Thursday, December 24, 2009

These years next to you

The anniversary trip just didn’t work out this year. My fabulous sister-in-law offered to watch Emily so Rob and I could get away for an overnight trip, but it wasn’t meant to be – first the blizzard, then teething too intense to morally ask someone else to handle at 2am (and still be invited over for Christmas). Someday we’ll take her up on the offer. The selfish part of my nature is brooding over the loss of a quiet room where I can hug my husband without interruption and maybe even watch a movie in one sitting. But the mother in me knows that the days are numbered where I can solve my daughter’s problems by simply holding her in my arms and singing to her. And that job matters, and is something to cherish while it lasts.

This picture is of Rob and I’s very first conversation: the changing of the guard in London (isn’t that great Pretty Mahana captured that when she took random pictures of our group?). I’ve been thinking a lot about the girl I was then and the woman I am now. Some things have stayed the same, but I’m very different in a lot of ways. Over the years, I’ve failed and succeeded, worked and played, laughed and cried, and tried on and abandoned different roles. Together, we’ve moved through cities, degrees, jobs, health conditions, and a whole lot of diapers. And I feel so grateful to have a husband who has loved the person I am at every step along the way, and has given me the support I need to grow into the person I am today. Happy Anniversary, Rob.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mother/Daughter





OK, so you caught me. I don't have anything insightful to say. I just wanted to share some cute pictures of Emily and me. But I love this little girl, and I'm having so much fun growing up with her.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bethlehem


For our congregation's Christmas party, we did "A Night in Bethlehem." We set up a market with food stands and activities, dressed up in vaguely time period costumes, and did a nativity pageant. Rob & I were in charge of the bakery stand, where I thoroughly enjoyed haggling with kids, and we played Mary & Joseph for the pageant. We opted to use a doll instead of Emily for baby Jesus because aside from all the gender issues involved in that, we figured her trying to crawl out of the manger while happily babbling "da da da da da!!" would ruin the illusion of being freshly born.


It was a good time, but I especially enjoyed the chance the pageant gave me to think about Mary. I love Mary, and becoming a mother has helped me gain a new appreciation of her. I have a better understanding of what it would mean to ride on a donkey when nine months pregnant, and the tasks that were expected of her once her son arrived. But the things I love most about her are applicable for everybody.


I love her responses when the angel comes to tell her of her role. I relate to her feelings of "How shall this be," when faced with a responsibility that seems beyond comprehension, and love her faithful "Behold the handmaid of the Lord." She knew who she was, and she knew what God wanted her to do. It gave her the strength she needed to face the difficult road ahead.


But most of all, I love that she was a thinking women. When others simply wondered or even doubted, Mary "kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." To me, "keeping" implies making it a part of who you are. And I love the imagery of pondering these things in her heart, not just her mind. I hope that as I come to know the savior, I can follow her example.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Prayer

I've been thinking a lot about prayer recently. Specifically, I've been thinking about how to avoid becoming mechanical in my prayers for long term situations. Christ tells us to avoid vain repetitions in our prayers. But we're also told to pray always, and that some blessings are dependant on being asked for. It is very important to me to exercise faith in God by asking, but sometimes I worry that I'm stumbling into the territory of vain repetition when I do so.

I love the act of praying for others. I love that it keeps me from becoming tangled up in my own life, and helps me focus on what I can do to help others. I love the bond that comes with others through shared faith and shared petitioning. I love that it reminds me that God is in control. But sometimes I get into habitual phrases if the need lasts, especially when that need doesn't change: the job that still hasn't materialized; the missionary service that lasts for a set period; the chronic health condition. I find myself grouping people's needs into categories, losing the crisp details of their circumstances into an unfocused "bless them with the health they need." And I feel something important is lost when I do that.

So I guess what I'm asking for is advice. How do you keep your prayers fresh when the need doesn't change? How do you approach praying for the long-term needs of others?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What I've been doing instead of cleaning, Pt. 2

:) Apparently not taking very good photos to illustrate the events, but here is what I've got:


We spent Thanksgiving with Cristie and her family up in Baltimore. This picture is of William getting dressed up to play the "Dread Pirates" board game with us. Aren't my cousins fun? Anyways, it was fun remembering that last Thanksgiving, Cristie and I were both morning sick, and here we were, a year later, with those wonderful little people to share the day with us. They were definitely worth the effort.

Saturday we met up with Rob's dad and Mary Ellen on the mall and went to the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden and National Gallery. I feel very lucky that we've gotten to see so much of them this year.

And other than that, I've been working on Christmas preparations, anniversary preparations, and watching Glee (because, really, who needs clean dishes when you've got a football team dancing to "Single Ladies").

Monday, November 30, 2009

What I've been doing instead of cleaning, Pt. 1

Last Saturday, Keli, Rob, Emily, and I spent the day in Solomon's Island, Maryland. We toured the Calvert County Museum, which included the museum pictured here.

Up in the lighthouse. And yes, I did that ladder behind us with Emily in her bjorn. I'm that awesome.


They had a lot of fish tanks and other local marine life there, and Emily had a great time with the otters. I think it may be time to take her to the zoo.



This was on the back of the "Welcome to Solomon's Island" sign - awesome.

Sunday we had a bunch of people over for dinner. On Monday, Keli, Emily and I toured the capitol. I love that having visitors means that I go and see things I've just never gotten around to doing. The new visitor center was very well done, and our tour guide was great.


The new Soujourner Truth statue. And yes, Emily is still wearing her pajamas. It was a crazy morning involving chasing down several buses, occassionally in the rain. Don't judge me.
Anyways, each state gets two statues, and then congress can decide to put a bunch more in if they want. We had fun tracking down our respective state statues.



I'm that little person in front in the brown sweater.



After Keli caught her bus down south, I went to another London reunion. Diana and her husband Rod were in town, so a few of us went a fabulous custard place in Alexandria (The Dairy Godmother - I highly recommend it). It was great to see where life has taken all of us.
I'll get the rest of the week later.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Housework reflects life

We've had several friends come in from out of town over the past few days, and we have had a marvelous time catching up and being tourists. It has been a blast. I'll be posting pictures soon. But I think my house is an accurate reflection of how packed the days have been:

  • I'm so behind on laundry, I found myself this morning deciding between wearing oversized gym shorts and maternity pants I retired 8 months ago.
  • After letting Emily army crawl across the floor for a half hour, I had to change her outfit because it was covered in dirt (more efficient than sweeping, I guess).
  • There's a dirty rice cooker in my sink. I'm not sure when I last made rice.
  • When the bathroom repair guy came, it was quite the obstacle course getting him from the front door to the bathroom.
  • I'm blogging so I don't have to deal with fixing these things.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Autumn










My friend Keli (a.k.a. Miss Independent) is in town, and she took some great pictures. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Powerful

When I arrived in the doctor's office exactly on time for my appointment, I wanted to do a victory dance. Making it there involved dragging my child out of bed several hours earlier than usual, nursing on the bus, transferring her and all her gear onto another bus, and pushing a stroller in the pouring rain across four lanes of traffic and over a muddy hill (those lovely winding stepping stone paths are pretty but absolutely useless). Being without a vehicle during the day can be challenging at times, but let me tell you, I felt like I accomplished something when I arrived there. It wasn't euphoric enough for me to tell Rob not to worry about picking us up afterwards so I could do it all again, but still, I walked into that office feeling like I could accomplish anything.

It got me thinking about what makes me feel powerful, and how that concept has changed over time. As a little kid, it was usually some new physical feat. As a student, it was a well-deserved A or presenting a paper at a national conference. As a professional, it was locating an obscure treaty in Russian or solving a tricky organizational puzzle. But now that I'm in a less public sphere, I'm learning to negotiate success without feedback from others. I'm essentially inventing my own yardstick, rather than using someone else's, and I've been surprised by what I sometimes come up with.

So here's my current list of moments recently where I have felt powerful:


  • Arriving somewhere early.
  • Having my house clean an hour before company arrives.
  • Presenting a trifle to my guests.
  • Saying just the right thing.
  • Not getting lost on my forays around the DC metro.
  • Inventing a game that Emily loves.
  • Finishing anything.

A year ago I would have found this list kind of lame, but hey, it suits me for now.

When do you feel powerful?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you


Did anyone else have to sing that song as a kid? Or was it just my school?

Anyways, on Halloween, we decided to brave the rain that has been pouring on every Saturday this month and go down to the Shenandoah National Forest for leaf peeping. We lucked out and had clear skies for the majority of our visit. The leaves were beautiful. Shenandoah gave me a new appreciation for the yellows of autumn. In the past, I was drawn to either the reds or areas with a lot of variety. But there was something magical about passing through a forest of pure yellow. Even the light seemed golden.

We also took a brief journey on the Appalachian Trail (which we hope to spend more time on in the future, when we aren't getting rained on). Some pictures from the Trail:






Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Do I dare to eat a peach?



The title is for you Eliot fans out there. The pictures are just because they are funny. We've had a lot of fun with Emily doing solids. I love that from the start, she has insisted on holding the spoon. We load it up and hand it to her, and she does the rest. Hence the mess, I guess. Enjoy!







Monday, October 19, 2009

Oh, London

This past weekend, some alums from my London study abroad program had a DC reunion. It was wonderful catching up with people that were there for such a pivotal period in my life. We all agreed that London changed who we are and the direction of our lives, and I've been thinking a lot about that the past few days.

The most obvious change it brought into my life wakes up beside me every morning. I frequently quip that Rob is the best souvenir ever. London is a fabulous place to meet your future spouse. We didn't date there (not for lack of interest on his part), but we shared so many wonderful experiences. Most were group-based, but some were exclusively ours: walking the streets of Rye eating fish and chips, touring Shakespeare's birthplace, and strolling along the Thames after visiting Cambridge. I've spent a lot of time extolling the virtues of Rob on this blog, so I'll keep it short, but marrying him was one of the smartest things I've done. So much of my current happiness is because of him.
Living in London also changed the way I viewed the world. My sense of history completely changed. I remember a time when the civil war seemed like the distant past, but walking around structures built by the Romans in 100 AD gave me a new perspective. London taught me to view my culture through the eyes of an outsider. Sometimes I liked what I saw; sometimes I didn't. Attending the theatre and viewing art taught me to analyze the world around me, and it taught me the importance of hearing perspectives different from my own. It taught me to embrace the inner nerd and do things I'm passionate about. And it taught me to take advantage of the unique opportunities wherever I am.
I'm grateful for that experience, and I hope to return someday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Portland, part 2: Pictures





On multiple occasions during the trip, I told Rob that Portland was so beautiful we should move there. And on multiple occasions during the trip, he told me we couldn't afford to live that close to Powell's Books. Let me tell you, I was the proverbial kid in a candy shop. But don't worry, I only picked up a few books for Emily. But man oh man, there were a lot of great books there.



Anyways, we snuck away for an afternoon to give Rob's grandma a much deserved nap, and went down to Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Valley. Gorgeous. Some more pictures:









Other fun pictures: great grandma hanging out with Emily and Abraham:





One tuckered baby:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Portland, part 1: Mourning

We recently returned from Portland. It was a good trip, and my head is bubbling over with posts, which will gradually come out as I dig myself out of the pile of dirty trip laundry and get pictures off the camera. But I wanted to start by talking about the reason for the trip, which was to attend Rob's grandfather's funeral.

I had never met Rob's grandfather. We spoke on the phone on one occasion, and Rob had told me stories about him along the way. For me, his death brought on a different kind of mourning than I was familiar with. I was mourning an absence. I learned a lot about him during the memorial service. I learned about his strong work ethic, his thoughtfulness, and his generosity. I learned about the time in his later years when he fell in a hole trying to chop up the roots of a dead tree (after being strictly forbidden to do exactly that job), all because he missed being able to do work for those he loved. But I have no memories of him that are my own. And neither does my daughter. I can tell her stories about how she loved to play with her great grandmother's necklace, but I have no stories to offer her that connect her to him.

Although I missed out on forming a relationship with him, his passing allowed me to form new relationships with his wife, children, and grandchilden. I got to stay up late talking with Rob's grandmother after everyone else had gone to bed. I learned about his uncle's sense of humor and his aunt's thoughtfulness. I talked to Rob's cousins about their travels in India and the pros and cons of librarianship. They are wonderful people, and I'm so grateful that there were family gains despite the loss.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book nerd paradise

Rob: "How was the National Book Festival?"
Erin: "It made me so happy that I wanted to twirl in circles with my umbrella outstretched!"

I'm an enormous nerd, but for a librarian like me, going to the National Book Festival is on the level of attending the premiere of the newest Brad Pitt movie, and getting twenty seconds of one-on-one conversation with an actress you admire.

I talked to Ana Menendez (her "In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd" is one of my all-time favorite short story collections) while getting my book signed. She was delightful. I'm still smiling thinking about it.

As for presentations I attended, they were wonderful. Shannon Hale was every bit as funny as I hoped she would be (the picture is of her rolling up a lamanated strip of rejection letters she received before getting published that she stretched across the stage). Lois Lowry was every bit as charming as I hoped she would be. Julia Alvarez was even more eloquent and graceful as I hoped she would be. Who thought that was possible? After his presentation, Ralph Eubanks read a fascinating essay on why he decided to give up his Mississippi accent, and what is meant for him as a writer and an individual. Azar Nafisi, while I certainly didn't always agree with her, gave me a lot to think about.

So a big thanks to Rob for staying home with Emily so I could go!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Emily Update


Emily turned 8 months old yesterday, and here is what she is up to.
She has eaten rice cereal, carrots, squash, green beans, applesauce, and peaches. Oh, and paper. Lots and lots of paper. Now that I know she wants to eat it, I have to watch her when she tears it up.
She has six teeth. If given her choice, she would use them to lovingly chew on her parents' hands.
Her favorite hobbies are watching her parents dance around, chewing on things, rolling around, tearing up magazines, hanging upside down, playing with her parents' hair, playing with unfamiliar objects, and jabbering away (she has an adorable voice).
She can army crawl for a few inches, but it is too slow going for her, so she usually rolls to get where she wants to go.
She's getting more and more independent each day, but still loves to be with her family. We thoroughly enjoy her.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Coming and Going

One of the best parts of living in DC is reconnecting with friends from previous stages of your life who have also come out here for work or grad school. Consequently, one of the worst parts of living in DC is that they eventually finish grad school or get a job elsewhere, and you have to say goodbye to them all over again.
We've had several of these friends move away this summer (although hopefully Pretty Mahana will have things lined up to come back soon), and I definitely miss them. But it has been fun to see that even though a lot has happened in the years we've been apart, they still have all the characteristics I loved about them in the first place, and it immediately felt natural being with them again. Here's hoping our paths cross again!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blast from the past #3: The Belly

I've been slacking on posting. It isn't that I haven't been writing. It's just that nothing I've written has turned out right. So let's try a flashback picture, and I'll give those other posts a go when my creative mojo comes back.
I was one of those weird women who actually enjoyed my pregnant belly. Don't get me wrong. There were a large number of elements of pregnancy that I wasn't keen on - the fact I could eat nothing but nectarines, mashed potatoes, and ritz crackers for almost five months; puking in public bathrooms; being unable to watch sad movies without sobbing (no, not a gentle tear streaming down my cheek: I'm talking Rob-would-turn-off-the-movie-and-hug-me-for-an-hour tears); and chronic exhaustion. But the belly and I got along. Except for those rare occassions where I'd get stuck on the floor and Rob would have to save me, but we'll call those moments where Rob and my belly didn't get along.
I'd always thought the belly would freak me out. The idea of a being inside me that could move independently of me seemed like something out of X-Files. But I loved feeling Emily explore her world, and learning her rhythms. You learn things about a person when they live inside you. I learned Emily is a night owl. I learned that she is gentle. I learned that she's tentative about new experiences (loud noises, etc), but enthusiastic once she gets used to the idea. I found myself surprised over and over again just how right my sense of her personality was.
There were also the social elements of the belly. I loved being a part of a collective experience that women have been a part of since the dawn of time. It was easy to find common ground with people I met. This was especially useful at work. It was easy to form relationships with coworkers, and the pregnant librarian was well-known and very approachable. Great PR, let me tell you. I loved getting seats on the train and having strangers help me lift heavy objects. In the hectic pace of the city, I loved seeing people transform from stressed out businessman to cheerful neighbor.
:) I'm not going to start walking around with a fake belly, but I have fond memories of that aspect of my pregnancy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

So apparently I have a seven deadly sins thing going on...

So in my past few posts I've covered greed (Emily moments), gluttony (cheese), sloth (my normally lax housekeeping), and pride (my eyebrows). So now I just need to blog about lust, wrath, and envy, and I'll be good to go! Or sent to eternal torment, I'm not exactly sure how this seven deadly sins thing works.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Greed

When the full-length closet mirror slid into a different position, I saw the perspective that everyone sees when I feed Emily – the back of her head. It was startling to me to realize my perspective was unique. I’ve spent countless hours taking in the little details of her face as she eats: the focused look in her eyes as she begins, the roll of her cheeks as her mouth opens and closes. I somehow thought the other family members that have been in the room with me could see these things, but I’ve realized I’m the only one that sees her eyes gradually fluttering closed, and her sudden but gentle smile as she lets go and drifts off to sleep. I’ve tried to show Rob, but when he comes over to my side of the chair, she takes a break from eating to smile at him. And there’s a little part of me that is privately glad that I don’t have to share this knowledge. It is mine, and mine alone.

There is something delicious about an experience that is entirely your own. An irony no one else caught. A moment in nature that no one else witnessed. The laugh that someone you love only uses when you do something nice for them. Your special place you go to think. A baby’s “first” that you were the only one present to see. Yes, there’s intimacy in a good secret, or camaraderie in sharing a beautiful experience with friends, but there is something magical about a pleasure you don’t have to share. It makes you feel special, and it makes you appreciate the value of what you are partaking in. It is rare, and therefore precious. It is beautiful because you own it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Too true...

Quote from my landlord upon inspecting our freezer to see why it is making a weird noise:

"Wow, you have a lot of cheese in your life."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The problem with cleaning...

The problem with cleaning is that the more you clean, the more you realize you need to clean. When you throw away the junk under your bed, you realize how much dirt is down there. And then when you've swept it, you notice all the dirt along the baseboards. And then when you've cleaned those, you say, "wow, I should do something about these scuff marks on the wall." It's like the more clean something is, the more the things that aren't clean jump out at you. How do people who keep their house in a reasonable state of order stay sane?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I feel bad about my eyebrows...



I went in for a haircut the other day, and one thing led to another, and before I knew it, my eyebrows were the thinnest they have been my entire life. It has taken some getting used to for me. I’ve realized I like them, and that is what bothers me.


I have a quirky uber-feminist-inspired loathing of conforming to the way a woman is supposed to look. I refuse to own a scale, preferring to focus on being healthy, rather than thin. I don’t wear makeup, and I usually give up on trying to locate my curling iron on those rare occasions I feel I need to look nice to be respectful (weddings, etc). I won’t wear uncomfortable high-heeled shoes because it reminds me too much of foot binding. I do shave my legs out of courtesy to other people at church, but I do it grudgingly, all the while resenting the fact men don’t have to. I have a powerful need to accept myself for who I am, not what I look like, and only surround myself with people who value who I am and don’t care about my appearance.


The same goes for my eyebrows. I’ve always left them thick, just plucking away the stray hairs, and yes, resenting the fact that men don’t have to. But I realized I’d been slacking in that regard the past few months, so I had the stylist do something about it. They were a lot thinner than I expected them to be, and yes, I realize they aren’t all that thin. I was horrified at first. But now I keep looking in the mirror and saying, “hey, I kind of like these.” I can’t explain it, but I feel really vain. Part of me feels like I sold out, but the other part of me likes it because it feels like I did something to take care of myself, which is a luxury for mothers of young kids. And now I catch myself wondering if I ought to look for some new clothes because putting them on would make me feel like I’m pampering myself again … what is happening to me?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I did it

I finally gave in, and I am now on facebook. I'll be actually putting on content and looking for you all during Emily's naps over the next few days (come find me if I haven't friended you yet).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Voice

Yesterday, I realized in the course of the conversation that a friend of a friend I was talking to was a blogger that I read regularly. It was odd meeting a person that had already bared their soul to me on many occasions, via the internet. I knew what she did for a living before she had kids (and that on some days, she misses it, but knows she made the right decision), the crazy stunts her kids had pulled, her struggles with kidney disease and infertility, and parts of her spiritual journey. I even knew what TV series she is watching on DVD. Right from the start, I knew things about her that I don't know about people I hang out with regularly. It was interesting comparing the picture I had of her in my mind with the woman before me. She looked different than I expected her to. Her mannerisms were different. I doubt I'll see her again, but it was interesting thinking about how you'd build a relationship with someone you already know so much about, but have a slightly askew sense of who they are.


I've been thinking about my own voice when I write, and how I come across. Honestly, I prefer my writing voice to the one that I speak with. Not that I'm about to give up speaking, but still. My writing voice is more polished and introspective. I have more time to think through things, and I can use care in what I say. Unless, of course, Emily has woken from her nap, and then I slop things out quickly because I've learned that if I don't post it as I write it, I never go back to it. I don't have the gift of public speaking. I have this awful valley girl habit of using the word "like" that I have unsuccessfully been trying to break for years. And "dude." When I speak in public, my mind can't keep up with my words, and I find myself using the word "um" obsessively. And I'm a lot more open in my writing. On my assorted blogs, and places I've done guest posts, I'll confide things that people I hang out with regularly don't know about me. I wonder if people that exclusively read me or listen to me have different senses of what I'm like, and who is right.


I'm not sure where I'm going with this, and Emily is waking up, so I'm just slopping this out, but do any of you have similar experiences? Do you feel like your writing and speaking voices are pretty much the same, or different? Are you more or less reserved on your blogs/facebook/journal/etc?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Some videos for the grandparents

Be warned: these will probably only be interesting for the grandparents, but they are here all the same.

This one is an Emily kiss attack. It includes obsessive giggling on my part (because really, it is too darn cute).

The quality on this one isn't great, but it shows Emily's favorite game: "Boing Boing"

Emily's other favorite game: Raspberries

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Advice, please


I want to harvest the knowledge of my intelligent readers. Share your wisdom with me!
1 - I've realized my understanding of economics is severely lacking, and I want to do something about it. I've thought about doing some of the MIT Open Courseware on economics, but aside from that, I don't know how to approach it. Are there any books you recommend, or blogs you read, that would be a good foundation for someone whose economic knowledge doesn't go much farther than knowing terms like opportunity cost and the difference between micro and macroeconomics?
2 - Emily sleeps in her playpin because every time I lay her down in her crib, she winds up in the position pictured above, and panics because she can't get herself out (and yes, the crib slats are regulation size). Any ideas for how to prevent her from sticking her legs through the slats? She's getting too big for the bassinet portion of her pack n' play, and I'm not sure I'm coordinated enough to lay her in the bottom without waking her.
3 - I'm trying to diversify my reading and try new things. Hit me with some book recommendations!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Growing up


Emily has started out solid foods. Well, when I say she has started solid foods, I mean she isn't really into swallowing her rice cereal, but man oh man, does she love her spoon. She knows just what to do with it, too. She always sticks the correct end into her mouth. This milestone has really signalled to me that she is growing up. She'll still nurse for several months, but I am gradually becoming less essential to her survival. She's learning to roll to get where she wants to go. She's learning to manipulate the world around her. She's started the process of growing away from me. Which is what I'm raising her to do, but it still makes me a little wistful.

-----

As I'm standing in line at the pediatrician's office, Emily makes friends like she always does. She loves meeting new people, and she beams at the woman before us in line (despite having just had shots - isn't she a sweet baby?). I start chatting with the mother, and she exclaims, "it's no wonder she's such a smiley baby - she has you as an example!" I smile to myself - despite Emily's growing independence, she's still learning from me. Who I am and what I do make a difference in who she will become. And I've done something that has helped her take a positive step. I realize that if I do my job well, this process will continue throughout both our lives.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bonsai!

We recently took an outing to the National Arboretum. Note to self: not the same thing as the National Botanical Gardens (where we were supposed to be meeting friends), even if it is the only place that Google Maps directs you to when you type in National Botanical Gardens. I've got to stop trusting Google Maps. But we still had a grand, though friendless, time there. The grounds were lovely, and they had a fascinating exhibit on Bonsai tress. They even had a 400 year old Bonsai tree that survived the bombing at Hiroshima.


In other news, I got to enjoy the fruits of my labors - I kept my tomatoes alive long enough to harvest!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Six Months

Holy cow, I've kept a baby alive for six months! (With a lot of help from friends and family, of course).

I was just re-reading my pre-pregnancy post about struggling to picture myself with a baby. And here I am, loving that life. Emily is an absolute delight. She wakes up each afternoon morning with giggles and enormous smiles. She laughes with me when I dance about the kitchen while cooking dinner. Her face lights up when I start singing her "Popcorn Popping." I'm positively addicted to the smell of the top of her head. I have so much fun with her. She is a very, very sweet little girl. I didn't know someone so young could express gratitude and affection, but she does. She gives me slobbery kisses, and genuine smiles when I do something nice for her. I'm so glad I get to enjoy this phase of life with her. Happy half-birthday, Emily!

Oh...

So remember how I was just complaining about how painful it was for me to make it through Robinson Crusoe? Turns out that I somehow managed to get my hands on a copy that seamlessly included the painfully dull sequel. So I read 150 pages more of poor Robin's adventures than everyone else at book group. Word of advice: if you decided to read Robinson Crusoe, read the shorter version.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Some random weekend musings

  • I read when I feed Emily (one of the many ways I multitask to get some me time). I've discovered that the more I like the book I'm reading, the more willing I am to feed her. I just finished Potok's My Name is Asher Lev, and I think Emily has probably gained five pounds in the past three days. The slighest little frown, and off we'd go to the chair where I feed her. Emily is lucky she didn't starve to death when I had to read Robinson Crusoe for book group. And I have to lead the discussion on it next week. I'm in so much trouble.
  • I went through a phase in high school where I liked shopping, but for most of my life, it has fallen into the realm of "girly things that just aren't me." Probably has something to do with having student loans to pay off. Or the fact the 80s seem to be coming back (heaven help us all). Anyways, can I say that not having the car during the day changes that? I had the car on Friday, and man oh man, I wanted to buy, buy, buy because it meant I could stay out longer. So I've decided the library is a safer bet (don't worry - all my Target purchases were responsible).
  • I went to my first Cub Scout Pack Meeting this week. That's right. I'm now volunteering as a den leader. I'll be with the Wolves and the Bears. It is going to be a lot of fun. Eight year olds are great. The biggest lesson I learned from the meeting is if you want boys to sit still, play music. We did an arrow of light ceremony and played background music, and the boys were just entranced. I'll have to remember that trick.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Company!

We've had a lot of company these past few weeks, and I've adored getting to spend so much time with people I love. First, my wonderful mother came into town. I really enjoyed just getting to hang out with her and talk with her. Life can get hectic, and it was wonderful just relaxing and being together.

Next, Mary Ellen came through Baltimore, so we drove up to meet her there. On the same trip, I got to meet my new nephew, Abraham (pictured with Mary Ellen)!


After that, Phil and Delys managed to arrange a long layover in Baltimore on their way back from a conference in England. It was wonderful to spend time with them, and remember being with them in London.

We met up with Delys and the Charles family down on the mall and hit a few museums (including a whirlwind 15 minute tour of the National Gallery before it closed). Here is Sam, Ben, and William's tribute to Rodin's Walking Man.

There are a lot more pictures on the Picasa album, so check them out!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Expanding and Contracting

At my six week checkup, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight (please don’t throw rocks at me!). When I got home, I eagerly pulled out my “before” clothes. I was a bit startled to discover that although my weight had returned to normal, my body had significantly changed shape. My tight-fitting jeans now hung loosely around thighs, while I couldn’t get my dress slacks around my waist. My button-up shirts no longer closed around my nursing-enhanced chest. I was “back to normal,” but not quite the same.

A similar phenomenon has happened with my identity and motherhood. I am in a state of flux, with parts of myself expanding and parts contracting. I have increased significantly in empathy, but decreased in modesty (yes, I did flash an entire bus full of people while I was nursing at the park and ride). I have more to write about, but less to talk about. And, ironically, less to talk about, but a greater need to talk about it. I lean more heavily on some people, and other relationships have been temporarily put on hold. Some of my talents have been strengthened because of frequent use, while others are languishing because I haven’t attempted them since I became a mother. I am myself, but more and less simultaneously.

Some days I scroll through my blog and wonder where I am amid the onslaught of pictures of my daughter. Other days I skim my pre-motherhood journals and feel there is a dimension of myself missing at these earlier dates. President Brown gave a parable about a currant bush, where the plant needs to be pruned to become what the gardener wants it to become. I see this happening in my life. Parts of my identity are chopped off, and sometimes I miss them, but I know it will bring different growth in my life, and I will become more beautiful and have more to give as a result. And, most importantly, I am taking the shape that God wants me to take.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thank you, President Uchtdorf

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No
matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an
inherent wish to create something that did not exist before. -Dieter F. Uchtdorf

When President Uchtdorf addressed the women of the LDS church in October of 2008, he suggested two activities to us that would bring happiness into our lives (not the complete formula, of course): creating and being compassionate. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical about the creating part. In fact, recently I'd had a conversation with a friend about how I'd finally embraced the fact I was not creative. I wasn't saying that I didn't have talents. I just meant that I preferred to emulate, rather than innovate. I had a better talent for analyzing works of fiction than writing my own. I had a better talent for doing guitar covers of existing songs than writing my own. And yes, these works are a form of creation. But they just didn't feel creative to me.

When I first heard President Uchtdorf's talk, I started looking at my existing actions a little differently. Yes, the guitar song existed before, but I remembered comments of friends that said that I was able to make them feel something different when I sang it than when the artist did. I thought about cooking, and how I desperately need a recipe to start with, but I adjust it like crazy until it becomes my own. I realized that I do enjoy these things, and just because I used inspiration doesn't mean I didn't give them life. I nodded to myself, and thought I had got what President Uchtdorf was saying.

Since then, I decided to give the creativity thing a try. I've been working a little on creative non-fiction, and on writing songs. And while I'm nowhere even close to sending things off for publication (or even letting people listen to them), can I just say that I'm really finding joy in it? Part of it may just be that I'm taking time to do something for myself, which every mom needs. But the biggest change I've realized is that it makes me look at the world around me differently. I am looking for inspiration wherever I go, and I love what I see. It makes me explore my thoughts and feelings, and notice the little pleasures in my life. It makes me capture things that I might have let slip away, even if it is captured imperfectly. And it feels good.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blast from the past #2: Riverbend Park

Last summer, Rob and I took a daytrip to Riverbend Park (along the Potomac river). My love of hiking was something that didn't happen until later in life. I think girls camp kind of scarred me. Turns out that hiking through cornfields while swatting away mosquitos isn't my thing - go figure. But in Utah, I got to climb mountains, peer down into desert canyons, play in waterfalls, and see beautiful rock formations. As I've moved assorted places since then, I've been lucky to enjoy some beautiful surroundings and good company.

I love hiking with Rob because he is very observant and notices things I miss. I tend to just soak in all the colors and enjoy the conversation. Rob notices wildlife, the impact of the weather on the plants, and what direction we're heading. We hiked a lot together when we were first married, and I love that I get to look back at that period and remember him helping me find constellations at our campsight near Arches, reading about desert plants and animals, and laughing at the way the depth of the canyons at Canyonlands blew my poor Nebraskan mind. We learned a lot about each other, and I loved getting to revisit that at Riverbend.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fulfilled


Yesterday Emily and I went to my former office to have lunch with my former boss and say hi to all my former coworkers. I had a fabulous time. I got to find out who had become a grandma, what people's kids were up to, who had moved to a new neighborhood, and all those little details you miss when you don't see people on a daily basis. I left with lots of invitations to have lunch and email addresses to swap pictures. It made me remember just how much I like all my coworkers, and what a good atmosphere it was. But it also made me incredibly grateful for the life I live now. As I walked to the metro with my baby and my husband, I realized that although I certainly missed the people, I didn't have a single moment that day where I doubted my decision to stay home with Emily. I love my life. I may be tracking down socks instead of international tax treaties, and trying to figure out why Emily is crying instead of determining the litigation risk of one company merging with another, but I feel my work is meaningful, and I feel fulfilled.