Farewell, Green Car!

IMG_2351As we were finalizing the steps of our move (five days away, eek!), Eric and I realized that we wouldn’t really have any more need or space for our second car. It was costing us a pretty penny to insure it, and we’d have to pay another chunk of change to have it moved (or impose so terribly on one of our parents to drive it up to Seattle for us. Four days of driving with no cruise control, whee!) As we thought it through, we reached a bittersweet decision: it was time to bid our green chariot farewell.

IMG_3073Why was it such a big deal? I bought this little green Honda when I was 16, brand new, from the dealership, mostly because I couldn’t find a decent and reliable used car and was likely traumatized by the woes my brother suffered in dealing with the used Jeep he had bought the year before. I went in with my dad and haggled the good haggle. I paid my $268.40 every month for four years, first out of my Wild Oats paycheck, then from my Oberlin library/tutoring/assistant teaching paychecks. I paid her off just at the start of my senior year. And after that, I worried much less about spilling my coffee.

IMG_3074She’s a 1999 Honda Civic. It’s now 2017. And I am 34. This car has carried me through over half my life. Every single one of her 85,000 miles was put on her by me, or some member of my traveling circus. When we were expecting Micah in 2014, we knew a two-door wasn’t going to be the best option for heavy carseats, so we bought our 2011 Accord. We just didn’t drive the green car very much at all after that–to airports, maybe, or on the rare occasion when we both needed to be somewhere at the same time. Seattle has much better public transit, and we now live in the age of Uber and Lyft for those situations. So it was time to say goodbye.

I might not have thought about writing a post like this, except that my dad just wrote one on the 20th anniversary of his white Miata. I loved reading about all the places that sweet little car had taken him. And I wanted to do the same for my little green car. I am not a person who cares too much about things (I suspect that is true for most of us), except in that they are perfect little repositories of memory. This car holds so very many.

DSCN0006She doesn’t have many miles for her seventeen years because I didn’t drive her much on a daily basis, except during her first year, when I drove her to White Station High School every morning, music blaring, protein smoothie in my cupholder (main ingredient: ice cream. Lolololol.) She stayed home during my first year at Oberlin, but I drove her up my sophomore year, the first of many sojourns across the 678 miles from my driveway in Memphis to campus. By the time I graduated, I had this trip whittled down to 10.5 hours, with only one stop. I know, I’m a savage. I came home every summer, most spring and fall breaks, and several Thanksgivings, including one in which I came home two days early, hid my car on a side street, and then hid in the closet to surprise my mom (my dad and I were good co-conspirators).

DSCN0980After I graduated Oberlin and came back from a summer in Russia, I loaded up the car and drove out to Berkeley for grad school, stopping along the way to pick up my brother in Oklahoma City (where he had arrived from Austin after a harrowing Greyhound bus ride. Thanks, brother!) We had almost zero dollars, but lots and lots of fun. In Berkeley I took the little green car across the bridge to San Francisco and up to Point Reyes, and on the weekends we explored all the little neighborhoods of the East Bay.

DSCN0241During my first summer in Berkeley, my brother came to stay with me while he worked at an architecture firm in the city. My brother is a very good person to have around if you like adventures. We went to visit a friend in Monterey. Then he suggested that we drive up the coast to see the pygmy cypresses near Fort Bragg, stopping along the way in Mendocino, where, to my great chagrin, my brother made me listen to the Sir Douglas Quartet’s “Mendocino,” which is, objectively, the worst song in the world (sorry, brother.) He soon redeemed himself. One day I came home from my French class, and he said, “Hey! Let’s drive up to Vancouver!” And we did! Straight up the 5 through California, Oregon, and Washington, stopping on the way home in Bend and Crater Lake, which is one the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and where we had a summer snowball fight. Good times!

Summer 2007 011The little green car ferried me all around the Bay area for seven years, during which time I finally got her California plates. Did you know that it is illegal to have a car in the state of California for more than 30 days without getting California plates? Did you know that it’s kind of complicated to change a car title (in my dad’s name, since I was only 16 when I bought it) across states? Whew, I was glad to get that resolved. After two years. Ha!

Thanksgiving 2009 016-001The green car drove me down to LA to visit my friend Steve, but most of her trips were local. My brother moved first to Oakland, then to San Francisco, and I’d pop over to see him. And then, happiest of happies, I met Eric. I drove over to see him as often as I could, and we took all manner of local trips: Napa, Sonoma, Half Moon Bay. We also made the HARROWING drive up to Sea Ranch to spend Thanksgiving with my family several times.

Summer 2011 259-001After we got married, we drove our little green car down to Pasadena, and then to Idyllwild, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and the beach. And then…our family of two grew to three, and green car’s driving days were mostly over. I hope she has many more with her new owner.

IMG_2353I didn’t cry when we sold her to Carmax (even though maybe I should have, given the low offer!), except at this one little moment. My whole family had been so sweet about it, including Eric, who was asking me, as we waited to sign some papers, how I was feeling. I turned to him and said, “You know, I was just thinking about who I was when I bought that car–what I imagined my life would be like, where I imagined my life would take me. And I realized that I have everything I could ever have hoped for.” It’s so true. And I’m so grateful. Farewell, green car!

My One Little Word for 2017: New

IMG_8150 (1)My word for 2017 came to me several months ago, and, truthfully, I am not sure there could be any other word for this year. Because…

We are moving! To Seattle! (In a week: aaahhh!) Most of 2016 was spent waiting to hear about a job for Eric, so we knew that this was a possibility. We are excited for many new adventures and for this great job, but also, of course, heartbroken to be leaving our dear friends here. (We’re planning those quarterly visits already!)

New means so many things for us this year: new city, new job, new house, new friends (we hope!), new school, new parish, new rhythms and routines, new places to explore. We are buying a house (!! I don’t think I can say we bought it until we close!), so we will be new homeowners. We are thrilled to have our own space, but maybe most thrilled to have a yard for Micah to run and play in.

I think “new” stretches its branches in lots of different directions–while we are excited to get settled in our new home, I am sure there are many things that will be difficult, and we’ll need to remind ourselves, “Hey, it’s ok. This is all new.” And, of course, it’s similar to my word for last year, “grow,” in that I am (always) hoping to learn and experience new things. I’m hoping to create some new (good!) habits. Including blogging more! (But, realistically, probably not until February or so, when some of the moving dust has settled). It’s a spiritual word for me too, reminding me of two comforting statements that I love very much, that His mercies are new every morning, and that He makes all things new. I hope this word will be a reminder of that comfort to me, and a reminder that I can make a new start every morning, or even every minute.

I always like to look up the definitions of my word, to hold in my mind as the year goes by. I especially like “never existing before, appearing for the first time,” “known or discovered for the first time,” “recently grown or made; fresh,” “beginning again, making a fresh start,” and “refreshed in spirits.” What better word for the new year and for new beginnings?

So, we’ll see where this word takes me! Do you have a word or phrase for 2017? Do tell!

In Praise of Intuition

IMG_5410Hello from Peet’s, my little caffeinated hideaway, blessedly only two blocks away from our apartment. The babysitter is with Micah, and I fought the urge to just fall asleep in the car (lolz) and came here instead for an Earl Grey fortification. Every time I try to log in to my blog, I have forgotten my password. Ha! Probably as good an indication as any of how frequently I get to it.

This is one of my favorite times of year–not just for the family and festivity and beautiful liturgies, but for the opportunity to look back and look forward, doing old Janus proud. This year I saw Susannah Conway’s free workbook Unravel Your Year mentioned somewhere, and I am working through it little by little. It has really been an amazing exercise, and definitely one I think I’ll want to do every year. So far I am still on the 2016 part, but it has been encouraging and comforting and surprising all at once.

To wit: I sat down to answer the question about my word for the past year and was all geared up to reflect on how my word was “savor,” and that it was a good word for living in the moment instead of having a big goal or plan, and then…I looked it up and realized that “savor” was my word for 2015! Ha! My word for 2016 was actually “grow,” which has a similar gradual sort of feel and was very good for this toddler-mom year.

In looking back through the year and actually trying to remember it (more lolz here), I was proud to see that in some ways I really have grown. Not in all ways, and I will have more growing to do for the rest of my life (I most sincerely hope), but I had a happy sense of accomplishment in an area that is sometimes challenging, but not impossible, to measure.

I scrolled through my blog posts from 2016 (not many!), and I found this post about my plans and goals for 2016. I had completely and utterly forgotten that I had written it. And yet…I actually did do those things I hoped to do. It was definitely one of those chills-down-your-spine moments, as I realized that even though I have given those goals (and my word, apparently) exactly zero attention this past year, I still somehow managed to live them out. Not perfectly, no. I did not read a book in Russian! (Maybe I should start with some comforting stories? Pushkin Book Club, anyone? I have an odd urge to reread Povesti Belkina!) But I did so much. And I am so entirely grateful for whatever intuition it was that led me to and through the things I did and learned this past year. It reminded me just a tiny bit of the feeling you have when you do something you did not think you could do, and then when you actually do it, you realize that that ability was actually in you all along. It is a powerful and humbling feeling.

So here I am again at the beginning of a new year, which will be very new indeed. I feel about as unprepared for it as I did not remember feeling last year (but my blog post reminded me!) And so I am not shaken by that unprepared feeling. I will come around to it, I am sure, sometime in February or so. As we journey through these first few weeks of the year, some ideas and goals will find me, and I’ll jot them down here. If nothing else, this whole experience has been such an encouragement to do that, to get words on paper, or on a screen, in this case.

I am excited for this year. I want to write (and am planning to write) about my word for 2017, what I hope it will hold, and millions of other little things too. The best thing I can do, I think, is to try to establish a habit. So here I am getting started, reminding myself of the pleasure of the staccato of computer keys. It’s good to be back. But my tea is gone, and it’s time to head to dinner with my Orhan Pamuk novel (the height of luxury!) Happy, happy new year to you all! I’ll be back soon.

June Interlude

IMG_6679Thank you for the warm welcome back! I am still working my way through our summer photos (mostly on Olympic commercial breaks…how ’bout that Michael Phelps?!) And here we are in June! We had two big trips this summer with about three weeks in between. This is the story of the June interlude. Up above is some gorgeous Romanesco broccoli, which I am always so happy to see at the farmer’s market. The world is so very full of wonders.

IMG_6670Let’s just start off with someone cute, yeah? He loves this book, which he calls “Honk, Honk!”

IMG_6683At dinner on a sweaty day. Do you see the family behind us? It was totally Danny Pudi (of Community fame as Abed) with his wife and adorable twins. I could have gotten them in this shot, but the poor guy was just trying to eat dinner, and I didn’t want to bug him. So I just took pictures of Micah, who was hitting a bit of a cup and straw milestone. Ah, LA!

IMG_6692Mmm, summer drinks! I don’t remember what this is exactly, but Eric says it is some kind of swizzle, maybe a Queen’s Park. Every stage has its own pluses and minuses, but it is so very sweet to be able to spend time with Eric in the evenings now without keeling over (well, I do keel over at 10:30, but it’s a far cry from those crazy newborn days!) He makes us a drink, we watch a show, we talk over the day behind and the day ahead. Also, if it is not evident from the picture, I married up, y’all.

IMG_6701One night when I was cooking, I realized that my dinner was smiling at me. We are running through a ton of corn and zucchini around here, and it is fantastic.

IMG_6706Sometimes summer is tiring!

IMG_6708One of Micah’s favorite books. Pretty cute. E is for Einstein, and he can totally say it.

IMG_6721We spend a LOT of time at the library in general, but especially in the summer, when it’s too hot to play outside. I love our library (and our librarians!) and am so grateful for this happy haven of books (and toys!)

IMG_6725Eric was out of town for a few days in June, and I had our babysitter come so I could go and have a quiet dinner by myself one night. This bookstand has been such a game changer in my life. My mom gave it to me for Christmas sometime when I was in grad school, and it quickly became one of my most prized possessions. No more neck pain when reading! It conveniently folds down, too, and serves as a bookmark. Huzzah! I was finally finishing All the Light We Cannot See, which is just as beautiful as everyone says it is. It has been such a good summer for reading!

IMG_6726My view from the kitchen, over the ledge.

IMG_6734June 18th was our fifth wedding anniversary. Five years! And eight years together. We went out for dinner and dessert, and I totally did not make a card for Eric due to the out-of-town craziness, but I did definitely cry copious tears at the table while telling him all the things that I would have written in that card. I can’t even begin to say how much I love him. He is the source of so much pure goodness and joy in my life. He is an incredible father, a fantastic partner, and the best friend I have ever had. Also, he’s hilarious and brilliant and kind. And hot. I do not know how I got him to marry me…but I am so glad I did. And yes, he did get me a card! And chocolates! I rest my case.

IMG_6736This is one of my favorite pictures of all time. It’s blurry, and there’s laundry on the couch and a train under the table, but here we are: this is my family. I wish I remembered to take more pictures like this one, capturing the everyday things we don’t think of as photo-worthy, but which in fact make up the texture of our lives. I am so grateful for all these evenings when we sit around the table, passing napkins and wiping mouths and cutting grapes. We won’t always live in this apartment, my baby won’t always wear this red bib, and when those things come to pass, this picture will be a treasure.

IMG_6747A really rare instance when somebody let me rock him after his nap. He is wearing his daddy’s baby shirt.

IMG_6785And the last little bit of June before our trip: Hillary helped me make a silhouette of Micah! And she even got his sweet little eyelashes! This is the story of the June interlude. Treasures abounding: sweet friend, sweet baby, sweet husband. A silhouette of my heart would show all three.

Memphis in May

IMG_6176Oh, heyyyy, blog. I missed you. Here’s what we’ve been up to. (Besides ending sentences with prepositions, ahhhhh!) An addendum: this post was originally going to be about the whole summer, but then I went a little crazy with the pictures, soooo…a bunch of separate posts there shall be. We happened to be in Memphis in May, but it’s also the name of one of the biggest events of the year, a cultural festival featuring a barbecue cooking contest and a music festival on the river (which was, of course, the highlight of my teenage existence). It’s a good time to visit!

IMG_6225I spent two and a half weeks at home in Memphis with Micah while Eric ping-ponged his way across the eastern seaboard for work, ending with a big family reunion (Eric included!) for my dad’s 60th birthday. Since I flew by myself with Micah, I totally got him a backpack with a little leash (lifesaver!) and baby headphones so he could watch Thomas the Tank Engine on the plane. Eh, he wasn’t really into it, but mommy tried!

IMG_6234My sweet dad picked us up and whisked us away to see…

IMG_6276Mimi and Miss Lily! Look at those precious babies. Micah and Lily are exactly six months apart, and they remind me so much of my brother and I–we are thirteen months apart, and our hair was (respectively) the same baby shades of blonde and golden. This picture could almost have been taken thirty-some years ago.

1983-30Here we are, my brother and I, for reference. I am not sure there has ever been a more natural mother than my mom. She is so endlessly loving and patient with little ones (and grown ones!), and she makes it look like so much fun. My deepest memory of this trip is this one: being completely bowled over by the hurricane of kindness and love that is my mother, hoping that someday I may turn out to be even half the mother that she is and has always been.

IMG_6270Sweet Mimi with Micah at the children’s museum.

IMG_6303-001I already fear the number of pictures this post will heft, but…look how sweet! My parents are just about the most fun people I know to hang out with, and I always love going home to see them. Also, they know how to party. In the summer, that equals a lot of delicious microbrew beer. Ahh, the taste of summer! (No beer for babies, ha, only for mommy and her compatriots).

IMG_6322I love my mom! I do not love it, however, when I buy red lipstick, and it turns out pink like this. Can somebody tell me where to get REAL red lipstick?!

IMG_6346Lunch with my Besfrinn and her baby (sob, big girl).

IMG_6400My loves at Hog & Hominy. So many new places to try! It’s a singular pleasure to see the city where you grew up experience such a beautiful renaissance. I am deeply grateful to every person who has worked so hard to bring new life and new opportunities to our community.

IMG_6433Uh, yes, I *did* just dump out this huge bag of goldfish. Is that a problem, mom?

IMG_6445Pecan pie for daddy’s 60th! A sweeter man has never lived. It was so special to be there for his birthday.

IMG_6458We call this Micah’s grandaddy outfit, so, of course, we had to get a picture of them twinning!

IMG_6470We met Emily and her family for Family Day at the Dixon Gardens, and I had completely forgotten how gorgeous it is there. Look at my baby in all that green.

IMG_6487Hard at work in the backyard! It appears that there has been a small vehicular mishap.

IMG_6505Memphis Made! I would go there every day if I could.

IMG_6566The cutest.

IMG_6587The world’s most optimal dump truck conditions!

IMG_6606Ahhhhhhhh, what is this oasis?! My parent’s condo, where Eric and I spent a night away from our little tiger. My parents are the bessssssst.

IMG_6617It was so good to catch up after Eric had been away for a week. And it was good to sleep in too! We got caught in a crazy downpour on the way to dinner and then struck out at about four restaurants before landing somewhere a bit lackluster, but at least there was beer! Hammer & Ale saved the day. I do forget this sometimes, since there is not a ton of opportunity for deep conversation in a toddler-parenting life, but talking to Eric is one of my favorite things in the world. Always such a treat.

IMG_6621This is my kind of place! City and State on Broad. The bike trail runs right past it, and it was fun to watch people trek in for breakfast in their helmets. If I had biked all the way down there, I would have eaten everything in the pastry case, but these people mysteriously showed some restraint.

IMG_6662The weekend brought more family and fun. And adorable babies in swimsuits. Trucks can go in the pool, right?

IMG_6664And then this happened on the way home. Ha! Still well worth it, even with a three-hour flight delay!

 

No Time Like the Present

IMG_5220Ahahaha, all my good blog intentions! There are only so many hours in a day, so I don’t feel badly about it, just grateful for the times when the stars align and I can tap out a little dispatch. I usually have a running list of things I want to share, but I’m just going to do a smattering of thoughts and happenings instead, since those posts are the ones I tend to treasure the most. (Annd I should add that this post has been delayed by about a week by the relentless stomach virus that struck our tiny angel…and then me…and then Eric. Being sick all at the same time was very, very rough. We kept having relapses after we thought we were better, and we had one very scary night when we almost took Micah to the ER, fearing that he was dehydrated. We are beyond grateful that he is ok, and that we are getting better. Right now Micah is sitting right next to me driving his cars on the kitchen table, and I am just so happy that we are all together, all upright, all in one piece.)

So! How are things? Very good! And very tiring! It is so funny how different all these parenting stages are. In the newborn days you are just longing for sleep like a thirsty person crawling across the desert, but you can totally watch Property Brothers (why are all the houses in Toronto semi-detached? why do they use the same bizarre chandelier in every house?) and sip coffee while tending to your cooing (and hopefully not crying) little sweetheart. The toddler days are so different. We are (hallelujah!) sleeping through the night, but this leaves us ill-trained for nights taken victim by teething, growth spurts, random sleeplessness, or 5am (or before, aaahh!) wake-up calls. The stakes seem a bit higher now because the awake time is all time of engagement. And it is really, really cute and fun engagement. Oh no, there is no time to contemplate the mysteries of Property Brothers these days. There is coloring and car racing, book reading and insistent requests to “pway!”, walks and trips to the library, and exuberant games of chase and hide and seek. There is very little time for snuggling (someone has important work to do!), but there are sporadic exclamations of “I love Mommy!” It is such a sweet time. I don’t know that I have ever really accomplished much in those post-bedtime hours, but now there are many, many nights when I just crawl into bed for some 30 Rock and chocolate. It feels like the right thing to do.

IMG_5766We were very lucky to have Eric’s parents here for Holy Week and Easter, and especially so because Eric was out of town for a few of those days. I so appreciated the help and the company. The best kind of company is the kind who wants to adore your child with you, and this company did not disappoint! We had so much fun, made so many joyful memories, had lots of wonderful conversations and collectively marveled as my father-in-law fixed every broken thing in the house. You’d be very hard pressed to find any sweeter people on earth. Yes, that is our sweet baby in his Easter outfit, breaking his Mommy’s heart with cuteness.

IMG_5773We walked him over to Caltech to have a little Easter egg hunt in the grass, and he loved it. It was so sweet to have Eric’s parents here for this special week, and, thanks to grandpa’s magnificent babysitting services, grandma and I were able to attend all of the Holy Week services. It was a beautiful thing to share, just the two of us. We are so looking forward to seeing them this summer, and to Micah’s happy reunion with the farm, and, more importantly, its many tractors and combines! (Yes, he totally knows the difference, mommy!)

IMG_5877We took him to the art museum a few weeks later, and he was rather in awe of this enormous car track. I was too! I was expecting him to race right past the guard wire, but he just stood there clutching it. And my heart broke a little. He looks like such a big boy.

IMG_5916I went on a retreat a few weekends ago to a beautiful place in the foothills of the San Gabriels. It was a wonderfully refreshing time (I have been wanting to go on a retreat since before I was pregnant with Micah!), and I was a BIG FAN of the 24-7 fresh Douwe Egberts coffee and the silence, but you better believe that I was also a big fan of FaceTiming my baby.

IMG_5970The next week my mom came to visit! It was seven days of laughter, joy, and desperately needed home organization. My mom is the best, as I am sure I have previously indicated. Every time she comes, I ask her to help me make the house more efficient, and every time she finds ways to solve problems I thought were unsolvable. We had so much fun playing with the baby, running errands, and doing all the everyday things with the added boost of delightful company. And she bought me shampoo! Like, nice shampoo! I haven’t used conditioner since 2012! Okay, TMI, sorry about that.

IMG_6044My mom, who I have already canonized, also kept the baby for us for two nights while we went on a little getaway to the Central Coast..while she had a lingering sinus infection, the baby woke up at heinous times in the morning and also wasn’t much of a napper. When we came home, she had rearranged our living room, done our laundry, and left fresh flowers on the kitchen table and bathroom counter. How does she do it?! I do not know, but I am so very grateful.

IMG_5825I think those are all the big happenings of late. Our tiny angel is 21 months now, and he is talking up a storm! He’s been speaking in complete sentences for a while, and he surprises us sometimes with words we don’t remember teaching him. He repeats everything we say, which is hilarious and adorable (“responsible” on the lips of a toddler is very, very funny indeed). The other day we were reading a book with a picture of a night sky, and I was talking about how Daddy studies the stars. “Daddy is an astronomer,” I said. Micah looked at me for a second and then said, “Daddy innuh tronomer!” It was astoundingly precious. Yesterday we were driving past Eric’s building on our way to Kindermusik (pronounced “Kinnamunik” in toddler-ese, in case you were wondering) when he started gleefully yelling something. I couldn’t understand him at first, but then I realized what he was saying. “Daddy innuh tronomer! Daddy innuh tronomer! Daddy innuh tronomer!” And he was so proud of himself for remembering. My mind is blown pretty much on a daily basis. In further cuteness, the other day he got down a framed photo of himself on the day of his baptism and proceeded to read Goodnight, Moon to baby Micah. Eric and I could hardly scramble for our phones fast enough. I remember when he was tiny, before he could even smile at us, I used to wonder so much about what he was thinking and who he was in there. It has been the greatest delight to begin to find out.

IMG_5833In local news, the star of jasmine opened last week, and the jacaranda trees are just starting to bloom. It is a fragrant and beautiful time here, one that I’m so grateful for every year. I don’t think too often about the seasons or the cyclical nature of the weather, but wow, what a gift. A year is just long enough to completely and fully miss something, so much that you begin to despair of ever seeing it again, and then, pop! There it is, once again. Happy, happy spring to you!

Joshua Tree!

IMG_5493Oh heyyyyy, blog. I missed you. And I am so happy that the two-week span of sickness that kept me from my computer has passed, and indeed that it passed *just* in time for our trip to Joshua Tree! A few months ago, Eric showed me this cool map thing that would tell you where your closest National Park was. And it’s Joshua Tree! I guess I sort of already knew that since we had passed it on our way to Vegas during the gigantic road trip of 2015. I pretty much fixated on getting to see those majestic trees, and I had read that the rock formations and history were pretty cool too. Also, Joshua Tree is home of the tiny World Famous Crochet Museum! And just a short drive away is the old Western film set known as Pioneertown, complete with the ever delicious Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. So, basically, resistance was futile. I was a moth to a desert flame. AND I talked Hillary and her family into coming, thus quadrupling the awesome and making this the Second Annual Cartibellm Desert Extravaganza! (Last year we went to Julian and Anza Borrego. I appear to have not written a blog post about this, which is quite a shame!)

IMG_5442Although we hit some major traffic on our way (and both swore never again to leave LA on a Friday after noon), the house we rented made up for all that with its great gorgeousness (I mean, seriously, check it out!). When we went to Julian last year, our little tiger cried most of the night. This time he did much better! However, my traitorous iPhone randomly started playing a podcast REALLY LOUD at 4:53am on Saturday, and I, in my asleep state, kept turning it back on when I was trying to turn it off, so the little tiger can hardly be blamed for his rooster-like morning appearance, can he? Here he is enjoying his breakfast. Tiny angel.

IMG_5447And here he is strapping his bear in for breakfast. Heart. Broken. Plus two bonus adorable girls in the background reading Roald Dahl. Micah was IN LOVE with them. I can hardly blame him!

IMG_5457After much coffee, we were ready to head to the park. We really must get a National Parks pass because Danny and Hillary zipped right past us in the fast lane! I will try to limit myself to just a few pictures of the trees and landscape because I have millions of them.

IMG_5487The Joshua trees were in bloom! So exciting for this desert nerd.

IMG_5461This is a baby Joshua Tree. I always thought that the green shoots looked soft, but they are actually hard and spiky. Apparently they belong to the also spiky yucca family. Cool.

IMG_5465Jumping cholla! I love it so much. I just don’t want to be super close to it. For reasons of stabbiness.

IMG_5480When cholla dies, it leaves these amazing sticks behind. I gathered up 2(00) of them from the back yard of our rental house. Ones with no spikes still attached, of course.

IMG_5479Before too long, we came across this rusted old car, which was a very big hit with the kids.

IMG_5466How did our little tiger do? Great! I think his life motto is, “Have graham cracker, will travel.” He likes being up high in the backpack so he can see. It helped that the weather was just about perfect–not too hot, not too windy. And we got there pretty early in the day (thank you, rooster), so it wasn’t too crowded for a while.

IMG_5484A nice Joshua Tree family portrait. Micah is looking at the car, of course.

IMG_5494An atmospheric ruin of a desert home.

IMG_5499After this first foray we took a climb through the rocks down to Barker Dam. Such cool rocks.

IMG_5509This is the view from the southern tip of the park. We could see the Salton Sea and Mount Signal, almost to Mexico. Wow.

IMG_5512We were all pretty beat after that, and we headed back to the house for a flurry of naps, followed by Danny grilling burgers for us for dinner. How did I get these amazing friends?! And someone very sweet read his books in the evening.

IMG_5521Saturday night we switched to daylight savings time, and we, like all other parents, thought that maybe our child would sleep late? Hahaha, another 5am wakeup. But this gave us lots of time to savor breakfast, pack up, and swing on the hammock outside. Our little rooster is so thoughtful! Hillary drew this quail in the guestbook, in case you needed any further proof that she is awesome.

IMG_5528You know how people say they are dating up? I am friending up. Way up!

IMG_5534Although, sadly, the line was way too long at Joshua Tree Coffee Company (siphon brew?!), we did get to explore the art community, anchored by The World Famous Crochet Museum. It is tiny! And full to the brim with cuteness.

IMG_5538For human scale.

IMG_5542Look!

IMG_5546Tiny pastries!

IMG_5548Pretty cakes!

IMG_5556Tacos! That is the outdoor movie theatre in the background.

IMG_5562Inside a barn next door was the studio of Shari Elf (the artist behind the museum), full to the brim with bright and interesting things. Shari makes good and sturdy art from trash, including lots of screen-printing on discarded garments. That’s the fitting room in the corner. Love!

IMG_5569Micah slept through this part of the trip, and I am sorry that he missed this pillowcase.

IMG_5572Aaaahhhh, my friends are so cool! Album cover. Soliciting titles.

IMG_5585After this we had lunch at Pappy and Harriet’s, where the wait for food was very long, but someone sat very happily in his high chair driving his trucks and eating graham crackers for an hour and a half!! Joshua Tree must hold some baby magic.

IMG_5589Even though this post is already about four times too long, I can’t leave out our last stop, Pioneertown. Our little cowboy took right to it.

IMG_5608Thus ended the Second Annual Cartibellm Desert Extravaganza, and thus ends this post!

Grow: My One Little Word for 2016

IMG_5246Words come to us in funny ways. I think this is the furthest in advance I have ever come upon one, sometime around the summer of 2015. I so distinctly remember the moment. I was strolling down a shady sidewalk with Micah, enjoying a quiet moment and thinking about my life. Thinking about where I was, what I was hoping for, what was coming next. I felt so happy. I am so happy. And so grateful for that! And what I most wanted and hoped for was to just keep growing, as a person, as a mom, as a wife. I wanted to keep learning and experiencing new things. I wanted to keep traveling to new places. I wanted to become kinder, more generous, more compassionate, more patient, more good.

One of the ideas I got from doing Ali Edwards’ One Little Word class a few years ago was to look up the synonyms and definitions of your word. I love the ones for grow so much. Advance. Become. (Ohhh, I love that one!) Build, cultivate, develop, flourish, mature, rise, thrive. I want all of those things for myself. And for all of you! This is my favorite definition of grow: “to increase by natural development, as any living organism or part by assimilation of nutriment; increase in size or substance.” I love that connection with the natural world. I want to turn my face to the sun and soak up every good thing like roots draw water. I want to work at growing every day, even and especially in infinitesimal, undetectable increments that somehow add up to a sturdy green stem and a riotously colorful bloom.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that learning new things is a big happiness booster. It expands our conception of our selves. It makes the world seem full of possibility. It gives us new tools, whether they are languages or skills or insights. And it doesn’t require much from us–not necessarily any money at all, just a bit of time and maybe a library card (and, okay, maybe a bit of planning). I have always been the kind of person who thinks nothing sounds more fun than learning a new language, and lately I am endeavoring to learn more of the names of the birds and trees and flowers and succulents that make up the moving wallpaper of my daily walks with Micah. The world is truly so full of splendors.

Of course, not all of this growing is going to be joyful. There’s also the growth that comes from pruning, which will definitely be painful. I don’t know yet what sort of pruning will come my way this year, but I hope that I can meet it with grace. And humor. And the memory of all the basil I lost a few summers ago when it went to seed due to…lack of pruning. It is my great hope that at the end of this year, I will look back and think, “Yes, I grew, and I learned, and I gave, and it was good.”

(Words from previous years, just for fun: grateful, open, nurture, savor.)

Mommy’s Holiday

IMG_5171I can’t even count the number of flights we’ve taken Micah on in his sweet eighteen months (partly because there is no longer a direct flight to Memphis, boooooo!), but somewhere in that time it has begun to feel routine to roll through the airport wearing a baby, pulling a suitcase, and pushing a stroller piled high with a carseat and diaper bag. I am not sure I ever imagined myself being a baby/toddler jet setter (hahahaha!), but I feel very grateful that we haven’t had any real problems, and that everyone has been so kind and helpful to us. However! I can hardly remember what I used to do on planes. Sleep? Watch movies? Read books? Listen to Jeremy Irons read Lolita for the 87th time? (Um, yes, it was the latter.) My rusty solo flight game got a little chance to shine this past weekend, though, when I flew up to the Bay Area to see my brother’s family. My mom was already going to be there, and, as has been amply documented previously, I am very good at inviting myself on other people’s vacations. Although I have flown by myself with Micah here and there, usually we travel as a family. It just didn’t work out that way this time, though, so off I went into the great unknown of solo mommy travel.

How did it go? Really well! It was very sad driving away from my precious baby, but I have never ever been through security that fast. (TSA Pre-Check plus Burbank airport = approximately 10 seconds).  At the gate, a headache kept me from tearing into my book, but the flight was smooth and peaceful. And I had to laugh at a group of people who were angling for the best seats on a one-hour flight. It was impossible not to think, “Hey, you’re flying without a wiggling toddler, you’re doing great!” Perspective, I haz it. Perspective, I did not used to haz it.

IMG_5142I landed at 10pm, and my awesome friend Steve picked me up. I thought he was just going to circle the exit and wait for me to come out, but he actually parked his car and came in to meet me. And he had my last name displayed on my phone (not seen here for reasons of camera focus or something). So sweet! We went to get a drink and catch up, and I stayed up way past my bedtime, and it was otherworldly and fun.

IMG_5143In the morning I got to hang out with my mom and my brother, who introduced me to Philz Coffee. Mind blown. Let me explain: I like my coffee black and strong. My brother has described it as a steel rod. I have never met a coffee in the wild that is so strong it actually NEEDS cream. Until that day. I had forgotten how luxurious creamed coffee is because most coffee is too muted by the cream to have any flavor, and thus it never meets my lips. However, this was a revelation. I asked if we could come back the next day, and my brother kindly obliged. They are opening one in Pasadena, but not until this summer. Fly, fly, time!

IMG_5169My 48 hours with family was spent walking and talking and eating good food, with a little bonus of the chance to get my nails done with my mom (last manicure: August 2014). And that’s when the trouble hit.

I was in town Thursday night through Saturday night, and it was Saturday afternoon. Eric called. My phone was in my coat pocket, far from my wet nails, so I didn’t hear it. Eric texted my mom. But he didn’t want me to worry my way through my manicure, so he told her not to tell me until I was finished. He is deserving of husband epaulets, no?

When I reached him, he told me that our sweet baby was sick. He had thrown up. Several times. Of course, I was devastated not to be there, but relieved that my flight was in a few short hours. I was sorry not to be there to help, but I knew Eric had things well in hand. As the hours stretched on, he kept throwing up. A total of seven times.

IMG_5175I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, the saddest picture ever taken. Thankfully, the last episode passed, and he was asleep by the time I got home. But I have never been happier to rock my child in the middle of the night, singing, “Mommy’s Here” to the tune of Brahms’ Lullaby. He is all better now, thank goodness, but mommy is so happy to be home.

How did Eric do? Oh, fantastically. I had no doubt or worries about him taking the helm for a few days. But I do have to brag a little. What did he do while I was gone? Got up at 4:30am with the baby (I mean for the day), took him to the park for the afternoon, went to the grocery store and pharmacy, and secretly cooked surprise pulled pork in the slow cooker. All of that was before Micah got sick. Then he soothed and comforted him, followed him around with a metal bowl, changed and soaked his clothes several times, and scrubbed the carpet (seven times, I remind you). When I got home, he had disinfected the whole kitchen, washed all the bottles, and was getting ready to steamvac the carpet. Swoon. It’s not that I thought him incapable of any of this. It’s just that I was so touched by the reminder that we are equal partners, in life and in love. I had just asked him to pick up some milk, but it turns out that he had actually done most of the week’s shopping before I got home. I totally teared up when I opened the cabinet and found my favorite croutons in there (the ones he doesn’t even like). He seemed a bit baffled when I came crying to him with a bag of Texas Toast croutons (mysteriously manufactured by a company called New York), and I didn’t know how to explain it except that I was just so touched. Touched that he’d encouraged me so much to go, touched that he’d done so much more than I’d expected, touched that he’d done so many little surprise kindnesses for me. On top of taking care of our sweet sick baby. I’m not sure how to end this post except to say that I am grateful: grateful to have gone, grateful to be home, grateful to have seen, once again, how amazing my husband is, grateful to have had another chance to fall wholeheartedly in love with him.

Plans and Goals for 2016

IMG_4840Yes, it’s one of my favorite times of year! Time to look back and look forward, like Janus of old, and assess, reflect, and plan. When we were in Nashville this Christmas with Eric’s family (three more uncanonized saints!), I was telling Eric’s dad that I have never felt quite so unprepared for a new year, but that I thought it was a good thing. My word for 2015 was savor, and I take it as a good sign that I was so busy savoring things that I had not a moment to spare for reflecting and planning. Savor is a very good word for baby days! I usually set about four goals for each year, which seems to be just about right for me, but I hadn’t thought about it at all yet on that cold and windy day while we took turns catching Micah at the bottom of the slide (the big boy slide! the twisty one!). I wasn’t worried, though. A new year can start any time we like, and mine usually do start sometime after we’ve settled back in at home after holiday travels. Still, that very afternoon, I curled up in an armchair while Micah’s sweet grandparents were playing cars with him, and I typed four little things into a note on my phone. And here they are! In no particular order.

IMG_49661) Learn embroidery. I like to try to pick up at least one new skill each year. In the past it has been quilting and candle-making (still not a pro at either, but have had unquantifiable amounts of fun with each, which is the whole point anyway), but this year I’d like to build on my skills with a needle and thread. I started doing cross-stitch a few years ago (probably this was also a yearly goal), and would call myself moderately proficient at it. It’s fun and relaxing, and I love seeing images come together in tiny little stretches of thread. This past year I have been experimenting with images on linen, in my delightfully rudimentary way: a traced image on tissue paper and my trusty companion, back-stitch. It has been great fun, but I’d like to learn some new stitches and expand my repertoire. Time for seed stitch and satin stitch!

IMG_48542) Dig deep into my faith traditions. I was raised Catholic and spent most of my young adult years away from the church before coming home in my mid-twenties. I would say that one of the greatest delights of this past decade has been discovering so many beautiful prayer traditions that I really knew nothing about, Catholic school notwithstanding! I love exploring these (centuries-old) spiritualities like a kid in candy shop. It fills my heart with joy that it seems there is truly something for everyone and for every season of life, whether it’s the rosary or the examen or the divine office or novenas or Simbang Gabi or lectio divina or Las Posadas or meditation or labyrinth-walking or learning about the saints or celebrating the liturgical year. Even just the little bit of exploring I have done has been so deeply rewarding, and I want to keep it up all year. (And just a small note to say that I have great love and respect for all spiritual traditions and never want to make anyone feel uncomfortable in talking about my faith. One of the things I love most about my faith is its affirmation that every person is wholly beautiful, unique, and filled with light. Whatever shape that light may take, I love and honor it.)

IMG_48573) Use my time better. Hoo boy, this is a big one! It includes, but is not limited to the following:

-Plan my days more effectively. Plan activities and outings for Micah. I have been doing much better at this by just having a list for each day. I make it the night before so I can hit the ground running in the morning, and it makes all the difference. Plus, who can deny the thrill of crossing things off a list?! Instant motivation.
-Be more efficient with those hours after Micah has gone to bed. 7:03pm rolls around every evening, and my head spins with all the things I have been waiting for just a few minutes of quiet to accomplish. But I’ll just check my email first. And then 40 minutes have gone by, and I realize I am really exhausted because my sweet baby keeps getting up at 5am. No more! The benefit of typing up goals after you’ve started working on them is that you have learned a bit already. What have I learned? Honestly, to keep moving. Wash those bottles, start that laundry, clean out that closet, work on that sketch. And then, when exhaustion hits, cozy up with a book or some needlework and a podcast (Serial! Undisclosed! Bookworm! The Moth! I have no new wisdom here, but all of these are beloved for a reason) before bed, with the glorious bonus of not having any tasks hanging over your head when you do.
-Get babysitters more frequently. We love a date every now and again, but I would like to have someone come sometimes for a few hours during the week so I can get to the gym or just read a book and drink tea in perfect silence. Ahhhh! I know that time off makes me a better and more attentive mom, so I heartily intend to make it happen.
-Go to Joshua Tree! It is our closest national park. Thus, it is a very good use of our time to go there. So says me!
-Help others. Simply put, I have so much. I want this to be a year of giving and doing and helping.

IMG_49054) Make more art. Because it feeds my soul.

IMG_50065) And this very last one came to me about a week ago: read a book in Russian. I spent a lot of years studying this completely intoxicating language, and I want to keep sharpening my linguistic knives (ohhhhh, they are pretty dull right now). I haven’t decided which book yet, but heaven knows my bookshelves are full of shiny new paperbacks and musty old editions that I rather perilously hauled back with me from Russia (perilous because I could really have injured my back or incurred exorbitant overweight luggage fees. If not for that kind KLM agent taking pity on me…I’d be about 100 Euros poorer today). K-Sos! Shelly! Any other intrepid Russian-speaking readers of this blog! Long-distance book club?

This probably seems like an awfully long list of goals for someone who is raising a toddler, but I find it so helpful to think about what I really want to focus on. Goals are like Voldemort–the more you speak them aloud, the more powerful they become. I am sure I won’t knock all of these out in 2016, but I am sure going to have a good time trying. Happy new year to all!!

And also, THANK YOU! You sweet and wonderful people, you have brought tears to my eyes with your beautiful comments. It amazes me that I can disappear for a month or so, show back up, and have you all shower me with your kinds words and affirmation. You are the best! The bestest best! I am so thankful for each and every one of you!

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