Monday, September 29, 2008

Painting


Watercolors

We had a very productive Saturday as we got all the painting done in the new nursery.  Painting is definitely work, but I have to admit to enjoying it a bit, at least as much as you can enjoy anything that isn't an actual leisure activity.  We did 3 walls in the light pink color and 1 wall in the red paint.  This was the first time I've used Benjamin Moore paint and I was so pleased with it.  The red wall only took 2 coats to get really nice coverage (except for a 3rd coat on a little of the brush work), which I couldn't believe.  This is the 3rd red wall or room I've painted and I always had to do 3 or 4 coats with the paint from Lowe's or Home Depot.  Benjamin Moore may have just made a loyal customer.

Artist Grace

These pictures are, of course, of Grace painting sometime last week.  I regret to admit that we were not so adorable while doing our share of the painting in our home.  Grace was off at my parents for the day, a large part of why we were able to finish the whole project, down to clean-up, by 4pm.  It's amazing how much more productive one can be without a toddler running around!  I know-- what an amazing revelation!  We so appreciated my parents spending the day with Grace.  One wonderful thing about moving back to Texas is being close to my parents again.  They live about 45 minutes away so we don't have overlapping social circles or see them on weeknights or whatever, but I so appreciate having them accessible and close.  I'm not someone who gets homesick or sad when living far away from family but still, being near is wonderful.

After the painting and picking up Grace, I went with my mom to hear my dad play at a CD recording their church had.  My dad was playing guitar and mandolin there a mere 24 hours after returning from a trip to Ireland, just a week after playing at an open mic night at a coffee house over in their side of the Metroplex.  Live music, international travel, recording sessions-- yeah, it turns out that my dad has a way more happening life than me.  And their church is way more rock & roll than the church Rob and I go to here.  Seriously, one time I left a Sunday morning service there with tinnitus like I'd been at a club or something.  I'm open to pretty much anything as far as musical styles at church so it was generally lots of fun.  What I'm not open to is the deep mistrust of science within conservative evangelical circles getting reinforced from the pulpit.  Grrrrrrr...  There was a little speaking and one of the leaders made a brief condescending comment about the Large Hadron Collider. I don't want to overemphasize it, because it was just a few seconds in a whole evening that was largely great, but oh, how things like that madden me...  It's attitudes like this that make books like this and this necessary ("The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind"-- HA!) and give the world outside Christian circles, especially the educated world, good reason to dismiss us as backward and ignorant.  And more importantly, it is not what Christians are called to; it's a perversion of what Christian faith should be.  This particular brand of hogwash makes me appreciate the church we were part of in New Haven; it is certainly not a perfect place but as it sometimes seemed like half the people making up the church had PhDs or were on their way to having them, nobody would have pulled that there.  I find myself disappointed and distracted by such things.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Nursery Design Fun


Getting ready to decorate the nursery

I am just at the beginning of my 3rd trimester, depending on how exactly you prefer to do the math.  This means there is a BABY COMING, dear reader, and we have got to get ourselves ready.  Somehow this translates in my head to decorating a bedroom, although as I've stated before I realize there is some logical fallacy there, given our parenting choices and habits.  Oh well, better to decorate and organize this room now than after we have a new tiny tyrannical human with us, right?  Anyway, the cute fabrics are from IKEA and were super affordable.  I'm going to do curtains (combining both fabrics) for the two windows and a dust ruffle (just the hippos) for the crib.  We don't use a bumper (dangerous) and I have enough crib sheets, so that's about it for textiles.  I couldn't decide between pink and red, so at the suggestion of my mom (good idea, Mom!) we're using both.  (I am secretly very pleased with this because with just one wall in this room painted red, I think I can still get away with painting the dining room red in the future.  I chortle with crimson-addicted glee!)

OK, I shall cease with the excessive parentheses now.

I was really excited this week to get our Tiffany Ard art in the mail.  And we've decided on a name:

We decided on a name!

Yes, even though Grace has the purple room right now.  There will be plenty of time for doing things color-coordinated with her name in the years to come.  Rob and I are painting this Saturday while my parents spend the day playing with Grace; I know that Rob agreeing to do this with me is a real expression of his love for me given his marked dislike for painting tasks.  I'm going to try to get all the prep done today so we can really just get in there and paint tomorrow.

In other baby preparation efforts, I recently opened up all the boxes of Grace's outgrown clothes and organized them.  It temporarily soothed the organizing, nesting compulsions flowing through me to fill the drawers of the baby's new dresser with little tiny clothes organized by size and type of garment.

Tiny clothes

And seriously, these are some TINY CLOTHES.  It is hard to believe that Grace was so small a mere two-and-a-half years ago, and harder still to believe that a new tiny person is coming.  Really newborn babies are so seldom seen in public (for good reason, what with their immature immune systems) that it seems just laughably impossible for a human being to be so tiny.  For scale, here is a shot with my hand in it:


No, seriously, people, these are TINY CLOTHES

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Not Right in the Head

Lately I've been dealing with some of the more disorienting symptoms of pregnancy; in other words, I am losing my mind.  The hormonal fog has invaded my brain and turned what was once a nicely organized set of synapses into mush.  This happened to me with Grace as well; I was still a postdoc working in astronomy research then and I did such nonsensical things to code and databases and observing queues.  This time around, I have tried to go to an OB appointment one week before it was actually scheduled, I have left important ingredients out of recipes (you know, ingredients that figure prominently in the name of the dish), and a few days ago when Grace asked me for her crayons, I opened the refrigerator to get them for her.  Yesterday, I totally spaced out on my weekly women's group at church and just didn't go.  Even though it is on my calendar and everything.  It is disorienting to be this way because it feels so out of character for me.  If I try to describe it, I would say that it feels like I cannot focus and hold my brain where it needs to be, that my brain is slack and plodding.  It is bewildering to experience this, because even beyond my self-identification as a bookish smartypants type, my tendency to be detail-oriented, sensible, and organized is pretty core to my understanding of who I am.  Who the heck am I now?

Also bewildering is the hormonal shift in my emotional balance.  I have been, how shall we say... a bit on the crazy side.  It is disconcerting to firmly grasp that under normal circumstances whatever has just happened would not normally bother me that much and at the same time to be seething with anger or bawling.  Whatever is going on physiologically is enough to make my feelings careen into uncharted disorder but not enough to make me unaware of how deranged I am.  It's difficult to know how precisely to think about such a state of affairs.  Because of my spiritual beliefs I believe that we as human beings are more than just the sum of the biochemical firings of our gray matter, so it's a metacognitive challenge to deal with the state of my physical body having such an obvious effect on the state of my emotions/soul/spirit/what-have-you.
 
And I'm starting to have trouble sleeping, which is no doubt contributing to my mental and emotional issues.  This too is really common; hormones running amok and getting up to pee multiple times and growing larger and unwieldy all conspire to place a good night's sleep out of reach for many pregnant women.  The pregnancy books seem to largely imply that the sleep issue is all in my head (worry about impending motherhood, etc), which makes me want to go all River Tam on them.  I mean, yes, there is some stress in my life right now (feeling out of place here in Dallas, soon I will be mothering TWO tiny individuals) but honestly I think the sleep issues are exacerbating such stress, not the other way around.  I'm experimenting with exercising more and cutting out daytime naps in the hopes that I will sleep better at night.  So far, I can tell you that I am much more sleepy come 8pm but the jury is still out on whether I will end up being more rested.

So to sum up, pregnancy kind of sucks.  And at the end of it, there's labor, which is also not so great.  Babies, on the other hand-- babies are really fantastic.  I love babies, and toddlers, and children, and all that, and I love being a mother.  This has been the most interesting, fulfilling, challenging thing I've ever spent my energy and time and intellect doing.  I know that we are really fortunate to have gotten pregnant twice without trouble or heartache or medical intervention, and I do count it as a huge blessing in our life.  Being pregnant again does make me think more deeply about growing our family in the future, though.  Rob and I have always been really open to adoption.  Before we started trying to conceive, we talked about what we would do if we had trouble.  We definitely had unity on this; we were willing to try something like Clomid but weren't willing to try something like IVF.  We would adopt.  I know that I would have mourned missing out on the life experience of pregnancy but neither one of us really cares that much about having a genetic link to our children.  Heck, we don't care if we have the same skin color as our children.  I know that the process of adopting a child is long and challenging and painful, as our friends James and Kim can currently attest to, so I don't mean to imply that we would adopt a child because it's easier.  Rather, why would we have a third biological child when we're concerned about the problem of already-existing children without families and the environment and I don't have any desire to be pregnant again?  I think my biological drive to procreate has been sated at this point and I can consider these other issues.  So since this is most likely my last pregnancy (although hopefully not our last child), I will attempt to live in the moment and appreciate the beautiful things about being pregnant, to look beyond the physical difficulties and remember that there is a tiny new human being growing inside of me, a teensy passenger who I will be lucky enough to count as a member of my family and to kiss and hold and know from the first moments of her life.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Missile Defense


Sweet Grace

In the early morning, Grace is a mommy-seeking missile.  Her normal time for rousing is around 6am, give or take thirty minutes or so.  We hear her moan and complain incoherently in her room for a few beats, then we hear her tiny toddler feet slap-slap-slap down the hardwood floor of the hall toward our room as she half-asleep wails, "Mommymommymommymommymommy..."  She climbs into our bed and my arms, curling up so that the curve of her tiny spine nestles against my ever-rounder belly, and the largely unintelligible grumbling quiets into peace as she falls back into a deeper sleep.  My eyes barely open through the whole process but I feel her warm, perfect toddler skin and smell her sweet hair fresh from her bath the night before and hear the breath slowly whooshing in and out of her diminutive lungs.  She sleeps for another hour or so, and although I am so OVER all-night cosleeping at this stage of pregnancy, it seems a flawlessly restful, somnolent hour.  When she finally awakens, she asks me, "Are we awake?"  When I answer in the affirmative, she contradicts me in a sing-song treble, "No, not yet!" and snuggles in for a few more moments of her fleeting toddlerhood.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Skirting the Issue

I've been thinking about clothes again.  More specifically, I've been thinking about how much more I like skirts than pants.  There are, of course, many reasons why they are superior.   I don't know if it's just a quirk of my posture or what, but I really do think they are more comfortable than pants. (By pants, I mean "real" pants.  I love a stretchy pair of yoga/sweat pants and mourn their unsuitability for most functions in even my SAHM life.)  And don't even get me started on jeans; I think jeans have to be the most uncomfortable items of clothing in a woman's closet.  I remember watching an episode of the U.S. version of What Not to Wear where the victim claimed that jeans were uncomfortable and that the entire world must be operating under a mass delusion to make them the casual uniform of choice.  It was refreshing to hear someone whose experience with jeans is so similar to my own.  Of course, such a feeling led this particular person to live her life in pajama pants and stained T-shirts, which isn't the path I'd prefer.  Fortunately, I have another option: skirts!  Cooler in warm weather than even shorts, easier to get to fit, and just straight-up more comfortable.  I do prefer to wear pants on the coldest days because I am undecided on whether wearing tights under a skirt is a comfy option-- are they basically yoga pants (my clothing nirvana) with feet, or a torturous item of clothing likely to sag down and constrict?  I still vacillate on that dilemma.  Fortunately, I now live in a climate where it is prime skirt-wearing weather for all but a few weeks a year.

My fondness for dresses and skirts is based on aesthetics and comfort and is not at all ideological.  I feel like I have to make that clear because of my years of being homeschooled and living in a cultural milieu where it sometimes was.  Homeschooling families are an interesting and diverse bunch, but there always seems to be a strong representation from the extreme far-right crowd with their women and girls wearing ankle-length old-fashioned dresses and hair grown philosophically long.  I must admit that several times a year something will remind me of the whole "modest clothing" scene and I end up googling and reading blogs and whatnot for a day.  It's the worst kind of voyeurism; I mentally snigger but these clothes, just a few tiny steps away from Quaker plain dress or traditional Mennonite garb, engross me.  It must appeal to me at some level or it wouldn't absorb me on occasion.  I must be modest-clothing-curious.

Actually, I can explain the appeal to some extent.  I love clothes and I think it is so interesting how we use them to identify ourselves to others and send a message about who we are.  That message can range from "I want to fit in" to "I am not part of the crowd" to "My baby spits up a lot and my life doesn't have room for a lot of time for myself these days".  I feel an affinity for people who dress outside the cultural norm; clothes do tell the people around us something about ourselves so why not go with it?  And wouldn't the world be more fun if there were more people dressed like they're going to a steampunk convention or Burning Man?  My own sartorial desires lean toward a sexy-librarian/1950s vintage look, sort of like the (rather annoying) Kenley on the current season of Project Runway or the oft-referenced-by-me Erin at A Dress A Day.  Who knows?  Perhaps someday soon I shall go full-on eccentric.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Mosaic Meme

Sheesh, am I long-winded or what?  The word count on my blog entries has been creeping up lately, which probably means I should choose to spend more time talking to people in real life or something.  In the spirit of shutting up already, I have stolen a meme from a recently-discovered blog that I am partial to, Recovering Sociopath, who wrote a really fantastic guest post at Toddled Dredge.  I'm not normally a big meme person but this one really struck my fancy.

Here’s how it works:
  • Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
  • Using only the first page, pick an image.
  • Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker. Choose 3 columns with 4 rows. (Well, I did it the opposite because it fits my blog layout better.)

The Questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name.

I think I was a bit of a literalist when I picked most of the photos for my mosaic:

A Mosaic for a Meme


photo credits: 1. My 'Julia' in the rain, 2. Pizza Porn, 3. Lake St. Peter HDR [2], 4. Lavender Field, 5. tinafey, 6. Knob Creek, 7. Stilts, 8. Double Chocolate Cheesecake, 9. writer's teeth, 10. Through the Clouds, 11. pregnant .1, 12. Fine dining at the Silge house

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Potty Training Extravaganza


Potty Training Extravaganza

Life at our house these days involves much talk of bodily functions as Grace is learning to use the potty.  We have a book, we have a potty, we have a chart and stickers and reward toys.  She is doing really well these days, which is such a relief.  She first started showing interest in the potty before we moved, but I didn't put much energy or commitment into the process as we had the house on the market, I was all 1st-trimester misery, we were in the temporary apartment, etc.  I was full of excuses, in other words.  And I really dragged my feet on getting a little potty, dreading cleaning it with every fiber of my being.  (Why does it seem so terrible to me?  I use cloth diapers, for goodness sake.)  Rob kept insisting that we needed one, however, and I finally relented after we settled in here in Texas.  I first went to Target and looked at the potties there, but seriously, people, I could not bring myself to bring one of those abominations into my house.  They were all covered in noxious branded characters, or there were gross-seeming padded parts, or they required BATTERIES because they MADE NOISES.  WHEN YOUR CHILD PEES.

Anyway, I discovered the much less offensive Baby Bj√∂rn potty online and I freely admit that Rob was totally right and getting the little potty really helped Grace on the road to panties.  In fact, when the potty first arrived, she was so taken with it that I suddenly found myself in the midst of potty training, without really preparing myself for it.  I bought panties and we kept a jar of M&Ms in the bathroom and things went quite swimmingly for a few days.  Then, however, the novelty wore off as Grace realized, "Wait a minute, you want me to do this all the time?!"  She grew disobliging and uncooperative, and the accidents (oh, the accidents!) multiplied.  It got overwhelming and I could bear it no longer (and by "it", I mean the pee and poop everywhere).  I declared a potty hiatus and put Grace back in the diapers.  After my dismay began to fade a bit (about a two week break) I started to again plan, steeling myself and building up my resolve to actually do this thing.  I made a chart one night after Grace went to bed and unveiled the new era of potty training to her the next morning.  We are about 3 weeks into this second attempt and things are going really well; she is making progress every week, with fewer and fewer accidents and is even starting to tell us when she needs to go.  (That chart in the picture is all done now, and our new chart only gets stickers when she asks to go of her own initiative.  Well, we are a little indulgent on our definition of "initiative" at this point, but we are getting there.  And notice the increase in stickers it takes to fill up a row and thus get a reward as the chart fills up?  I amuse myself with such things...)

Potty-training a child has not been one of the more enjoyable things I've done in my life, but at this point, I think we are past the worst of it.  And it certainly has been a much faster process than weaning Grace or convincing her to sleep through the night.  If she makes as much progress in the next month as she's made in the past month, I think we might be able to officially call her potty-trained (at least during the day) in another number of weeks. Right now, she is wearing panties at home during the day, disposable training pants when we're away from home, and still a cloth diaper at night.  For anyone who is curious, buying Seventh Generation training pants online (my favorite disposable diaper brand) is cheaper than any of the training pants at Costco.  And they are not printed with mawkish branded characters to boot.  I'm doing the training pants for my own convenience at this point; moving to panties when we're out of the house is the next step, for which I need to gird my loins (ha!) and gather the mental energy for.  The accidents are very few and far between (multiple days apart) at home and she is almost always dry in the training pants out; she just hasn't quite gotten consistent about identifying when she needs to go.  Thus, the training pants to avoid (or postpone, I guess) the moment when I am dealing with a urine-soaked toddler at the grocery store.  I know the process would go faster if I gave up the training pants and just went straight to all-panties-all-the-time, but I'm still in training myself, I guess.  She's making progress and soon we'll get there.

I went to Target (which, yes, I visit a lot) to stock up on small toys to use as rewards when the stickers fill up to the ends of the rows.  I don't troll the toy aisles very frequently because I usually have Grace with me and nobody voluntarily chooses the particular trial that is taking a toddler through such an arcade of juvenile delight.  Anyway, I collected an assortment of crayons, little notebooks, those sticky jello-like things you can stick on windows, matchbox cars, watercolor paints, etc.  And of course, I was horrified by some of the toys.  In one of the "boy" aisles (WHY are there boy and girl aisles?!), I saw these wrestling figures which were brand-named "Untamed Aggression" or something like that and I felt an overwhelming relief that I am not currently responsible for the care and raising of a boy.  Not that there aren't truly appalling options for girls as well.  "Here, Grace, have a skanky trollop to play with."  The world at large does a pretty tremendous job of distorting and debasing what it means to be masculine or feminine, I guess.

Working on the potty training has made me wonder when scatological humor kicks in.  Grace's attitude toward bodily functions is so matter-of-fact and solemn, mixed of course with elation at achieving milestones.  I distinctly remember babysitting 4-year-olds who thought anything to do with the toilet was HILARIOUS, though, so I guess sometime in the next year and a half the scatological humor will kick in.  She is such an innocent for the time being; the depth of her ingenuousness is revealed when I want to laugh at what she says about poop-- me, a 30-year-old woman with a taste for Jane Austen and expensive cheeses.  I guess it's not funny until one realizes that it is taboo, and of course I don't really want to teach her not to talk about going to the potty until she first masters telling me when she needs to go.  
  • Step #1: Learn how to use the toilet.  
  • Step #2: Learn about it being socially unacceptable to talk about in public and thus UPROARIOUSLY FUNNY.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What Were You Thinking, Anne Shirley?

As I hung up some clean laundry the other day, my eye was drawn to the section of our closet filled with cold-weather clothes and my heart was filled with longing to wear them.  It wasn't even my normal winter clothes, just the collection of cold-weather maternity clothes I have leftover from being pregnant with Grace.  She was born in February in Connecticut, so almost my entire maternity wardrobe was made up of long sleeves, sweaters, and the like.  Alas, it will still be probably 6-8 weeks before I can wear them again, as it is still all 95 degrees and ozone action days and whatnot here.  At Grace's preschool, they don't let the kids play outside when it's an ozone action day and they told me that last year the kids didn't make it to the playground until October.  Take THAT, Mother Earth!

So anyway, I have grown weary of my warm-weather clothes.  This is an annual occurrence for me when I live in Texas, hitting me right around Labor Day, when the calendar claims that summer is winding its way down but it's still too hot to wear anything other than the same stale, tired attire I've been wearing for months.  It's not quite as bad this year since I didn't arrive until June or so and since then I've been slowly getting my warm-weather maternity wardrobe into good working order; buying or sewing a new garment every few weeks does help one to not feel so sick of one's clothes.

Now I, like so many gestating women before me, shall bemoan the state of ready-to-wear maternity wear.  To be honest, I understand.  There just aren't enough pregnant women buying clothes at any given time to make it possible to have the wild, varying selection of clothes available to the non-pregnant among us.  Thus we pregnant types stand at the store or sit in front of our computers, pondering the limited options available to us.  My pet peeve right now is that maternity wear seems inundated with puffed sleeves.  You can hardly buy a T-shirt the right shape to cover a growing belly without a puffed sleeve on it.  The puffed sleeve is a trend I am definitely ready to have finished.  I was a bit slow to warm up to the puffed sleeves when they first re-appeared on the scene (when? a few years ago?) but I eventually succumbed and had my Anne of Green Gables moment.  I have recovered now, though, and I am tired of them on garments for grown women; I think they are particularly unflattering and puerile on my burgeoning form.

(Oh, and while I'm decrying fashion trends I don't like, why so much animal print?  Maybe this is not so accurately described as a trend, as it seems here to stay, but whatever-- I don't like it.  One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at A Dress A Day recently explained very articulately what I don't like about animal print; it either says I'm an over-the-top provocative voluptuary or I'm trying to make some kind of esoteric sartorial joke about being sexy.  Either way, animal print is not for me.)

But again with the maternity wear, another reason buying ready-to-wear is problematic is that there isn't really that much of it out there, especially at the lower price ranges.  All the non-designer-buying mamas are pretty much shopping at Old Navy, Target, the Gap, etc. and buying the same stuff.  I was at the mall with Grace the other day and saw another pregnant lady walking the opposite direction wearing the exact same striped Liz Lange T-shirt from Target that I was.  I immediately felt like a chillingly unoriginal automaton who mindlessly buys whatever mass-produced garment presents itself on the way to the crayons and shampoo. Note to self: Reduce the percentage of my clothing that comes from Target; sew more.

Sewing for yourself is, of course, a great way to get around these problems.  And it's fun to boot, so that's good.  The time and energy I have to devote to sewing aren't quite extensive enough to allow me to tell the whole garment industry to go jump in a lake, however.  About half the clothes in my closet are things I sewed myself.  Last month, I did a little 4-piece set of coordinates for a contest on Pattern Review, but what did I do?  I went and sewed a top with puffed sleeves.