30 December 2015

bits of December

Goodbye, 2015! You were exhausting and hard but quite educational. Among other valuable things, I learned that my life is better without Facebook. That the second baby is a completely different proposition from the first. That I'm not parenting from a higher moral plane than my children, just a redeemed one. That we should only plant one tomato bush next year. That snuggles trump laundry.

Ellie sitting still, for once.

That it's smart to keep art and music in your life when kids come along. That Amazon Prime is worth all the pennies. That I need to be outdoors, go to bed on time, and take the dang cod liver oil. That my momiform of Jeans and Black T-Shirt simplifies life beautifully.  That I should embrace my introversion.

Zoe is a lovebug... BTW that's my knee, not my stomach.

And that I don't have to feel guilty about eating cheese, forgetting to blog, or letting Ellie watch Netflix every afternoon.

Huzzah, merry holidays, and bottoms up to old lang syne! (Though all we're drinking these days is coffee and Yorkshire Gold; alcohol is too expensive and we need every bit of grocery money for yogurt and clementines because both of our children eat like little monsters.)

Speaking of! Here's what we've et lately:
- chicken and green bean stirfry in peanut butter lime sauce
- shepherd's pie with lots of mushrooms and buttery mashed potatoes
- Laughing Spatula's Italian chicken, definitely one of the best recipe discoveries of this year (I use bone-in thighs but remove the skin first)
- tacos with a crunchy, tangy cabbage slaw (dressed in lime, olive oil, and sour cream . . . and some halved grapes and green onions for good measure)
- loads of soup! (butternut squash, curried pumpkin, cream of broccoli, hamburger soup, zuppa toscana, creamy chicken stew, chili)
- The Pioneer Woman's creamy mustard chicken
- roasted brussels sprouts with bacon
- Greek kale salad
- smoothies with coconut milk (the best brand!), frozen fruit (thanks Costco), and gelatin powder
- BREAD (I started with this seeded multigrain bread, which is perfectly nice, but after making it almost every weekend since October, may I humbly submit that I've far surpassed the original: with the insertion of an autolysation step, by splitting the recipe into two round loaves, and after adding that glorious trinity of garlic, rosemary, and olive oil, it has risen [HA HA] into something truly dreamy)
- the Kitchn's butter-packed sugar cookies, the only Christmas cookie I made this year, and absolutely worth it!
- an incredible deep-dish key lime pie with sour cream topping

Whew! I know I just said that I don't feel guilty about eating cheese, and I don't, but we're doing a Whole30 anyway after the holiday/wedding season is over: some dear friends are getting married on Saturday and there is no way I am passing on appetizers. Or cake. Wedding aside, we have indulged with abandon ever since Thanksgiving and it's time for a reset. (Jared will be lamenting the lack of half-and-half for his coffee. I will be mourning the absence of butter, in general. But we all love potatoes, spinach, and coconut milk, so we'll be just fine.)

Pat Sajak has a funny Twitter feed.

Cockatoo dances to Elvis.

One man, six photographers, wholly different perspectives: the power of expectations to shape our opinion of someone.

Map of Europe, according to its culinary horrors.

"5 Wine Myths That Should Be Put to Rest."

"That's Not Autism, It's Simply a Brainy Introverted Boy."

On the other hand, discovering Aspberger's three years into marriage.

"Motherhood: The Highest Ordinary Calling."

P.S. I don't blog about my husband much, but in case you were wondering, he is still as delightful as ever. God had a real good idea when He established marriage. We'll be celebrating our sixth (!!!!!!!) anniversary this weekend. 

27 November 2015

a November report

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
-Ephesians 1:3-4
November's post count threatens to stay at 1. That would be an all-time low, so here, let's bring it up to a respectable pair with a haphazard dump of thoughts.

Mothering Ellie is hard now. Not because she is a terrible person. She isn't, despite living squarely in the greatly-ballyhooed second year! It's just that . . . she is a person. She has all the frustrations, and complexity, and forceful opinions of a real live human being. Furthermore, she fully believes that the world is her own private kingdom; whenever that turns out not to be true, woe to the bearer of bad tidings (and that's usually me). We have conversations that contain way too much "but why?" and not enough "yes mommy." We both lose our tempers. Ellie flops onto the floor. I flop onto the couch and fume for a while, and then I pray as hard as I can to Jesus. I apologize for my impatience, and she gives me a peck on the cheek and goes to find some salt to dump on the table.

Oh, I love her. I think of the love God has for me, and how tiny my love for Ellie must seem in comparison to His! But I love her up and down and all around. I can delight even on the worst days in her hilarity and intelligence, her sprightly imagination, her ridiculous mood swings and jaw-dropping moxie. (She calls me honey. Jared calls her a sassball.) I can't figure out if she is very much like me, but she is very much herself. And I like herself.

Zoe has fully arrived on the scene and is here to PARTY, ya'll. What's that Mother Goose rhyme? "Upstairs and downstairs and in my lady's chamber?" Add "munching dirt, collecting bruises, and constantly in danger," and you have Zoe. Half the time she wants to be glued to me, and the other half of the time she is an absolute hoyden. She climbs everything and crawls at lightning speed, and these days she has enough strength and wit to satisfy her curiosity: what's in this cupboard? oh goody! I can open it! oh look, a bottle of hairspray and a toothbrush, such fun I will have!

Of course, she then puts on a convincing show of innocence, what with her blonde wisps and round eyes and joyous grin.

can I eat it?

This Thanksgiving, I gave thanks mostly for the "spiritual blessings in the heavenly places." My material blessings are wonderful, and I do pray that I'd have a clearer vision of them each year, so as not to fall into discontentment. But strong family and abundant food and lovely house aside, I'm most struck by the riches of Christ's love. By the fact that he never abandons me, even when I cannot see Him or or muster an authentic hallelujah. By the fact that he understands me, every tightly wrapped rose-petal layer of my heart, even when I cannot begin to understand myself. By the finality of justification, the permanence of my inheritance, and the unstinting abundance of his grace that meets me in my native poverty.

Confession: I always thought it sounded a bit hokey and self-serving to say "Oh, don't congratulate me! I'm so weak! These good things I did were only by the grace of God! " This year, though, I came to that point: I realized that it is all through Him. Really. I failed enough this year that I came to see that failure is my default state, or would be, outside of God's enabling-- left to myself I fall, and fall down with a thud. I just don't have anything good that I ginned up on my own, and I never have. My supposed triumphs are Christ in me, and each gives one more reason to marvel at Him.

In quietness and in trust is still my strength.

23 November 2015

then she said

"Does the sky have a belly button?"
-working on anatomy facts

 "I close the curtains so we can fall Zoe asleep!"
-helping her sister take a nap

"I want to work with Daddy in the garage. And I want a pink hammer and pink nails and pink screws."
-big plans for her home improvement career

"Can you draw a blue elephant?"
"Can you draw your toothbrush?"
"Can you draw Daddy's swimsuit?"
"Can you draw a sad egg?"
 -commissioning crayon art from her mother

Jared: Do you like your lollipop?
Ellie: No, it's a CANDY.

Me: Ellie, I am in charge because I am the mommy. You are not the mommy.
Ellie: I'm the Ellie?
Me: Yes.
Ellie: You can be the Ellie. I will be the grandma.

Jared: What did you do today?
Ellie: Grocery store!
Jared: And what did you get there?
Ellie: Oh, just some things.

Ellie: I want my cantaloupe!
Me: Your what?
Ellie: My cantaloupe!
[I look around and then realize]
Me: You mean your envelope!
Ellie: Yep. My cantaloupe.

Jared: Ellie, do you want to run an errand with me?
Ellie: Ooh! What we gonna pick out?
Jared: We're going to get some tools.
Ellie: Shoes?! 

[as she assists me in the kitchen]
Me: Good job stirring!
Ellie: Good job tasting!

Jared: Hey, where's my knife?
Ellie: I take it! [displays proudly]
Jared: And where's my fork?
Ellie: Oh, it's all gone! You can use your hand.

Ellie: Can we go to grandma's house?
Me: We don't have a car today, so we can't go anywhere.
Ellie: Yeah, our car blow up.

26 October 2015

Family snippets

To begin, I'll point out that this is only the second post I've written all month. Draw your own conclusions about my busyness level. Sitting down at the computer with the adorable monsters munchkins both awake is a joke: Ellie wants to sit on my lap and type, or share my tea, or watch Little Einsteins, while Zoe makes a beeline for a trash can or a bookcase or a set of electrical outlets. She is a troublesome monkey, as we tell her ten times a day (she responds with a brilliant five-toothed grin and crawls off to find something else to destroy).

Therefore, save for this magical Sunday afternoon, since they're sleeping simultaneously and I don't need to do chores . . . no blogging for me.

I'm fine with that now. I fought it for months, but just this week, reached the blindingly obvious conclusion that I no longer live in the Writing Frequently chapter of my life, and I shan't live there again for years. Forcibly wedging my blog into the current chapter-- which we might title Loving My Babies and Not Doing Much Else-- is a terrible idea. I will not live under that self-imposed burden anymore.

It's remarkably freeing. Without realizing it, I had come to believe that if I wasn't maintaining my wee space on the internet, I was letting myself down. Maybe I was even letting God down. He gave me the gifts and desires that launched this blog, didn't he? So if I didn't keep writing, I would be losing an essential part of myself. And-- I think due partly to my generation's congenital compulsion to Change the World and Make a Difference-- wasn't I supposed to be aiming high? If I contented myself with ordinary life, life without an interesting internet presence and a significant project, I could fail to achieve my full potential (which may be the fate we millennials fear above all else).

All false, and absurdly so. I've got a billion things to do. They're extremely ordinary but God gave them to me, which makes them quite precious. They concern the physical needs of my family, the care of our lovely home, the kindness I can show to friends and neighbors. And it turns out that they are essential things, even when I'm not telling the internet about them. Shock! Amazement!

So I'm going to march along my noisy little road of mothering and home-keeping, without a keyboard hanging round my neck like a millstone, and without trying to measure up to the movers and shakers. Or anyone else, for that matter. I believe that God is calling me to do something significant, but I no longer think that "significant" means "affecting lots of people and accompanied by beautifully composed pictures." He sees. He cares. He blesses. That is sufficient.

Well.

On to the girls, because while I'm at it, I may as well describe what they've been up to.

Ellie: always learning and imagining. If she isn't asleep, she is either talking or singing. (Lacking a song for the occasion, she makes one up.) Her chatter exhausts me but it's also insightful and funny. And she's only two! Who knows what she will be coming up with next.

The child has limitless energy, which, paired with my emotional hunger for sunshine, has led me to make a point of spending time outside every day. Sometimes I just send her into the yard, where she loads rocks into her giant Tonka dump truck and spies on squirrels; I come out to uproot bedraggled hostas and plant tulip bulbs. Sometimes we go for a morning promenade around the block, and if so, we often end up at the playground down the street.

Indoors, she likes to draw and use scissors, build "tall tall towers," crumble playdough all over the floor, look at books, have books read to her, beg for snacks, dance until she falls on her face, make Zoe laugh, steal toys from Zoe, play with her pretend kitchen, and help me in the real kitchen. We went on vacation to the Outer Banks at the beginning of October, and by the end of the week she was leaping into the pool like the waterbug she is. Now that we're back home she must make do with splashing wildly in the bathtub.

Ellie has been successfully potty trained, which feels like a whole new phase in motherhood. A good phase, except for when I'm hunting for a bathroom because someone announced "I NEED TO POOP!" in the middle of the grocery store. Her vocabulary, her skills, and her ideas all make it impossible to think of her as a baby or even a toddler anymore. We have a real Big Girl in the house.

Zoe: always exploring and discovering. Too clever to keep tabs on. We barricaded the staircase with furniture but she finds a way to push it aside. She pokes her nose into every cabinet she can find. She knows when you are eating something, and flaps her arms unhappily until you share. I guess you could say she's making her presence known! At nighttime too, unfortunately. She had been sleeping pretty soundly, but several weeks ago she started a dreadful teething/growth spurt period when she would wake up 4-6 times a night. What a headache. Thankfully, she is settling down and has only gotten up twice for the past several nights. That much, I can handle.

She has learned how to imitate us-- if we click our tongues, smack our lips, or make a silly face, she does it right back. Sometimes she attempts to clap. Though she doesn't babble as much as Ellie did, she has a very loud voice when she does choose to use it. Again, I think she's just making her presence known, which is not an easy feat with her explosive older sister around.

Two children feels like a lot of children, these days. They're gorgeous and smart and loving them is a full time occupation.

03 October 2015

Weekend linkage

I just discovered the blog Coffee + Crumbs, and this essay moved me so deeply that I absolutely must share it: I suspect many of you will relate. "Dream House."
Houses tell a story. Somewhere between no kids then two, I started to believe my house could tell one about me where I am astonishingly pulled together, and everything from the floors to my toe nails is marvelously shiny, and nothing smells funny. I want my house to tell the story of how awesome I am. One problem: I am not awesome. Not by a long shot.
Another great piece, much shorter (this one from Jess Connolly's "No Filter" weekly email): "You're Asking the Wrong Question, Sister."
So if you have any of that in your heart today - if you wonder: Am I doing this right? The answer is: He is.
At The Economist, a fun reflection on Jeeves and Wooster, to celebrate their centennial: "Jeeves and the vital oolong." Many are the J&W volumes I have borrowed from the library, and many are the side-splitting cackles they have caused.

"Motherhood Screened Off."
My husband thinks no amount of narration will change the way our kids feel about the phone. The problem, he says, is that whenever I grab it, they know that I am also holding a portal, as magical as the one in Narnia’s wardrobe and with the same potential to transport me to another world or to infinite worlds. I am always milliseconds away from news of a horrific mass stampede near Mecca or images of great medieval art or a Twitter dissection of the pope’s visit. How far am I going, they might reasonably worry, and how soon will I be back?
"Christianity in Kenya: Faithful in the Midst of Frauds."

Goodness, look at these beautiful bags.

This is funny! The truth behind cool Instagram photos.

I am no food photographer but it was yummy.
A Few Things We've Et:

Butternut squash soup (two smallish butternuts, roasted + one fat, tart apple + a quart of strong chicken stock + chipotle pepper and salt to taste + a knob of butter to finish)

Sausage potato salad (cubed and roasted russets + spicy sausage + lightly cooked peas and mushrooms + thinly sliced green onions + olive oil and mayo and apple cider vinegar as dressing)

Stuffed sweet potatoes from Against All Grain (very good even though I had no bacon)

Pork and chicken fajitas (with salsa from the last of our tomato crop)

Pictured is creamy potato soup (with broccoli and carrots and cheese . . . a lot like Panera's cream of broccoli soup, but yards better because of the homemade stock and the big squirt of sriracha)

27 September 2015

jealous of grace

I have often been tempted to envy other women's possessions, appearance, or travel opportunities. But not till now have I found myself envying their time.

I can literally spend the whole day attempting to transfer a load of laundry into the dryer, and by evening it's still in the washer. Our flowerbeds are tangled with overgrown marigolds and lavender, because I haven't had a moment to trim them back all summer. I can't find the time to make one simple phone call. It's ridiculous . . . or at least it seems that way to me. I love having two children but am floored by how busy they've made my life! (Should I have been this surprised? No. Yet here I am.)

Meanwhile, I hear of friends accomplishing so much that I would love to do. I see pictures and read stories of all the time they have for crafting and studying, for making music and blogging.

Sure, what we see on the internet does not always correspond to reality, but many times it does, and these women really do have time for their photogenic pursuits. They really are able to get all these lovely things done. I can feel inadequate in contrast, and a bit guilty. They have children too. They're taking care of a house too. They are faithful in their small things just as I am trying to be faithful in mine. So on top of all that how can they possibly run Etsy shops, repaint furniture, and get to Crossfit three times a week, while I twist my dirty hair into a flyaway braid and congratulate myself if I get a single carpet vacuumed?

It's because God is allowing them that grace. How could I be jealous of that? God has looked at each of us and said, here little daughter, this is what I have for you. And here is the grace to get it done.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.
-Ephesians 3:20-21
More abundantly than we could ask or think? Well, I can ask and think quite a lot, so it must be that God intends to accomplish truly amazing things. Someday perhaps I will see them fully. I know, certainly, that He is dishing out grace for me every day. It looks different from my friends' portions. (And often I don't even see my own portion as grace: I take what I do for granted. Of course I'm canning applesauce this fall! Of course I visit the library with my kids! Maybe for other women those things, my everyday things, are their impossible dreams.)

"A bawoon for me!" Simple fun at the fair.

I don't want to be greedy for grace. No God. I don't want this one; give me what she has. I want to trust Him for strength, rather than plotting something different, then trying to force it through in my own power. Come to think of it, I'm tuckered out at the end of every day and don't have much energy for plotting. So I want to cheerfully acknowledge the fact that my life is already filled to the utmost, believing that it's filled with what He has chosen, and that it is very good.

16 September 2015

and then she said

"I got it! I got the sun!"
-jumping into an early morning sunbeam on the floor

"Mommy, are you sick?! Are you taking a nap?"
-because I was still asleep when she got up and clearly that is only attributable to illness

"Bye! See ya! I going to the work! Have fun! I love you! Have a good day!"
-riding away on her tricycle

"I need to put wotion on my crash."
-requesting lotion for a nonexistent rash

"Are you making an order?"
or
"Are you checking your wist?"
-whenever I look at my phone (which, yes, I do use to place Amazon orders and make grocery lists)

"Mommy!!! You awake???"
-while we were stopped at a red light

"Goodbye water! Sleep tight!"
-bidding farewell to her bedtime bath

"No Zoe, dat is NOT a good idea."
-whenever Zoe does something of which she disapproves

"Mommy, are you pretty?"
-I don't know where that question came from

Me: We're going to the chiropractor later today.
Ellie: Ooh! The pyro-tractor?

Ellie: Where's Kenzie?
Me: At her house.
Ellie: Where's Kyle?
Me: At his house. You'll actually get to see them tomorrow.
Ellie: THEY get to see ME!

08 September 2015

clueless but pretty much okay

"Then I replied to them, 'The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build . . .'"
-Nehemiah 2:20
I have no clue what I'm doing with my kids.

Well, fine, I do know a few things about babies. I also have some broad ideas about what my girls should learn as they grow, and about how our home life should look, and I think they're good ideas. Other than that I'm flyin' by the seat of my skinny jeans every single day.

kitchen got turned into parking lot
In fact, each time I think I found a solid handle on motherhood and start patting myself on the back, we shift into the next gear and I'm back to the blackboard. Not to mix metaphors or anything. It has been hard for me to admit that to myself: I don't have parenting figured out, not even mostly. I never will. The fact seems quite obvious, but then, I do like to pretend I've got things under control.

The thing is, when my mommy abilities-- to be patient, to speak wise words, to keep these two blessed munchkins a little bit clean-- sputter to a stop, and that's usually by 9AM, the Holy Spirit keeps plowing ahead. He tirelessly accomplishes the work He has in mind for us. I see the fruit of His tending all the time. It is good to rest in Him. (Or "just rewax!" as Ellie likes to say.) When I confess my insufficiency, I am only recognizing what has been true all along. Our family's wellbeing has never hinged on my having things under control. That's why I can see my lack of understanding, my imperfectly wise plans, and not freak out.  I am not the anchor of our souls, after all.

And you know, from moment to moment, even my bumbling efforts work out. I may not have a comprehensive theory of motherhood, but in each miniature crisis of the day I find that I know what to do. With God's help-- and often I don't recognize that He is helping, not until later-- my flawed instincts and incomplete knowledge suffice for our children's needs.

The God of heaven will make us prosper.

28 August 2015

Weekend linkage

"The Coddling of the American Mind: How Trigger Warnings are Harming Mental Health."
The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into “safe spaces” where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable. And . . . this movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness. It is creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.
"A Living Sacrifice: The Beauty of a Body Broken for Others." 100% excellent. The ideas expressed here are helping me come to terms with the changes my daughter have wrought on my own body-- not to wish time backwards-- and to see motherhood's marks as good (because of what they signify), even if they are not objectively beautiful.
We want, it seems, to accumulate life experiences without aging, without damage, without evidence. We want our bodies to operate invisibly, to be emblems of near perfection rather than vessels of service. The fact remains, however, that without tremendous intervention, bodies absorb stress and trauma . . . Our created bodies are meant to serve spiritual purposes, and those purposes often initiate or exacerbate physical deterioration.
Three IG accounts that are objectively beautiful, from Norwegian landscapes to gorgeously fresh food to perfect braided buns: Marte Marie Forsberg, Honestly Nourished, and Twist Me Pretty.

Have you ever heard of the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest? A competition to write the worst ever opening sentence for a novel. It's dreadful. By which I mean, you must read all the entries NOW.

This made me laugh.

This too.

And this one very much.

Ooh, this dress. Come to mama.

---

What We Have Been Eating:

Honey mustard baked chicken thighs
Coconut chicken curry over zoodles
Peach crisp!
Thai chicken salad with the most delicious peanut butter dressing
Quiche: roasted tomatoes, lots of cheddar, green onions, all the good things
Mashed potato pancakes (for dinner)
Plantain pancakes (for breakfast, and I actually used 2 plantains for 1 egg, making them really hearty... we liked 'em with some butter)
Random pesto sauces, with cilantro and Thai basil and whatever is green in the garden

24 August 2015

and then she said

makeshift porch pool
"I making a zooming car. Zoe DON'T gonna knock it over."
-surrounded by Duplos and keeping a suspicious eye on her sidekick

"Look, I draw a circle for you! Are you very happy?"
-displaying a recent study in crayon

"Daddy am a boy, you a mommy girl, Zoe is a little sissy girl."
-figuring out the basics of life

"Bye-bye! I going to the outer space!"
-from inside her cardboard box rocketship

"I want rice, and hummus, and chicken, and cheese. And green peppers. And red peppers. Oh my goodness . . . dat's a lot of food!"
-planning what we should eat for dinner

Me: Tonight we're going to see friends, and they have a puppy.
Ellie: Oh! Can I touch him?
Me: Sure.
Ellie: Can I chase him?
Me: I guess so.
Ellie: Can I eat him?
Me: . . .

Me: Time for bed.
Ellie: Not today!

Jared: Time for bed.
Ellie: You go to bed! Mommy go to bed! Zoe go to bed!

Jared: Ellie, can you help me clean up these toys?
Ellie: Hmm . . . no thank you.

20 August 2015

Family snippets

weeee can't stop me now
Zoe decided it was time to crawl. So she did. Merrily we roll along, at not-even-seven-months old, forsooth.

Ellie hasn't taken kindly to her sister's mobility, because now Zoe is in Ellie's face all the time, grabbing her toys and pulling her shirt and generally making a nuisance of herself. Since Ellie still believes that all the toys belong to her, she's greatly offended when Zoe crawls over to the basket and helps herself to matchbox cars without Her Royal Highness's permission. ("No Zoe! It's mine! You no touch it!")

But they are often sweet together. Ellie will plop a bowl on Zoe's head, announce "you have a hat!" and they'll both giggle. They play peek-a-boo. Ellie asks for Zoe to ride along on her tricycle, so I put Zoe on the back and hold her there as Ellie speeds around the dining room. When we go to the park I put them both in swings and push them by turns: Ellie chatters the entire time, demanding to go "faster and faster," while Zoe just stares and smiles.

Zoe grew a couple of teeth this month, which was an ordeal for everyone. She's still teething, in fact . . . to judge from her utter abandonment of routine, bellows of panic every time I leave her line of sight, and refusal to nap in the crib. (If you try to make her, she'll just pull herself up, drape her arms over the top of the crib side, and wail like a heartbroken little jailbird. And she won't give up, no matter how long you leave her alone. Thank you God for the Ergo.)

Anyway, getting chompers means that we have started to give her pieces of our food, mostly fruit. Baby-led weaning worked very well with Ellie, and Zoe is just as excited as her sister was to find hunks of peach, banana, and broccoli on her tray. It's all incredibly messy but it keeps her entertained, and I will sacrifice much for the sake of Infant Entertainment.

The weather has been quite dry lately, and since I'm terrible at remembering to water the garden, some of our plants have shriveled. The Roma tomatoes, green beans, cilantro, carrots, and lettuce are growing happily nonetheless. I want to try canning tomato sauce, if I can collect at least 20 pounds of Romas at a time (seems pretty likely, the way they're putting out). The basil looks pathetic so I'll do cilantro pesto instead. Hopefully I'll get to can some peaches by the end of the month.

What We've Been Eating:

Jamie Oliver's crispy and sticky roast chicken
Shredded pork shoulder
Chicken and vegetables stir-fried with lime juice and soy sauce (plus cauliflower rice)
Chips with fresh salsa from the garden (which is also great on fried eggs)
Chicken apple curry
Italian sausage with white beans and spinach
Oven-baked fries, both russet potatoes and sweet potatoes . . . mmmm
These delicious tacos de pollo (eaten as a fajita salad for the paleo-ish among us, in tortillas for the normal folk)
Baked chicken! We have this A LOT because it is delicious and cheap and flexible: just your basic bone-in thighs roasted with a bit of seasoning and olive oil, 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. But here is the magic part. If you cover them with foil and let them rest for at least half an hour in the oven after turning the heat off-- could be even longer-- the meat gets extremely tender while the skin stays crisp, just as it oughta be.

06 August 2015

putting on my big girl pants

Today is my twenty-eighth birthday. I don't know if that merits excitement anywhere else in the world. It doesn't around here. But even on pedestrian birthdays I like to take a little bit of time to muse on has what happened in the last year: what life brought to me, what I did and became.

This past year was the first that I didn't teach English, after eight years of doing it. I sorely missed teaching last fall and early winter, before Zoe was born. Once she came, I didn't have time to miss it anymore. :) My mind is still hungry for academics, though, so I'm continuing my education mom-style-- which is to say, in an eclectic and haphazard fashion. I take advantage of lots of podcasts and blogs, and am challenging myself to read more non-fiction, in addition to the fiction I more easily gravitate towards. A couple non-fic volumes I have especially liked are Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, 1492: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, and Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism.

I have a thing for long titles, perhaps?

I've been part of a book club with more than a dozen other women for several years now. That is always a basket of fun, and our reading picks have ranged from Very Serious to Quite Silly. This summer I also started a monthly club for high school girls, to read and discuss some great lit (classic and otherwise). In the fall that will have to come to a close, since they are all busy with schoolwork. However, I will be teaching my younger sister British Victorian literature, and that should be a nice mental workout!

Young Mother and Two Children, Mary Cassatt

I was stretched in my mothering this year. Ellie turned into a little girl (currently she insists that she is not a girl, she is "a guy" like daddy . . . or a fish or a tiger or a racecar, usually all in one day). She has always been my buddy, and still is. But she does her own stuff now. She invents narratives to act out and songs to sing. She is starting to piece together her own interpretation of the world.

That all means more brain-work for me. I still have to do plenty of physical tasks for her, like pouring her juice and buttoning her dress, but I also need to explain things. Why we need to buckle up in the car, and why we don't pull basil plants out of the garden, and why thunder isn't scary after all, and why there are consequences for disobeying, and why Jesus loves her so much.

Meanwhile, as one mini-me grew up, I got a new one. I'm much better at being a mommy this time around. Poor Ellie has to take the test run on everything; Zoe basks in the benefits of my experience. She has been a happy, snuggly bearcub from day one. Sleep? Eh, it's acceptable. Her bouncing good health and outrageously cute toes make up for her not-so-consistent napping.

Babies always change you. Having this baby changed my vision of God. During the ultra-vulnerable weeks after Zoe's birth, when I was tired, lonely, second-guessing myself, and apt to break down in tears at any moment, God baptized me in a new blazing awareness of His unconditional love. That is something I have always struggled to accept. Not only that I'm redeemed, but that God delighted to redeem me. I am not just one justified saint in a faceless crowd, but a beloved little child, with an affectionate Father who's interested in me specifically.

That sunrise moment (which, talk about breaking down in tears) has firmed the ground beneath my feet. I tend to walk in fear wherever something's unknown. Life currently holds a lot of unknowns, and I suppose it always will. But I keep coming back to the fact that God loves me so decidedly, so generously. And then I sleep in peace.

The other truth I realized this year-- and it has given me the courage to go my own way-- is that, hey, I'm an adult now. I have my own house, and marriage, and children. Other people are free to express opinions and I often benefit from that, but just as often I shrug and make a different decision.

I will potty train my toddler when I feel like it. I will let the baby sleep in our bed. I will prioritize husband time over girl time. I will eat ice cream, and I will not eat bread. I will be quiet in large groups instead of wearing myself out trying to be "sociable." I will buy the clothes I actually like instead of the ones fawned over by every fashion blogger (who wears Ace & Jig anyway? sad bohemian schoolmarms?).

In other situations, awareness of adulthood provides the kick I need to get moving. I must admit that I tend not to try something if it a) looks difficult or unpleasant and b) I don't really have to. But lately I've been telling myself that it's time to put on my big girl pants and Address the Situation [call the insurance company, take out the trash, learn how to can tomatoes]. Jared says I'm capable of far more than I ever give myself credit for, and when I actually try, instead of assuming "this is impossible" from the start, I find out he's right.

It should be fun to find out what I'm capable of this year.

31 July 2015

Family snippets // Weekend linkage

I solemnly swear that she is up to no good
Ellie is a perpetual motion machine. (Some days I think of her as an entropy machine, but that isn't quite fair because she does create and clean up some things.)

Yesterday morning she came downstairs, announced that she was awake, and demanded tea. Then I watched as she went from guzzling her mug of PG Tips to gobbling blueberries to slicing up playdough to crafting lavish masterpieces in marker to decorating her own knees with said marker to scribbling on the chalkboard and whiteboard to "helping" me bake banana muffins to "helping" me wash the dishes to opening a contraband Larabar all by herself to racing up and down the length of the house shouting "I'm an Elliegator!" And then it was time to have lunch and go to the library and watch Curious George. Her life is pretty exciting, mostly because she makes it so.

Zoe makes fewer headlines but we love her just as much. She can get up on all fours now, bah! And she's less of a cuddle bug; she enjoys leaping about in her "jumper swing" as Ellie calls it, or sitting in the high chair with a fun toy, like a carrot or a crinkly package of chips.

Last week we went on vacation, to a spot in South Carolina just south of Myrtle Beach. We've been before, but that was in January (with only one kid, who wasn't even walking yet). So this time we had considerable heat + two children to wrangle, but it was so fun to chase seagulls with Ellie, watch Zoe eat sand, and splash in the water, both ocean and pool, with both of them.

After enjoying tons of pizza, oatmeal, and ice cream on vacation, I climbed back on the Paleoesque wagon . . . and oh goodness, I feel much better! I have mounds of energy, and more stable emotions. I'd been moping about for weeks with a brain fog and zero motivation to do anything, so when we got back from South Carolina I dropped all grains, almost all sugar, and the cream in my coffee; it's good black, I promise, especially when you have a French press. :) This week I've buzzed around accomplishing all sorts of projects, and I feel happy and hopeful again. I think the vitamin D from the beach helped too.

I have gained a little weight back after stopping AIP but I don't mind, really. I was so grumpy while on AIP that I'd rather have the extra pounds. I like looking at my curious, cheerful, chubby girls and remembering how I got to nourish them inside of my body for the better part of a year. I like being able to make myself beautiful, and appreciate what I do have, even when my stomach-- which is, after all, only one part of me-- is bigger and softer than I would prefer. And I like that my husband still chases me around like we are googly-eyed newlyweds. He's swell.

Speaking of getting pretty, I enjoyed the Gemma Burgess installment of "Beauty Uniform" on A Cup of Jo. She's funny! I shall be investigating many of her picks.

And I just took advantage of this deal: a high-end Nume curling wand for only $19, plus shipping.

A lovely print from Gracelaced that fits with so much of what God has been impressing on me about motherhood and homemaking, and fulfillment versus fame, and where I'm finding my value, and identifying-- and prioritizing-- the true passions of my heart. All of which could fill at least three long posts. But anyway, imma buy me one of these.

I enjoy Apartment Therapy's house tours, this one especially.

50,000 images that will change how you see Africa.

16 July 2015

Family snippets // Thursday linkage

Once, when Ellie was still tiny and her personality unknown, I worried that I wouldn't find her interesting. My own family is . . . colorful, shall we say. I was half-afraid that Ellie wouldn't fit in. Would she have a sense of humor? Would she be creative? Would I like having her around?

Not to fear. Yesterday she climbed up on the loveseat with me and announced, "This is firetruck! MEEE MA MEEE MA!!!" That's a siren sound, dontcha know. Soon she scrambled off, only to return with several pieces of play food. "I have a snack. Pear, pineapple, pepper." Then she continued to blare her siren, occasionally interrupting herself to sing "Jesus lub me, this I know. For da Bible tell me so. Little ONESIE him belong!"

This child is so many things but dull is certainly not one of them. Her way of living is whole-hearted, over-the-top, and frequently hilarious, whether jumping ("like frog! ribbit, ribbit, ribbit!" through the flower garden) or singing ("doo da doo! bacon and cheese! I really LOUD!" in the middle of the grocery store) or coloring ("uh oh, purple marker on arm, I wash it off!" as she runs to get a kitchen towel). She greets everyone she sees with a bellow of "Hi! How doin'?" and then proceeds to tell them her name, how old she is (if she can remember), and all about her mommy and daddy and baby Zoe and how we're going to the pool tomorrow and she saw a trash truck this morning and the sky is blue and can I touch your dog?

So it figures that her current favorite word is very. The first thing I hear in the morning is "Hi Mommy! I very awake! Mommy very awake too?" And thus it continues throughout the day. "I very need a drink! I very go outside! I very eating tuna!"

dominoes and a plate = bliss

Meanwhile my peaceful Zoe-bug has learned how to roll over and scoot backwards on her belly, takes regular morning and afternoon naps, likes to lick celery sticks, drinks milk from a bottle if I go out in the evening, and can sit up mostly without falling on her head. She will be six months old on Tuesday, which is unbelievable, but I guess I have to believe it. She weighs almost 18 pounds and still has the appetite of Almanzo Wilder.

Now for interesting things elsewhere.

---

Hmm, bacon-wrapped cinnamon apples seem like a good idea.

I would wear this necklace. (I couldn't spring for the "birthstone of each child" idea yet, though, because we are not done adding kids to the collection.)

This post on Apartment Therapy made me smile; I love how the author describes getting married and merging your home cultures, learning from your spouse as you observe how he goes about his everyday routine. I have certainly adopted some of Jared's habits in the past five years. (Setting a separate bowl for salad, drinking coffee instead of tea in the morning, using dishcloths instead of sponges . . .)

Speaking of home, I KNOW some of you will love this: How To Get the Jane-Austen Inspired Room of Your Dreams.

This is truly one of those "oh duh, why didn't I think of that?" kitchen tips.

This week's excellent Instagram account: Desiree De Leon, making clever drawings out of tiny objects.

08 July 2015

according to knowledge

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
-1 Peter 3:7
Obviously there's a lot to say about that. But this post isn't about husbands or wives or vessels of any kind. It's about that idea of living in an understanding way. We had a good sermon on this passage a while back, and our pastor observed that in some translations, that phrase is rendered "according to knowledge."

The "understanding" that Peter has in mind is not a generic niceness: it's specific. It demands personal knowledge. It demands that you know the other person's background, beliefs, weaknesses and strengths. You can't be a good husband (or wife) if you are ignorant about who your spouse is. To overcome ignorance, to get out of our selfish surface-level acquaintance, we need to invest a lot of time, listen patiently, and remember what we have heard.

I think that this is quite applicable to parenting. We all like quick fixes: "If Child does X, Parent does or says Y, and all shall be well." However, people don't often operate well on quick fixes. If your child does X on a particular day because of a particular reason, you might want to do Y. But maybe not. Think about it first. Try to understand what is really going on. The solution might be Z or Q or T, or a combination thereof.

A visitor tossed into the middle of our household would probably draw incorrect conclusions about our kids, simply because she doesn't know them (and how would she be expected to?). She might think Ellie is being mean to Zoe when she's actually being careless. That still requires some correction, but of a different sort. She might assume that a crying Zoe should be fed or held, when the poor cranky thing actually needs a nap and won't settle down till plopped into her crib. She might not realize that Ellie has been told "no" ten times in the past hour, and that it's time for a "yes" and a hug of encouragement.

So don't act like a visitor with your own children. You aren't! You are their mom or dad. You have eyes to observe them, ears to hear them, a mind to process who they are and to inquire of God for wisdom. Don't parent them according to lifeless, inflexible rules; live with them, and parent them according to knowledge.

03 July 2015

Weekend linkage

source
Today we're busy prepping for an Independence Day party (slightly early) at our house: there will be brined pork chops and lemon garlic chicken on the grill, sweet potato fries, pickles I canned last summer, homemade cookies (you know it's special because I never make cookies), and lots of other good food provided by the friends who will shortly descend upon us. I have decorated with paper chains, an adorable free printable from Hope Ink, and dill flowers, which, rather felicitously, resemble fireworks.

I love being an American. I'm not much for group pride or team spirit-- too cynical? too contrary?-- but I genuinely think this country is awesome, and worth fighting to keep it that way.

Here are links.

"When the Wages of Sin Is a Grandbaby."
You read all the blogs, ask all the parents who came before you how they got their kids through. You also know the panic you feel when what you prayed against happens. You feel desperate to reset it all, to find the way back to the place of peace, the longing to wake up and discover it was a dream, a warning so you can be a little more vigilant.

And yet, did you hear that? The tiny flutter of a little heart beating means our Father’s hand is at work in our girl to give us all a gift beyond price.
"Pro Life, No Tricks."
If Rick Perry had signed the “Save The Babies From Being Murdered Act of 2013,” I would be cheering him on. That he expects us to believe that he’s honestly concerned about “ambulatory surgical centers” is insulting to us, and insulting to the pro-life movement, which can easily make its case without resorting to such measures . . . Abortion should be illegal. Let’s not waste our time with false and Machiavellian endeavors to make it so.
"Beauty and Darkness."
Dostoyevsky famously wrote that “Beauty will save the world,” and I desperately want to believe him, because it is a deeply nice thing to believe. But it didn’t. It won’t. Standing atop the misty mountains in Berchtesgaden, I was reminded of that. Truth will, Christ will, and sometimes it seems far from beautiful in the moment. But truth always leads to something far more beautiful than anything we could imagine.
"I Made the Pea Guacamole."
First, I made a much smaller batch, because I don't believe in wasting avocados on an abomination. Second, I didn't have time to roast my jalapeno, though I doubt that would have improved things. Finally, I did not sprinkle any sunflower seeds over the top; I don't have those on hand because I'm not some kind of socialist. 
"We Have Reached Peak Problematic."
Because academic progressivism is intellectually exhausted and out of ideas, it had to invest in a kind of catch-all word that would serve as a useful vilification device. “Problematic” was that word. Now, instead of thinking about and discussing mildly complex issues, you can just call things “problematic” and act as if you’ve said something intelligent.
"Stop Trying to Convince Me I'm Beautiful." (EXCEPT IF YOU'RE MY HUSBAND IN WHICH CASE NEVER EVER STOP.)
I don’t have low self esteem, or harbour a pocket of self loathing. I love myself, my life, my body, and my face—but I’m not a beauty. I’m a really nice, smart, kind woman who has a lot of great qualities that I’m recognised for everyday. Because of all those things I’m also unbelievably lucky. But again, I’m not a delicate willow, an amazon, a starlet, or anything in between. I’m not bad looking, but that’s about as far as I’d go. I’m a happy average.
"What I Wish I'd Known" before having kids. This is part III of the series, and my favorite installment, but you really ought to read them all.
People always ask how I do it all with three kids and I always say it's because I have three kids. I am more driven, more productive, more organized and happier as a mom of three kids than I would be if it were just me. I can't imagine having all of my time to myself- I would waste so much!
A super interesting podcast, which both appeals to my Hillsdaler's love of core curriculum and raises the hackles of my homeschooled lone ranger sensibilities: "What Every American Needs to Know" with Milt Rosenberg and E.D. Hirsch. Milt Rosenberg is adorable btw and I want to adopt him as my granddaddy.

This week's delighful Instagram account: Benjamin Hole, a farmer on the Isle of Purbeck. SHEEP.

27 June 2015

Weekend linkage

Scripture, flowers, critter friends
"University of Cambridge to hire Professor of Lego." Indeed.

Oh my goodness, now I want to buy a million terracotta pots.

Because such things are vital to life: the best way to grill sausages.

Why those final five weeks of pregnancy are critical. Clearly, some babies need to be hurried along for their own well-being! But some babies are not most babies. Chances are, your mini-me will arrive exactly when he is ready. Be patient, mamas!

And after he does arrive, here is a truly great thing to keep in mind: "My Number One Parenting Tip." More patience required. . . good parenting means a lot of patience, I'm finding.

I typically enjoy the podcasts put out by Ricochet, as they range from the highest of culture to grubbiest of politics. Here's an interesting and recent one, with guest appearances by Michael Barone, Richard Epstein, and R.R. Reno: Three Headed Hydra.

This made me laugh (and cringe, remembering some of the misguided but incredibly confident advice my writing students used to give one another): "If Jane Austen Got Feedback From Some Guy in a Writing Workshop."
A few other concerns: Mrs. Bennett is annoying, and you don’t have any people of color. Also, there aren’t a lot of men in this book. Only about the same number as there are women. I was thinking that what you could do is have Mrs. Bennett be dying, but give her a black best friend. Like Othello? (Have you read it? It’s also by Shakespeare, fwiw.) The Othello character could be her butler, maybe? There you go: three problems solved. You’re welcome!
"Homeschooling and Christian Duty."
The idea of sending a child daily into a hostile environment—if not actively hostile, as in bullying, then certainly philosophically hostile—expecting him not only to withstand assaults on everything his parents have told him is true but also to transform the entire system by his presence, seems sadly misguided to me. There may be many valid arguments for sending a child to school, but that one doesn’t wash.

18 June 2015

things we never thought we'd have to say

"Ellie, carrots do not belong in shoes."

"Ellie, stop decorating your water bottle with zucchini."

"Ellie, please don't draw on the computer."

"Ellie, your stroller doesn't go on the couch."

"Ellie, do not put your hair clip into the coffee grinder."

"Ellie, don't eat rocks."

"Ellie, you may not step on other people's heads."

Parenting! You gotta tell these toddlers everything.

17 June 2015

I know that full well

Been thinking a lot. It's surprising, even when you have two young daughters-- one of whom puts the Energizer Bunny to shame, the other of whom is, thankfully, a mellow melon of a baby-- even when you have a house and garden to tend, and friends to see and errands to run and emails to answer, even when you never come close to being bored, how much you can still think.

Deleting my Facebook account helped a lot with that. I stopped trying to think about everybody else's life, and like magic, discovered that I had time (and brain space) to reflect on my own.

Right now I am sitting at the dining room table, with a bowl full of zucchini noodles tossed in peanut butter and soy sauce (very good), a clementine, a half-empty water bottle, and rare naptime quiet enveloping the house. Quiet except for the air conditioners. Humidity plasters our neighborhood every day now. Our valiant lettuce rows wilt a little in the afternoon sun, and I wilt a lot every time I need to step outside.

One truth weaving its way through my head is my girls' beauty and intricacy. I don't have in mind their inward intricacy, though of course I could spend years writing about that: about how Ellie drinks up reality like a milkshake, how Zoe concentrates her entire self on understanding the world, Ellie's comedy and creativity, Zoe's startlingly deep emotions. I just mean their physical being. They are made perfectly. They know it, too. You can see the innocent delight they take in their own meticulously crafted bodies. Zoe rolls over, flaps her arms joyously, and stuffs her toes into her mouth: "Look, I have a foot! And I can grab it! Isn't that marvelous?" Ellie learns new things about her body every day: "Look, I can kick the ball! I can jump like a frog! Isn't that marvelous?"
You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
 
your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.
-Psalm 139:14
We have been beyond fortunate with our daughters' health; even in this first-world country I see many children struggling physically, on medication for chronic conditions or in the hospital for surgery. It breaks my heart. And in the rest of the world, children like mine-- rarely ill, never hungry-- are a hopeless dream for so many mothers. Sometimes I just grab Ellie and Zoe and squeeze them as hard as I can. They are lively, strong, resilient. I could not design anything better.

I would like to be as grateful for my own body as I am for theirs. Usually, if I think about my body, it's in negative terms. When I pray with Ellie before bedtime I thank God for creating her, but I don't often thank Him for creating me. I am more prone to complain. I grumble about my wide face (not feminine enough), my eczema (it's unfair that I have to deal with this), the gap in my abdominal muscles (a souvenir from my giant offspring).

God did create me, though! Not only that, he was so kind as to make almost everything work correctly. I hardly ever get sick. I have plenty of energy for life. I recovered really well from my pregnancies. In fact, I'm pretty dang healthy, and that is not as common as I assume. So when I scoop Zoe up from her crib, I'd like to take a moment before rushing on with my day, and think Look, my hands can grab my baby securely, my arms can lift her, we can spin around and laugh together and make big silly grins in the mirror. Isn't that marvelous?

Speaking of which, I hear her wriggling upstairs, so I need to scoot.

05 June 2015

and then she said

wheee
"Good morning, box!"
-after finding an Amazon package in the living room

"Is MILKMAN!"
-on spotting the mailman climbing our porch steps

"I picka weeds!"
-showing me a fistful of lavender blossoms

Me: It's nap time, Ellie.
E: No nap!
Me: Honey, you need to rest.
E: No rest!
Me: Yes. You just have to lie down for a while, because you're growing all the time, right?
E: NO GROWING!!!

E: Want snack!
Me: No.
E: Raisins?
Me: No.
E: Yogurt?
Me: No.
E: Pepperoni?
Me: Ellie, we are not eating now. You need to respect what Mommy says and stop asking.
E: *dramatic sigh* I sad.
Me: Well, I'm sorry that you're sad. Why don't you find something that will make you happy while you wait.
[E considers this, then perks up]
. . . applesauce?

She real sassy.

01 June 2015

glad I did it, glad it's done

I am finished with The Autoimmune Protocol: I set out to do it for two months but stopped at one (now I can say that I did a Whole30 but more hardcore). I put peanut butter in my smoothie this morning and it was excellent.

I decided to cut the project short for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I had zero success on the eczema front. Zero. It flared, subsided, and flared again all month, as it usually does. It actually grew worse overall because of the heat-- this is why I don't like summer much-- and I would have been miserable without my prescription steroid creams. (I wish I didn't have to use them at all, but I try to weigh pros and cons in all my health-related decisions, and in this case pro tips the scales.)

sausage, sweet potatoes, baby kale, apples, bacon: not bad
If I had seen even a bit of improvement I would have continued. I was not surprised about this "failure" because my skin issues have never been diagnosed as autoimmune in nature. I am sure that AIP works wonders for many people with autoimmune disorders but I think my eczema is more complex than that.

Speaking of pros and cons, I found that following AIP guidelines delivered a whopping load of stress. It's incredibly hard to cook this way. Even the permitted spices and seasonings are restrictive. I mean, no cumin? No mustard? Please! I was constantly meal planning, buying groceries, trying to come up with something we could eat, and making food (because virtually nothing could be purchased premade). We ate great stuff-- grilled cilantro pork chops, lemon garlic chicken, sweet potato fries, huge salads packed with artichokes and spinach and coconut balsamic vinegar-- but it was tough to pull off. Then there was the cost. Jared and I both eat a lot no matter what our diet is, but we spent 40% more than usual in our grocery budget for May.  I was burnt out by the end. When I chose to stop AIP early, I felt like I was coming up for air after struggling under a month-long riptide.

Again, it would have been worthwhile had I seen any health improvements. I didn't, though, at least nothing that would merit staying on AIP. (We did decide to make some other, less extreme changes to our diet going forward. More on that later.) Without substantive benefits, I couldn't convince myself to continue something that was making me so unhappy. It seems pretty clear to me that yogurt and tomatoes are not what is making me sick. Something is, but I need more than an elimination diet to fix it.

The most obvious thing I got out of this experiment was quick weight loss. I'd already been dropping the pregnancy poundage, but Jared says I lost it even faster once I started AIP, and he certainly looks at me enough to tell. I am almost back to my pre-Zoe weight, which was the skinniest I'd been since getting married. A little more and I will be at my "high school ballerina" weight . . . though everything in my body has been stretched out and rearranged twice, so it won't ever look the same. :-)

It's not because I restricted calories or volume, either. We were eating roast beef and avocados like our lives depended on it. I suspect that the protocol's no-grains-or-dairy rule made the most difference. I've also read that coconut oil can facilitate weight loss because of its medium-chain triglycerides. We blew through an entire 43-oz container of coconut oil, so make of that what you will!

Now I know what to do next time I have a big baby belly to get rid of.

And dairy's expensive, you know? It was encouraging to discover that we could get by without. Jared noticed some health improvements that he attributed to not eating it. We both consume a lot of dairy products when they're around, so we decided that we will purchase smaller amounts with better quality: a wedge of Manchego to enjoy one evening, rather than a huge bag of cheddar lurking in the bag of the fridge.

In addition, I have known for a while that I have a bad sugar addiction. Within four days of starting AIP, my cravings had gone. I wasn't wishing for dessert after every meal or digging around for something "bready." So while I will be adding most AIP-illegal foods back into my diet, I will keep grains out 90% of the time. (The other 10% will be spent on beer and birthday cake.) I don't need them, and without cinnamon rolls whispering my name I will be free to focus on more nutrient dense food instead.

And that was something I hoped to accomplish by this, too: packing in more nutrition and eating less fluff. Ellie loves food, and I want her to become accustomed to eating sardines and roasted asparagus ("more spaygus? please more spaygus!") while she is still adventurous in her tastes. She needs the vitamins, fat, and protein of a paleo-ish diet. She doesn't need goldfish crackers. We get plenty of carbs from fruit and potatoes, anyway. Plantain chips are good!

The last thing I gained from doing AIP was a kickstart to searching for a solution. AIP didn't fix my skin but I want to work harder at finding something that will. I've tried and failed so often that in the past year I had reached a point of despair; it seemed pointless to visit one more doctor, take one more treatment. I have been inspired to keep searching.

I am glad I did this. I am glad it's over.

29 May 2015

Weekend linkage

[Ellie runs into my room]: HI MOMMY!!
Me: Hi sweetie.
E: Mommy's get dressed?
Me: Mmhmm . . .
E: Mommy's belly?
Me: Yep, that's my belly.
[Ellie thinks for a while, then]: TINY belly!!

Way to work yourself into mama's good graces, girlfriend.

---

Being kind to your spouse when you have small kids.

Pixar is clever.

Beautiful succulents. They look like a mini forest.

Finding your "home style" with joy.

I want to buy a print of this comic and hang it in the kitchen.

"Do Mothers Matter? "
Stupid questions aren’t always easy to answer. Sometimes the most fundamental things are hardest to explain, precisely because they are fundamental . . . We find ourselves babbling about Band-Aids and oatmeal cookies, as though those couldn’t be supplied by a social worker or a school nurse. Nevertheless, reasonable people do not dismiss the deep intuition that yes, mothers constitute a unique and vitally important part of a child’s moral universe.
For a somewhat different take on the subject: "The Trouble With Mother's Day." (For me, it's in the same file as Valentine's Day. Nice thought, I guess, but I really don't care if you get me flowers.)
In no other holiday do we spend so much time acknowledging and apologizing to the people whose hurt is extra pronounced because of that special day. The other holidays—Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, New Year’s, Forth of July, you name it—aren’t about us. Those holidays are broader. They’re about something beyond us. We are invited to enter in, but we aren’t the reason for the celebration
"A Libertarian View of Gay Marriage." (Subtitled "A really, really, really long post about gay marriage that does not, in the end, support one side or the other.")
My only request is that people try to be a leeetle more humble about their ability to imagine the subtle results of big policy changes. The argument that gay marriage will not change the institution of marriage because you can’t imagine it changing your personal reaction is pretty arrogant. It imagines, first of all, that your behavior is a guide for the behavior of everyone else in society . . . And second, the unwavering belief that the only reason that marriage, always and everywhere, is a male-female institution (I exclude rare ritual behaviors), is just some sort of bizarre historical coincidence, and that you know better, needs examining.

21 May 2015

while the girls sleep

Sometimes I feel upset about my nonexistent "writing time." (Not quite nonexistent, because clearly I have time to write this. Both girls are napping like miniature cherubs.) It's almost literally true that my life now consists of diapers, cooking, and reading Drummer Hoff five million times in a row. I used to have so much time to think and to blog! Now I hardly have a chance to process a thought, let alone write it down.

Okay. Well. The reason for my limitations is that I am so busy mothering these small people, for whom I prayed and begged and cried for years. (Look at the archives and you'll note the dramatic drop in posts after 2013, which was when Ellie came along.)

I would rather have my girls and all their incredible, wonderful, drive-me-up-the-wall noise and mess than revert to the echoing emptiness of before. Yes. I would.

Zoe turns four months old today. At one month, I was happy just to sleep. At two months, I started wearing lipstick again. At three months, I felt like myself: I managed to make a fancy dinner and do the dishes while wearing lipstick. At four months, I'm able to visit friends, read a real book (I am currently in the middle of Quiet, that is, when Ellie gives me a break from "Dummer Hoss") and even have a few original thoughts.

So of course I will have time to write. Someday.

I am still me, even if I don't get to do all of the academic stuff--the reading and writing and philosophizing around the cafeteria tables--that defined me for so long. I am just finding new ways to use my gifts and interests, and learning that I don't have to live inside such a narrow definition of myself. I don't have to be afraid of leaving certain things behind, or at least putting them on long-term hold . . . I won't lose myself. I won't miss out on life. I am living right now as hard as I can.

15 May 2015

Family snippets

"Water! Look Big Jerry, water!" 

Zoe is growing up, in baby terms. No more silent staring; she likes to practice gurgling, squawking, and singing. Loudly. And she sleeps all night, most of the time. She loves it when I smooch her cheeks or when Ellie plays peek-a-boo with her, and dishes out grins right and left. Ellie is overjoyed by this, and usually starts shouting "She smile! She happy! Zo-Bear smile!" to make sure we all notice.

We are just starting to glimpse the fun they'll have as sisters so close in age. Ellie has totally accepted that Zoe is here to stay, that Zoe is her playmate, and that she should include Zoe in everything. I mentioned last week that Zoe can laugh-- well, guess who is an expert in getting those giggles? Big sissy, of course! Video proof here.

They are a marvel.

(And I am not sure why Ellie's stuffed giraffe is named Big Jerry. That was Jared's doing.)

The Madewell shirts got sent back. They were cute, but in the end I really need a petite cut, which Madewell does not carry. (Yet they have "tall" sizes galore. I guess you only get to wear their stuff if you are an Amazon. Why no love for the peewees?!) The fabric also seemed flimsy for a $30 piece. So instead I ordered yet another one of these perfect shirts. In black, because just about everything I own is black, blue, or gray . . . with a bit of purple tossed in for fun.

Look, at this point in my life I know what flatters and what doesn't. I am short and curvy, with what might charitably be described as strong features. Were I a character in an Austen novel, you would find me filed under "rather plain, but with a handsome profile." (I would also dance enthusiastically at every country ball and bear a flock of children à la Isabella Woodhouse Knightley.) Pastels, complex patterns, and fussy details overwhelm me; simple silhouettes, feminine tailoring, and saturated jewel tones are my jam. You say boring, I say French editor. I may have a small closet but I love wearing everything in it.

07 May 2015

Family snippets

The list of Zoe's nicknames so far:

Zozo
Zoe Bear
Baby Doll
Little Zo
Zoe Bug
Pinky
Polar Bear

And Ellie generally calls her "Babyzoe," as if she can't just say her name, but must add in the fact that she is a baby. In case we forget. :)

I placed my first Madewell order this week. We'll see if it lives up to the hype. Since I only bought one thing (in three different colors and sizes) this is not a thorough test, but according to the internet I should adore everything Madewell produces. I had considered ordering a pair of their famously awesome jeans earlier this spring, but then I discovered the best jeans ever ever ever at the Banana Republic outlet, got two pairs, and thumbed my nose at Madewell's outrageous prices.

Am still considering these shorts though.

In other unexciting news: our garden is filling up with vegetables and flowers, Zoe has figured out how to grab and play with toys, Ellie is obsessed with smoke detectors, and I started a ridiculous new diet in an attempt to address some health issues. Jared gamely offered to do it with me. One week in, we're loving maple breakfast sausage, baked plantain chips, and these coconut bars (but with less maple syrup and more coconut oil, because as written, they are insanely sweet). On the down side, I miss eggs, I am tired of sweet potatoes, and my eczema has not budged yet.

Nevertheless, I feel good and keep losing weight despite the unholy amount of food I am consuming. A rash that had popped up on Zoe's elbows and cheek has also vanished. So we soldier on. I'm giving this a solid two months before I hand down a verdict.

For pictures of the two bonny lasses, remember that you can request to follow me on Instagram. Leave a comment here with your IG handle, if you'd like, just to let me know that it is you . . . if I don't recognize your name I probably won't approve the request. :)

27 April 2015

Eve over again

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”-Genesis 3:1
New mothers frequently stand in Eve's shoes. We hold fragile young life in our arms, often rejoicing, but just as often-- on the long restless afternoons, in the dark wakeful nights-- facing down the serpent and his questions. Did God actually say? 

Did God really promise to walk with us? Did he really say that He would be our strength and did He really pronounce children a blessing?

Or perhaps does He not care as much as we'd hoped? Has he forgotten us and these children?

He really did promise.
The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
-Genesis 3:20
We inherit Eve's task to birth new physical life, but more than that, we are heirs of spiritual life ourselves. Our heavenly father is always upholding us, just as we hold our tiny ones. The things of the grave (whether actual death, or its everyday relatives, pain and toil and disappointment) don't have power over us anymore.

He really did promise.

23 April 2015

Family snippets

Here Zoe, have a drink!!
Ellie turned two last month. Her personality, much like her mother's, tends toward extremes, and so she vacillates between showering Zoe with tenderness and treating her like a rag doll. One minute she's stroking her head and cooing "Baby Zoe! Oh sweetie!" but the next minute she's stealing her socks, yanking her thumb out of her mouth, or in particularly wild moments, scratching her dear little face. Zoe goggles at Ellie's acrobatics (she goggles at almost everything) and objects strongly to the rag doll treatment.

I'm pretty sure they love each other.

Zoe grows about an inch every night. She is already wearing 6-month clothing! That is actually quite convenient. Ellie was born at the end of March, a three-month difference that technically puts them in different seasons; you wouldn't expect her clothes to work for Zoe. But because Zozo is so huge, she ends up fitting them after all.

(Less shopping for baby means more shopping for Mommy.)

Zoe has become much more demonstrative lately. Her smiles are enormous. If you work really hard you can even get her to laugh! Unfortunately, she has also begun teething, and that is very traumatic for everybody, with much crying and finger-gnawing. I don't think it is fair to make a mere three-month-old sprout teeth, but then, I didn't exactly get a say in the matter.

I am thankful that despite the impending teeth, she still sleeps well at night. The difference between Getting Up Thrice and Getting Up Once is staggering.

Back to the newly minted two-year-old: she is giving my patience a run for its money, with her irrational whining jags and ceaseless chatter. And yet she is so much fun at the same time. She frequently asks to "pray Jesus?", snuggles on my lap to read book after book, and adores all of our relatives-- she hopefully suggests "grandma's house?" even when we have no plans to go anywhere. She has a strong personality and decided opinions. I love seeing her determination every day. She likes to figure things out, and likes to help us with our work: she has learned to work the salad spinner, enthusiastically imitates Jared's running stretches, and hands me clothespins when I do laundry. She knows all her colors and is learning to count (not always accurately: "one two fee, five  nine ten!")

The Long Winter is finally over, and we can enjoy the outdoors as a family, whether on walks around the city, trips to the park, or fiddling around in our garden. (The lettuce is up and I have tomato seedlings ready to transplant soon.) Oorah. Jared and I also got to go out for dinner without the girls last week, and it felt like a turning point. I love tiny babies but it's awfully nice when they are old enough to leave for a couple hours; I am feeling more like myself, and less like a groggy, bed-headed milk machine.

So that's good.