We 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.We 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. I 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. James 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. Ultimately, 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.
I’ve always thought that 2 years is a nice age gap between siblings, and it looks like we will get to experience that firsthand- baby 2 coming almost exactly 2 years behind baby 1!We were pretty casual with telling people about this baby. I would just kind of announce it in conversation, enjoying the jerk of surprise from the other person before I shrugged and smiled and said “Second baby.” Because second babies just don’t get all the fanfare of the first. We are so excited about this baby, but I don’t expect as much excitement or surprise from anyone else. Once you have one, people just kind of expect you to have more, so I just decided to beat them to the lack-of-fanfare in my cool delivery.
And then, at 12 weeks pregnant, in the “clear” to start telling the wide public, I woke up covered in blood. I choked back sobs and called the doctor, shaking James awake and telling him that we had lost the baby, a ridiculous expression, but one apt all the same because I knew where that baby should be, but I was so sure that they couldn’t both be there, and be creating the horror I was seeing. We rushed to the ER, and for 3 terrible hours, we waited. Waited for tests and needles and samples and that interminable roll down corridors. Waited for the ultrasound tech to arrive. Waited as she rolled the wand across my belly, clutching James’ hand and willing her to find something.
She did. James and I sat in the dark crying as we saw a ridiculously squirmy and teeny tiny little person wiggling across the screen. We saw that rapid heartbeat and the life where we had expected none. We saw the screen light up too when they scanned the womb, saw the colors change around what the doctor would explain as some concerning bleeding behind the placenta. He was frank about how this complicated things, and I let myself read one very academic article online about how it changes odds and raises complications.
It’s been a couple weeks of more doctor visits, ultrasounds, tests, holding our breath at that tiny heartbeat. Things are stable at the moment, and we have every reason to think they could stay that way. Unlike Henry’s pregnancy, where I ran a half marathon at 12 weeks and did barre classes until 37 weeks, I’m not allowed to exercise or lift things over 10 lbs, including my 30 lb toddler (though yes, I did hold him for all of 2 seconds for this photo). And then there’s the fear too, the worry that wasn’t there before, the knowledge that things can go wrong, a knowledge that we were mercifully spared until now.
I don’t feel as casual about announcing this second baby now. It feels like the greatest of gifts that I still get to do so. 15 weeks and 3 days of this tiny life. Every day is a blessing to be carrying this kid, this being that has left me feeling miserable from approximately conception. If I am not actively eating breakfast food, tex-mex (or that perfect combo of both- breakfast tacos!) or cream cheese rangoon, the nausea is overwhelming. The exhaustion is debilitating, and dragging myself out of bed to teach, write my dissertation, and chase Henry has felt impossible so many days, though I have no choose but to get up. This pregnancy has been awful.
And I am so thankful that I am still getting to do it.
Second baby, we love you lots. PS: Apparently being pregnant also makes me incapable of not weirdly hiding behind a veil of hair? I promise- I still have a face. It is probably busy eating a breakfast taco at any given moment. And as you can see, after we asked Henry to “point to the baby!” he promptly tried to remove my dress and expose my belly button.
Yesterday Henry “hosted” (ok, “was present for”) some of his friends to decorate Christmas cookies and there was going to be a blog post of cute pictures of tots and sprinkles… but have you ever handed sprinkles to toddlers? We had a blast and ate way too many of these tasty cookies, but it was certainly an unphotogenic one and I was too busy stopping Henry from snorting [too many] sprinkles to take pictures.
So instead, another one of my favorite sorts of Christmas lists: Sappy Holiday Commercials. Just a few tear jerking ads to get you in the holiday spirit.
Like this one, where some stuffed bears manage to cut your heart into teeny tiny pieces.
Or this one, that makes me cry because people dancing in the snow to show us that REAL LOVE IS NEVER A WASTE OF TIME.
This list is pretty Anglocentric. Those Brits just know how to get me!
Ok- what are the best weepy commercials this year? I know I’m missing tons, as we don’t actually have TV channels or see commercials.
What’s that? You really do want a picture of Henry’s Holiday Cookie Party? Finnneeeee.
Even is this blog has been truly limping along as of late, never let it be said that I am not one for tradition. And up there with the various other seasonal Yuletide markers, this blog celebrates truly horrendous pictures that just don’t make that shiny Christmas card cut. Yes, I love the pictures of families looking great and behaving, but that just doesn’t reflect most of our daily lives. Most of us with toddlers have moments where we feel like this at least 6 times a day (warning: strong language), and we are harried looking in the midst of loving life with crazy kids.
This year our shoot had more outtakes then intakes. As in, it was easy to pick a photo for our card because there was one, 1, ONE where we were all looking at the camera and not looking terrifying. Henry isn’t smiling, but you take what you can get. He spent most of the shoot desperately trying to escape, enacting that most detested of all toddler specialties – the Arched Back Buckle.
And so it is, I give you the outtakes.Went ahead and gave you that close up of a certain someone not. having. it. at. all during photos. He does not care that his outfit is adorable or that the foliage is especially lovely. He is OVER it. We tried resorting to aggressively energetic smiles on our own part to woo him into participating – but alas. Not interested. Nor did my enthusiasm over a passing bus tempt him to exhibit anything close to a smile. Meanwhile, James’ own pained expression lets us know just where Henry got his distaste of family photos. “Let’s try a cute sitting one where he perches on our knees!”- She said like an idiot……because then he broke free and took off running. No looks back, no thought other than escaping.Tried to trick our FOMO kid into wanting to join the fun happy hug his parents where directing at the camera, but – no dice. Remember this adorable picture from last year in the exact same spot? My how things have changed. PS: The Christmas card outtakes: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.
This is our first Christmas season since 2013 that hasn’t been overshadowed with vehicle woes. In 2014, James had just moved back from living across the country for 6 months and we had to scramble to sell my car from high school before the insurance expired. In 2015, that new car became a pile of scrap metal on the drive home from Thanksgiving, so December was a blur of weary, and hurried, car shopping. Last year, a terrible oil change (thanks Walmart) resulted in total engine failure on the way back from Thanksgiving and our car was abandoned in Pennsylvania, marking the beginning of 5 months of trying to get it repaired.
But this year, this year we stayed put for Thanksgiving, and it was so glorious that I didn’t even take any pictures to show you. We didn’t tempt our car fate again, and we rolled into December with a working vehicle, and souls not already weary from one 12-hour-one way trip, while staring another one in the face in a matter of weeks. This December has brought its own trials, but we are so thankful to have started it with the contented feeling of being tucked away in our own home, with no car shopping, car borrowing, calls with insurance, or haggling with mechanics to maneuver.
Since we always travel between our two families over Christmas, James and I have carved out our own traditions throughout the month of December, instead of Christmas day itself. This way, no matter where we are traveling between families on Christmas day, we can revel in the traditions we grew up with, without missing the new ones we have made as a family. Last Sunday we spent the evening doing our annual Christmas decorating celebration: walking with our tree from Eastern Market, decorating it with all the best music, and then eating gingerbread cookies while we watch Elf. I love these simple rituals. Henry was ecstatic to “help” decorate the tree, which quickly resulted in us moving all breakable ornaments out of his grasp. He spends every day removing everything from the bottom half of the tree, only to find it restored the next morning for more destruction. We loved our annual Messiah service at church last week, and tonight we checked out the trains and music at the Botanic Gardens. I love these celebrations of Christmas around the city.
But this year James and I have also been more aware of the weighty responsibility of teaching Henry what Christmas is, what Advent is, not just how the world celebrates in December. My parents did a phenomenal job structuring our entire Christmas season around Advent, and James and I were suddenly aware that we have, not a baby, but a toddler who wants to participate and loves ritual, repeats everything we say, and is paying attention. To us, to the world we lay out for him, to the things we set up as valuable.
And so we are stumbling towards Christmas, bumbling our way through Advent, trying to establish rituals that will soak into our family culture and direct our children towards the meaning of Christmas. Evenings can be tricky to plan on quality family time with James’ hours, so we have been carving out some peace at breakfast, lighting our Advent wreath, and working our way through this book. To be honest, it has not been our favorite. But a friend just sent me this one (that she found on Mary’s great list of Advent resources!), and I ordered this one after seeing my friend Fran share about it. I know Henry can’t do crafts or any of those things yet, but I was excited to download some Advent printables that go with the Jesus Storybook Bible. After we read, we are picking a different Christmas hymn each day (and yes, I realize that technically you aren’t supposed to sing them during Advent- I object), and singing it as a family, letting those true words soak in. It’s not glamorous or creative, but I like to think that this year is about the discipline of doing something, and next year we can try to make the thing more impressive. Yesterday we sang “Away in a Manger,” and I was so excited when Henry kept on singing “Away, Away!” all day…. until I realized he was actually just singing this song from Moana. But it’s ok, that we don’t have it all together in perfect Advent commemoration. Advent reminds us that it isn’t about having it all together. It’s about the waiting and the darkness and the uncertainty ended on Christmas morning.
… to eat all the things.
It’s almost unfair how clustered the next six weeks are with delicious eating, followed by the guilty wasteland of January. But I’m just not going to think about that part yet. Instead, here is an entire[ly pointless] post of some of the tastes of the season. Go ahead and put on your fat pants.
We really start our seasonal culinary reveling early November with our annual donut making extravaganza– year 7! As times get crazier, families get bigger, and there are evermore toddlers running around, we decided to simplify things even more and we just made a double batch of these, topped with a variety of Trader Joe’s sauces. And I know I said it last year, but I am really going to stick with donut holes next year, as they just seem better homemade. We also changed things up this year by encouraging people to bring a couple donuts from their favorite local donut shop, of which there are so many in this area. It meant we had a massive selection of donuts… and only 5 left at the end of the evening. Our community is nothing if not an impressive group of donut eaters. This is what I want to take (and eat and serve) at every holiday party.
These are the best Thanksgiving/Christmas brownies there are- just to add some variety to the pie spread.
Last Saturday morning. Henry was in an extra whiny mood, and I decided it was time for our first baking adventure. He constantly begs to help “stir it!” (which he pronounces “$hit!”) whenever I am cooking and I knew he would love baking, but just couldn’t mentally get past the disaster assuredly awaiting such an endeavor. It was as messy as I had feared, but also so fun, as he was beside himself with excitement to be baking. We made this banana bread (decreased sugar and subbed half of the flour for coconut flour) and it was so tasty. A departure from my standard banana bread, but still delicious and jussttttt healthy enough for me to not feel bad serving it toasted for snacktime- the perfect gift to present when you show up at people’s houses over the holidays. Should you find yourself somewhere where pie is being served, and should you be like me and categorically think cobbler is the vastly superior dessert, you should just bring this tasty cobbler-disguised-as-pie. I let the pie crust go all up the sides and used frozen mixed berries (thawed) instead of fresh blackberries and it was the best thing ever. The almond crumble really takes it to the next pie level, aka, cobbler.
Deb has a similar recipe I would like to try, as her recipes are usually some of my favorite versions of anything. I made her old-school baked ziti last week and it was the perfect cold night comfort food.
My parents get in tonight, as we are staying home for Thanksgiving for the first time since this epic feast. I have much higher hopes for this year, as our cooking conditions are vastly improved. Looking forward to a cozy couple days with family and delicious food!
He’s 18 months old and this is what he says.He hangs off the counter and asks for “cwackers,” tries to pry the fridge open and get access to “stwa-berries” and “cheeeeeez!” He loves “apples” and “passssssta” and “nanas” and “eggs,” and has learned to get excited and yell “taco!” because I maybe have an addiction. He constantly calls for “water” but especially loves “iiiiiice” and requests a “bottle” full of “milk” at bedtime. He yells “Amen!” at the end of prayers… and now has started yelling it as soon as we put him in his high chair, hoping to speed things along and get to the food part.
He can hear a “bus!” from any part of the apartment and races to the window, eyes big as saucers, to tell us about it and any “car” or “cuck” (he means truck, and yes, it funny and awkward) or “dawg” or “Puppee!” that he sees. He yells “CARRRRRRR!” as soon as we leave the house, hoping that he will be allowed to sit on the driver seat and honk the horn for awhile before we leave. He loves being told to get his shoes and socks, which usually results in him excitedly repeating “shoe! sock!” and fetching his red rain boots and then trying to get the door open as he calls for “keys!,” announces “stroller!” and anticipates getting to the park. He starts asking for “bubbles!” and “baff!” as soon as dinner is over, and loves informing us that the water is “hot.” As he plays in the tub, we often hear someone in the stairwell and he enthusiastically questions if that is “Da-DEE!” coming home. At bedtime, we tell him to go get specific books, and he races off, coming back with the requested story and repeating “book!”The best part of any book is when he gets to point to “FEET!” which is convenient, as many beings have feet, but confusing, when an animal gets on all fours and his brain short circuits a little. After books he begs to brush his teeth by sprinting to the bathroom and yelling “BEEF!”
He announces “oh boy!” and “uh-oh” at all the best times… and “NO” at many of the not best times. He drawls out a “yeahhhh” complete with a slow tilted head shake. He does not know any traditional animal sounds, but he gives a hearty “Rawwwrrrr” when asked what a dinosaur says. He learned “All done!,” the words and the sign, from another toddler at childcare, and he gleefully declares them when he is OVER whatever is happening, whether or not is is actually done. He yells “WHOA” when I hit speed bumps too fast and “HOORAY” when set free to charge into open spaces. He desperately wants us to pass off our “shones” (phones), so he can play is beloved “Mwana” (Moana), often combing it into a wail of “SHONE MWANA!” As this request is rarely granted, he settles for the baby “monitor” that he broke months ago and has since been relegated to a toy. He declares when a “POOP” has happened, but also labels other people as “POOP” if, for example, they maybe should have changed out of their yoga pants post run but instead went in for a cuddle and he decided that they smell. Whenever he needs help, he reaches up and announces “hand” and continues to take on the world. If he falls his looks to me and tells me he is “hurt” before snuggling close. He starts happily calling for “Mommy!” as soon as he wakes up and nothing on this earth sounds better than his chirpy voice yelling that word.
I say I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you a million times a day and he smiles and I know that he will eventually say it back, and then there will be no better sound.