Saturday, August 30, 2008

Boobs, Boobs, and More Boobs

I'm blogging about breastfeeding!  Proceed at your own, um, comfort level.

Pregnancy has caused me, as it does most women, to need to seek our different bras  and thus I've been sorting through the pile of bras in various sizes I've accumulated over the past few years of the metamorphosis of my bustline.  In the past few weeks I've run into a new issue that I didn't ever deal with when pregnant with Grace: underwires are really bothering me. (I am a fairly devoted underwire wearer so this is a significant change for me.)  "Are there any bras here that don't have underwires?" I ponder as I hunt through the stash of bras.  Then I see them: the nursing bras.

Sometimes you hear advice to buy nursing bras when you need new sizes during pregnancy because you'll probably need those sizes later, but I never did that when I was pregnant with Grace.  I wanted "real" bras then, and I still sort of do, but I need a break from the underwires at least when I'm around the house or the like.  Conveniently for me in my current delicate condition, nursing bras often are wire-free (underwires can cause blocked milk ducts) and I nursed Grace long enough and lost weight drastically enough that I ended up buying nursing bras in, seriously, 3 or 4 sizes.  There you are-- a nice selection of wire-free bras, right in a box in my closet!  The only slight hiccup in this plan is that the size I am right now is the same size I wore for the longest period during Grace's nursing career (from 4 months to, oh, about 10 months or so) so several of those bras got WORN OUT and thrown away.  Starting at about 12 months, I gave up on the nursing bras entirely as it didn't seem worth it with the reduced frequency of Grace's nursing; I'd just push the regular bra down or up the few times a day she was still nursing.  For the record, this too will wear out your bras amazingly speedily.

Breaking out the nursing bras and wearing them has, of course, caused me to ponder breastfeeding and that part of my relationship with Grace and what it will be like with the new baby.  I am really happy with how nursing Grace went and how it ended and all that.  I don't really think of going to 2 years as an accomplishment or anything; it was just how things went for us and was the gentlest, most appropriate (and easiest!) choice for her and me.  Sticking with breastfeeding through those early weeks, on the other hand-- that is an accomplishment I am darn proud of because folks, that was hard work.  Breastfeeding frequently enough to establish a sufficient supply and dealing with pain for a few weeks (well, really just three weeks in my case, but still...) took commitment; I am really glad that we established how important this was ahead of time so that in the fog and delirium Rob and I knew what our goals were.  I am hoping that the early stages of breastfeeding the new baby don't feel as arduous; maybe having more experience will help.  However things begin, I do really hope that we eventually end up in the same kind of natural rhythm that Grace and I had, and I'll certainly do whatever I can (which is a lot, for the doggedly persistent among us).   If something goes awry with the new baby and for whatever reason we never get her to actually nurse, I'll probably commit to pumping for 4-6 months and then reevaluate whether switching to formula would make me a saner, happier mama.  I am ardently pro-breastfeeding but after making sure the baby has breastmilk during those early months when it has the most proven, dramatic benefits, I am open to destressing my life if I need it.  My limited experience with pumping certainly indicates that it is a whole different ball of wax than actual nursing at the breast.

So it appears there have been some great strides in nursing bra technology in the 2+ years since I was last really looking into all of this.  Bravado finally got rid of those terrible snaps on their Original Nursing Bra and replaced them with the regular style of nursing access hooks.  About time, is all I have to say.  I liked that bra for the very first weeks and hanging out around the house.  This was the bra that got the most use for me once I was up and about again, so much so that it got totally worn out and I don't have one anymore, but this one also looks like a possible winner to me.  And I really wish they had these bra tanks around when I was nursing Grace because I totally would have loved them; I tried the Glamourmom tanks (so unsupportive I felt like I should wear a bra UNDERNEATH it) and the cheap ones from Target (so short they didn't come to my navel) but the Bravado one looks promising.  And I don't know why all the ones I am thinking about trying are from Bravado; I'm not really that brand loyal or anything.  When I look at the pile of nursing bras I have leftover from Grace, they are a mix of companies (Target, Medela, and others) and styles (sportsbra-like, underwire, etc) but apparently I didn't like them enough to wear them out like a couple of my Bravado ones.  La Leche League has started making bras too, which could be a good possibility.  And no discussion of nursing bras is complete without linking to the horror and the humor that is the Hands-Free Pumping Bra.  Aaaah!  That is dedication for you; three cheers to every working mom who uses one of these to give her baby the benefits of breastmilk even while she's away.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mothers' Day OUT, yo!

I have died some of my hair magenta!

This has been a big week for Grace as she started at her Mothers' Day Out program.  It has gone really smoothly so far and she seems to be adjusting well to the new environment.  Grace has spent plenty of time away from me while I have worked but this is the first time she is in a preschool-type environment with a teacher and multiple kids and a classroom and transitions between activities and all that.  I'm not sure how different it seems to her from the church nursery, but there is more structure and transition and whatnot.  Grace has always done really well with babysitters or in the nursery (very little drop-off drama after she got past about 9 months old) and has loved things like the music program we went to in New Haven, library storytime, etc. so I wasn't expecting any big problems.  Still, it has been great to see her get so excited about "school".  Grace is going two days a week this year; she was there from 9am to noon this week and next week will stay until 2pm.

I have the barest twinge of feeling conflicted about the MDO because Grace is still so young.  I think my 6 years of being homeschooled  instilled a little skepticism in me about conventional classroom settings not necessarily being the best thing for kids, especially at such early ages.  I certainly haven't been sitting around thing, "Well, she's 2 and a half-- time for preschool!"  On the other hand, I did really want for Grace to have something like this after the new baby comes so I can have some time to bond, rest, and spend time with just the new little one.  A mom I know from church here gave me some names of MDO programs when I was still in Connecticut (which was very kind of her, especially as she had just had her 3rd baby boy, which I didn't know at the time).  I called around, mostly expecting to be put on waiting lists (waiting lists! for preschools!) and hoping to get a spot for after New Year's.  This particular program had a spot open up, though, so we decided to go for it for this fall.  Rob and I don't think it's important for her academically or anything, but it will help me in the spring so we are feeling good about the decision.  And maybe it will be good for her to have something that is just for her and stays the same, even after her world gets turned upside down by the arrival of a new sister.

Grace is feeling good about it, too, apparently.  If you follow me on Twitter, you've already heard this, but last week we had a meet-the-teacher morning at her MDO.  We hung out in her classroom for about an hour and a half as Grace explored the play kitchen and puzzles and looked at the other children.  She was unusually apprehensive at first, which was a little surprising; I don't know if maybe I was telegraphing that this was a big deal.  She warmed up, though, in her slightly reserved, independent way.  And then when it came time to go, she started to get a little upset, not wanting to leave the fantastically fun new place.  By the time we got to the car she was crying, and by the time we got home it had escalated into a full-fledged flip-out.  She ran around the house, refusing to be held or comforted, crying and mournfully sobbing, "I want to go to school!"  Well then.  Her first actual day at MDO saw a scaled-down repetition of that response when it came time to be picked up-- a bit of crumpled-up face and reluctance to leave.  Fortunately, it was not nearly as dramatic; maybe she's starting to understand that it's going to be a regular thing.

So I've been feeling a little anti-establishment these days, mostly since the establishment here is so, so... establishment-y.  "What can I do to feel a little better?" I asked myself.   "Hair dye!" I answered.  Lots of impact for not too much money or permanency or risk!  (There are some who suggest hair dye is to be avoided during pregnancy but mainstream folks like the ACOG and What to Expect... crowd say it is OK after you get out of the first trimester when the baby is most vulnerable.)  I used Grace's first morning at MDO to plan and put into action a little hair color.  It's been quite a while since I indulged my fondness (or Rob might suggest, addiction) for hair color; my hair has been its natural color for quite an unprecedented length of time.  I spent a good chunk of my college years with various shades of red, and have before dabbled into blue and pink.  I've never gone full-out by bleaching all my hair and then putting a bright color on it; the upkeep on that is just too daunting.  I would have brown roots on my pink hair in two weeks!  Anyway, I am enjoying my new pink hair very much, feeling happy whenever I see myself in a mirror, and doing my best to keep it from disappearing too fast.  And now my hair looks a lot like Grace's doll.

Now it looks a lot like Grace's doll

I am interested to see how it lasts because the girl at the salon put it on in a different way than I have tried before.  After bleaching those sections and shampooing, she put the pink dye on, then flat-ironed those sections, and told me to wait at least 24 hours before shampooing again, i.e. the dye (which is supposedly more gentle, ammonia-free, blah blah blah than average) actually sat on my hair for over a solar day.  We'll see how long it is before I have to break out the Manic Panic to refresh the color...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Reverse Culture Shock

We have been here in Dallas for over two months now and I've been gradually realizing that my transition to living back in Texas is going through some rough spots.  I was jokingly doing a little research on reverse culture shock (like when an expatriate or a study-abroad student or a missionary returns to their home country after extended time away) and I half-seriously think I am going through that, exacerbated by the fact that I am pregnant and a bit on the emotional side.  The first stage of reverse culture shock is disengagement where you mentally separate from the culture you are living in, which is followed by euphoria where you are so excited to be "home".  The third stage is "irritability and hostility" where you are quick to be critical and judgmental of your home culture and the people in it.  That is me right now, irritable and hostile about so much of what Texas is like.  Part of me wants to pick up and run back to the Northeast right now, or maybe Austin would be good enough.

Parenting issues have been a particular touchstone, probably because as a stay-at-home parent this is my full-time job right now and a lot of the people I have been interacting with are also SAHMs.  There is a spectrum of parenting styles even here in the reddest of red states, of course, but often parenting and discipline practices here are not consistent with my values and beliefs.  Parenting here typically tends to the ├╝ber-conservative, traditional, and authoritarian-- so much negative speech about and to children, so much spanking, so much cry-it-out sleep training for young babies, so little kindness, respect, and dignity.  I've left at the end of playdates feeling so awkward and isolated, or sat in the middle of them feeling like I am an entirely different species of mother than the women sitting around me.  I don't think it is so much that living in the Northeast changed my choices significantly (we were on the crazy hippie side of things even in Connecticut, and yes, I was in the minority there for breastfeeding Grace past her 2nd birthday and using cloth diapers) so much as getting accustomed to being surrounded by people with different perspectives and attitudes than is prevalent here.

Speaking of which, I'm sure part of this is missing my mama friends from Connecticut (Hi there! I miss you guys!) and I know that all this cultural readjustment is made more difficult by being pregnant right now and full of the crazy-making hormones.  On a day-to-day basis I am still emotionally even-keeled but when something is upsetting, it REALLY upsets me.  I can't listen to someone tell me she spanked her son 35 nights in a row with equanimity right now.  Normally I think I would be more "everyone chooses their own path for their family blah blah blah", and no doubt that would be better, but right now it makes me all queasy and teary to be around people who talk volubly about purposefully hitting their child to the point of pain like it's no big deal.

The parenting issues have been at the forefront but what has really struck me is how different people's perspectives and worldviews are in general.  As a whole, there really is less awareness and appreciation of other cultures, more anti-intellectualism, and less concern for social justice.  And I am so afraid one of these SAHMs is going to come out as a global warming denier and I will flip my lid.

I was talking to Rob about this and wondered aloud why he wasn't going through anything similar (besides the fact that he is, you know, male and not filled with RAGING PREGNANCY HORMONES) and he reminded me that his daily cultural milieu has not changed that much.  He is still surrounded by research-oriented physicians at a big academic hospital; the people he interacts with on a day-to-day basis are still this highly educated, culturally diverse pack of science-y geeks (no offense meant at all, seeing as how I am amongst the geekiest of science-y geeks).  I'm sure there are subtle differences and a more conservative bent compared to being in the Northeast even among his fellow MDs and PhDs, but it's nothing like the mind-bending contrast between the people I was interacting with before our move and after.  Women who are staying home with their children in Texas-- different from those doing the same thing in the Northeast.  Hmmm, maybe this shouldn't have come as such a shock to my system?

So the last stage of reverse culture shock is adaptation, where one supposedly incorporates the positive aspects of having been away into one's current life.  Although someone who has actually lived abroad for an extended time is probably mocking me right now, I'm still waiting for that; probably it will happen sometime in the sleep-deprived haze of the newborn months when I'll get less focused on myself and more centered on the absorbing details of a tiny new life.  In the meantime, I have so appreciated some friends who have expressed solidarity or just encouragement when they've noticed me quietly flipping out.  And I think I'll pull back from some of these social interactions that are leaving me upset and sad.  And somehow I need to find a way to meet a few crunchy hippie moms to be my friends.  Then I can get a taste of my own medicine when they judge me for vaccinating our children on the CDC-approved schedule.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Yogic Vegan Julia

Another cookbook recommendation!  (I am still using that other one I posted about a TON, by the way.)  This one is vegan, rather than just vegetarian, which is nice as we're trying to eat a more plant-based diet for the environment and for our health and all that.  It's a funny read and full of really amazing food that's not too fiddly but interesting.  And it is all very substantial and nourishing-- not a cookbook of wimpy salads or some such unsatisfactory rot.  We've had great luck with some of the sandwiches, soups, and sauces so far, and I'm really looking forward to using some of more autumnal recipes when the season starts to turn.  Sometimes it seems a little harder to think of non-meat options for food when the weather is colder and there isn't as much seasonal produce available.  Anyway, it's a great addition to the cookbook shelf of anybody looking to reduce the amount of animal-based food you're eating.

I haven't tried any of the baked goods in the cookbook; I actually haven't tried any vegan baking at all yet, come to think of it.  Baking with no eggs or butter or dairy?  I am quite skeptical.  Recipes for vegan baking tend to be full of the weird substitute foods like egg substitute powder or vegan margarine or whatever.  I have a bias toward cooking with "real" food and not things that seemed overly processed or unidentifiable.  I did recently see a recipe for vegan chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting that looked really interesting, though.  It used avocados (definitely a "real" food by my definition) to replace the eggs and some of the fat, which is a fantastic idea since they have the same kind of emulsifying molecules as eggs.  Perhaps I shall be adventurous...  It will be hard because we love avocados to excess at our house; sacrificing some of them to cupcakes might be distressing.  Which do we like more, chocolate cupcakes or guacamole?  It's a choice I had hoped never to be faced with.

I am a pretty experienced and adventurous cook, and things generally tend to go well for me in the kitchen.  Few and far between are the nights when Rob and I look at each over dinner and admit that what is in front of us is not really edible and we should break out leftovers or frozen pizza or something.  My forays into vegan cooking did bring about such an experience recently though.  I tried to make seitan for the first time.  Seitan is a high-protein food made from wheat gluten, so it's kind of like tofu, but made from wheat instead of soy.  It has a really different texture than tofu, though-- not creamy and more "meaty" and with a toothsome bite to it.  Or so I've heard.  The texture of MY seitan was more what I would characterize as, oh, inedibly tough and rubbery.  My diagnosis is that I overcooked it in the last pan-frying stages.  People keep saying how wonderful it is and it certainly was easy to make, so maybe I'll try again.  Maybe in a few months when the memory of masticating that rubber in port-cherry reduction sauce has faded.

I went to a yoga class last week at the YMCA and after what seemed like a fairly typical, mainstream yoga class, the instructor read a verse from the Bible during savasana. Only in the Bible Belt...  I really love yoga and I guess I would describe my view of it as mainly exercise with a strong mind/body connection component that helps me deal with stress, being intentional through my day, being more contemplative, etc.  I don't consider it part of my spiritual life, though.  I'm not really up in arms or anything and it wouldn't stop me from going, but it certainly struck me as odd.  If you're going to make more spiritual aspects of yoga a part of your practice, it seems weirdly syncretistic to mix it with Christianity, like voodoo in Caribbean cultures or the medieval Roman Catholics deciding to have eggs at Easter or a tree at Christmas. Of course, I don't mind having Easter eggs or Christmas trees so maybe this shouldn't strike me as weird. The Christian faith impacting the culture around it, or trying to make Christianity something it is not?  I don't know...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Our New House: Not the Bedrooms Edition

Come, step this way to see the rest of our new house. Thank you all for the kind words about the bedrooms; I have enjoyed using my pregnancy-induced nesting instinct for good, rather than evil.

Living Room

Here is our living room, awash in its robins' egg blue paint. I was going for the color of a Tiffany box, a greeny turquoise-y blue that I just love, and I am really happy with how it turned out. The black-and-white photography is all from our honeymoon in Yosemite. Although you don't have to be Ansel Adams to take really gorgeous photos in Yosemite, after a few more years of photography experience I feel like some of them could be improved upon. Oh well; they're still lovely and such a fun reminder of a special trip.

Living Room

We still have not reupholstered that funny orange chair! Wasn't I planning on doing that before Grace was born? It will get done eventually and we will trade out the funky mid-century scratchiness for something more contemporary. I do love the shape and structure of that chair. Both the chairs in our living room (the one that has successfully been to the upholstery place and the one that has not) are hand-me-downs from Rob's grandmother; you just can't buy chairs with such interesting shapes and good quality frames these days anywhere near our price range. The antique sewing machine belonged to one of my grandmothers; I think it might still function but it's life now is the lazy one of an objet d'art.

Living Room

And here you get a glimpse of both Grace drowsily waking up from her nap and the TV situation we eventually settled on. Having the TV in our main living area is not the Platonic ideal of either home theaters or living rooms, but it is working out fine and manages to not offend either my design sensibilities or Rob's home theater sensibilities. The one downside we've discovered so far is that if one person is trying to play Rock Band after another person has gone to bed (hint: I am the person in bed), said person must play Rock Band very quietly, which doesn't have quite the same impact. The bedrooms are a little too close to the living areas.

Dining Room

Turning to the right, we find our dining room. The paint in this room was in great shape so we have left it white for now (almost the whole house was white when we moved in). It's on the small side, which is fine for our lifestyle but is a bummer because we can't fit in the dining furniture we had before. That furniture is also from Rob's grandmother and we really like it so it is sitting in storage for now. The storage bills definitely add up, though, so we will probably have to re-evaluate in a year or so and think about how long we plan to be in this house, how much do we really love that furniture, etc. In the meantime, here is some affordable IKEA furniture to the rescue! I originally planned to paint this room red (in another year or two) because I love the idea of a red dining room and it is a small room that could use some definition and pop, but now I am leaning toward painting the new baby's nursery red. I love a red room, but more than one in a single house is a bit much even for me.


A little bit further forward we find our study. This was originally the one-car garage and at some point in the house's 50-year history someone converted it to this handy room. I really like how they dealt with the old garage door opening; the big windows are very low on the cheesy garage-conversion scale. We have this room outfitted with the computer, my sewing area, and some playthings for Grace.


Oh, how I love my new sewing area! This is the first time I've ever had a dedicated sewing table in a little area set up just for that purpose. I am just loving having it all organized and set up on a permanent basis. This room in general fits our needs so well; it's still in a central area of the house (which I wanted) but tucked away enough that when you first walk in, you aren't faced with too much computer/sewing clutter.

The downside of this room, which you may have used your razor-sharp skills of observation to find, is the paneling. Boo, paneling! It is especially offensive because there is all this non-matching wood putty in nail holes and seams, which I think you can see in the picture. Doing something about the paneling is definitely a high priority. Ideally I'd like to take it down and put up normal drywall, but just painting it is also an option. I think we're going to take a wait-and-see approach and see if we can manage to budget enough savings for the first option. If not, we'll likely paint sometime next year. I'm thinking a soft, slightly warm dove gray color...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Baby Stuff

Rob and I have been tossing name ideas for daughter #2 back and forth and have decided that come December, we will happily welcome our new daughter into the world as Gomer.

Just kidding!  Could there be a worse name for a little girl?  For anybody rusty on their Judeo-Christian religious tradition, Gomer was the wife of Hosea, an Old Testament prophet.  She was a prostitute that God told Hosea to bring out of a life of sexual exploitation and abuse by marrying.  After several years of the social protection and growing love of marriage, Gomer was gradually sucked back into her old life, was unfaithful, and eventually abandoned Hosea (and their three children) to go back to prostitution.  Rather than saying, "Good riddance!" Hosea went on a search to find her and eventually discovered her sick, dirty, and under the control of a slave trader.  He literally bought her back, nursed her back to health, and restored her as his wife.  It's a story I've loved for a long time, both at the level of a story about human love and forgiveness and also as a picture of God's relentless love, even when I fail.  Anyway, despite the wonderful story, it's really hard to think of a worse name than Gomer to our English-speaking, 21st-century ears.  Could it be any more unfeminine sounding?  And then there's this Gomer?  And is naming a little girl after a prostitute, even an eventually redeemed one, ever a good idea?  I know Old Testament names are super popular right now (Noah, Caleb, Abigail, Jacob, Hannah, Elijah, etc.) but perhaps we should pass on this one.

So we have not made any progress on a name, nor much progress on how to decorate the new baby's room.  Right now it is painted a muted, pastel, grayish sage green; it's about as un-Julia a color as one could come up with.  Well, maybe a yellow-y cream color would be the MOST un-Julia color.  Or a really grayed-out dusty rose.  Anyway, I want the room to be painted a warm color because we have an abundance of cool colors in the house already (purple in Grace's room, green in our room, robin's egg blue in the living room).  I was originally really wanting orange, a light, almost-pastel tangerine orange.  However, Rob is really not feeling the orange.  After several discussions about it, it has become obvious to me that he really doesn't want an orange room and I've decided to stop pushing the issue.  I mean, it is his house too and I usually get to do whatever I want so surely I can come up with another color.  Right?  I would do pink, except Grace's nursery was pink and I want to do something different.  Maybe a light, clear pink?  That doesn't seem very different to me, though.  I am definitely not wanting yellow, for whatever reason, although I am somewhat open to an orange-y saffron yellow.  The front runner at the current moment is red.  This nursery is pretty cool, and our crib is even black like in the picture.

I've been browsing around Etsy looking for prints and artwork for both Grace's room and the new nursery and found this delightfully geeky art by Tiffany Ard.  I'm definitely either getting that H-R diagram print above or the ABC flashcards she has.  And we could spell out the new baby's name with the flashcards framed on the wall?  How awesome is that?  "G-O-M-E-R"  Ha ha!  Still just kidding!  Or am I...

A little part of me does wonder how important it is to actually decorate a nursery considering that Grace didn't spend much time in hers until she was pushing her first birthday.  Maybe this new baby will be a stupendous sleeper and be one of those mythical babies who actually sleep better on his or her own.  A pregnant lady can dream, right?  And anyway, we need to paint and organize the room, even if it functions more as a place for diaper changing, rocking, and storage than actual sleeping.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Tiny Little Girl

A tiny little girl

I had my big you-are-halfway-through-your-pregnancy ultrasound today.  It was really fun to see the new little person who will join our family and to learn more about the baby.  We were feeling pretty accepting of either a boy or a girl, probably more honestly than we were last time.  With Grace we both kind of harbored a hope for a girl, despite saying, "Oh, either way will be just fine."  We said that this time, too, but I think it was more sincere.  We still had slight leanings, opposite ones this time; I wonder if there are parents who really truly honestly are so zen that they are perfectly equal in their preference for a son or a daughter.  I think finding out the sex of the baby is wonderful for this aspect of impending parenthood because all of a sudden you KNOW this aspect of who your child will be.  You are no longer discussing the abstract idea of a boy or a girl; you know that you have this specific child and (either immediately or over the coming months) feel excited about the baby being a him or a her.

And so, yes, we are having a girl!  It is exciting to think about raising her as a strong, smart, wholesome girl, about seeing what kind of little girl and eventually woman she will be, and about Grace and this new baby growing up as sisters.  It definitely feels so right to picture us with these two girls.

Two little feet

The ultrasound was wonderful and showed that all the important parts of our baby seem to be developing normally.  The heart has four little chambers that are pumping away furiously, her brain has the right ventricles, all the tiny organs in her abdomen are there and the right size and all that.  It still amazes me that they can see so much when she weighs a mere 13 ounces right now.  This little girl was moving around a lot during the ultrasound, more than I remember seeing Grace move.  We could see her rolling and waving her little clenched hand.

And now we know that we have most of a wardrobe ready but absolutely no clue on what to do for a name.  Grace's birthday is in February and this baby is due right around Christmas so if her growth is at about the same rate as Grace's, we will likely be able to use a lot of the same clothes, supplementing in those hot months.  Grace wore long sleeves in May the first year of her life, which is Not Going To Happen here.  A name, however-- whatever shall we do?  The conversation about what to name Grace was literally less than 2 minutes long and took place years before she was born; her first and middle names are family names from Rob's and my clans respectively and we both knew we wanted to use them for a daughter.  The name dilemma is thus very new to us. Everything we think of seems to have some problem.  We like Jane and Kate, but both are one-syllable names ending in "-e" with the long "a" sound in the middle; in other words, they are just like Grace's name.  We like Lizzie (short for Elizabeth, and yes, named for that Lizzie) and Lucy but want avoid rhyming with our last name, which ends in the "-ee" sound.  So here we are, at an impasse.  I'm going to go buy this book since I have been stalking the author's blog for a while.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Our New House: the Bedrooms Edition

Master Bedroom

Care to take the grand tour of our new house?  Step right this way...  First, the master bathroom and and kitchen look pretty much exactly like they do in these pictures, except that it is our stuff on the counters instead of the stuff belonging to our sellers.  We did repaint the bathroom a shade of white that is DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT than the shade of white it was already painted but I'll spare you any before-and-after shots.  

Next up, our master bedroom.  The house originally stopped where you see the hardwood flooring ending but some previous owner added on to the house back there, giving us a nice little sitting area and a really big bathroom and closet compared to other houses of this era or in our neighborhood or in our price range.   That back wall is painted bright grass green and the rest of the walls are painted a slightly grayish white.

Master Bedroom

The front area has our dressers and bed, complete with the stupendously gorgeous quilt my mom recently finished for us.  Seriously, I think this is my favorite quilt that my mom has ever done, with vibrant colors and a cool, funky rose pattern; she did a great job making something just suited for us.  That bookshelf is behind our bed, sort of like a headboard and sort of visually dividing the room between the two areas.  We stole the idea straight from our sellers, who had it that way as well.

Master BedroomThe little back area has cool concrete floors, big bookshelves with doors for storage (where my, ahem, significant stash of fabric, patterns, and whatnot lives), a little place to read, and big windows and a glass door looking out on the backyard.  I really tried to get a shot showing the whole area but it just didn't work out.  Taking pictures of interiors always makes me wish we had a wide-angle lens.  I never feel like I am giving a good sense of the room as a whole.  Anyway, it is really peaceful and bright back in this sitting area; it's one of my favorite spots in our new home.   And an added benefit is that by some quirk of our air conditioning, it is always the coolest room in the house, probably a good 5 degrees cooler than our living areas.  Very nice for cool sleeping on hot Texas nights!

Grace's RoomGrace's room has great light too, with three big windows. We painted it bright purple and she too got a brand new quilt from my mom, with lots of bright quirky butterflies. The bed is new, but the dresser and bedside table were in our master bedroom in Connecticut and the rug was in her nursery there. The monkey is from ellynelly on Etsy; it wasn't too hard to put it up and I love the touch of goofiness it adds to the room.

The rest of the house will have to wait until I get some more pictures uploaded; until then you can wait with bated breath (or not, depending on how closely related to us you are) to view our living room and the other front areas of the house.  Oh, and you may have noticed my frequently changing banner up at the top.  What can I say?  I've discovered the magic of brushes and layer masks and opacity in the Gimp, and I just can't stop myself.  Perhaps you should mentally steel yourself to forbear with my banner fickleness until I grow tired of it and finally stick with something.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Young Man, There's No Need to Feel Down

I went to the YMCA today and signed us all up.  I've been meaning to do this for a while now; it's been on the slowly-dwindling list of things to do like register the cars, get a Texas driver's license, find new doctors, go to IKEA for the dozenth time, etc.  You know, the list that I have to finish so that I can get back to the list that includes buying groceries, ironing, paying the bills, and reading the next installment of the Aubrey/Maturin novels.  Anyway, today I finally went there and did it.  I literally had not been in a gym in 3 years so it felt kind of weird.  

My exercise track record (ha!) has never been very good because it turns out that I basically hate exercise.  Oh, sometimes I can fool myself by feeling virtuous or find a certain form of exercise that is borderline-not-loathsome to me, but basically at my core I feel about exercise pretty much the way I do about cleaning the bathroom.  It is important and sometimes you have a nice feeling of accomplishment after you finish, but it is not a diverting pastime.  However, it must be done.  Except of course, that I have NOT been doing it recently.  (The exercise, that is.  My bathrooms have been fairly presentable for most of my adult life.)  I hadn't the slightest interest in playing sports when I was little, preferring piano lessons and reading and playing inside, although I did do an anomalous stint as a cross-country runner in high school.  I internally moan whenever a sports analogy pops up in a sermon at church, which is probably inappropriate considering they are actually in the Bible.  Anyway, part of me wishes I were not this way; if I felt about exercise the way I do about science or sewing, I'm sure I would be thinner and healthier and somehow more outdoorsy and low-maintenance, all things I think I would like.

My avoidance of exercise has not been helped in recent years by the fact that we never quite found room in the budget for a gym membership while we lived in Connecticut, the land of the obscenely high cost of living.  The gym at Yale was quite expensive for non-student employees and other options around town were no better.  I did however have a few brushes with physical exertion while we lived there.  When I was pregnant with Grace, I went to this dorky pregnancy exercise class once a week in a building right by the hospital.  I'm sure it was good for me but it was pretty odd.  They structured the class to mimic the progress of labor so you started out with low-key calisthenics on the floor and stretching and then ended with higher-energy cardio dancing.  Ah, a whole room of giant pregnant women dancing around to cheesy pop music...   I did go on lots of walks with Grace, first in the sling and then later in the stroller, at least when it wasn't above 85 degrees or below 40 degrees.  (I will ALWAYS choose being outside in cold weather over being outside when it's hot.)  And then last fall I started running, motivated by the crisp New England autumn, weight gain brought on by Grace's gradual weaning, and perhaps some vestigial instinct in me for physical activity.  My running came to an end, however, at the confluence of events that included getting pregnant and the ensuing misery, putting our jogging stroller in a moving container, and the advent of summer.

Now, however, I have the YMCA!  I have two, actually, since we live about equidistant between two branches.  We'll have to see which one we like going to better.  The YMCA seemed like a better choice than a commercial gym because the childcare is better and we can do swimming lessons and whatnot for Grace.  Oh, and it's cheaper, which is always good even though our budget is in a much better place here than before we moved.  I really liked the looks of the one I went to today; it's kind of small and tucked away in the neighborhood and the child care area looked really nice.  I think I'm going to start out with something nice and low-key like yoga or water aerobics since I am 20 weeks pregnant now and have not so much as gone for a walk since we moved.  What?  Me, lazy?  No, it's just that I am fairly certain I would keel over in a dead faint if I tried to make it down the block, felled by the 102 degree heat.  Darn summer.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I Have Moved!

"Well, yes, Julia", you say.  "Isn't that what you've been writing about for months now?"  But if you've found me here, that means you also know that I have moved my writing from our iWeb account over to Blogger.  I've been getting kind of tired of iWeb over the last few months and finally buckled up the courage to tell Rob and officially break up with iWeb.  I'm sorry, iWeb; we've just grown apart.  You couldn't give me the sidebar I wanted.  

My archives are all here, limited as they are, although none of the comments are.  I'm kind of bummed about that because having people comment is one of the most fun things about writing online.  If you ever commented before, you can rest assured that I mourn the loss of them.  The content over at will go gently into that good night whenever our annual iWeb account expires, and we'll eventually have that address point somewhere else.  Rob thinks he'll set up a blog elsewhere eventually also.  I don't love what I have up there for a banner so I'm going to work on something else in my spare moments.  Any brilliant thoughts?  In the meantime, please update your feeds, bookmarks, links, and whatnot.   I would so hate to lose you!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Culinary Arts

C is for Cookie

After the life-disrupting turmoil that has been moving, I feel like I am back into the swing of things in the food and cooking department. I really love cooking and eating and food in general and I like to go grocery shopping because I get to walk around contemplating all the foods I might get to cook and eat, especially if it is a fun grocery store of some type. Having your kitchen all packed up in boxes definitely puts a damper on such pursuits, so this summer has seen a gradual rediscovery of my enjoyment of cooking somewhere between the blender and the lemon zester. Since we’ve moved here, I’ve started to make a conscious effort to include Grace in cooking. I hadn’t ever really done that before, viewing the kitchen sometimes as a personal retreat and sometimes as a place where I must be EFFICIENT and STREAMLINED to get dinner on the table. Toddlers do not contribute to either of those, in case you were wondering.

However, I realized that I really want to share preparing food with her, or any child of mine, male or female. It would thrill me, of course, if she ends up thinking it is a fun and relaxing (and delicious) part of life, but even if she doesn’t end up watching the Food Network to wind down after a busy day, I want her to know her way around a kitchen and have an understanding of our relationship with food, where it comes from, and how the choices we make affect the world around us and our own health. (I type this beneath the picture of cookie dough with M&Ms in it. Well, they’re a sometime food. And it was made with whole wheat flour.)

My first instinct was to be really dubious about cooking with Grace. “But she will make a mess!” I thought. “And it will take so much longer!” After some toddler cooking sessions, I regret to report that both of these are true. But really, what is a bit of a mess? And what was I obsessing about time for? When I try to cook on my own, I have to fend off an attention-seeking toddler waltzing around my legs; including her almost makes it easier. Sure, cooking with her takes more time, but it’s time we are doing something together and she is learning and having fun. Isn’t that why I’m staying home for the time being, to get to be the one to do fun things with her?

So Grace is in LOVE with cooking now, and dashes to drag a chair into the kitchen to stand on whenever I suggest it. My current dilemma is trying to find ways to include her more. Baking is great; lots of counting and dumping and stirring and measuring. Making real food (you know, like dinner) is more difficult as it so often involves sharp knives and boiling water and the stove. What can I say? Grace’s knife skills are not quite up to snuff. Maybe when she’s 3. Anyway, sometimes she will content herself to watch me work while holding a wooden spoon in one hand and a whisk in another, but sometimes we are back to the manic toddler circling my legs as I try to dice and saute. Then I am back to waiting until Rob is home or starting Sesame Street on the Tivo. (Or Zoboomafoo. Have all you mom types seen this? It’s all about animals and Grace is a big fan.)

They say that children are much more likely to accept food that they have helped prepare, but I think that might apply more to older children. I think the time interval between the preparation and the eating is still too long for Grace to make the connection that she is eating something she helped make; at 2 and 1/2, she still has a pretty limited view of time. She does usually enjoy the fruits of our labor, though. A little while ago, we made this chocolate loaf cake and one evening we were eating the last pieces of it. Somehow she decided she wanted my piece, even though I had already consumed it at that point. Peevish and cross, she tried sticking her fork in my mouth to get the cake back but when told that the cake was all gone and had gone in Mommy’s tummy, she took her fork and started poking me in the belly with futile protest as to the lack of cake available to her. Her understanding of the digestive system is showing great improvement, although her grasp of sharing not so much.