Category Archives: Nashville

Snippets & Quips- January 25th, 2013

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State of the Union: Winter has been kind to us.  Ben has had a stretch of lighter rotations, we have all stayed healthy (vigorous knocking on wood right now), and the temperatures have been relatively mild.  I am nearly into the third trimester of my pregnancy and feeling great.  All in all, life is marvelous in the Morrison household.

I am thankful… for good health, lots of baby boy kicks and flutters, an ever-adorable toddler, and a husband who comes home from work happy to let Everett use him as a human jungle gym.

On my mind/I am learning… that my itch to go back to teaching runs in about 3-month cycles.  I just finished reading “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Human Power of Character” by Paul Tough for my mama book club.  Fantastic read for all educators and parents…and it really got me thinking about where I’d like to center my focus when I return to teaching.  Teaching life and character skills through self-expression and great literature…it just fits.  I actually found myself searching the job opportunities board on the Teach For America forum as I read the book…then quickly reminded myself that I am giving birth in just three months and better put off updating my resume for a while longer. 🙂

I wonder… how Ev’s little brother is going to rock our world!  How different will he be from Everett?  Will he escape the milk protein allergy and allow me to breastfeed?  How will Everett react?  Lots of exciting wondering and anticipation as April gets closer!

On my heart: I am currently baking several dozen of my mom’s chocolate chip cookies and a pot of my dad’s beef vegetable soup is simmering on the stove.  The kitchen smells are lacing my heart with nostalgia and sentimentality.  I have not been very good at keeping up this blog, but I have been doing some other writing lately.  I’ve started writing some memoir-ish vignettes, mostly centered on my parents’ struggles leading to their early deaths.  I haven’t shared them with anyone yet…still working up the courage.  How I wish I could channel Jeannette Walls‘ amazing tone of candor graced with optimism as I write down my own stories.  I think they are worth telling, but I fear to an outside reader that they might just be depressing.

Weekly Reader: Our next book club read is “Mind in the Making” by Ellen Galinsky.  I’m not very far into it, but so far it is really similar to many of the other books we’ve read.  I suppose I might be burning out a bit on child psychology and brain research.  However, I have been reading more books for pure fun lately.  Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” and “This is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz have been two of my recent favorites. Kingsolver impresses with her knowledge of biology and understanding of human nature. This novel explores the issue of our ignorance of environmental issues like global warming and charms with a strong female protagonist searching for her sense of self. Diaz’s new books was a good quick read. I loved revisiting Yunior, the narrator from Diaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” This was a book of vignettes about the wonders and heartache of growing up in poverty and violence and dappling in the complexities of love.

What’s Cooking:  We made homemade naan last week.  It was delicious!  I have a fear of baking…especially baking bread.  But the naan turned out to be a perfect concoction of warm, chewy, salty, tangy deliciousness that paired perfectly with our chickpea curry.  I may just be inspired to get my hands floured up more often!

“Ev”Capades:  After 22 months, I am happy to report that Everett is FINALLY discriminately calling me “Mama!”  He is starting to chatter more and more everyday and “mama” is one of his new favorite jabbers.  He is starting to parrot us more and attempts lots of words when we ask him to say them.  I am hoping we are on the verge of that “language explosion” I hear so much about.  In other news, Everett pretty consistently goes pee-pee on his little potty when I take off his diaper and sit him there.  We are by no means in full potty-training mode and don’t plan to be any time in the very distant future, but the fact that he loves sitting on his potty and will go on demand are good steps in the right direction, I think.  While we don’t think Ev really has a clue how much his little world will change when his baby brother arrives, he loves to wave, pat, and kiss my ever-growing belly and will point there when asked where his baby brother is.  Basically, we just continue to adore our little man who is becoming more spirited and silly everyday.

Happy Highlights: Ben’s mom came to visit over MLK weekend and we had a wonderful time.  Ben had all three days off, we went and tried several new eateries in Nashville, and Peggy and I even went out on a “girls date” to see jazz music on Saturday night.  A truly great weekend with my family.

Looking Ahead: Ben has a week of vacation next month and we are headed to Savannah!  We have rented a little condo in the historic district for the week and are really excited to explore a new city.  Also, we’ve been keeping an eye on the weather trends there the past month or so…and the high temps have been consistently in the 70’s!  Hoping for a little pre-Spring fling basking in the Georgia sunshine.  I also can’t wait to get Everett back on the beach…he loved it last spring and I’m sure will be even more enchanted now.

And here’s just a few pics that capture the fun we’ve been having around here…

Ev with his buds Benji and Charlie in front of our Christmas tree on New Year's Eve this year.

Ev with his buds Benji and Charlie in front of our Christmas tree on New Year’s Eve this year.

My dear friend Katie and I sporting our bellies on New Year's Eve.

My dear friend Katie and I sporting our bellies on New Year’s Eve.

We went to a "Wacky Wednesday" playgroup last week.  Pretty wacky duds, huh?

We went to a “Wacky Wednesday” playgroup last week. Pretty wacky duds, huh?

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Happy Halloween!

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We were lucky enough to celebrate Halloween for about 4 days in a row down here. We had a Halloween party with our mom’s group on Saturday, our Fall Fest neighborhood street party on Sunday, trick-or-treating and Halloween story time at the library on Tuesday, and then of course–hanging with the neighbors and greeting trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Whew… lots of opportunities to don homemade costume #2 though!

As you can see, Everett was Oscar the Grouch this year… not because he knows any of the Sesame Street characters, but because he has an infatuation with TRASH! It was one of his first words and one of his favorite past times is picking up specks of litter in local parks and making a beeline for the nearest trash can while shouting “TRASH!” excitedly. So needless to say, Ev was happy to walk around in a trash can this past week.

Trick-or-treating was crazy and fun as usual on Park Avenue.  Our neighbors tallied 821 trick-or-treaters this year…an all-time record!  They come in droves and swarms for the sugar and over-the-top spooky decorations that flood our block.  So much fun!

The only dark cloud in our festivities was Everett getting sick. He came down with a cough over the weekend that turned into a full blown virus and ear infection by Sunday. You can see that he was a sad little sack in our family costume shot. He was better within a couple days though, and now we are hitting the road for a week in St. Louis to visit with family and friends.

I can’t hardly believe that it is already November!

The Muppet Family… sadly, you can tell that Ev is not quite feeling up to snuff. Poor little guy.

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Snippets & Quips-October 27th

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Bringing back the Snips & Quippets…

State of the Union: It’s October 27th and fall weather is FINALLY here.  After several weeks of highs in the 80s, we finally had a cold snap that matches the amber leaves that crunch under our feet.  Though Ben just started a busier rotation this week and has begun picking up moonlighting shifts on his days off, most of October included shorter work days and weekends spent together.  It’s hard to believe that November is knocking and that the holiday cascade will soon be upon us.

I am thankful… for the Bongo Java vendor that gave me a free cup of coffee at the farmer’s market this morning.  Their credit card reader was on the fritz and I showed up with no cash and a bundled toddler on this dreary cool morning just dreaming about the warmth and caffeine that would soon be streaming through my veins.  She must have seen the desperation in my eyes…or perhaps it was my cute kid that won her over (more likely).  Must remember to bring extra cash for a large tip next week.

On my mind/I am learning… that I am addicted to my iPhone.  The first step is admitting and accepting, right?  Seriously, I check my e-mail, the weather, my calendar, and Facebook way too many times a day.  My excuse: it’s my window to the outside world while I’m spending most of my days hanging with a mostly nonverbal toddler–but I am disturbed by how often I reach for this techno-friend.  I don’t want to model such device dependence for my kids and quite frankly I am scared of how this addiction will pervade our culture when Everett is a teenager.  I just ordered a new book that I am psyched to read and have even gotten my mom’s club to take it on as our next book club read: Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.  Here’s hoping it is the 12-step program I am looking for.

I wonder… how the election will shake out.  Heading out on Monday morning for early voting. It will be Everett’s first trip to the polls!  Maybe I’ll let him color in the bubble. 🙂

On my heart: Missing my mom at Halloween.  She loved this holiday…always decorating like crazy and doting on the neighborhood kids in costume.  If only she could see Everett in his homemade Oscar the Grouch get-up.  While he has never seen Sesame Street, the kid adores trash so it only seemed fitting to let him run around inside a garbage can all day!

Weekly Reader: I just finished Simplicity Parenting for my book club.  I recommend it to all parents–great ideas for simplifying your lives in order to protect childhood and fuel warmth and connectedness in your family.  It has inspired me to declutter–discarding physical stuff and paring down our weekly schedule.  I saw the author speak last winter and finally got around to reading his book.  Great stuff.  I envision myself pulling out this manual again and again as we travel through each phase of raising our children.

What’s Cooking:  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies  Ben complained about the fact that they are more cake than cookie, but these were definitely a tasty fall treat!

“Ev”Capades:  While I am still waiting for the “language explosion” to occur, Ev has added a few more words to his vocabulary.  While he is still a man of few words, he likes to pick out challenging ones when he finally does let his little voice sing.  Why waste time on mundane toddler words like “mama” and “car” when you can say “jacket” and “cinnamon.”  All that sprinkling of cinnamon on yogurt and oatmeal each day has prompted a new favorite utterance.  Everett loves to “try” to jump– basically crouching down into a squat and standing up fast with a whole body convulsion without his feet ever leaving the ground (pretty cute).  He still waves and blows kisses to every person, car, animal, or moving object that we see…(the old ladies in the grocery store love him.)  And he absolutely adores being outdoors, especially if he is hiking in the crunchy leaves or pushing our neighbor’s toy lawnmower across our front yard again and again.  He is slightly obsessed with his belly (and with mine for that matter) and gets quite upset when he’s wearing a onesie and can’t check on the status of his belly button several times a day.  This passion is definitely a problem when he tries to reveal my tummy by lifting up my shirt in public places.

Happy Highlights: October was full of lots of traveling and spending time with family and friends.  We went camping with the Montgomery’s and Ben’s parents one weekend and then returned to St. Louis to attend a friend’s wedding last weekend.  One of Ben’s childhood buddies tied the knot at a beautiful venue out in the country nestled in a valley hugged by striking autumn foliage.  This was the first wedding Ben and I got to attend together in about 4 years and he had a great time reuniting with his crew from high school.

Looking Ahead: Tomorrow we are hosting a big block party Fall Fest and Chili Cook-off on our street.  We are expecting about 50 adults and 45 kiddos for games, spooky snacks, chili tastings and trash-talking, and lots of rosy cheeks running in the brisk air.  Should be fun!  Stay tuned for pictures.

Snippets & Quips- July 25th

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Snippets & Quips- July 25th

State of the Union:  Hot, hot, hot.  But we are gearing up for a trip to the Rocky Mountains where the lows will be in the mid-forties!  I am digging out the jackets and jeans and looking forward to crisp mountain air.  We will be camping in Rocky Mountain National Park with Ben’s parents and visiting our good friends Brian and Kelli in Denver.  I am very excited for our vacation minus the cross-country car trip with a BUSY toddler.

I am thankful… that we live closer to St. Louis AND that we live in a hip city that people want to visit!  July has brought us many visitors: Ben’s mom and her friend Jane from North Carolina followed by my good friend Lindsay.

I am learning….about Consigment Sales.  Whoa- they are a big deal here in Nashville.  Thanks to my friend, Jess–I was able to experience this explosion of bargain steals on all things kid and baby.  She brought me as her guest for the preview sale last night, so we got first dibs on the best finds.  I spent less than 50 bucks and walked out with an armload of goodies for Everett: an easel, books, a winter coat, rain jacket, leather hiking boots, and at least 10 other fall/winter outfits.  You should have seen this church gymnasium packed with every baby/toddler need (and want) imaginable.  There is no need to ever buy anything new for Everett again now that I know about these things. Pretty fun stuff… I just might be hooked. 🙂

The “new” easel… cost me five bucks!

I wonder… if Everett’s new big boy carseat will make our 18-hour excursion to Colorado any more tolerable.  After much research and debate, we finally purchased a convertible carseat, since his little infant seat was becoming a tight squeeze.  We checked out a half dozen new books from the library for him to “read” on the drive, I’ve got bags of snacks ready for emergencies, and I even borrowed a device that will clip Ben’s iPad on the back of the seat to play videos if we really need to call in all the troops–GASP!  I have not introduced Everett to the TV yet…but I just may need to cave for this trek.  We shall see.

Getting too big for his infant car seat… but he still loves to crawl in it when I bring it inside.

On my mind: What will it take for me to discipline myself enough to write regularly?  I can’t even make weekly blog updates happen!  I am so thankful that Ben is on my case constantly–sending me links for freelance essay requests, pushing me to read his little manual on writing that helped him crank out and publish research articles, and telling me to get my butt in gear and start drafting.  Ready…begin.

On my heart: Last week, we made a quick jaunt to St. Louis to attend my father-in-law’s retirement party.  He had worked at Boeing for 36 years and we are so happy that he is trading in his white collar for grandpa play clothes and taking a much needed break from the office grind.  His company gave him a lovely sendoff, the theme being Dave’s impressive ability to balance work and family life for all those years.  He is a true role model and I am so thankful to have such an amazing father figure in my life.  All of his kids and grandkids were able to be at the party…except for Baby Max–who was at Children’s Hospital with a benign case of viral Meningitis.  He is doing great now, but my heart was heavy for Annie and Joe as they spent long days and nights watching their fragile newborn be hooked up to IV’s.  Being a parent can make you feel so vulnerable sometimes.

Weekly Reader: Still reading “Cutting for Stone”– I am really liking it, but being only 150 pages in to a 667 page novel, I feel like I am still wading through the exposition.  Just starting to get a sense of characters and setting, though many details are still murky.  I’m hoping for more time to dig in during our vacation.  I bought a spelunking light that I can wear around my head for night-reading at the campsite.  Can I get any cooler?  🙂

What’s Cooking: I made Aunt Mary’s plum cake twice for a presentable breakfast for our visitors, Bobby Flay’s pork green chili (delicious!), and Ben whipped up a molten chocolate cake on a whim Sunday evening.  We used this delectable treat as a good excuse to finish off our port from the Mayo Winery–the last bottle standing from the stores we brought back from our honeymoon in Sonoma.  See pictures below– as always we are enjoying life bite by bite around here!

Aunt Mary’s Plum Coffee Cake

Ben’s molten chocolate cake…whipped up on a whim for no special occasion at all. Am I a lucky gal or what?

“Ev”Capades:  Our cutie is still obsessed with the “trash.”  His favorite word has turned into actions–he picks up specks of dirt off the floor, digs bottles out of the recycling, and tries to throw things like the remote control and his sippy cup into the trash can.  I finally bought him his own little trash can that he keeps in his room–a good storage place for shreds of toilet paper, books, and the occasional toy or teddy bear.  Another obsession is Otis’ leash, bed, and food bowls.  He pretty much spends his time inside the house coveting these items and getting Otis riled up as a result.  Who needs a playroom?  Everett loves to read–melting my heart as he climbs into my lap with various books he’s pulled off his shelf–asking me to read.  The favorites right now are “Go, Dog, Go” and “Freight Train.”  Please Everett, be a cuddly reader forever.

Happy Highlights: Not only did my friend Lindsay’s visit give us a great chance to catch up, but it also gave me an excuse to be a Nashville tourist.  We did the Honkytonk bars on Broadway and saw a great show at the Bluebird Cafe.  And Everett and I have had lots of fun with our mom’s group–we visited a fire station and have been to many library story times.  Also- Ben won a grant from Vanderbilt for this really cool medical education project he has been dreaming up for a couples years now.  It involves using iPads to stream educational seminars for residents while they are on night shifts when they miss traditional instructional opportunities.  He is becoming really interested in a medical education emphasis… just can’t contain the teaching bug around here!  I am so proud of him.

First booster seat…. noshing at Urban Grub with Peggy and Jane.

At the Nashville Sounds (minor league baseball) game with Lindsay and Ben’s co-workers.

Little Fireman.

Driving the fire engine.

Looking Ahead: So excited to spend some time with Brian, Kelli, Ali, and Emma in Denver and to camp in the mountains with Ben, Everett, and my in-laws Dave and Peggy.  Summer is flying by, but it has been so good to us.

Waking up from nap HAPPY!

Smooshing cheeks with Mommy

My best buddy.

Snippets & Quips – July 3rd

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State of the Union:  While June was full of adventures, we are happy to greet July.  Ben just finished a month in the Cardiac ICU that involved 14-hour shift work.  It was his last rotation in first year of fellowship, so I guess I should be thankful that we saved one of the busiest for the end. Everett and I spent about 10 days in St. Louis while he was doing the night shifts, which was a win-win situation: Ben got to sleep without distraction during the days and we got the chance to spend quality time with family and friends. Now July is here and things are a little calmer, though temperatures above 100 are turning our upstairs apartment into a convection oven. We are definitely missing Minnesota summertime these days!

I am thankful… for St. Louis.  Everett and I had a great trip to St. Louis last week.  It began with a weekend visit from 2 of my dearest friends from Minnesota–Julie and Stef drove down from Rochester to see us.  My aunt and uncle opened up their home–Hotel Wilhelm- and treated us all to cozy accommodations, delicious meals, and free babysitting so that the three of us could go out on the town.  The weekend left me on a “friendship high”–the sweet reunion was the kind that fills up your heart and reminds you that distance and time are mere abstractions when you are lucky enough to have concrete connections with amazing women.

The rest of our trip was equally as fulfilling: Everett had daily morning adventures to many STL hot-spots with Grandma and his cousins.  We hit up the Butterfly House, the Zoo, Tilles Park, and the Magic House.  I got to meet all the new babes in town–Winnie, Asher, and Max, as well as visit with friends in the evenings (thanks again to free babysitting). All in all, the trip made me fall in love with St. Louis all over again.  It really is a great city and more importantly, it is full of so many wonderful people who adore us.  For a while after my parents passed away, I wasn’t sure that St. Louis would ever truly be “home” for me anymore.  However, I am now feeling so thankful for all my family and friends that remind me that I have a village holding on to my roots.

I am learning… that being a mom is nature/God/a higher power’s way of making sure that we don’t ever get too cocky and believe we have this world all figured out.

I wonder… why Everett would sleep in until 7:00 each morning we were in St. Louis, but despite the two hours I spent hanging room-darkening curtains in his Nashville room upon our return, he still manages to wake up everyday at 5:30 with the sun.  I guess he wants to remind me that “sleeping in” is only for vacation.  See “I am learning…” revelation above.

On my mind: My friend Andy posted this great article from the NY Times Opinionator Blog on his Facebook page. It’s titled “The Busy Trap” and I felt like it was just the gentle scolding I have needed for the past decade.  I was guilty of heralding the busy brag while I was teaching full-time–always burdened by 150 essays that I hadn’t found time to grade– and yet I am still finding ways to keep stuffing my days as a stay-at-home mom. And this article made me realize that I am addicted to this mentality.  The writer argues that we gain a sense of importance from being busy, that our obligations are largely self-imposed, and yet we often sigh and complain about our overcommitted schedules as if they are out of our control.  He says of us busy folk, “They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.”  So as I stare at my weekly to-do list neatly scrawled on an index card, each item parceled out with tiny check boxes beside it just begging to be accomplished, I wonder which of those character traits is driving me the most.  Is it my ambition and drive searching for a new outlet that is not related to my college degree or professional career?  Or is it my anxiety–my need to have control over every aspect of my life, my need to keep forging ahead in the face of challenge?  Regardless, this article has me thinking and as I continue to wrestle with my stay-at-home-mom/temporarily-on-a-hiatus-teacher/aspiring-writer-and-seeker-of-new-hobbies identity crisis.  Whew–at least I will be able to check “blog post” off my to-do list this afternoon.

On my heart: My thoughts and prayers are with a friend of mine who just went through a major headache/seizure medical crisis that has turned her world upside down.   Sadly, she can’t even lift her 14-month old son while she recovers.  I am reminded never to take my health for granted and am wishing her lots of support and positive mindsets as she recovers.

Weekly Reader: I finally finished Half Broke Horses– another great read from Jeannette Walls.  Someday I aspire to tell my own family stories with such candor and grace.  I’m currently reading a memoir by Anne Enright called Making Babies for my book club and simultaneously reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  I haven’t been sucked in by Enright yet, but that may be because Verghese keeps winning the contest of which book I pick up for those blinking moments of bedtime reading. Verdicts TBD.

What’s Cooking: Zucchini muffins for Ev to gobble, salmon with warm lentil and arugula salad (one of our favorites), and southwestern barley salad (a concoction I will be throwing together this evening).

“Ev”Capades:  At long last, I think I can safely say that our little dude is officially a walker.  After a week in St. Louis walking all over the city holding Grandma’s finger and watching his older cousins amble about, Ev finally decided to leap over the hurdle.  After a good month of only taking unassisted steps toward coaxing open arms, he is finally setting off on his own and taking the world by storm.  I love the way he holds both arms high in the air when he walks–which is probably for extra balance–but I like to think it’s his way of cheering himself on as he solidifies his new toddler identity.  He has also officially uttered his first real word.  While he has had many inflections of “da” for “dog” and “dad” and even to address me (quite similar to the way “ma” stands for different words in the Chinese language depending on accents and speaking tone), he finally has articulated a word with both a beginning and ending consonant sound.  Any guesses on what it is?  You might guess “car” or “book” or “eat” or simple expressions like “hi” or “bye” or “go.”  But that would just be too mundane and predictable for our little adventurer.  I am a bit saddened to admit that my son’s first real word is: TRASH.  Yep-that’s right. He identifies and expressively labels every wastebasket he encounters, every dirty diaper I tightly wad, every fallen speck of food or paper on the floor.  While it is adorable, I am incredibly jealous that the garbage gets verbal recognition before I do…still waiting to hear “mama”, my sweet boy.  I also can’t help but wonder what it means that he picked “trash” of all the other engaging objects that fill his world–now there’s a way to psychoanalyze my mothering!  I’ll resist for now and just wait in anticipation for word #2.

Happy Highlights: We were welcomed back to Nashville this week by our wonderful neighbors and friends.  We spent yesterday at Monkey Joe’s with Amanda, Ava, and Cole and had a great time at library story time this morning with Band of Mothers.

Looking Ahead: Fourth of July tomorrow and Ben has a day off!  We are psyched!  There’s a children’s wagon/bike parade at the park across the street and a block party in our neighborhood in the afternoon/evening.  Have I mentioned how much I adore our little community here?

We are VERY in to climbing these days! No one warned me that this skill came in conjunction with walking.

Bonding time with cousins!

Checking out The Butterfly House!

Petting a goat with Grandma.

The BBQ potato chip and red wine tradition lives on! With Julie and Stef in St. Louis.

Snippets & Quips – June 4th

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State of the Union:  We have been busy, but having lots of summertime fun!  We spent Memorial Day weekend camping in Pensacola.  Everett was enamored by the beach and could have happily played in the sand and tickling tide for hours.  It was a HOT weekend though, so we had to limit our outdoor sun exposure time to early morning and early evening.  He still slept peacefully each night in the tent, but naps were a different story.  Given that the heat turned our tent into a daytime sauna, we were sentenced to afternoon drives with hopes that the roaring A/C and motion would bring Ev a few sandbags.  All in all, we had a wonderful little vacation.  Everett got to break lots of “rules”–very little napping, staying up past bedtime, and eating lots of salty Goldfish crackers in the sand.  Despite the lack of sleep and excess of junk food, he was a “happy camper” once again and we look forward to our next outdoor adventure!

I am thankful… for my solid and loving marriage.  Ben and I will celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary this week (and that’s 14 total years since our first kiss in case anyone is counting!)  To celebrate, my thoughtful guy made me dinner Sunday evening.  Thanks to online archives of Gourmet magazine, he located a recipe that he cooked for me in December of 1998 when I came home for holiday break from college.  I think it was to celebrate our 6 month “anniversary” of dating–a real milestone at the time.  He was just a senior in high school, but he knew well enough to take his wooing prowess to the kitchen.  I remember being highly impressed by the meal complete with different wine pairings for the appetizer, entree, and dessert–though at that time, I think we both thought wine tasted like rotten grape juice and we’d probably never even heard of a kumquat.  While both our palates and love have matured, the dinner still tasted just as delicious and made me feel even more special than a lovesick teenager.  Sauteed Chicken Over Wilted Spinach With Kumquat Sauce–food to nourish memories and the heart.

I am learning… how to be artistic!  This past week, I went to one of those “sip and stroke” places where you bring your own wine and an artist guides you step-by-step through the process of turning a blank canvas into art.  I usually cringe when I have to free-hand a stick figure, so I figured this would be an experience but did not expect to bring home anything wall worthy.  Once I let go of my perfectionist urge to make each brushstroke follow the exact trajectory as the modeling artists’, I felt a sense of calm and play take over.  Blending, streaking, smudging, dotting, blotting…oranges, pinks, and shades of blue ultimately turned into a decent– if not pleasant–sunset scene.  I must make time for this type of creation more often.  While there is no latent Picasso here, I think there could be a new hobby tugging on my sleeve.

I wonder… if I need to change the title of these blog posts.  My “snippets” seem to be growing into full-size canvases and my “quips” are more like reflective wordstorms.  “Blankets and Yarns”?  Doesn’t have the same ring.

On my mind: Letting go of opportunities.  I have lots of thoughts on this experience that I will save for a longer post, but I turned down two different part-time job opportunities last week.  The short story is that neither were a perfect fit and I have reconciled my identity crisis enough to realize that I really just want to focus on being a mommy for a little while without always having that “something extra” on my  plate to fulfill me but also to nag me and make me feel torn.  I’m going to use this time of career absence to find something that I have lost in adulthood….or more accurately never quite found: hobbies.

On my heart: My friend’s brother who suffered an aneurism while studying abroad.  He is making some progress and will likely be airlifted back to the states this week, but has a long road ahead to recovery.  While these types of situations are always hard for everyone close to the sick or injured, I find myself with a different and deeper emotional tug now that I am a mother.  My heart goes out to his mom, who has been wading through a different language and culture to be in a foreign country’s ICU with her son.  I just can’t even fathom that level of worry and heartache and desperate hope.

Weekly Reader: I’m about halfway through Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls.  I am loving the narrator’s matter-of-fact and unadorned voice that tells an intriguing “true-life” tale of American history, while showcasing the richness of an individual’s adventure through life.  After doing extensive family research, Walls is telling the memoir of her maternal grandmother–another beautiful blending of fiction and nonfiction spun with an unexpected tone.  It’s hard to rival her first work, The Glass Castle, which will forever stand in my top five list, but I am enjoying the read quite a bit.

What’s Cooking: We decided to join a meat CSA this year and have been really happy with our first month’s bounty.  So far we’ve had pork chops, a steak, Italian sausages, and hamburger.  It truly does taste better than anything we’ve purchased from the grocery store and we feel good knowing that it comes from a sustainable farm just miles from our kitchen.  We are also on a beet kick again, roasting up some yellow and red jewels from the farmer’s market to decorate an arugula salad with parmesan and walnuts.  Yum…looking forward to that meal this week!

“Ev”Capades: On Friday (June 1st), Everett officially took his first steps between me and Ben.  There were only about 3 topsy turvy shuffles, but he made it as a biped for that short route!  He is getting pretty comfortable holding our finger and walking, cruising on furniture, and even doing some rocking downward facing dog poses in preparation for a free stand-up.  I think we only have a couple more weeks before this boy is running and never stops!  Sign language is going great–he has mastered “please” and seems to be able to follow one-step directions more and more aptly everyday.  We gave up bottles about 3 weeks ago and except for Everett’s desire to rise with the sun (at 5:20), he is sleeping really well: about 10-11 hours at night and one big nap in the afternoon that often lasts 3-4 hours.

Happy Highlights: This past weekend, Ben participated in the first annual Sylvan Park Yard Olympics.  A plan that he plotted with our friend Chris turned into a truly impressive showing of fraternity and frivolilty.  While Ben contributed his heavily worn washer’s set, Chris and some of our other neighbors put a ton of work into the Saturday event that included 36 guys (18 teams) competing in 9 events ranging from “beersbee” to “cornhole” to “darts”.  There were even opening ceremonies that included a torch lighting.  The gals mostly corralled the kiddos, but it was a lot of fun to watch a bunch of grown men be silly and soak up their share of competition, sunshine, and beer, of course.  Here’s a “promotional” video that our friend Chris made to give you a taste of the shenanigans.

Looking Ahead: June!  So much to look forward to this month!  How is it already summertime?  I’m looking forward to lots of pool and splash time with Ev.  This week my mom’s group is heading to a great new splash park downtown and to the zoo.  I’m so thankful to have found Band of Mothers–such a great group of women and kiddos!  I’m also excited for my friend Deborah to come visit, who I have not seen in about 4 years–and also to see my dear friends Julie and Stef who will drive to St. Louis from Minnesota just for a reunion with me.  My St. Louis visit will also include meeting new babies!  Baby Winnie and Baby Asher are here and doing great!  And here’s hoping that my new nephew-Baby Max-will be here by my visit as well.  So many tiny toes to tickle and mamas to hug! I can’t wait!

The night we arrived…first time feeling his toes in the sand!

Eating his share of southern soul food! (This was a kid’s meal!)

My masterpiece!

Check out the outfit… Ben and Tom getting ready for their first olympic game: Sholf.

Snippets & Quips – May 18th

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State of the Union:  Warm sunshine, summer on the brink.  Life is good.  I’ve got one more week of work left.  I’ve really enjoyed conducting final assessments and seeing how much my little readers have improved since the fall.  Of course, I am getting sentimental with these kiddos as I reach the last few days of this job…but in the end, I know that moving on to other opportunities is the right move.  On that note, I have a couple of offers on the table for new part-time jobs.  While I am thankful, I am also still in that constant state of turmoil.  Part of me really wants to jump on and ride these waves, while part of me yearns for calmer waters.  Do I go with scatter or focus? An Impressionistic blur of bustle and busy…or a still-life landscape with crisp edges and finite borders?  Both portraits are rich and full and worthy of high art, but offer such different experiences for the creator.

I am thankful… for a thoughtful husband! On Mother’s Day, Ben woke up with Everett and made me a special breakfast: waffles with homemade strawberry syrup and fresh whipped cream.  It was delightful.  That afternoon, I had a good phone chat with my wonderful like-a-mom “Aunt C” and enjoyed some summer clothes shopping by myself.  How I love to shop alone!–perusing the sale rack for an hour with no pressure to move on, dawdling in the dressing room, wandering mindlessly through the swarms of harried shoppers. A great mama’s day and start to the week!

I am learning… to just keep putting myself out there and opportunities will surface.  It can be a difficult thing to do in both the personal and professional realms, but I have found that taking advantage of any opportunity to get to know someone or explore a new experience is usually rewarding.  In the past year, I have landed job opportunities and developed many great friendships by taking a few risks and unfurling my assets, quirks, and weaknesses for others to see.  Some days, it feel exhausting–but in the end, I think it builds a richer life.

I wonder… how Ev will do on our big camping trip next weekend.  We are headed to the beach for Memorial Day weekend!  Driving to Pensacola to set up camp near the sandy shore. Everett was a fantastic camper as a 6-month old…but he was not really mobile yet.  We shall see what new adventures this second round will bring!  I will have to suppress my spazzy mom flare-ups when Everett attempts to crawl into fire ant mounds and eat sand, but I am excited to watch him dip his toes in the tide.  Perhaps he’ll surprise us all and take his first steps on the sand!

On my mind: I must get into a workout routine.  Ben and I are both in a total rut of inactivity.  I really don’t have any good excuses.  I’ve been running once a week with my friend Jess, which has been a great motivator–but it’s starting to get too hot for my defective sweat glands to cope.  My plan is to reactivate our Y membership this week and to try to do the free yoga in the park on Saturdays whenever Ben is off.  I just feel physically weak–so my aim is to focus on core strengthening and muscle tone, rather than abiding by my typical philosophy that a workout is not a real “work out” unless it involves intense cardio.

On my heart: Everett has started to show a glimmer of a desire to cuddle…for the first time since he left my womb!  He will crawl up to me and play a game where he lays his head on my chest and then lifts it to grin at me and giggle.  He repeats this process three or four times before needing to secure his independence and scurry away.  I am in heaven.  Yesterday, he even let me hold him in my lap to read four or five books in a row (we usually can’t get through 1!)  His current favorite is Dr. Seuss’ Alphabet.  He giggles at every page…especially G: “Goat in Goo Goo Goggles!”  My sweet boy.

Weekly Reader: Trying to power read through “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys” before my mom’s book club meeting on Tuesday.  It’s been an interesting read… the overarching takeaway is the importance of modeling and teaching boys how to express their emotions.  Goodbye macho man.

What’s Cooking: Garlic scapes!  So excited they are finally at the Farmer’s Market!  We discovered these gems at our farmer’s market in Minnesota and have spent the last few weeks hounding the farmers here about their harvest date.  They are only in season for a short time, so we bought 3 bunches last week and will probably do the same tomorrow.  If you’ve never tasted them, I highly recommend you harass your local farmers and check them out.  Sautee them in a little butter with salt and pepper–just like a garlicky green bean.  Yum!  Other new recipes we tried this week: Cuban black bean stew and a sausage, kale, white bean & polenta dish.  Both turned out to be good, quick vegetarian meals to add to our rotation.

“Ev”Capades: We are in a screaming phase.  My little boy’s volume dial is stuck on max decibels.  Some times these banshee calls are just in fun, but other times they are shrieks of frustration.  With being right on the cusp of both walking and forming some words, I think his little brain is telling his body to do things he can’t quite manifest yet.  Everett’s getting closer to walking everyday and will now walk while holding on to our fingers.  We are so excited for him to grasp this big move towards independence!

Happy Highlights: We toured the Hatcher Dairy Farm with my mom’s group this week.  We’ve been buying our milk from them every week at our farmer’s market, so it was great to see the farm in action.  Everett enjoyed petting the cows and climbing on the hay bales…and he got his first taste of chocolate milk.  I’m just so happy that he is able to drink milk and that we are not forking over funds for Neocate Toddler!

Looking Ahead: Ben’s on call this weekend, so Ev and I will have some mommy-son bonding time.  Next week, we’ll be gearing up for our trip to ‘da beach’!  We leave on Friday when Ben gets off from call.  We’ll be doing an anti-rain dance and hoping for smooth car travels and peaceful nights under the stars!

Petting Ivy, the dairy cow.

Milking the cow! 🙂

Climbing the hay bales in the dairy barn!

Giddy up!