last week, this week, next week

I will be stepping away from the blog for a little while as I hold my little one close. See you next year!


friday links: diy edition

Christmas is right around the corner. Here are a few ideas you can pull together as last-minute gifts, if you're into the DIY approach. Because you've got all that free time on your hands...

For the kid or kid-like person: a chalkboard table! These are all the rage right now, let me tell you. Just ask Pinterest.

For someone who needs a bit of cushion and warmth, how about a knitted rug that might fly off the needles? (This is now in my Ravelry queue, and it will be on my floors once I can find a big poofy yarn I can afford!)

For your sweet friend who loves all things rustic with a touch of lovely - lace-wrapped votives. Beautiful.

For the little boy who needs a friendly bowtie, look no further than this little bowtie tutorial.


a week of birthdays

There are two birthdays to celebrate this week! One is my brother's, which is today. Yes, I am directly related to someone whose birthday is 12-12-12. He isn't going to be 12 on 12-12-12, though - he's like 27 or something. I stopped counting when the math made me feel old. Fun fact: Frank Sinatra's birthday was also 12-12.

The other birthday, of course, is my bouncing baby boy's! His first birthday!! I really, really can't believe it. Maybe I'll wake him up at 1:30 a.m. the way he did to me, a year ago! Fun fact: Taylor Swift's birthday is also 12-13. Not exactly the same caliber of musical legacy, but there you go.

Who shares your birthday?


pearl on respecting your child

I'm reading a book I said I'd never read. After a couple of conversations with a wise friend, and plenty of self-assurance that reading something doesn't necessarily require implementing it, I picked up a copy of To Train Up a Child. I'm 28 pages in, and so far I haven't had a stroke, been pursued by an angry mob, or been struck by lightening.

While I'm sure a lot of what's in this book would be highly controversial in today's parenting environment, what I've read so far has not been as frightening as my worst assumptions were. There's a lot that challenges current thoughts on parenting, discipline, and punishment, though, and plenty of assertions to chew on.

That said, I've been shocked to find some gold nuggets. Yes, shocked. I am not kidding, y'all. I really didn't want to read this book and I REALLY didn't want to agree with anything in it. I had all sorts of preconceived notions of what I would read, and these were not the most flattering of notions.

But get a load of this:

The feelings of a child are just as important and sacred as those of an adult. Always treat your children with respect. Never ridicule, mock, or laugh at your child's ideas, creations, or ambitions. The trust you desire to when they are older must be established and maintained when they are young. 

If that doesn't fly in the face of all my assumptions about what I'd find in a book by the Pearls, nothing would. And on this matter right here, I couldn't agree more. The rest remains to be seen.

How about you? Are you familiar with this book or the authors? What are your thoughts on respecting children and how that might play out? Have you ever tried something expecting to hate it and found that maybe it wasn't as bad as you anticipated?


the real mother goose

There's a book that sits in a basket in Gabriel's room. It's a book that probably predates me - I remember having this book in my possession (or maybe it was my brother's?) from day one of childhood memories. It's an illustrated treasury of all the original nursery rhymes exactly as they were said for decades (centuries?) in England. The rhymes are sometimes a little wonky in today's American English, but to me that just adds to the authenticity.

I was paging through this book with Gabriel the other day, reading some of the shorter rhymes to him. He couldn't have cared less, but I found some real gems I just had to share with all of you.

Be warned: this is probably not the only installment of these crazy rhymes. 


There was an old woman
Lived under a hill;
And if she's not gone,
She lives there still


Dear, dear! what can the matter be?
Two old women got up in an apple-tree;
One came down, and the other stayed until Saturday.


Barber, barber, shave a pig.
How many hairs will make a wig?
Four and twenty; that's enough.
Give the barber a pinch of snuff.

and perhaps my personal favorite thus far...


Mister East gave a feast;
Mister North laid the cloth;
Mister West did his best;
Mister South burnt his mouth
Eating cold potato.


some things i'd like to share with you

I've done a very good job of crawling up into my own head lately, which means I am currently even more socially awkward than usual and more or less unable to do normal, simple things like "chat" and "make eye contact" and "not be a completely awkward weirdo." I think it's a 5 thing.

So because I am currently incapable of making a whole lot of sense or contributing in any way to this great dialogue in the sky that we call The Internet, I have for you a collection of thoughts from other, more coherent, more insightful, frankly more interesting, people. Let me know what you think of each or any of these!

Intentional Motherhood
How to back out of your driveway
- Finding gratitude in the simplest of things
- Reflections on the tooth fairy, the easter bunny, and that big guy in the red suit

- Gift Guide for the Polar Bear Lover
-  How to select toys that last (harkening back to Rosemond here)


cleaning up the mess

I still feel like being in time out, so I've decided to phone it in today and attempt to distract you with some changes I made to the site a little while ago. It's nothing fancy, but it's maybe a little less ugly. Have you seen the new pages? What do you think? Let me know if the ads are totally annoying.

Please take note, any budding designers looking to offer pro bono redesigns to build their portfolios. ha!


a time-out

Dear friends, 

I am taking a moment to do a little bit of pre-festivities wallowing...I mean, self-care. If all goes according to plan, I'll be back up and running by Friday.

Until then, here's Emily!

-- Ashley

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before? The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.
This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Emily Dickinson


the night i saved a baby and met my son

There's a story I don't think I've ever shared here, and it's a good one.

Last summer, I traveled to Israel with some dear friends from my (then) church. It was a hugely significant trip for me, and I am still learning from it, a full year and a half later.

To get to Israel, we flew from Denver to JFK and then took a looooooong flight on a huuuuuge jet to Tel Aviv. I was 14 or maybe 15 weeks pregnant at the time - barely into the second trimester and eager for the "glory days" when the morning (all day) sickness supposedly ended. My seat on the airplane was in a prime location - an aisle seat on the side bank of seats, in the front row of a major section on the plane in the middle-ish toward the front. All the teenagers were in the back. Being at the front of this plane section, I was near the "kitchen" where the food and water were, there was a TV screen pretty close by, and just a couple rows up was a standing area, which was particularly useful given my orders to get up and move every hour.

In the row of seats across the aisle and about 8 inches behind me was a couple traveling with their baby. Their row was the front of that section, and they had a wall in front of them instead of a row of seats. There was one of those bassinet things attached to the wall, and that's where the baby spent some time. He was an older baby and ridiculously cute, with curly blond hair. This couple appeared to be conservative Jews, but I don't think they were the ultra-orthodox - and there were quite a few of those on our flight. She wore a long skirt and he had on a yarmulke. I never heard them talking well enough to hear whether they spoke English or Hebrew.

This loooong flight was overnight. Great for people who are able to sleep on planes. Maybe not so great for pregnant ladies who had to get up and move every hour. At one point I thought I was the only person awake on this plane full of hundreds of people. Shortly after thinking that, I heard a little stir. The baby, who was not very far from me, had been asleep in the bassinet. He wiggled his feet, turned his head, and then threw off the blankets with a little baby grunt. (Remind you of anyone?) He then rustled around for a little bit and decided to sit up. That was when I first saw that adorable, infuriating thing older babies do: they bob their heads around trying to wake up when they are so sleepy they can't keep their eyes open. I kept thinking he would go back to sleep, silly me, but he didn't. Then I thought surely one of his parents would take care of him, but I turned and saw they were both asleep. The baby started to pull up on the side of the basket like he wanted to climb out, and that signaled bad news. I tapped the dad on the knee - he was the parent closest to me - and when he looked at me all startled and disgruntled, I pointed at the baby and he understood. He snagged the little boy and then smiled thanks at me.

When my travel group assembled at the airport in Tel Aviv, I told the story of how I "saved a baby" on my flight while everyone else just slept. There's something I didn't tell, though.

Several hours into the overnight portion of the flight, I started to get pretty uncomfortable. I contorted myself into yet another odd position - this time with one foot up on the seat somehow. I got comfortable and relaxed for a moment. Then I felt it. Him.

Three tiny bumps in rapid succession, as though someone were tapping me on the shoulder, but this was from the inside and somewhere near my belly button.

At first, I told myself it was gas because that's what everyone says they think their first baby kick is. Just 14 weeks into my first pregnancy, I knew it was too soon to feel the baby move. But as I sat there and thought about that weird feeling some more, it became clear that I'd just felt my baby. It was a distinct tapping feeling, unlike anything I'd ever felt before. I was so completely happy at that moment - how exciting! I wanted to tell everyone, and at the same time I didn't want to share my little secret with anybody. (The fact that every other person on this plane was asleep made it easy to go with not sharing.)

And that, my friends, is what happened the night I saved a baby and met my son.


Thanksgiving Week: what are your plans?

Maybe you're hosting relatives.

Or maybe you're the one traveling somewhere.

Maybe you don't have plans to visit family - you're an "orphan" for the holiday. Have you found an invitation somewhere? If not, and you're local, you're welcome at my table.

Or maybe you have to work tomorrow. If so, I am inclined to offer you my condolences, but maybe working on Thanksgiving isn't such a bad thing for you. Better tips or overtime pay?

Tomorrow is Gabriel's first Thanksgiving. Now that he's starting to be interested in grown-up foods, he's in for a real treat. And hey, he's sporting two new teeth for the event!

For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly grateful. 


Thanksgiving Week: My Favorite Hallmark Movie of the Holidays So Far

Confession: I've been watching Christmas movies since some point in late October.

In my past life, this behavior would have been shunned. In this current life, however, I need all the cheer I can get, and Hallmark is doing its part!

I have a few staple goofy movies to try to watch every year. My all-time favorite is an odd Mimi Rogers flick called the Christmas List. It is...awesome...in that bizarrely bad Christmas movie sort of way.

Christmas movies, as it turns out, have experienced a boom in recent years unlike anything I have ever seen, and I managed to miss out on it because we didn't have cable for the longest time. But one of the perks of my current living situation is that I have access to cable again! Not only does this mean I can watch all the SportsCenter I want, but I have Christmas movies out the wazoo.

In an interesting turn of events, the Hallmark Channel has made a Thanksgiving movie. I'm sure there are Thanksgiving movies out there, but I hadn't really seen any other than the cartoon ones from childhood. Garfield and Charlie Brown and all that.

This movie is called Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade. And oh my stars, this movie is so stinkin' cute. Predictable as any Hallmark love story, but so sweet. I loved the characters, it was CLEAN and LIGHT-HEARTED and FAMILY-FRIENDLY, and the acting was even pretty decent. It's about a woman who leads the planning for Chicago's Thanksgiving parade. I don't know if it's still running, but if it is, and you have a spare evening to spend cuddled up under a quilt with the fam, I'd recommend it.

So. Stinkin. Cute.


a new thanksgiving tradition

Around this time last year, I spent a few weeks poking around to find a cornucopia. I found this awesome one (that I still love and am trying to figure out how to rip off) on Etsy, but with a baby on the way I figured it made more sense to find something a little more economical. I ended up finding one at a craft store, probably Michael's, on sale.

Cornucopias are one of the traditional images of Thanksgiving, representing overflowing bounty and, therefore, the many blessings we've received. Lots of families have their own Thanksgiving traditions, but I wanted to start one of my own.

My idea: at some point between its placement on the table and sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, each family member would put something in the basket that represents one thing they are particularly grateful for from the past year. Last year, I put baby socks in the basket. It would be pretty easy as a mom to put something Gabriel-related in there every year, so this year I'm branching out.

If you had a tradition like this in your family, what might you put in it this year?


on spouses and getting needs met

One of the ongoing conversations I had with my husband in our final months "together" was a discussion of needs, whether and how they were being met, and what role they should play in his decisions about our future. It probably goes without saying that we brought different opinions to that discussion, and it also goes without saying that we never got on the same page.

I've recommended the Assume Love blog here before, and I couldn't recommend it more highly to anyone who is interested in doing the hard work of creating, or maintaining, a healthy and loving marriage relationship. The author of the blog, Patty Newbold, has helped me continue understanding my own needs and the role that they play in my relationships, marital and otherwise, even after my own marriage ended. In short, she maintains that a person's needs are that person's responsibility to meet, and a spouse could and maybe should do what he or she can to help out, but ultimately it is not that spouse's responsibility; I couldn't agree more.

Something Patty wrote recently about needs and marriages resonated with me. It probably would have struck me any time, but I ended up reading this particular post on a "low" day when I was too busy and depressed to get anything accomplished but still managed to find the time to wallow and cry a little bit. I thought I'd share it with you (emphasis mine).

Getting unmarried does not get your needs met. Your needs are your own, whether you are married or not, and you deal with them or not. Getting unmarried does not make things more fair. It just takes away the source of help that deludes you into thinking you deserve less of a burden than an unmarried parent. Getting unmarried does not make you feel any less unloved or unappreciated. It only accentuates these feelings.

There is some context in the rest of the post that is worth reading, if you're inclined. I would recommend doing so.

Personal growth is hard, especially when it means accepting things about yourself that are maybe not so acceptable. It's easier to abdicate your personal responsibility to get your own needs met and convince yourself that you'll be better off without this person you used to love. But that selfish thought process is nothing but destructive. A marriage can't survive supreme selfishness; mine is one of millions to tell that story.

Ultimately, there's a better way. Patty is one of those beacons who is helping people find it.

What do you think? Should spouses be accountable for meeting the needs of each other? If so, is divorce an appropriate response? 


progress report: grey cabled cardigan

I just downloaded the blogger app for my iPhone and I thought this would be a good opportunity to test it out.

Here's a picture of the little gray cardigan that I'm in the process of knitting for Gabriel. It's knitted from the top down with raglan sleeves. Once I finish knitting the body, I'll add long sleeves. I'll probably do about three more inches on the body before adding a little hem.

I carry this little project with me in my purse to pull out when I have a few minutes here and there. I also worked on it during Adult Education at church the other day and I only got a couple of hairy eyeballs. I'd really like to have it done by Thanksgiving, which would be easy for a normal knitter but for a single mom of a baby may be a little ambitious. We'll see!

Gabriel's Sunnyside Cardigan


rosemond on toys

I do a lot of reading books about parenting, education, lifestyle, discipline, etc. (The term "a lot" is relative, of course; last year I read more than 70 books and this year I might read as many as 10.)

I'm looking for parenting and lifestyle methods that make sense for my little family and resonate with my personal values. I tend not to do things conventionally anyway, so a lot of what I'm considering and incorporating may be considered "alternative" to some, including some folks in my family. And what's a blog for if not to expound on one's inner thought life?

With that, I bring you one piece of my ongoing development as a parent. The advice-giver whose advice I'll share today is John Rosemond. Rosemond is no-nonsense and old-school. The book I just finished is the original 6 Point Plan, first published in like 1990 or something. The cover is really hilarious. There are more recent editions that are maybe helpful, but I kind of like the style of self-help from the late 80s and early 90s. It's so...convinced of itself. Anyway.

Here's an excerpt on toys that does a good summation of my own inclinations toward Gabriel's toy horde:

All truly creative toys have one characteristic in common: They encourage and enable children to perform what are called "transformations." A child performs a transformation whenever he uses something, anything, to represent something else. For instance, when a child takes a pinecone and sets it upright on the ground and calls it a tree, that's a transformation. Transformations are the essence of fantasy, which is, in turn, the essence of play. In a child's hands, an empty box becomes a boat, a car, a table, or anything else he wills it to be. A child can also transform himself into anyone he wants to be - Tarzan, Jane, or the neighborhood grocer. If a toy aids a child in making transformations, then it is well-worth the money spent on it, not to mention the time the child spends playing with it.

Toys which encourage transformations include creative materials such as clay, fingerpaints, and crayons. inside, there's the everyday household stuff of empty oatmeal cartons, Popsicle sticks, spoons, shoeboxes, empty spools of thread, straws, paper bags, buttons, pots and pans, and empty toilet paper rolls.
In addition to being safe, a good toy embodies four qualities: 
- First, it presents a wide range of creative possibilities. It is capable of being many things, as defined by the child's imagination, rather than one thing, as defined by the manufacturer. In other words, it enables transformations.
- Second, it encourages manipulation. It can be taken apart and put together in various ways. Toys of this kind hold a child's interest because they stimulate creative behavior. 
- Third, it's age-appropriate. You don't give a rubber duck to a ten-year-old any more than you give an electric train to a two-year-old....
- Fourth, it's durable. It will withstand a lot of abuse. 

Rosemond includes things like LEGO, Lincoln Logs, and Erector as good toys. Also things like plain old dolls (not ones that cry and poop and whatever), wooden blocks, and musical instruments are good. Most anything you'll find in a "natural toys catalogue" these days would constitute a "good" toy by my definition, though there are certainly some things I prefer over others.

It's nice to have this framework to consider when looking for toys for Gabriel, and the specific "rule" about transformations. I get really taken by cool things like toy wooden push-reel mowers (instead of the plastic bubble mower) - it's wooden and natural and it even emulates a reel mower like the one I have, so it reflects reality. But it's a mower and there isn't much room for it to become something else, whereas the wooden baby walker wagon I have my eyes on could play loads of different roles for playing (a car, a wagon, a cart, a lawn mower, who knows what else). So I took the wooden reel toy off the wish list.

Rosemond also advocates having not-too-many toys, saying that clearing out the clutter and the visual noise makes play more possible. This sits well with both my desires for simplicity and my small budget. I don't want Gabriel growing up with a ton of stuff. I want him to have a "make it do" kind of childhood, where anything can become anything else and his imagination runs wild.

As I make my way through more books, I will share some thoughts. Up next is probably going to be a book on infant Montessori stuff. Did I just give you parenting whiplash? Oops...

Have you heard of John Rosemond? Whose parenting advice has meant the most to you? What was your favorite toy?


halloween recap

Gabriel got a lot of opportunities to practice being a turtle over the past few days.

First up, the Saturday before Halloween we went to the farmers market in Chapel Hill for their harvest festival. I somehow managed to miss the costume parade (which occurred in the corner of a parking lot) but we didn't miss the Raging Grannies singing such gems as "Food Not Bombs" and "Go Vote," the farmer potluck where we tasted all sorts of yummies put together by the vendors, and the alpaca farmers who I hadn't met yet and who I knew would appreciate his costume.

The next day, Gabriel and I went to a newcomers reception at the church. It was a lot of fun - there was a good crowd, and Gabriel was a little angel as usual (see what I did there?). He's getting quite the reputation around there. It's so cool to see people say "Gabriel's here!" and smile when we walk into a room. Nevermind the fact that nobody says "Ashley's here!"

After the reception we went downstairs and checked out the "Carnifall" being put on by the youth group. It looked like a lot of fun...for kids maybe 4 and up. No biggie - we played with miniature pumpkins and watched the bigger kids go crazy on sugar and cookies for a few minutes.

The next festivities didn't occur until the day of Halloween. That morning was the bible study for young mothers. (Despite the fact that I am nearly 30, I count myself as a young mother. I dare you to challenge me.) By the time 5pm rolled around, Gabriel basically had not napped all day. I took him outside for some photos and then made a Hail Mary-esque attempt at getting him to nap and wake up in time to make the costume contest at the local mall.

Finally, we had BooFest, the neighborhood Halloween party of sorts. BooFest was originally scheduled to take place the Saturday before Halloween, but then-hurricane Sandy had other ideas and the event was postponed. It was pretty fun, though probably a little more interesting for bigger kids who could participate in the activities - corn hole, relay races, cupcake walks, etc. There was a pumpkin decorating contest, which folks entered by bringing their pumpkins from home. The kid winner was a regular pumpkin that had carved-out windows and was painted white to look like Cinderella's carriage. It was complete with some Barbie horses and glitter everywhere. Totally legit. We had hotdogs, too - there's just something about this time of year that makes me need a hotdog. Gabriel had a little bite of chocolate cupcake, but he seemed more interested in smearing it all over his face than in actually eating it.

All in all, it was a great end to the month of October and introduction to fall. Up next, turkey!


inventing our way through sleep training, part 3

Part 1

My boy is a champion fighter when it comes to combating the Sandman. Some days I am reduced to tears by his ability to avoid sleeping. Those are not my best days. So I started making up my own way to sleep train him. 

If it is clearly time for baby to nap, or it is bedtime, I lay him down and encourage him to sleep. Usually I try to get away with not nursing him, but usually he wants to nurse. I say "it's time for sleeping" and I lie down next to him, demonstrating sleepiness (because everyone knows I'm exhausted and ready for a nap 24/7). He usually humors me and plays along, unless I break The Rules.

He will then begin a series of fake-outs. There is no way to predict how many fake-outs he is planning. A fake-out is when he is, by all appearances, about to pass the heck out. His eyes roll back, his cheeks get chubby, and he lays his head down on the mattress and gets still. Then, FAKE OUT! He rolls over and pushes himself into sitting, usually with eyes so heavy they won't open at first. He bobs his head while he "comes to" and gets his bearing (this is simultaneously the most adorable and most exasperating thing I see all day) and then takes off toward nearest interesting thing.

After fake-out #1, I say "it's time for sleeping" again and lay him back down. Sometimes he plays along again ("oh, right, I guess I'm a little sleepy, maybe I'll have a nap") and sometimes he immediately pushes up. Most of the time, I will then say "Gabriel, if you're going to play right now, you may play in your playpen" and I plunk him in the playpen, which is loaded with his favorite toys. Sometimes he is thrilled by this, and sometimes not. I then go about my business - picking up the room, checking email, whatever.

He plays contentedly (or not) and then, when he's tired again, he starts fussing. I usually wait until he's single-mindedly, determinedly fussing (release some of that energy, boy!!), and then I pick him up and start the whole "it's time for sleep" thing again. 

Eventually, I end up winning. 

I am planning to read the No Cry Sleep Solution once I get my hands on a library copy, to see some other suggestions. In the meantime, this is what we're doing. 

I don't really know if it's making any difference in his sleep associations or the amount of sleep he's getting or the time it takes to get him there, but I feel much less helpless in the the not-sleeping situation, and I'm able to start getting some things done. That said, I worry a lot that I'm "doing it wrong." I fear I'm training him to see the playpen as somewhere we DON'T sleep, and I'm a little worried about how that will translate if and when I move him to a crib. I also haven't come up with a solution for getting him to sleep past my alarm, but my hope is that maybe, as he gets more and better sleep, he will start to sleep longer in the mornings- one of those "the more he sleeps, the more he sleeps" notions. I'm also hoping that the later sunrises might work in my favor. 


rosemond on being a relaxed parent

"The most effective parents ... are those who are not constantly busy in their children's lives, but are relaxed and therefore create a relaxed environment in which their children can discover their potential. Instead of hovering anxiously over their children, they act as consultants to their growth and development."

This John Rosemond quote comes from the first edition of his 6 Point Plan book. It resonates with me because my goal as a home-maker is to set up a relaxed, comfortable home life that stimulates growth and development but doesn't micromanage.

It's also in line with some general principles laid out by Maria Montessori, whose curriculum is all about promoting independence while developing children of character who are good stewards of themselves, their energy and interests, and their environment. It's such an encouragement to see trusted advice (Rosemond) overlapping with unprecedented advice (Montessori).


gabriel's first costume

Because I have dreams of being that mom, and because I have approximately zero disposable income, and because he's too young to know the difference anyway, I decided to make Gabriel's Halloween costume.

This year Gabriel will be dressing as a turtle. I figured it would be cute because he is crawling and because we call him the little turtle when he pops his head up, it would be "free" because I already had everything I'd need to make it, and it would satisfy my deep, insatiable need to "make stuff." That right there is the costume trifecta for a crafty single mom.

I used bits and bobs from my yarn stash to make several different "granny squares" (actually hexagons) in varying shades of greens and brown. From those, I picked my favorites and then made a total of seven* to assemble for the turtle shell.

Making the shell "blanket" was really fast, and I more or less followed these guidelines.

I seamed them all together (while walking beside the grocery cart at Costco, much to my mom's disturbance), and then had the fun job of figuring out how to get the thing to stay on. Eventually I settled on knitting up a ribbed harnessy-type rig to attach to the front - a stretchy waistband across the middle and then two shoulder straps.

And there we have it! Gabriel the Turtle.

*Ten cool points to the person who can tell me why this is asterisked


things i cannot do while gabriel contemplates sleep

While Gabriel is contemplating sleep, the behaviors in which I must not engage include but are not limited to:

- Looking at the TV, even if it's on mute
- Looking at my phone
- Looking at my ipad
- Looking at a book
- Talking
- Singing or humming
- Knitting
- Writing or drawing
- Eating or drinking
- Shushing the dog
- Changing positions
- Breathing too loudly
- Turning on a light
- Turning off a light
- Attemping to cover the baby with anything

If I break the rules, I get a restless baby who insists on sitting up and crawling around instead of going to sleep. And sometimes I get a restless baby even if I don't break the rules. At which point I consider finding the nearest wall and begin beating my head against it, and then I take a deep breath and remind myself that he will only be this little for a very short time. And then I'm (usually) ready to try again.


inventing our way through sleep training, part 2

Recap of Part 1: Gabriel wasn't sleeping enough. I was stressed and bogged down and miserable. I had to find a way to wake up and get out of bed early in the morning without waking him.

So what did I do? Well, first I threw a few tantrums. Silent ones, of course, because I didn't want to wake the baby (and goodness knows I only have time for my own tantrums when the little man is asleep).

Then I took to the Innernets. And because I am a Five, I read too much and got overwhelmed.

So I did that thing that Dr. Sears and everybody else keeps telling me to do: I listened to my gut and trusted my instinct. I am completely and entirely making up my own way to "sleep train" Gabriel. It hasn't yet shortened the amount of time it takes to get him to sleep, but there have been some changes. I've chosen to see these changes as positive.

First things first: I started charting his sleep. I keep track, down to 15-minute increments, how much he is sleeping, when he gets drowsy but doesn't sleep, and when he wakes up but goes right back down. It sounds cumbersome, but it's not. I kinda love this information-gathering business, anyway. Because I'm a Five.

Next, I instituted something I have loosely defined as a "bedtime routine." It is VERY bare-bones right now, a la FlyLady's way of introducing people to routines. I wait for the first signs of sleepiness (which usually appear between 7 and 7:30) and then it's go-time. Gabriel's bedtime routine currently is as follows: bath, then sleep. I run the water, start up the bedtime music in the bedroom, lay out his PJs and overnight diaper, and then plunk him in a warm bath and let him splash until he loses interest and/or until he yawns. (This is all very fast because the bathroom is attached to the bedroom and it all takes place in like a 10 foot radius.) Sometimes he is Not Interested in the water and sometimes I think he'd stay in there all night if I let him. Then I towel him off, dress him, and then we lie down while he nurses and (on a good night) goes to sleep.

Things I hope to add to the bedtime routine:
- Brushing teeth and hair (we already do this in the morning) (at least on the mornings I manage to remember to brush my own hair)
- Reading a story
- Baby massage
- Come up with two bedtime routines - maybe grouping story and massage on one night and bath on alternating nights? I figure this might be good on those evenings when I am not the one putting him to bed or just really not feeling the idea of another infant bath.

On a good night, all goes according to plan and I am free to be a non-parenting adult at 8pm. And let me tell you, as a single mom it is Very Important to have some grown up time in the evening before bed. If I don't get it, I find myself staying up way too late watching TV just to be Not-Mommy for a few minutes. Not helpful.

It doesn't all go according to plan, however. More on that soon.


inventing our way through sleep training, part 1

Gabriel and I share a bed.

It started with our first night together in the hospital. It was 2am, I was awake, and there was a cute baby in the room. Couldn't be helped.

I made valiant efforts to get him to sleep in his crib. Sometimes he noticed the crib and protested, sometimes not. I remember this one fluke of a night where he went from midnight to 7am in the crib. I woke up to daylight, in a panic.

We got off to a good start. He'd go down between 7 or 8 in the crib, awake and happy as a clam (sometimes). Whenever he woke up for the 2am feeding, I would stumble over, grab him, and plop him beside me for another 6 hours of sleep. I figured at some point he would extend the sleeping sessions until we made it all night.

And then some things changed. I spent a month traveling around North Carolina. It was easiest to keep him in the bed with me. I figured it was only temporary, that we'd be back with a crib in a few weeks and it wouldn't be too hard to transition him back into sleeping alone.

So that was May. Five months later, we are still not quite in crib land again, and it's time to make some changes to the way we're sleeping. Here's the breakdown:

1. The primo concern is that I've been charting his sleep, and he isn't getting enough. The recommended sleep totals for a 10-month-old baby, including naps and overnights, are 14 hours. He gets 13 on a good day and is averaging somewhere around 12.

2. I noticed somewhere in the haze and fog of single-parenting a baby that going to sleep at night had become more and more of a struggle for him. I think it happened around the time he started crawling. He's always had a tendency to fight going to sleep and then wake himself up once he finally got there, but it's been really bad lately. If he senses that he's nodding off, he rolls over, pushes his drowsy self up, and looks around until he sees something interesting enough to lunge toward.

3. (Or maybe this should be 2b.) I was spending well over an hour - sometimes well over two hours - trying to "parent" him to sleep. And this is not counting the many, many minutes spent on pre-nap and bedtime nursing. Have you ever done that? I don't recommend it for those who would prefer their sanity remain intact. By the time he'd find the sweet relief of naptime, I would be either a. too exhausted to get myself up and moving toward accomplishing something, so I'd get my own nap or b. too mush-brained to figure out what to do with my newfound freedom, let alone do anything remotely productive. It was a very frustrating, astonishingly and almost frighteningly unproductive time. I have never felt so trapped, inadequate, and terrified of the future.

4. I found a (super awesome) job I can do at home, but it comes with a 9am deadline every weekday morning. I did some math and came to the conclusion that I needed to start getting up at 6:30 each morning. Fine with me, but the problem is that Gabriel got up at 6:30 with me. Not only was Mr. Early Riser-pants's early rising not conducive to my getting work done, it was exacerbating all the other sleep concerns. It turns out that alarms loud enough to wake me also wake him, and alarms quiet enough for him to sleep through are also quiet enough for me to sleep through. Oops. (Side note: the first person who invents an in-ear alarm that only the wearer can hear and won't fall out at night and won't cause hearing damage or brain cancer is my new bestie. You're welcome, for the million-dollar idea.)

(part 2 coming soon)


i have everything

I've spent a lot of time this year thinking about what I've lost, or don't have, or what is missing. Part of this is natural, for sure, and part and parcel for enduring the end of a marriage and all the upheaval that causes. There are times, though, that I am desperate to feel something other than this desperation. When I need a quick turnaround of thought, I look at my baby. Not so much a baby these days, he's almost 10 months old. He's very busy these days, with lots of crawling and throwing and learning and standing to be done.

Gabriel is my world, now. Everything I do is for his benefit - I even see my own self-care as being important for his well-being. Nothing matters to me as much as he does. There are times that I crawl into bed next to him and I can't help but cuddle him and kiss his warm forehead. I love him so much.

My boy is healthy. He is thriving and growing and engaged. Aside from the pesky 9-month sleep regression we're elbow-deep into, there's nothing wrong with him. The gratitude I feel for his health cuts me to my core. I look at my checking balance, my thoughts cloud with worry, and then I hear my baby boy howl and I remember that he's healthy...I have enough.

I was working late the other night and followed the rabbit down a sad hole that has been trying to eat my foot lately. I read one family's story of trisomy 18. I watched the 99 Balloons video again. I thought of the infant son of a girl who went to my school two decades ago. A former classmate whose two children face seemingly insurmountable health crises regularly. Autism. Seizures. Oxygen tubes. These are things friends of mine live with, friends who don't know if their children will be able to live "normal" lives or even see their next (or even their first) birthday. 

I can't outfit Gabriel's room with a wall-mounted, child-safe mirror or put him in the sweet Swedish moccasins I'd love for his jellybean toes as the weather gets chilly. I won't be getting the cookware I could really use any time soon and I'm afraid of heeding my 12-year-old vehicle's warning to check the engine. My paychecks are smaller than the average Costco trip total and I'm wearing clothes I had in college instead of buying new things. 

BUT. I can expect to celebrate my son's first birthday with him, and many birthdays after that. Really, that's all I need.

I have everything. I am so grateful. 


being met

I was moping around feeling generally unsettled and invisible and exhausted and overwhelmed by who-knows-what the other day, so I took my listless self to the computer and read some stuff in the Google Reader.

There, I was met.

By this,

and this.


this post is kind of a downer

I've had a hard time keeping my head up lately. Too many things just aren't going the way I'd planned, meta to micro. I'm feeling thwarted, disappointed, and let down. Everywhere I turn, I see a "yes, but." Yes, this divorce is about as "easy" as a divorce-with-children can be, but it's by no means easy. Yes, the baby's very healthy, but he's not eating real food or sleeping, and that is becoming a real challenge for this single mama. Yes, I've got enough work to get us through the end of the year, but my bank account is frightfully low and January's calendar is bare. Yes, we're going to have a beautiful new home, but it's been 4 months and we're still living in the guest room. (And yes, the guest room is better than most hotel rooms I've been in, but it's not quite home.)

I've been unsettled and "in transition" for 5 weeks shy of a year, now. That's a long time not to feel like I have a real home. There's no rhythm to our days right now. I haven't found an easy routine. Not having regular naps or a reliable bedtime has made it more challenging to keep my wits. Gabriel is starting to stand on his own, and this house is good for visits but a little too adult-y to be the ideal full-time, full-access baby wonderland. But it's not my home, so I'll just keep vigilant and pray the apartment is ready soon.

This is not how I ever would have envisioned Gabriel's first year. And while there's been some tremendous good, right now, in this particular moment, I'm feeling the weight of the challenges.



baby chores

Well, this move is continuing to be endless. I now have my sights on October for living in the new space. The good news is that everything is in, just not in place. Posts will continue to be sporadic around here until we get settled.

As I think about this new home, where I will begin to raise my son and create a new life for myself, I imagine what life might look like. I have so many aspirations that it's sometimes frightening. There's so much I want for Gabriel's childhood that sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the goals and ideals and images.

It's time for a get-real moment. Back to basics. Or, in our case, establishment of basics. What are the basics? I think for us, these need to be things like:

- a weekly rhythm
- a daily checklist
- established eating patterns

Being a single mom of a crawling (crawling!) baby has its tricky spots. My trickiest spot is remembering everything I "should" be doing with him on a daily basis, especially as our days are currently kind of chaotic. So I came up with an idea of making a "daily chore chart" for the baby. Here's a preliminary list of his "chores":

- read at least one book
- brush teeth twice (did you see that word "teeth" there?)
- eat "real" food once a day
- go outside and touch the grass
- practice baby signs
- listen to enriching music (various Wee Sing albums, hymns, classical)
- bedtime prayers

In addition to those things, I want to have him in the baby carriers with me fairly often, because I am a little bit attachment parenting-y. I also want to start introducing him to "work," Montessori-style. Basically this means giving him the opportunity to get really absorbed in one activity. He seems to have a fairly short attention span (being a normal 9-month-old baby boy), and I want to work with him on building his concentration. That probably sounds very helicoptery and over-achievery, but let's face it: him being able to focus on one thing for a little while without requiring my participation is a self-preservation mechanism on my part. (For those of you interested, I'm using this blog in particular as a launch pad.)

What are some other "chores" you think would be appropriate for a baby?


all quiet on the southern front

It's move-in time! The apartment is not quite finished but quite quite habitable, and we're moving! Things may get a little quiet around here while I figure out things like how to get internet up and running and reacquaint myself with all my worldly possessions, the vast majority of which I have not seen for 3 months.

If you had to go without all your stuff for three months, what would you miss the most and why?



As I lie here nursing my son, I catch myself begging.

Don't forget. Please don't forget.

I work to etch every moment into stone, preserve it for the next moment, the next hours, months, years. He is my son, my baby, and I don't know if I'll ever have another one.

Remember this. Don't ever forget it.

The way his cheeks get chubbier when he's sleepy. The foot that won't stay down. The hand, always moving, grasping, moving again. The coos that used to come with every breath and now are rarely heard.

What if this is the only one? Save this. This is the greatest treasure.

I hold him close, press his little tummy to mine, worry a little, pray a lot. Stroke his fine, silky hair that likes to come to a point in the front. I marvel at this tiny person, our little world, the fact that I am his everything. He overwhelms me. His sweetness, his dimples, the "did he just crawl?" siren that rings every few hours.

I'm reminded of the tornadoes in his home state, the siren that blew at 11am on the second Wednesday of each month, the panic I felt the first time I heard it, the moment I looked at the clock, huddled in a tiny bathroom with two dogs and a gallon of water, and thought it odd that a tornado would hit at 11 on the nose.

He's still blond today, I note. A little reddish. I'd thought he'd be a redhead. He's come close a few times, mostly in pictures.

He is a tornado, a thing of life-altering power, a miracle of nature, the most beautiful, terrifying, dangerous thing I've ever known. He shifts, stretches a knee.

Remember the way that felt. He will never be this small, may never be this close, again. 

I remember the times he was a newborn, 3 or 4 days old, lying asleep on my stomach. He would shift his weight, and I recognized the movements, had felt them inside me for months. Had he really been inside me, all that time?

Don't forget this, I thought then. You're the only one who knows this, who knows him.

I was afraid we'd be alone before long, too afraid to admit what I knew. Too afraid to face what was coming. Too desperate to save something that was already dead, long dead, hopeless, to do anything but pretend to hope. Pray it back to life. Will it to live, resurrect. Stay. I failed.

How will I ever make him understand?

His jellybean toes are in the air again. He'll be asleep soon. He'll be a teenager soon. I cry, again. I move my head back on the pillow so he won't be stained with my tears.

Don't wake up, sweet baby. Mama needs you to sleep.

It's been a week of tears, of loss, of pain. Angry fists and quiet tears. Papers and conversations and silence. Pureed carrots, library books, sheets in the wash, and lots of wakeful baby during what used to be my quiet, productive evenings.

How will I do this alone? Does he already know how I've failed him?

The baby part is the easy part, and I can't even get this right. We haven't read a story in 2
days. The dog chewed one of his favorite toys in the night. It's been so long since I vacuumed that he cried when I finally ran it, the noise too big and unfamiliar. Soon he'll be chasing the vacuum on all fours, catching the frogs with a friend, asking for the car keys.

Be his witness. You're all he has right now.

I hold my dearest one close, press him against me, inhale. I'm alone, and never alone.


three things i'm grateful for

when the going gets tough, the conscious get grateful. 

1. UNCTV - I confess. I love public television. I love it. Love it love it love it. I can learn to cook, garden, and sew all while soothing a fussy baby. Current favorite shows: Cooks Country, the Almanac Gardner, b organic, and Front Row Center.

2. The ensuite bathroom - I'm currently staying in the guest suite at my mom's house. I say suite because it's a suite - a huge room, two biiiiig closets, and its own bathroom. It's like having my own tiny apartment in this big house. It's so nice to be able to plop Gabriel on the floor in here while I take a shower. I'm close enough to hear him and keep an eye on him without having to cram both of us into the bathroom.

3. Punch the Pig - When I moved back to North Carolina, I had to move my money from the local Colorado bank. I thought about researching local NC banks, but it didn't take long to realize that I had three choices: the big bank within walking distance, the crappy bank that everybody hates within easy driving distance, or any other bank, which would be at least 5 miles away. I went with the walking distance one. And they have this cool feature in their online set up called Punch the Pig. Whenever I log in and feel like it, I can "punch the pig" and send $5 to my savings account. You can customize your pig and the noise it makes when you punch it, and it's totally goofy and silly and 5 dollars isn't a lot, but it's something, and these days I need all the little somethings I can get. My pig is tie-dyed.


new diet: thoughts on longevity

One thing I'm coming to grips with is the fact that I want to prioritize "hippie eating." This means organic produce and "organic" dairy (meaning, dairy coming from cows that are hormone- and BHG-free). I'm more and more convinced that monitoring the chemicals and pesticides that go into our bodies is the best way to protect my health and my son's health.

It's hard to come to grips with this new priority, given the fact that I'm on a very tight budget. I'm taking some solace in the fact that the grocery budget for both of us will not be much more than for one person, at least for a while. Maybe by the time Gabriel is eating enough to make a dent in the groceries, I'll be in a better place financially.

I'm also willing to try out some meat-free dinners, which will cut down on how much $$$$$$$$ meat I need to buy to get through the week. I've never been able to stomach beans, but I'm gonna give them another go. This may be easiest to start in the winter, when I can fool myself with soups.

In addition, I'm turning up some decent sources for good food. There's a local co-op, a network of farms that will deliver pretty much anything I could want ("rural NC" is not very far away), and this town is about as good as it gets for this diet in this state in terms of most offerings and fewest hairy eyeballs.

It also helps that I'm on this annoying diet. Because I have to cut out all grains and sweeteners for a whole month, I'll have a good shot at really kicking the bad-food habit and adjusting to things like baking my own bread and making pretty much everything from scratch (not to mention reading labels). Mom and I are going to try baking some stuff using non-grain flours in the next day or so, which will be my first foray into using things like almond flour to make muffins.

It's not going to be easy. In a lot of ways, I feel like I am gearing up to fight a losing battle for the rest of my life. But ultimately, this is important. It may be the most important thing I can do for my boy's earthly future.


beauty in sadness

I took Gabriel to church yesterday, and it was hard. One or both of us cried for a majority of the service, causing us to spend it outside for the most part.

Outside of the building (it's a rented retail space, not a freestanding church) there's a kind of rectangular gazebo-y thing. As I sat on one bench, back to the warehouse church thing, hair done and pretty dress on, sweet baby in my lap, wind rustling the leaves of all the trees, and tears running down my cheeks, I remembered a brief conversation I had with Brian years ago. At the time I thought it was a funny indication of our differences. Now it just hurts.

We were taking some sort of personality test - I can't remember if I was administering it to him or he was administering it to me. There was a question that said something like "I think there's something beautiful about sadness" and the answers may have been true or false or a rank from 1 to 5, who knows.

I remember getting to the question and scoffing. What a strange thing to say. That there is beauty in sadness is something that had never occurred to me, and I was baffled that it would have occurred to anyone else. Pondering "the beauty of sadness" was, to me, akin to pondering the purpleness of tree bark. There's not really purple tree bark; surely there is some tree bark somewhere that is purple, so it's possible, but tree bark isn't really purple. Sure, sadness could be beautiful, if you're talking about it in an abstract, loosely related way - commenting on a well-written poem or a really moving candid portrait, for example. But sadness itself, to me, didn't possess the quality of being beautiful.

 Brian, of course, thought (thinks?) there's great beauty in sadness. I didn't get it. Even now, I think it's kind of a strange notion.

There was something in that moment in the gazebo, though. Me, the leaves, the overwhelming sadness, the sweet, innocent baby. It felt so beautiful and so tragic, to be  alone and unseen, surrounded by nature and life, grieving an ancient grief.

written monday, may 21


"Work isn't to make money; you work to justify life."  Marc Chagall

Here's to living. 

Happy Labor Day!


babyplay: object permanence

A little while ago, I started a Pinterest board for ideas of baby-appropriate learning activities to do with Gabriel. We've tried out a few of these, and so far there have been a couple of hits.

My personal favorite is this "object permanence" activity. Babies need to learn object permanence - the idea that something doesn't go away just because you can't see it anymore. Peek-a-boo is an object permanence game.

There's a slew of object permanence boxes available, online and in stores. My favorites are the Michael Olaf ones, because they're made of wood and are not gaudy nice to look at and made of materials that are completely safe. (See some here, here, and here. That second one is my favorite.)

I decided to make a "free" version of the beautiful Montessori object permanence toy for Gabriel out of stuff around the house, using ideas I'd already put on Pinterest. I took a shoe box I'd previously been using as a treasure basket and cut a hole in the bottom about twice the size of Gabriel's wooden blocks. I rolled out a towel (aka work mat) and showed him how to put blocks in the hole.

He picked on pretty quickly! That was fun. But I don't think he really "got" the concept. He liked dropping blocks through the hole and then picking up the box. Then he'd put the box down and drop more blocks. Who knows - maybe he's already got this object permanence thing down and was improvising! This is a game we'll be playing for a while, I imagine.


new diet checkin

So I've been on this new diet for about a week now, and I'm starting to notice some things. First off, I've lost about 5lbs.

Secondly, there seems to be something to this anti-inflammation thing. I've noticed that on the occasions I break the diet and have, say, a slice and a half of pizza on family pizza night, I am noticeably more sore the next day. Corn seems to bother me more than wheat or sugar, which is kind of interesting.

I thought I would have dealt with some super major cravings by now. Generally, though, I haven't. There are times when it's really hard (and occasionally impossible) to resist something off-limits that is right in front of me, but it's not like I walk around thinking about bread all day. I do kinda miss chocolate, but there was a drastic chocolate storage in Ashley Land for most of the summer so it's been easier to go without it than it was, for example, earlier this year when I stopped eating chocolate because it bothered Gabriel.

I think it might be realistic for me to be put off by the sugary sweetness I used to love so much. When I caved the other day and had a piece of candy, one of my FAVORITES, it wasn't nearly as good as the last piece I'd had before I started this crazy diet. There may be hope for me yet!

I do miss the texture of plain, old, bad-for-you breads. I also miss potatoes in all their various incarnations. And the pick-me-up of a bite of chocolate.


preparing for a "collapse situation"

One of the things I picked up since having a child is an interest in self-preservation. Prior to Gabriel coming along, my general plan for facing a nuclear meltdown/world war 3/apocalypse situation involved cyanide in pill form. Now, I've gone and procreated and can no longer stomach this plan.

One resource I've turned to is a blog called TEOTWAWKI. On here I've read product reviews, ideas for survival, helpful info on guns, and a series I'm particularly fond of that lays out how to prepare for a collapse on $40 a week. My preparations will have a substantially smaller budget, but there's something reassuring about making emergency plans, even if it's only plans and no substance at this point.

If you're into this kind of thing, check out the blog! If nothing else, it's a fascinating glimpse at a niche group I hadn't really met before.


a new trick

I've noticed that Gabriel is now handing things to people. It's very cute! He handed me a ball the other day, and he tried to stuff a drooly toy bird in my mom's mouth not long after. This means he already knows how to share, right? And we can bypass the "IT'S MINE" phase of toddlerhood, right?

And so begins phase one of teaching manners: saying "thank you" when a cute baby hands you something.

It's never too soon for a southern boy to learn thank you.


because i didn't already have enough going on

One of the scary things of being a single (nursing) mother is fact that when it comes right down to it, I am Gabriel's everything. I'm the only parent he knows, his safest person, and (at the moment) his primary food source. Illness is never a good thing, but for my little family, illness would be a very, very bad thing. 

In an effort to take care of myself, I am (among other measures) doing an anti-inflammation diet for 30 days. I am three days in, and it is...not....fun. This isn't "the" anti-inflammation diet, which would be LESS rigid than the one I'm on. Mine is a super-fun mashup of "no grains, no sugars, and none of the few remaining things that make this concept slightly less intolerable, either."

Sugar is out. This is actually a good thing, because I think I'm probably addicted to the stuff and it is a habit I have needed and wanted to break, for my own health and for Gabriel's. No sugar also means no sweeteners whatsoever - including stuff like honey and stuff like fruit. Stevia is the only sweetness allowed, and I don't much like the taste of stevia.

Grains are out. Not just wheat, but all grains, including oats, corn, and rice. According to grainfreeliving.org, I can still have quinoa and kasha (aka buckwheat), which are pretty much the only saving graces. Kasha kinda tastes like feet, but there are some things I've come up with to make it a little more tolerable.

Also out are the nightshade foods - namely potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers (though I can't eat peppers anyway, unless I'm up for a few days of stomach problems). 

I'm also supposed to be limiting my dairy, including eggs, but let's face it: it's not realistic to eliminate these, given my current circumstances (and neuroses). And most inflammation-reduction diets also cut out legumes, but I don't know yet if this one does. If so, I'll be sad about yet another thing lost. 

I know that this is a good move, even though it's really freaking hard. I'm only slighly nervous about what it will do to my milk supply, but even that might be a good thing to reduce because it may get the baby eating solids more steadily. 

So what's on the menu? A lot of chicken, fish, and vegetables. For 30 days. Lord help me.


again, the world as i know it ends

I've finally come to terms with the fact that I no longer have a stationary baby. He isn't exactly crawling yet, and he only occasionally employs rolling to get places, but he can no longer be trusted to stay in the same spot.

Mostly, he is doing some pre-crawling stuff that involves pushing up and subsequently backward. He hasn't figured out how to plant his feet in place when he's on his tummy (but he's getting there!) so when he puts his weight on his arms to lift his hips, a lot of the time he just ends up scootching backward.

He'll also sorta kick himself around when he's on his back, especially when he's in a good mood. He'll pass half an hour lying on his back, just chewing on his fists, alternating fart noises and yells, rolling around, and paddling himself around with his feet. He's also starting to lean forward from seated and plopping onto his tummy, and he'll even sorta spin around slowly when he's sitting, too - I sat him down yesterday and turned around 5 minutes later to see that he'd rotated 180 degrees. Kinda funny, dude.

It's good to see him starting to move around - I figure it's about time - but it also means I need to be more vigilant and snap out of some of the habits I developed while we've been in limbo. All of my baby carriers are in storage, thanks to a stress-induced bout of Very Bad Packing Decisions from back before the move. (At the time, I was under the impression that I would only be without them for a couple of weeks, and I never once thought to second-guess the contractor's initial timeline. Here's a tip: always second-guess the contractor's initial timeline.) Since I haven't been able to wear him, I've been able to plop him on the bed when I needed to get stuff done. He liked being up and able to see me, and I liked not feeling like I was dumping my baby on the floor. It was easier to interact with him up high, too.

But alas, no more. Baby is relegated to the floor at all times he is not in arms or sleeping.

Supposedly I'll be able to unpack into the new place in two weeks, and I'm really looking forward to having the carriers back. Unpacking while wearing an active baby will be something of an adventure, I imagine! He's a lot more reachy-grabby than he was last time he hung out in the sling...



(written July 1, 2012)

It's right around midnight, and I'm not sleeping. I haven't had a truly good night's sleep since the night of November 9, 2011. November 10 was the turning point. It marked first night I went to bed alone. That night, I stopped looking at the clock at some point past 4am, and I haven't fared a whole lot better on all but maybe 3 of the nights since then. Even now, eight months into this separation, there's somebody missing. I still feel noticeably, strangely, uncomfortably alone.

Well, alone-plus-baby. Gabriel wasn't quite born yet when Brian moved to a different room, so I wasn't technically alone, and after Gabriel was born, I began sleeping with him in his nursery. I think I've had two nights that I didn't share a bed with him.

I never expected to be a bed-sharing kind of parent, but Gabriel's earliest days were hard for me. He was (and remains) perfect, but the environment he was born into was (and remains) decidedly imperfect. I was exhausted, I was alone, and I was not physically capable of getting up every two hours to haul my baby out of the crib, so I just kept him in my bed.

Not only was I dealing with the fears, insecurities, and worries that every brand-new mom feels, but I was doing it more or less isolated, in pain, and living on the opposite side of my house from a here-but-gone husband who wouldn't be in the picture much longer - a truth I knew but refused to acknowledge. I was staring down the barrel of single motherhood while simultaneously learning to nurse my son, trying to heal from giving birth, keeping up pretenses around the church and the 8 relatives who had come to Denver, and trying not to sob my way through Christmas making Christmas merriment.

I barely noticed Christmas last year. It's always been a huge deal for my family, and I like to revel in the holidays, but 2011 is not one I would like to remember (and I basically don't, thanks to a magical combination of mind-numbing exhaustion, my brain's habit of not storing painful memories as a coping mechanism, and "bigger things going on" crowding out any real experiences to begin with). It was a three-pronged anxious misery for me: newborn baby and recent childbirth pain/insecurity/worry angst, recent separation and impending divorce and single motherhood fear/anger/grief/shame angst, and a righteously indignant "it's my baby's first Christmas and it's not supposed to be like this" type of angst, which I guess is a secondary angst generated by the first two.

Those were hard days, but I had my sweet baby and the determination to keep hoping my marriage would be restored. Every day I prayed that something would change, but most nights I would spend the hours between midnight and sunrise grappling with the fear, and increasing certainty, that my life as I'd known it was over. It was as if my hope had been fueled by daylight. I could keep hoping when the facts weren't staring me in the face, but going to bed in my son's room instead of the room I'd shared with my husband was devastating and unavoidable.

Now I'm living 1700 miles away, putting together that new life I spent so many hours praying against. I still dread night time. It's no longer jarring. The ache is duller. But it's still there. And I still can't sleep.


a new way of sitting

Gabriel is 8 months old now. He is developing at a steady clip, as best I can tell, though sometimes he feels "behind" (does every mom struggle with that?). Namely, he's not crawling yet. He's getting there, slowly, but I had thought he'd be crawling by now - a lot of babies I've known have crawled by 8 months. The books say 9 months is average and not to panic until he's a year old, so I keep reminding myself of that. 

I've been watching him pretty closely to see what new movements he's making. He's been rocking his hips a LOT, in all kinds of seated and reclined positions and when he's on his tummy. He is juuuuust starting to go from rocking his hips to lifting them slightly when he's on his tummy, so I'm trying to encourage that in him. With a kid who hates tummy time with a fiery burning passion, this can be tricky. So he's getting there, just slowly. And let's be honest - I'm moving again in the next week or two, and that business will be somewhat less difficult if there's not a baby underfoot.

Another new thing he's starting to do is lean waaaay forward when he's sitting - not just reaching, but putting a hand down to support a really long reach. Sometimes as a result of this, his right leg ends up kicking back behind him. He'll spend a lot of time sitting like this. It's pretty cute, and I have to wonder if it's a precursor to other things. Maybe he will start getting himself from sitting to on the floor soon! And I'd have to think that getting from sitting to lying forward will develop both core strength and body awareness in him - two things I imagine are crucial for this crawling thing to pan out. 

So who knows - maybe he'll be right on the average nose with crawling. He seems to be on the right track, at least (as best I can tell). And he looks so cute with his legs in this new arrangement.


mystery rash

For the first couple months of Gabriel's life, I played the "what's the source of this rash" game a lot. I generally think that rashes are a sign of some sort of allergy and not just "something that all babies get."

The first rashy adventure started when I noticed that he was covered in tiny red bump. They didn't seem to itch or otherwise bother him, but they bothered me. It looked like tiny baby acne everywhere. Not cool! I eventually figured out that it was a contact allergy when one day bath time was interrupted and I only washed part of his body, and the soaped part got worse in the red-bumps department whereas the just-rinsed part looked slightly better. Turns out my boy is allergic to pretty much all soaps. Dr. Bronner's (unscented) worked on him for a while, as does the soap I make.

(Yes, I make my own soap. And yes, it's what I use in my homemade laundry detergent as well.)

Then, for a while, he started getting these ugly, scaly, raised, brown patches. They started on his tummy and spread, and then began sprouting on his legs. During the soap rash investigation, I'd read up on a lot of typical allergens and manifestations of allergies, so I was pretty sure this was eczema and I had a feeling it might be a dairy allergy. I was right. I went off dairy for a while, and he totally cleared up. Totally. The boy had PERFECT skin. No rashes, no bumps, no baby zits. Nothing. Beautiful skin. We got comments and compliments on it all the time. Stellar.

Until now. (You saw this coming, right?)

About a week ago, Gabriel woke up and lifted his head off the mattress, revealing a MAJOR red rash all over his right cheek. And it's been spreading. The redness and hugeness of it has gone down and is less startling (thankfully), but he's now got tiny bumps all over his face, arms, and legs. I can't figure out why.

At first I thought it was because I was back to eating dairy and had kinda gone overboard the two days prior (cereal for breakfast and pizza for dinner on the same day, that kind of thing). I went back mostly-off dairy, and the rash hasn't really cleared up and in fact looks like maybe it's getting worse - the bumps are smaller and less red, but there are lots more of them.

The ones on the arms and legs look like the contact rash he had from the soap a while ago, and the ones on his face seems to sorta match them but appear in huge clusters on his cheeks and forehead instead of a kind of even spread all over, as they are on the limbs.

The problem is, this could be anything. (Except I don't think it's dairy.) It could be from laundry detergent or some other thing he's coming into contact with - it's only affecting him in places that aren't covered in clothing/diapers. Maybe it's from me switching back to Dr. Bronner's soap after using my own for a couple of months - it did take a while to clear up, last time. Or it could be food-related - he's started solids recently and it's not unheard of for babies to be allergic to rice cereal (which is what he eats, for the most part). What's on his cheeks almost looks like a drool rash, and he's teething, so maybe that's part of the problem. He also had shots last week, so maybe it's a delayed reaction to the shots. All of these things changed or started last week, around the same time the rash did.

The good news is that it doesn't seem to bug him, and I think the general disappearance of redness is a good sign. I'll figure it out; it might just take a while. And in the meantime, I'm going to have a rashy baby. There are worse things.



In my effort to clean up my blog, I've been paging through my archives. I started this blog 5+ years ago, so there's a fair amount of stuff documented here. I didn't (and don't) often go into full detail about what was going on, so it's interesting to see what things merited "casual" mention here, and then compare/contrast to my memories of what was actually going on.

Mostly I've been struck by the frequent references to Brian as "my husband" and all the compliments I lobbed his way. Why was I so deliberate about mentioning him frequently, and why did I mention him the ways I did? Maybe it was one of my smaller (of many, multi-level) attempts at showing him how much I loved him. The motivation might have been innocent, being a newlywed and all. When I love, I love deeply and widely. It colors everything and is part of the undercurrent of my life, awareness, thought, everything. So it's entirely possible that I mentioned Brian so often and so lovingly because loving my husband was just a part of breathing.

But a part of me now wonders if I was already sensing that things were very, very wrong and I was casting any lifeline I could find. "See how much I love you?" is what the cynical me reads in those lines. Don't you love me this much, too? and maybe there's a touch of please tell me you love me this much, too.

One thing is certain: I don't want to make those pleas ever again. I was wildly convinced of Brian's love for me. I had no idea what to do when it became apparent that he didn't love me anymore, and I still have no idea how to react to the suggestions that he never loved me to begin with. He was so convincing. He'd given his word, and I'd believed him. I trusted him. I took vows.

In my quiet, frightened, lonely, dark times, I wonder if I will ever be wildly convinced, by anyone, ever again.



I'm taking a little bit of time to go through all my old posts and remove/change photos. I recently read something about appropriate image use in blogging. I thought I knew about this stuff, but apparently I was wrong. I'm spending the next few weeks combing through the archives and fixing/removing images.

You folks in RSS and/or email land might experience some flashbacks. Don't say I didn't warn you.

If you ever do anything online that includes images that didn't come from your camera, I'd recommend reading this.


in which i write about (and knock off) shawn smucker

I'm really behind on reading blogs. Like, a month behind. I'd be even further behind if Google Reader didn't automatically delete unread posts that are more than a month old. I've now managed to catch up to July 1, mostly through a liberal use of the "mark as read" button.

I've been a little busy lately, and my escape-consumptions of choice have looked more like York candies and the Property Brothers, less like actual words and thoughts. I have too many thoughts right now, racing in circles, laced with anxiety, bravado, and a shadow of self-loathing. It's hard to add anybody else to the mix.


Shawn Smucker has a can't-miss, must-read blog. This morning, I did some must-reading. I never regret reading Shawn.

We have some things in common, Shawn and I. We both have kids, faith in Christ, relatives in Amish country, PA, online careers with words. We've both grappled with mind-blowing, heart-shattering failures of the grown-up kind. We've both felt we were careening down a mountain, brakes failing, family along for the ride (though I don't have the bonus of having experienced this metaphorically and in real life). We're both currently living in a parent's spare rooms. We have at least a couple of struggles in common.


On July 2, Shawn talks about trust in God and needing emergency ramps. And I realized I need to reframe my situation in my own head. The scripts I've been running (many of which are to the effect of I'm a victim and I need to figure out how to overcome this thing of being abandoned by my husband and/or I am moving back to my mom's because I failed at being a grown-up and this is the "least bad" option) are not only not helpful, they're not true.

I am not a helpless victim. Yes, Brian made decisions about our marriage that I didn't want, and yes, I wish he had gone about it in a less hurtful and crazy-making way, and yes, this all went down in the weeks immediately before and after the birth of our first child, and it was all strange and weird and hard. But really, I am not so special. Marriages with kids bust up all the time. Single women raise babies all the time. Separating/divorcing while pregnant is maybe not the norm, but it happens. I'm certainly not the only one to go through this.


As a mom, it's my priority to be at home with my child(ren) while they're not in school. Hard to do as a suddenly-single parent, whether or not child support is a factor. Ideally, I would make enough through editing to support myself. Realistically, at this point in time. my choices were to find a "real job" and put Gabriel in daycare, or move in with my mom and her husband. In that (limited) light, moving back looked like the least bad option. And my mom is probably reading this and crying right now. But it's no secret to her that I prefer to be independent as much as possible, and that there's been some strain in our relationship for a long time, and that moving back home again did not make it onto my bucket list.

But I will do anything for my son. Even move back in with my mom.

Living at home (again) means that my plan for adulthood has failed (yet again) and that I am (still) not independent. I'm almost 30 and treading water in a sea of shame and self-doubt. I should be past this. I should have launched by now.

Living at home (again) also means that my family loves me and supports and trusts me - enough to buy a new house and build an apartment overtop the garage. They love Gabriel enough to uproot their lives to allow his mom to do what she thinks is best for him. That's a lot of love. They've done a huge thing.

They've been my emergency ramp.


The last time I moved away from home, I thought I would die of mortification before moving back. Only losers live at home at my age, I thought.

But that's not true. Just look at Shawn. He's pretty rad.


visiting churches

I visited a new church on Sunday. It's a church I'd never been to before, not even when I lived in Chapel Hill way back when. In fact, it's vastly different from any place I went to before.

The church scene in the area is a little different, as could be expected given the years I've been away. The place I used to attend is no longer around, and the pastor there isn't in the area anymore, either. What's more, I'm in a very different place, spiritually.

I mostly grew up in a conservative Lutheran church. When I came here for college, I felt like I was "escaping" the restrictions of the church. I wanted to be somewhere that wasn't so strictly liturgical. I dabbled a lot in some willy-nilly nondenominational free-form churches for a while. That was great while it lasted - I could go to church barefoot and play my djembe and experience the awesomeness of a loving, smaller congregation. But eventually realized that I missed some aspects of the church environment I'd left. There was a sense of reverence that I kept yearning for - church felt more like a fellowship and less like a time of worship. Fellowship is certainly important, and I don't ever want to be a part of a church that doesn't feel like family, but it's no longer the only thing that will get my bum in a pew. (And I want it to be a pew, not a chair!)

I'm currently a member of the PCUSA, which is the direct result of marrying a PCUSA minister. Now that that marriage isn't really a factor anymore, I'm in a position to go anywhere and do anything I want, without restrictions or expectations. I don't plan to stick to the PCUSA now (get burned the way I have by a clergy member, and you might not stick around, either), and I think maybe it's time to revisit the church of my past.

Right now, I'm looking for reverence and worship during the service, and a sense of family at all other times. I want to be somewhere steeped in liturgy, with hymns on an organ and communion every week. And I want to be known by my fellow congregants. I want Gabriel to be known and cared about. I want a place where I can ask my questions and contribute my talents and be a part of something that goes beyond the 11am hour on Sunday mornings.

So for now, I'm poking around the Anglican scene. I visited an Episcopal church not far from where I live. I'll probably spend another Sunday there, and then see what happens after that. Some things I liked on Sunday: loads of babies making noise in the service; the Anglican cycle of prayer. Something I didn't like so much: the crucifix. (A crucifix? In a protestant church? I'm hoping the pastor will call me, as I requested on my visitor card, because I'm wondering about that.)


our living situation

So one of the major changes I've gone through lately is my location. Gabriel and I moved from Denver, Colorado, to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I grew up in Charlotte, NC, and lived in Chapel Hill for school and then a couple of years beyond that. I haven't lived in NC for 5 years, and now I'm back. Right now we're living in the guest suite at my mom's house, as our more permanent place is finished.

This house has a detached 3-car garage with an unfinished apartment overtop. The apartment is being finished (as I write this!) and once it's done, we'll have a 900-sqft, 2br place to land. And by "land" I mean "climb the 18 stairs to get to," since it's on the second story. We have all sorts of good ideas about how to safety-ize the place, my favorite being having a Dutch door at the top of the stairs. Who doesn't love Dutch doors? They remind me of Mr. Ed. Anybody else have that random, weird association?

Finishing an apartment is no joke. The square footage was predetermined (because of the garage) and the place was framed when we took possession, but basically we are starting from there. It was framed to be this glorious one-bedroom place with a giant bedroom and an ENORMOUS closet; we wanted 2 bedrooms, so the layout had to be tweaked. There were windows already put in, which we had to work around (and that made some decisions a little tricky). But now it's reframed, the plumbing has been moved, appliances bought, and some major decisions have been made. I think the contractor said it'll be next week? that the sheetrock goes up, and then it'll start to look like an actual place where people can live. But boy oh boy are there lots of decisions to make! 

Let's be clear: I am not the one paying for the construction. With that in mind, my mom and her husband are taking my thoughts "under advisement" as they make their decisions about how their money will be spent finishing the apartment on their property. The apartment ultimately needs to be income-generating, so the primary concern is using materials that will appeal to a wide range of people and will hold up for a long time. These aren't my decisions to make, which is kind of a relief for me and maybe a source of tension (on occasion) with them - because they want me to feel involved and included (and not repulsed by my home), but my wish list is not the priority. Really, I get the easy part - showing pictures of what I like, and then living there when it's all said and done. So when I talk about making decisions about my apartment, I am not the one making decisions and it's only "my" apartment because I'll be the tenant.


getting you up to speed with gabriel

So I had a baby a few months ago. Almost seven (seven!) months ago. His name is Gabriel, and he is my greatest joy.

Developmentally, I think he's doing pretty well. His 6-month checkup was an eye-opener for me, though. Brian and I more or less separated when I was 8 months pregnant, so I spent the final weeks of my pregnancy and then all the months following just trying not to fall apart. I didn't read the infancy books, I don't know the list of foods he's supposed to be avoiding for a year or two years, and I had no idea what milestones I should have been looking for. So when the pediatrician was asking about how he handles small objects and what he does in front of a mirror, I had nothing to say. Small objects? Isn't that a choking hazard? And why would he be in front of a mirror?

So, the pediatrician, who is awesome by the way and everybody in Denver should go see her (Dr. Emily), gave me a run-down of what to look for and suggested that I do some stuff. I also picked up the What To Expect book for the first year (good golly, I hate the What To Expect books! Information OVERLOAD!) and have been paging through that. He seems to be doing just fine, though!

Now for some stats and some real info:

He clocked in (three weeks ago) at 18lbs, 11oz, putting him at the 75th percentile. This is pretty consistent for him - he's been 75th-90th percentile since his 20-week ultrasound. He's also 75th for length (I think he was over 27inches) and 60th for head circumference. As big as this boy is, he is not yet a member of the Giant Head Club. He IS my son, though, so maybe he'll still get the giant head at some point.

He's been close to rolling over for something like 3 months now, but he hasn't actually rolled himself all the way from front to back or back to front until the past couple of weeks. This child hates being face-down. HATES it. He is nowhere near creeping, and I actually wouldn't be surprised if he skips formal crawling and goes straight into walking. He was sitting up at 5 months, which I think is a month or 6 weeks earlier than average. He's very strong, but he's a little awkward and uncoordinated, even for a 6-month-old. That's probably my fault for not making him do tummy time. But hey, I've been doing the best I can in some difficult circumstances, and if he's a late crawler as a result, then he's a late crawler with a mom who managed to survive something she thought would crush her. He will reach for things, and reach pretty far if he's sitting up, but it hasn't yet occurred to him that he can use these arms and legs to do helpful things like prop himself up.

So because of his seeming lack of body awareness, I'm working with him pretty deliberately. I try to get him to roll over with more consistency and ease, which I hope will lead to a better awareness of his own strength. I'm also putting him on his tummy more (we kind of took a month and a half off) so that he can get used to using his arms and not just his hands, and maybe eventually his legs will get involved, too.

Speaking of hands, I didn't really know to look for hand-to-hand transfer, but now that I'm aware of it, I'm noticing it all the time. I'm pretty sure this is one of those skills that he mastered a while ago. Whenever it happened, he is now a champ at passing things from one hand to the other.

I go back and forth on posting photos of him here. I know that would be nice for folks wanting to see him, but I feel icky about posting photos of my baby on the internet. I think it's a privacy hangup of mine. So I'm working through that. In the meantime, updates will be in word form only, and photos will continue to go out through email.