Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sean the man

After that way-too-wordy post, without a single photo (OY!) here is a recent favorite of Sean. Sean_march_08_copy






Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blog-Happy

This is my 100th post.


At least once a month, I debate packing up this whole little experiment and closing the blog down. It is a strange phenomena. So much of it goes against my training in keeping one's life very private and not shining too much light on oneself. And yet, I am enjoying it. It motivates me to pick up the camera more often, during the daily moments that I want to capture. Already I've read things on previous posts that I had forgotten and am so grateful to have recorded here. I love the connections I've made and all the inspiration I've found on other sites.


Anne from Green Jello recently posted on this same idea and I'm stealing her questions to lead this post:


1. Why did you start your blog? I answered that in my first post, all of which still applies.


2. How did you come up with your blog name?


"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." -Henry David Thoreau


Thoreau has always been a favorite. Walden was the first book I gave Brian when we were dating. When we returned from our Peace Corps adventure in Russia, I felt very unmoored (that is a word, right?). The closing of Walden became an anchor for me. I'd love to achieve great things in a career but what my heart most desires is success in the common hours. And those are the hours I try to capture a bit here.


3. Do your friends and family know about your blog? What do they think of it?


Immediate family and close friends. Most have been extremely supportive. I love having my family know our sons better, beyond holiday visits, etc.  I've heard Barbara Kingsolver say ,"Write with nobody looking over your shoulder" and that sometimes is a challenge. In the past two months or so, readers whom I don't know in person easily outnumber those I do. In some ways that's freeing---less editors in my head kind of thing.


It's more motivating to post if you know someone is reading, so I am grateful to everyone who checks in here.


4. How do you write posts?


Usually it's photo-driven. Even the words are trying to capture a snapshot of our day. Sometimes it's just a way to articulate for myself what's drumming around in my brain.


5. Have you ever had a troll or had to delete unkind comments?


No, because I don't have comments:-)  But I have received a lot of feedback about that itself. I don't want to be compulsively checking comments and I don't want to write with comments in mind. But I love getting emails in response to a post.


Our friend in London did email me that the baby toes shot looked "weird"--but I think I just got him back by sharing that here:-)


6. Do you check your stats? Do you care how many people read your blog? If you do care, how to you increase traffic?


Since I'm writing about my children and posting photos here, I don't want random visitors or to increase traffic that way. At the same time it is much more motivating to keep posting if you know it's being read, so of course I like to know people are reading it.


To keep myself from compulsively checking, I try to look at stats just once a week.


7. What kind of blogs/posts interest you?


Google Reader is a great tool, but I find it has become like my file cabinet when I was teaching---I would tuck things away in there to read another day "when I have time" and never look at them again. I end up just reading my favorites file every week---though "one of these days" I'm going to go back to all those great blogs I've saved under Photography, Cooking, etc.


I rarely watch any TV and I don't read magazines, but I do read blogs. Ali Edwards was the first blog I read, and led to several others about scrapbooking. I love posts that inspire me, motivate me, or make me laugh, or make me think, or just make me nod in recognition (I love the original article that last link refers to, but I also loved her post that helped me feel less guilty about my constant "Good Job" use!). I don't read blogs about politics, fashion, TV, or any specific topic, though the blogs I do read sometimes touch on all of those topics. I just read blogs by friends I know or other moms whom I don't know but wish I did.


I'm especially inspired by moms of boys: Kelli and Lisa each have 3 and make it look not only manageable but fun---I was grateful to have glimpses into their lives during this pregnancy. Stephanie has 5 sons and bakes her own bread. Some people have written about feeling worse when seeing others doing more than they are. I have just the opposite reaction. I can't sew, I'm not crafty at all, but I love learning and I am inspired by glimpses of other people attempting to live life intently, to live the life they have imagined (rather than the one society or our modern culture might imagine for them), and finding success in those common hours.


Those are the 10 blogs I read regularly. My friends here and far away who don't blog inspire me in the same way---they just aren't always available at 2 am to give me a quick update on their life  while I'm nursing Nolan (which is why you should all get a blog!).


8. What do you like and dislike about blogging?


That I come upstairs with the best of intentions to organize my space, and end up coming down an hour later without having touched a thing...





Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Two Weeks

Nolans_toes_edited1



If you're a mom, you might remember that the goal of the two-week doctor appointment is to have the baby's weight back up to the birth weight. Babies usually lose weight in the hospital, while their moms worry about when their milk will "come in" (Daily, sometimes hourly it seems, nurses ask you, "Has your milk come in?" Like it is out having a smoke outside somewhere...).



Today was Nolan's 2-week appointment. When we left the hospital, he weighed 7lbs 12 oz (down from his original weight of 8lbs 7.5 ounces). Today he weighed...



(drum roll)Little_grin_blog 



8lbs. 10 oz.



Remember the scene in "Cast Away" when Tom Hanks starts a fire and thumps his chest while yelling: "Look what I have created. I have made FIRE!"



That's how you feel when your baby grows and you know somehow your body has provided him with the nourishment to do so. It's pretty cool.



(and yes, that top photo is the main reason I wanted an SLR camera--thank you again, Bri. It took three babies to do it, but we finally got a toe shot in focus!)






Friday, March 21, 2008

I think it is safe to say

Sean_and_daddy



the boys



Dad_attack



are enjoying



2_vs_1



having their dad home all day.



Nolan_so_curious



And even with an almost-3-yr-old who thinks he doesn't need a nap,



and a 6-yr-old who spills paint and egg dye and popcorn and just about everything else too,



and a 1-week-old who thinks our bed is the only place fit enough for his sweet slumber,



and a wife who likes to share all her post-cesarean aches and pains while demanding more chocolate please,



Nolan_and_his_dad



even with all that,  and a general lack of sleep, remarkably,



I think he's enjoying these days as well.



So long as we promise to let him go back to work eventually...






Tuesday, March 18, 2008

14 Years Ago Today

1994_copy



ETA: If I had the chance to do it all over, I probably wouldn't choose that bow in my hair or to spend all our savings on a big Chicago wedding. But the important part---the guy next to me, I'd choose him all over again.






A wee bit tired

Big_yawn



Nolan sums it all up for us.



Stretch



We are all madly in love with this little guy---who is almost a week-old already!



Trying_to_talk



I've been teased a bit about praising Brian here on the blog. God knows I'm critical enough in person;-) This site isn't intended to be just a projection of how I wish life to be, of just the good stuff. But it is meant to a be a time-capsule of sorts, of what I don't want to forget. And I know these early days will blur, and in a few months time we'll look at photos with disbelief that Nolan was ever that small. And I don't want to ever forget how Brian came through, as always, for me, for all of us.



When my water broke, just as he had fallen asleep...how calmly he packed up our hotel room and got the car---how filled with excitement we both were. How well he delt with my predictable annoyance with medical staff and my fear. How he talked to me through the whole delivery, and brought Nolan over for me to see. The little cocoon we three lived in for the first three days in our little hospital room. And home again---and Brian picking up all my tasks. He made my mom's Irish stew for dinner last night, and when a friend called to see if he could bring by some pizzas or ice cream for dessert, I think Brian enjoyed telling him that he and Aidan had made homemade chocolate ice cream earlier that day.



When Nolan and I got out of bed this morning, Brian was giving Aidan and Sean their bath.



I think every post this month might end with that same line: my cup runneth over.






Friday, March 14, 2008

Introducing...

Nolan_elliott



Nolan Elliott



Born March 12th, 2008 at 1:24 am



8 pounds, 8 ounces



20 inches (though we think he's longer)



Simply beautiful.



We are all home and healthy and very happy.



Thank you to all the friends and family who sent us good wishes and lit candles and laughed to hear my water broke the night before our scheduled c-section:-) Never a dull birth in this family! Love how Nolan let us know we picked the right day.



We arrived home today to this sight:



  Happy_sight



I can't thank our good friends enough for caring for our big boys while we welcomed Nolan to the world. Aidan and Sean had a wonderful time while Brian and I were able to eat, sleep (well, maybe not sleep) and breathe Nolan 24/7 for the first few days in the hospital.



Long_journey_home 



(am I allowed to keep saying how beautiful this boy is?)



Today he got to meet his big brothers.



A_kiss_from_big_brother_sean



Even in all his excitement, Sean still remembered to wash his hands before giving his brother some lovin'. Then he wanted to know who took Nolan's teeth:-) Lots of requests for stories of when he was a baby, when he slept in a crib, etc. And I overheard him sweetly tell Brian, "Daddy I missed you."



Aidan_and_nolan



Love how Nolan seems to be winking and waving in Aidan's lap. Pretty good for 2-days-old, huh?



We came home just minutes before Aidan's school bus. Aidan was out of his mind excited--could barely speak and then sang Nolan a lullaby. Seriously---this boy, who rarely sings anything other than superhero theme songs, spontaneously knelt next to his brother and made up his own song.



My cup runneth over. 






Monday, March 10, 2008

1 Day to Delivery

Highly_emotional_pink That image about sums it up right now (a maternity tee from Babydayz).



A million thoughts racing through my head. There are several items still on my to-do list, so I'm blogging instead of dealing with those.



All will be well by Friday, when we will all be home again together under the same roof. Yesterday Angie made the good point to enjoy the time with just the new baby in the hospital, as time alone with him will be rare and precious. I just wish I had less anxiety about being away from our boys---I'm sure it would be different if they were at least in the same town.



I couldn't ask for better moms to be taking care of them, and they will be with some of their best buddies (and Sean's girlfriend), so I know they'll be fine. I just hope the next time Brian and I leave them for more than 24 hours, it's because we're heading to a beach somewhere!



Thanks so much to everyone who sent good wishes via email or calls this week. It does mean so much to know others are thinking of you and your little one. When I was pregnant with Aidan, a friend compared the stage between expecting your child and holding your child to that moment when a trapeze artist must let go of one bar before grabbing hold of the new one. Daneen Parry uses that same image to discuss fear of transformation in general :



"... in my knowing place I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn't matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing, I have always made it. Each time I am afraid I will miss, that I will be crushed on the unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of "the past is gone, the future is not yet here." It's called transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs."



On a much lighter note...



This weekend we made the world's best blueberry muffins. So good. The recipe is originally from The Best Recipes cookbook, but adapted by my favorite recipe source, Simply Recipes.



Best_blueberry_muffins        (anyone know a PSE action to get rid of tablecloth wrinkles? Because I refuse to iron.)



Ingredients:



3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt



10 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/4 stick), softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel



1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 Tbsp flour (if using defrosted frozen berries)









  1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle-lower part of the oven. Preheat oven to 375°F.


  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.


  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together, beating until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each one. Beat in the grated lemon peel.


  4. Beat in one half of the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Beat in one third of the yogurt. Beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients. Beat in a second third of the yogurt. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients and then the remaining yogurt. Again be careful to beat until just incorporated. Do not over beat. Fold in the berries. If you are using frozen berries, defrost them first, drain the excess liquid, and then coat them in a light dusting of flour.


  5. Use a standard 12-muffin muffin pan. Coat each muffin cup lightly with olive oil or grapeseed oil using a pastry brush, or with a little butter. Or use one of those convenient vegetable oil sprays. Distribute the muffin dough equally among the cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a long toothpick (we use a thin bamboo skewer) to make sure the center of the muffins are done. Set on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the tin and serve slightly warm.


That little bit of lemon is key. And not over-mixing. The only negative---they're so light, I find them difficult to remove from our mini-muffin tin without destroying them. Go with the regular size. Luckily the little guys don't care how they look, as long as they have lots of blueberries in them!





...And since I won't be posting for a bit, check out these links for a laugh. Much better way to deal with transition than contemplating every worst-case scenario...



Tina Fey on Clinton



Garfield minus Garfield (A hat tip to Dzhon. Never a fan of the cat, but this made me laugh out loud)



The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks



Jim Gaffigan (this bit used to be on YouTube, not sure about this new site...)















Enjoy...and check back in next week to meet the newest member of our family!






Saturday, March 8, 2008

SIX

First_bath_2_copy



Six things about our baby who turns six today...



Aidan_at_12_months_copy_2



1. He was the world's easiest baby. Seriously. Never spit up (we couldn't understand why infant outfits often came with bibs...Sean clued us in!), slept through the night most of the time, and was always generous with his smiles.



Lets_go_outside_copy



2. He has always loved being outside. Aidan was a late talker, worrying us a bit at age 2. One of his very first phrases though was, "Outsi pees."



Happy_3rd_birthday_copy



3. Aidan was so excited to become a big brother. Naturally gentle and generous. There are times when he shakes his head, trying to figure out a two-year-old, and needs time alone, but they are best buddies too.



Four_years_old



4. Aidan has loved books since he was a baby (only then he mostly chewed on them). At his well-child visit this week, the nurse asked him his favorite TV show. I listened, wondering if he'd say "Makeover Home Edition", his Sunday night ritual with his dad, or "Cyberchase" and "Word Girl", his Friday PBS fix.  Instead he said, "Well, they're not shows but they're my favorites. My book about volcanoes and another one about a MAD SCIENTIST!" He proceeded to tell her all about Franny the mad scientist, with big eyes and lots of hand motions:-)



5th_bday_party031_copy





5. He weighs 48 lbs and is 49" tall. We keep asking him to stay little, but in this area, he refuses to obey us.



2008_2



6. Aidan wants to be an astronaut, a chef, an artist, a writer, a fireman, and a mad scientist when he grows up.



Happy Birthday, Aidan! We love you!



(I read this to Aidan before I posted it and his one complaint was that I forgot to add SUPERHERO to the future career list.)



We had a battle of the wills today, of all days. After months of fighting over wearing his winter coat, he now LOVES his winter coat and refuses to wear his lighter jacket. Yes, I know what Love & Logic would advise, but never mind. In the moment, I get very frustrated, wondering what I'm doing wrong---I never would have challenged my parents this way. I'm not being sarcastic. I was the most obedient child on the planet, or at least the second most obedient, with my younger sister Elizabeth winning first, but still---seriously compliant. How can my son who is so much like me challenge me so?



Then, when the storm fades and things are calm again, those challenging moments are my greatest pride as a mother. He knows what he prefers. He feels safe enough to voice it. I'm 32 years older than he is, and still trying to master those two things. I need to be wiser in my choice of battles but it is normal for there to be some battle of wills. Healthy even. I realize everyone else on the planet knew this already, but I need the reminder. So here it is, at the tail-end of this birthday post. Lesson #243 that I'm learning from my son.






Friday, March 7, 2008

Happy International Women's Day




250px8marta_2 I had never heard of tomorrow's holiday until we were in Russia, probably their biggest holiday of the year after New Year's Day. Love how it embraces all women, married or single, with or without children.


This year's election process has me thinking more and more about being a woman. In this day, in this place.


I am so grateful for the sisterhood in my life, from my actual sisters and the friends who have become like sisters. From mentors and role models as well as younger women who inspire me. And for the men in my life who have never made me feel anything less than equal, especially my dad and Brian.


It took me months in Russia to finally "get" why our  neighbors kept asking Brian to play chess instead of me, even though Bri would politely decline and point them toward me as the one who enjoyed the game. In our village at least, it was only a man's game.


And it's taken me years to get some perspective on how much the past influences the present, despite changes. My country, for most of its history, denied "my kind" the right to vote, never mind the right to run for office. My church, for most of its history, defined "my kind"  as "incomplete human beings" (at least according to Thomas Aquinas). Today there is still much disagreement on what it means to be a woman.


In some countries, it means your birth is a burden, something to be mourned---or worse---for a family wanting only a son. It can mean no right to own property, or it can mean you are property. There is still so much work to be done, and I hope women (and men---because who wants to be with anyone less than an equal?) in our country feel how lucky we are---there has never been a better place or time to be a woman than now, here.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Seven Days

One_more_week



Aidan took this photo upstairs, at my request. Blurry but I like it.



We're getting down to just days until the big Delivery-Day, instead of weeks.4swpehyd_item



Received this sweet outfit from Angie today, along with super cute tees for the big brothers. Little things have been gathering in the baby room that are his, that never belonged to his brothers, and they somehow make this new child suddenly seem more real.



You'd think the big kicks in my belly would make him real enough to me, but it always seems an enormous leap from pregnancy to parenting.



Yhst21943307879943_1990_126945066



Amy gave him these adorable Robeez---seems like yesterday Sean and Rayce were wearing them.  A blue-green hat, knit by Annabelle, sits on his bookcase. Our neighbor Carol brought over a blanket and hat she had crocheted for him (making me think of Nana). The sight of these, his future hat, blanket, and shoes, somehow conjures him; I can picture him here with us.



And soon he will be.



Meanwhile it appears Aidan is the better photographer---my shot of A in the same spot came out even grainer:



Grainy_window_shot_web






Sunday, March 2, 2008

Star Wars Birthday Bash

51wf35x2biel__bo2204203200_pisitbdp What a difference a few days can make. We didn't make it to the library until the next day, but our librarian had put Not a Stick on hold for Sean without my even asking. Last week, after I explained that someone else had already checked it out, he went up to every kid there, with his chest puffed out, asking, "You take my book Not a Stick?"  Usually I can predict a book that will be a big hit, and then there are surprises like this one that they get attached to. We eventually made it to the book fair as well and Aidan has set aside James and the Giant Peach to finish Lunch Walks Among Us, his first Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist book. Definitely not the last.



Friday was probably our last dinner out as a family for a long while. I am so easily influenced by the power of suggestion that I ordered a pesto pizza with sliced meatballs at Pasta Jay's after hearing Amy describe her delight in it...ignoring my usual lack of enthusiasm for pesto and dislike for meatballs in general. But---Amy---you were right! Yum:-)  Angie emailed that Meg made the World's Best Chocolate Cake, an old recipe of mine, and now I'm going to have to make that for Aidan's real birthday next Sunday. The frosting is my favorite---recipe at the end of this post.



I'm normally a stickler for not celebrating birthdays early, but Brian is running in a half-marathon next Saturday. In retrospect, having the party a week early was brilliant---such a relief!



Mosaic29276971. Alex, 2. Bubble attack, 3. David, 4. Destroy the DeathStar, 5. Aidan checking out frosting lips, 6. Extra Trans Fat with Toxic blue frosting, 7. Joey, 8. Balloon game, 9. Kayden, 10. Robin aka Sean, 11. Rocket balloon, 12. Pinata, 13. presents, 14. Inflatable light sabers, 15. On guard2



Aidan's favorite game (which he has been reenacting all morning) was freezing his Han Solo action figure in bowl of water, Jabba-the-Hut style, and then freeing him by pouring warm water on the ice block several times. The boys did this outside in a kind of relay race from a bucket of warm water to the ice block---so simple but fun. If they ran too fast or overfilled their bowl, they spilled. We didn't have any teams or winner; they just loved doing it. I'm pretty sure Superman is having a turn in our freezer at this moment.



The #1 key to a great party is that the friends your child chooses to invite be kind and enthusiastic, a winning combination at any age and something all these boys had in common. Seriously makes me feel good about the future.



And the #1 key to staying sane while preparing for a six-year-old party is having a real partner. Brian did so much before, during, and after the party.  Our good friend Kathy stayed and helped throughout as well. What a difference that makes!



Cocoa Cream Frosting: (enough for ONE layer cake)



1/3 cup light cream or evaporated milk



¼ cup soft butter



¼ tsp salt



½ cup unsweetened cocoa (sifted)



1 tsp vanilla or rum extract



3 cups sifted powdered sugar.





Heat cream until bubbles form around edge in a small saucepan. Let cool a little.



In a medium bowl, combine butter, salt, cocoa, vanilla, ¼ cup cream, and 1 ½ cups sugar---mix until smooth.



Gradually add remaining sugar. Beat until smooth and fluffy. If too thick to spread, add a little more hot cream. If too thin, set in a bowl of ice water and beat until thick.






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