life

Life as of Late

It's October in North Texas and it's still pretty darn warm. Most days are still in the 80s and 90s, but fall is coming, as I find more crisp days happening each week. Soon it will be boots and jeans weather full-time, and I am working hard to squeeze every last drop out of summer that I can.

Oscar has started to put more and more together and surprised me just a few short weeks ago by counting, unprompted, to twenty. He does this often now, whispering numbers to me as we play with his Noah's Ark playset, and counts toys one after the other as he cleans up - one of his current favorites.

He's learned to whisper, too, which means my early mornings are filled with quiet cuddles and whispered questions: "mama, pictures?" he likes to ask before the sun has fully risen. He loves looking at the photos of him, his dad, and me that fill my phone's memory. 

Some of those pictures are taken by him, which means every once in a while, after he goes to bed, I'll find photos of our couch, his feet, or the cat saved within my albums. These make me smile and give me a small window into how he sees the world.

We are slowly getting ready for Halloween. Oscar is going to be Mickey Mouse - a new favorite for him. I am planning to go as Minnie to his Mickey, turning a simple dress into a costume for trick-or-treat. I'm eager to carve pumpkins with him, making a mess on the patio as we scoop out pumpkin guts and cut silly faces into the bright orange squash. I can't wait to create new traditions.

I'm working to find time for new habits and hobbies, and decide what old ones I want to keep, and what can go by the wayside. I'm trying to make more time to write and read - to say yes to creativity when I have downtime, and no to just scrolling through my phone. It's life-giving, and I am loving the pieces that are slowly coming together.

I am still loving my new role as stay-at-home-mom. It takes a lot of creativity on my part to keep Oscar active and engaged throughout the day, and every day we both learn something new. Next week, we're going to try homemade play dough and start working on handmade gifts for our families at Christmas. He teaches me new things every day and every week I feel like we both settle in more and more into this new normal we're creating. 

 

Being a Fit Mom

In May, a month after I stopped working, we joined a gym. Before my son was even an idea, I was a fitness junkie. You could search the archives of my blog for old posts about fitness, diet, exercise, and healthy living. It was kind of my thing.

Until it wasn't. For a while. Before I was a mom, running was one thing that kept me sane. When people ask if I worked out my entire pregnancy I feel sheepish answering "yes, except the first trimester."

Which is true. My first trimester knocked me on my ass and kept me there. Twelve solid weeks of exhaustion while my body took the energy I would otherwise apply toward walks, run, weights, and writing and used it to build an organ and the gummy bear baby I saw at our first ultrasound. Apparently organ construction is hard - who knew? 

I don't know why I feel so sheepish sharing my fitness journey before my son, even though I adored it. I ran a half marathon a year before I got married. A marathon relay (I was leg 3), three weeks before my wedding. I've run more 5k races than I remember, two 10k races, a 7k and a 15k. Running, writing, and photography were where I found joy. 

Finding time to run or go to the gym after Little Man was born was a challenge, especially once I was back at work. My gym in Kentucky didn't have childcare, and even if it had, the time I had to get there was limited. We were house-hunting and preparing to move cross-country. I was breastfeeding. Workouts of the nature of "before" just weren't happening. 

What was happening, though, was online workouts. Walking. Keeping active without having to leave the house or take a class. I ran with the stroller infrequently (and got really fast doing it). I knew that for me, keeping up with physical activity was crucial to my sense of self. So I did whatever I could to be active, including seven months of Kayla Itsines BBG Program, which I credit with helping me get my strength and pre-baby body back. Well, mostly. I will always have some squish round my middle, and I credit that squish with helping me to grow my adorable little boy.

Eventually, though, I wanted more. I wanted classes. My free weight collection wasn't quite large enough to reach my needs with BBG. 

So we joined the gym. A gym with childcare and classes and free weights and TRX and a pool. 

In short, we joined my dream gym.

And we started taking classes - spin classes - together. I took spin classes a touch in college, but hadn't been in a spin studio since a one-off visit right before Oscar and I moved to Texas from Kentucky (a class that renewed my love of group fitness). They were hard. Challenging. Wonderful. They still are. A few days a week we go to spin, or run, or just workout, and for that time I indulge my love of fitness and being a fit mom, or #fitmom. A hashtag I used to look at in awe, and now try to participate in occasionally. 

I found a community. My Wednesday night spin instructor has helped us build a tribe. A tribe where we get together more than once a week to ride our hearts out on bikes, to push to get 90rpm at a gear 9 for more than a minute and where 5 minute time trials are just another day's work. 

Since we joined the gym, I've gotten stronger and faster, and I've been able to jump back into running in a way I didn't think I would until Oscar was a little older. On a whim I signed up for a 5k Memorial Day weekend and smashed my previous PR by almost a minute - something I didn't think possible.

It did wonders for my confidence.

And that, my friends, is why I work so hard to be fit. Not fit by someone else's standards, but by my own. I workout to be strong for me, my son and husband. To be able to keep up with a toddler who rarely naps and never sits still. To be able to go as fast as I can, as long as I can, and come away from a workout feeling exhilarated, not exhausted. 

I may not be able to workout like I used to - I can't always just tie on my running shoes and step out the door. But I can check a class schedule, sign into a class and pedal my heart out while being encouraged to push just a little harder, and go just a little farther.

For me, that's what fitness is all about.

Delightful

The question seemed simple: what delights you?

It came up in a voxer conversation I was having with my writing group, and it made me pause and think, because I find joy in so many things, but delight? 

I wish I could say it varies and I wish I could say I find delight in everything. However, that wouldn't be true - and also wouldn't be fair. 

So what do I find delightful?

Well, the quiet reverence of an art museum. There is something magical about how people stop and simmer down when in a museum housing precious artifacts. Works of art house parts of our souls, and I think when we step into a museum we recognize this - the pieces of the souls of those still with us and those long gone. It's magical.

I also find delight in libraries and bookstores - so many choices and so little time. There is also a different kind of quiet reverence in a library or even a bookstore - the kind of quiet that lets you read or be with your thoughts. Quiet that awakens characters and brings the past to life. Quiet that brings inspiration for new heroines, princes, princesses, and tales of wonder. 

And nothing compares for me to the delight I find in a well-brewed fresh cup of coffee on a crisp autumn day. Bonus points if I'm in a soft hoodie and leggings on a patio in the morning light while enjoying it. 

It would seem I find delight in quiet, and yet.

Delight is something that springs to life within me whenever my son giggles or squeals or stops in wonder. I love watching his joy and amazement when his dad gets home at the end of the day. 

"It DADA!" he squeals as he runs to greet Allen at the door.

His joy overflows when we do some of his favorite things, too, like when we swim, or paint, or go to the zoo. 

I especially take delight when he takes a bubble bath and hands me bubbles, eyes big.

I see his delight in things small and big, new and old. My son does find delight in almost everything, though quiet reverence isn't quite his thing.

When I am asking what delights myself, I remind myself that delight CAN be found everywhere - if we only know what to look for.

Learning to be Patient

I’ve never been what you would call a patient person. I frustrate easily. I don’t like to play new games because it takes me a while to catch on to their rules or strategies. When given the option to open a gift now or later I almost always choose now, and then wish I waited for later.

Patience wasn’t really my virtue until I had my son; I had to learn to be patient for him. Watching him learn how to do things I took - and still take - for granted was fascinating.

It took a lot of energy not to help him with everything. Children, toddlers, and babies want to do it themselves--we all do, really. He wanted to get the monkey pacifier into his mouth on his own. To feed himself carrots. To stand up and walk, though he fell over and over again, he’d pick himself up and try again every time.

If I plopped onto my bottom as much as my son did while learning to walk? Well, I’d probably just give up. The same goes for missing my mouth with my fork as much as a toddler can in one meal, or not being able to reach something just out of reach, which happens more often than you might think.

In watching and participating in these activities, I’ve noticed just how much patience he has for what he is doing - how much grace he has for himself. Food fell off his fork? Let’s take another bite! Tripped while running down the hall? Oh, well, let’s just keep going!

It’s inspiring, and made me realize as he’s grown just how little patience I have for myself. If I mess up, I’m the first to cry “failure.” I’m likely to throw in the towel if I don’t learn a new skill on the first try. Like when I tried hand-lettering and was awful, or when I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried, figure out The Electric Slide. I look back and grimace at my impatience.

This realization has changed how I see what I do. Instead of giving up, I get up and try again. I don’t get frustrated when I can’t figure out a new skill the first time - I just work harder at it the second time. And third - as many times as it takes. I allow myself time to learn and grow, just like I do for my son. His patience and persistence has been eye-opening to me, as I grow alongside him as a parent and person.

ow, I show myself patience in ways I never thought I would. I’m trying hand-lettering again, and while I probably will always be baffled by The Electric Slide, I’m going to try to figure it out. Even while I am teaching my son and leading him on this path we call life, I’m following his lead. I’m showing myself patience.

Quick Eats: Toast

I have a confession: I really like bread. Like, really good bread. 

Sourdough is one of my biggest weaknesses. So is chocolate. 

They make good toast.

But not for lunch. 

Okay, maybe for lunch. But that isn't how I've been devouring my sourdough bread lately.

No, I've been having savory toasts for lunch. A lot. Because what doesn't go well with sourdough?

Especially while I'm chasing a tot around. A one-handed lunch is always a plus!

It seems odd to write a super short post about... toast, but I wanted to share just a few of my favorites, because they're delicious, and until I put them together, or found them in cookbooks or at How Sweet Eats, well, I hadn't considered more than the typical cheese toast, peanut butter toast, or cinnamon toast.

Really, there's a world of possibilities!

Like goat cheese, arugula, and honey drizzle on sourdough (from How Sweet Eats cookbook - delicious!).

OR, burrata or ricotta cheese, heirloom tomato, cracked pepper and balsamic drizzle... also on sourdough (also from How Sweet Eats cookbook)

Or even peanut butter, bacon, and banana toast (okay, that one is a bit rich, but also delicious) on whole grain?

Oh and what about a tuna melt toast? Delightful!

And a classic: Avocado toast. I like mine with a sprinkle of red pepper flake, salt, and just a squeeze of lime. A drizzle of tapatio can take it over the top!

Plain cheese toast is also my jam. But so is cherry jam plus cheddar under the broiler for a quick snack.

I could probably go on and on...but I won't. At least, not today.

What are some of your favorite quick or on-the-go eats?

Dear First-Time Mama

Dear first-time mama,

I see you. And I want to tell you it's ok. It's okay to be nervous as a first-time mom about the life you're growing. I see you contemplating the maternity pants with your barely-there bump and pants that won't button, and I see you. Buy the pants. Pregnancy can be uncomfortable enough without feeling like you're out of space in your own skin with two more trimesters ahead of you. It's okay to be comfortable.

First-time mama, I see you in the baby aisles looking at the walls of options. So many options. They're overwhelming, I know. Why are there wipes for everything? Do you need them? I know you're hearing from so many people that you don't, but you aren't sure. And that's okay. We were all first-time moms once. Or first-time dads. If you think you'll use more than just diaper wipes, buy (or register for) them. Hand and face wipes smell like baby shampoo. Boogie wipes are wonderful alternatives to tissues in your purse. If you aren't sure, wait. Or see what shows up in a gift basket.

We got lots of wipes and soap.

Mama, I see you when you go out for the first time with your new little one. The grocery store is huge, isn't it? I see you at a restaurant with family, checking on your little one and being told over and over that they're fine. They're asleep. I want you to know it's okay to check on them. It's okay to not want to put them down and to keep them close to you if you want. This little life that you spent months nurturing or waiting for. The person you are getting to know. It's okay to want to sit and just be still with them.

I see you, first-time mama, when you try to take on several errands in one day and then cry after you're told you are trying to do too much. I see the wheels turning in your head as you wonder how, when you return to work, you'll be able to get anything done. You'll figure it out. It won't always feel like a production to get out the door. It's okay if it's hard now, and it's okay to ask for help.

I know, as a first-time mom you're getting a lot of advice. Buy this, don't buy that, do this, don't do that. So much of it is conflicting, and it feels like everyone has advice. It's okay to not want advice. It's also okay to want it. I know you're hearing a lot of things and I know it's not all what you want to hear, so mama, what I want to tell you is simple:

You are doing a great job. You may not get a shower every day, and you may run out of something you need right this very moment (and I always suggest a hidden travel pack of wipes for this very moment), but you are doing a great job. You are nurturing and loving your sweet baby, and you are learning how to be a parent. And? You're learning how YOU parent. Your "never will I's" may change, and you may do some of them. But mama, you're doing great, and in a year when you look back on this time, you'll want to wrap your arms around yourself with a reminder: nap sometimes when the baby naps. Newborns nap a lot, and it's okay to use one of those naps for you.

Don't worry about living in the comfy stretchy pants for a little while longer. Buy all of the wipes, or only buy the diaper wipes - whatever you need for you. You will find your groove in time, I promise. One day you’ll walk out the door with nothing more than the diaper clutch. Okay, and an extra shirt or three, but it will happen.

This time may feel hard, and overwhelming, and full of more love than you ever thought possible, but mama, you're doing a great job. When your little one is eighteen months old (or younger, or older), you'll look back on this time often.

And self? Yes, me: you were doing a great job. And you still are.

With love, Me

A Word Sets the Tone

Blooming. Blossoming. 

Similar, right?

When I set out to choose my word for 2017 way back in January, I had no hesitation in my choice: Bloom. 

And while it feels odd to be talking about my choice of word for 2017 in almost-July, I want to. 

Why? And Why bloom?

Well, as I wrote about my experience moving, when it was time to choose a word I felt like I was wilting. Change is hard. And in response to change you can do two things: dig your feet in and resist, or set deep roots and thrive.

I'm sure you know which one was me. And it's funny, because in the past I've worked hard at blooming. At thriving. This move was a struggle. We had three days to find a house over one weekend in July. We had a handful of days to sell our old house (it sold 24 hours after we listed it). There was packing. Moving. Finding a new daycare. Finding a new church. Making new friends. 

It was exhausting. And I was digging my feet in. The decision to move was hard enough that every choice I made thereafter was fraught. Was it correct? What if I made the wrong choice? What if enchiladas for dinner was totally incorrect and we should have had tacos instead? 

In retrospect, I probably should have been talking to someone. Even my husband. I was sad and lonely and scared and wasn't doing much to bloom. Everything felt SO different and to my husband and others it felt very much the same. But also, a little different.

My thinking and feelings on everything began to change when my mom visited in November. She stayed for almost a week, and that week I ended up working from home. Oscar fell sick the day she arrived, so it was unplanned, and all happened right before I took a long weekend devoted to exploring my new area. We did a lot of talking during my days split between caring for Oscar and keeping up with work, and from those discussions I came to a new sense: it's okay for things to be different. And it's okay for them to be the same. What I do with those feelings is really up to me.

So, we explored. Mom's theory was I couldn't decide if I liked it or not (after many texts where I told her I didn't), unless I knew where things were. I couldn't bloom unless I tried to lay down roots. 

Those roots just happened to fall along the tollways. 

We found yarn, smoked cinnamon, and pie north of home in a town that feels very midwestern to me. Downtown we found more pie, donuts, sewing and books. In my own neighborhood we found art supplies and a friend. 

All in just a few days' time.

When she went home I felt renewed somehow. Lighter. I had finally driven a sky-high overpass (those are far less intimidating now than they were nine months ago), navigated unfamiliar areas and secured my Texas driver's license (very important). 

So when it came time to decide what my word and theme for 2017 would be, my word was such a no-brainer to me: bloom. I wanted to learn more about my city. I still do. I wanted to lay down strong roots and find community here. We will be here for a while, and if I dig my feet in, I might never find joy where I am, and what fun is there in that? 

My choice to bloom where I am planted has led to so many wonderful things since I made that decision. I'm actively working toward making writing my job, stealing time between moments to write, compose, craft. I'm making friends, decorating my house, and laying down roots that stretch in all directions from my home to the tollways and beyond. 

God brought me to Texas kicking and screaming, and when I realized that this is where I am supposed to be right now, well, that is when I began to bloom. 

Making a New City Feel Like Home

Most of us know that moving is hard, whether it's cross-town or cross-state. I don't know how many of us really know how difficult it can be to move cross-country. I moved cross-state once, then out of state (sort of. I could see my previous state simply by walking a few blocks), and then last summer, we moved cross-country.

On Monday, I wrote about how I felt homesick after we moved.  While I alluded to ways I tried to feel less homesick, I didn't talk about what I did to make Dallas feel more like home. Today, that's exactly what I want to share - how I made my new city feel a bit more like home, and how I started to feel less homesick as a result.

  • I made my space my own. Decorating your home in whatever manner you enjoy is a great way to start making a new place - even in the same city - feel like home. We haven't painted, but we have hung pictures, bought some fun new furniture, and put out mementos of our old home. Decorating made our new house feel like home, not just a place we're visiting.
  • I looked for things I like to do. More specifically: I looked for coffee shops. When I was working, getting to explore organically was a bit of a challenge, so I googled. For coffee. I love trying new-to-me coffee shops and looking for a place to get weekend morning coffee led me to find two favorites: Summer Moon and Nerdvana, which are close to home with two very different atmospheres. Now, when I want to hang at a coffee shop with Oscar, I can choose one based on what we're planning to do that morning. While I did this for coffee, it also works for food, bookstores, art museums (also something I've done) - really the sky is the limit!
  • I joined Meetup .  Now, I joined Meetup after I became a stay-at-home-mom to find playgroups, but it can be used for countless groups. Some groups meet for coffee and gaming, others for Bible Study, and others for fitness. It's a great way to get to know people in a new area in a low-risk setting. Meetup led me to an amazing playgroup with a great mix of moms similar to me. We meet weekly at various locations around our area, which has the added benefit (for me) of helping me learn my way around our tollways and nearby suburbs, which means I am less reliant on my GPS. Always a plus (for me).
  • I took walks in my new neighborhood. Since I live in a suburb, I'm not going for walks to get food or ice cream, but to get out for fresh air. What started as a way to find my way around has become a daily activity. It helps keep us active, especially since we can walk to the playground (and do pretty much daily). Since we're out so often, we've made several new friends!
  • We spent (and spend) weekends exploring. There are so many little towns throughout Dallas that it's easy to choose a new-to-us area, see how walkable it is, and go. Exploring has led us to some great finds; like pit barbecue in Historic Plano, amazing food in Denton, an adorable independent bookstore in Deep Ellum, and pie in McKinney. We've also taken the train into downtown to spend an afternoon at Klyde Warren Park, which Oscar found fascinating!
  • We've worked hard at keeping in touch with friends back east. I can't tell you how many days of the week I'm messaging my best friends from Cincinnati. If I miss them, or I miss home, I send a message, an email, or a funny photo. On days where I feel lonely, or miss scrapbooking with a bestie, or cyclebar with another, I'm grateful that technology means they're a snap, a chat or an Instagram post away.
  • I accepted that it is okay to be homesick. Most days since the start of January I feel like this is my home now, but that doesn't mean there aren't days I miss Ohio, our old friends, old house, and old neighborhood. It's okay to be homesick and miss what was and grieve over what could have been. Even on good days I find myself wishing I could show something off to E, or go to spin with J, and that's okay. It's also okay to love where I live now and to work hard to continue to make it into home.

While this isn't completely comprehensive, it does encompass a lot of what I've done to make Dallas feel more like home and less like a foreign land. It's not easy to make a new city feel like home, and being homesick is very real, but little things can make it so much easier to feel at home, and to find a niche of your own. 

Cross-country moves and homesickness

Y'all remember when I told you that we moved to the Dallas 'burbs? 

Yeah, so, let's talk about that. I was going to share a list of things I've learned since becoming a stay-at-home-mom (let's get real, since becoming a parent), but realized after chatting with a friend about our move I never really talked about it here, or what led to it.

Also, I'm sure we don't need to talk about how for some littles routine and nap time are king and queen, amirite?

I'm not sure where to start, but we found out we were moving for my husband's job not too long after Oscar was born. And from the day we found out (or decided - let me just say it all happened during the fourth trimester of mamahood - I was adjusting to my new normal and some details are maybe a touch fuzzy), to the day we moved was maybe 7 months.

Yes, you read that correctly. Last year was a combination of firsts and lasts and lots of change. It was not easy. Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky were home. Very much home. In our little historic house we became our tiny family of two when we decided to get married. I ran a half marathon. We decided to have a baby and celebrated our pregnancy in the backyard of that house. We brought our baby home to our beloved little old house.

And we were leaving. 

Why? Well, I'd like to say "why not?" right now, but it was - and is - a great opportunity. A new city. A new state. New opportunities and things to do. 

But it was and is very far from home. And if I'm being honest, (and Dallas friends, look away), I didn't like it here when we first moved. Allen moved two weeks ahead of me and Oscar to receive our household goods shipment, buy a washer and dryer, and get the house set up enough so it would feel like home when we got here. 

That helped, a little, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was plucked up and away from home to a place that didn't feel like home. 

I didn't know where I was in space. I got lost in my own neighborhood. The grocery store wasn't right. My friends were too far away. 

Oh, and it was too flat.

Looking back it all seems silly, but it wasn't at the time. It was serious. I had major homesickness, y'all. I missed my coffee shops (I could walk to three in my neighborhood). I missed my friends. I missed the view of downtown Cincinnati from my second floor. 

I missed familiar.

While I want to say that I got over being homesick quickly, I didn't. I'd get lost coming home from work and struggle to not be grumpy all evening. I'd go for a walk in the neighborhood and wish it was the Purple People Bridge or The Banks in Downtown Cincinnati. When I ran out of the coffee I packed up when we moved? I cried. We argued quite a bit because I wanted this - didn't I? and I was being more resistant than even I could anticipate.

It was not easy.

But then, slowly but surely, things started to turn around. There wasn't a specific turning point for me, more like a series of (fortunate) events. 

First, there was the Dallas Coffee Festival in what is probably one of my favorite parts of Dallas. I came away from that event with several pounds of coffee, and a renewed excitement for local roasters to visit (I now have one within minutes of my house that I adore). 

Then, I made a new friend. With a baby - a daughter - my son's age. We had a playdate. Then another. We started texting pretty regularly and now we get together almost weekly- even attending the same church.

My mom came to visit and we explored as much as possible during her visit to try to make Dallas feel more like home, and less like a foreign land. I took her to Emporium Pies more than once, and we discovered some hidden gems throughout Deep Ellum, McKinney, and right by my neighborhood. 

I found my coffee shops and started to learn the tollways. We found magic at Frisco Square at Christmastime, and after coming back from Ohio in early January, we started to explore different parts of Dallas, finding gems in old Frisco, historic Plano, and Denton. 

Then, one day, I was able to get to Costco and the grocery store and back home without getting lost and frustrated.

I found familiar. 

There are for sure still days I feel homesick and miss what I had in Ohio, but it isn't like it was in the beginning. I no longer feel like a stranger in a strange land. I don't always feel like a local, but when asked, I can tell you a few places to get good barbecue, really good pie, and amazing coffee. I may also be able to tell you which tollways to take to get you to your destination, which mall I like best, and which churches have really good indoor playgrounds. 

I'm making this my home, and I really, really love it.

Sometimes, I miss walking to the coffee shop

Today feels like spring. Well, this morning does. The light is warm and low, the air is crisp but warming up, and it feels like a good morning where, if we still lived in Kentucky, I'd be walking to get a cup of coffee.

Last night, as I was falling asleep to the soft glow of the baby monitor, I was thinking about how life used to be and feeling nostalgic.

But I don't want to seem like I am not happy where I am now, because lord am I ever happy. I'm sipping coffee in the warm early spring light with a baby monitor beside me, in a house that isn't bursting at the seams. I'm waiting for my little man to get up so we can get ready for out day, all while bacon cooks away in the oven to go with our breakfast (mini pancakes for him, hard-cooked eggs for me). Also? Our neighborhood has a pool, and that pool (outdoor), opened April 28th, and was cool but still warm enough to swim in on April 29th.

I have new friends here. Ones who Oscar asks for by name for playdates (okay, he asks for their littles), and I am finally, I think, starting to figure my way out around this huge new city of mine. Finding all the coffee shops and enjoying all the places I can get brunch (I am a sucker for a good brunch). 

Loving it here doesn't mean that I don't miss life back east. We watch the Reds games on TV; I miss the crisp spring night games we attended our 9 years in Cincinnati. On days like today, I miss walking to the coffee shop for a croissant and a pour-over (which, admittedly was a Saturday morning adventure). I miss in-person debates with friends, and shopping trips with one of my best friends, and definitely Project Life afternoons with another.

But all that being said? I don't regret moving. It took a lot of getting used to in the beginning and I'll be the first to tell you that moving wasn't easy. It was hard. In some ways it was harder than giving birth. Or, a more apt comparison: than getting  a cat into the carrier to go to the v-e-t. But it was also easy in many ways. New adventures. New city. Lots to do. 

So today, I'm feeling nostalgic for what life was, but excited for what I have now, and for what today's adventures with Oscar will bring. 

 

Well, Hello There

 

Its been a while, I know. Almost a year - but who's counting?

A lot can happen in a year, and a lot has happened. It's a big reason why I stopped writing, but now I'm back.

Since I last wrote here, we sold our old house, bought a new house, and moved to the Dallas burbs. I became a stay-at-home-mom. Oscar learned to roll over, crawl, talk, and walk. 

I started working out again, after almost a year.. not. I walked a lot last summer while we soaked up our last days in Cincinnati, but that was the extent of my workouts. Most recently I've been running (with a stroller - challenging) and doing Beach Body Guide workouts, which I discovered via a friend on Instagram. 

I also dove head first into the Bible, and some days I feel like I'm running only on grace and coffee and that is okay. 

In the past year I've learned a lot about myself and about motherhood, and to be honest, I missed writing. I needed the break, and while I'm only going to be back here a few days a week (2 or 3), I'm back, y'all.

Three Months of Motherhood

Oh heyyyy!

So this little man is now 3 months old. Time is FLYING!

I'm more and more starting to feel like I'm getting the hang of this mom thing. Or just being a mom. I know how Oscar cries when he is hungry and when he is tired. I know what he does when he is bored and when he just wants to be held and to snuggle. 

In the three months since I became a mom I've also learned a lot about myself. Motherhood has made me incredibly efficient. I don't spend a lot of time dilly-dallying anymore because I really can't. I have to be efficient with my free time, even more since I went back to work last month. 

Now, I thought I was efficient before. But nope. Now I combine as many tasks as I can into one block of time to get it all done. Cooking dinner? I'll prep Oscar's bottles and get lunches made for tomorrow while I cook. Clothes get picked out the night before (most of the time). I've started showering in the evening, which sometimes means I have crazy hair in the morning, but that's nothing a little water and a comb can't fix, right?

Really, all of my "chore" time is spent so that my free time - while Oscar is awake - can be spent enjoying time with him. When he goes to bed I catch up on my reading, my bullet journaling, and get things ready for the day ahead. 

There are days when it's overwhelming. It's new! But I'm trying to figure it all out. I still haven't entirely figured out how to get a good workout in, but that will come soon enough, right? For now I'm working on trying to walk, lift free weights I have access to, and enjoy what my body still can do. 

I'm still absolutely loving being a mom. It is, for me, one of the most wonderful things I've done. 

How I'm Conquering Fear

The world, in general, is a pretty easy to get along in space. But it's also a little scary.

I'm afraid of the unknown. Of not fitting in (sometimes I stand out more than I fit in). Of being left out. I'm excited to be a mom. I don't dislike pregnancy (in fact, I kind of like it). But I'm afraid of that whole "getting the baby out" part that is coming in about four months. 

Sometimes, I'm afraid of writing the wrong thing here. Of being judged for my words. Or that I'll lose friends over what I might write here, depending on subject matter and opinion. 

But I still put myself out there. I still try. I try to fit in. I write. I press 'publish.' And I seek out knowledge.

It all sounds very much like anxiety. But it's not. It's the little fears that get you day to day. The things that make you second guess. That's what it is for me, at least. 

And right now? I am working hard on conquering my fear. The little things that hold me back. My podcast of choice lately has been Tiffany Han's Raise Your Hand. Say Yes. And I've heard so many speakers, authors, and creatives on this podcast all talking about getting out there. Doing the work. Overcoming the fear.

So I'm raising my hand. I'm saying yes. I'm working on 100 days of Blogging, though that is shaping up very differently than I originally anticipated. Every other day posts, for example, instead of daily, with the days between being planning, researching, or behind the blog posts.

I'm working on fitting in while standing out. I'm letting criticisms roll away, while getting at the heart of what the intent is behind the critique - is it intended to help with improvement or cut me down? If it's the former I take it at face value. The latter? Set it aside. 

As for the fear of labor and birth? For that I'm working on acquiring knowledge. I have at least four months before the baby comes, so that's four months of time I have to learn all I can about labor and delivery. Including an eight week childbirth class that starts this week. I chose Hypnobabies, and I am excited for us to attend our first session and really start getting into the meat of this whole "having a baby" thing. 

For me, fear is the unknown. Taking a leap and not knowing what's next. Pressing publish and not knowing if a post will flop. Not having enough knowledge. So I can learn and I can try. I can write and publish, or write and delete. I can learn from my errors. I can step out, stand up, say yes. 

I am working on conquering that fear of the unknown. And man, can I just say? It's a powerful, wonderful process. I can't wait to see where I go from here. 

Hello, Fall

It is no surprise: I love fall. Especially now. I get to wear leggings and sweaters and tunics and boots. Soon enough. Right now it's in the 80s during the day and chilly overnight, so it's perfect sleeping weather. 

I love fall for the smell of cold, dry air. The crispness of the leaves. How the world is cast in warm, glowy night every day. I don't like the days growing shorter, and I'm not sure I'm ready for winter, but fall? Fall is my favorite.

This year I'm much more appreciative of fall, with my little blast furnace incubating away. The cooler temperatures often feel good when I feel like I'm going to overheat, and I love my comfy, cozy leggings. 

Also, I love the new fall-themed cups at Starbucks. I know, not so great for the environment, but it's not something I do daily. I had my one (okay, maybe one of two) annual Pumpkin Spice Latte just a few short days ago and it was heaven in a cup. Spicy and sweet and just what I needed as an early morning pick-me-up. 

Today being the first day of fall makes me happy. The crisp nights can begin, but the cold days of winter? They can hold off for a while. 

Learning the City

So, as I write this post, I'm in my backyard, which is a nice, very small oasis in the middle of the urbanish jungle. It's warm, and humid, and I'm drinking a Kombucha, which is very trendy, I think. 

It's been about six weeks since I last blogged, and in that time, the temperature has gone up a lot. Where we had snow before, we now have lots of lush greenery. Where it was 20 degrees? Now it's in the mid-eighties, and has been that way for a week. 

It's really like we've skipped spring and jumped straight to summer. Fitting for the midwest. And very normal, though we would probably all like to think it's not. 

Since the weather started to warm up (and by warm up I mean since the temperatures started to top out at forty or higher instead of twenty), Allen and I have been going for pretty frequent walks throughout our city. Most of these happen after dark. Often we end up walking into downtown, or along the banks of the river. 

Walks are when we catch up on the day and check in with each other, so the time we spend outdoors during these walks is pretty important. It's also the time of day when we decompress from the workday, or just to get out and breathe the fresh air!

Now, we've been walking around Cincinnati pretty much since we bought our house at the end of 2011. We live across the river from downtown. Our neighborhood has a high walkscore, which was part of its appeal when we were house hunting. 

In that time, we have walked very nearly everywhere that is walking distance from home. Before I go on, I should probably explain that we think of distances up to around three or four miles in one direction to be walking distance - as long as there are sidewalks or pathways to allow us to get to our destination.

So we have walked as far as Over the Rhine and 12th street in downtown, which is 2.2 miles from home. We've walked into other parts of Northern Kentucky, well into downtown, and in one instance, almost as far as the Cincinnati Museum Center (well, that was part of a road race, so it wasn't exactly walking). 

You would think we've walked everywhere. But we haven't. Yet. I would say we have walked almost everywhere we can walk, with the exception of parts of Fort Thomas (due to sidewalk access, it wouldn't be the smartest thing to do). 

Over the past couple weeks, we've checked off a few more areas from our list. One of those was the banks of the river in Covington. Or as I called it, the evening that I learned where photographers get the gorgeous panoramic views of the city. We did this to watch the fireworks from the Reds game on a Friday evening, but I could not get over just how gorgeous the view was, even before the fireworks began. 

It was a gorgeous sight to behold, and one that I'm eager to revisit in the future - I want to go with the dSLR (something I failed to do that evening) to take some lovely pictures of the cityscape, very nearly unobstructed. Our skyline in Cinci is not massive, but it is lovely, and every time I drive home it makes me smile. 

This past weekend, we ended up deciding we wanted to try to walk to Mount Adams, which is a not-so-hidden gem near downtown. It's actually a neighborhood we considered while house hunting, and even when originally moving to the area. However, it's quite the incline, and midwestern winters when they're rough? Well, we had concerns about being stuck on the incline for days  at a time. Unfounded, sure, but sensical. 

We didn't think we could actually walk to Mount Adams, actually, as it lies just above Route 50, which runs into downtown. But we wanted to try. We figured it was nice outside, so why not? 

Getting there was actually pretty easy, once we found the walking path and small bridgeway up into the neighborhood. It's by far one of my favorite places in the city to go, even if we don't make it to Mount Adams that frequently. The streets are narrow and windy, the houses are close together, and the homes are a mix of old and new-that-looks-old. It has an East Coast charm that feels homey, and on Saturday in the sun? 

Well, it was perfect. It took us maybe a half hour to walk up there, and after exploring the neighborhood and a sidewalk art sale, we ended up at Mount Adams Bar and Grill for a drink before we wound our way back through downtown and home. 

We both enjoyed one of our favorite summer brews: Bell's Oberon, a beer we have enjoyed for almost eight years - since we first discovered it in college.

Our walk back Saturday was a bit circuitous, taking us by the casino and through the park by the river before we finally made it home. It was a fun way to spend a few hours together, walking, talking, and just enjoying our lovely city home.

In many ways, we are still learning our city, and in many ways, we're just discovering new ways to enjoy it. I love this little big city of ours.

When the Heat Goes Out

The Monday after my birthday our furnace died. Sort of. It would work, but when the furnace repair folks came to take a look at it? They told us explicitly that using it was dangerous until it was fixed. 

Let me just say that while I would love to tell you that you haven't lived until you've showered in a bathroom that is below forty degrees, I really wouldn't wish that on anyone. Though the steam from the shower got the bathroom pretty darn warm. And I had no idea that the house was below forty until I got downstairs that morning and promptly left to supplement our space heater supply. 

Until our furnace died, we only had one space heater. Now we have three. And we probably will not use them all but it's good to have them just in case. 

So, how did we survive? Well, it took a week for the parts to come in and be installed, so that was a long week without heat. Except looking back, it kind of flew by. Even when it was slow, and cold. 

For starters, our primary concern was keeping the pipes from freezing, so every faucet in our house was set to drip, and we did a little bit of directed heat under the sink in the kitchen and upstairs bathroom, along with working to keep the pipes warm where the water runs into the house.

Secondarily? Keeping us and the cats warm. As you can see by the picture above, Lessa decided that the best way to keep warm was to burrow. We joined her more often than not. There were lots of blankets. Lots of layers, and I didn't remove my Bearpaw boots at all unless I was in bed or in the shower. Seriously. 

In addition to the space heaters, we had a couple warm spots set up just for the cats with heating pads, microwave heat packs, and bundles of blankets. The space heaters we moved from room to room as we went, but our primary goal was to keep the house above forty. Both for us and for the pipes. We were mostly successful at that, but until we got there? Well, it was touch and go.

Mainly it was touch and go because I am not a patient person. Like, at all. I can fake it well. And I do my best, but I wanted my house to be warm. And it was pretty chilly. So I ended up spending one night over at a friend's house because I reached overwhelmed, impatient, and tired of being cold. So when she told me to pack an overnight bag and come over, Allen encouraged it, and I went while he stayed home with the cats. And kept the house at fifty(!!!) degrees. 

But when I was home there were layers. Blankets. The heaters. We were both very glad we decided to buy a duvet at IKEA back after Christmas. BUT when the heat was finally fixed, back on, and the house was a nice and toasty sixty-eight degrees? That was when we were happiest.

Except after a week of a fifty degree house? Now sixty-eight feels almost too toasty. Almost. 

Would I recommend going a week without heat? Not really, if you have a choice. But if you have to go without heat in the middle of winter? Layer up, use your space heaters strategically, and employ blankets. When all else fails? Take up any offers for a warm bed. 

So this is 29

So I turned 29 on Friday. And going into Friday? I didn't really care so much about my birthday. I had to work. It was cold. It was - at least Thursday night - another day. 

But then the 20th got here and well, it was kind of awesome. Really awesome. My birthday went from being what I thought of as "just another day" to being a day full of little celebrations all day - from start to finish. 

I woke up to over a dozen birthday wishes on Facebook, each of which made me smile. I know Facebook reminds you when someone's birthday is, but I still love getting the birthday wishes from my friends and family all over. And those birthday wishes kind of poured in all day, so every time I went to break I had more "Happy Birthday!" messages waiting for me to see. 

The real surprise, though, came in the form of presents. Presents I wasn't expecting. Earlier in the week I got a card from my grandparents and was able to treat myself with a trip to Sephora for some body butter that smells like cookies. Friday the presents continued to pour in, with two gifts that made me grin and squeal. One from one of my dearest friends, and one from my husband.

My friend Erica got me the embroidered canvas pictured above. With a bright green heart over my hometown and my alma mater. It was such a surprise and the perfect item to start the gallery wall in my home office space. And Allen? Well, he surprised me with a Project Life Core Kit that I've been eyeing for ages but hadn't worked up to actually buying. The best part? He had no idea it was one I was eyeing, but chose it because it looked like something I would like. 

Add all that together with fun television, a great morning and afternoon, delicious dinner, and getting out to see my family in the coming week? It was a perfect way to start 29. We have so much going on just this calendar year, but I see this year in my life being a great one, full of so much fun, joy, and surprise, and Friday? Was the perfect kick-off.

So this? Is 29. And I love it. 

Weekending: Mid-Week

So lately, I've been working four ten-hour days each week. Which means I have three days off. You might think that two of those days would be Saturday and Sunday, but right now I'm only taking one day off during the actual weekend. 

My other two days off? Are two back-to-back weekdays. Which gives me sort of a mid-week weekend. This makes for some interesting time off, because my days off fall now when most of my friends are at work. but it also means that things I might normally do during time I could spend with my husband? I can accomplish while he is at work during the week. 

There are times when it does feel a little like I'm at home when I should be doing other things. Times when I feel bored at home, but I'm working on making my mid-week weekends feel a bit more like a weekend, and a bit less like a planned day off to get stuff done. 

Most recently? My weekending has looked like meeting Allen and friends for lunch one of my days off, along with spending time at the mall and library, and working on getting caught up - or even ahead - with some of my writing projects.

There are, of course, days when I feel like I have nothing to do, and those days can feel a bit boring, but for the most part, I'm keeping busy. The trick, I've found, is to work on doing everything I might do on a Saturday and Sunday, but on my mid-week days off. Things like going to the mall and library. Getting out of the house and seeing friends. Reading and working out. You know, normal weekend stuff.

Sure, it can be a little weird, but mostly it's just like a weekend. Except during the week. And when I want to go shopping? It's way less crowded. And that's a plus.

2015: Just One Word

The past few years, I've chosen words in lieu of resolutions. This year isn't really much different, except that I decided at the end of 2014 to participate in Ali Edwards' One Little Word

Why? To be able to spend a year focusing on my word and making it a big part of making 2015 a big year. I feel really good about this year. Like, excited good. 

But I also feel like I'm entering into a season of growth. If you look at life in seasons. Or just a big year where so much is happening. 

Choosing just one word this year was a challenge. I looked at "Thrive," except it didn't quite fit what my vision is for this year. I also looked at "build," which was close but not quite right.

So, I'm revisiting a word, except this year, I'm making it big. I'm making it a focus for the year ahead. My year ahead. 2014 was the year of Push and Do. And I did. 

2015 will be the year of grow. I know, I did it two years in a row. But this year? I feel differently about it as a word. I have growing to do as a person. In my professional life, yes, but there is other growth I want to look at for the new year.

I am going to work on my knowledge of Photoshop this year, to try to bring my photos to a new level. I'll be journaling and scrapbooking my heart out. We're working on our house and making it more into our home every day. This involved a recent rearrangement of our living room, that just, well, really opened up the room. 

Really, I have big thoughts and ideas for 2015. And I want to see those ideas out.

So this year? Is the year of Grow.