fun stuff


Just thought I’d stop by with some updates! Not much is going on now and my mind feels sleepy and quiet, so I haven’t had too much to say. Maybe it’s just this season of life, but I’m having a hard time following a train of thought to its conclusion these days. I wish I were writing more; I feel stuck and blocked whenever I sit down with a pen or at the computer, so I haven’t been doing it as much as I really should. Perhaps by committing more here I can get the practice I need, and practice makes progress.

So anyway: last month Will and I put the garden in. Here’s what it looked like when we started:

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Here’s what it looks like now:

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I’d say that’s a pretty significant difference! The green beans are actually re-planted because Buddy ate them to stumps a few weeks ago, but even planting them ten days after everything else they’re still huge. We had some wild temperature swings over the last two weeks, and they suffered a bit from that, but I pinched off the struggling leaves and they seem to be recovering.

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I have two tomato plants that are outgrowing their cages (not sure what to do for them next …). I pruned the bigger one and both of them have several small green tomatoes.

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I can taste the salsa already.

My lettuce is out of control and I’m not eating enough salads.

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I have really enjoyed caring for my little container plants this year and hopefully next year I can plant in the ground. In the meantime I need to construct fence or something to protect the veggies from Buddy so he can go out onto the deck again.

In other news, I did something either crazy or courageous and took both kids on a road trip by myself last week.

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We headed up to Pennsylvania to see Steve’s family while Steve got some work done on the house. It took us seven hours to get there (with four stops), but it went incredibly well. Both kids did great and we didn’t run into any problems. I wasn’t anxious about the trip at all; I didn’t worry about things going wrong and I decided to keep my expectations measured so I wasn’t trying to hold us all to a standard of perfection.

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(when we stopped for lunch)

While we were in PA we spent lots and lots of time with family which was wonderful. I’m so thankful to have such nice in-laws! I was able to get out to the King of Prussia Mall with my sister-in-law to do some shopping (Sephora, the Gap, Loft [I didn’t venture into Hermes or Cartier — this time]), and later in the week we spent some time at an arboretum.

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(with my babies in a replica of Thoreau’s cabin)

All in all it was a wonderful, restful week. My sainted MIL made the trip back home with me and spent the weekend with us, too, which was an added bonus! She went home yesterday so we’re back to life as usual.

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The last thing I want to write about tonight is Marie Kondo. I love her. She’s totally nutty but I totally love her. I mentioned in my last post that I had KonMari’d our drawers. I still love it. I did my closet a few months ago and it’s still (still!) clutter-free, which might actually be a record for me.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but I’m already seeing widespread changes. I went from decluttering in my dresser and changing up my storage to decluttering the surface of my dresser, to keeping my dining room table clear, to keeping the top of my dryer clear (all these being places where odds and ends tend to collect and then languish indefinitely). I am not through yet but I’m holding myself to a higher standard. Will and I have been picking up the toys at the end of the day instead of leaving them on the floor. I bought a Mrs. Meyers basil-scented spray and it smelled so good that I felt even more motivated to make the house look as good as it smelled. I don’t know what it is — maybe it’s just the act of reading the book — but it’s been a refreshing change and not one I want to give up. I’ve talked and talked and talked about clutter here before, and probably have more to say on the subject, but suffice it to say: the book is pretty out there, but I am so glad I’m reading it.

Anyway: I’m going to have some ice cream and finish reading. More on this later.

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See? Facebook is good for something. These three recent articles — all found linked on Facebook — have all encouraged me and made me think.

1. My Mother Practiced the Piano — from StoryWarren. This is a great article about creativity and motherhood. I especially liked this passage:

You can tell a child a thousand times to go make the world beautiful, but I don’t know how he is to believe you without watching it done. Whether your art takes a traditional form like music or painting, or whether you are an artist in chemistry, cooking, gardening, politics, or befriending the lonely, that part of you still matters. It matters for your children to see that it matters, too.

This is a helpful way to frame thinking about pursuing your own hobbies and passions as a parent. Modern-day motherhood is fraught with the expectation that we need to be all things to our children, and provide them with precious memories and enriching, entertaining activities every day of the year. A good mother is one who martyrs herself for the sake of her children. But there’s a backlash against that attitude nowadays, which I’m glad to see, and this article is the latest (and least hysterical) one I’ve seen. It’s worth a read.

2. The Moral Bucket List — by David Brooks in the New York Times. This article has been all over the place recently, and for good reason.

About once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.

When I meet such a person it brightens my whole day. But I confess I often have a sadder thought: It occurs to me that I’ve achieved a decent level of career success, but I have not achieved that. I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, or that depth of character.

It’s my goal in life to be like the person David Brooks describes above, but I often get caught up in how that person looks and acts on the outside, rather than allowing myself to grow into compassion and wisdom on the inside. It’s not cute.

In his article, Brooks brings up the concept of a person’s “core sin” — your primary weakness — and in the interest of completing my own moral bucket list, I’ve been thinking about how I too can defeat my own weaknesses. (See my previous post, on not making the perfect the enemy of the good.) The lesson here, too, is that this is a lifelong learning process, not necessarily something I will master in a week, but that that’s the point. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.

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(illustration from the article)

(PS —

We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

Another point for homeschooling?)

3. Your Predisposition is Not Your Future — from Becoming Minimalist. This article is in response to Brooks’s article, but it gets into the concept of self-defeat on a deeper level. I especially liked this suggestion:

Intentionally pursue the opposing behavior. Even for just a short while, cultivate the exact opposite behavior [of the behavior you want to change]. When I decided I wanted to become an early-riser, I challenged myself to wake up at 5 am for 29 days straight. And you know what? It worked.

I … might need to do this in some areas of my life. Just as a temporary experiment. Maybe one a month? Early rising one month, cutting out sugar the next, striving to be early for everything the month after that … Eek. But I do love a good personal challenge.

Anyway: happy reading! And if you’ve read anything good lately (or anything deeply stupid), share the links!

Happy Saturday! I keep being reminded of the old adage the days are long, but the years are short lately, because the weeks seem to be flying by despite how long some of the days feel. I have always disliked how fast the years seem to fly by. (It’s already April?) — I think I just hate knowing I will never get any of that time back.

But that’s more heavy than I want to get on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I have a few things I’m celebrating this week.

First:

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Six months old. I talked sometime last week about how the last six months have gone, and even since then I feel like we are turning a corner. Anna is learning how to sit up on her own, she is (I think) transitioning to a nap schedule, and we’ve started solid foods in earnest.

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Today I made pea puree and I have applesauce in the crock pot. She has had oatmeal, carrots and applesauce so far and isn’t quite sure what to make of solids yet. She doesn’t know what to do with the food once it’s in her mouth, but I think she’s starting to get the hang of it.

And speaking of turning a corner now that we’re at the six month mark: I have two pairs of jeans that fit me now. No, I am not forsaking my personal uniform or my new year’s resolution to wear leggings all the time, but man does it feel good to have pants that zip and button. Small victories.

Another small victory: today I did a headstand in yoga for the first time. My yoga practice has been interrupted by pregnancy and childbirth a couple of times now (as well as long periods of time with no access to regular instructor-led classes), so it’s taken me a while to be able to advance my practice to the point where I feel comfortable doing more advanced inversions (and, I think, you also have to be in the right place at the right time — today’s class was small, and the instructor was able to help me). I was against the wall of course, and I had some help figuring out how to kick my legs up, but it felt so good to have things click into place, as well as to prove to myself that I do have a lot more muscle strength than I did a few months ago.

And now on to a regularly recurring feature in my life: here’s an article I hated. Every so often I come across an article online that is meant to be inclusive and relatable, but instead it seems to reveal more about the author’s character flaws and personal shortcomings. This is the latest: I called him pathetic, he accused me of ruining his life: What children did to our marriage, via salon.com.

I don’t even know where to start with this one. First: imagine being one of this couple’s children (including the fact that your mom published this article on the internet for all eternity) and try not to cry. Second: imagine being either the husband or the wife. Sometimes, as it turns out, having children isn’t the problem in your marriage. It’s being selfish. Of course children complicate a marriage relationship and it can be hard to navigate the road from independent couple to settled-down family. But insisting to your husband that it’s okay for him to be emotionally absent from your family because you want another child and he doesn’t? That’s insane, and it hurts everyone in your family. Being uninvolved and resentful of your wife and children because your “real life” is being interrupted and put on hold? That’s insane too, and childish. Sulking and blaming your spouse and children because your life doesn’t look like how you thought it would? Oh my god, grow up. I totally want to go to a dinner party with this couple. I bet they’re a blast.

Please tell me I’m not alone in being totally horrified by this article. Please. Someone. Anyone.

Anyway: that’s all for now. I’m attempting to create my meal plan for the next week or two and may have to make a trip to Whole Foods later today — I hope I can make it out alive, braving the grocery store on the day before a holiday. Wish me luck!

I’ve realized that I spend a lot of time and mental energy focused on what’s not working. Things I want to change, updates I’m planning, what I need to improve. (I think it’s the INFJ in me; I am pretty much the model for that portrait.) Just look at the last month or so of this blog: all kinds of things I need to do differently. I need to get up earlier, I need to dry my hair, I need to create a better rhythm. And yeah, I think I need to do all of those things, but I also think I need to take a minute to focus on what is working. So:

Meal planning. I’ve been meal planning for a while now (since the summer?) and it makes life so much easier. Grocery shopping, dinners and cooking are all much more streamlined. I plan the week’s meals on Sundays and do my shopping that night (alone!) after the kids are in bed. I make a soup or crock pot meal every Monday and eggs every Thursday, so I have some structure to work around. I am planning meals that are easy but also enjoyable to prepare, since I love to cook. It’s been great. (Tonight? pasta with chicken, pesto and roasted tomatoes. Done.)

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A favorite: tomato soup and tuna melts. We keep it simple these days.

Preschool. I wavered a lot on whether or not to feel guilty or weird about enrolling Will in preschool at 2. He goes two mornings a week and after the first week I was so, so glad we did it. For him, because he has a speech delay (had? he might be caught up) and because he loves to play with other kids. For me, because I was having a new baby and felt overwhelmed already. And now because it gives me one or two quiet mornings a week to take a shower, do some writing, and in general just take it easy with said new baby. I will sing the praises of two-year-old preschool from the hilltops for time immemorial.

Daniel Tiger Hour. Will stopped napping literally two weeks after Anna was born. This didn’t come as a surprise because he started dropping naps more and more frequently over the summer, but the last time he took an afternoon nap was the first day I was at home on my own with both kids. About two weeks after that, after trying and failing multiple times to enforce an afternoon “quiet time”, he and I were both frustrated and upset, and most afternoons had us both in tears. Steve and I made the executive decision: no more quiet times, no more naps. It was the best thing we could have done. However, Will does still need some down time during the day, so after lunch he lays down on the couch for an hour and watches Daniel Tiger or another PBS kids show. I have mixed feelings about using screen time in general at his age (I honestly regret letting him watch so much TV when he was young), but I’ve been thinking about media in a different way lately: if he’s watching TV, what is he not doing? Running, jumping, playing, reading, learning, everything. And he’s laying down because he needs a break from that. So I have made peace with an hour of Daniel Tiger every afternoon. It’s working right now, and that’s what counts.

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Afternoon coffee. Almost every day this winter I have brewed a second pot of coffee after lunch to enjoy during Daniel Tiger Hour. It’s restorative. (Today I brewed mine early; it’s late-morning coffee instead. I’ll try to resist also having afternoon coffee too.)

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Relaxing. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned since becoming a mom is a pretty obvious one. Life is different now and that’s okay. Maybe someday I’ll have the energy to pick up all the Duplos off the floor at the end of the day. Maybe someday I’ll manage to get all the laundry folded on the same day it’s washed. Right now, though, I don’t do those things, and I’m learning to accept that and be okay with it. I do what I can, when I can, and I know that right now is a unique time in my life, so I’m learning to savor it more and more, while letting the little things go. I’ll catch up with them later.

There. That felt weird but good. That’s what’s working. Now back to my regularly programmed quest for constant self-improvement.

1. Duplos.

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(Bonus: he’s learned how to smile for the camera. I LOVE IT.)

Will has finally reached the age where he can really play with duplos, and I love it. I was never a lego girl growing up, but I played with duplos for years. One of the really fun things about being the mom of an almost-preschooler is the play! I am not so much a get-on-the-floor-and-play kind of mom, but I am really enjoying Will’s imagination these days. Duplos especially. There’s something very soothing about stacking duplos and often when I’m putting them away at the end of the day I have to stop myself from building more duplo houses, towers, robots, and dumbbells.

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(You know, as one does.)

2. The above picture is indicative of another thing I’m totally into: getting up early. (Or, to be more honest, attempting to.) For a long time now I’ve been in the habit of sleeping until Will gets up, but I really prefer to be up, dressed, and somewhat caffeinated before jumping into the fray. This morning I put Anna back to bed in her own room after her 5:30 feeding so I could get some writing done before Will woke up. I didn’t get to much, but it’s a start. I am trying to make this a permanent habit.

3. Story Pirates. I just learned about Story Pirates and Will is hooked. This is a group that takes stories written by children and acts them out. My niece, Adeline, had one of her stories performed a few years ago. They have a podcast where they perform radio plays, and we’ve had it on for the last few days instead of music. It’s really fun to listen to and, although Will is not even three, I feel like it’s never too young to encourage writing and imagination in a young child.

4. This book I’m reading:

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I think I will write more about this book when I’m done with it, but so far it’s been … validating. I have always (always, always) felt a bit like a square peg in a world of round holes, but reading this book has helped me to feel like that’s not a character flaw.

In other news, the weather is like this outside:

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This is as cold as I can remember it being in 10 years of Virginia winters. Yikes.

An ongoing goal of mine over the last few years has been the hoary old cliche of getting organized. I am not by nature a particularly organized person, but I’ve come to learn that I value (and really, need) order and structure in order to feel relaxed. It’s kind of a tough combination to need organization but to actually be clueless about (and, to be honest, pretty bad at) real organization. But anyway, one inadvertent side effect of these ongoing efforts has been to reduce my decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue is basically the stress one feels at having too many choices. (As an aside, I try to reduce the amount decision fatigue Will experiences by … not always giving him choices. I know that is antithetical to a lot of modern parenting advice, but I think it helps. More on that another time.) Where I used to stress about what to make for dinner, I now can relax, because I meal plan. Where I used to feel paralysis shopping for makeup and personal care products, I can now just go in and out of the store with what I need, because I buy (or make!) the same things every time. I’m trying to automate things. Now it’s happening to my wardrobe.

Every day I wear one of two outfits. They consist of “home clothes” and “people clothes”.

Home clothes: Old Navy yoga pants, a nursing tank, and a Lululemon scuba hoodie. (Yes, I spent like $100 on a hoodie, and I felt kind of ridiculous doing it, but it was worth every single penny. It’s in the wash right now and I miss it.) I put this on when I get up in the morning and I am dressed for the day. Stacy London might be a little horrified, but I wear this grocery shopping, to the library, or to take Will to preschool. I actually am a little horrified by that myself, but look, they’re not pajamas.

People clothes: leggings, a nursing tank, a long flowy cardigan, a circle scarf, and boots. I wear this 90% of the time when I’m out in public or at church. Next time you see me, make note. I will be wearing some version of this outfit.

My personal uniform didn’t come about because I was tired of choosing something to wear every day, per se; it started out of necessity. After having Anna, I became so discouraged and frustrated not being able to wear “real clothes” that it really started to get me down. I found I was a lot more comfortable (physically and mentally) when I wore leggings and flowy cardigans instead of trying to force myself into the biggest pair of jeans I own. So one day I decided to just wear the same thing every day, more or less. It was a decision borne out of desperation, but it made me feel kind of empowered.

Empowered how? Well, I feel good in what I wear. So that’s a plus. I don’t have to spend a lot of time deciding what to put on every day. The biggest decision is which scarf to wear. Plus, I feel like myself. I actually really like clothes and fashion, but there’s something to be said for knowing what works for you and having a signature look.

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The ultimate sweater. You can’t see my surroundings here, but this is also the ultimate bathroom.

Another bonus is that when I can fit back into my real clothes again, I can toss all of the things that don’t fit into this paradigm. When I go shopping I can do the same thing. It’s made life so much easier, and frees me up to be able to focus on and think about other things. I facetiously said that my new year’s resolution was to wear leggings or yoga pants every day, but I was only half facetious. Now my only problem is to figure out a warm weather equivalent! Bring on the maxi dresses!

I just don’t have time for a lot of things right now. (My 2014 new year’s resolution, after all, was “I just don’t have time for this crap.”) Here are some things I just don’t have the time or energy to care about right now:

1. Working out. I know — I know. Disclaimer: I should say that my entire list of things I don’t care about right now are all things I actually care deeply about but have to set aside for a time just for the sake of expediency. Working out is one of those things. I tried to resume running when Anna was about five weeks old, but a few excuses got in the way and I haven’t made it much of a priority since. One, my treadmill is in the basement, and my basement is dark (really, we need to do something about the lighting …). Two, the only time I have to run is either before dawn (which doesn’t solve the darkness issue) or after the kids go to bed, when I am too damn tired. Honestly, rest is a bigger priority for me right now than getting my speed back. And if I’m being even more honest, my heart’s not in it. I haven’t missed running much, and I think I’m just too tired to consider doing any kind of exercise (spinning, weight lifting, etc) that isn’t yoga or gentle swimming. To use a cliche that’s as exhausted as I am, I’m listening to my body. It’s telling me to rest. I just don’t care about getting my workout in. There’s time for that later.

2. Losing weight. I have about 10 pounds to go before I’m back at my pre-pregnancy weight and omg, I just don’t care. I feel like I look fine. Yes, I’d like to lose those 10 pounds, but I really don’t care if it happens now or six months from now. The only reason I really care about losing weight is because all of my clothes are two sizes smaller than my current size and I’d eventually like to be able to wear a pair of pants that buttons. I also need to fit into my swimsuits this summer so I don’t have to spend the money on new ones.

3. Related: wearing real pants. I want to talk more about this later, but I’ve started wearing a personal uniform this winter and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Part of why I love it so much is because I just don’t care about wearing real pants right now. That’s for Summer 2015 Amy to think about. Leggings all day long, leggings forever.

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(And yoga pants.)

(A few more things I care about less than I probably should right now: 1. showering. 2. saying no to dessert and wine. 3. wearing contacts and makeup. 4. leaving my house.)

Like I said, deep down I really do care about these things. I care about working out. But the time I have available to work out is so limited, and the opportunities I do have I’d rather sleep or practice yoga. When flu season is over I can bring the kids to the gym again and hit the pool or spin classes, but … that’s not today. I’ve chosen to not care about it, and that feels really good. (As an aside, I doubt distance running will make the leap with me to this new mom-of-two lifestyle. I don’t miss it much when I compare it to swimming, which I picked up during pregnancy, or cycling. Yoga will always be my first love, though, and right now it’s the only “exercise” I make time for, because it’s worth it to me. Perhaps 2015 will FINALLY be the year of the headstand.)

Likewise, I actually would like to see those last ten pounds of pregnancy weight melt away, if only to be able to wear my clothes. Physically I don’t care — ten pounds isn’t really a big deal to me and I don’t mind how I look right now. But it’d be nice to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, just, you know, because I know it’s in there. I imagine this will happen with time, especially once I get back to the gym. But for now I just don’t care. It’s great.

About the real pants, though … we’ll see. The leggings might be a permanent lifestyle choice. 🙂

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