even when that meant passing by a group of bros playing KanJam at the M Street Beach, who took notice of my walk break and started chanting “Don’t give up now!”

[Tweet “Thoughts on going from marathoner to beginner from @ElizabethEv”]

I’ve run when I’m supposed to run, and continued to keep my pace right around 8:30/9:00 (solid for a lady who thought she’d always be a 10 minute miler).  I’ve resisted the temptation to quit approximately 56 times over the span of each 30 minute workout.  I’ve tried to talk myself into quitting, and then talked myself into sticking with it.

Being a beginner is different the second time around.  And in many ways it’s more challenging than when I first started running and training with any real purpose seven or eight years ago.

Many of those differences hinge on being a new mother.  My hips don’t lie, nor do they move the way they used to move.  I have sports bras in three different sizes and yet, on any given day, none of them fit.  I often feel a pang of guilt as I head out the door, wondering if I should stay with Nick and Grace rather than being out on the road alone, trying to ignore the KanJammers.  The closer I get to home, the more desperate I am to be home.  I’m exhausted.  I haven’t slept through the night since… maybe, last September?  I’m hungry.  I can’t find any of my old workout gear.  I’m always a bit out of sorts.

But most of the things that feel different this time around hinge on being a regular person who has done what regular people do as seven or eight years lapse: we get older.  And the older I get, the more myself I’ve become, for better or worse.  For better, I am more confident and self-assured than ever before.  I care less who is passing me, or what I’m wearing, or how long it takes me to get where I am going.  Mostly because I’m doing my best… just to get where I am going.  For worse, well, I somehow managed to both drop and kick my own iPhone during a run last week.

Above all, I am more grateful than ever to be able to run.  Running longer and faster each week, especially after months of feeling sort of like an alien in my own body, has been so gratifying.  More importantly, I’m learning to make peace with being a perpetual work in progress.  I have the deepest appreciation for my body and all that it can do.

I cherish those minutes and miles alone with my thoughts and prayers, especially during a week such as this one, when there is so much going on in our world to be sad, worried and upset about.  I am thankful to have an outlet for the stress and anxiety that builds up over the day and follows me home.  I am proud to be making time to take care of myself, so I can do a better job taking care of my family.

In life, we get very few chances to begin again.  And these days, being a beginner feels just as good as being a marathoner.

Also On Tap for Today:

Have you had the chance to start over from the beginning?

 

Today: Easy paint projects.

You know that saying, A little goes a long way?  That’s the theme today.  Got a little paint leftover from a bigger project (say, that time your husband painted the nursery while you spent the day eating ice cream)?  Or maybe you can’t bear to throw away a nearly empty bottle of nail polish?  Or perhaps you’re simply making room for creativity (Yes, my people! Yes!) and want to use what you have hanging around.  Like… your keys.  Or your roommate’s nail polish.

I’ve got just the project (or two) for you.

Easy paint projects

Plant markers

It could just be me, but um… most plants sort of look alike. Until the flowers or fruit or vegetables show up.  But until then, I’m like… Is this the cilantro or the jalapeño?  Does it need moderate or full sun?  Should I water this today or in a week?  And while I’m busy pondering, the thing dies.  Sad, but (kind of) true.

Super easy solution: Dip a popsicle stick in paint, wait for the paint to dry (obvi) and use a Sharpie or label maker to, you know, label the plant… and you’ve got yourself a semi-cool looking plant marker.  I like to pretend I ate four Yasso frozen Greek yogurt bars just for the sake of this project, but I ate them… for the sake of eating them.

Color code your keys

Another case of mistaken identity: Most of my keys, whether for my office or home, look like the other keys on my ring.  For months, I’ve spent the better part of five minutes trying to get into my own office each morning, branding myself as either super-unorganized or super-likely to be a robber.

While it may be tempting to label your keys something like “front door” or “office,”  that seems unsafe and you know my motto (safety first, fun second).  Instead, I broke out a few bottles of nail polish and color coded my keys.

I used 2-3 coats for each key, and found it only took a few minutes to dry.  With that said, I wouldn’t tempt fate and start this project right before you’re headed out the door.  Also, my office keys read “duplication prohibited.”  I am hoping decoration is okay.

DIY memo board

This project is a tiny bit more involved, but it’s a fun way to repurpose an unused or mismatched picture frame.  I was hoping to find a little memo board for Grace’s room, but I couldn’t find a non-hideous white board, so I picked up an inexpensive frame and made my own.

After removing the glass from the frame and carefully cleaning it, I applied three coats of mint green paint to the backside, letting each coat dry for an hour or so.  I used an oil paint pen to draw a little note on the frame, and up on the wall it went.  Right now we use it to keep track of library due dates and packing lists for day care, but eventually I’d like to use it to leave little love notes for my girl.  You know, once she can read.

ID your sunglasses

My family has precisely five things in common with the Kennedys:

  1. We’re New Englanders.
  2. We’re Catholic.
  3. We enjoy politics.
  4. We love the Cape.
  5. We wear Wayfayers.

We all spent the 4th of July together, and I accidentally stole my sister’s sunglasses at least four times.  I probably wore my dad’s glasses to the beach.  Who knows.  I might be wearing my brother-in-law’s glasses now, were it not for my semi-clever solution.  When we got back to Boston, I broke out the nail polish again, and painted a little dot of mint candy apple on the inside arm of my glasses.

A little bit of paint and suddenly I’m wearing my own glasses, opening all the right doors (with the right keys), and packing precisely what Grace needs for the day.  Oh, and yes.  I can safely distinguish between our jalapeno and cilantro plants.  Mostly because we now have a hearty crop of peppers.

Also On Tap for Today:

What is your favorite way to use up that last bit of paint?

Today: Making room for creativity.

I first started blogging in 2006 or 2007 because I was feeling a bit stuck and needed a creative outlet that didn’t require expensive supplies or an expansive workspace.  I’ve always gravitated toward writing and other forms of expression and thrive when I have projects to keep me busy, challenged and creatively engaged.  If I don’t have at least 56 projects going, I get bored.  And when I get bored, I get cranky.  And when I get cranky, welp… I’m sorry.

Lately, I’ve been craving something a little messier than writing.  If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the recent snapshots of my sketchbook.  I was hesitant to share those photos at first, but something I’m working on lately is letting go of perfection (Lord, is that ever a process.).  Like, in all facets of life.  So far, that’s not going perfectly so well.

As a student, I had a tendency to re-do and re-re-do and re-re-re-do drawings and paintings, trying to “fix” every imperfection.  A certain drawing professor (whom my sister and I grew to both love and be terrified of) once called my drawings overwrought.  I would have been upset, but I was too busy fending off that random girl in our class who kept stealing our artists tape.

Now that I’m a grown-up (and no one’s after my tape stash), I get it.  Also: I consider myself more of a casual dabbler than an artist, and I’ve decided casual dabblers can make as many mistakes as they want.

Back on topic: I need room to be creative.  Like, even more than I need Junior Mints.  Or Diet Coke.  Or clean socks (we all know I hate socks, so that was kind of a bad example).  You don’t need to be a painter or an opera singer to be creative.  And often times that creativity comes naturally. Other times you may be stuck when working on a new recipe or article or trying to problem solve at work.

Believe it or not, creativity can be learned.  (and, according to this Forbes article “creativity is far and away the most important skill needed to ‘thrive.'”)  You don’t need to wear all black, or have some sort of emo haircut, or be in the drama club (though all those things are perfectly good).  You don’t need to be a “creative type” to be creative or to benefit from creative thinking or practices.

Hopefully these ideas will help you make a little bit of room in your brains (or day, or spirit, or whatev) for creative solutions and projects.

Making room for creativity

Rethink your routine

Like most humans, I’ve caught myself making the old “I don’t have time” excuse.  Real talk: If “x” (whether that’s doodling, or running, or eating well, or calling your mum) is important, you can make time.  I promise.  It’s possible.

If you’re adding something new to your day, like a sketching routine or revisiting the piano lessons of your childhood, you may need to reconfigure your schedule a bit.  I wish there were a magic way to add an hour to your day, or a day to your week, but let’s be serious.  I am not a magician (and frankly, they creep me out).  There are only 24 hours in the day.  If you want more time, you need to either wake up earlier, or stay up later.  Or you know, skip 20 minutes of television watching (that’s not an admonishment, I’m thinking specifically of my undying devotion to Jeopardy!).

I’m a fan of that quiet time in the morning when Grace has gone back to sleep for a bit (hopefully) after eating at 4 or 5 AM and the sun is just starting to rise in Boston (…it was less lovely this winter when it was still pitch black, but hey).  If I am not dead tired, I’ll putter around the condo a bit or grab some tea on the deck and watch the sky put on a show.  For me, everything feels possible in the morning.  For others, this may be true at night.

Carve our your time and protect it.

Arm yourself

Carry a sketch pad, or journal, or violin, or wooden birdhouses and paint… or whatever with you.  That way, when inspiration (or a free five minutes between meetings) strikes, you are armed and ready.  On second thought, leave the birdhouses and paint at home.  That project got a little messy.

A note about sketchpads:  If possible, I recommend buying a few in person (like, in a real store rather than buying them online) mostly so you can get a feel (literally) for the paper quality.  Inexpensive is good, but cheap and flimsy is maybe not so good.  Check out a few different brands and be sure you like the weight and texture.  If you’re using ink or watercolors, you may want to invest in a sketchbook designed for mixed or wet media.

I have a little travel watercolor set that I just love, some pens and a few sketchpads that fit easily into my handbag (which, in truth, is gigantic – but I think they’d fit in a normal sized bag too… especially if you remove the diapers, the wipes and Sophie the giraffe).  I usually draw first, and that add color later.

Accept a challenge

It takes all of two minutes on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll find enough doodle-a-day or photo-a-day prompts to last you ’til 2033.  While participating in challenges like these can be fun in real-time, I always feel a wee bit guilty when I lose momentum and  forget to post a photo… on the second day.  Using challenge prompts for inspiration, instead, eliminates the guilt factor.  Scroll through a list the next time you find yourself asking, “What should I draw?” or “What should I write about?” or “What should I name my new harmonica jam?”

You might also consider creating your own sort of challenge.  Maybe you want to commit to writing daily, even if it’s a line or two.  Or perhaps you’d like to blog or vlog (I will forever think those two words are weird) for a month.  Deadlines and due dates and schedules can be helpful to some, but limiting to others.  As Plato and a bunch of other old people used to say, Know thyself.

Set it to shuffle mode

Yes, I am talking about music.  And yes, I am talking about other things too.  Lately I’ve been both enjoying and being overwhelmingly mortified by my digital music library.  I got bored with my playlists and started defaulting to shuffle, so my commute usually sounds something like this:

  • Weird Christmas song
  • Tupac
  • A song about (but not by) Tupac
  • Michael Jackson
  • The soundtrack to Summer Heights High
  • Ambient Reiki or yoga music
  • Sad Whitney Houston song
  • More Michael Jackson
  • Jock Jams
  • Another weird Christmas song
  • An awesome Christmas song
  • Three different versions of Raffi’s “Baby Beluga”
  • Another sad Whitney Houston song
  • A HIDDEN GEM!

Those hidden gems – the songs you haven’t heard in ages – make the embarrassment of having downloaded an entire Glee album (But seriously, when did I do that? I never liked the show.) worthwhile.  Those songs might remind you of a specific time, place or person and may help to inspire your next project.

Other ways you can embrace shuffle mode: Open the newspaper (they still exist, I assure you) and read the first article you land on.  Scroll through your phone and call the first person you see (it helps to maybe do a clean sweep of your phone and delete those randoms — you know: first name “Mary”, last name “From Yoga Class 2011″– first).  Close your eyes, point to the menu, and order (disclaimer: not safe if you have food allergies).

 Enjoy a change of scenery

I’m a big believer in the power of a simple change of scenery.  We’re lucky that we can see the ocean from one side of our condo, and skyscrapers from the other.  If you look directly out the front of our building, you’ll likely see one of my neighbors running some sort of insurance scam involving a neck brace and various other medical accessories, but that’s another story.

Regardless, one way to get creatively “unstuck” is to move.  Duh.  Take a quick walk, make a day trip to the country, visit a farm and pet some animals, enjoy a friend’s garden, spend the afternoon in the library or a bookstore reading through travel books, go for a hike, take a nap on the beach.  When you’ve got new or different things to look at, your perspective is bound to change.

Oh, and this should go without saying, but… please don’t be like,

“Elizabeth!  I took your advice!  I saw sort of a weird, dark, kind of dangerous looking alley… and, um, I thought it might inspire me… so I walked down it.  And now I am missing my wallet.  AND AN EAR!”

Very Van Gogh, but also very NOT OKAY.  Be careful and be safe.  Think with your right brain while using your left brain.  Please.

Pick up your camera.  Or don’t.

These days, quite a bit of life is experienced from behind the screens of our smart phones or tablets (do I need to mention Google Glasses?  Does anyone out there wear them?).  On one hand, I love being able to take a quick photo of something that grabs my attention or type a quick note about a book title or upcoming event.  On the other hand, I know I miss all kinds of things by being glued to my phone.  I try to use my actual camera as much as possible for this reason.  I only dig it out when I want to capture something… and I see those “somethings” because I am not preoccupied by looking at my camera.  Mostly because it’s just a camera.  It can’t text my sister a sloth pic.

Wheewwww.  This was a long one.  Think of everything you could have created and accomplished if you didn’t bother to read this post.  My apologies.

Also On Tap for Today:

How do you make room for creativity in your day?  What are you working on lately?

Today: Six months of Grace.

Six months ago, we were waking up (from–maybe–an hour of sleep, but waking up nevertheless) for the first time as a family of three.  Grace’s basinet was wheeled up against one side of my hospital bed, and Nick was on a cot on the other side.  My arm was stiff from having slept with it draped ever so carefully across Grace’s tiny, swaddled body.  We had only know her for a few hours, but I couldn’t bear to not hold Grace, even for a minute.  I peeked over at her little round cheeks, her button nose, and dark lashes and cried the happiest tears of my life.  I couldn’t believe she was ours.

Six months have passed, and I still can’t believe she is ours.  She’s sleeping (more like, cat napping) in her own room.  She’s rolling from one side to another and trying to scoot.  She’s got three teeth on their way.  She’s eating solid foods.  She can babble and yell and squeal.  She’s sits up on her own… until she tips forward… and then she tries again.

She makes us happy, she makes us whole.  These have been the best six months of my life.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Whipping up some farm stand soup
  • Finishing up plans for Grace’s Christening
  • Attempting to organize six months worth of photos

What makes you happiest these days?

Today: The Weekend According to Instagram #29

Let’s be serious: It was time for the sleep-deprived lady to ditch the Roman numerals.

The Weekend According to Instagram #29

1.  Our little deck garden has really taken off this week.  We’ve got more cherry tomatoes and basil than I know what to do with… so I am eating all of them.

2.  As I shared last week, I recently started using the Couch to 5k app and am embracing the opportunity to start fresh.  I woke up Friday and thought “Yes! It’s Friday (standard Friday thought)! I get to run tonight!”  I can’t remember the last time I felt that way about running.  I think I stopped running and switched to rowing at CrossFit two months before Grace was born, but long before that I hadn’t run for the sake of running in ages.  I broke out my KIND tank (given to me by the lovely KIND folks at FenwaYoga) and was thankful for the opportunity to be kind to my body and brain while out on the Harborwalk by myself for a little bit.  Speaking of KIND, they are launching a really great program in Boston tomorrow.  As the “official snack partner” of the Boston Red Sox, KIND is working with Red Sox Nation and the rest of the city to spread kindness this summer.  #KINDBoston launches tomorrow and fellow Bostonians are invited to share their ideas for making Boston a kinder place to live and work.

From KIND:

For every kind act submitted, KIND will donate a piece of sporting equipment (up to $5,000) to the Red Sox Foundation’s RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program, which teaches inner-city youth the importance of being kind on and off the field. KIND will also bring select kind acts to life in August to demonstrate how small actions can make a big difference.

#KINDBoston will debut at Fenway Park on Tuesday, July 29, with KIND honoring an RBI player and coach who embody kindness. Fans attending the Red Sox game that evening will be able to share their ideas before exiting the ballpark. Anyone not in attendance will be able submit via Twitter using #KINDBoston until August 31.

3.  Now that Grace is a bit more mobile, she and Clark have become fast friends.  She loves to roll towards him and reach for his wrinkly mug, and he is being as patient as I could have hoped.  They spent Saturday morning cozied up together, surrounded by various baby maracas, tambourines and stuffed monkeys.

4.  It would seem my Instagram feed was very food-focused this weekend.  We went to see my parents on Saturday afternoon and brought some  strawberries, blueberries and blackberries with us.  You can’t go wrong with berries. (You know how if you type a word too many times, it totally looks weird… that just happened.  Berries.)

5.  On our way back to the city, we stopped at the farm stand in my parents’ neighborhood and filled up a basket of carrots, Romaine lettuce, cherries and onions.

6.  More food:  After seeing this recipe for yogurt breakfast popsicles on The Kitchn, I thought I’d give it a try.  I mixed Greek yogurt, gluten free granola and some raspberry preserves in an ice cube tray (which, technically, I bought for freezing baby food… but hey) and let it freeze overnight.  The result: messy, but tasty.  Perhaps they would make a good addition to a smoothie.

7.  This is what Clark (my official snack partner) looked like while I sampled the aforementioned frozen yogurt bites. #gimmesome

8.  And this is what Grace looks like when she’s being a goofball, which is quite often lately.  She has been such a smiley girl these past few weeks.  I think she’s enjoying all her newly acquired skills (yelling and rolling are her favorites).

9.  Oh… and she ate her first solid food this weekend!  It was so much fun to watch her reaction (she mostly looked horrified) as she tasted her first few bites of pureed sweet potato. I promised Allison a post on feeding Grace solids and look forward to sharing our experiences with that… once we have… a bit more experience with that.  In the meantime, I highly recommend Lucy’s List and their series on starting solids.  Oh, one thing I know for sure: You do not need to bake and puree three whole sweet potatoes for one small baby.  That’s, like, two and a half too many.  Trust me.

Also On Tap for Today:

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Today: DirtyGirl Mud Run 2014 and being a beginner again.

I’m usually partial to good, clean fun.  Mostly because I am lazy and don’t like cleaning up messes.  This weekend, however, was a bit of a departure.  My sister and I ran our first DirtyGirl 5k on Saturday morning and I swear, I am still smiling.  Also: 4 showers later, I am still finding mud in various places.  Like way inside my ear.

I’ve participated in one other mud run before, and it happened to be on the same course at the Amesbury Sports Park.  Nick and I ran together, and by together, I mean that he blazed ahead and I met him at the finish line six hours 30 minutes after he started his celebration beer.  It had rained quite a bit before the event, and the narrow and steep trails felt, welp… super dangerous.  People were falling left and right and on one another.  The obstacles were fun, but it was hard to run between them due to the thick mud.  Basically, I fell from one obstacle to the next.  I was happy I participated, but not eager to sign up for another event.

When the folks at DirtyGirl reached out to me, however, I was starting to run again (this was shortly after Grace was born, but before I broke my toe… I think) and was looking for a race to train for.  I convinced my sister to join me and figured if nothing else, we’d have fun together.  And did we ever.

Before and After (and yes.. that is mud ON MY TEETH.)

I hadn’t run since the whole toe thing, so to say I was undertrained would be an understatement.  At the same time, carrying around a 13 lb. baby in a 35 lb. car seat and practicing inversions while she sleeps has paid off, making those climbing obstacles a breeze.  I tried my best to keep up with my sister (who actually, you know, works out), but if nothing else, those walking breaks served as great motivation to be thoughtful about future goals and training.

Getting back into shape (whatever that means, seeing as I feel like I am a totally different shape) after having Grace has been humbling, which is both challenging and freeing.  The slate is wiped clean, so to speak.  After dropping my sister off, I took a ridiculously long shower and then promptly downloaded the Couch to 5k app.  Having completed two marathons and countless other races, it bruises my ego a bit to think of myself as a beginner, but hey… that’s where I am right now.  I think my new mantra has something to do with meeting myself where I am, not where I was.  Also:  I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all okay.

Back to the mud: At one point, I was doubled over with laugher when my sister looked at me and yelled “AAAAH!  You have a mustache!”  I had nothing clean to wipe my face with, so on we went.  I swear, I laughed for the full 5k.  Which explains how I got mud on my teeth.  Gross.  I have never been so eager to see the professional photos from an event.

I kept thinking, I wish every workout could be this fun.  While there can’t always be giant inflatable obstacles and tutu-clad competitors alongside me, I bet infusing some of that playfulness into my training or yoga practice would do some good.

DirtyGirl Mud Run 2014: The Highlights

  • The course was the perfect balance of muddy, yet still run-able.  While I had take breaks to walk here and there (those hills are no joke), you really could run this course.  It took us just under 40 minutes to complete the 3.1 mile loop, including obstacles… and two laughing induced asthma attacks.
  • The obstacles were so much fun.  They were challenging, but not impossible and unlike similar events, you can opt-out, if you choose.
  • No offense, dudes, but there’s just something about an all female event…
  • The event had a really positive, supportive vibe.  Fellow runners cheered one another on and staff and volunteers were helpful and friendly.
  • From the parking and shuttle bus to the post-race showers and everything in between, the event was so well managed.

My sister and I are already looking forward to next year’s event (we’ve started recruiting teammates and designing our outfits… there may be sloths involved muhaha). To save on your registration to an upcoming Dirty Girl 5k, use the code BLOGFRIEND.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary entry to this event in exchange for writing articles for the DirtyGirl blog.  All the dirt shared here is my own.  Get it… dirt…?

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your current mantra?

Today: The Weekend According to Instagram XXVIII

We made a quick trip to Maine this weekend to see Nick’s parents, and made it back to the city in time for our niece’s birthday party.  By the time Sunday evening rolled around, I was ready to face plant into bed… but forced myself to do laundry first.  You know, so I would have something to wear come Monday morning.

Oh, and before we dig into my own Instagram feed, I came across something worth sharing this morning: Brendon and Danielle are hosting a fantastic yoga challenge (starting today) that focuses on modifications.  I love that there is room for everyone to practice in yoga, and this challenge reflects that.

Okay.  Let’s look at pictures of my trunk.  And the harbor.  And my dog.

The Weekend According to Instagram XXVIII

Follow me on Instagram: @ElizabethEv

  1. This is what “packing light” looks like these days.  After visiting my parents on the Cape over the 4th, we had a pretty good sense of what was necessary and what we could leave home.  I am not sure why I packed 100 diapers for a 36 hour trip, but hey. In addition to the obvious (ye olde Pack ‘N Play), we have a couple baby items that have been great for travel: this Skip Hop outdoor blanket which folds up beautifully and easily wipes clean (bonus points for for detachable insulated bag – we used this for Grace’s rash guard and swim diaper last weekend) and the Puj Flyte infant bath, which also folds up (sensing a theme?) and fits in most sinks.  I was afraid Grace had outgrown the Flyte (we used it for her first few baths at home), but it actually works even better now that she’s, welp… sturdier.
  2. I will never tire of this view. Dusk in Boothbay Harbor is just incredible.  I remember one of my art history professors in college talking about how the light in Maine is magic.  I thought he was high.  Now I think he was just telling the truth (also, he could have been high).
  3. Other magical things in Maine: This aptly named “Little House” nestled just along the harbor.  When I’m old I want to live in a little house (specifically: a tiny house).
  4. I’ve been sharing pages from my sketchbook lately on Instagram.  I’ve always loved to draw, but I’m finding it especially productive as a way to quiet my brain a bit at the end of the day.  I’m the first to admit that I’m tightly wound and the last few months?  On another level.  I’ve been breaking out some paper, a pen and a set of watercolors most nights after Grace goes to sleep (and, inevitably, before she wakes up again).  There were a few Audubon field guides at the cottage (plus, like… real birds outside…), hence the, um... birdoodles.
  5. An old, old wooden ship.
  6. Clark loves heading North.  He also loves pretending to play guard dog behind decorative screen doors.
  7. How I close out the weekend: brewing a pitcher of peppermint tea to sip cold throughout the week.  Super refreshing.  The Yogi Tea quotes help.
  8. New animal obsession: hedgehogs.  I picked up this set of notecards at Target (no surprise there).  More hedgehog cuteness: Biddy the Hedgehog’s Instagram account.  He fits in the palm of your hand, he visits National Parks, he is magnificent.
  9. Aaaaaaand a tiny OOTD: Grace’s party dress for her cousin’s birthday.  Wouldn’t be a party without a bow.

Hope you had a lovely weekend, too.

Also On Tap for Today:

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Today: The Weekend According to Instagram XXVI

It’s been a hundred years several months since I shared a Weekend According to Instagram update. Mostly because I was trying to learn Roman numerals and figure out what came after XXV.  Just kidding.  Or am I?

Regardless, we really packed quite a bit of fun into the past two days.  I wish every day was a summer weekend day.  Except, like, Christmas.  Obviously.

The Weekend According to Instagram XXVI

  1. After Nick got home from CrossFit and I finished a little yoga on the deck and a walk with my lovely friend Alyson, we headed down to my parents’ house for some pool time.  Grace is still too young to wear sunblock (though our pediatrician did say we could test a tiny patch on her arm, she emphasized that our best bet is keeping her out of the sun altogether), so we broke out her ridiculous sun hat and rash guard for quick dip.  She seemed a bit shocked at first and was clearly holding on for deal life, but I have a feeling we’ve got a water baby on our hands.
  2. We spent lots of time outside this weekend, including a little Sunday evening stroll around the neighborhood with the Frenchie.  Earlier in the day, Grace and I met up with our mom/baby friends and JP and then picked up Nick for our baptism prep class and some lunch in the Back Bay.
  3. There is more Black Mass filming being done in our neighborhood this week.  On one hand, it’s rather exciting to have Johnny Depp walking around, but on the other, it was a pretty unnerving to see signs about forced busing at the old Southie High last night.  Sure, the fresh paint on the street is part of a movie set, but the busing crisis was a real and critical time in the city and neighborhood’s history, one with powerful and lasting effects.
  4. On a lighter (only 100 calories and not the least bit depressing) note: I am going to eat 600 Yasso frozen Greek yogurt bars this summer.  2 down, 598 to go.  I received a coupon for a free box a few weeks ago and highly recommend the sea salt caramel flavor (we’re already onto our second box), best enjoyed with your feet up on the deck.  Oh, and save your popsicle sticks.  I’ve got an easy DIY project coming up later this week.
  5. Nick and I had our first date night (5 months in the making!) since becoming parents.  Mom on the loose!  We were able to get last minute tickets to Amaluna and my sister and brother-in-law generously offered to babysit.  It was really nice to get out for a bit, especially knowing Grace (and Clark) were in such good hands.  The pictures my sister took of Zach and Grace together basically melted my heart.  Uncle Z is the coolest.
  6. We were home before dark (and I nearly fell asleep during intermission — I need to step up my game if I want to convince Nick to go on a second post-baby date anytime soon), just in time to catch this beautiful sunset over the city.

I already want this summer to last forever.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • After watching Tiny, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of moving into a tiny house… maybe, like… in 20 years
  • If you have a lot of free time on your hands before the 4th, make these and impress your friends.
  • 10 easy DIYs for the 4th via Buzzfeed (Red, white and blue jorts for everyone!)

What was the highlight of your weekend?