Tag Archives: Grace

Today: Get Messy Thursdays | Adventure, Week 5

This week I got got down to (messy) business a bit earlier than usual.  Most weeks, I spread out my art journaling over the better part of the week and wrap things up just in time for my Get Messy Thursdays post to go up.  With the holiday weekend upon us, however, I gave myself a time limit (1.5 hours on Tuesday) and let the creative vibes and liquid acrylics flow.

This is where the mess happens.  Believe it or not, all that crap tucks away neatly into a little handled container I found on clearance at Target.  It’s like the Transformers of art storage.  Except less cool.

Materials used: [left side] Sakura watercolor paints and a white gel pen (forever obsessed); [right side] Sakura watercolor paints, water brush, Sharpie pen

I made the right hand page on Friday afternoon, shortly after the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.  I cried happily as I listened to President Obama’s statement on the radio on my way home from working out (and man… later the same day, I would cry not so happily, listening to the President sing Amazing Grace in Charleston, South Carolina) and as soon as Grace went down for her nap, I broke out my watercolors and pens and started doodling.  What a powerful, moving day.  Love is love.

“God wants us to love.  And not a twisted , crabbed, narrow tolerance, which often comes in the guise of condemnations, instructions and admonitions that try to masquerade as love, but actual love… Love first.  Everything else later.  In fact, everything else is meaningless without love.” –Fr. James Martin, S.J.

I added the left hand page on Tuesday.  The quote is from a statement Fr. Jim Martin, S.J. made about the Catholic response to gay marriage.  For me, being Catholic is as much a part of my identity as my (mostly — sometimes I think I am more liberal than I really am) liberal social views– they go hand in hand.  And they’re rooted in a desire to see both God and good in all things, in all people.  So when I read Fr. Martin’s statement, I was like, Yessssssssss.

Materials used: Extra-sharp, extra-unsafe scissors; black gesso; magazine clippings(the letters are from an article about seaweed farming in Ireland… okay); Faber Castel gelatos; waterbrush; palette knife.

So it’s been a month since I left my job, and though they’ve been few and far between, I’m still fielding emails and calls from the office.  The other day it was one about a grant from 2007.  I wracked my brain, but could not (and still can’t) remember the last name of the development officer I worked with on that project.  Part of me was like, “Let it go, that was… how ever many years ago 2007 was.”  But another part of me was like, “OHMYWORD! You are suffering memory loss!  Your brain is disintegrating!  You are not playing enough Suduko!  You spend most of your day attempting to converse with a 17-month-old child and a six-year-old French bulldog!” 

One of this week’s Get Messy prompts was to use hand-cut letters from a magazine, photo, etc.  This seemed like a good exercise for my potentially aging brain.  I free cut them (no drawing letters ahead of time) and let me just say… not easy.  Once I got a few letters down, I tried to switch to my left hand, and managed to almost cut my other hand with the scissors… so I put a stop to that (safety first, brain health second).  

I filled in the gelato circles with a few adventurous bucket list items.  Is it weird that I really want to visit Mount Rushmore?

Materials used: Magazine clipping; Scotch masking tape with a ruler pattern (love this); Sakura watercolors; Micron pen

As sort of a foil to making plans and keeping a bucket list, I made this quick page using a photo of a man praying and a teaching from Buddha about dwelling in the present.  I could stand to work on being more mindful.  Like… a lot.

Materials used: Papernerd cutouts; Golden high flow acrylic paint; palette knife; white Faber Castell oil paint pen; blue Micron pen

This last page was really fun to make.  I used cutouts from Nina’s printable (she shared a little challenge on the Get Messy instagram account) and threw together an abstract background in response to one of this week’s art prompts.  I love how beautifully liquid acrylics blend.  I almost never use red (I once had a flaming red rental car and was all, Everyone is staring at me!), but really like how it turned out here.

Oh, and… red, white, blue… Happy Birthday, America.

Also On Tap for Today:

What colors (if any) do you avoid?  My wardrobe is black-on-black-on-black if that tells you anything.

 

Today: Currently | June 2015

And just like that, May is over and June has arrived.  Time flies when you’re having fun.  Or attempting to clean out your closets.  Or making a fresh start.  Or maybe just some fresh juice.

It’s been a week now since I’ve been office-less, business card-less, commute-less and fax machine-less.  I hesitate to call myself (or anyone else, for that matter) a “stay at home mom” because, like… we’ve been out of the house quite a bit since I left my job.  

It currently feels less like a life change and more like a vacation, but I think we’re all settling into this new way of being quite well.  I’m resisting the urge to over-schedule and fill up our days, but I also don’t want us to become weird shut-ins.  It’s all a careful balance (I think.  Who knows?).

Either way, here’s what I’ve been up to…

Currently | June 2015

Reading

  • Per usual, I’m late to the party, but I’m nearly finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  There are parts that were so funny (made even funnier by the fact that they were intended to be serious) that I cried.  Overall, though, I think it’s worth a read.  
  • When my mom asked for reading recommendations, I came up empty.  Because I can’t remember the last non-how-to-clean-your-house-book I read.  Not good.  Meanwhile, I was attempting to work some life-changing magic on our bookshelves when I came across an unread copy of J. Courtney Sullivan’s The Engagements.  I loved her first two books and am excited to get started on this.  Magic, indeed!  
  • Oh, and magazines.  They’re like books… for lazy people like me.

Watching

  • Lots of sunrises… because Grace has taken to getting up at 4:30 AM for the day, regardless of how early or late she has gone to bed.  The upside? We suddenly have an extra hour or two to our day (or something).  Our pediatrician recommended we check out this toddler alarm clock.  At first I thought she was kidding… but she hasn’t steered us wrong yet, so into the Amazon cart it goes!

Listening

  • Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”  It was playing in the Birmingham airport and I have been blasting it in the car ever since.  One of my first tapes was Whitney — I think I need to go Spotify the entire album.

Eating

  • We’re spoiled with Whole Foods just over the bridge in the South End, and a farmers market just around the corner (which opened for the season today!).  I can’t get enough of the early summer produce available — watermelons, berries, corn and tomatoes!

  • Lots of “hers and hers” meals.  Grace shares my love of snacking and enjoys a bit of variety at lunch and dinner.  I saw these adorable stainless steel divided bus plates on Peas and Crayons (thanks, Jenn!) and ordered a set for Grace.  They are perfect for plating toddler-sized portions of whatever I happen to be snacking on.  

Making

  • Progress on my “stuff to do around the house” list (how domestic, I know).  I’ve been adding to that list since we moved, but barely but a dent into it until this week.  So far, I’ve cleaned out my closet (three bags of clothes went to the Red Cross, and fourth went to ThredUp — we shall see how that goes), hung up our new artwork from Minted, packed up Grace’s 6 and 9 month clothes, cleaned out the super-cluttered, super-dangerous (mandolins!  knives!) kitchen utensil drawer, and purged most of our kitchen cabinets.  Next on the list: Change our wifi network name to Hillary Clinternet (this is a major priority), recycle every single scrap of paper in the house, find a new rug for the living room, make order out of the chaos that is our bathroom cabinet, and wrangle all those books and toys.

Feeling

  • Like this is going to be a really great summer.

Also On Tap for Today:

What is on your home “to-do” list?

Today: Get Messy Art Journal | Brave, Weeks 4-6

Two posts in one day!  It’s a miracle. I’m making up for the fact I’ve been MIA.  Time for another peek at my art journal!

Get Messy Art Journal | Brave, Weeks 4-6

Materials used: Embroidery floss and a giant, unsafe needle; Golden liquid acrylic and high flow acrylic paint; Blick liquid watercolors; Crayola crayons; Sakura watercolors sketchbox; black paper; Sakura white gel pen; salt water in a little spritzer bottle thing; washi tape

So this set of pages is basically a mess.  Which is fitting, this being Get Messy and all.  It took a while to let each layer dry, so it was sort of an exercise in patience (specifically, in Nick being patient with me leaving all this art crap all over our condo, all in the name of “building layers”).

I think I’ve shared this before, but I am weirdly in love with my own handwriting.  Not normal.  And not at all humble.  But true.  The quote is from composer Mohammed Fairouz’s recent interview with Krista Tippett on (my favorite podcast of all time) On Being.  You can read or listen to the full episode here, but the text I include comes from this exchange:

MS. TIPPETT: I read somewhere that you were — you began composing music at a very early age. And I read somewhere that you were setting the poetry of Oscar Wilde to music at the age of 7. Is that right? I…

MR. FAIROUZ: Yeah. It’s a song on a poem by Oscar Wilde that is called “The True Knowledge.” And it’s a beautiful poem. I took a stab at it when I was 7. And I have to admit, I didn’t understand the poem at all. But I gave another go at sort of trying to revive it. I revisited it in, I think, 2002 or something as an early piece and tried to fix it. And I’ve since stopped doing that because I realized that as a composer, we leave very important traces of who we are spiritually in the pieces that we compose. And so it’s actually best not to tamper with who you were ten years ago to be who you are today. Accept and perhaps even try to love who you were ten years ago. And be kind to yourself. But also look forward to who you want to be in a year.

Beautiful, right?  Every episode is this good.  I often listen on my commute to work, and have been forgoing safety and wearing headphones (always be aware of your surroundings, people!) between the parking lot and my office, so as to not have to stop listening.   

Materials used: Tissue paper; black gesso; Instax photo; Faber Castel Pitt pens; magazine clipping; scrap from one of Grace’s daily day care reports; label maker

For this spread, I incorporated the shapes and household objects (tissue paper, aluminum foil) prompts from Get Messy.  I used aluminum foil to apply black gesso… but it didn’t pan out very well, so I ended up going back over it with a palette knife.  With so much changing (and so soon), I wanted to capture a bit of daily life in these pages.  We’ve been having so many fun adventures now that the weather has improved, including a recent walk around Houghton’s Pond.  The scrap is a note from one of Grace’s teachers and includes details from her day.

It feels scattered, but that’s the kind of week I was having.

Materials used: Black gesso; white gelly pen; Sharpie white acrylic paint marker; card stock letters; liquid acrylic paint; detail brush; palette knife

Per usual, I saved my favorite pages for last.  This spread was the result of several happy accidents.  I’ve been reading a lot of Hafez lately and this poem was floating around in my brain, so when a blob of black gesso smudged from one page to the next, I immediately saw a bird.  And I got to work adding feet and feathers.  

The letters were originally all on the same page, but kept falling off… that’s how I realized the reverse side would look sort of cool on the opposite page.  Plus, YO + BIRD = Kind of fun as a stand alone page.  Here’s to happy accidents.  And birds. Or whatever.

To see more of my art journal: Love Weeks 1 + 2, Love Weeks 3 + 4, Love Weeks 5 + 6, Get Messy blog hop, Brave Weeks 1-3

Also On Tap for Today:

Are you a podcast fan?  What are you listening to lately?

Today: What a difference a year makes.

Oops.  This post is longer than anticipated. 

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.

Also On Tap for Today:

Looking back, what has changed most for you this year?

Today: The Weekend According to Instagram 32.

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

  1. 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.
  2. Our neighborhood is ready for St. Patrick’s Day.  I don’t want to live any where else.  Most of the time.  
  3. A little weekend doodling.  Watercolor + pen + birds.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.   
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. A peek at my art journal (you’ll find more pages here and here).
  9. 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.

Also On Tap for Today:

How was your Selection Sunday weekend? 

Today: Get Messy Art Journal | Weeks 3 + 4

Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement on my last art journaling post. I’m playing a bit of catch-up, but most of my pages were at least in some way inspired by the Get Messy membership prompts for weeks 3 and 4.  (You can learn all about– and join!– the program here.)

Get Messy Art Journal | Weeks 3 + 4

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.

Also On Tap for Today:

What kind of mood are you in this week?

Today: One year of Grace.

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.

Happy Birthday, Grace!

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:

What’s changed for your this year?  How many months old are you (just kidding… unless you know…)?

 

Today: Baby’s first 5k.

Yesterday morning, I ran around our condo trying to remember what one wears for a December 5k in New England.  I haven’t run much at all since starting physical therapy in September, and haven’t run in the cold since last November.  Totally off my game.  I couldn’t find a hat nor gloves, but did locate pants and shoes– and those seem like the critical elements.  Fortunately, Grace was better prepared and better trained (she’s been sitting for, like, months).

We got to my brother and sister-in-law’s house five minutes before we needed to head to the starting line, and we reached the starting line two minutes before the race started.  Just typing that sentence made me anxious.  Yesterday, though, there was nothing to be anxious about.  My expectations for any sort of quality athletic performance were nil.  I hoped to run as much as I could (and pain-free, at that) but ultimately, girls just wanna have fun I just wanted to enjoy my first 5k with Grace and our family.

Smiling is my favorite.

My parents took that photo of me about half-way through the race and as you can see, I’m all smiles.  I took a short walking break after Mile 1 and again at each hill, but was able to run most of the course.  Being able to skip the water stop because I had a bottle in my handy stroller console thing sort of offset the challenge of actually, you know, pushing the stroller.  Sort of.  Being able to see Grace and how much she was enjoying herself made up for the rest.

Grace waved and blew kisses to all the girls in purple sweatshirts and tutus, running their first 5k with Girls on the Run.  I loved listening to the girls chat with their coaches and be cheered on by volunteers on the course. I encourage you to learn more about the great work GOTR is doing in Greater Boston (and likely, in your community, too) and how you can get involved.

By the time the finish line was in sight, Grace was sound asleep (strollin’ ain’t easy), but I was still smiling from ear to ear.  As I ran from the finish line back to meet my family I couldn’t help but think, I’m baaaaaaaaack.

This has been an incredible and wonderful year, but it hasn’t been an easy year.  From sheer exhaustion and an overflowing of emotion, to broken toes and back pain, to managing work life and home life… there have been stretches during this first year of motherhood where I’ve felt like I’m doing the best I can, but simultaneously waiting for the next mini-crisis to crop up.  It’s easy to get a little lost in all of that.

And so something like finishing a race– something that used to seem so easy and insignificant– feels like a huge win.  One that I really needed.  One that I really appreciate.

We haven’t seen the end of sleepless nights or foggy brains.  There will likely be more broken toes (if there is a toy on the floor, I will trip over it — I think there is a reason my parents did not name me Grace), lost keys, forgotten appointments and wonky back pain.  There is no such thing as work/life balance (sorry, but there’s just not), but it’s still worth trying.  And I may never be as thin or fast or fit as I used to be.  And that’s okay.

It took me nearly 40 minutes to reach the finish line, but I felt like I had won the whole thing (for the record, I am fairly certain Grace did come in first in her age group). Having our beautiful girl with me made this victory all the more worth celebrating.

We’re in this together, baby.  You’re stuck with me.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • 5 tips for running with a stroller via Active
  • Making my list (but, um… there’s no time left for checking it twice)
  • Getting my act together with two more giveaways this week (promise)

What little victory are you celebrating?

 

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.

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 the 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.

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.

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?