Tuesday, July 28, 2015


The reckoning...
1784. Morning adventures and paleo biscuits and gravy
1785. A pretty Betta who likes his new home
1786. One for one tacos {a taco for me = a meal for a kid in Africa}
1787. Brooklyn's excitement about going to church
1788. Solo grocery shopping - so much more efficient!
1789. Experimental soup success
1790. A jammy day, after a busy weekend
1791. Tobin's ardent desire to do whatever Brooklyn's doing
1792. Spontaneous weekday adventures
1793. The Museum of Discovery 
1794. That Brooklyn considers it a treat to go somewhere and sit and look at books
1795. Tobin's adorable attempts to crawl 
1796. Enthusiastic squeezie hugs from Brooklyn
1797. Adam's patience with my periodic bouts of "everything's awful and I'm not ok"
1798. Convincing Tobin to go to bed before 9pm, several nights in a row
1799. Progress made on deadline projects
1800! Afternoon naps for all
1801. An hour alone at Starbucks, spent productively
1802. Mum coming to get we-three so I wouldn't have to drive to Fayetteville alone
1803. A summer version of my favorite Onyx drink 
1804. Going to bed early (before ten!)

1805. Walking around the Farmers Market with a friend
1806. That macarons are naturally gluten-free
1807. Morgan's shower and Hannah's birthday party being the same day
1808. Being able to get up and go in the morning
1809. A smooth trip home
1810. Tobin deciding to crawl as soon as we got home
1811. Staying home and being still
1812. The only mail being happy mail
1813. Working together to make meals ahead for the week

Ten things I love about you:

- I love your strong arms and the way I feel safe in them.
- I love the way that Brooklyn squeals "Daddy Bear!" when you come home because you're worth being excited to see.
- I love your brown eyes, like mine. And like Tobin's.
- I love that you are such an amazing cook and so creative about inventing new recipes (especially within the restrictions of gluten-and-mostly-dairy-free).
- I love how you always know when I need a random encouraging text.
- I love the crinkles and dimples you get when you're really smiling.
- I love when you listen to me babble on about something that you don't really care about, just because I'm passionate about it.
- I love how hard you work to make sure that we're taken care of.
- I love that you and I are so different in so many ways, and yet so perfect for each other.
- and finally? I love you.

Blending One Thousand Gifts with Five Minute Friday (on a Tuesday...) - it's a weekly flashmob of bloggers internet-wide who gather to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then link up and share a little comment love. For more posts, more info, and/or to join in, head here!

The Walled Garden

I don't know if I've ever directly mentioned the tree behind our building, but I know that it's appeared peripherally, either in photos or references to leaves and birds and shade. It was about as tall as our three-story building, a sycamore and some sort of beech-birch-aspen-type-thing right next to each other... and, you will notice, is now referred to in the past tense.

A few days ago, someone came and cut it down. I heard the chainsaw and peeked through the blinds just in time to see it fall. I cried. There were homeless, flightless baby robins trying to get into the magnolia trees out front, and when I went to sit in the chair on our balcony, I felt oddly exposed.

I'm still coming to terms with my loss (yes, I'm aware that I'm talking about a tree that didn't belong to me). One thing I realized is that its presence made me feel protected and free at the same time - it was the first indicator of a rising storm, it sheltered that side of the building from sun and rain, and it also made the air seem cleaner and the view seem wilder.

That got me thinking about introversion and extroversion. If an extrovert is a city park (filled with swings and benches and free concerts in the summer), then I am an introverted walled garden. There's still a door, and I still let people in, but there are definitely times when I need to lock myself in and just breathe.

Because metaphors help me process, once I had the visual of a garden, I started to expand on it. I envisioned a high, old, ivy-grown brick wall. Paved paths connecting between tidy raised beds. Something for the birds. A swing or bench - or both. Maybe a pergola or "she shed" with a table for tea and art, alone or with friends. A place filled with growth and life, but also peace and calm.

In the process, I realized two things. The first is that the majority of my anxiety stems from violation of that garden. Perhaps I've been locked out and can't retreat, or the door has been left open and People and Things and Busyness are barging in, uninvited. Maybe the vegetables are dying from lack of water because I haven't had time to tend to them, or the flowers have been overtaken by weeds until the beauty has been choked out and I feel my heart race and my mind atrophy because I've been gone, out running errands that seem so trivial now.

The second thing I realized is that gardens have seasons. In the winter, you mostly stay inside, with a blanket and a book and a cup of tea by the fire. It's a time to rest while you wait for spring. Because in the spring, you have to go out and clean and plow and plant and weed and repair and paint and get everything freshened up and ready to go. In the summer, you maintain - there's a little harvest in terms of berries and blossoms, but it's mostly watering and weeding, and it's a good time for picnics and gatherings with friends. And then in the fall you harvest and store and burn up the cornstalks in a great bonfire and relish all of the cool evenings until they become so frosty that you're driven inside again.

Right now I feel like it's Spring, and it's been Spring for a very long time, and my mind is in dire need of a good, long, Winter's rest. But just acknowledging that helped, somehow. I made two adjustments this morning based on the idea that it's Spring but I wish it was Winter; I recognized that I have a continual supply of small-but-necessary tasks to accomplish so now is not the time for Grand Projects, and I bought a cute planner. I had considered getting a plain one and creating a system of colored pens and Washi tape, but then (following along with my garden metaphor) I thought that there is a time for growing your own flowers and there is a time for buying them from the Farmers Market, and that this is a time for the latter. Either way, I get flowers.

I'll continue to explore this more deeply in the coming weeks - there are a couple of books that I'd like to work through that are very relevant right now - but for now, I've got some watering to do.

Beautiful dwelling is accepting where you are, and moving forward from there (after all, you can't start from where you're not).

Monday, July 27, 2015

On the Move

Tobin decided, after a weekend visiting Fayetteville, that he should be mobile now. I wouldn't exactly call what he's doing "crawling" - he moves his knees up until they touch his hands, then lays down, hands extended, and repeats the process. It's definitely the most effective thing he's tried so far, and Brooklyn and I spent our day today keeping him out of things.

He didn't really have much need to move while we were in Fayetteville, with a steady stream of people who were happy to tote him around. I think he and Brooklyn both enjoyed their cousin Hannah's first birthday party - I wondered how Brooklyn would do, since that's the first not-for-her party she's been to, but she was brave and patient and did very well.

She's such a little person, I don't know why I was worried. This morning she was drilling Tobin with a set of alphabet flashcards. What's this? This is a W. This is a wagon. No, T, not a mouth toy! She kept pushing her hair back from her face, and I found a Joyn headband of mine that doesn't really work with my shorter style but was adorable on her. She figured out how to put it on herself and delightedly worked in it, adjusting it and wanting to see herself in the mirror. Ooh, pretty!

While we were at my parents, she helped my Mum make french fries - dropping the peels into the trash and the cut potatoes into a bowl, with only a little initial instruction as to what went where. I may have to start cooking more, so that she can help me.

Tobin has been highly interested in food lately - until we put it in his mouth, at which point he becomes extremely offended and makes little ninja moves at you if you try to give him another taste. The best thing I've found so far is to give him a taste of whatever I'm eating (especially if he can smell it, so it's not so much of a shock) - he actually ate seven lentils this evening out of my (somewhat spicy) soup. I'm not really worried about it - despite the pediatrician's prodding to give him "something high calorie" (not exactly sure what she has in mind...) and use of the phrase failure to thrive (are you looking at the same baby that I am?) I'm waiting for teeth before I start pushing solids.

It looks like I'll be spending this week creating a system that is baby-proof but not toddler-proof, and attempting to convince Brooklyn that some of the things only she has played with up 'til now are now "Burch toys" and Tobin can play with them too...

Monday, July 20, 2015


Tobin is continuing his experiments in locomotion. He moved one knee forward once (before reverting to the Superman Pose), and lifted one hand once - since that maneuver resulted in him promptly toppling over onto his back, he hasn't tried it since (I think it looked something like the one time I tried to ride a skateboard and found myself sitting in the middle of the road while it spun upside down in a ditch, immediately after I stepped onto it, with no clear idea of what had happened). But he still likes to get up on his hands and knees and bounce. He'll get it soon, I'm sure.

And when he does, I suspect that the first person he crawls to will be Brooklyn. He's so fascinated by her - not just by her toys that he can't have, but by her. She gives him hugs and he giggles, then holds perfectly still and waits to see if she'll do it again.

Brooklyn likes him well enough - unless he sneaks up on her, gets into her toys, or grabs her hair. Then she's just offended. I see a baby gate in the future, just so that she can get away if she needs to. Raising an introvert and an extrovert together is going to be interesting!

A couple of weeks ago, I called our front office to see how the pet policy applied to fish (they have an astronomical pet deposit plus a monthly fee for furry beasts), and she laughed and said fish don't count and I was welcome to one. So we got a guppy and named him El Guapo ("the handsome"). He made it a week. He wasn't eating, and the uneaten food caused a toxic imbalance in the pH that I didn't test for until it was too late.

So I cleaned out the aquarium, tested our tap water, added conditioner and tested it again, then added a pH balancer and tested it again - and apparently finally got it right, because Uther Pendragon has been industriously working on a beautiful bubble nest (a betta's way of saying that he feels he is in a safe and hospitable environment) almost since we put him in there.

I think it's good for kids to be around animals - Brooklyn says "Hi fish, hi Uther!" whenever she walks by, and enjoys watching him eat; and I don't mind the minimal maintenance of keeping his little tank clean. Our kitchen doesn't have a window, so he lives on the counter over the sink and gives me something to look at while rinsing dishes or working on lunch.

It's been too hot to even play with water on the balcony or really go anywhere, so we've been staying home (until we get into a dire grocery or diaper situation and have to go to the store). It's restful in a way, although Brooklyn gets tired of it and starts wanting to do errands. "Go Sonic, see cars, get ice? Groceries, Kroger, Whole Toods, ride in cart, carry list?" I'd love to go to the library more, or try to make it to the Museum of Discovery for a morning, but when I break a sweat just carrying them to the car, then it stops being worth it.

So until the heat indexes stop being in the triple digits, we'll just stay inside - I'd rather spend my summer days quietly with just my two littles than brave the mad world of Loud Bored People, anyway. 

Friday, July 17, 2015


1745. Farmers Market adventures with Tobin 
1746. Brooklyn's continued bravery after several days of lots of new places and people
1747. Sparklers, and both Littles sleeping through a window-rattling neighborhood fireworks display 
1748. Lunch with friends before leaving Fayetteville 
1749. Brooklyn bringing Tobin a toy out of his bag, to keep him happy while we unpacked 
1750. Having had the forethought to leave a day's worth of leftovers in the fridge, knowing we wouldn't feel like cooking 
1751. A day at home together before Adam had to go back to work 
1752. Driving adventures, with talking and cupcakes 
1753. Fish not being counted as "pets" in our apartments' pet policy 
1754. A jammy day, since everyone seems to be coming down with something
1755. Brooklyn eating "toats" {toast} with her lunch and being excited about it
1756. Finding the roach that tried to hide in the closet
1757. Tampering with one of Adam's recipes, and him liking the result
1758. Infused water - more drinkable to me than the plain stuff!
1759. Brooklyn saying "Hello Tobin! Hello El Guapo!" {the fish} when I got her for breakfast
1760. That being sick just makes Tobin sweeter and snuggly-er than usual, instead of fussy
1761. The only thing in the postbox being a magazine
1762. Experimental popsicle success

1763. Brooklyn pouring out all of her puzzles, and happily putting them back together
1764. Tobin's funny faces over new tastes - food!
1765. Knitting and watching a movie with him while she napped
1766. Being able to take Adam a new uniform jacket, after he got to Drill and realized his was stained
1767. Saturday morning cookies from Dempsey Bakery
1768. Coloring books for grown ups, and 40% off mobile coupons
1769. Tobin happily hanging out in the nursery, while I sat through an uninterrupted sermon
1770. Happy music
1771. Starting the week with the kitchen completely reset
1772. Brooklyn reading aloud to Tobin
1773. The way he wants to be doing whatever she's doing
1774. That Brooklyn is really excited about broccoli
1775. Voxer bookclubbing Breathing Room
1776. Brooklyn and Tobin having tea
1777. Tobin leaning over Adam's shoulder while Brooklyn sat in his lap and listened to a book
1778. Air conditioning (even when it's struggling, it's still better than a window unit or none at all)
1779. Evening rain to cool the outdoors off
1780. New Community
1781. That Tobin was napping when Brooklyn was sick, so I was able to focus on getting her cleaned up and feeling better
1782. Adam not having to work late
1783. Wild in the Hollow

The dapples of sunlight that trickle through the waving branches' grasp lure me like so many Will O' the Wisps; I chase the wonders, wide eyed, that are illumined by each beam, marveling at leaf, acorn, moss, and stone, treading holy ground. Downward, ever downward, my quest until I'm transfixed at running water's edge, to gaze on liquid song.

Introverted bliss - this is when I am most free. And it's certainly beautiful and, I think, necessary. But when I am convinced that freedom lies only there, scampering through the woods like a spotted fawn, then I become bound it, instead.

I am freer than I know - so much privilege, so much choice. I can think and say and write without fear (not always a good thing...) but I forget that that is also freedom, and instead sigh because running to the grocery store for a single forgotten item is an hour-long ordeal requiring multiple trips up and down the stairs and packing half the apartment into the car with us.

Trysts with Nature are refreshing to my soul, but I need to always remember that the spirit-thirst can only be slaked by Living Water - offered freely.
"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant."
{Isaiah 55:1-3}
Blending One Thousand Gifts with Five Minute Friday - a weekly flashmob of bloggers, internet-wide, who gather to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing!) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then link up and share a little comment love. For more info, more posts, and/or to join in, head here!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


I am a firm believer in Saturdays. Even though my dad often worked on Saturdays when I was a kid, I always thought that they should be special. I have tried my whole life to establish a Saturday Morning Pancake Breakfast Tradition, but no one else has embraced it with my level of enthusiasm or dedication - so when I have any amount of say, I always try to seek out special adventures for myself.

For example, the summer I was in Cleveland for an internship, I made it a point to walk to a Papa John's a few miles away and order a large pizza (which also became my breakfast for the rest of the week...) then get a couple of movies from the video rental store next door while I waited for my pizza, on the Saturdays that I wasn't working (on the Saturdays I did work, I made sure to leave in enough time to stop by the Vine and Bean Cafe for a chai). 

The summer I spent in New York, I would get up early on Saturdays and after a breakfast of pancakes I would explore the city. The Brooklyn botanic garden is free before noon on Saturdays and there is a wonderful farmers market in Grand Army Plaza, and those were both just a few blocks away. Sometimes I would walk down Union Street to a knit shop my roommate had taken me to, or she and I would have adventures together. Anything that couldn't be done on a week day after work (although, some pretty awesome stuff happened then, too) or on a Sunday after church (partly because that's when I did laundry, which was a three hour quest that needed to be finished before dark).

While I'm driven by a thirst for adventure, Adam prefers to answer the siren call of sleeping in. He's up early and working late so much, it's reasonable - so sometimes we three go have Saturday adventures that he wouldn't find particularly enjoyable (I can make getting coffee a production, and relish doing so) so that he can sleep in in peace, without Brooklyn coming in for periodic wellness checks.

Not that he doesn't like adventures - he'd just prefer that they not involve an alarm clock. Since I have two small alarm clocks, neither of which possess a snooze button, I can face my day much more cheerfully if I have some sort of plan for all the extra time I've been gifted.

I have a very broad definition of adventure. This past Saturday, Adam had Drill so we three went to Dempsey Bakery for cookies then swung by Hobby Lobby because I needed elastic to finish a design - and I found a grown-up coloring book while we were there that I gleefully spent part of the afternoon with. Sometimes we hunt down Beast (a paleo food truck with amazing breakfast tacos), visit the zoo or the Museum of Discovery, walk somewhere, or go for a drive. Pretty much anything that isn't staying home or going grocery shopping counts.

Now, I have the utmost respect for the ordinary moment (more on that later), but I also believe that sometimes a celebration should be more than the momentary acknowledgement of grace, sunrises, and a cup of tea. Some days just need be set aside as different - besides, why should birthdays be the only thing worth noting with cupcakes?

Beautiful dwelling is celebrating the small as well as the big - and recognizing that our attention to it is what determines the size of a moment.

Monday, July 13, 2015

As Easy As ABC

Tobin has been practicing his mobility this week, rolling and skootching around to get to things, and getting up on his hands and knees (and then crying because he doesn't know how to go that way). He's not interested in sitting up on his own - he'd rather spend his energy moving. I took him to the nursery during church yesterday (since Adam was at Drill, and because we need to work on him being away from me for more than 20 minutes at a time) and he discovered bouncy exersaucers and wore himself out.

It seems like the further you set him away from something, the more quickly he gets to it. He had the blinds on our back door in both hands a few days ago and was about to take a bite, like it was a cob of corn, when Brooklyn noticed. "No, no, Tobin! Not a mouth toy!" And then she carefully pried his hands loose, shifted him away from the door, and diverted his attention with one of his own toys.

She's so adorably aware. She can accurately identify any letter (and happily goes around pointing out the letters on things, or bringing me a piece of paper and a crayon and dictating letters for me to write), and count to ten (after that she gets a little fuzzy). We have several wooden puzzles that I've been storing in her closet until she could do them and she spotted them while I was getting something else out, so we added them to her rotation. One set is four puzzles with a little stand - she pulls them all out, dumps the pieces, puts them together, and then puts them back on the little rack before moving on (I think she may be partly motivated to keep things put away by a desire to keep them out of Tobin's hands/mouth).

Brooklyn and Tobin have both spent the last week recovering from a cold (as a side note, I will be so glad when they learn to blow their noses...), so we've spent a lot of time at home and outside, with lots of water and snuggles and tea parties and reading. Sometimes I read to Brooklyn, and sometimes she quotes the book to me - there are a few that are especial favorites that she can do pretty accurately.

Tobin's working on a couple of teeth, but they haven't come through yet. I've been giving him tastes of whatever I'm eating, when it's baby-friendly, but so far he hasn't been extremely impressed. This doesn't taste how I imagined it tasting.

I love watching their unique personalities emerge and develop - the way the a person becomes a person is such an interesting process! And they're already so different from each other...