I’ve always looked at spring and fall as transition times, not giving them the full respect of actual seasons. Spring gets us to summer (Thank you, Jesus). And fall gets us to winter (Happy Birthday, Jesus… and, in the case of winters such as the last one, Help us, Jesus). These are months for passing through, for preparing.
This has never felt more true than this year, as I look ahead to our son’s arrival and attempt to (sort of) have my act together before that moment. I’ve made lists (and added to them, like… an unhealthy amount). I’ve even accomplished several items on those lists. I’ve pinned all kinds of crap to Pinterest boards and tried to imagine what the holidays will be like with a newborn and a nearly-two-year-old (the words magical and wild come to mind… I like both). I thought about making and freezing food to tide us over on the most wild days… but I mostly just ate it.
I’ve Googled things like “How do you dress up yoga pants?” and “Okay, but what if I no longer own a Beadazzler?” and “Skinny black tuxedo pants are out of the question” and “Does dry shampoo really work miracles?” and “Right, but it’s possible that I haven’t showered in days.” and “Why are you being so mean, Google! In this imaginary scenario, I JUST had a baby!” And then I feel badly for wasting twenty minutes that could have been spent organizing baby clothes or making homemade jam for Christmas gifts. Or, you know… napping.
My mind was feeling particularly busy this morning. I must have been making more lists in my head on the way to Grace’s gymnastics class (which is basically the most amazing, most adorable hour ever), because I pulled into the parking lot without remembering most of the 30 minute drive.
I’m doing all this preparing and passing through, and completely missing the view. This is an actual season, despite my being prejudiced against orange and yellow and red and brown and turkeys. It’s one that provides the opportunity to (spoiler alert!) dress Grace like a strawberry and Clark like a banana, stick them in a very oversized yogurt cup (that I need to invent) and call them a smoothie. It’s one that makes me kind of itchy, but doesn’t make my hair frizzy… so I can forgive the allergies. It’s one that brings us apples (and therefore, apple crisp) and leggings and dark nail polish and hot tea.
Instead of just passing through, I’m trying to stay for a while.
If I see or hear one more back to school commercial… Lord, help me. Because of all that snow, the last day of school in Boston this year was June 29th, which was basically five minutes ago. So, please… let’s keep those school supplies out of sight for at least another month.
[Also, this is the first time since I was in kindergarten that my life doesn’t essentially revolve around an academic calendar. So that’s kind of weird. After graduating, my work was largely tied to school partnerships and while I never had a summer break, things always really ramped up in September. Now that I’m home, I think Grace, Clark and I will spend September at the beach. Or, like… doing laundry.]
This isn’t a post about graphing calculators (do kids still use those?), though… right? Right.
Like it’s 95 degrees and I am pregnant (because it is, and I am)
Excited about our upcoming vacation
Like life has changed so much in the past two months. “Clean out the pantry” has been on my to do list since June, I sometimes forget to shower, and I caught myself having a semi-serious (albeit one-sided) conversation with my dog yesterday. But I don’t think I could be happier being home with Grace.
As much fresh produce as I can get my hands on– tomatoes and berries, especially. I loved our trips to the farmers market (here and here) this month.
900 popsicles a day
“On the Way to School,” a beautiful documentary about several children and the challenges the overcome (in most cases, daily) to get to school. It’s surprisingly uplifting. And I want everyone to watch it. (It’s available on Netflix.)
File these next two under much less enlightened: Candidly Nicole on Hulu+ (fellow Simple Life fans, rejoice!) and Naked and Afraid XL on Discovery. Both make me laugh, like, a lot.
Some fun little sketches and paintings in my new sketchbook (details here). I got out of the habit of painting daily this month, but have started to get back on track this week.
Playlists galore. We’ve been in the car a lot (going from one fun thing to the next), and making good use of that Spotify subscription.
A plan for the second half of the summer and a list of everything I’d love to do, see, and enjoy
Lots of Chatbooks (they’re 20% through today with the code HOLDON) — I am officially obsessed after making a little book of photos from our 4th of July on the Cape.
Lots of great workouts. I absolutely love the outdoor bootcamp (yes, even in the blazing heat) I’ve been attending and have started working in prenatal yoga videos a couple times a week.
Swimming as much as possible. We’ve been in the water a lot this month, from swimming class with Grace to pool days at my parents’ house and dips in the ocean in Southie and on the Cape.
An unusual (but welcomed) desire to make plans. No one would mistake me for a social butterfly, but maaaaan, I love spending time with our friends and family.
Also On Tap for Today:
I love this Zen Habits article and I think you will, too: How to Breathe
We’ve kept the happiest news under wraps (and oversized teeshirts) for long enough…
I am thrilled to share that Grace will be a big sister this December. Nick and I are over the moon. Grace doesn’t really know what’s going on (but she appreciates the balloons). And Clark, welp… he’s taking a nap.
This wonderful life just keeps getting better.
Oh and yes… those blue balloons mean we’re having a boy! Yayayayayay.
Who needs a vacation alarm clock (set for 3 hours earlier than you desire to wake up), when you have a toddler at the foot of your bed?
I woke up like this. With Grace pinching my toes and yelling, “Hellooooo!”
In an effort to spare the rest of our family the 4:30 wake-up call over the 4th of July weekend, we snuck out for some early morning walks down to the beach. The Cape might be my favorite place on Earth. Except for the place where they make popcorn (I’ve never been to a popcorn factory, but I just know it’s magical).
Not a bad way to start the day.
We covered 3.5 miles on Friday on our own, and 2.5 miles on Saturday with my brother and sister-in-law and their own mini-human alarm clock, my niece.
6 AM pajama parties on the beach are the best.
And with the entire world still sleeping, we had the beach to ourselves and our pick of the prettiest shells.
Any day we are lucky enough to wake up at the Cape (even if it’s at 4 AM), we are lucky enough.
This time last year, I was wearing a very unattractive, very orthopedic boot thing, having tripped over Grace’s bouncy chair and subsequently broken a toe… just an hour and a half before my family showed up for Mother’s Day brunch at our condo. (Also: My parents were trapped at an airport somewhere, so the guest of honor wasn’t there to be showered with praise and gifts and affection… and to listen to me moan about my toe.)
Ready to party. Or something.
In addition to being temporarily physically crippled, I can’t say I was in the best shape mentally, or whatever, either. I had been back at work (after a not-so-work-free maternity leave) for a few weeks, was getting up to nurse Grace every couple of hours, couldn’t find anything that fit (nor that matched the boot), and sort of had no idea what I was doing at any given moment. Having people over to a mostly-clean home, serving mostly-edible food, and not having an entirely unexpected crying episode provoked by a diaper ad, or a cheesy song, or a faint, passing breeze felt like a major, major accomplishment.
This time last year, I was second-guessing every decision I made, and agonizing over the longterm effects those decisions would have on Grace. Was she eating too little? Was she eating too much? You’ll notice I wasn’t asking myself if she was sleeping too much, because… well… neither of us were sleeping.
I worried I was falling down (no pun intended… but sort of yes, pun intended because I really still can’t believe I tripped over that darn chair) as a wife. I had no idea how I would manage my work responsibilities and my family responsibilities. And how, on God’s green earth, was I ever going to get all the laundry done? Would my body always feel so foreign (and lumpy)? What would my first work trip away from Grace be like (Fortunately, I didn’t have the capacity at the time to imagine myself using a breast pump in a bathroom stall at the Detroit airport… but now I do. And you do, too. Sorry.)? Would I ever see my friends again (this would likely require staying up past 7 PM)? Would I ever have anything to talk about besides diaper pails? Would every single drop-off at daycare feel so heartbreaking?
It’s taken some time (and I don’t think my toe will ever be the same), but my goodness… What a difference a year makes. I’m not perfect (you should see what I’m wearing) and life’s not perfect, but so much has changed for the better. It’s amazing what a little time and confidence (and SLEEP!) can do.
Last weekend I had the chance to celebrate Mother’s Day with my parents and family on Saturday, and with Nick, Grace and Clark on Sunday. And I felt calm. And relaxed. And happy. And grateful. And I couldn’t help but notice that life is sort of following the seasons this time around. Not only is it actually (finally!) Spring, but I’m in the middle of my own transition of sorts. And it’s full of (I almost said “blooming with”… but I stopped myself) promise and excitement and optimism and a “who knows what might happen?” sort of thing.
At the end of this week (though it’s been in the works for months… aren’t I a good secret keeper? Tell me everything!), I’ll be stepping down from my role at an organization I’ve been with for eight years to be home with Grace.
I sort of always thought I would work (in the capacity I’ve been used to working, like, in an office). And I am realizing now, as I make this transition, how much of my ego and self-worth have been tangled up in being busy. And important. And in charge. I’ve also come to see, though, how much of my last eleven or so years have been spent moving from one mini-crisis to the next, closing out the day with just barely enough energy to be a semi-normal, non-awful person. The good has far outweighed the bad (truly), though, I have loved my work. I have loved the people I have worked with. I have loved the people I’ve had the privilege of serving. I have loved the challenges and the lessons and the surprises.
I know there will be pieces of all this that are not easy, but I also know how lucky I am to have options. It took a lot of confidence and courage to make this choice, but I wouldn’t be able to make the choice if I didn’t have options. I know this is not always the case. Meanwhile, that new boss of mine? She’s pretty cute.
For the first time since living in South Boston, we didn’t head out to watch the parade. Instead, I was being that mom at the pediatrician’s office. We got a contagious illness report from daycare this week (the dreaded conjunctivitis is going around), so when Grace started rubbing her eyes, I started becoming a nutcase. A word of advice: Don’t Google “pink eye” at three in the morning.
The nurse I spoke with this morning encouraged us to come in today, just in case. By the time 2 o’clock rolled around, I started to wonder if it was more likely Grace had accidentally squirted yogurt into her own eye, or that part of her bagel got in there or something. Needless to say: no conjunctivitis. I love our pediatrician, though (and the fact that they’ll see us on Sundays). We had no trouble getting out of Southie, but heading back in during the parade proved to be a bit more challenging.
One of the (presumably many) upsides to not being infected and being out and about? We had a little impromptu visit with my sister and brother-in-law during which Grace tried to eat a crayon and I learned that Selection Saturday is actually Selection Sunday. And I wonder why people don’t invite me to join their March Madness pools.
Oh but before I say anything else, sorry for talking about pink eye. I promise we did non-gross things this weekend too. Like the things pictured below.
The Weekend According to Instagram 32
First things first: The snow is melting… AND THINGS ARE GROWING. I spotted these little sprouts alongside our driveway on Sunday afternoon and literally shrieked in delight. I immediately emailed a photo to my husband and our neighbors. And I’m now taking bets on who thinks I’m crazier, our neighbors or Grace’s pediatrician. This weekend was great for my personal brand. Whatever that means.
Our neighborhood is ready for St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t want to live any where else. Most of the time.
A little weekend doodling. Watercolor + pen + birds.
I am obsessed with the artwork on these seed packets from the Hudson Valley Seed Library. I am kicking myself for not buying their calendar at the Flower Show.
Aaaand another photo from this year’s Boston Flower and Garden Show. Nick and I always talk about living in a tiny house one day, and I think I found the one this weekend. Technically, I think this is more of a garden shed, but I am pretty sure there’s room for Grace and Clark’s imaginary bunkbeds. And if I take after my maternal grandfather at all (which I hope I do), I’m only going to get shorter so…. I think it will work.
After the Flower Show, we ducked out of the rain and grabbed tacos across the street at Rosa Mexicana. Aren’t my lunch dates adorable?
I started Saturday morning with a big cup of organic peppermint amour and some to do list-ing. Of the 900 things on the list for the weekend, I think I accomplished 3. One of those things was “make a to do list.” Can’t win ’em all.
A peek at my art journal (you’ll find more pages here and here).
Did anyone else read Richard Scarry books as a kid? They were a family favorite of ours. I ordered a copy of Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever for Grace and seriously… it’s the best word book ever. Not surprisingly, her favorite page is the one where the bear gets dressed. She is all about her shoes these days.
Real talk: This has been a bit of a challenging week. In a good way, but also in an exhausting, nerve-fraying way. I knew spending some time making crap would help. And it did.
I worked on most of these pages in one sitting. And that sitting happened to be on the sofa, with a bowl of peanut butter cups, after Grace was sound asleep, with our temporarily disabled Frenchie snuggled close, while Nick watched the CrossFit Open live announcement.
I didn’t want to break out all of my art stuff, mostly because I didn’t want to give up any space already occupied by Clark. Or the peanut butter cups. Limiting my materials proved to be surprisingly helpful. I spent less time thinking about what to use, and more time using what I had in my lap. Also, using permanent black ink while sitting on a cream colored sofa? This is me living on the edge, people.
One of the prompts was “What would the world be like devoid of love?” I can tell you, I wouldn’t want to live in that world. I worked quickly on this one, to avoid getting depressed (just kidding… kind of). I used black and grey watercolors (I’m obsessed with this travel set) with a water brush, a white paint pen and a red Micron.
I mostly stuck with black watercolor and black ink. The result: most of these pages look tense and moody. Which, frankly, is how I’ve felt lately. Until the sun came out on Wednesday… and I became a normal person again, along with everyone else in Boston.
I started the backgrounds for these pages a few days ago before having a clue what I wanted them to become. I used a thick coat of white gesso on the left side and added very watered down acrylics along with a spritz of watercolor while the gesso was still wet. On the right side, I used a more aggressive spritz of that same green watercolor and doodled a bit with a grey sign pen. I used black ink and a detail brush to paint the abstract-map-ish design on the left hand page, and used strips from a Chanel ad for the right hand page. I believe the letter stickers are from a Studio Calico kit, but my mind is full of Raffi songs at the moment, so I could be wrong.
One of the prompts for Week 4 was to describe the greatest act of love. This time of year, a lot of my work centers around families and clearly that’s on my mind (see the crop top photo below). There are so many different ways a family can come to be. I knew the second I heard Grace’s heartbeat that we belonged together. But I also know you don’t need a biological relation to belong to someone. This may not be my final answer, but I think that giving someone a place to belong, and being open to belonging to someone else, takes tremendous love.
I like how the hand-stitching from the previous page peeks through on the lower left. The stamp is from A Beautiful Mess, and I used black archival ink. Which never. Comes. Off. The ripped paper on the left is a e.e.cummings poem (supplied as one of the prompts). I can’t really decide if these pages are done are not. I’ve been trying to let them be, rather than over-work them. Perfectionist habits die hard (that’s a movie script Bruce Willis and I are currently co-writing.)
This photo is of me and my mom (I am the one wearing the hot shorts and crop top. That’s not something I get to say every day. Or, really… ever.) I am not sure if my head is actually shaped like that, or if I am scissors-challenged. The full quote is “We are born of love; love is our mother.” Preach it, Rumi. When working through many of this season’s prompts about love, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am to have come from such a loving home, and to have such a solid foundation. I love this photo and owe so much to my parents.
I’m already itching to sit back down with my sketch book. But I think I will stick to the table going forward. I’m certain I’ve jinxed myself with the ink on the sofa comment.
I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Blue Dragon. I received product samples and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.
Unless you’re living somewhere especially remote (and maybe especially tropical), you know that it’s snowing in Boston. And not just in a normal, Oh, it’s winter! sort of way.
We’ve run out of places to put the snow, but it keeps on falling. Our public transportation system effectively shut down at 7 o’clock last night (a few buses are running, but no trolley, subway or commuter rail service) and hasn’t reopened. Schools are closed. Again. My office building is closed. Again. Day care is closed (I’ll take all the family QT I can get). And there’s a happy Yeti roaming the streets.
All things considered, we’re faring pretty well. [Side note: I think this article, A Blizzard of Perspective, is well worth a read.] We have a safe, warm home, reliable tank-like transportation (snow tires 4 life), a stockpile of necessities (diapers, water, hot pink MagLites and batteries, tea and salty snacks), and, you know, one another.
Oh and food. This weather just begs for comfort food.
Is it me, or does being snowed in make us all extra hungry and a tiny bit lazy? Forget the Freshman 15, I’m working on the Snowmageddon 15. Just kidding. Kind of.
With the roads so messy, we can’t really order delivery in good conscience, so we’ve been enjoying some take out favorites at home, thanks to Blue Dragon and the generous package of goods they send our way.
In addition to the Chicken Pad Thai with Blue Dragon Pad Thai Stir Fry Sauce pictured above (how cute is that little take-out box?!), our Sunday night snowed in take-out menu also featured:
Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls with Blue Dragon Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce (vegetarian)
Stir fried tofu and vegetables with Blue Dragon Szechuan Pepper Stir Fry Sauce (also vegetarian)
I think this was my first time cooking with a wok, which Blue Dragon kindly sent me along with their delicious sauces, noodles, and rice paper wraps. Whipping up dinner was so quick and easy. I know we’ll be coming back to these recipes and sauces for busy mid-week dinners.
Blue Dragon is named after the Chinese symbol of good fortune and was founded thirty years ago to help people create authentic Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese dishes at home. Their sauces are available in several flavors including Szechuan Pepper (my favorite), Chow Mein and General Tao.
Sauces that are vegan and vegetarian are clearly labeled (this lady appreciates that!), and include a really helpful shopping list and suggested recipes (which can easily be made vegetarian) on the back.
Blue Dragon products are available locally at Roche Brothers, Shaws, Market Basket and Stop & Shop. Several stores are hosting tastings this month, including the Demoulas/Market Basket in Revere on February 14th and 23rd.
Looking to make your own take-out at home? I’m thrilled to be hosting a Blue Dragon giveaway today. One reader will win a fantastic cooking kit that includes:
Samples of Blue Dragon sauces
A wok and spatula!
Take-out containers and chopsticks
… five feet of snow not included
To enter, please comment below. One winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, February 17th.
Contest entrants are only eligible to win once per sweepstake, per household as part of a campaign sponsored by Influence Central. To learn more about Blue Dragon, you can find them on Facebook and YouTube, or check out their online cookbook, Chop To Chopsticks, for authentic Asian recipes and inspiration.
Technically, it’s been a year and five days, but hey.
Grace turned one last week. And what a fast, happy, wonderful, challenging, beautiful year it has been. I snuck into her room at 12:16 last Thursday (she was sound asleep, a rare occurrence) just to see her and watch her and think about that first time we met her at that very same time, on that very same night.
Yes, that barrette is for real.
Becoming and being a mother has been overwhelming in the best possible way. It has made me tougher and it has made me softer. It has made me infinitely more in love with the Universe, and it has made me infinitely more worried about things I never paid attention to before. Like electrical outlets. And the measles (don’t get me started). Being Grace’s mother has made me so proud of myself, but it has also put my ego firmly in check.
Being a parent has made me appreciate my own parents in a way I wish I could have before. Because I would have been a more grateful, more delightful, better behaved (maybe) child. I am hopeful that whole “better late than never” thing applies here. My parents are just the best.
I used to wonder why people called their children 13-month-olds and 17-month-olds and whatever. Mostly, I have no idea how people keep track (so math challenged). But when I think about how much Grace changes each day, let alone each week or month, I kind of get it. When you’re nearly 33, you really shouldn’t give your age in months. Because whether you just turned 32, or you almost 33, you’re pretty much the same person developmentally. In my case: still bad at small talk, still pretty great at color coding, still hate most pants and cooked vegetables, still love checking the mail and taking naps on my yoga mat.
Our 1 year old/12 month old, on the other hand, has become such a person since being the born. All the changes are both amazing and a tiny bit bittersweet.
She started talking a few months ago and seems to know new words every few days. Right now the b-words (not the b-word, not ever I hope) are her favorites: bath, bubbles, books, baby, and bye. We’ve practiced some baby sign language (this book has been a great resource) — Grace has mastered the signs for more, eat, milk, all done, and book.
She has 3 teeth (and 4 on the way), 900% more hair than even two months ago and the teeniest, cutest feet that fit in precisely zero pairs of shoes. The only thing more confusing than women’s jeans sizing is baby’s shoe sizing.
Grace is starting to let go of our hands and the furniture when standing up, but hasn’t started walking yet. She likes to dance, climb, crawl, and sneak her way over to the printer and cable box. She can point to people when we say their names, turn pages in her books, nod when she says “yes,” and wag her finger when someone says “no” (I still don’t know where she learned this — it’s both hilarious and kind of strange).
She is obsessed with Clark and recently started feeding and kissing and hugging him… and trying to take naps on top of him. He likes the first three, and tolerates the fourth.
Grace loves to eat. She likes being fed, and really enjoys feeding herself. She has mastered drinking water through a straw, and will soon stop taking a bottle at daycare. I am still breastfeeding her in the morning, evenings, at 2 AM or 3 AM or 4 AM (or whenever Grace feels like it) and on the weekends, but I’ve stopped pumping at work (hallelujah). I never imagined we’d make it this long (and it hasn’t been easy), but I am grateful.
We chose to name our baby Grace because we loved the name, but she really is such a grace in our lives. What a year it has been.
Oh and P.S.: If you’re in the early part of the first year of parenting (or really any time, but especially in the beginning), be gentle and kind with yourself. You are doing a great job.
Also On Tap for Today:
Ordering prints from Grace’s birthday party (photos to come, my friends!)