Saturday, August 20, 2016

That's the way this wheel keeps working

When I was fifteen or so, I fell in love with this song by John Mayer. We all love to hate on John Mayer these days, with his string of relationships and a Taylor Swift ballad devoted to him, but if his lyrics are any indication, the guy gets me. I found the song "Wheel" at a season in my life when I was saying goodbye and desperately hoping that it wasn't forever. John's refrain that "you can't love too much one part of it" comforted me -- the idea that good things come to an end, and there will be hard, painful experiences, but that like a wheel, life will cycle back to happier days. 

I thought of "Wheel" again yesterday as I was walking on the trail behind my house. For four years, I've lived in Los Angeles, where the change of the seasons is subtle at best. Despite the 97-degree weather this week, I can tell that autumn is coming soon, and the change means more now than it did. For one thing, the weather will change enough that I actually will need to wear warm clothes and may not be able to walk outside or take my kids to the park whenever I feel like it. But on a deeper level, my heart is also clinging to the fact that this is the only time. I've really fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest, and I hope we come back after our nomad days in the Army are over. But of course, there is no telling if we will. The fact that I only have one year here makes me want to savor and cling to every moment, to soak every beautiful moment into my bones. I don't know where I will be next year -- if I will be in a foreign country, or another seasonless climate, or somewhere I love even more. I just know that I love where I am now, and that I only have one chance to experience the slow fade to fall in the Pacific Northwest. 

Of course, the beauty of the wheel is that it comes back around. The beauty of the seasons is that they return. Mayer says, "If you never stop when you wave goodbye, you just might find if you give it time you might wave hello again." I've repeated that phrase throughout my life like a talisman against loneliness. Our impulse is self-preservation -- why fall in love, whether with a person or a city, if you know for sure that you will say goodbye soon? It's easier to hang back, keep to yourself, stay safe. But I believe if we have faith in the seasonal nature of life, everything we miss will come back to us someday. "I believe that my life's gonna see the love I give returned to me." 

People have the right to fly
And will when it gets compromised
Their hearts say "Move along"
Their minds say "Gotcha heart"
Let's move it along
Let's move it along

And airports
See it all the time
Where someone's last goodbye
Blends in with someone's sigh
Cause someone's coming home
In hand a single rose

And that's the way this wheel keeps working now
That's the way this wheel keeps working now
And I won't be the last
No I won't be the last,
To love her

And you can't build a house of leaves
And live like it's an evergreen
It's just a season thing
It's just this thing that seasons do

And that's the way this wheel keeps working now
That's the way this wheel keeps working now
And you won't be the first
No you won't be the first
To love me

You can find me, if you ever want again
I'll be around the bend
I'll be around the bend
I'll be around,
I'll be around
And if you never stop when you wave goodbye
You just might find if you give it time
You will wave hello again
You just might wave hello again

And that's the way this wheel keeps working now
That's the way this wheel keeps working now

You can't love too much, one part of it 

I believe that my life's gonna see
The love I give
Return to me
I believe that my life's gonna see
The love I give
Return to me
I believe that my life's gonna see
The love I give
Return to me

Monday, August 8, 2016

Let's talk about books, baby.

Let's be real for a second -- if you know me at all, you know that my great passion in life is reading. It has been for as long as I can remember, and it is so much a part of me that I can't really tell you why I love it so much. Maybe someday I will swan-dive into some heavy self-analysis and figure out why exactly I can't resist a good story. But for now, just know that I love -- LOVE -- books. 

For a long time, I wrote a book review blog. It was so rewarding. I was never a "big time" blogger -- I've never had the interest or energy in really promoting myself to actually make money blogging -- but I did get some books from publishers before they came out which was really all the payment I needed. My book blogging seriously slowed down after Cal was born, although I did post sporadically for about two years after. Then, I started wanting to focus more on this blog, and writing about topics other than books (motherhood and writing, for the most part). Sometimes I write about books on here, but I'm not very consistent. 

This long and possibly unnecessary introduction is just to say, I love talking about books. It's hard for me to find people that want to talk about books quite as much as I do, and book blogging was a really fantastic outlet for that. Now that I don't have the hour or two a day I used to spend working on the blog, I have channeled my energy into book clubs. Guys, it's kind of crazy. It's like if you say book club, my ears perk up like a cocker spaniel and I run panting to the source. My goal for my time in Washington was to find a book club -- when you aren't going to live somewhere long, it makes sense to join a club to make friends, right? 

I found two in person book clubs right away. The first one is at Browsers Bookshop, and it really was just exactly what one would want a book club to be. The bookstore is gorgeous, and we met in this loft above the shop. We read a bizarre and intriguing book that left plenty to discuss, and all of the members -- all of whom were very different with unique perspectives -- liked and disliked very different things. It was such a good discussion and I felt like a real PNW hipster, talking about literary devices. 

Another one I joined through total serendipity. A man from church invited our family over to dinner our first Sunday here, and I was eyeing his bookshelves (as one does). We started talking about books, and his daughter-in-law mentioned a book club that some women in my ward at church had started. I told her I had been hoping to find one, and she invited me. Hooray! I don't know most of the women in it, so it is maybe a bit awkward that I bulldozed my way in. But I can't wait to get to know some new friends and talk about books (and the book they chose for this month, Cold Sassy Tree, is awesome and I need to finish this post so I can go read it before bed). 

I am also part of four online book clubs, because NERD. Whenever I hear about a book club on a blog or website I like, I usually at least follow along with the pick. I don't always read the book, but if it is a book I am already interested in, I try to read it that month because then I can discuss it with some people. So, House of Lars is reading Wildflower by Drew Barrymore, the Yoga with Adriene group is reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda Paramahansa (I will have to write more about him some other time, but he has been a figure of fascination for me for a long time), and the Warrior Moms book group from Postpartum Progress is reading Baby Fat by Pauline M. Campos. (Warrior Moms is a group for women who have had postpartum depression, and I think it is awesome because reading stories of women who have struggled with the same thing I did has been so helpful for me). 

I also started an online book club with some of the women in the writing class I just finished. We were talking about books in the class, and several of us thought it would be fun to discuss books together after the class had ended. 

I'm laughing at myself because it is a little bit out of control, but it also makes me so happy to have "book friends." 

Friday, August 5, 2016

5 things {8.5.16}

1. I would really like to get my groove back with blogging. Right now I am feeling all at sea with being in this new, much bigger house and being responsible for all the cleaning. (I had a cleaning lady when I was working, and I miss her so much). The kids still are a little off with their sleep schedules, and Scott is home a lot right now because his residency hasn't officially started, so we aren't really in a routine. But I would love to spend some solid time writing and blogging.

2. We went to Portland yesterday and it was amazing. I had an existential crisis in Powell's City of Books ("the biggest bookstore in the world" sing it to the tune of "Schuyler Sisters") and almost burst into tears in the aisles because so. many. books. I wanted to buy them all, but I realized the real thing I want is to read them all, and money can't buy time. I really hate that sleeping is a thing I have to do.

3. I know I haven't experienced the rain yet, but I am obsessed with the Pacific Northwest. I have probably said this on Facebook and Instagram and in any other blog posts I've managed to eke out over the last month, but I am obsessed. I told Scott that we could live in Portland and he responded that we need a three hour drive buffer between Powell's and myself at all times so I don't spend all of our money. Busted.

4. When Nolan is really, really tired, he lays his head against my chest and collapses against me for just a moment, and it is literally always the best part of my day.

5. Also in Portland, there was this piano near a fountain that said "Please Play Me" across it, so I did, and it was so fun. I rarely play in general anymore, although I am trying to rectify that, and especially not in public. I whipped out "Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum" by Debussy because that is the one piece that seems to stay permanently memorized in my brain, and it was a blast.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

5 things {7.28.16}

1. We have a couch! It has been a long three weeks of sitting on the stairs or the floor. All the couches we had in the past were hand-me-downs or Craigslist finds, and this is the first one we've ever chosen and purchased. It is huge and comfortable and I keep sitting on the stairs but I am going to remember that I can sit on the couch soon.

2. I went to book club at Browser's Book Store in Olympia and it was fabulous. I love to read so much, and I am afraid I drive Scott crazy with how much I want to talk about books. Being with a group of people who just wanted to delve into this book was sort of magical. And the bookstore itself is pretty dreamy, too -- being there made me feel like I should stop everything else I am doing and just read forever. I hope the eternities provide a few centuries of reading time, at least.

3. I injured my foot running. I think it is plantar fasciitis and I am limping around. I have a race that I am very excited for in two weeks and I am so worried that I won't be able to run it. Anyone have some advice?

4. Living in a place for only a year makes me feel very carpe diem. I was organizing my bookshelves today, and decided to just go for the rainbow look. I've always felt like that would be annoying -- how would you find anything? -- but I love the look, and have a lot of rainbow colors in other places in my house. I figured, if I hate it, it's one year until it all gets packed up again anyway. I love it.

5. I need to stop staying up late and go to bed.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Washington!

We made it to the Washington! Our WiFi and furniture are still lagging behind, though, so I am camped out at a lovely Starbucks where they already know me, because I've been working on a writing class all week.

Our house is beautiful. So far the only furniture we have is a dining room table, a washer and dryer, and a couple of borrowed air mattresses, but I am loving all the space.

There is a lovely greenbelt outside our house -- I can actually see it from the kitchen sink. Not a day has passed that we haven't at least gone out there. It is so green and beautiful, and there are blackberries growing on it that I pick and feed my children. I feel like I am living in some magical nature fairytale.

I have managed to make a few potential mom friends, and am so grateful that people here are so open and friendly. I have even found a book club! #hallelujah Cal's Sunbeam class is large with lots of little boys, and I hope he is able to make some good friends, although he still blesses his friend Josh in every prayer he says, and reminds us to bless him in the prayers he isn't saying.

Also, Winco is the true best grocery store. Even better than Trader Joe's. Yes, I said it. (Although Trader Joe's is here too. And I went to both this week).

There have certainly been challenges already -- no furniture tops the list, children not sleeping is a close second, and the Army is shaping up to be rather difficult to navigate. But we like it here. :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reasons I am excited for "the Washington."

As most of you probably know, we left Los Angeles about three weeks ago. We have been on a massive road trip ever since, going from LA to Visalia to Modesto to Tahoe to Elko to Utah to Idaho. (Whew). But a week from tomorrow, we will be moving into our new home. And while there are many, many things I am going to miss about Los Angeles (I am trying to pile them into a coherent essay which will show up here someday), there are also many, many things I am excited about. Whenever Cal talks about our move, he calls our new state "The Washington," and I don't think I will ever be able to call it anything else.

So without further ado...

:: The Chehalis Western trail. This truly is the number one thing on my list. It is an old train track that has been paved over for several miles, and part of it is right behind our house. I have been so nature starved in Los Angeles, something I am just now realizing as I have been spending so much time in the mountains lately. I am so excited to have some nature in my backyard.

:: Living in a house (and not living in student housing)! We have lived in student housing for our entire marriage. I am so excited to live in a real house (and it is yellow! And I have always wanted to live in a yellow house!). I'm so excited to have a bit of space to stretch out, to have a little backyard, and most of all, to no longer have Nolan sleeping in my bathroom! That comes with a whole host of benefits, such as:

   :: Nolan sleeping better because he isn't in our room AND
   :: Being able to take baths before bed because we have a bathroom again

:: Being close to Seattle. I have never been to Seattle, but since I was in college I always fantasized about living in Washington. I love when little fantasies like that come true.

:: Hiking. I am by no means the most hard core or in shape hiker, but I do really love it. I am looking forward to having more opportunities.

:: Sweater weather. I have felt so truly deprived of this in Los Angeles. There is nothing better than curling up under a blanket with some hot chocolate or tea and a book, and this just isn't a thing in Los Angeles. The temperature dips below 60 for like eight minutes and I pile on all my sweaters at once, then I'm sweating immediately. I have heard the rain can be brutal, but right now I am looking forward to it. And since it's only for a year, I think I might not get sick of it.

:: Green all the time. I've been in the desert a lot this month, and I am looking forward to some GREEN.

:: Discovering a new place. One of the things I love about being in the Army (although I may get sick of it by the end) is the opportunity to discover new places and meet new people. I miss my friends in Los Angeles so much, but I am hopeful that I will meet some lovely people in Washington. I am excited to try new restaurants, to explore a new town.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why I make my own baby food.

{Cal, age 8 months}

I've never thought of myself as an overly crunchy mama, although I guess I do baby wear. And I did have a doula. And I do use essential oils. But seriously, in Los Angeles, that is not crunchy. And I had epidurals with both labors, and both of my children have partaken liberally of formula (although to be honest, it wouldn't be that way if I had another choice). My point is, I never would have thought that I'd be the "type" to make my own baby food. I don't feed my family only organic food or have a problem heating up dinosaur shaped nuggets every other day for my 3 year old.

I do use pre-packaged baby food, especially for things we don't have in the house very often (green beans -- Scott hates them; applesauce, because I would never make applesauce from scratch for myself). But for the most part, I make my baby food, with both kids.

I think one of the main reasons has to do with being scarred as a child by having to feed my little brother baby food in the back seat. As a child, I was very, very easily grossed out, and those olive and puce colored jars of slime that smelled like vegetables (which, I might add, I never ate as a child -- I ate one baby carrot at dinner every night and that was it) were my responsibility to feed to my brother in the carseat. And, Jace ate baby food until he was five years old. I'm so not kidding. So I've always had an aversion to those baby food jars. Even now, when I do buy baby food, it is never the jars. I buy the plastic ones or the pouches. I wish I were kidding, but I'm not. I seriously can't deal with it. (I also can't eat bananas because I threw one up when I was 3. I still gag at the smell of them. Okay, I have a few issues).

{Nolan, age 6.5 months)
In a more serious vein, though, as I mentioned above, I wasn't able to feed my babies the way I wanted to feed them. I was so passionate about exclusive breastfeeding, and it simply wasn't an option for me. My babies lost excessive weight in the week after they were born (and yes, I know all babies lose weight -- this was above and beyond the normal amount of weight loss for a breast fed baby), and I was never able to produce sufficient milk for them. I have fought hard to breastfeed my small amount of milk to them, and was even able to give Nolan donor milk as his supplement for his first month thanks to some lovely ladies with extra milk. But I still feel that pang that I wasn't able to exclusively breastfeed. For that reason, when I started giving Cal solids, making his food felt like a special thing I was doing just for him. It felt like an act of devotion to take that extra time and plan for his baby food. I listened to a podcast once that said you could turn any task from dreary to enlightening by adding "meditation" after it, but in all seriousness, I feel like it is a very intentional, special task for me when I make my babies' food for them. I have tried to apply that feeling to making and cleaning Nolan's bottles this time around as well (a task that does feel dreary and disappointing to me, more often than not).

Finally, I genuinely love to cook. My idea of a break is not necessarily not making dinner, although of course there are times when that feels wonderful. It's more just to be left alone while I make dinner, and then to have everyone eat and enjoy that dinner happily (a girl can dream). Turning on a favorite show or podcast and spending an hour steaming and pureeing fruits and veggies, and then freezing them and sorting them into different colored bags, is my idea of a good time. But seriously.

If you are interested in making your own baby food, a few simple how-tos:
* I usually use a Beaba Babycook and my Vitamix. The Babycook has a steamer and a blender, but I do use the vitamix for larger batches, as well as tougher things that don't puree as well or fruits that don't need to be steamed like peaches.
* I freeze them in little trays with lids, but you could also use ice cube trays covered with saran wrap.
* I have a few cookbooks that were given to me, along with the Babycook and the trays, by my cousin Michele. My favorite one is called "Cooking for Baby" and has great month by month information about when it is appropriate to introduce different foods, as well as great finger food meals for older babies.
* I do love cookbooks, but it is also fun to be creative! As Cal got older, sometimes we even pureed parts of our meals for him. We also do a sort of adapted Baby-Led-Weaning where we give our kids a taste of whatever we are having in a form that they can handle.

To finish off, the favorite meal of both my kids (from The Baby Bistro)

Banana Avocado Mishmash
1 banana
1 avocado
1/2 c silken tofu (if baby is over 7 months)

Puree or mash, depending on baby's ability to handle texture. My kids devour this, and it is pretty high in calories. I felt like it helped my kids stay full through the night.

Do you have any favorite baby food recipes? I'm always looking for new ones to try!
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