Sunday, November 29, 2009


Today is the first day of Advent, and my inner Anglican is feeling pretty happy. I come from a religious tradition that minimizes the importance of ritual and liturgy and the church calendar and all that in favor of plain churches and a focus on what we believe (i.e. not very Anglican at all), but despite spending my whole life immersed in such thinking, I love the counting down and the contemplation and the inner preparation that is available in this season. We decided to wait until next weekend to actually get a tree and decorate and all that (with Christmas falling on a Friday this year, Advent is particularly long and we like to keep the tree as fresh and uncrunchy as possible for the benefit of the ACTUAL LIT CANDLES) so this weekend we just basked in the glow of feeling thankful and delicious leftovers and a great deal of football. I think we will begin playing Christmas music this week, though, and start gearing up.

Although I love love love Christmas, I feel like I have a harder time each year with Black Friday and the shopping and the consumer culture, especially in the face of the real lack that exists here and around the world. It makes me physically queasy and part of me wants to opt out entirely of the gifts. It's not like there is a single person I will exchange gifts with this year that actually needs some physical thing that I can wrap up for them. I am not a Scrooge; I love the music and a pretty Christmas tree and special fancy meals and, gosh, having kids at Christmastime has made it WAY MORE AWESOME, but still the commercials on TV and the parking at the mall and the vast amount of crap being bought is just horrifying, just gross. I think what helps me face it all is that every year we do a little bit better, a little bit more to make Christmas what we actually want it to be. Fewer gifts, more meaning.

This video is from last year and I find it so moving. In the interest of full disclosure, it has made me nearly cry about half a dozen times:

And here is this year's video from the same organization, which I find not quite as moving but is still great:

I find these ideas really challenging because it is HARD to invest meaningful amounts of time with people, especially with our family members who live far away. It is easier to spend money via some online shopping to send them a gift. One option that we often take advantage of is a gift from World Vision; it is such a good option for people who don't have anything they really want or need but who you want to remember with a gift. They send you these little cards that describe what you chose (chickens or a small business loan for a woman or a well) that you can wrap up and send to your recipient. I'm very happy about exercising this option but I would like to do more gifts that are personal but still outside the consumer consciousness. Last year, Rob's parents asked for a thumb drive with a lot of photos of us on it for them to use in their digital picture frame; I would like to be able to think of more things like that, things that involve our time and energy but not some wasteful tchotchke that had to be manufactured and shipped and will then collect dust.

And if you're in the mood for a little Christmas music, go listen to some Sufjan in my Advent post from last year. I was very tempted to post that video again because I just love it/him/that whole album but I restrained myself.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Finding Their Voices

Violet has discovered a new word, and is exploring how best to apply it and explore the layers of meaning it can contain. She says, "Uh oh!" in her sweet little baby voice, whenever something hits the floor or is dropped or otherwise goes awry. She has taken to dropping things on purpose, just to be able to say it, which is super funny. Perhaps even funnier, though, is when she lets fly a whole string of "Uh oh uh oh uh oh" when something goes really wrong, like the other day when she pulled a basket off the couch and its contents spilled everywhere. I think my very favorite might be when she says it almost absentmindedly in this tiny quiet voice, like she is talking to herself, when I drop something and she is only half paying attention to me. It's like I can almost see the wheels turning in her head as she is learning about language and cause and effect and all that. I can't believe that a year ago I looked like this and now she is this, this gorgeous, whole, complicated person who obviously has an internal life and a sense of humor and an ever-increasing independence. And yet ANOTHER cold this Thanksgiving weekend, but such is life.

Grace's speech is very grown-up now and so many of her funny mispronunciations have fallen by the wayside. She does still replace the first syllables of many words with the sound ber-, though. For instance, we grew bermatoes* in our garden this year and when something is not real it is bertend and in the mirror you see your berflection and food that is really good is berlicious. Also, she has some weird mental block about correctly pronouncing the word yellow. She can totally make all the sounds that make up the word and if you can trick her into not realizing what word it is she will say it, but she can't somehow get her tongue around it if she is thinking of the color. It comes out as sort of "lellow" usually, with an odd slur on the second l sound. Who knows what wackiness lurks in the minds of adorable preschool children?*

*Speaking of tomatoes, our plants are still going strong; can you believe it? It's practically December! We had a ton of rain this fall and just like magic our tomatoes started producing and growing these lovely, normal-sized fruits. It's like plants need water or something to thrive-- crazy, I know. It's so cool now and we aren't getting as much sun so they aren't ripening as quickly, though, and when they are ripening they aren't getting to that gorgeous summer scarlet, but to a more muted hue. We are now in a race with the first overnight freeze. Will our oodles of green tomatoes make it to red/orange/yellow before we get the first frost? I can hardly bear the anticipation!

*And speaking of adorable preschool children, Grace got her first real haircut last week. I sort of half-heartedly trimmed the sides back in March, but she still had a LOT of uneven baby ends and it was growing out into a weird shape. Her hair has been so slow to grow that I haven't wanted to cut it but I finally decided it would really benefit from a better shape. I went to the guy who just cut my hair the week before because he specializes in curly hair and gave me a great cut, and I consider it a smashing success. Grace stood very still and was very patient but also VERY. SERIOUS.

Style is serious business

It turned out really adorable and I am very happy with it, although we basically have the same haircut now, which is a little odd. We're TWINS! Now if only I could somehow have the same skin as her as well as the same hair...

The new 'do

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Sartorialist

Warning: first world problem ahead.

I have nothing to wear. Well, more accurately, I should say that I have very little to wear (not a huge problem in and of itself, I admit-- I am in theory a fan of the small but well-chosen wardrobe) but nothing that I like to wear. Do you too go through these phases where everything in your closet looks boring and tired and unflattering and decidedly un-chic? I am not one of those people who claims to not care about clothes and throw on whatever happens to present itself; I really like clothes and fashion and fabric and color and I like to think about what I wear. Sadly, most of what fills my closet makes me feel more gloomy than happy. I have taken a dispassionate, steely-eyed resolve to my closet lately, adding item after item to the Goodwill pile after deciding that no, I don't actually like that shirt and no, it doesn't actually look good on me. I have not been buying clothes, however, so my closet keeps getting emptier and emptier. I've been losing weight at a slow but steady rate and have shrunk out of several sets of clothes but am not yet at what I hope will be my final size/weight, so that complicates matters when it comes to shopping. I haven't shopped for clothes since those immediate postpartum days when I was too big for any of the multiple sizes of clothes that I was storing in bins in our extra closet. I've lost a good 40 lbs since then and have cycled through most of those clothes except the very few pieces of pre-Grace clothes I have held on to, which I hope to be able to fit into, oh, about when they look ridiculously 5-years-out-of-style.

And even if I were to go shopping, I can't decide what I actually want to buy. Most of my days are spent with at least some substance on my clothes that wasn't there originally and I do a lot of carrying and cooking and cleaning, so nothing that has to be dry-cleaned or minced about in. Most of my friends in a similar stage of life have embraced jeans as their uniform of choice, but I am just not a jeans person. So uncomfortable! I have one pair right now that I can tolerate pretty well, but those are starting to get too big. I really do prefer to wear skirts, which I think means I need to invest in some tights for winter. I have a longstanding desire to dress in a more eclectic (eccentric?), funky, vintage-y style, like Gertie or Erin or Amanda but I struggle with how to actually do that, short of throwing everything out and spending a lot of time/money to sew/buy my whole wardrobe afresh. I have taken great strides to break my habit of buying myself boring clothes from Target and Lands End but I can't quite figure out how to dress myself without those crutches. Clothes-- GAH!

In less angsty fashion-related news, I recently got out another bunch of Grace's hand-me-downs for Violet to wear and can I just reiterate how fun it is to get out these sweet clothes and use them again with a second baby? It is causing me a bit of cognitive dissonance, though, because Violet is wearing clothes right now that Grace wore when she was walking. WALKING! This is partly because Grace walked early (at 11 months, which Violet will be in just a few short days) and partly because Violet is a bit bigger than Grace was at the same age (about 1 lb more at their 9-month check-ups). It seems just impossible and wrong that these clothes can be worn by a crawling, non-walking baby. Violet last week learned how to pull up to standing and crawl up stairs (within the same 24-hour period), but she isn't going to start walking anytime in the immediate future. And Violet is wearing turtlenecks for the first time, since we have been having a delightful cold snap, which also makes me do a double-take. The very first time I ever put Grace or Violet in a turtleneck, I thought, "Whoa! Beatnik baby!" Just like the first time I put either of them in a little polo collar (on a dress, I think...) my first reaction was, "Whoa! Preppy baby!" It's funny what you get used to.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Day Is It Again?

I am so confused about what day it is. Rob was away last weekend, making it feel non-weekend-y, and then he stayed home for a day after getting back from his conference in Miami, making that feel very weekend-esque despite the fact that it was a Wednesday. Now I am all discombobulated, but very happy to be all back together.

Grace and I got sick while Rob was away, and I was again reminded that being the sole caretaker for two small children while feeling sick is a special kind of miserable. The kind where you don't really get to take a nap and yet your child still ends up watching too much TV. (Grace's favorites right now are Ni Hao, Kai-Lan and Little Bill; I have had the song from that first one stuck in my head for several days now.) I wasn't all that sick, thank goodness. Every illness I have had in the last year has seemed not too dreadful because I mentally compare it to that killer UTI I got at the very end of being pregnant with Violet and I always think, "Well, this really isn't that bad." I think that might be the most violently ill I have ever been in my life, with the runner-up being a vicious case of food poisoning I had in Bukhara that commenced with me throwing up outside an 800-year-old mosque. Good times!

Whenever I am sick with the common-cold-respiratory-virus kind of illness, I always want pho. It is the perfect comfort food for when you are sick, like chicken noodle soup but way, way better. The yummy noodles and nourishing broth and delicious aromatic chiles and basil and cilantro and lime-- I wanted some SO BADLY when I was sick but could not see myself packing up both children and making it to a restaurant by myself. I finally satisfied my pho craving yesterday when Rob took me and Violet out to lunch while Grace was at preschool. (Shhhh, don't tell her we went to a restaurant without her; she'll be mad.) I was already getting better but between the pho and the nap I got to take yesterday afternoon while Rob was home, I am now definitely on the mend.

Something else around our house seems to be acting sick-- my precious, precious serger. Noooooo! I sew a lot (although you'd never know it by my recent lack of reviewing on Pattern Review), mostly clothes for the girls and me. I have a regular sewing machine (my college graduation present from my parents) and this serger (a Christmas gift from Rob a few years back) and both of them are very robust, well-behaved machines. Neither of them have ever been persnickety or difficult to work with, but I moved the serger to clean under it a few days ago and ever since the thread tensions have been all messed up. I've re-threaded the thing several times and dug out my manual but cannot figure out what the problem is. I've decided to give it some time to itself to let it think about what it's done and if it wants to make good choices. I have put my serger in time-out. I am hoping against hope that the next time I turn it on it will have magically gotten better and/or have thought better of its perverse behavior and returned to its obliging ways. This is my favorite method of dealing with problems-- DENIAL! and IGNORING THE ISSUE! Let's hope it serves me well.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Comings and Goings

This has been a week of arrivals and departures around here. My parents came for their first visit since they officially moved out of their house, and it was really great to see them. They left from a long stint of cold gray rain in Chicago to arrive to our balmy autumn blue skies, so warm you don't need long sleeves and the sun shining bright. I tried to explain that we too just came off a long stretch of rainy weather but I don't think it really helped. We had a good time with them for a few days and heard all about the new house they are planning on buying (they have changed their minds about the other houses they made offers on) and let my dad work Grace up into a manic, gleeful frenzy with his mere presence and showed off Violet's new tricks of clapping and crawling and charming the pants off anyone she can.

Then I got to spend a couple hours with a dear friend who was visiting Dallas after moving away to Cincinnati this past summer. Our history together goes back to our college days and we're both mothers to toddlers now and married to physicians and she is so smart and thoughtful and interesting; it was a fun, refreshing time. We talked a bit about being in medicine and discussed how almost everyone we know now says if s/he could go back and do it over again, s/he would not choose to go to medical school. I don't know if it's just the stage of career all our friends are in (mostly still in residency or fellowship and thus miserable to some extent) or that most of our physician friends are parents now (and thus struggling with work/life balance in what can be a pretty unfriendly environment) or that many of our doctor friends are really conservative (we do live in Texas, after all) (and thus quaking in fear that health care reform is going to make medicine an even more problematic career than it already is). For our part, Rob and I are feeling sort of hopeful that SOMETHING will get done to start fixing our broken, broken healthcare system. Let's throw it all out and start over! I'm sure that will be totally fine, right?

Another brief, and not nearly so welcome, visitor was some kind of cold virus that has been plaguing Violet. Babies with stuffy noses are just so miserable. Poor little thing... She didn't have any fever or much else going on, and for that I am thankful. Now that it is flu season (and swine flu season too, apparently) I will admit to a bit of heightened watchfulness every time anyone comes down with a sniffle. Last week Grace got the H1N1 mist and a seasonal flu shot, and Violet got just the seasonal flu shot (along with polio and whatever else she was due for at her one-month-late 9-month check-up). Our pediatrician didn't have any H1N1 for babies so no decision to be made there. I keep thinking that now I should go get a flu shot and maybe an H1N1 one if they will give it to me, but that would probably involve me finding a doctor. Rob and I are kind of bad about having a primary care doctor (irony, yes), but soon we will be forced to because we have to get a doctor to "assess" us and fill out a form and give us a TB test (TB? why?) for the adoption paperwork.

And the departure of greatest import around here this week was Rob's this morning as he left for 6 days at the ACAAI meeting. Six days! What shall I doooooooo... I am so out of practice on the solo parenting gig. During most of residency, Rob was gone for ~30 hours every 4th day or so and only got 4 days off a month so I was much more accustomed to handling stuff on my own. I am so spoiled now, though; Rob does bathtime and bedtime for Grace every night and helps me cook dinner most evenings. He does a lot to keep our home together from a practical standpoint, but even more than that, I really like being with him and having him here is infinitely, infinitely better than having him away. So here are some of the things I will miss while he is gone...
  • Showers: Well, maybe I will not actually go 6 days without showering but I'm not quite sure how I will manage it without him here. Grace will watch TV but Violet is not nearly as content to sit in the little bouncy seat on the bathroom floor as Grace was at that age. She usually ends up thrashing around and crying in protest at being restrained. Fun! Maybe I will be forced to consider the shower-while-baby-sleeps option? I hate using sleeping baby time to do boring stuff like that.
  • Weekly Nap: I feel like I am doing really good at staying caught up on sleep these days, but I do take a glorious, restorative nap each weekend while Rob watches the girls.
  • Running: I don't have a double stroller so I think I will be limited to walking with Grace in the stroller and Violet in the Ergo. Although now I am chuckling at the idea of trying to run with Violet on my back.
  • Getting to Spend Time with the Person I Love Best in the Whole Wide World: Cheesy, but yeah.