No bad weather.

Winter2018-28When you travel after having kids, even if you are traveling without them, you notice all the ways that your destination appeals to children, or prohibits them. You instinctively think about whether you would want to bring your child somewhere, and you notice how a new culture integrates children into adult society. Americans are especially obsessed with this, eternally insecure about our parenting and devouring books like  (the interesting but laughably and ridiculously not-universal) Bringing up Bébé. I wanted to read the book on Swedish parenting during my trip, but alas, I’m still on the library waitlist. The title comes from the Scandanavian proverb that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.


Obviously, my 3 days in Stockholm makes me an expert on Swedish parenting… not. But, I can 100% testify to the total truth of that proverb. The weather was, by our mid-Atlantic American standards, bad. It was 10-15 degrees with snow that alternated between flurries and driving white out conditions the entire time. It was the sort of cold, snowy, and icy weather that shuts life down in DC, not to mention many other places I have lived or visited.

But in Sweden, people seemed unfazed by it, undeterred from heading outside as normal. The kids were outside at recess, adults walked the street, everyone just carried on as normal. I was fascinated by the children, as parks in DC are empty when it drops below 30- without so much as a flurry. Kids filed through the park, pulling either the sleds their parents had used to drop them off at school, or little hand sleds passed out by their teachers. They all wore slight variations of suits like this– none of this fussing around with normal coat and pants. Just zip the entire child inside and send them out into the snow. When we took the same ferry as a group of elementary school students, one kid actually pulled an adult sized thermos out of his bag and started pouring some hot beverage into the waiting travel mugs of his classmates.

Oh, and that myth I had heard about people just leaving their babies outside of shops? Winter2018-30Verified- on several occasions. Winter2018-36Winter2018-37Winter2018-38Winter2018-40Winter2018-43Winter2018-44Because to avoid venturing out in bad weather would mean, for those in Sweden, committing to missing out on the beauty of much of the year. Stockholm was magic in the snow, and I love that I got to see it in its winter glory.Winter2018-48Winter2018-52Winter2018-53Winter2018-55While traveling without Henry was so easy and fun, see Swedish parents and kids making the most of their city in every weather made me wish I could have explored with him. We have doggedly played outside every day all winter, in any weather. We have explored the park and city alone in frigid temps and heavy winds, because Henry is a kid who needs fresh air and space to run. He, like many children, realizes instinctively that there is no bad weather, no bad days for exploring, no bad spaces for play. Just a world that sometimes requires a little extra gear.

Winter2018-65Winter2018-66Stockholm, you were a snowy dream, in any weather.

(And a big thanks to my brother Zach who took many of the pictures in this and the last post! Traveling with him means I get in substantially more photos.)

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Winter2018-20Back in September I came across some ridiculously cheap plane tickets to Stockholm, where my  brother and his wife are living this year. One of the big advantages of East Coast living is that you can travel really inexpensively to Europe, though admittedly, on carriers and airlines that don’t always seem exactly transatlantic-ready. I convinced James that I should take a dissertation-moon to celebrate completing, and because he’s a supportive saint, he agreed and I booked a solo trip to Sweden for late February. There is no motivation for finishing a massive project like the promise of an international trip… without a toddler. Traveling with Henry last summer was so much fun, but also involved so much workTraveling by myself? A breeze. Packing for one adult? Did it an hour before leaving. Logistics to consider in advance? Almost none. The flight, even with a layover and the cheapest airline ever with no tvs and not even free water offered? LUXURY.

We didn’t know when we scheduled the trip that it would also morph into a babymoon, a celebration of this moment where things like this feel doable, before a new baby has us trying to find our footing again. There were a lot of moments this pregnancy where I felt like the trip wouldn’t actually happen. When we thought we had miscarried and then I was on pelvic rest, when I was sick constantly, when I couldn’t walk so much as half a block because of crippling sciatic pain- I couldn’t foresee it actually working out. But last month I finally started feeling a little bit better, was cleared for normal activity, and a couple sessions of deep tissue prenatal massage had my sciatic nerve back in line.

And so, off to Stockholm I went!Winter2018-6Winter2018-7Winter2018-9Winter2018-10My SIL Liz started texting me pictures of the impossibly tasty looking Swedish buns last fall and operation “buns from the oven for my bun in the oven” took shape. We ate an insane number of Kardemummabullar and Semlor, and I have no regrets. WHY are there not Swedish bakeries in the States? I love French ones, obviously, but Swedish pastries were something else altogether and I see no reason we should limit ourselves. Winter2018-14Winter2018-15Best hosts ever! I am usually the intense trip planner, but for this trip I got to sit back and let someone else plan and orchestrate everything. Winter2018-18Winter2018-19Winter2018-24Stockholm blew me away. The immaculate streets! The colors! The doors! Maybe it is just that they have to endure so many months of darkness and cold, but the Swedes know how to fill their city with color and warmth. Winter2018-25Winter2018-27On top of being great hosts, Zach and Liz have the dreamiest little snow globe apartment where we spent our evenings cozied up and catching up on the (most dramatic season yet of the) Bachelor. Winter2018-49Winter2018-50Winter2018-54Winter2018-56I really hate to use the overused, pretentious, nausea-inducing catchphrase of Kinfolk-reading bloggers everywhere- but spaces in Stockholm were all so well-curated. Every aspect of the decor felt intentional, a careful minimalism that didn’t feel stark. So many spaces seemed orchestrated around maximizing light, with lots of color and greenery to further warm things up. But whereas this aesthetic comes across as repetitive and unoriginal in the 9 million identical Instagram feeds where I frequently find it, every iteration in Stockholm felt both consistent, and original and natural. Winter2018-57Winter2018-59Again with the pastries- I want to go back in time and eat them all.Winter2018-61Everywhere we went- everywhere- there were open flames. None of this hiding candles under a bushel- NO. All the flames burning freely in all the places, making everything feel extra cozy.Winter2018-62Winter2018-67Winter2018-68That’s it- next winter I am really going to embrace plants. It just conteracts the winter gloom so well!Winter2018-69Cozy sweaters and hearty grain bowls- a Swedish morning must!Winter2018-70Winter2018-71I couldn’t have told you anything about Swedish food before going, beyond of course, what I have gleaned from the Ikea cafeteria. But I was blown away by all the simple and fresh meals, hearty foods, and dreamy sauces. I’m still thinking about a parmesan cream sauce we had one night at dinner.Winter2018-72One day Liz and I went to go visit Prince Eugen’s house, and following a visit to the museum, we trekked off into the snowy woods where Liz promised we would find a greenhouse full of tasty soup and bread. I was skeptical. The paths weren’t marked, the snow was intense, and there wasn’t exactly a lot of civilization around. But then we came around a hedgerow and saw this magical sight:Winter2018-73And inside-Winter2018-75Winter2018-76Winter2018-77Winter2018-78Winter2018-79Tables laden with candles and flowers and cake! Baskets of unlimited bread and butter! Toast spread with creamy cheese and bright veggies! Cats curled up on chairs and cozy blankets! Chandeliers hung with candles! Wood burning stoves! MORE CAKE. Winter2018-81Winter2018-82Oh, and the promised soup, which was hearty and warmed the very core of my soul. Winter2018-84Winter2018-85Winter2018-87I was only in Stockholm for three days, but we packed so much cozy exploring into that time. Beyond thankful for James who held down the fort at home, and Zach and Liz who made the trip so wonderful!

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The Doctor is In.

Someday I might blog things other than pictures of me holding my dissertation.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetToday is not that day.

Because yesterday, I had my oral defense which means that the doctor is officially IN. The defense was way more intense than I anticipated, but it felt really good to actually defend, to dig into the trenches with my 300 page baby and fight off every attack. I’m really proud of this dissertation, of this degree, of the past 5 years. They have been crazy and demanding, but I am proud of coming out the other side with some extra letters behind my name- not to mention two kids. I started actually writing my dissertation in January of 2016, a couple months before Henry was born. My entire dissertation process has been dominated by juggling pregnancy, a newborn, a toddler, and more pregnancy- with the second time being way more brutal than Henry’s breezy pregnancy. Finding time to write meant having to jealously protect every nap time, every spare weekend moment, every babysitting opportunity. It meant fighting to focus through exhaustion and nausea and pain these last months especially, and it means I can calculate an actual dollar worth of this project, because I paid a whole lot to babysitters to make it happen. I did not have the luxury of taking my time, though I realize that to those not in academia, 2 years might not exactly seem like a rush.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetBut even as I am inclined to feel really proud of myself for this accomplishment, I am humbled to think of the army of people who have stepped up in our lives over the past couple years. The obvious ones, like my academic advisors, got big shoutouts in my defense. But that’s not the whole story. People like my college roommate, who flew across the country when Henry was 8 weeks old to watch him for a week so I could try to get back into writing. My parents, who have come to visit on multiple occasions, throwing me out of the house to get as much work done as possible. My siblings and their spouses, who have done everything from watch Henry, to provide me with critical resources for my research. The friends who answered my panicked texts Tuesday night about what to wear to my defense, one of them being brutally honest that one outfit looked like “a pregnant politician’s wife,” and another telling me I needed to “beg, borrow, or steal a blazer.” My Capitol Hill girlfriends, who raided their closets and drove over a selection of blazers at 9pm so I could dress confidently.  And James. James, who never begrudged the cost of endless sitters, who happily committed to several years of weekends where I disappeared all day Saturday and he chilled with Henry while I wrote. James, who read multiple drafts of each chapter – in spite of the abundance of French quotes. James, who put up with my rather emotional responses to every editing suggestion and pushed back on my ideas, forcing me to make them better.

A lot of people have had a lot to do with those letters getting added behind my name, and I am so, so thankful. I know they just did it in hopes of lavish gifts once I make millions as a French professor – but still. I feel beyond blessed by the people who helped push this milestone.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetNow then. On to celebrating! Yesterday I returned home and reveled by… folding 6 loads of laundry, eating Chick-Fil-A, and watching This is Us. The evening continued in similar fashion with UberEats and The Bachelor. What can I say? OFF THE HOOK PARTYING. My big celebration was going to Sweden last week, and now that I’ve defended, I can finally get those posts up. I know you were just biting your nails in anticipation.

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This & That.

It’s been even quieter than usual lately because I finished writing my dissertation a couple weeks ago and following the euphoria of submitting it, promptly realized all the many other things in life that had been neglected since Christmas. It felt so good, not only to deliver that stack of beautifully bound pages to my various committee members, but also to restore some order to my home and other commitments. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetAnd now, some random this and that from around the internet that have had my attention lately.

The whole Whole30 that we finished earlier this month (which admittedly, I have only very sloppily participated in), I fantasized about making this lasagna, or this tortellini dish. They both graced our table soon thereafter and were delicious, especially the lasagna, receiving praise from my ricotta-hating husband and my sometimes veggie-phobe toddler.

I randomly had a free Friday morning and childcare recently, as did a friend, so we acted like wild people without jobs and went to see The Greatest Showman. I haven’t stopped blasting the soundtrack ever since.

Lots of talk out there these days about combating winter dry skin. This winter I had a break through when I ran out of my day lotion, and started applying my night cream during the day too. Game changer. As always, I swear by this night cream that is both wonderful, and doesn’t cost you as if it was made from diamond dust mixed with Beyoncé’s tears.

Loved this article about the obnoxiously sponsored falseness of the “influencer” mom culture. It’s why I don’t follow many “professional” moms on Instagram or read their blogs- I am not living in a world of white kitchens and glam vacations, and if they were really honest- they aren’t either. I don’t care how much you are sponsored- your kid still breaks your stuff and makes messes. I hate the lies that it seems the internet over lets themselves be paid to spread, or worst, we decide to believe and then perpetuate them further.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetPerhaps it is because Henry is currently the sole boy in our posse of friends with kids, but this really resonated (and the article that goes with it here). I know it isn’t politically correct these days, but it reflects so much of what I see in my active kid. Furthermore, I don’t want my daughter neglected in school because teachers are having to focus all their energy on disciplining boys. I have no solutions, but I definitely see the problem. (Obviously,  this is not a defense of the “boys will be boys” excuse for inappropriate behavior, but rather recognizing that general boyish activity and energy in young children is not inappropriate.)

And on that note, this article was so good. I already worry that my energetic and inquisitive kid will be over disciplined in school, internalizing a narrative that he is a bad kid because he doesn’t want to sit still and do rote exercises at the age of 3. This article gave some great food for thought about what doesn’t help kids advance (rigorous preschool curriculums) and what does (talking to them and fostering creative conversation).

These words were so good: “The fruit that makes us guilty before God was actually a fresh, local, pesticide-free, hand-picked, heirloom variety grown in the family owned and operated Garden of Eden…The Christian life is not about what we’re putting in our mouths, but what has come out of God’s. Our food choices are of some value, but not eternal value.”

This podcast ripped my heart into a million little pieces. Babies are amazing. Science is amazing. So glad to live in a world where the one can be employed to help the other.

Any good book recs? I’m taking a trip sans toddler this weekend and looking forward to some good reading time.

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From the trenches: Discipline.

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The first time Henry threw a legitimate tantrum, I was positive that he must be having an allergic reaction to something he had eaten earlier in the day at his babysitter’s house. Surely only approaching death and deep physical pain could be responsible for transforming my cherub baby into the shrieking beast before me. We were both crying by the end, and I made a mental note to question his childcare provider in depth about allergen exposure as I soothed my baby-on-the-brink-of-death.

But then it happened again a couple weeks later, only this time, the offense was not a criminal food, but the fact that I wouldn’t let him hold the Swiffer while he ate dinner. Even then- I initially let him hold it, but he kept whacking his face with it and making himself cry, hence my audacious attempt to extract it.

That’s when it occurred to me: we are beyond logic. We are in toddler land. And it is riddled with tantrums and meltdowns, proof of a brain that literally explodes as it learns that the world is full of Arbitrary Limits Imposed by Other Humans and this knowledge proves infuriating and must be rebelled against.

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Pause. If you have a baby that is under the age of 14 months and you are blinking wide-eyed and innocent at this post and thinking, I’m so glad my kid doesn’t have tantrums-

Just wait. They are coming. Your kid is not special. They might not come till 2, it might be 4, but they will come. You will join us in these battered trenches of discipline, just bide your time. Some parents have deeper trenches, some stay in longer, some lose more limbs in the battle. But no one gets to skip out entirely.

Outbursts have to come, because they are the very normal and healthy result of tiny humans experiencing the world with all the emotions and sensations, but very few of the coping mechanisms.

Which brings me to discipline. I am not here to advocate a certain method, but rather to say that I am learning a lot about the concept as a whole. I have come to view it not, in fact, as a set list of rules to impose, and rather as a (much more frighteningly) fluid change and mindset required in myself to create a world of good, clear, and healthy boundaries that set my son free to develop as he needs.

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That sounds pretty, right? Like I know what I’m doing and have some zen approach where Henry and I press our foreheads together when he is losing it, and then I calm him by humming Gregorian chants before using a feelings board to identify his emotions. FALSE.

In reality, it is the hardest part of parenting thus far, because often I have no clue how to effectively discipline and guide my child. He’s 20 months old, too young for many things I associate with the (good and fair) discipline I received growing up. And yet, he is definitely not too old to crave limits, to need correction, and to be fully capable of understanding and following instructions. That last part is crucial, and I initially overlooked it. But I am beyond blessed to have several friends who have kids a couple years, or even months older, than Henry. I have watched them navigate tantrums and even just inappropriate but not malicious behavior (like throwing food on the ground) with grace and firmness and seen the way that their kids thrived. I have asked for help and they have given good and concrete advice.

Obviously, I hate, hate, HATE having to set up boundaries for my child. It is not fun to sit calmly eating dinner beside him while he shrieks because he no longer wants the dinner that is provided- that he requested 30 seconds ago – and he wants to leave the table. It is deeply unpleasant to have to repeat myself and withhold something until he requests it politely. It would be so much easier to pick up the food he throws on the ground, rather than quietly making him get down and pick it up himself, to not require words of politeness, to cave to every whim, to turn on the TV when he hurls himself to the ground in tears yelling, “MOANNNNNNAAAA!!!” It would be so, so, so much easier to not discipline my child.  It is exhausting to have to be consistent day in, day out.

But it is necessary.

A couple months ago, I picked Henry up from childcare and learned that he is a biter. Henry, my precious boy, who loves hugging and his blankies, had left a tooth indentation on another child. Let me be clear- this was not an issue of teething or accident. He was totally happy and pretty much just walked up and took a bite out of someone else because he could. It was not an isolated incident either. I saw him try it at the park a couple times, at which point I did what every dog owner does when their pooch snaps at someone: 1) Feign GREAT SURPRISE, claiming this has Never happened! 2) Dramatically haul the kid away, preferably with a eloquent speech in a loud voice about “GENTLE TOUCH!” 3) Quietly pray that other kids start biting back to scare him out of it. Once he was dancing at Boogie Babes and went in to hug another kid, because my kid is a hugger. She did not want a hug, and y’all- he went for her jugular. I loudly exclaimed, “Henry- we don’t kiss people without permission!,” pulling him back as the other mother giggled and said, “How sweet!” She didn’t know that her daughter almost had her throat ripped out by my zombie child. She didn’t know, but I know. And Henry knows it is wrong. But yet, he does it anyways.

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Because fundamentally, a toddler is like the rest of us: Fallen. Interested in pushing limits. Curious about what they can get away with. Unsure how to proceed in new surroundings. Automatically unkind to people who do them (perceived or real) wrong.

And that is why one of my most important jobs is to establish boundaries, to foster self control and compassion, to teach him that some things are not ok and that we do not treat people like that.

It starts small, this training. It looks unimportant, these boundaries. For now, it looks like that stupid charade of making Henry share toys and take turns if he seizes something from another kid, and even occasionally making him give up the toy he had rightfully first. It looks like withholding anything he wants until it is requested with a “please” and followed by a “thank you.” It looks like me hauling him back to a kid he wronged at toddler gym until he says thank you. It looks like table manners and teaching him to sit still during prayer and requiring that he hold my hand when he crosses the street. It looks hard and pointless and it would be a thousand times easier to not do it and let him just be a savage toddler.

But that would be refusing to do my job. My job is to crawl into the chaos of his tiny world and build guardrails around it to push him in the right direction. To teach him to respect people and things. To teach him to respond with grace and patience. To teach him that this world isn’t about him and his wants. To teach him that boundaries and discipline and rules set us free from our own base impulses and desires.

Don’t misunderstand me- I let my kid be wild a lot of the time, because that is who he is. I don’t stop him from making messes or climbing the furniture. He is not reprimanded when he comes back from the park caked in mud or dumps the entire contents of his dresser on the floor while playing. I let him be loud and chaotic. He is an energetic and curious boy and I love that, even if the mess drives me crazy. But coupled with his freedom to play is the necessity of learning when, and for what, we do not play around. We draw the lines at respect for others, at kindness, at obedience. I require that he sit quietly while we pray or ask politely for things so that he learns that all of life isn’t governed by park rules or free play. We practice stillness and restraint sometimes so we can revel in freedom and activity most of the time. Thinking intentionally about discipline gives me freedom to respond to acts of disobedience, while shrugging my shoulders at the broken dishes, fallen food, and ruined clothes that come from toddler motor skills and curiosity rather than willful volition. There is a difference, and we are both learning what that is and how to respond.

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Because what is perhaps most humbling to me about the daily drudgery of disciplining and correcting is the way it is fostering those same qualities in me. If I don’t say please and thank you to him- how will he learn it? If I yell in anger and frustration, why shouldn’t he? If I am quick to lose my temper, how much quicker will he be?

That’s the thing about discipline- it is constant. For both of us. He is watching. He is learning. I am writing the rules of his world, and I am learning that I have play by them too if I ever want to teach him how.

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From the jello.

Lately it has felt just a little bit like I’m sinking. Not quite totally sinking, but not freely swimming either. More like very slow and tedious dog paddling in a pool of Jello. Luckily, I love Jello, and this pool is most certainly many things of my own making, many commitments that are pressing right now and good, but they are still thick and difficult to navigate nonetheless. Someday, maybe, after I turn in this dissertation but before kid number 2 makes our lives even crazier – I’ll go back to semi-coherent blog posts on a regular basis. For now, more scattered updates. Because typing out the scattered bits and gathering together makes them feel more like an eclectic mosaic and less like disorganized chaos.

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In our home, everything is fair game for becoming a tent, soon to be filled with the beloved kitchen utensils Henry likes to steal and hoard.

Speaking of that old dissertation, the one you are so tired of hearing about, the one that I said I would finish within four years, and then again by the end of 2017, it! Is! Almost! Done! The full draft was submitted to my advisor Saturday night and once I get his last round of comments, I will roll that final draft out to my whole committee. This meant that Saturday night I had endless nightmares that Henry was taken away from me because I didn’t correctly cite my sources and used commas instead of periods in my bibliography. Of course, finishing the dissertation means… that I don’t fully know what comes next. This spring has lots of uncertainty and hope in it, all tied up together in a messy knot of “what if’s” for next fall.

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Oh look, my feet with some caffeine and books. How original.

One of which is of course, should we move? I love our little apartment, love it. All 960 square feet are precious and known to me. And while it is a small space to imagine putting another kid, it’s not impossible. But the logistics of our building, the total lack of a yard, the hauling a toddler and a baby up a flight of narrow stars and storing a double stroller in the trunk of our car where a single stroller only kind of fits- that is giving me pause. I don’t want the difficult of getting out of our home start to make us feel like prisoners in it. Still, anything bigger or more house-like is just so expensive that it feels impossible.

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AND AGAIN. Minus the books, because this was a Sunday. But slippers and leggings have kind of been an everyday uniform sort of thing this January.

We have been feebly attempting a Whole30 this month. Honestly, we have mostly failed, in the sense that there have been many cheat instances and the Whole30 is kind of an all-or-nothing thing. But I’m still counting our Mostly Whole, Maybe 30 as a victory because it has forced me back into the kitchen, put vegetables back on our plate, and left me feeling like I am no gaining weight with this baby at a normal, rather than terrifyingly breakneck, speed.

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A scene from a walk, which was a feeble gesture of exercise before this baby proved capable of destroying all movement in my left leg. Thanks kid.

Speaking of that baby, we can’t wait to meet HER! James has been positive that this was a girl the entire time, but I just didn’t have a gut feeling. With Henry, I was positive that it was a boy, but this time- nothing. I loved the idea of a posse of boys running wild around our house, but a girl sounded so fun too. Now of course, I am thrilled at the idea of Henry and his sister being close in age like my older brother and me. I also made sure to invest in some ruffle-butt tights ASAP. I plan to reuse a lot of Henry’s more gender neutral clothes… but at least a couple ruffles need to disrupt things.

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See? Totally gender neutral. As in, winter apparel basically obscures all gender/personhood. All toddlers become tiny squishy creatures.

This pregnancy hasn’t really gotten better. After the nausea, the exhaustion, the bleeding and fear, now I have crippling sciatic pain that frequently and increasingly makes it difficult to walk. One night at the grocery store I sat on a fruit display until I could walk again and I can’t make it to the park 2 blocks away without a couple stops. I’m not a wimp about pain, but this has been rough. Before we knew the gender, people would smile and pat my shoulder and say, “must be a girl!” as if that was a consolation for the constant pain. No, I felt like saying, preferably as I punched them swiftly in a gut, let’s not get in the habit of teaching that daughters are consolation for misery.

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Sometimes I limp one block to a coffee shop and feel like a TOTAL CHAMPION.

That’s a little bit of lately. The successes, the joys, the failures, the trials. A thick pool of Jello that sometimes makes swimming hard, but nowhere else I’d rather be.

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He’s only smiling because I bribed him with goldfish, but I don’t even care.

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Winter2018-19Winter2018-20Winter2018-21We went to Kentucky and Indiana over Christmas break, and I barely pulled out my camera at all. We skipped our standard family photoshoot with my family, as our time all together was very short, and my older brother and his wife couldn’t come home this year. We were in Indiana for the days surrounding Christmas, and on Christmas Eve, the snow started falling. By the end of the day, all was quiet and white, that perfect stillness that only snow brings. The temperature would drop Christmas day and make it too cold to brave more than a few minutes outside the rest of our trip, but as the snow actually fell, it wasn’t yet bitter. James and I took Henry outside for a little while and his wonder at the cold freshness of that snow was one of the perfect ends to 2017. Nothing is more magical than fresh snow, a blank slate of softness and delicate flurries, landscape obliterated by gentle white clouds.Winter2018-23Winter2018-24We made it back to DC late on the 31st, ringing in the New Year before midnight, snug in our own beds. If you have talked to anyone on the eastern half of the country lately, they will have no doubt regaled you with tales of the weather. It has been so cold since Christmas, long stretches of days that didn’t venture past the 20’s and with wind chills that made them feel in the single digits. The type of cold air that hurts when you breathe, and seeps through walls and coats and mittens. It’s driven us crazy, as it means lots more time cooped up inside. But at the same time, it feels right to start the year with a deep freeze. I imagine it going down into the dirt and purifying it, cultivating life and beating back pests in that unique cycle of seasons. It has left things feeling especially fresh when we have days like today, where we went outside in a balmy 38 degree afternoon and I didn’t even wear socks with my shoes. Winter2018-27Winter2018-32I have gone in cycles about New Year’s resolutions. I used to find them pointless, as I rarely kept them after January. But some years they seem like a gift, a blank slate on which to write out some goals for the coming months that still could hold anything. Some years they seem like a fresh start, and other years a tiresome burden. This year, it feels like a fresh start. Maybe it’s because the year ended with my body feeling so battered, or maybe it’s because so many concrete accomplishments are slated to happen in 2018, but I’m leaning into the freshness of it all. Winter2018-35James and I unceremoniously talked about our goals for the year on a walk to the grocery store the other night, an outing entirely conducted to get out of the house and let Henry run out of the cold- not because we needed any groceries. I want to successfully defend my dissertation in March and finish school for good. I want to healthily bring this new baby into the world. I want to stress less about the schedule, nursing, naps, etc. during those early newborn months. We both want to spend an evening each week reading after dinner instead of watching TV or getting things done. We want to start getting up earlier than Henry again, something that ended when daylight savings time and crushing morning sickness gave our nights and mornings a lengthy beating. I want to take time to stretch each day, not because I find it meditative, but because every part of my body already feels stiff and sore this pregnancy and I’m not even halfway done. Winter2018-36Winter2018-38Ultimately, these goals aren’t big accomplishments, beyond the baby and the doctorate, both of which are relatively unavoidable at this point. The rest are just little things, tiny markers in our daily weeks that help a little bit of that early January freshness to abide with us in the months to come.

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