My Little Studio

IMG_5204Eric and I used to use our second bedroom as an office, and it was a sweet little luxury to have after lots of years of working at our desks in our living rooms. But we always hoped that the office was a placeholder for the room’s real purpose: the nursery. After I made it through my first trimester, we started working on moving our stuff out, so we could move our little one’s stuff in. We are really lucky to have a good-sized bedroom, but I credit Eric’s spatial engineering genius for finding a way to make it all fit! A bit of rearranging allowed us to fit our two desks in along the walls, and left a little corner for me to use as a studio. I really, really love it.

IMG_5206The narrow little card table is a perfect profile for the space, and gives me room for my sewing machine and a good little bit of stuff I use frequently, along with some projects in progress. It’s lightly paint-spattered, and I like that. Underneath it is a bin full of fabric, and a few other odds and ends. The walls will probably never be finished because I have been wallpapering with little things I clip out of magazines and brochures since I was a teenager, and I’ll never stop. Featured here are some maps, a Palomar poster that preceded the studio space, a few postcards from The Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, a couple of little images I made, and a giant dinosaur birthday poster I made for Eric when we were dating.

IMG_5207My ribbons are just wound around cardboard tubes. They double as decor and a reminder to use them.

IMG_5211To the left are my supply drawers, full to bursting. I love being able to see what I have. I’m so grateful to have this little bit of space and a little bit of time to work in it. In the mornings I make the bed, open the shutters, and turn on the lamps, and then my studio is ready for the day.

Every Little Thing is Magic

What have we here? A relic of life in my early twenties. A sink full of apples. When I first moved to Berkeley to start grad school in 2004, I was there for a month before I got my first stipend check from my fellowship. Given that I’d just come back from an unpaid internship at the Dostoevsky Museum in St. Petersburg, things were pretty tight there for a little while. Luckily, I discovered the magic of the bargain produce bin at Berkeley (sadly, it took me a few more years to discover that the Bowl’s produce prices were so good that I probably could have afforded non-bruised apples. Oh well.). I’d show up right when they opened in the morning and get all the fruits and vegetables I could: huge bags of slightly bruised apples, bell peppers with a few blemishes, grapes that had come loose from their bunches, pears a bit past their prime, whole artichokes slowly grading from green to brown. All of these big hulking bags were one dollar or less, and I considered them treasures. A few minutes with a paring knife, and they were good as new.

When I got home to my little apartment, with its hardwood floors, bright kitchen, double tiled sinks, and rush of traffic from busy Dwight Way, I’d wash everything right away, so I could just grab a few pieces of fruit as I ran out the door. I remember lots of trips to the Bowl and tons of these clear plastic bags, but what I remember more than anything was the apples. They were one of my main food groups that first year. I was so overwhelmed and overworked that I mostly ate a simple rotation of quesadillas, spinach lasagna, and yogurt/fruit/nuts. I didn’t actually learn to cook for four more years.

It’s crazy how this one little photo (stumbled upon in Picasa while looking for something else) brought all those days right back to me. All the pots of coffee I made to fuel the late-night homework sessions, with my papers, notebooks, and dictionaries spread all over the table. Long walks in the pouring rain to my Descriptive Grammar class. The post-it note I left by my front door during that long winter: “Turn off electric blanket.” Saturdays spent in the department library trying to translate Soviet poetry lauding concrete (no joke). Fall afternoons baking pumpkin bread and reading Doctor Zhivago. Trekking through all four levels of the subterranean library, my backpack full to bursting with books. Having my breath taken away every time I saw the city lights driving back to the East Bay from San Francisco. Not being able to believe, on a daily basis, that I could possibly live in such a gorgeous place and be paid to read books and discuss them with brilliant people. An ocean of memories, full of waves and tides, caught in a few hundred pixels.

I had a similar experience recently when I was checking my Amazon account to see when something was going to be delivered. In a flash, there were all of my orders from the past year.The one that brought tears to my eyes was a set of newborn mittens, which we found waiting for us the day we brought our sweet baby home from the hospital. It was hot, and we were hungry, and we had this tiny precious new person to care for. I fed him in the afternoon sunlight, and then those mittens went straight on, since we were too scared to cut his nails for weeks on end.

And just yesterday I went to Trader Joe’s to get a few things (mostly cottage cheese…and chocolate), and I picked up a few bags of Eric’s favorite trail mix. It’s kind of the holy grail of trail mix: almonds, cashews, pistachios, cherries, cranberries, chocolate chips. I put a handful in my mouth and was immediately taken back to the first days we had Micah home. I lived on that trail mix, often inhaled at 6am after an early feed, along with scones and pastrami sandwiches, delivered by the world’s greatest friend.

And so for several months now I’ve been thinking about this: how every little thing is magic. I sometimes feel a pressure to keep lots of things for the sake of memory, and there are indeed plenty of storehouses of them around here. But there are also quite a lot of things I’ve let go. And so I just had this wonderful sense of peace that whatever little thing it is that I decide to keep, or whatever thing is automatically archived for me online or on the shelves of my local grocery store, that little thing holds a whole world within it.

The Best Books I Read in 2014

It’ll probably be along about June before I finish my end-of-year blog posts. That’s cool, right? Oh, good! Now for an old favorite–the best books post. It’s a varied line-up this year, and I mostly have my book club to thank for that. They are always choosing fascinating books, and I basically want to be just like them when I grow up: remarkably well-read, highly intelligent, and surrounded by cool art. Three cheers for the most fortuitous random meeting at Peet’s! (That’s how I met the woman who invited me to join, through a conversation about War and Peace while waiting in line for beans. Life is so beautiful.) Ok, here we go! These are in the order I read them.

von-bremzen-coverMastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, by Anya von Bremzen. I was already familiar with this writer, and I do so love to take walks down the memory lane of my former field of study. This one was particularly pleasing because my research was on the 19th century, so the Soviet period is of eternal interest for me. A beautifully written tale of life during and after the Soviet period, it is also a fascinating look at food culture and its official place in the Soviet system. The memoir achieves that rare and perfect blend of research and personal story, with recipes to boot. I could not put this book down, and I have such fond memories of curling up with it on the chaise lounge at our B&B in Carlsbad while about 5 months pregnant. Micah kicked his approval from the womb.

9780374102418_custom-ee9a42e2ad4808c0d3b65458a4adad25b91fb217-s6-c30The Unwinding, by George Packer. My book club chose this book as a follow-up to John dos Passos’ America Trilogy, which I, sadly, did not read because I was so sick during my first trimester. I was also familiar with Packer because he had a bit of a spat with a former professor of mine in the Letters to the Editor of the New York Times Book Review (I must concede that Packer came away with the victory, since my professor was being extraordinarily antagonistic, and Packer took the high road.) I don’t read as much non-fiction as I do fiction, but this book was truly fabulous. It follows several individuals from the decades of excess through the recent recession, and it is so compellingly written. I devoured it on our babymoon in Hawaii and then had a lot of good conversations with Eric about politics and the mortgage crisis and a lot of the other problems our country faces. This book made me sad and angry, but in the best possible way. Highly recommended.

The Paris Wifex-inset-communityThe Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. Hoo boy, this was one that stayed with me, as the anguish of the hopelessly wounded fumbling their way through love is so beautifully expressed. The love story of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, it could not but end sadly, but nonetheless offered moments of such luminous joy.

527141df7cd2b-preview-300The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. This one was on everyone’s nightstand last year, and for good reason. Nothing makes me click my heels with more glee than a seriously long novel (I am a Tolstoyevsky girl at heart, and I like to make myself at home in the wide expanse of fiction), and this one is so terribly compelling. Equal parts unbelievable and perfectly natural, it left me reeling. It was not my favorite book of the year, but it was surely up there.

i.1.dave-eggers-the-circle-bookThe Circle, by Dave Eggers. I read an excerpt of this novel in the New York Times Magazine and was intrigued. I’ve not read a lot of Eggers, but I did love this satire that hit frighteningly close to home. It subtly asks where our technological age is leading us, and concluded in such an unexpected way that it took my breath away.

Wanderlust-frontcover-ead36951d79129b0acefcabb1d8758b6Wanderlust, by Rebecca Solnit. I have loved Solnit ever since I saw her incredible maps of San Francisco at SFMoma. This book is a history of walking, from the early days of our species through nineteenth-century ramblers’ clubs, through Baudelaire and our modern urban experience. It’s a strange book in the most wonderful way, and though it starts slowly, I was quickly hooked. Another five-star pick from my book club.

18142414Sous Chef, by Micahel Gibney. Given the amount of Top Chef I watched while pregnant and in those early newborn days (um…all of it), I was more than excited to read this insider’s walk through 24 hours in a fine dining restaurant. I read it in bits and pieces when Micah was tiny, and I looked forward to it every morning.

61bw173FLKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman, by Friedrich Christian Delius. Another book club pick, this novel tells the story, in one long and lyrical sentence, of a pregnant German woman walking to a concert at a church in Rome during WWII. Her husband is stationed in Africa, and she turns in his direction at every vista as she ponders her childhood in Germany, how her deep faith clashes with the beliefs of the Nazi party, and the new life inside her. It’s a tiny little novel, but so very worth the read.

And that’s it! I read 44 books last year–not bad for being almost entirely out of commission for the first few months. Usually there are at least 10 top picks (2012, 2013), but I attribute this year’s shorter list as evidence of pulpy stuff read while sleep-deprived in Micah’s early days. Still, it was a wonderful year in reading. I hope yours was too!

Seattle Highlight Reel

IMG_9927Yes, yes, yes!! The stars have aligned to grant me a few hours of energy before bedtime, so…time for a bunch of photos and meandering thoughts about our trip to Seattle. We had been planning this trip since before Micah was born–it was for a work conference for Eric, so we had lots of notice. Since it was a full week, I imagined I wouldn’t want to be on my own with Micah that long at home, but also, even more than that, I hoped that I would still be able to find a way to do one of my favorite things–travel–as a mom and with my family. In those early newborn days, I couldn’t imagine going to the grocery store, much less Seattle, but it really DOES get easier, and soon I was looking forward to the trip. Micah and I would go to the aquarium! And walk around Pike Place Market! And, more importantly, drink ALL the coffee and eat ALL the fish (well, those last two apply to me only). I admit to being a little nervous about the airport, but I could pretty easily talk myself down because Burbank, beloved Burbank, is the tiniest and easiest airport. And then…right after Christmas Eric got sick. And then Micah got sick. And then I got sick. And for several days I was considering the awfulness of spending a week in Seattle with a baby within the confines of a hotel room. A sick baby. And a sick me. Thankfully, we all more or less recovered before our departure date, just carrying enough sniffles with us to keep anyone from getting too close. (Also, Micah lost his voice. Poor sweet angel. There is nothing sadder than the sound of a hoarse baby crying). Anyway! Enough prelude! On to the main course.

IMG_5552How did he do on the flight? Kind of amazing! We brought chocolates and earplugs for the people seated near us, and some people took them, but others said they wouldn’t mind. The flight was just over two hours, and he did his usual baby things: ate, slept, shook his rattly toys, protested when he got bored and wanted to be walked around, and threw zero fits. Huzzah! When we got to Seattle, we had to ride the airport train to get to a cab, and I think that was his favorite part of all. The look on his face pretty much said, “Mom! Can we come here every day?”

We didn’t know exactly what to expect, but we did our best to be prepared. The most excellent decision we made in this regard was to stay at a Homewood Suites. It was actually closer to the conference center than the conference hotel, and, for a lower rate, we got a suite with a full kitchen and a separate bedroom, complete with closing door (very useful when putting a baby to bed to have two separate spaces!), a REAL hot breakfast, and FREE DINNER Monday through Friday. What?! I had never even heard of that last one, but it was so awesome to just be able to go downstairs and eat without having to get everyone bundled up. The dinners were actually really good too! They always had a salad, and on bratwurst night I wanted to eat about 80 of those things. Yum!

IMG_5555Another point of nervousness: Micah has never been a HUGE fan of the stroller. He loves looking around, but he gets annoyed after a while and wants to be held. At this point, he is too big and squirmy for me to hold him and push the stroller at the same time, so…woe be to any pedestrians between the point of dissatisfaction and home. Whenever I tell my mom about my worries about how something will go with the baby, she says, “He may just surprise you.” And, thankfully, she is so often right. We bought Micah a bear suit (technically it’s a bunting, but it has little ears, so I feel justified in calling it a bear suit!) and got a waterproof cover for the stroller, and then we hoped for the best. And it was better than we could have imagined. He not only happily assented to be pushed around in the stroller all day, but even took naps in there. Long naps. And then he’d wake up and look at me like, “Oh, hey, you took me to another museum! Cool! How ’bout you pick me up and I’ll give you some adorable smiles?” It was kind of heavenly. We were so grateful. (I don’t usually post pictures of Micah here, but this is too cute not to share. Also, now you all know what a bear suit looks like. The ears are the same gray as the carseat cover, so they might be a little hard to see, but they are there!)

IMG_9856Another wonderful surprise was how kind and accommodating everyone was to our little tiger. I think we hit a world record of how many restaurants cheerfully made space for the stroller in one week. And Micah surprised us by sleeping through plenty of meals, or at least being very content to be passed from parent to parent, based on who was eating.

IMG_9874Eric had a free day to spend with us before the conference started, which was super fun. We went down to Pike Place Market, where Micah slept for two and a half hours in the stroller. Bonanza!! The market was decidedly less fun in the winter just because the flowers and produce are less impressive, and there aren’t any outdoor booths. Oh well. Still pretty cool. After we fed Micah, we headed over to Pioneer Square, where we ate giant sandwiches and wandered around in the rain. On the way back up to the hotel, I suggested that we stop by the Seattle Library, which was designed by Rem Koolhaus and is really fantastically interesting and beautiful. My brother took me there ten years ago on our way from Berkeley to Vancouver (ah, youth!) It was a hilariously steep climb up to get there, but it was worth it.

IMG_9888Monday through Thursday Micah and I were exploring solo, and we were lucky enough to be in a very walkable neighborhood (First Hill). On Monday we stopped at the Honeyhole for a quick lunch before heading down to the aquarium. I walked right in to a storm cloud of incense and Led Zeppelin blaring, and I instantly felt sixteen again. It was kind of amazing. Micah was mesmerized by the red walls, which made it easy for me to eat.

IMG_9903I had been really excited about taking Micah to the aquarium because I knew he’d like to look at everything, but also because…I have discovered that secret goldmine of being a parent: you get to be a kid again! Micah was asleep for the first hour while I ogled the sea anemones (my favorite!) and starfish and seahorses. When he woke up, he looked right at the sea otters and said, “Oooooh, ooooh.” Precious.

IMG_9907He fell asleep again on the way up the hill, so I went another block further than our hotel to have a cappuccino at Victrola. Mmmm.

IMG_9932For the rest of the week, we explored the neighborhood, headed down to the water almost every day, rode the monorail to the Space Needle, and generally put jillions of steps on Mommy’s Fitbit, steps which were periodically punctuated by cappuccinos. It was awesome. I don’t have pictures from my two favorite places we went, but they both get gold stars. Any place that offered indoor sanctuary, restrooms, places to sit and feed Micah, and required no admission fee would already be heel-click-worthy. But these two really were the creme de la creme.

IMG_9947The first was the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. Eric had read that it was pretty cool (and freeeeee!), so Micah and I trekked on over. It’s actually more of a museum, but it’s part of the national park system, so it was manned by park rangers. The nicest, most welcoming park rangers ever. I asked them about the start times for the short films they show, and they said, “Oh, we can just start one for you anytime you like.” Awesome. Micah and I watched a whole bunch of them, and we spent a good couple of hours learning about the crazy history of this Alaskan gold rush. Seattle was the main departure point, and it was such a harrowing journey that it still gives me chills. That evening at the hotel, I said to Eric, “Hey, how would you like to spend several months on an overcrowded boat to Alaska in 1897, and then spent another couple of months hiking north through the snow, including making 40 trips up and down 1500┬ástairs carved into a mountain of ice in order to get your 2,000 pounds of required food and supplies up to the top? I forgot to mention that there are thousands of other people there, so there’s a long line and you can only make one trip a day. And then how would you like to spend the winter in a makeshift tent while waiting for the river to thaw, and bide your time by trying to build a boat out of whatever wood you can find? And then how would you like to almost die in the rapids of that river, only to arrive at your final destination and find that there’s no gold left?” That’s pretty much how it went. I am amazed that people made this journey and lived to tell the tale. And the museum does such a great job of presenting individual stories of that experience. After several hours of happily history-ing it up, we hit the gift shop, only to discover that they had National Park passports, so, naturally, I had to get one for Micah and collect his first stamp for him. Awesome!

IMG_9935The second awesome place was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitors’ Center. I had seen a brief mention of it somewhere, and it sounded cool. I wasn’t planning to do any of the other Seattle Center attractions, so I thought we would check it out. As soon as we walked in, we were ever so kindly greeted by a man who led us to the stroller ramp and showed us where the restrooms were for when we needed them. Such kindness. But even that immense kindness was quickly surpassed by all the amazing things the foundation is doing. My mind was kind of blown by all of their projects both in the US and abroad, and the huge range of issues they tackle: homelessness, sanitation, access to clean water, education, disease prevention, women’s health, the list went on and on. Whoa. I was seriously impressed by their dedication to finding innovative solutions for tackling age-old problems such as poverty and access to healthcare. Instead of just throwing money at these problems, they do things like hold design contests for more efficient toilets and work to create drought-resistant plants for the driest climates most in danger of famine. The spirit of creativity was easy to find in the visitors’ center, which had tons of interactive opportunities for kids (and adults!) to brainstorm about how to do the most good with a fixed amount of resources, and about how to look at old problems in new ways.

There were so many things that deeply impressed me. Quite frankly, the Gates Foundation made me feel proud to be a human being. I was tremendously moved by their simple, powerful vision, that every person deserves the chance to live a healthy, productive life. I love that they invest in organizations already in place here and abroad, often giving quietly and without fanfare, so that the people who work for and are helped by these organizations often have no idea that Gates is involved. I was in tears so many, many times when confronted with how easy my life is, compared to how difficult so many others have it. I came away with a much greater awareness of global and local issues and a greater determination to see the needs of the people around me (and those far away) and respond to them with love. I came right on home determined to donate some money to the foundation. Bill Gates is a smart dude, and I would feel so good about how he and his team would spend whatever little bit I could give them. And then I looked it up and realized that it’s a foundation. Which means that Bill Gates does not need my money. However, they list all of the organizations they partner with, so it would be very easy to give to those organizations individually. I am really happy to have that as a resource. Whew, this paragraph has kind of turned into a novella. But here’s the point: I walked into the center grateful for a warm place to spend a cold afternoon, and I walked out shaken to my core. I couldn’t stop asking myself how I should have so much and others so little, and what I could do to bridge that gap. Although that inequality is heart-rending and overwhelming, I came out with so much hope and assurance that it starts with doing what you can and giving what you can. I can’t do what Bill Gates is doing, but I can do what I am able to do. And just as fantastic foundations like this one overlap in meeting the needs of people all over the world, so our small actions are brought together, like tiny pieces in a huge puzzle, to bring what’s needed to where it’s needed most.

There are more Seattle stories to tell, but they’ll have to wait for another post because the hour grows late, and really, I think that’s the best note I could possibly end on. In the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to keep carrying with me what I found there, to keep giving all that I can give.

My One Little Word for 2015: Savor

IMG_0060Before I say anything else, let me give a huge thank you to Hillary, who engraved this key with my word and some sweet little design elements. She is the best! This is going to make the loveliest necklace (worn under my shirt, of course, to keep it from baby hands)!

So! This is my fourth year choosing a word (the others are here: 2012 grateful, 2013 open, 2014 nurture). How do I come up with them? Well, it’s sort of more of a feeling than a decision. Somewhere around November or so, I start to ask myself what I really want for the year to come, how I would be most happy to see myself living. There’s a distinction for me between action-based words (rah, rah, accomplish things!) and experience-based words (take a deep breath). I wrestled with it a little bit this year because I just don’t know what this year holds (besides a lot of baby smiles and kisses). Micah is changing so fast that I don’t know what to expect a few weeks from now, to say nothing of a few months from now. For instance, for a long time he has only taken seriously short naps. But maybe soon he will take longer ones? (Please?) Right now he does a little bit of independent play, but he will do more as he grows. On the other hand, when he’s mobile, things will change again! There are some things I’d really like to accomplish personally and professionally this year, but I just don’t know how much time I can realistically commit to them. So…action? Or experience?

It turns out that my wrestling was more or less for naught. When I asked myself what I really wanted for this year, the answer came right away. I want to really live. I want to really enjoy everything that comes my way, whatever it might be. I want to be present in every moment, whether it’s a triumphant one or a tired one. I want to enjoy all the things I accomplish, whether it’s booking speaking gigs or getting my baby to laugh. And so I thought of this word savor, which encapsulates it all, bypassing the question of action vs. experience. The answer is not either/or, but yes/and. I think that’s a pretty exciting way to start a year.

I am not doing any kind of formal class with my word this year, but I did look it up to get a richer sense of its meanings. It’s about the senses, of course–tasting and smelling–which I love in a metaphorical sense as well as a literal one; I do love good food and am becoming increasingly appreciative of a scented candle. The secondary definition is “to enjoy with appreciation, to dwell on with delight.” Another dictionary offers a more explicitly temporal element: “to enjoy the taste or smell of something for as long as possible, to enjoy something for a long time.” I love that so much, especially since things change so fast with a little one. The thesaurus entries are even more awesome: “appreciate, bask in, delight in, enjoy, enjoy being alive, relish, revel in.” Yes. Yes to all of this.

So that’s what I’ll be doing this year–savoring my sacred cup of coffee in the morning, savoring every little baby giggle, savoring every moment I have to spend on work and art, savoring even the hard days, knowing that soon they’ll be slipping away from me into the realm of memory.

I am pretty excited about it. Happy new year to all!

2015 Thus Far: Sickness, Seattle, and a Restart Button

IMG_9876Well, this is going to be a hodgepodge of a post, but I kind of like those! The end of the year is one of my favorite times because I love to look back and look forward (Janus, you are the coolest of the ancient gods). I always plan lots of posts for December/January and love reading everyone else’s. I was particularly excited this year because we had a week between Christmas and New Years when Eric would be home from work. All kinds of reflecting and planning would be done! The budget would be balanced! Work and writing plans would be discussed! I would sit down and get to all the year-end posts I wanted to write! And then…Eric got sick right after Christmas. And then…Micah got sick. And then…I got sick. Ugh! I spent a few days feeling really disappointed that we weren’t going to have the week we had planned, and then…I was too sick to have any emotions other than sad sad sad. I haven’t been sick like that since I was in my first trimester, and boy howdy, was I unhappy to go back there. I really think the worst part of illness is emotional, but feeling terrible and taking care of a sick baby is also…terrible.

Lest this turn into a retrospective sobfest, we are all better! Hallelujah! And I have to share this one sweet moment. On one of my worst days, I was lonely and bored and so I got out of bed to go see the boys (it should go without saying that Eric is a saint and picked up the slack for me when I was at my worst). Eric and I were talking about accepting that we were in survival mode, and I suggested that we sit across the room from each other while he held Micah, and we just drove his wheeled toys back and forth between us. Micah loved it, and we played some silly songs on YouTube, and Eric said we would probably look back fondly on this time, even though we wouldn’t have chosen it. And then I teared up. Because that husband of mine, he is made of gold.

IMG_9924Anyway! The whole reason why we hoped to accomplish so much in that in-between week is because we’re in Seattle for the first week of January. Woohoo! I love to travel, and I love Seattle, so I was happy as a clam to invite myself and Micah on Eric’s work trip. And also nervous. But now we have Micah’s first flight behind us, and it went totally fine. He’s also been a real champ as I’ve tromped all over the city with him. I feel like a boss going up and down all these hills with the stroller, and hopefully all this walking is counteracting the millions of cookies I’ve been eating.

IMG_9934I want to write a lot more about Seattle, and I hope I will, but I think I will head to bed soon and want to get to the last point in the title’s little trinity. I love new beginnings and fresh goals, but sometimes you just have to hit the reset button. January 1 isn’t going to be until sometime next week for me, and that’s okay. Life happens. I got this really cool goal calendar that helps you track your progress in doing one thing every day for a year…and nary a day is checked off yet. But that’s okay. I’ll get there, whether my 2015 starts in January or July. For now I am enjoying the hills and the ocean view and my unofficial cappuccino tour of the city. All those fresh starts will be waiting for me when I get home.

Motherhood and the Ocean

IMG_6009-001Several months ago I was thinking of writing a blog post called “Life Without a To-Do List.” It’s not that I don’t have one. It’s just that I don’t exactly have time to look at it most days. But then last night I had this idea, which I think might express it better.

Being a mother is like standing on the beach, looking out at the ocean. And having the cutest, sweetest, and happiest baby in your arms. (Seriously, Micah laughed with glee for five minutes straight last night when his Daddy got home from work.) You watch the waves come in, and every one brings in a new crop of beautiful seashells. Those seashells are things you want to do, things you used to do, and they sparkle and glitter in the sunlight. You want to gather them up, but you have a baby in your arms. Every now and again you can grab one, but it requires a deft move, and you can only grab the smallest one–usually it’s cooking dinner or making a birthday card.

As each wave comes in, you make a mental list of the shells–the things you’ll add to your to-do list, which is mostly a fun list. You might grab one shell, but then a new wave comes right in, bringing new shells that make you forget about the ones that were already there. As the wave rolls back out to sea, the shells are washed in every direction on the sand, mixing them all up.

In order to gather them all, you’d have to put the baby down and pull up your skirt to use as a damp and sandy bag for them. But you’re busy looking into sweet blue eyes and rubbing the softest head of blonde hair you’ve ever felt. You’re listening for coos and cries and shrieks of baby glee. Each night you head back home from the beach to sleep, and you leave the shells behind, gleaming in the moonlight. “Oh yeah,” you think, “I was going to go the library. And I wanted to finish knitting that blanket.” But you leave these shells for tomorrow.

Each day, like each wave, brings new shells, and you admire them, even though you can’t reach for them, not just yet. You can’t complain because you are so very happy. You’re at the beach, watching the ocean, tasting the salt in the air, smiling at someone you love more than you can even comprehend. Those shells will still be there when he’s walking and talking and ready to collect them with you. Until then, collect some for me. Enjoy them, just as I’m enjoying this sweet baby time.

December 2014 Goals

IMG_9269December, you are a fun one. And you’re going to be a busy one! We have all kinds of exciting stuff planned, so I’m trying to keep the goals short and sweet.

My first goal is to finish something I started last month–A Week in the Life. I have photos and text for Monday through Wednesday up on Micah’s blog already, so I am almost halfway there. Hopefully I can get it finished during a good nap or two. I want to finish it before I forget that week in all its sweet and funny goodness.

I also want to finish my final painting from the Bloom True class I took last year. I have two out of three done, and my motivation to finish the third is partly that the family who are visiting this month can help us hang them on our really high living room wall. (This will involve a ladder and some couch-shifting.)

I didn’t bake for Thanksgiving, and that’s totally okay, but I do have a few things in mind for the holidays. And hopefully it will be cool enough outside that we’ll be happy to have the oven on too.

Of course, I am looking forward to Micah’s first Christmas! My family will be here with us for the first time, and I am really excited about it! (And I am really happy we’ll have a big enough table to seat them all–IKEA, here we come!)

Obviously, I want to take a million pictures–some candids, but also some family Christmas shots, which are a fun tradition.

I never really gave much thought to the the new year until I started choosing a word for the year and setting a few big goals for each one. I feel very focused on the day-to-day right now, which is a beautiful thing, but I am also looking forward to thinking about the bigger picture and asking myself what I want to focus on in 2015, personally and professionally. Hoping to have some time to talk it through with family over the holidays.

That’s all for December! Please share a link in the comments if you are posting monthly goals too! I’ll be back in January with a progress report. November goals have been updated here. December 2012 goals are here, and December 2013 goals are here.

Hello, and Happiness

IMG_9231I feel like several months ago I had the epiphany that it would be a good thing to write a post just to say hello. So, hello! I hope everyone is enjoying fall and getting excited about the holidays.

Beyond that, though, I have had some thoughts kicking around in my head for the last few weeks that I wanted to share. Mostly about how very, very happy I am. As I type this, my eyes are burning, and I expect Micah to wake up any minute now because he has been asleep for thirty minutes, and that is what constitutes a nap around here there. Gone the days of two-hour naps, or even one-hour naps! But hopefully not gone forever. Every single stage we go through as parents is temporary, and that is simultaneously so encouraging and so heartbreaking.

I can’t help but laugh at this mommy conundrum. All week long I think, Oh, I wish I had just a little bit of time to read or knit or paint.” And then the weekend rolls around, and I think, “Yay! It’s the weekend! I can read! I can knit! I can zzzzzzz…..” Yesterday I took a nap for two hours and seventeen minutes while Micah hung out with his daddy, and it was awesome. I didn’t get to four or five of the things I was hoping to do, but that’s okay. Last night was a special night because I did the dishes and washed the bottles while Eric put Micah to bed (Eric always does the dishes and the bottles, and I put Micah down most of the time), and then we watched a comedy special on Netflix and had a drink. It was so, so sweet. We haven’t done that since long before Micah was born, and so we totally count it as a date night.

Part of the reason we haven’t done this in a long time is that Micah goes to bed at 7:30, and I go to bed at…8:30. After going full steam since about 6am with only a few thirty-minute breaks in which to do things like eat lunch and cook dinner, my head hits the pillow so gratefully every night. I am so tired. But I am so happy.

I was talking to someone a few days ago about these crazy days, whether they’re part of some growth transition or something more long-lasting, and after I’d walked her through all the ins and outs of a typical day for me, I think I had pretty well exhausted her. But in spite of all this fatigue, I told her, I am so happy on the deepest level. There is nothing else I would rather be doing, no greater gift than to watch this beautiful child grow day by day, even if it sometimes includes screaming (his! not mine!) and sleeplessness. Being pregnant with Micah and giving birth to him and meeting him, I told her, have been the most magical experiences of my life, and I can’t wait to do it all again. (But I will wait!) And then she said the most wonderful thing–that it’s a gift to be able to see that the magic and the madness co-exist. How beautiful. A gift indeed.

So as we gear up for Micah’s first Thanksgiving and Christmas and plane trip (whee!) and hope that maybe this napping thing will resolve itself sometime, our hearts are so full of joy. A special sleepy kind of joy, one that we wouldn’t trade for anything.

Being Nervous and Being Brave, or a Trip to San Diego

We just got back from our first road trip with the baby. He was a champion! But we were so nervous. When we found out that our dearest friends had experienced an unexpected death in the family, we immediately knew that we wanted to be there for them and with them at the memorial, which was in San Diego. We made our travel plans, agonized over hotels (mostly because agonizing over hotels is kind of fun for me), asked for travel advice, and hoped for the best. And it was a great trip. We were so happy to be there for the beautiful memorial and reception. There were tears, but there was laughter too. And I am so glad for that. A lot of the laughter was caused by…our foibles. Which I shall detail here before I forget them. We planned to head out on Thursday morning, no later than 9, in order to get to the memorial at 1 in plenty of time, hopefully with time for a quick lunch. San Diego looks deceptively close on the map, but there is that little thing called traffic, so we wanted to be on the safe side. Google maps predicted it would take about 2.5 hours, but we knew it would be closer to 3. And so, I got up with the baby at 7 and called my mom, as I do every day. She asked what time we were leaving, and when I told her, she suggested that I wake Eric up. Ahahaha, moms always know best. It took us a full hour and a half to get all packed up and ready to go. Thanks, mom!

Our poor little darling was screaming even before we made it to the freeway, but I fed him, and he fell asleep. Victory! There were a few periods of crying, but in general, he napped and played with his toys (we bought him three new toys for the road, but he liked his hands better than any of them). Things were going swimmingly as we flew down I-15 past Temecula and the turn-off to go to Palomar. I know this road so well. Someone was getting fussy, so I started making him a bottle. I pre-filled the bottles with water and then just scooped the formula in. Only…I dropped the canister. And before I knew it, this had happened:

Ahahahaha! It wasn’t exactly funny in the moment (that stuff is pricey!), but Eric was so reassuring that it wasn’t a big deal, and at least it was only halfway full. And that, my friends, is how I rode through Southern California with my foot buried by a mountain of formula.

We stopped in Escondido for a bathroom break and to buy more formula, and we were laughing hysterically by the time we got out of the car. I used my flip flop to scoop the formula out as best I could, and proudly strode through Target with little pads of formula stuck to my feet. Eric was wearing his suit pants with a t-shirt to save time, and we thought we made quite the pair. There was quite the little explosion next to our car, and I was a little nervous, truth be told, to be so close to the border with this much white powder covering the floor of my car. But officer, can’t you smell the iron?! In any case, when we pulled out, we drove right over a huge pile of formula, and it crunched. And we died laughing.

We made it to San Diego and stopped for lunch at the nicest cafe, where they did not mind at all when I made five trips to the bathroom to change the baby and myself and then forgot the burp cloth (vital instrument!) We made it to the service right on time, and it was just beautiful. It meant so much to us to be there with our precious friends.

Our little one was a darling at both the service and the reception. He is not (knock on wood) a big screamer, so I don’t know what I was so afraid of. Generally, his favorite thing in the world is being held, and there were so many loving arms waiting to hold him.

We stayed as long as we thought we could, and then we headed back to the hotel to get him to bed. AND HE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT! For the first time ever! Apparently, all we have to do is take him out of town and wear him out. Lesson learned! Eric and I actually woke up before he did, and we lay in bed staring at each other with our mouths agape. Did that really just happen?! We actually had to wake him up so he wouldn’t eschew all napping in the car on the way home. The hotel had a little breakfast, which was very handy, and there was a little walk-up coffee bar across the street. I showed up at 6:30 on the dot in a sundress and Eric’s fleece jacket, with nothing more than a hotel key and a $5 bill in my pocket. That coffee, it was so good. The baby and his daddy took a nap while mommy read a book (Read a book?! What a fantasy!), and then we checked out and met our sweet friends for breakfast.

We stopped by the San Diego Mission on the way home, and it was beautiful. Eric and I have loved visiting them together. It was hot, and the baby was pretty fussy, but it was okay. He sort of had a meltdown in the gift shop while we were buying a little cross for his room, but it was okay. He cried in the church while a small group of people was praying the rosary at the altar, but it was okay. Our stroller squeaked its way up to the little chapel, where, unbeknownst to us, people were praying during adoration, but it was okay. We didn’t see as much of the mission or take as much time as we might have if we had been by ourselves, but it was okay. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

We lit a candle in the church and prayed in thanksgiving for our sweet boy, the best thing that’s ever happened to us. It was so special to be able to do that because we lit candles in churches all over Greece and New Mexico and California while we were hoping to get pregnant and when we were expecting our little one. And I was able to sneak into the chapel for just a few minutes and pray a mother’s prayer: thanking God for my family and for the safety of our trip and for all the sleepless happiness that fills my days. The word that kept coming to my mind was joy. Joy indeed.

We had a safe trip home, stopping on the way at the most awesome bulk grocery store. We were exhausted, and it took us almost as long to unload as it did to pack up, but what a wonderful way to spend our time. And so, we were nervous, but we were brave. And we had such a good trip. It would have been okay even if it had been a disaster, as long as I still have this sweet one to cuddle up with and his daddy to laugh at all the mishaps with. I am so glad we went. Travel is such a great love of mine, and Eric and I always took a handful of little weekend trips together every year before our baby was born. It was so sweet to get over this hump, as it were, and realize that this is still a possibility. I think, really, it’s the unknown that’s the scariest thing. But now I know that we can do it. I started planning our next trip before we had even unpacked from this one. It’s a beautiful world, and I’m so happy I have one more precious person to explore it with.

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