Thursday, May 21, 2015

WHAT I'M READING V.4




....or I should say, what I'm listening to. I downloaded an audiobook app the other week and decided to take advantage of all the free audiobooks that are available on that app.  I had never read Edith Wharton before (she is the first woman who won the Pulitzer Prize (1921)) and there was a plethora of her work so I figured it was a good place to start as any. I dived into 'The Age of Innocence' and I got totally hooked! Over the past week, I made my way through 'The Age of Innocence', 'The House of Mirth', 'The Touchstone', and 'Ethan Frome'. My favorite of these was definitely 'The Age of Innocence' and my least favorite was 'The Touchstone'.

The density of words in her novels are delicious because she weaves them together so well and uses them so artfully that it's a constant pleasure to approach each sentence. She draws a rich and vivid world with her words so that I can not only see it in my minds eye but I can feel what it must have been like to be there (I loved fantasizing about New York City in the early 1900s), and it's fascinating to discover the effect of the environment on her characters and their choices. She's funny, too, and in a sharp wit sort of way, and this combination of smart and funny is what kept me engrossed.

I'm eyeballing some more classics by female authors to move on to and I'm deciding between Willa Cather and George Eliot; either way, it should be epic!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

SLOANE TELLS A STORY



Sloane loves hearing and recently, telling, stories. Here is her rendition of Jack and the Beanstalk, one of the stories that Ken has been telling her at bedtime. It is so much fun listening to Ken tell his version of a story and then to hear Sloane's version of his version.  She also has been making up stories of her own and sometimes they make sense and sometimes they are completely nonsensical - here you can see how she transitions from Jack and the Beanstalk to getting silly about words and plot lines that she is making up as she goes. 

You guys, having a little tot tell you stories - it's the best thing.

Monday, May 18, 2015

STRAWBERRY PICKING, AGAIN! AT MT. OLYMPUS FARM

 


Guess what? We went strawberry picking again and my fruit picking obsession was duly rewarded- Mt. Olympus Berry Farm had rows and rows of huge, plump, and delicious strawberries last weekend ready for the picking and we picked and ate to our heart's content, evidenced by stained hands and clothes bloodied by ripe strawberries. Our friends the Agabas joined us for the morning romp and the babes were a sweaty sticky mess by the time we left, with just the right amount of exhaustion for a long afternoon nap.

The weekdays are going by slow for me these days, did I mention? And my body always seems to be begging for a midday nap around 2pm, which doesn't happen because I'm sitting at a computer at work, and there never seems to be enough hours in the day (even with all the extra sunlight; but thank goodness for that at least). But there was something so soothing about heading out to a farm that Saturday morning, and loitering about the barn and field next to the lake there, letting the sun stream into every crevice of my body, and getting lost in the physical labor of eyeing and plucking ripe strawberries, which made the work week feel eons away and relaxed me down to a quiet that is so necessary for taking pleasure in the simple things.





















Friday, May 15, 2015

PREGNANCY #2: 8 MONTHS




This past month, overall, I have felt great. I really look forward to my workouts, probably because I'm addicted to the endorphins, and I'm eating well. Besides a few things, like spilling boiling water on my belly (!!), having to go to the bathroom so much more (no thanks to all the watermelon I've been eating), and pelvis aches and pains (baby is growing!), I feel grateful for this body doing it's thing like it's supposed to. 

This past week though, I haven't gotten as much sleep and that puts me under in a bad way, I end up fighting sleepiness all day and by the end of the work day it feels as though I've run my face into the wall several times. Must.sleep.more.

Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, the things I crave the most these days are watermelon (We've already bought three this week) and coffee. And what I want is really good coffee and really good watermelon. Since I'm laying low on the caffeine I've resorted to decaf, which isn't the same but as long as it's good decaf, I feel satiated.



Sloane has now felt the baby move several times by putting her hand on my belly and it makes me feel like the luckiest person in the world to be sitting there with my little daughter's hand on my belly, feeling her baby sister kicking and moving around, and watching her face light up and her eyes get big. "Mom, I want baby sister to come out now!" she'll often say. 

I'm brainstorming ways that I can incorporate all of Sloane's big sister tendencies into life with a newborn. She has all the characteristics and inclinations of being a wonderful older sister and I can't wait to have them meet each other, but we are also trying to be sensitive and aware to how much change it will bring to Sloane's world to have a new sister. We've been talking to her about what life might be like, what she is to expect and ways in which she can help out - which she is very eager to do. 

Just yesterday I started trying to imagine and remember what it was like to breastfeed and pump around the clock, and what it was like trying to go to the bathroom those few weeks after giving birth, and I realized I may not be as mentally prepared for that shift back to the newborn stage as I think I am. It's a total surrender of faculties and especially now that I have a toddler, I suspect it will feel even more like a surrender and sacrifice than the first time. I am of two minds - one of assuredness that I am more experienced now and know what to expect, but then the other of anxiety about how to adjust to life with a newborn and toddler and suspense about how things may be different this time around. 

Time seems to be moving excruciatingly slow all of a sudden and I suppose that speaks to how eager I am to meet this baby, but maybe it's also exactly what I need to get my mind and soul ready for this change. In the time I have left, I've decided I will try not to hurry time along but that I will enjoy these last two months as a family of three, reminisce and re-read old journal entries from when Sloane was first born, get out Sloane's newborn outfits, do some organizing, and take a deeeeeep breath.







Wednesday, May 13, 2015

SUMMER WISH LIST



Here are a few lovely things I'm eyeballing as I think about summer and life after the baby:

Top:
1. I've been wanting to get an Aeorpress for a while but put it off once I got pregnant. Now that I'm looking at several months of sleepless nights once the baby comes, this is looking more appealing than ever.
2. This book is next my list.
3. We're probably not going to make it to the beach many times this summer, if it all, so this sea melon candle might have to do.

Middle:
4. I'm on the look out for dresses that are loose and have buttons at the top (for post-baby and nursing purposes) and this one not only fits the bill but is pretty to boot.
5. Am I a little bit obsessed with lipstick? Maybe... But this peach passion color from YSL seems perfect for summer.
6. Sakura baby sling! It's pricey but it's made from Belgian linen and becomes stronger and softer over time.

Bottom:
7. Kabuki brush for perfect bronzer application.
8. Botanivore gin. Self-explanatory.
9. I pretty much love everything he does so it's about time I get Ottolenghi's Jerusalem cookbook.

Monday, May 11, 2015

STRAWBERRY PICKING AT FLIP FLOP FARMER





I slept hard as a rock last night and by that I mean that I might as well have been a rock for how deeply I was in slumber and for how I felt when I woke up. Rocks don't sleep but I imagine they'd be pretty hard (heh) to wake up if they did. 

Oh the cruelty that is Monday morning! 

Whenever we go down to Virginia Beach, which has recently been almost once a month, Sloane gets really excited, "I so excited!" she will say.  We spent Mother's Day weekend with Ken's family this past weekend and I felt all sorts of lucky - for the way I feel supported as a mother by Ken's family, for the mothering that I get from my MIL, and for how much Sloane loves her relatives and how much they love her back.

You guys, the fruit picking seasons is upon us and I am revving up my engines. Strawberry picking is up first, and then we have cherries and peach (neither of which I have picked before), and maybe some blueberries (although last year's experience wasn't the greatest), grapes, and then bringing up the rear in the fall is apples, probably my favorite. All of it makes me happy. 

Sloane, fellow fruit lover, is likewise enthused. We went out to a farm to find us some strawberries on Saturday and although the field had been pretty much picked through by the time we got there, we put in a good hour of work and got what we came for. I shouldn't have been surprised but Sloane took to it right away - the strawberries were easily accessible and once she was informed that only the reddest of berries should be plucked, you should have seen her go. She was a natural, plucking away and plopping them in her bucket with great satisfaction. She didn't try to each all of them like last year, but would work for a while before squatting next to her bucket and asking, "maybe we eat some now?"












Friday, May 8, 2015

WHAT I'M READING V.3




The temperature was in the 80's all week and I couldn't have been more pleased about it.  A few days this past week I wandered outside during my break at work. I found myself a bench and read while soaking in the sunshine, and then would return back to my desk 15 minutes later, feeling like my innards had gotten bathed.

The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller and Kathy Keller


I started this book a while ago. I picked it up at the bookstore and was skimming through it when I came across a section called, "You Never Marry The Right Person". The section debunks the notion that there is perfection to be found in your partner and instead highlights the maturity and lasting joy of a marriage which is found in things like wanting to serve the other person, looking at your own faults instead of blaming and keeping score and being kind.  "The journey may eventually take you into a strong, tender, joyful marriage. But it's not because you married the perfectly compatible person. That person doesn't exist."

"If two spouses are spending a day together, the question of who gets each's pleasure and who gives in can present itself every few minutes. And when it does, there are three possibilities: You can offer to serve the other with joy, you can make the offer with coldness or resentment, or you can selfishly insist on your own way. Only when both partners are regularly responding to one another in the first way can the marriage thrive."

I'm going through this one slowly, reading a few pages at a time, and it's full of good reminders.

Scary Close by Donald Miller

I was introduced to Donald Miller with Blue Like Jazz over ten years ago, and I remember really appreciating his writing and perspective. He's over 40 now, and I was curious to see how his perspective has evolved and grown. In this book he talks about his struggles with intimacy and really bares the most vulnerable parts of himself.  I also appreciated what he had to say about that 'longing' we all have and what the implications of that in a relationship should be: 

"I'm convinced every person has a longing that will never be fulfilled and it's our job to let it live and breathe and suffer within it as a way of developing our character...What differentiates true Christianity from the pulp many people buy into is that Jesus never offers that completion here on earth. He only asks us to trust him and follow him to the metaphorical wedding we will experience in heaven....I don't know if there's a healthier way for two people to stay in love than to stop using each other to resolve their unfulfilled longings and, instead, start holding each other closely as they experience them." 

Out Stealing horses by Per Patterson

My sister recommended this book!  I started reading it just yesterday so I am only a few pages in but so far I'm loving the tone and the slow, unfolding nature of its prose. It's a Norwegian novel about an older man reflecting on a transformative summer, and so far, the way that the story is revealing itself to be intricately woven is so delicious. 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is a tiny book based on her TED talk and I ran through it in about an hour or less. There is nothing revelatory here at this point in time, but it's worth reading for her voice and her stories. 

Let me know if you're reading anything spectacular! 
 

Unrelated, but in the category of "What I'm Listening To", I went to a Sufjan Stevens concert this past week and that was its own kind of bath for the soul. I really connected with his most recent album so I love that I got to see this particular concert. He was amazing, all the musicians were so talented and this baby kicked and moved around THE ENTIRE TIME.




Wednesday, May 6, 2015

THE IMPORTANCE OF TAKING A BREATH



I've been in a strange sort of headspace the past few days. No apparent reason except maybe the constrictions of a busy non-stop schedule feeling a bit like a vise on my mind (my soul?)... and a tad more sleep might be nice. 

I'm not one that naturally loves routines, but have come to love it and thrive on it because of how it allows me to be efficient and organized - all that good stuff. But often what gets me out of an emotional rut is a break from the routine, something to swivel me out of my chair and allow me to look upon the whole world with a renewed perspective.

Yesterday morning I woke up earlier than I usually do, before anyone else in the house was awake, and had some quiet time. Quiet time as in just that, being quiet and alone. And quiet time as in letting my prayers be the loudest thing happening at that moment. I peeked outside and it was an amazing spring morning - crisp and brand new being the adjectives that come to mind - and I ran out to the grocery store to pick up a few things before the hustle of the morning routine had to start.  I listened to Nicole Nordeman on the way back, and started going through her Woven and Spun album, which brought me right back to 2005 and all of those private quiet times I had during that period of my life. I felt whole remembering what it was like to simply enjoy being in love with something so much bigger than me. No deep explanations or analysis, just reveling in the feeling of being held and surrounded. 

There are times, like this week, when things feel hysterically busy and the solution seems to be to press on the accelerator a bit harder, but then you can feel that something is not quite right so instead you take a breath and slow down. Sure, that 30 minutes between a hectic dinner time and having to leave the house again could be filled with a few more things from the to-do list, but at the expense of what? Instead, let me choose to sit down next to my daughter, ask her a few more questions about her day, gaze out the window to count how many different shades of green I can see on the trees, and be still. 
 



Monday, May 4, 2015

WHAT SLOANE SAID....IN APRIL




Carrying Sloane for 10 months, giving birth to her, nursing her - all of those things - is probably one of the biggest and greatest things I've ever done.  But when I see how funny and smart and delightful she is right now as a person developing into her own, it's really hard to imagine that I had anything to do with it. It seems more like magic, some sort of miracle that she is how she is and I often feel like one of my main jobs as a mother is to observe this creature in wonder and just enjoy her as much as I can.




April 5
While watching a short animated video about the story of Easter, we saw a scene where a few days before his crucifixion, Jesus washes his disciple's feet. Later on, we saw a scene where people were running and dancing in the street with joy because they heard that Jesus had risen, and I asked "Sloane why are all these people happy?"
She replied, "Because their feet are clean!"

April 6
"Mom, Are you wearing a tall dress (I was wearing a maxi dress) and a yellow cardigan? I like it!"

April 7
Every morning, "is it warm outside ?"

April 9
"Mom, I saw there was a white truck and it bonked another car! And then it had to put on a bandaid to fix it."


April 10
"I want baby sister to come out now!"

April 13
Every night: "Let's cuddle!"

April 14
"Let's sing together! sing with me mama!"

April 15
"Eyore needs a bandaid..."
"Sloane, I don't think a bandaid will stick to him."
"....Mom can you get a pretend bandaid for him then ?"

April 17
I've introduced lots of different kinds of milk to her so we get a variety - cow's milk, almond, coconut, soy - and one day she asked,
"Mom do we have cows' milk ?"
"No, we just have almond milk and soy milk right now."
"I want soy milk."
"Ok."
"Mom, it's hard to say soy."

April 19
During her bath, "Mom I saw in the book Jesus washed people's feet!  I want to wash your feet."

April 20
And a couple of days later in the bath again, "Mom, Jesus washes our feet !"
"Yes Jesus washed his disciples feet, do you know why he washed feet ?"
"....Because their feet was dirty!"
Then,
"..Why are people's feet dirty mom?"
"Because the people were walking on the streets where there were a lot of mud and dirt."
A few minutes later,
"What about God? Does God wash the people feet too?"

April 24
After I picked her up from daycare one day,
"I'm so happy to see you Sloane!"
"I'm so happy to see you too, mom!"

April 25
She asks me what all sort of words mean - view, out of tune, harvest, trouble, suite, etc... And I'm often laughing at myself for the way I try to explain some of these things to her.

April 26
More tough questions from Sloane:
Why is the head in the middle?
Why do I have two grandmas?
Why does an elephant have a trunk?
Why does a lion not have a trunk ?

April 27
I went into her room one morning to wake her up. She smiled with her eyes closed when she heard me come in but her eyes stayed closed. I crept into bed with her to hold her. After a few minutes, With her eyes still closed, but with an obvious struggle, she said, "mom, I'm trying to open my eyes."

April 28

A few months ago, she started saying, "I'm sorry" of her own accord, and it still surprises me and makes me melt each time. I can't help marvel at the conversations of reconciliation we can have right now. 

One time, she was refusing to put on her clothes so after a few minutes of tears I told her that I was going to go get ready and that she would have to wait until I came back. When I returned a few minutes later, she was sitting quietly on the floor holding the clothes and said, "I'm sorry mommy, I'll put my clothes on now."  "Thank you for obeying mom, Sloane, and I forgive you. Im sorry for getting frustrated, do you forgive me?" "Yes," she replied and we hugged and cuddled for a while before heading into the rest of the morning.

Another time, we were in the dressing room, and I told her not to open the dressing room door several times but she was in one of her silly moods, terribly distracted and proceeded to open the door. She must have realized what she has done because she tried to quickly close the door again and one of her fingers for wedged in the door (not all the way) which must have hurt and snapped her out of her silly mood. She immediately started wailing, and I checked her finger to make sure it was okay and comforted her. When she stopped crying, I asked her, "Sloane did you disobey mom by opening the door?" "Nooo," she said and started crying again. "Did I tell you to not open the door?" "No!" More crying. She was having a hard time calming down so I gathered our things and headed to our car. In the car, we were both quiet, and after a few minutes, I heard her small voice in the back, "I'm sorry mommy." "Why are you sorry Sloane?" "I'm sorry for disobeying." We talked about what happened and I told her that I wasn't angry, and that I just get sad when she disobeys. Her eyes teared up as we talked but she quickly wiped them away and we gave each other big smiles and proclaimed we should move on to the next adventure.



Friday, May 1, 2015

HOLDING ON TO SUNNY DAYS




I have this whole new appreciation of parks now that I have a toddler*. I notice parks everywhere I go and I find myself rating them and collecting them in my mind for us to go explore.   Thanks to our friends, I discovered a new park close to our house the other week and went to go check it out with a few of Sloane's friends after work.  It thrills me down to my toes that there is an extra hour of daylight after work these days because that means I can pull off things like an hour in the park before it gets dark. 

(* I said 'toddler' up there but that doesn't seem right; I'm constantly noticing these days how she seems entirely like a little girl now - limbs, affectations and all...)

I was meaning to post these park photos days ago, but then this week was just kind of a big fat UGH. I kind of hit a brick wall in regards to any kind of the usual momentum that gets me through the week and even the smallest of tasks seemed exhausting. Then on Wednesday I walked out of work to find that I had a flat tire. Which isn't a big deal, I mean it happens all the time right? But somehow, the combination of the facts: that Sloane had to be picked up before daycare closed, that the car didn't have a spare, that I wasn't sure if we had any roadside assistance and that Ken was out of town - resulted in what seemed to be a catastrophic event. Thank the heavens for friends; friends who are willing to pick Sloane up and watch her while I figure things out, friends who come from all the way across town with their own baby to help me figure out what to do and give me a ride home and then pick me and Sloane up the next morning to give us a ride...I don't know what I would have done otherwise! I had to leave the car at work overnight, so the next day I got the car towed to a dealership and then used Uber to go pick it up when it was ready.  Guys, I have a newfound love and that love is Uber. I had used it in other cities and heard that it had come to Richmond but didn't really believe it until yesterday. I downloaded the app and it was so easy that I was stunned. The guy came in 5 minutes, he was incredibly nice and gave me a free ride since it was my first time. The experience was as if I had gotten a pleasant ride from a nice stranger ...and that shined some more light into this soul. What is it about good encounters with strangers? It really does do the thing of restoring faith in humanity. 

And funny! how this seeming catastrophe and the people who helped pull me through gave me a second wind....life lesson alert! Noted. 

Anyways, as I was saying...savoring things like bits of sunlight, friendships, and looking for signs summer are the propellers for me being able to mosey through these weeks, and here are some more of those photos:


The warm glow lasted all over 20 minutes but we basked in it while it lasted. 



I have this strange sense that the expanse of time happening all at one moment when I look this photo: I see what they looked like when they were newborns, I see their faces now, and I see what they might be like years down the road.


These gaggle of babes make me clutch my heart. Look at them ladies flocking around little Isaac! 


And a few more photos that I took over the past couple of weeks when the weather was at its best.  I've been checking the weather obsessively, like I do, and it looks like next week is finally going to be my kind of spring weather and hopefully stay that way.  A few weekends ago, it got up to mid-80s and all of a sudden I had to have ice cream in a cone. We made it happen and Sloane got to have an ice cream cone all to herself for the very first time and she couldn't have been more pleased about it. 



It's safe to say, what helps get me through the week is the promise of an ice cream cone at the end of it!


I saw a watermelon at the grocery store the other day and I thought, can you do watermelons in April? I employed my best watermelon-picking skills and brought one home, and to both of our delights, it was a good one. We feasted on watermelon that day on the porch, watermelon juice dripping down our chins and the promise of summer just around the corner...