what we’re up to


Well, for one thing, not being dead! I’m still here. I’m not really sure what happened to this month; the first half was taken up with sickness and the second half? Maybe recovery, maybe just laziness. But here I am.

We started out the month with Anna’s baptism:

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We were nervous about how Will would manage his time up in front of the congregation, but thankfully he did pretty well. It was his first time attending “big church” and at one point he whispered loudly to me, “I don’t like this!” — so we may have a ways to go before he’s able to sit through the service with us. Steve took him home right after the baptism because we had discovered the day before that he had hand foot and mouth disease … which we discovered on Sunday afternoon that Anna also had. The whole week was pretty miserable:

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They both had cases so severe it looked like they had come down with chicken pox, and poor Anna had it in her throat. They were both understandably miserable, and Steve and I had several tough nights in a row first with Will and then with Anna, but they bounced back and for a while they both looked a lot worse than they felt. We were both so glad to have that behind us, and we were thankful also that they didn’t both have a bad night at the same time! They were considerate enough to take turns. Such nice babies.

The week after hand foot and mouth disease, I came down with mastitis. I had a mild case of it when Anna was about a month old, but this time I felt like I had been hit by a truck. After a day and a half in bed with a fever the antibiotics kicked in, and thankfully ever since we’ve all been healthy. I hear that once you have mastitis you’re more prone to it in the future, so I’m just hoping I won’t get it again.

Other stuff:

Books:

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Bronte): I really enjoyed this. I thought Helen was a good companion to Jane Eyre, in that she too is a woman who faces serious moral quandaries and looks to her convictions and faith for guidance, instead of her emotions. And I really liked Gilbert Markham — the Brontes aren’t particularly known for their humor, but I thought Gilbert would have fit right into a Jane Austen book.

Now I’m about halfway through The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which has been on my to-read list for a while. It’s a good read so far, but that’s partly because I feel inspired to clean up my act, and because I think Marie Kondo is unintentionally hilarious. I will write more about it when I finish. In the meantime I’ve KonMari’d my dresser and both kids’, and I think I’m a convert. I need an uninterrupted weekend to tackle her advice about paper and miscellany, though.

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(Does my garish old kimono spark joy? YES. IT STAYS.)

Up next: I have a copy of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down on my bedside table that I checked out of the library over a month ago, so I should get on that, huh.

On my mind:

I have been thinking a lot about my long term goals lately, and how I don’t really know what they are. In the meantime, I am very much enjoying my day-to-day. Will finished his year of 2’s preschool, so we’re untethered to a schedule for the summer. I think I am going to have to impose some kind of routine on us (/develop a new rhythm for the summer) so we don’t find ourselves lolling around on the floor in our pajamas at 3 p.m. Neither Will nor I moves particularly fast in the mornings, but I am going to have to find a way to get us moving.

Anna still wakes up once most nights and I think the interrupted sleep is still taking a toll; I still oftentimes feel like I’m two steps behind in most aspects of my life, but it is starting to get a little better — or perhaps it can get better now because I’m becoming annoyed by how behind I always feel. I feel like I’m stuck in a cycle where I’m behind because I’m so tired and I have no energy, but I’m too tired to get up and get moving so I can catch myself up. It’s frustrating.

Other stuff:

– Related to the above: I’m tired of feeling disappointed in myself, so a few weeks ago I signed up for a 6 a.m. spin class on a whim. I’ve been twice, it is hard as hell, but I am going again tomorrow. It has been a great encouragement to feel like I can meet a challenge again (I have struggled a lot with feeling like I keep falling short of the mark lately, setting goals and then being unable to meet them), and it’s an empowering way to start the week. Plus it’s a lot easier to get to the gym without two small kids in tow.

– We got our garden in! We opted for containers this year because we need to till and condition the soil in the raised bed we’re going to use in the future. Here’s how it looks:

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This was taken twelve days ago. Since then the tomato in the back has about tripled in size, as has the lettuce. The two large containers are green beans and cucumbers. The green beans were all two inches tall and looking great yesterday, but Buddy (who likes to lounge out on the deck) ate them all! I was heartbroken but thankfully I had more seeds, so I pulled up what was left of my beautiful seedlings and planted more. I have netting over everything, but I need to put sticks in the containers as well to keep the netting off the seedlings and doing a little more to keep nosy cats out of the way. (And to think I thought my plants would be safe from pests up on the deck …!)

Every year I learn a little more about the garden and every year I enjoy it more and more. I have also been out in the yard pulling up this invasive vine that’s taken over my side yard, and you know, I find yard work immensely satisfying. It’s been great to be out in the sun. This is a good thing, since our yard still needs a ton of work in the next few years.

– Anna is now almost eight months old:

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She’s such a fun little baby, and still so easy. She really wants to crawl and is almost there, so my days of being able to put her down and trust her to play contentedly with what’s in front of her are very limited.

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(She had to nap in the rock n play when she was sick. She was so big her feet stuck out, but it got the job done! Poor baby. As you can see, though, she enjoyed it.)

We also had a visit from Steve’s sister and her family, which was a lot of fun — we went to the UVA grounds for a visit, which is an area of town we don’t get to very often.

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We also participated in the time-honored tradition of strawberry picking a few weeks ago:

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I actually LOVE berry picking and can easily pick 15 pounds by myself. But with little kids in tow, we got about 6 pounds and then I bought 7 pounds more to make jam (which I still haven’t done …). Two years ago I made a huge batch of strawberry jam that lasted until this past February, and while I don’t anticipate canning 27 jars this year, I have been missing my homemade jam. I think I might go again tomorrow for more berries, because I haven’t had enough strawberry shortcake this spring and strawberry season is almost over.

Onward to June! I’m hoping that by this time next month I’ll be feeling a little less behind and a little more organized, but honestly I think I say that every month. KonMari, take me away!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

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Whew. This was a challenging month for me; perhaps T.S. Eliot is right! Thankfully I am feeling more settled (both kids sleeping past 7 a.m. today helps a lot!) and I’m ready to take the lessons learned in April and put them to good use in May.

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(There was a lot of this.)

Books:

It was a lighter month for books — I finished Gilead early this month and moved on to the following:

Me Before You (Jojo Moyes): I won’t go so far as to say this book was a waste of my time, because it was enjoyable reading, but the worldview espoused by the ending was very depressing and frustrating. It’s a pretty fluffy novel about something serious, which normally doesn’t bother me, but I think the reader is supposed to overlook the worldview and questions about what makes life worth living in favor of a Highly Romantic and Tragic Ending. Do not recommend, sadly.

The Getaway Car (Ann Patchett): Another book about writing, and this one barely counts because it was so short and only took me one night to read. But I liked it.

Now I’m in the middle of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (I feel behind in my Year of Brontes!) and I love it. I’m hoping to finish it soon.

On my mind:

The usual — self-improvement, writing, homemaking. Now that I’m not able to run anymore, I’m thinking through how to maintain (or build) my fitness in a way that I can stick with; I’ve never been big on checking exercise off a list, and one reason I liked running so much was because it had measurable goals that I could set and work to meet. So I need to find new ways to achieve that.

Which leads me to another thing I’ve been pondering — how much can I change my nature, and can I change my nature by changing my habits? But more on that another time.

Other stuff:

Picnics.

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Springtime means lots of outside time, so we’ve been out on the deck drawing with sidewalk chalk and enjoying lunch in the backyard and dinner on our new patio table.

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Peas and lettuce are coming up! But (as you can see) I’ve discovered that my cat really likes peas. I have to cover the peas with a muslin baby blanket whenever he’s out on the deck. He’s munched on several of them so I hope my harvest is still good.

Will helped me plant the lettuce, so thanks to his enthusiasm on a few of the pots we have a lot of lettuce sprouting. I think I might prune them a bit so it’s not overcrowded. We are only doing containers this year while we get the soil in the raised bed ready (which will involve digging out roots and adding soil amendments) so I have a trip to the garden store planned for this weekend. I’m still hoping to be able to grow green beans. I’m thankful to have a large sunny deck that’s protected from deer and bunnies, and large enough for a lot of containers!

We had some visitors this past weekend — one of my close friends moved to North Carolina a year ago and came through town with her two sons, who are each a few months younger than Will and Anna. It was great to see her again! We took a trip up to the Mennonite store half an hour north of us. They have farm animals there, bulk wheat for a good price (she grinds her own flour for bread), and it’s the only place I know of where I can buy lard (my secret to the best pie crust you’ll ever eat).

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(Here’s Will on the playground at the Mennonite store. He turned three and now he is three. My sister tells me ages three and four are the best and so far I agree! It’s so much fun.)

And as for writing — I’ve gotten some work done, but I would really like to work from an outline. The problem then is that I need to, well, create one. And that means I need to map out what happens. And that’s what I don’t know yet. It’s frustrating to be stuck, but I’m making forward progress, little by little. It’s been wonderful to write seriously again.

Lastly:

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She’s about to be seven months old, and she’s sitting up. Next comes crawling …

Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into this month!

March is probably my favorite month now that I live in Virginia. It was definitely my most despised when I lived in New England because it’s then that winter drags on and on. I used to start to feel slightly crazy around the third week of March when daily highs were still in the 40s and sleet was still in the forecast. Here, though, the weather agrees with the calendar: it’s spring.

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It was actually a visit to Virginia in mid-March eleven years ago (!!) that convinced me to move here. I haven’t regretted it!

Anyway, here’s what’s happened around here this month.

Books:

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte): I hadn’t read this in several years, and this was only the second time I had read it, so I hadn’t remembered many of the small details. I loved it. I especially loved the few scenes where the narrative would shift from past tense to present tense, in order to make the reader feel even more like a part of the action. I also really enjoyed the narrative technique that allowed Jane to speak directly to her reader; I found myself forgetting that I was reading a work of fiction. It’s beautifully written, also, which I don’t think I appreciated last time I read it. He made me love him without looking at me. At the end of a lengthy paragraph in which Jane describes falling for Mr. Rochester, this line gave me chills. Perfection.

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The Creative Habit (Twyla Tharp): I got this because I feel like I need successful, disciplined artists (and their bossy books) to help me in my quest to become, if not successful, at least a more disciplined writer. Like Stephen King’s On Writing (only more generalized) this book is a great resource if you need to kick yourself back into gear or rethink your approach to a creative life. I appreciate books that take creativity seriously and serve to remind me that just because it’s fun, that doesn’t mean it isn’t also work.

Gilead (Marilynne Robinson): I kind of can’t handle this book. I first read it two years ago and really haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I know it sounds like hyperbole to say that I think it’s the best book I’ve ever read, but … I think it’s the best book I’ve ever read. It’s just incredible. I read it for my book club and we’re meeting tomorrow to discuss it. I hope they all liked it as much as I do.

Free Range Learning (Laura Grace Weldon): I’m not that far into this book and I think it’s going to take me a while. I appreciate its thesis (it’s about unschooling) but its execution is rather dry. But I’ll stick with it. I have a long list of kindle books to read when this one is through, though, so I need to get going on it.

I also abandoned Lizzy and Jane (Katherine Reay). It just didn’t grab my attention. Life’s too short. Maybe I’ll come back to it at the beach this summer. Coming up next: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte)! I haven’t read this one yet and I can’t wait. This is the next selection in my friend Maggie‘s and my Bronte Book Club. After that I’ll be consulting my very long to-read list.

On my mind

I’ve gone through probably 1,000+ tissues this month between allergies and a bad cold. I can’t wait to feel what it’s like to not be congested. Despite all my gushing about March in Virginia, spring is actually pretty late this year and our daffodils are just blooming, so my allergies (which normally last about a week) are lingering. No fun.

In terms of writing, I’ve been struggling some with knowing how to get started on my current project, which I think is going to be a novel. I’ve created some mysteries for myself that I haven’t solved yet, in terms of plot and character, so I’m starting with world-building and hoping that will allow me to glean some wisdom. I am still working on making writing a daily practice but I am getting somewhere.

I’m also thinking a lot about habits, as I mentioned last week. I’m taking small steps toward cementing better habits in my daily life, and those small steps are adding up. We’ve started to settle into a new, manageable rhythm (that I am sure will change before I know it!) and that feels really good. I keep reminding myself, though, to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Forward momentum, not arriving in one leap at a permanent destination.

Other stuff

Here’s something exciting: Will graduated from speech therapy! He aged out of early intervention (he’ll be three next Saturday) and so we took him to be tested by a speech therapist through the public school system, to see whether he’d qualify for ongoing services. They did a screening, but no test was necessary. He’s caught up!

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Celebrating with donuts!

And speaking of donuts, I’m also working on eating less sugar. It’s actually been easier than I expected it to be, simply because I stopped stocking Dove chocolates and the Trader Joe’s schoolhouse cookies, and because I’m still allowing myself some kind of small dessert at night. I was starting to feel like sugar had a hold on me that I didn’t like, and it feels good to get it under control.

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This girl’s going to be six months old on Thursday. I adjusted the rise on her diapers for the first time yesterday, and she’s starting to practice sitting up on her own. She smiles and laughs at her brother all the time and wants to imitate him when he blows raspberries at her. I’m glad to have reached the six-month mark. This is all starting to feel a little less unfamiliar to me now.

As far as house projects go (I figure I will share our fixer-upper updates here too, partly for my own future reading pleasure), this month Steve is working on building a sandbox for Will. We also wired the living room for cable and got a TV stand at Ikea (and special ordered some midcentury-style legs from Etsy) in addition to a new bookcase and hutch. Once we special order a curtain rod for our insanely large picture window, things will really start to look put together. We made a big Ikea trip last weekend and came home with curtains for the living room and our bedroom, so perhaps by the one-year mark we’ll actually look like we live here. I can’t wait.

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Onward to April!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer!

Now that I’m back to blogging again, I thought I’d take some time each month to share and reflect on what we’re up to. It’s easy for me to look back on the last few weeks totally unable to remember any details. But my life is made up of details, so I don’t want to forget them.

Books:

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee): Perfect, of course, and I wish I’d reread it sooner.

The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion): It was interesting. I’d never read anything by Didion before and her take on the grief experience was painfully honest. It wasn’t uplifting, which I actually kind of appreciate, because suffering so often seems (and is) utterly pointless. I appreciated that. I think I prefer Lewis’s A Grief Observed, but I haven’t read it in several years.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Konigsberg): A childhood favorite that I hadn’t picked up since childhood. I read it in a night and it was so fun. What does it say about me that I really love Claudia as a protagonist? I wouldn’t want to be her mom, but I love imagining her as an adult.

Quiet (Susan Cain): I want to talk more about this book in a separate post, but the long and short of it is that this book was deeply gratifying to read. Everyone should read it, especially managers and teachers. I bought the kindle copy but I may actually shell out for the paperback for future reference.

Bits and pieces from Teach Your Own (John Holt), You Are Your Child’s First Teacher (Rahima Baldwin Dancy), and The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, none of which I want to return to the library. We’re thinking about homeschooling when our kids are old enough, and I have been reading everything about it I can get my hands on since December.

Coming up in March: GileadLizzy and Jane (I’ve started it — I got it for $.99 on a Kindle sale; it’s OK), and Jane Eyre (!!!!) among others. My friend Maggie and I are reading our way through the Brontes this year and I can’t wait.

On my mind

I’ve been thinking a lot (a lot) about writing, and working on incorporating it back into my daily life. It feels so good, like slipping into a favorite outfit — the one that makes you feel like you. This makes me feel like me again.

I wrote out my testimony this month. I was supposed to read it today at MOPS, but it was cancelled because of snow. I’m hoping I will still have an opportunity to share it, but at any rate I think I’ll post it here as well when I’ve edited it to my liking. I’m happy with it.

I’ve also been working on simplifying decision-making through the way I meal plan (I hold to certain parameters every week), how I dress, and what we do with our days. Reading up on Waldorf philosophy has also impressed on me the importance of rhythm in our days, so having that in mind has been helpful too. Spending my days with an almost-three-year-old who doesn’t nap is tiring, and anything I can do to simplify helps me preserve much-needed energy. And mental energy is every bit as important as physical energy these days.

Other stuff

We’ve spent a lot of winter afternoons with all the couch cushions on the floor, coming up with creative ways for Will to jump around and be active. This winter has been really good and this afternoon routine is a big reason why. Our life is so wonderfully simple right now.

We had two snowstorms last week after an entire winter without a single flake! Will had to miss preschool, but other than that we had a lovely time at home. We had family visiting, too, which made for a full house and lots of much-loved company.

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Listening to Story Pirates 

I have also been really loving the winter light in our house. I was a little apprehensive moving away from a house that was flooded with sunshine every afternoon into a midcentury ranch on a wooded lot, but happily I adore the light here. Natural light is essential, and good light cheers me up and makes me happy every morning. (File under: the little things.)

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Anna continues to be the perfect baby. She’s a dream.

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Five months old on Monday. This seems impossible.

I’ve also really been enjoying season 5 of Downton Abbey, and as usual end every episode embittered to have been born into a time when people don’t dress for dinner in fabulous, glittering dresses. I’ve been watching it while knitting and eating chocolate, and I can’t really think of a better way to spend a winter evening.

Onward to March! One more week until daylight savings, and three more weeks until spring.