Archives for category: Life Story

This extreme heat combined with Lux’s approaching first birthday has the early days of motherhood on my mind. The sticky floor in our kitchen, the faint hum of a hundred air conditioners through the window, the smell of baking bricks has triggered a wave of memories I’d forgotten in the last few months. I know several of my readers are expecting babies soon! I thought I would share a few things I would have loved to know in the first month or two.

Lie about your due date on Facebook. Smudge it a little starting two or three weeks beforehand, no one will notice. Majority of first births are late, up to two weeks! To keep the dear friends and family at bay during those endless last days, give yourself a little leeway.

Ask for food instead of gifts. If you have friendly neighbors and hopeful friends, tell them you would love for some hearty food in the weeks after the birth.

A doula might be a bit expensive, but it could be the best money you’ve spent. It could save you the cost of an epidural and c-section! And be enormously comforting to you and husband. It isn’t an indulgence, it is a wise investment. If they do postpartum visits and help, all. the. better.

Sleep with a favorite bed companion for your baby before they arrive, and infuse it with your scent.

Never post about how well your baby is sleeping on Facebook. Nothing marks a new parent more than this boasting, and unfortunately, it can really hurt some friends’ feelings who’ve had more difficult babies. Stay savvy and avoid this topic.

Things that are easiest when the baby is smallest: day trips, plane trips, eating at loud restaurants, and evening adventures.

Nap when she naps. Truly truly truly. If you can do this as much as possible, you’ll feel way better about the bizarro sleep patterns.

Avoid sleep training until three months. Do not spend hours googling methods when they are two weeks old. Your hips have to learn to sway, your mouth has to learn the comforting noises, your baby has to stop being a foreign alien to this world. It takes time, and no one’s cheap tricks will help.

 

Here’s what the hours of Googling inevitably results in: yes other babies do it. No, no one knows why. Yes, it will stop soon.

The sooner you can quiet the fear of your own intuitions, the sooner you and your baby will feel confident in your decisions.

Three questions you might ask yourself and will later look back and wonder if you were insane: Is little Lux getting enough stimulation? Am I keeping her from learning? Am I being a “good” parent at all times?

*Do you have bits of advice you whisper to new moms? I’d love to hear them, please share. Please ignore these until (..if ever) they are useful to you. : )

Lux and I listened to this all day, like the latin lovers that we are. (on Grooveshark. I couldn’t find it on Spotify, Rdio, or Last.fm. What, no kids music? Come on guys.)

I had a dentist appointment and they gave me a rose. Sweet, but the implication reminded me that I’m there a lot these days (sad but true) and neglecting my first love (my teeth) made room for our new relationship…Or some metaphor like that. When I walked home carrying the rose, people smiled knowingly at me, and I wanted to say, “it’s not as good as you think guys!”

A little vintage ring for me from Joe, from our local antique jewelry shop. With a background of aging roses from a friend who visited over the weekend.

This photo makes the ring look really nice, which it is, but Joe promises that it was not expensive as I have tragically lost rings before and neither of us want to worry about that. I love how the stone looks black but is actually a little red. It’s too big so I need to find one of those little adjustment-pieces that make rings smaller.

a little antique (not really) Scotch whiskey for Joe. He likes peaty stuff from Islay, and I’m running out of new brands to try as I basically buy him whiskey for all special occasions.

While I was at the dentist, Joe took Lux out and bought her a sneaky Sylvester. oh my gosh does she love balloons. And I do too. We had to bring him on our walk to soften the blow of being stroll-ered around. It worked!

In the evening after Joe got out of work, we met him midway to go to a favorite local wine shop that also sells chocolate, olives, eighty-five different kinds of cheese, and salami! On the T ride to meet him, the car was full of people holding bouquets of flowers, fiddling with their ties, or fixing their hair. When we waited for Joe outside there was a feeling of anticipation in the cold air and we watched as couples excitedly met up for the night. One corner of the T station was taken up with a bustling impromptu flower shop.  It felt a bit like Christmas eve!

The wine shop was having a very clever wine tasting and oyster-eating event. For $10 you could try three different wines and have a small plate of three oysters. Lots of people were taking advantage of it. I loved how they gave you a slip of paper with the names of the wine, and the cost of the bottle, for easy reference.

Lux spent a lot of her time looking around for other baby friends, to no avail.

We used some Valentines money (thanks Mom! thanks Mimi!) and picked out a german champagne, soft cheese, a salami, homemade crackers, and homemade biscotti. It was all irresistible!

After we got home, we settled in with our snacks, and caught up on episodes of Downton Abbey. Joe said, “wine, cheese, and the aristocracy!” All and all, we barely noticed that we couldn’t go out to a nice dinner or a late night party.

Last week we went to Telluride, CO to ski with my family. Lux has a circadian clock like no other, so she woke up around 5:30 every morning. We would moan and groan, and finally turn on the lights and get dressed, much to her delight.

Because everyone else was still sleeping, we’d go down to the lobby of our building where a fire was roaring, and bad coffee was served for free. The New York Times can’t make it up the mountain in time for the day, so they fax a “summary” paper which the resort then prints out and staples together.

I grew up skiing with my dad.

Joe hadn’t skied, ever, in his life, until last year.

We signed him up for a few lessons, and when I checked in again, he was roughly 5x better than me. To become a better skier you have to be fearless and love speed. I like: watching my ski tips plow through the fresh snow, slowly weaving through tree trails and down really lazy mountain passages, and riding the chairlift with the sun on my face.

So now Joe’s faster and better than me, but we still skied together for a couple hours every day, and took breaks along the way at the little places you can buy hot chocolate (and once, champagne with ham and cheese sandwiches).

At the warming huts you buy the cup for the hot chocolate and then you use push-button machine to fill it up. That’s not very romantic, except they leave the bin of mini marshmallows and canisters of whipping cream out, serve yourself style. So you can layering as much of both as you like, with no one even noticing what you made off with.

It was my turn to host some friends and their little babies. Two weeks ago we went first to Ellie’s, who is from England, and she made scones full of chocolate chips. Then we went to Lena’s, from Germany, and she made a tea cake coated in chocolate. Finally it was my turn and I made these cinnamon sugar puffs because Amanda Hesser said they would taste like doughnuts. The hardest part of the whole recipe was remembering to pull the egg and milk out early so they would be room temperature. Over at Food52, they even had a slideshow to entice you into making it.

 

Day one of petsitting a friend’s mouse (while said friend frolics in Paris): figuring out if this pet will entertain our other much noisier, much poopier, wheel-less pet.

He’s a brown and white character who loves his toilet paper roll cave and a few Carr crackers now and then. It’s a bit odd that we are actively trying to kill his urban relatives, who run free in our kitchen (not the same market for free range mice as there is for chickens), while he lounges in his entertainment room. Maybe he’ll convince them switch apartments?

New Year’s isn’t the only time for resolutions. I swear to dozens in my head every day. The queen dreamed several impossible things before breakfast? I aspire to several new identities before breakfast.

A big new identity that I quietly swear to–but actually skirt around because I’m afraid what it will do to me if I commit–environmentalism. It’s terrifying. Caring about something that is impossible to effectively protect? Read Freedom to find out what happens to people who attempt that.

But I can try to correct the little mythologies that I tell myself and murmor confidently as I make my choices in the grocery aisles. Here’s a random one:

Dish soap is a “by product”of oil, which means it is made of the extras leftover after they use the oil to make important things, like gas.

Haha, I have no idea how I came up with that clever twist. After a little googling, I learned that common scary-effective dish soaps, like Dawn, are a by product of oil which means they use fresh oil to make them. In addition to the oil they need to make gas. That fossil fuel that *might* be the cause of some tough international relations. Oh, but before you get all productive about this, here are all the other things made from oil.

Whenever I do google searches to figure this stuff out, I end up subscribing to a bunch of new blogs, skittering down weird message board warrens where people have fights about using dish soap on oily ducks, and cringing over whether I fell for the wrong marketing. It’s sooo hard to be an educated consumer.

But I’m committed. One product at time. What about you? Tell me your convenient lies you’ve come up with to feel less guilty. Or ways you’ve solutioned to stop buying the bad stuff??

images by Caitlin Shearer

I am in the heady midst of one of those reorganizations wherein I dump everything out of my drawers and make several piles around my bedroom: on the floor, in a chair, on the bed. These piles soon grow so large and embracing that I have trouble distinguishing them from one another. Then I start trying on items to see if they fit, and if so, in what way. Soon I’m wandering around the apartment in an outfit that I love, but that I never wore because the elements were buried, all built from clothes that I can’t wear now because the season has changed.

With this reorganization I am targeting a particular problem: because I save old clothes as well as clothes I really like, if I just glance in my closet it’s hard for me to see my best things right away. Instead I see a bunch of weary running t-shirts from the ’70s (I refer to these as “heirlooms” in my head) mixed in with several nice sweaters, one of which is moth-eaten because it has been abandoned for so long.

I’m also attempting something I’ve imagined for years, but couldn’t do before the iPhone: take photos in the mirror of completed outfits and create an album on my computer. Some days I can think of three great outfits, some days I can’t see anything but my duck sweatshirt (these days seem to be steadily growing). Solved!

anyone have a favorite fall trend you’re latching onto and turning into your signature look?

 

 

 

I started an eight week intro to digital photography class last night. one of those continuing education classes that is just as you imagine: a dusty classroom in a grim building in central Boston, a class of professionals weary but thrilled to be finally doing something for themselves at the end of the day. a car salesmen who likes sports photography. an irish guy who coordinates study abroad tours and wants to document his trips better. a Chilean interior designer who want to be more than just the set designer. a doctor in his fifties who has always loved his camera.

as I get to know the mysterious buttons my camera (canon 20d) better, and think about what photos I want to take better, I’ve started making a list of photographers I admire. First on the list is Olivia Bee.

I will always admire photos with people as the subjects. they seem to be the most work and take the most courage on the part of the photographer. you have to be able to pull out of your situation, look around, take a step back, and take the photo.

 

seventeen-year-old olivia bee is really good at it. especially that elusive truly-candid look. I hope can be brave and really capture the things that catch my eye.

all photos from Olivia Bee’s spraaang 2011 on flickr.

Football season has begun. A mysterious time for me, as I never did really enjoy my tickets to Notre Dame as I should have, and I wait through superbowl coverage for the commercials, and basically can’t stand the fitful noise–the starts, stops, whistles, and that weird crescendo of the NFL anthem as their logo flashes on screen—of the game on television.

But Joe, whom I relate to and agree with on so many levels–from the absurd minute to the morally overarching–really does love to watch the games.

And so I quizzically mull over the differences between him and me and where they feud on this matter.

Most timely, Grantland has re-published an essay by David Foster Wallace about tennis and Federer. That’s a screenshot of it above. A wonderful perk of reading DFW on Grantland‘s website is their amazing layout for footnotes. Just so much better than the bottom of the page stuff.

Anyway, in the essay was this enlightening, or at least relatable to me, paragraph about loving sports. Perhaps it will sound true to you as well:

Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war.

The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.

Of course, in men’s sports no one ever talks about beauty or grace or the body. Men may profess their “love” of sports, but that love must always be cast and enacted in the symbology of war: elimination vs. advance, hierarchy of rank and standing, obsessive statistics, technical analysis, tribal and/or nationalist fervor, uniforms, mass noise, banners, chest-thumping, face-painting, etc. For reasons that are not well understood, war’s codes are safer for most of us than love’s.

My blog friend E. started a conversation about homeschooling over at her blog. She shared what happened to her, setting the bar pretty low and opening up the discussion, but then confessed she still thinks about homeschooling her new baby. It’s resulting in a great conversation in the comments, and if you’re interested in the topic at all, I think you’d enjoy it.

Many of the commenters are public school teachers who are disturbed by the current system and don’t want their own future kids subjected to what they’re seeing. That always reassures you, doesn’t it?

My fearlessly pioneering mother homeschooled all seven of us, back when it was officially illegal in Michigan, sending us in to the system when we felt ready. For my sister, that was sixth grade, for my older brother, it was ninth, for me, it was eighth. I consider myself a success story. I learned to read really late–like age 10. I wanted desperately to read, I was absolutely greedy to read books, but I could not get it. My mom wasn’t worried—she had read and believed that some kids just needed more time to grasp certain concepts. But I know if I had been at school, I would have finished out that year feeling like a hopeless idiot; and possibly even been transferred to a special school for the “problem.”

Then one day, I just got it. I started to blow through the early readers. Then the series books. Within three months, I tested at my grade level. Within six, I had far surpassed it. I started reading and never stopped. I still remember the joy of being able to pick up any book and devour the story, a type of freedom I experienced again when I got my driver’s license. Devour stacks of library books, any ones that I chose. Instead of becoming something I was self conscious about, reading was my signature activity. When I finally got to school in eighth grade, I was stunned to meet kids who didn’t like to read. They perplexed me. Didn’t they need companionship on long car rides? What did they do during the endless summer afternoons?

On top of that, I was stunned by the sheer incuriosity of my peers. Sounds cliche, but these kids just did not care to learn about something they didn’t need to know about for the test. I was considered weird for bringing up “conversation topics” at the lunch table. I wanted to hear what people thought about things. Nobody else did. I felt many of the kids acted like drones in the classroom. They waited to be told what to do. A certain downside of homeschooling is that once you enter the system you will be bored by the many wasted minutes that litter the structured schedule.

But Joe is skeptical. He loved his public school education (which was in, admittedly, a wealth suburb school rich with resources). I’m sometimes jealous when I hear about the field trips he took with his class, or the experiments he did in science class. We both think Montessori schools sound like a blast, even if they do cost as much as our college tuition did. And we all know, so let’s not even go there, what stereotype everyone imagines when they think of the “homeschooled kid.”

I was lucky. I had six siblings to teach me to share, socialize, be quick with my jokes and fast on the uptake, get over myself and be open about my flaws. (speaking of, my handwriting isn’t great. I’m a pretty terrible speller. And yet: I love to write.) I had wonderfully imaginative friends who were also homeschooled, and we spent afternoons creating get-rich quick schemes like ice cream stands instead of ol’ lemonade stands, and finding out what happens if you fill a trampoline with water balloons and start jumping. Because we were the only students, “classes” only took up the morning hours, and we had the rest of the day to spend as we liked. We explored the woods behind our house, naming the gulches and building communities of forts. We went for long bike rides, or spent the rest of the day sledding. Most of all: we read, picking up knowledge we never realized we’d find useful later in life.

As someone pointed out on E.’s blog: there’s a big difference between when a parent homeschools for the kids’ sake, and homeschools for their sake (I think the latter type, usually control freaks, are responsible for most of the stereotyping).

For now (she’s an infant for pete’s sake!) I plan to see what our options are when the time comes. Finger’s crossed for a free Montessori style school taught by volunteers from the community.

all images from the amazing illustrator Amy Jean Porter.

 

 

Last week Joe tucked Lux under his arm, I packed a suitcase full of wrinkled tank tops and stretched out shorts and we slipped onto a plane (Lux sleeping like we drugged her….thought about it) to Northern Michigan.

My five younger siblings were there to meet us. It was astounding to watch my younger brothers who I still associate with noisy fights, violent wrestling, toy gun obsessions and entire summers spent wearing the same pair of shorts, fall over themselves to hold Lux. (They are now 22, 20, 18, and 15. But still.)

Between the heat of the city and recovering from the c-section, Lux and I have been relatively cut off from society these past few weeks. As a novice baby whisperer, I love to admit that I have no idea what I’m doing when she cries. Other people will take her into their arms for the first time and try something new that calms her that I had never thought of. Cheerful burping. Rhythmic murmuring. A gentle sway-cum-swing. Frequently I would hand her off to one of my brothers when she was fussing, and look over ten minutes later to see her blissfully asleep on their shoulder. Frankly I was a little jealous of their touch.

 

well well well. Judging by the old blog stats, you guys are still with me. Thanks for that. If you wrote an interesting tweet, or posted a good Instagram, or spent some time on a blog post, you probably entertained me at 3am sometime in the past two weeks. Thanks for that too.

This baby-birthing and baby-having is really big deal. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned that before. It is occupying. You put your body through the most strenuous physical activity of its life, and at the end of it you are handed a small human who has lots to tell you but only hand gestures for words. And relies on you entirely for food and drink. Who likes to fall asleep in your arms and has reflexes that make her grab you tightly.

I’d like to tell you my birth story but I don’t want to scare you.

Just kidding. But actually women say that to each other quite frequently.

But really, my story is one where everything I didn’t want to happen–namely “failure to progress,” an epidural, a c-section–happened, and it was still okay, and actually had some pretty great points throughout. Like the friendly nurses who gave me hugs and told me they believed in me. Like Joe rubbing my back for twelve straight hours.  Like the midwives who deferred to my decisions, and encouraged me to think for myself. Like the fact that, after laboring without one for twenty-four hours, an epidural can feel like the most unbelievable hospital-approved drug on earth. Like Lux being enormously healthy and fat, and when she appeared in the operating room there were astonished cries of, “where were you hiding her!”  Like how our insurance pays for you to recover in a hospital for four days, with meals brought to your bedside, and nurses who jump to bring you more diapers, and cots for your husband so you can sleep next to each other.

really, I have to say, nurses are the shit.

And now we have Lux Amelia:

She’s laying next to me right now, sleeping away. And her little nursery that could is working perfectly.

I’m excited to get back to blogging. Probably a little bit about life with Lux (life d’Lux?) but mostly the usual hodgepodge.

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