June Around Here

We moved.

We moved, and it was awful.

We moved, and it was awful, and nearly everything that could go wrong did.

We moved, and it was awful, and nearly everything that could go wrong did, but in the middle of it, I took a break to take the big kid to a bubble run, $5 each to run a mile around the track in perfect weather with bystanders blowing bubbles, plus our own bubble wands, snacks, and small cups of boba, a first for him. He tired quickly, but found extra steam when we were done running and all he had to do was joyfully chase the bubbles.

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We moved, and it was awful, and nearly everything that could go wrong did, and every part of my body was bruised for weeks, which is about how long it took to sort out all of the money and repairs and losses.

We moved, and it was awful, and nearly everything that could go wrong did, but at some point, it was finally over and we went on with our lives.

The big kid moved into his own room. We thought this would be harder than it turned out to be. He shared our bed until a week before the baby was born, and then shared our room after that. Now he is on his own in the room he will eventually share with his brother, and we have returned to the enormous floor bed that we referred to as our nest. It’s not the best for our backs, but it is the best for the baby, and so we make it work, much as we made the previous arrangements work.

We gave up our couch in the move – sold, along with many other things, to our remarkably accommodating subletter when it became apparent that the couch was not coming out of the apartment. This would have been a much more painful decision had the whole situation not been so absurdly stressful. Instead, we gave it a moment, and then let it go.

In the new place, we have appliances. It’s a mid-century housewife’s dream: a dishwasher AND a washer/dryer. Months ago, I told my therapist that if there was a single thing that could improve my day-to-day happiness, it would be a dishwasher. I wasn’t wrong.

But we also have repairs: windows that don’t close, water damage from previous roof leaks, a closet door that won’t stay on its track. If there is one thing we appreciated about our previous place, it was the responsive maintenance folks. We miss them already.

With the new place, new routines, some intended to save money, like eliminating the Saturday morning grocery store breakfast, and others to capitalize on the disruptive nature of moving, like establishing new cleaning routines, and still others to address the incursion of a horde of milipedes, like mopping the floors with essential oils and hoping for the best.

For Father’s Day, a trip to the north side for lunch, pie, and a walk. We stop at the fancy olive oil store and pick up a bottle. The baby naps in the car. Salmon and potatoes for dinner, just what was requested. We are deeply grateful for our calm and consistent Papa.

The baby’s sleep is broken, temporarily, and I spend a week or more up at 5, walking to Starbucks in order to keep the house quiet and myself going. I choose to focus on the spectacular morning night and the delicious baby snuggles and not the fact that I’m hanging on by a thread.

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A colleague organizes a team for the city’s bike to work challenge, and that’s all the nudge that I need to fall back in love with my bike after a few years away. Now I’m frustrated when the weather or other circumstances prevent me from riding, especially since my commute is a total of 5 minutes door-to-door. (I don’t contribute much to my team’s mileage, but I do my best.)

Standing! The baby is standing! And playing with balls! Every ball he can find! At the same time!

I use my last morsel of vacation to take the kids to the beach (we intended to go to the pool, but couldn’t). The last time I was at the beach was my due date, big as a house and so uncomfortable, unbelievably still pregnant after weeks of false alarms. The baby, now on the outside, kicks his feet happily at the edge of the water while big brother runs around. We return home tired and coated in sand.

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And then, at the end of the month, my dad retires. It’s the end of an era, and I look forward to whatever comes next for my parents.

June Reading

June Eating

 

 

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May Around Here

Where did May go? Lost in the flurry of moving preparations, and then blacked out by the incredibly challenging move itself.

On the first day of the month, I chop my hair off, all of it, as short as it’s ever been. Of course on haircut day, my hair looks as good as it ever has.

Two trips to Rockford, both celebratory, though the baby cries most of the drive. A Frozen birthday party for a five year old. So many little girls in princess dresses. Bubbles and sidewalk chalk and the baby rolling around. And then my sister’s graduation from nursing school at the university – then a college – where I graduated 18 years ago. I just about burst with pride for her, colored with a shade of nostalgia for my own college experience. The arts center where the ceremony is held smells familiar, even after all of these years.

In the same week, the baby sits up on his own, pulls up to standing, and figures out crawling. All of a sudden, he’s into everything, making our small space feel even smaller, especially as the boxes pile up.

I am working on learning Dutch, albeit slowly. I do a few modules every day, often while pumping, and send Nicolas screenshots of the silly phrases Duolingo has me say. For example: “Pardon, ik ben een appel.”

We spend an evening at the Field Museum at their member night, well worth the ruined bedtime. The big kid gets a coooooooooool airbrushed seahorse tattoo that we’re sure will end in heartbreak with swimming lessons a few days later, but it hangs on much longer than we expect.

The baby starts playing peekaboo at the dinner table. It is excessively cute.

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Mother’s Day is delightful, despite a very early morning with the kids. I’m gifted solo time – a run, coffee and letters, solo grocery shopping – beautiful tulips, and a funny plant picked out by the big kid. We go to the zoo and have an early dinner and ice cream after the kids are in bed.

The baby is sick for a week, rashy and sleeping poorly. I alternate between trying not to worry and obsessively reading about measles.

The guys finally make it to chess club at the library. The big kid wins several of his games against kids twice his age. He’s gotten SO GOOD so quickly, handily defeating me and occasionally defeating his papa.

The baby is finally old enough – nine months, I can’t believe it – and the weather finally OK enough to go for a stroller run or two. He generally isn’t inclined to fall asleep, but he falls asleep at the point when I turn around to head home. This gives me hope for summer weekend runs – if summer ever arrives. I take both kids out one morning, and a tiny baby squirrel takes refuge under the stroller!

For yet another year, we do not do Bike the Drive, despite it being on my 40×40 list. (Perhaps I’ll give myself through my 40th year to finish?)

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But mostly, mostly, mostly we spend the month packing, trying to strike a balance between getting ready and staying sane in our small space. The move itself is challenging and awful and takes about four times as long as it should, but the kids hold up tremendously well under pressure, dramatically better than I do, and it does (or it will) eventually end.

May Reading

May Eating

  • Two impromptu meals at Le Pain Quotidien using the gift card we were given after our disastrous anniversary lunch:
    • A Mother’s Day late lunch/early dinner with wiggly kids and lots of bread
    • A lovely sidewalk patio dinner on a rare date night out without kids
  • Dinner with dear, dear friends at Habana Libre on the eve of our move

One of many reasons why abortion matters

My baby is 9 months old today, and today I donated to the Yellowhammer Fund. These things are related, even if they seem like they shouldn’t be.

I’m extremely fortunate to have had two relatively easy pregnancies, despite other unexpected health concerns. My older son’s birth via c-section was expected because he was breech. The baby’s birth via c-section was not expected – I got all the way to pushing before he got stuck, and it was down hill from there.

The details don’t matter right now, but suffice to say that his birth was difficult and messy enough that my wonderful high risk OB all but told me that it wouldn’t be safe for me to have another baby – specifically, if I got pregnant, I would need to find a really good surgeon.

I don’t intend to get pregnant again. I have an IUD that should carry me through to menopause. Regardless of safety, our family is complete.

But the recent legislative actions in Georgia and elsewhere mean that a woman in circumstances like mine could be forced to go through with a possibly life-threatening pregnancy. They mean that she might have to put her life on hold and come up with considerable resources to travel out of state to terminate that pregnancy. They mean that she might face legal consequences for making a decision to prioritize her life over the prospect of another.

There are a million other reasons why this legislation is horrific and discriminatory and infringes on women’s autonomy and personhood. If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention.

But today, 9 months after the difficult and dangerous delivery of my precious, wonderful, and irreplaceable baby, the need to protect abortion rights feels keenly present.

Here are some things you can do.

April Around Here

We book a babysitter and finally go out for that milestone birthday – fish and chips and a cocktail at a spot in our old neighborhood that, it turns out, is full of young families on a Friday night. We (I) ogle other people’s babies while missing ours, then take a walk past our old garden plot and our old apartment. I miss the life that we had there, and the golden light of early evening. We don’t often see that light these days.

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The big kid takes swimming lessons at the University pool. It’s well organized chaos, and I’m grateful that he’s hanging on someone else for a change.

I mark seven years on the job with a coconut donut. This is the longest I have worked anywhere.

We plan to visit my ancient grandmother for Easter, then change those plans at the last minute. Instead, we stay home, dye Easter eggs, and make a disastrous batch of matzo ball soup on a rainy weekend.

We find outrageously cheap flights to Belgium, a trip we were certain we couldn’t afford this year. Instead, we will spend 3 weeks there in the late fall, our flights entirely covered by travel points, with our housing nearly free as well. It’s all happening!

The baby still hasn’t figured out crawling; instead, he hops on his butt like a frog. It’s surprisingly effective.

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A bike trailer shows up on a neighborhood listserv for cheap, so at the end of my intentional spending Lent, I make an impulse buy. The same day, a strap on my bike helmet breaks. This is how it goes – one spontaneous purchase results in others, necessary or no. That was weeks ago, but weekend weather and plans have yet to allow us to go for a ride.

The big kid wins a prize at an Easter egg hunt – a basket full of candy on top of the candy he collected in the hunt. I hate feeling like the food police, but this candy is just awful, and I’m grateful that we already had a wonderful box of treats at home from the Zurenborg Paashaas, as it means the big kid is absolutely fine with sharing.

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I present at a conference that is pretty far outside my wheelhouse. The opening plenaries are engaging and challenging, and I feel grateful to be there. There will be no conference travel for me this year – or perhaps next – and while that’s fine, it’s also a little sad.

Mom comes in for a quick visit, arriving after work on a beautiful Friday night and leaving in an incoming snowstorm Saturday morning. Will this winter ever end? We just do the normal things – dinner at our favorite Thai place in the neighborhood, breakfast errands at the grocery store – but decide to scramble the routine a bit in order to try to win free pie for a year. The first 50 in line win – we are #53-57 due to folks cutting in line. Ah well, we still had pie.

There’s that saying about not crying over spilled milk – I have the most epic spill of my pumping career, but thankfully, I realllllly needed to pump, so I am more concerned about the carpet underneath the spill than the spill itself.

A few weeks after we made a list of all of the things that we want in a new place – a place pops up on the University marketplace site that checks all the boxes. It is as good in person as it seemed in the ad, so we throw caution to the wind and put in an application despite having 6 months left on our lease.

And so the rest of April is consumed with housing worries – will we get the place? Can we afford the place if we get it? Our application is approved – now, can we find a subletter? Will one of the many people who comes through to see our apartment decide to take it? Again, can we afford it? One thing after another, which will likely continue until we are settled in with a subletter secured.

But! In a month or so, we will move to the northwest corner of our neighborhood into a condo rented from an owner. We will have a dishwasher and laundry in unit. We will have windows that look out into trees. We will have central AC. It will be stressful until we get there, but we will get there.

April Reading

April Eating

March Around Here

A milestone birthday. We celebrate with brunch and pie, and the kids mostly cooperate with an afternoon walkabout in one of our favorite neighborhoods. In an attempt to duplicate a dessert we had at Pleasant House Pub in the fall, I make a vegan trifle. It’s great, but the recipe makes far more than we needed, and as I wasn’t up for converting the recipe twice, we eat trifle for three days. There are worse things that can happen.

Work is hard and dispiriting, and despite making changes that have made me feel better about the work that I’m doing, I come home frustrated and upset more often than not – and still have to do more work after the baby goes to bed in order to make deadlines. This is not sustainable.

The big kid learns to play poker and wins his first game, defeating his papa who used to play poker to pay the bills. That obsession lasts a week, and then he’s on to playing chess. Thankfully his imaginative play has moved on enough that he can play with his stuffed animal “friends” – in addition to many games with Papa, and many chess puzzles on the tablet (which he pronounces “tabbelet”).

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The baby and the cat continue their love affair, with the cat sleeping closer and closer to us every night.

In lieu of Lent, I resolve to focus on mindful spending, dividing up many expenses into YES/NO/MAYBE categories. I’ve been working on a YNAB-esque budget framework for awhile; this is just a bit more rigorous. We hope to move and to travel this year, and these things take money. Despite the resolution, we impulsively buy a lovely padded rug after a playdate; it transforms our living room and makes the floor a space where we want to be.

I don’t know why it took us so long to realize that the baby doesn’t have to be in his carseat in the stroller anymore. He’s so much happier facing forward, kicking his feet and squealing with delight at blowing leaves. Perhaps because it’s so exciting, he’s also reticent to nap in the stroller, something we could rely on with his big brother.

The big kid is exercising his will in new and different ways. Lately he’s been rejecting or complaining about my cooking but also finishing his entire meal and saying that he’s “still hungry!” with a lilt in his voice that makes it clear he knows he’s driving me nuts. We had curbed this habit with the introduction of his snack cup a few months ago; now he’ll ask to save his meal as leftovers in favor of raiding the snack cup. That’s not how it works, buddy.

I spend one day violently sick and sleep for most of the day, a rarity in nearly any circumstances for the parent of a baby. Thankfully, I’m the only one affected, but it takes several days before I have my strength back entirely.

Still no crawling, though the baby has started to figure out that he can roll here and there. We go to a playgroup where he watches the other babies with interest, though he is still stuck in one place.

A dear friend visits for a weekend. The time is restorative – walking and talking, good food, small adventures.

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I take the big kid to a group run by the lakefront. He runs an entire mile, despite needing hugs after a midroute spill. He is so proud to have “won the race”. I think he’ll be up for a 5K by the end of the summer.

Spring arrives, finally, as I mark seven years in Chicago, longer than I’ve lived anywhere else as an adult.

March Eating

February Around Here

It’s cold. It’s cold. It remains cold. We remain cooped up inside. Was there ever a time when it wasn’t cold? Will there ever be a time when it isn’t cold? Will this winter ever end? There comes a time every winter when the weight of it falls heavily on me and everything feels terrible. It’s good to know this about myself, and better to have a partner who recognizes it before I do. That doesn’t make things better, but it helps explain why they feel so hard.

I’m so busy, busier than I can remember being in a long time. I don’t even try to make plans, as canceling plans is already part of the to do list. The biggest thing to plan this month: 2.5 days in Champaign for an immersive professional development program, except that with childcare arrangements and travel, it’s more like 4 days away from home. So many things to figure out, so hard to trust that the details will fall into place.

The baby is enamored of the cat. His big brother loved her as well, but this mutual adoration never fails to warm my heart.

After years of driving all over the city in search of a decent haircut for the big kid, we settle on a salon in the neighborhood and couldn’t be happier. The stylist asks him his age. “I’m 4.” “Well, I’m 5!” The big kid laughs, relaxes, leaves with a small packet of Swedish Fish.

The baby is increasingly interested in food. My phone fills up with photos of him covered in various things as he figures out how to connect hand to face. He’s still not sold on avocado, but loves sweet potatoes, pickles, cucumbers, broccoli, salmon, and bread.

 

The big kid practices writing by copying out of books of poetry. He makes Valentines for his grandmothers with very little assistance from me, apart from me pre-printing HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY. I’m immensely proud.

On a very cold day when we can’t possibly go outside, we all load up into the car and drive to the gym, the final frontier of my private life, and I walk on the track with the baby in the carrier while the big kid runs back and forth between his Papa and me, a full 20 minutes of uninterrupted running. Now every weekend he asks to go to the “racetrack”.

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Work is exhausting. The busyness is good, but there are many days when I come home completely drained, but with work to do as soon as the baby goes to sleep, which isn’t happening as easily these days as it did before. So many other things put off, balls dropped hard and deliberately.

The baby is six months old. I can’t believe it. I don’t know where the time is going, except that I do: it’s slipping by, like sand through glass, measured out in diaper changes and breastfeeding sessions, in small arms wrapped around my neck and open mouthed “kisses”, in late night wakings and bleary eyed early mornings with him asleep in my arms. So hard to wrap my head around the fact that all of this will pass so quickly, and will never come again, when it all still feels so fresh and new.

The big kid is a bundle of nervous energy as we prepare to go to Champaign. He doesn’t want us to go, and doesn’t want to go to his grandparents’ house, and conveys all of this to us with constant running around and wound up screaming. And then on the other side of the trip, he’s a mess of big emotions, ups and downs, inconsolable tears and so much screaming. I remember these rollercoasters from my childhood, and am once again humbled by the experience of parenting and being parented, remembering that it isn’t our job to avoid these situations but to help him weather these storms.

It is strange to be in Champaign and not see my Champaign people. The professional development stretches me in different ways than I expected. I sit up late one night reading Beck Tench’s writing and thinking intensely about presence. With the big kid off at his grandparents’, it’s almost like a honeymoon for our smaller family, though no one gets as much sleep as we might’ve hoped.

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We celebrate our first wedding anniversary the day after returning from the trip to Champaign. The weather is lousy, and the children are restless, and the service is terrible, and there’s no parking, and we return home stressed and exhausted, resolving to make plans for an actual date, to prioritize time away from the kids to the extent we’re able to make it happen. The big kid and I make a simple apple tart to celebrate.

The kids love each other – LOVE each other. One lights up at the sight of the other. This won’t always be the case, but it’s wonderful while it lasts.

February Reading

February Eating

January Around Here

We weather the polar vortex with cinnamon rolls and Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon, congee and oatmeal, layers and blankets. Will this be the coldest winter of the baby’s life, or just one of many freak storms as climate change continues to shift the Overton Window of normal?

The baby cuts his first tooth at 5 months, 4 months earlier than big brother. I am more sad about missing out on months of toothless gummy grins than I am about the terrible bites – though there are many of those, particularly as tooth number 2 appears a week later.

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My device check-up is fine. and the device is recalibrated to lower the charge since I’m responding so well to it. In the following week, I’m aware of being paced several times, enough to feel concerned. I’m fitted with a monitor that I have to wear for 2 weeks of no swimming, no baths, no long showers, no sweat. The baby tries to rip it off on the second day. I couldn’t be happier to send it back. I’ll find out in a few weeks if they learned anything meaningful.

We try, again, to make room in our living space. Things are shuffled around; a small table is sold. It feels a little better – until the terrible cold snap, when we pull the couch (rather, the bed it contains) away from the windows, and everything feels overwhelming again.

The baby kicks and kicks and kicks and kicks and KICKS AND KICKS AND KICKS. His relentlessly busy feet are a source of joy.

I make a snack breakfast for myself one morning, prompting the big kid to request one for himself morning after morning. Some mornings it feels too fiddly for 6:30am; most mornings it feels soothing to adjust slices of apple, cucumber, and bread, a quartered egg, a few olives just so.

We bundle up and walk through the empty zoo on a perfectly sunny 9 degree day, peeling off and then reapplying layers as we duck into buildings to see the fennec fox, the giraffe, the tropical plants in the conservatory.

We struggle with big feelings, big needs, big frustrations. I reach the point that I reach in every winter where everything feels too hard, except that this year it feels like it came earlier than usual. I spend a weekish in a fog of discouragement.

For my birthday, brunch at The Gundis: olives and honeys and jams and cheeses and bread and borek and lentil soup and a tofu scramble and tiny cups of tea. Everything is perfect, including the sleeping baby on my chest. We walk around N’s old neighborhood, stopping for cappuccinos at Intelligentsia (free in return for filling out a satisfaction survey) and cupcakes at Molly’s. The management company treats us to a day without water for the second year in a row. Later that week, we leave the kids with a babysitter(!!) and have a wonderful dinner at Virtue and an adequate cocktail at Bibliophile. We need to do this more often than once in a blue moon.

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I take the kids out to my parents’ to celebrate my niece’s birthday – the same as mine. The big kid plays with his cousins while I try to convince the baby to nap in unfamiliar places. I’m so busy wrangling the baby while trying to be helpful that I miss moments of big feelings, and am heartbroken to recognize the ways that I let the big kid down when he needed me.

We watch videos with the baby of his cousin rolling over. A few hours later, the baby rolls over again. And again and again and again. Perhaps he needed inspiration? His cousin is also eating all kinds of food, and we talk about how neither of us feel ready for him to take that step, but the next day he is fascinated by us eating, so I offer him oatmeal, which he spits out like poison. He seems to like the idea of eating more than the actuality of it.

January Eating