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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Endless Summer.

I do wish we could stay in summer longer. Today is the last day; I return to full-time work tomorrow. June was a little hectic as Josh was finishing his school year, we did a lot of traveling, and know, moved. But July has been a calm time of preparation, movies, naps, cuddling, and just being together. We're really lucky that we've had this quiet time to reconnect and to get ready for our next chapter.

We started the day with those delectable banana walnut chocolate chip muffins and catching up on a couple episodes of Torchwood: Miracle Day. Sci-fi nerds find each other (I was a Trekkie, and Josh was a Stargater...then, we merged and had festivals of each). We later had that asparagus and goat cheese scramble for lunch (I'm a little obsessed with breakfast these days) and packed Oliver's diaper bag for the hospital (I'll probably post about that tomorrow!). We'll probably end the day with microwave s'mores, as we've been doing lately. I'm thinking about trying peanut butter on mine. I also want to watch Masterpiece Theater's Northanger Abbey (2007). British novel adaptations are almost always soothing (not so much for Dickens).

We've both written entries in Oliver's book (a journal we've decorated with stickers [mine] and drawings [Josh's]) today. We began the journal after our miscarriage as a book of letters to the baby we hoped to have someday. In the first entry, I wrote that I hoped the baby would come to us in April. That didn't happen, but by April, we had heard his heart beating, and soon after, we began addressing him by name.

The school is providing lunch tomorrow, but I've packed a snack pack with my usual snack (Dr. Pepper and a Nutty Bar: my daily indulgences), extra water, and cherries and cheese cubes. This first week, full of panels, training, assemblies, meetings, and workshops (and hopefully some class prep) will be fine...8-3-ish. Next week, with registration, will be madness, with most days stretching from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The two-hour break in the middle would be more useful if I lived close enough to go home for a nap and snuggle time, but as it is, I'll probably lunch with coworkers, read or scribble in my car, or fit in extra meetings. Being able to get out of the building for a bit is nice. 

Josh has put my bag o' office drawer vittles in the car and has also made me an MP3 CD of Little Women. He found Librivox, a project in which volunteers read aloud and upload public domain books. I've already found several I'd like to hear. I don't want to listen to books I've never read, but it's a great way to revisit old favorites and to pass the daily two hours of driving. I'm starting with Little Women, even though I've reread it in the last year or two, because I've ordered Little Men and Jo's Boys, both of which I've never read. I was never interested in boy stories growing up, but now that I'm going to be a boy's mother (and I've grown to be more like Jo and less like Beth), I want to finish the series. As my 30 Before 30 post illustrates, I've been feeling strongly lately about finishing children's series anyway (Little House on the Prairie and Chronicles of Narnia down, so many to go).

The audio books will sweeten the return to work. I'll also enjoy getting dressed and putting on makeup everyday, especially since my belly mandates extra creativity. I never thought I'd care about clothes! But, like makeup, they've become another form of self-expression. My students have said, "I wish I looked as cute as you when I was pregnant!" Students can be very sweet, and I'm always amazed at how much they notice. My spring students began to think I was pregnant when I was about ten weeks along, and a couple were brave enough to nervously ask a couple of weeks after that. "Your stomach didn't look like that when the semester started...."

I am nervous about how I'll handle the return physically and mentally. I'm worried that the pregnancy brain will get worse, and I'll forget something important. I'm worried that I'll be so exhausted that I won't be very functional. I'm worried about the drive. But I'm just telling myself that my routine for the next two months will be this: work and then come home and get in bed during the week; read/write and work on the house and baby preparations on the weekend. Hopefully, I can fit some movies and maybe a little cooking in there. I may teach Josh how to make some of our favorite meals. Josh was so kind and completely took over the housework when I was useless during the first trimester. I know he'll be that way again (he really is now), and he won't have the stress and exhaustion of his own job on top of it. This will help him help me and keep me from feeling guilty about being useless. Really, Josh is more of a born teacher than I am. But he'll soon have the most important student ever.

Though I'm reluctant to leave this cocoon of home (as I always am, even for brief periods), I know I am very blessed to have any job at all and especially blessed to have this one. For the first time, I'm really using my knowledge, talents, and education. I'm able to pull from my old love of showbiz to make class interesting. I'm able to help students change their attitudes about writing and see their abilities increase. Also, while my job can be very stressful, it is free of dread. All my other jobs have had me sitting in my car before a shift in a miserable semi-panic. I get tired and overwhelmed and a little worried sometimes, but I stride into work feeling good about myself and knowing that I can do the work. I work with people who and in an environment that let me keep my calm. I'm sure Josh will send me little messages during the day. And for the next two months (hopefully!), I'll have a precious little one with me all the time, there to share the voices I hear and the food I eat and to remind me, though often only with sleepy flutters if I'm working, that he is here.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Grades and Grub.

 On Thursday, we tried to take photos for an outfit post, but the morning was so steamy with dewy heat that the lens fogged up. This one photo turned out kind of cool though. At the doctor, we heard a clip-clopping heartbeat (he didn't run away from the nurse this time), and we signed up for an epidural and Oliver's circumcision. The first choice was obvious for me, but we've really struggled over the latter. We didn't want to do something simply because it's typical here. But we finally decided that enough real reasons do exist. I'm glad we agree on it. Still, I'm dreading it

After our doctor's appointment, we went to my school so that I could finish grading. Josh patiently sat on the other side of my desk while I worked. By the end, my eyes were red, my feet were impressively swollen, and my back was screaming, but I got grades in about forty-five minutes before the deadline. Phew. 

 (Image of Eva Green: Vanity Fair and

We went to Village Station, a restaurant in the next decently-sized town (where our hospital is) for a dinner date. I didn't know what to expect, but the dining room was large and dim with a toy train track overhead. It reminded me a little of the Old Spaghetti Factory where I've had many dinners and celebrations with my dad's family.

We went to the salad bar, and then, we diverged. Josh had vegetables and pasta with marinara while I had prime rib and a baked potato. Oh yes. I've been eating less and less meat at home lately as I try to figure out Josh-friendly meals, but sometimes, my body (or my baby's body) says, "Excuse me, you are not a vegetarian, and I need some fast and wild protein!" We each left with a box full of leftovers. Sadly, we did not share cheesecake though we'd planned to. That's our romantic back to Chick Fil-A's variety in Boone when we were in college there.

I got right in bed when we got home. I think I need to prepare myself for this after work--going straight to bed. The next morning, I was relieved to only have a couple of panicked E-mails from students (even those weren't bad), and Josh made me cinnamon toast. Mmm. I was craving chocolate, so I wanted us to go to Mac's Breakfast Anytime for a fantastic lunch: chocolate chip pancakes. Alas, they had shut down due to the economy. So I asked Josh to go to Ralph's, a cute local coffee shop where we've had lunch a few times (chicken salad croissant and frozen lemonade--loverly) and pick up various yumminess. Really, I wanted desserts disguised as breakfast. But I got a sad call from Josh--Ralph's had closed too. Why? I consoled myself with more cinnamon toast and some chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

We went to the grocery store, and I loaded up for my return to work. I got some of my favorite frozen meals and office drawer staples. As well as granola bars and wheat crackers with cheese, I now have a bag full of soups and such to keep at work. I have two reasons for this: one, pregnancy brain led to my forgetting my lunch a few times last semester, and office drawer soup was all that saved me (and everyone else). Two, since I'll be at work from 10:30 to 6:00 most days, I may eat more than one meal there sometimes. I got other fun lunch items two--Colby and Monterrey Jack cheese cubes (I just love cheese cubes for some reason), dark sweet cherries, and mini containers of Yo Crunch vanilla yogurt with tiny Reeses Pieces. A cheery lunch can really make a difference at work. 

I also made a valuable discovery: Tyson has a big bag of frozen, "Grilled and Ready" diced chicken. I divided this into small Zip-locks for the freezer. This will make adding meat my (my) meals so easy as I can just warm the chicken in a skillet and toss it into my bowl of whatever. I'm also thinking I'll throw a little bag of chicken, a wheat tortilla, some cheese in a tiny Tupperware, and a 100-calorie pack of guacamole into my lunch bag and make a wrap at work. Mmmm.

Speaking of wraps, we later enjoyed our Village Station leftovers for dinner. Josh had his pasta and garlic bread. I made a prime rib, cheese, and sour cream wrap. Oh, the glory. But we weren't done eating yet (I somehow lost two pounds since my last doctor's appointment, so I wasn't feeling so huge). We made microwave s'mores. Campfire versions are more authentic, but we were happy to avoid the mosquitoes and just enjoy our gooey-melty snack and each-lovey-dovey-other. This guy is my best friend. I'd be perfectly happy to spend all of every day with him in this happy little house.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Apparently, This Is Really Going to Happen.

I've learned that I should never boast...ever, but particularly during pregnancy. Just the other day, I was talking about how glad I was that I hadn't had any constipation problems...probably due to my devotion to water, grains, and fruit. Well! This week, that changed (back to my oatmeal+apple juice power breakfast), and the H word showed up. As if I weren't already uncomfortable. Advice for pregnant or to-be-pregnant someday women: Colace is safe for pregnancy as it's not actually a laxative, and it makes life much, much easier.

And boy, have I been uncomfortable! Shortness of breath is almost a constant, and I just hurt all over--sides, front, back...round ligament pain is probably part of it. My hands and heels ache in the morning with swelling. My arms fall asleep from lying awkwardly on my side. Even the precious hiccups and kicks are starting to get startling. He's been kicking my ribs, which is an indescribable sensation. Still, I'm not yet saying, "I'm tired of being pregnant." I've added another pillow to my collection: this one is Josh's flat Carolina Panthers pillow, and it supports my stomach.

I realized that I was nineteen days early, and my brother was twenty-five days early. Hmmm. On Sunday, I began having contractions that I could actually feel from start to finish. Josh strapped on the purple watch (complete with seconds and timer) and took out his Carpe Diem journal to time contractions. They lasted for about an hour and a half and were usually one and a half to two and a half minutes apart. I don't think I had any that were over thirty seconds, and they were mostly just a few seconds. In the middle, they started getting period cramps. I wouldn't say they were like bad period cramps (I've had the vomit, weep, long for the sweet release of death variety). Then, they spaced out to four minutes apart or so and just went away. I had a couple more random ones that day and in days since.

I didn't think this was weird until I mentioned it to a couple of people. Apparently, they shouldn't be that close or go on for that long. Hmmm. I spoke to my mom, though, and she said she basically had them the whole last trimester with both of us, sometimes every minute. Okay, that's good. But then again, we were both early. At least I really know (I think) how contractions feel now. I had no idea.

In any case, everything seems all right for now, but the experience made me realize that we have a lot more preparation to complete. Some of this is beyond our control as my next shower is a month away. But we did pull down a black roll-on suitcase we don't normally use and PACK THE BAG. Here's what we've put in:

*Long maternity tunic top and maternity leggings for a comfy going home outfit.
*Tennis shoes (who knows what I'll be wearing when we go).
*Shea butter socks.
*Slip-proof slipper socks.
*Cozy going home socks.
*The pads I usually like.
*Overnight pads. More realistic.
*Tucks. I've read they're a good idea (I'm also glad I asked Josh to buy two containers since, you know, I should boast. Ever).
*Bra. In case I'm in my pajamas when we go.
*Two pair of maternity unders.
*Pants, unders, socks, and two shirts for Josh. I tried to persuade him to bring sweats, but in reality, he probably won't do much relaxing.

*Antibacterial gel for baby visitors (and us).
*Toothbrushes for each of us.
*Philosophy Melting Marshmallow shampoo/body wash/bubble bath, lotion, and lip gloss. The scent comforts me.
*Deodorant we can both use.
*Face wash.
*Burt's Bees coconut foot lotion. Foot massage, perhaps?
*B&BW Sweet Pea body spray. I may want to make myself...or the room...smell less disgusting.
*Travel brush.
*Cloth headband.
*Hair elastic.
*Batteries for camera.
*Magazines. I saved a few.
*Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards, one of my favorite children's "chapter books." I may want Josh to read some of it to me. It's very soothing, and I've visualized the scenes so many times.
*Black nightgown.
*Gray maternity/nursing pajama set (pants, tank, mini robe).
*Grocery bags for dirty clothes.

*Cover Girl Simply Powder foundation (in palest Ivory, of course). I probably won't feel like putting on makeup, but I want to have it just in case I do. This will be easy to put on. Even if I don't use it there, I'll like having it when I return to work and am too bleary-eyed to apply the liquid stuff.
*Sephora white shimmer. A little sparkle usually makes me feel better, so I may as well have some just in case I want it.
*Benefit Valley of the Stars set (white and tan eyeshadow, pink lip gloss, Hi-Beam and Moon Beam highlighters). It's cute if nothing else, and it was a surprise present from my mommy.

I probably won't touch much of this, but I'd rather have extras than want something and not have it. The bag is now in the trunk of my car. Stayed tuned--we still have to pack the diaper bag with Oliver's gear.

Random note: I feel like I need some kind of tummy scarf. My belly is always cold because it doesn't fit in most of my lounge-y pants and pops out of most of my shirts. 

Meanwhile, I see the crib through the door every morning. Sometimes, I have to go touch it and lean over it. Wow.

 I tried to explain to Corvette (aka Tiny) that she really doesn't want to go to the hospital with us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why Josh Is Just Cool (An Incomplete List).

 1. He loves tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches like Harriet the Spy (I always loved the idea because of the book, but yuck, so he checks this off for me).

2. His favorite author is Jose Saramago.

3. He kind of wants to learn Portuguese, so he can read Saramago in the original language.

4. He loved musicals before he even met me.

5. He has this perfect voice—a little deep, a little Southern.

6. He has perseveringly curly hair.

7. He has this beautiful mouth, which I finally realized comes from his grandfather. His siblings share it.

8. He wears an “Om” ring and actually knows what that means.

9. He's fascinated and incredibly skilled with maps (something I'm hopeless with).

10. He read The Phantom of the Opera with his tenth grade class this year and last year. He has developed the appropriate reverence.

11. Through his genealogical research, he found the first pictures I'd ever seen of my mother's father.

12. He often tells me I look like my mother's mother (a great compliment and one that means he's taken time to look at photos).

13. He thinks watching Sesame Street with his son will be supremely awesome.

14. He has completely adopted my language and my family language, seemingly with little effort.

15. He once played the lead in a Dr. Seuss play.

16. He types as if he's playing a tiny, fast piano.

17. His silent calm makes people respect and want to be near him without even knowing him.

18. He never takes the evil route in video games.

19. He has a huge base knowledge of history and politics (something else I definitely don't have and a reason I often say, “I love it when you know things I don't know.”).

20. He praises me when I get excited about knowing, recognizing, or remembering some stupid bit of historical or political information (even though much of my historical knowledge is thanks to American Girl).

21. He helped me ace Social Psychology tests by talking me through the information (with his genuine interest) while I took bubble baths.

22. He does voices when he reads aloud and has read Bridge to Terabithia, A Little Princess, and The Princess and the Goblin quite happily.

23. He can read Dr. Seuss without stumbling.

24. He has a clear worldview and is aware of current events (also unlike me).

25. He can draw.

26. He kept angsty notebooks as a teenager.

27. He appreciates science fiction.

28. He can clean a house just as well as I and in half the time it would take me.

29. He has an impressive collection of antique school books.

30. He makes a vest and bowtie look fabulous.

31. While looking at drawings of a proposed New York bridge, he said, "That's crazy. That's tremendous," and then, in a smaller voice, "That's hot."

32. He can pronounce French (enough to convince me) even though he doesn't remember much from classes.

33. He draws pictures on my letters to my brother.

34. Because he calls me Fox, he has drawn Foxfits: a fox in various professional wear, and later, maternity wear. He is planning to draw some Baby Foxfits, which will include tail warmers. All this because I think it's adorable and anything like a paper doll.

35. After every boy said, "Ugh, don't wear makeup. You shouldn't wear it," he said, "I love the sparkles under your eyes" and still talks about how he likes my makeup. He knows it's fun for me.

36. He is incredibly forgiving.

37. He never closes off his heart.

38. He looks awesome in a suit, in pajama pants, in tight jeans and a black T-shirt...

39. The bookshelf by his bed holds Isaac Asimov, Thomas Hardy, Carl Sagan, Tony Kushner, Aldous Huxley, Voltaire, e. e. cummings, and the Redwall series.

40. He snuggles with our cats.

41. He appreciates yummy scents.

42. He puts my appointments and work dates in his calendar.

43. He straps on a purple watch to time contractions.

44. He is very impressed with Twilight Turtle.

45. He takes my blanket very seriously. Is it out of the dryer? Did we remember to pack it?

46. He relinquished major facial hair to avoid tearing my face up when we kiss (the side whiskers are still impressive).

47. He looks good in a man cardigan.

48. He built a pantry, stroller, and crib; installed a car seat; and fixed an off-center door in less than a month.

49. He's willing to get excited or sentimental over the smallest things at any moment.

50. He's so relieved that we have a breast pump.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tools for Reluctant Housewives and Househusbands.

My friend Sarah recently posted a list of registry essentials on her blog, The Making of a Mrs. Read it here. Here is a list of items that make cleaning and home life easier for Josh and me. I am a particularly reluctant cleaner.

~Swifer WetJet. It has a trigger to spray cleaner (you can buy various types) on the floor, and the pads really pull up crud.

~Swifer extending duster. This is great for ceiling fans, door frames, and the tops of tall furniture.

~Scrubbin' Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner. Push a button and close the shower curtain or door, and this sprays cleaner all around the shower. If you remember to use it once a day, you really don't need to clean the tub/shower very often.

~Scrubbin' Bubbles Bathroom Cleaner. When you do clean the tub and when you clean the sink, this is good stuff. It makes a thick foam that does most of the work on its own and rinses away easily.

~Bona Hardwood Floor Mop. This is totally necessary if you have old or delicate hardwood. The mop is like the Swifer WetJet with Velcro on the head and a trigger for special Bona hardwood floor cleaner. The head can take a Bona duster pad, which you use dry to pick up dust after sweeping (believe me, it's amazing what you'll pick up) or a wet Bona pad, which you'll use with the cleaner. Sweep, duster pad, wet pad. And the pads are washable. Just don't dry them with fabric softener or dryer sheets as they'll lose their static cling.

~Bleach wipes. We've been using cheaper bleach and paper towels for a while, but when Oliver comes, we'll probably go back to wipes. They're so easy for quick clean-ups, the bathroom, and the kitchen counter.

~A big skillet. I had a medium-sized skillet from a set, but I was reluctant to spend money on a bigger skillet with a lid. When I discovered frozen skillet meals and started making fried rice, this became kind of ridiculous. The skillet I had was overflowing, and I had to use a plate for simmering. The $20 or $30 I spent on a big, high-edged skillet with a glass lid has been totally worth it and made cooking so much easier.

~A claw (preferably multiple claws). I don't know what these are really called, but people use them for spaghetti. I use them for just about anything I cook. I really should have more than one for when mine is dirty. It's easy to wield and drains anything from Ramen to rice to pasta.

~Clothespins. I didn't discover this until I met Josh. His family uses clothespins to close chip bags, cereal bags, etc. They're cheaper and smaller (for storage) than chip clips, and I think they also hold on better. Buy a bag for newlyweds and college students.

~A baby bottle cleaner. We've used one for years, and we're not washing bottles yet. This is the best way to clean cups and glasses if you don't have a dishwasher. No more stuffing a rag or sponge down in there. And even if you have a dishwasher, the bottle cleaner is great for delicate wine glasses.

~Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay dish soap. I like the Tropical Shea Butter scent (the white one). It smells nice, works great, and doesn't tear up your hands.

~Tin foil. This extends the life of your pots and pans--by which I mean you don't have to wash them quite as much. If you're just heating up a pizza, put foil down on the pan. Again, this is a bigger deal if you don't have a dishwasher, and sink space is limited.

For cat people:

~Citrus Magic Litter Box Odor Eliminator. This is the best we've found. It goes in a layer on the bottom of the box and then mixes into the litter. It just smells citrus-y, and it keeps everything under control.

~Arm & Hammer Litter. This is the best I've tried. We use the multi-cat version.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Suds Philosophical.

You may recall that I'm a little in love with Philosophy's line of foodie-friendly shampoo/body wash/bubble bath. Since the brand rarely has sales, and the large bottles normally cost $16, I usually have to make my June birthday treats/gifts last until Christmas...and the Christmas suds have to last until my birthday. Well, thanks to Sephora's Christmas in July Philosophy sale (you still have a few days!), I got to rack up a bit. All the fragrances were from the Christmas line, which usually has the yummiest "flavors" anyway.

I got a full-size (16 oz.) Sugary Cinnamon Icing and 6 oz. bottles of Peppermint Bark (which is the prettiest, shimmery ruby color), Buttered Rum, and Hazelnut Espresso. Don't those names just make you want to eat platters of mini desserts in a secluded cabin with a claw-foot tub by a fireplace, or is that just me? I also got two gift sets of Melting Marshmallow with 4 oz. bottles of the magic sudsy-ness, 2 oz. bottles of body lotion, and shimmery lip glosses. The gift box is sturdy and looks like a mountain cabin. The inside of the box is a hearth scene. I'm saving one in case Oliver wants to put little animals in it or something (perhaps Calico Critters?).

The scents are all fairly subtle in the bottle but warm up in steam. I love anything with a marshmallow scent (funny since I don't care for plain marshmallows...bring them on in a dessert or s'mores, of course. Mmm...s'mores...). Philosophy's marshmallow is very light and subtle toastiness. I was going to buy a full-sized bottle when it was available at Christmas, but I waited too long. Alas.

I was feeling a bit nervous since my big Butterscotch Bliss bottle is almost empty, but now, I know my showers (and my baths...ah, someday...) will remain delicious. I'm going to put one of each of the marshmallow suds and lotion right into my travel bag. The 3-in-1 is great to have when traveling: no worries about missing shampoo or body wash or not having something to sweeten a long tub soak. As bubble bath, the gel doesn't make a lot of froth, but it does make the water silky and fragrant.

When I was a preteen or young teen, I remember seeing Philosophy products in my aunt and uncle's bathroom. They were quite hip, sophisticated folks, and I thought, "Wow. I'll never be cool enough to have Philosophy stuff." It still isn't cheap, but I love having it. What symbolizes luxury for you?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

How to Start (and Keep) a Journal.

*Call it whatever you want. Journal. Diary. Scrapbook. Art book. Notebook. Scribble pad.

*Find tools you love, but don't limit yourself. Don't worry about "messing up" a pretty journal if that's what draws you. Don't feel silly if all you want is a composition book or a tiny spiral. Pick pens (pencils, markers, whatever) that write easily and that you enjoy using. I love Sakura Gelly Rolls. I also love fountain pens with colored inks, colorful ballpoints, scented markers...I choose my writing utensils based on my mood and on what the journal I'm using can handle (some have thin pages and can only take a ballpoint).

*Loosen up your idea of what a journal is. You don't have to write in it every day. You don't have to write down exactly what you did every day. You don't have to want to some divine, philosophical breakthrough. You don't have to entertain anyone but yourself. You don't have to fill every line. You don't have to use a certain kind of book or pen or color or organization. You don't even have to date everything. You don't have to name names. You don't have to limit yourself to happiness or sadness or deepest emotions. You don't have to write in cursive or print or in any consistent manner. You don't have to write at all if you'd rather make a collage, draw something, use stickers.... You don't have to write in paragraphs. Like my blog, my journal often contains lists. You don't have to write a certain amount. When I was a teenager, I often had entries that were thirty pages long. Now, I sometimes have entries that are one sentence, but I also have longer entries. It's inconsistent.

*When possible, be specific. When I read my old journals, it's not the soul-searching, deep exploration entries that fascinate me. It's the daily details, the descriptions, the meals, the clothes, the conversations and bits of dialogue, the shopping, the chores, the groceries, the momentary wishes, the bits that tell me who I was then.

*Find inspiration anywhere. If prompts help you, get a book or look them up online. I like SARK's Journal and Playbook and Judy Reeve's The Daily Writer. Recycle prompts. Just as you'll never read a book the same way twice, you'll never write on an idea in the same manner. I have a couple of notebooks just with ideas of writing topics--sometimes just a word or phrase. When you read a book or look at a magazine, have your journal and pause to write a sentence or two (or several pages; it doesn't matter) when something grabs you. Write after you watch a movie--not necessarily about the movie itself but about whatever the movie made you ponder. I have a scrapbook of images and words from magazines, and flipping through it can make me feel calm and help me write.

*Write on location. The most interesting way to write, which produces the most interesting entries to re-read, is to go somewhere. Bring your journal with you when you can. Write in the car (when someone else is driving) on your way somewhere. Write in waiting rooms, in libraries, at museums, at other people's houses, at parks, in gardens, on airplanes, in coffee shops, in restaurants. You'll find yourself pouring out expectations details, descriptions, observations, and passing dialogue. Writing on location has a magic and energy I can't explain.

*Make it special sometimes. Writing on location can do this. Journaling can be very restorative even if you only have half an hour. When I was working two jobs (waiting tables and retail--gah) and going to school full-time, I spent some time in the evening out on my patio, writing at my bistro table with a candle. Silky paper can do this. A new pen can do this. Writing in a bubble bath (though a little tricky) can do this. Make it a treat rather than a chore.

*Consume. In order to write, you need material. Watch movies, listen to music, visit people, go to shops, travel, read books, look at art books, have meaningful conversations. When you get that feeling of being full or itchy, write.

*Let topics merge. Write about work, your wishes, your family, your irritations, your gratitude, your aspirations, your creative work, your travels, your story ideas (or stories), your finances, your fears, your relationships...let it all come together just as it does in your daily life.

*Don't abandon it. You've probably read that one piece of cake isn't going to wreck your diet and doesn't mean you should give up. The same is true of journaling. Missing a day, week, month, or year is okay. Pick up the same book. I've done this after months without writing. One journal shifts completely as my life had done during that absence. It's interesting to look back on, and it keeps me from having stacks of notebooks with only a few pages filled.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Preparations, Part II.

I am thirty weeks pregnant today. Three quarters. Oliver can smell whatever I eat or inhale. I'm glad I've made scent such a priority at home. I always think of it as a way to sweeten life for Josh and for myself...and now, already, it's for our baby too.

Today, I got a package from my dear friend Sarah. She sent the adorable seahorse rattle from our Amazon registry and Eric Carle's Mister Seahorse board book. My brother bought me the fancy hardcover of the book a few years ago, and I was a little sad just the other day, thinking of it covered in drool and such. Now, Oliver can gnaw on the board book to his heart's content, and Mama can be a little selfish about the fancy book. What's better than a surprise package from an old friend? Themed gifts, no less!

Tuesday was a productive day on the baby front. We unpacked and set up the highchair, which has a gorgeous black and white pattern. It looks lovely with our black table and chairs and with Audrey keeping watch. We have it folded in the corner for now so that the cats don't fur it up before Oliver even gets a chance to use it.

Next, Josh built the crib! It's a beautiful creamy color.

I worked on sorting the clothes from the shower by size.

We also finished the thank you notes! I began thinking about how many stamps we'll need between thank you notes and birth announcements.

We replenished our strength by having dinner at the local Mexican restaurant with my dad. He took the photo of us by the crib. We'd been spending quite some time stacking the car seat box and books, trying to make a "tripod" of appropriate height. Dad also gave me a tiny book of fairy stickers...glittery ones at that. I had fajitas and satisfied my shrimp and guacamole lust.  This baby will grab avocados as we pass them at the grocery store.

On Wednesday, I finished organizing the clothes and cleaning up the wrapping. Josh and I tested out the Twilight Turtle. Oh! He is amazing. He filled Oliver's room with blue, green, or amber stars. I hope Oliver will like him. The stars are so magical and soothing. We'll have the turtle in our room while Oliver is in the bassinet. Josh would prefer to have him in our room now, but I don't want to wear out the batteries. Josh did pick up AAAs at the store, though. 

On Thursday, I did nothing besides going to work. I craved pasta intensely, so Josh made an all-in-a-box rotini, marinara, and meatball meal. He's a sweetheart. I went to sleep shortly thereafter with my love tickling my back. Life is sugary sometimes.

On Friday, I unpacked all the boxes. No boxes remain. Messes remain, certainly, and I'll have to tackle one room at a time. But everything is out. I also got started on more book organizing. The books will require all my creativity. And Josh finished a project: writing and coloring Oliver's name in Klingon. That's right. Oliver has very dorky parents.

Meanwhile, my belly button is nearly gone. Envision a pie in thirds. The top two thirds of my belly button are poking out. The bottom third is holding strong for the moment. Also, Oliver has become quite visible. I'll feel a shift and see what is probably a head poking out between my ribs and what is probably a leg poking out near my hip. My stomach is rarely really rounded. He's apparently the size of a basketball. Gracious. My tiny baby is not so very tiny.

Fairy Clothes: Another Tribute to the Magic Cardigan.

Here's another look at the "magic cardigan." This is from about a year ago when I taught classes last summer. The little ivory buttons in the ruffles on the tank top match the cardigan. These gray and cream heels are not comfortable (I probably couldn't even get them on right now), but boy, are they pretty. I haven't used this bag lately as it's big, and I always fill up a big bag, but I love it. It cost $30, looks far more expensive, and has a zip-up laptop sleeve.

Skirt: The Limited
Tank: Ann Taylor Loft
Cardigan: Ann Taylor Loft
Earrings: Target
Heels: Nine West
Work Bag: Target (Merona)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Maternity Fairy Clothes: Rosewood.

Summer classes are coming to a close, but the paperwork is just getting started for me. And in just over a week, I'll be back to figuring out comfortable, professional, and (hopefully) cute outfits every day...which is a bit harder with the belly.

I'm grateful for every pair of flats I own since I've stepped away from heels for the duration. My mom got me these a couple of years ago. Apparently, they are an imitation of some fancy design.

I love the layers of this necklace even though I have to be careful to avoid serious tangling. The two short white pearl strands were originally one long strand which broke the first time I wore the necklace (I leaned down to get something out of my work bag, and the strand caught on the arm of my chair...pearls everywhere). I restrung them as two strands on elastic thread.

I spent an unusual amount of money on this cardigan. In the dressing rooms, my mom and I called it "the magic cardigan" because it made every outfit look fabulous and special.

Oliver in a pink bubble.

Prepare for more outfit posts as the new semester begins! I hope I'll manage to keep my clothes interesting...far more for my own sake than anyone else's.

Maternity Capris: Motherhood
Tank: Ann Taylor Loft
Cardigan: Ann Taylor Loft
Necklace: Ann Taylor Loft
Flats: Target

Artful Clutter.

My home style is certainly cluttered. I have several reasons for this.

1. I like to know, by looking at any corner or surface, that a house is my home.
2. I like a lot of stuff.
3. I tend to be messy.
4. For me, mildly cramped equals cozy.

The mere title of A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of A Misspent Life: How to live creatively with collections, clutter, work, kids, pets, art, etc... and stop worrying about everything being perfectly in its place by Mary Randolph Carter is very validating for me. It's on my Amazon wish list, and if I ever get it, I will lovingly add it to a teetering book stack until I get to it. 

Josh has very little stuff besides books. He regularly purges his clothes with a vengeance, taking any excess to Goodwill. I've saved his high school notebooks from the trash. So it's strange that's he's content to live with me. He says, though, that he loves seeing my stuff everywhere. 

Getting settled in a new place takes me a while because if I don't find places for everything the first time, I never will. A junk corner a month after I move in will remain a junk corner a year later. A good set-up (by my definition) to start with at least provides a mold for my messes to conform to, more or less. I plan to share some photos of the house with you once I crystallize it (that plan is giving me some motivation to get going despite my desire to lounge incessantly while I can). 

I love how every house we've had ends up with a different system of organization and decor. It's not just because we gain and lose stuff and furniture. Of course, the changing size of our homes has something to do with it--two bedroom duplex to one-bedroom apartment to three-bedroom house to two-bedroom duplex to five-bedroom house to two-bedroom house. The vignettes morph. The poetry books don't stay on the same shelf. The pictures move. The cabinet that held stationery holds cosmetics and then holds candles, soap, and Wallflowers. The plastic drawers that held office supplies hold cardigans. The desk that held inks and pens is now a vanity. The bistro table moves from kitchen to balcony to sunroom to dining room to canning room to side porch. It's a fun evolution. 

Sometimes, I see Josh smiling at a pile of stuff on or next to my side of the bed--books, pens, notebooks, little projects. He seems to be memorizing the collage even as it annoys him. 

Is your clutter out in the open, or do you have secret treasure stashes?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

For His Jouney.

In my last journal, I started a list of qualities or traits I want to help Oliver develop...little wonder-tools to carry with him, the kinds of items a fairy godmother might give a child to sustain him through a long journey. I wrote down several items and then asked Josh to add more. I'm thinking about putting the list up somewhere so that we can always remember what we want to give him or help him find.

*Bubbling joy
*Fascination with books
*Body confidence
*Basic, daily life skills
*Sense of opporutnity
*Internal locus of control

~Safety of mind
~Intellectual honesty
~Aspects of human endeavor
~A sense of duty to his fellow man
~An open interest
~A sense of being connected to all things, distant or near

If only, like Tumnus with his packages for tea or Father Christmas with his strange presents, we could hand these to him or pack them in a basket with cinnamon biscuits and apples before we have to send him out into any bit of the world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Afternoon.

It's a gloomy afternoon. I've taken a nap and finished my Dr. Pepper of the day. I have reports to edit, but I've been reading an essay called "That Sunday" in Adam Gopnik's Through the Children's Gate. It's about Sunday at the Village Vanguard, an album born of a jazz trio gig at a jazz club in the '60s. I hadn't heard of it, so I had Josh look up a couple of songs on YouTube. "Alice in Wonderland" is tinkling along with the live sounds of '60s jazz club chatter, flirting, and wine glasses as Josh and I lounge against a sage green velour body pillow under apple green sheets. The thunder has just begun its muttering.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


A blue baby tub is hanging on the back of my bathroom door.

The grandparent bed is piled with gift bags and giant boxes. This is thanks to my mom and stepfather loading up their truck and stopping at our house--we never would have fit all that in my car!

About ten moving boxes remain in the house.

On Sunday, we worked on the house, cleaned out the cars, and went grocery shopping. We bought various Tupperware containers: one to hold bottles of milk in the freezer, one to hold thawing bottles in the fridge, one to hold clean bottles in the designated cabinet, and one to hold extra nipples and rings and such. I realized that having all that toppling over would be a disaster. Josh would open the cabinet, and bottles would fall on his head. Milk storage containers would roll around and get lost in the freezer. Organizing all that felt nice. Closer to time, we'll boil everything.

I also worked on the breast pump. Our skittish little lady cat took up shelter in the box. I put batteries (eight AAs!) in the battery pack and stocked the backpack with extra batteries, wet-erase markers for dates, bra pads, and cream (a tiny sample came with the pump). A pocket on the back will hold a book. I'm building at extra half hour a day into my work schedule, and I will not be checking E-mails while I pump. Josh will probably have to feed Oliver three or four times during the day. I hope I can keep up. I plan to get a jump start during my three-week leave (I'll be three months shy of a year at my school, so no FMLA for me). We'll get some formula too as a back up. I just added a case of Similac Nursettes and disposable nipples to our Amazon registry...they will be quick and easy when Josh runs out of my milk (he'd already be in a panic), or we're in some sort of bind.

I found cute green baby-themed thank you notes at Wal-mart and bought stamps...I plan to knock those out this week. Next week will be a bit wild since summer grades are due on Thursday. And then...time to return to work for real. I won't think about that just yet.

I'm anxious to get the house and as much baby prep as possible done before then because I know so little will actually happen after that. Organization will crystallize; corner messes will fossilize. Until I got back from the shower and looked at the house anew, I didn't realize just how much I still have to do. Luckily, Josh is keeping the laundry, dishes, sweeping, litter box, and other daily bits under control while I figure all this out. You know what is soothing when you feel overwhelmed? Alan Rickman reading Shakespeare.

Is his voice not perfect? I fell a bit in love with him as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. I imagined watching all my favorite movies this summer, but I haven't even been reading well. Well, I have few seated classes this fall, so I'll be able to spend lots of time in my office and bring less work home. That should help me make time for Little Women and I Capture the Castle and reading at least a few of the books in the towering stacks by my bed. I survived the busy and nauseous (new job+first trimester=madness) spring semester by reading for hours on the weekend. Going back to Alan Rickman: ALA has a "Read" poster of him with Catcher in the Rye. I need that for my office. Going back to Sense and Sens: I always identified with Marianne. I certainly had a Willoughby or two. I like how Elinor becomes more in touch with her heart while Marianne becomes a bit more calm and can appreciate real, steadfast love.

Going back to thank you notes and letters: I realized while unpacking two boxes that the drawers in Josh's big desk are no match for my stationery collection. I've long assured myself that I would have several devoted penpals and use all those gorgeous cards. It may yet happen, but I've definitely disappeared from the mailbox over the last couple of years.

We got to relive the shower a bit on Saturday night with a plate of leftovers that Susan made (more for the purpose of me not starving to death on the drive home. I made it, though). We shared the fruit, cheese, and cupcakes while I ate the mini chicken salad sandwich, and Josh made quick work of the pasta salad. After the shower feast, brown rice bowls with corn, boiled egg, and Parmesan on Sunday were humble but still very satisfying. When I got hungry before bed, I filled a bowl with black grapes, three strawberries, and a tiny plum. I'd never had plums before, and I want to try new fruits while my palette is so accepting of them. Monday kept me busy with a telephone and web training session and grading, but I made banana nut muffins using Martha White Whole Grain mix. I added extra walnuts (I love them!) and dark chocolate chips. Oh, those muffins were sublime. I could make them every day this week. We had a lovely dinner of fruit and scrambled eggs with asparagus and crumbled goat cheese (bacon bits for me; soy bits and hot sauce for him). Mmm.

(I know it looks like green eggs and ham, but it's delicious. Really)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Shower the Babies You Love with Love.

After our brief banishment, we returned to a transformed house.

Baby boy balloons were everywhere. I remember being obsessed with the tiny plastic babies, safety pins, and bottles for shower decor when I was little. Could I really be having my own baby shower?

This lemonade was delectable. I had to check to make sure it wasn't spiked. Susan had also supplied me with mini Dr. Pepper cans.

The food presentation was still in progress. Sarah's boyfriend, Adam, is a chef, and he was happily busy slicing and arranging. These adorable little signs awaited.

A cupcake tower (gasp!) and a platter of favors (egg-shaped Jordan almonds with "nesting" feathers on the boxes) were first to grace the confetti-strewn table. I've eaten many grand meals at this table as well as lots of casual, chatty pizza dinners.

That's in honor of our baby. Three people at the shower mentioned this blog. I think it's pretty cool that something I started for funsies helps our family stay connected to us and know us.

Here are beautiful caprese kabobs (grape tomatoes and mozzarella) beside a photo of Josh and Sarah as littles.

Little shrimp with cocktail sauce curled beside caprese on ciabatta bread (grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, oil, and basil). I remember one Christmas in the mountains. Josh and I arrived at night after everyone else. Susan made simple pizza from scratch, and as she did so, she cut me a piece of fresh mozzarella. Oh my. I hadn't had it before. Is the taste or the texture more magical? In any case, this veggie head item (Sarah is a vegetarian as well, so the spread had a nice balance) may have been my favorite.

My mom said that these lime cups appeared to be pregnant with lots of berry babies.

Cracker, cheese, and grape goodness.

Aren't single-color M&Ms sweet? I swiped this precious sign.

 Yes, those are tiny baby footprints on the mints.

Susan did assure us that this would not be a "nuts and mints" party, but we didn't see this coming. The nutty bruschetta didn't appear in the photos, but oh my.

Near the center are little chicken salad sandwiches. I couldn't believe anything was left for seconds.

These are just some of the gifts. After the feast, Josh and I settled into the designated chairs (lemonade on hand for my powerful thirst) and got started.

Oliver is going to be a well-dressed little man.

*Zach's (Josh's brother's) girlfriend, Tina: navy Polo onesie, a Polo shirt, Polo khaki shorts, and sporty socks.

*Grammy and Grampy: tiny red high tops, turtle onesies, a monkey outfit, and several little funny phrase body suits.

*Sarah and her boyfriend, Adam: "muscles" octopus onesie, Mickey onesie, and rock and roll themed socks.

*Hannah, Josh's cousin: navy onesie with leggings.

*Judy (Josh's aunt) and her son, Caleb: sock set, fall color and monkey-themed onesies with leggings, and tiny monkey sandals all in that cute Dr. Seuss bag.

*Zach: tiny Nike hat.

Oliver will have warm little feet. The clothes range from newborn to nine months, so he'll be set for a while! I have a lot of tiny laundry to do, and I can't wait to organize the clothes by size in the wardrobe drawers.

He also got some fun little bits and totally necessary items.
*Grammy and Grampy: Pooh teething ring, rubber duckie, baby lotion, and four packages of diapers in various sizes (one N, two 1, and one 2). 

*Marmee and Papa: super fancy breast pump (I was so scared no one would buy this since it's very expensive and very awkward...cue Mama! I had Josh open this. Now, I can feed my baby after I go back to work), bra pads, milk storage and freezing containers, and a set of five bottles. A surprise: the adorable Twilight Turtle! He projects stars onto the ceiling. Josh and I had swooned over him in a magazine and then saw him with Mom at Target. She remembered! She also found something astonishing at Michaels: little items (tiny tissue box, emery boards, notepad, and cards) with a new Mary Engelbreit design of a curly-headed baby boy riding a seahorse. "It's Oliver," she said. It absolutely is, and we nearly died of the cuteness. We also must find every available product with the image. See him here.

*Katie, Josh's cousin: a pre-decorated photo scrapbook. All we have to do is slip in the photos! That will be easy for the bleary days, weeks, and months following our little prince's arrival.

*Rachel, Josh's cousin: a precious plush baby Tigger.

*Grandpa and Patty (Greg's dad and his wife): a beautiful black and white high chair which will look so nice with the black table and chairs.

*Sarah and Adam: a blue baby tub, complete with bath toys and a thermometer. Squeal.

*Grandmom and Granddaddy (Susan's parents): the convertible carseat Oliver will use until he weighs 65 pounds and moves to a booster.

*Grammy and Grampy: a super play yard with a bassinet and changing station. This will be beside our bed and will be Oliver's sleeping spot until I return to work (or later, depending on his daddy's cooperation). It has little bees on it.

So we can now feed, dress, transport, change, bathe, and tuck in (not literally, of course) our baby. Basically all the big items are set except the crib mattress and bedding. The other most important items are the nursing pillow, the Boppy, the diaper...disposer?, the monitor, the bottle sterilizer (that no dishwasher issue makes it important!), and the adorable Puj, which makes bathing tiny babies in the sink easy (Josh keeps saying "But what about the Puj?? We need it!" I think the adorable baby on the product page and the fact that the word is so fun to say may contribute to his anxiety. We're probably saying it wrong anyway). I also want to make sure we have a coat for Oliver since he'll be just a few months old when the cold settles in (I registered for this one). But thanks to our incredibly generous family, we've reached the point that we have very few "There's no way we could ever buy that" absolute necessities. Isn't the number of items a tiny creature needs amazing? And that's not counting all the fun or convenient bits like swings and doorway jumpers.

Mom is planning the Charlotte shower with church friends for the end of next month. I'm amazed at how much people (and how many people) want to support us and welcome our baby. Now, I just need to go to Target and get some of those achingly cute baby shower thank you cards I've always wanted to buy because they were so clearly baby shower, and I thought I'd never have a baby shower.