Baby fawn right outside our sun room again. Mama keeps bedding the baby down here while she looks for food. This is the second time we have seen it!

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17 weeks (a.k.a. tight pants)

It’s growing.  I swear it looks bigger in real life, or maybe that’s just because my pants were too tight and I finally gave in to maternity pants.  Don’t judge these yoga pants from Target–they saved my life the past two months. Even if they do say PEACE across the butt.  I usually cover that with long, boring, black or gray tank tops.  Shocker. 

I have been eating a ton these last few days and feeling great!  Happy about that. 


In other news, we spent the weekend celebrating a belated Father’s Day with Tim’s family in Illinois.  We also threw in a Ballard clan get-together, which was a fantastic time of fun, sun, and some intense bean bag toss.  I’m still singing Aunt Joyce’s praises for the apple cake…  We got to spend some quality time with cousin Luke, too.  It was a wonderful weekend. 

Tim will be going to DC this weekend to see his Belizean roommate, John.  He is so excited!  I will be home, probably eating watermelon and nectarines and bacon.  He will be back for our mutual day off on the fourth and we have a few things cooked up for next week.  If they all pan out, we will have some surprises for you at the end of it. 


Father’s Day

We had a wonderful Father’s Day weekend!  There is something really thrilling about knowing we are going to be parents the next time these parental holidays roll around.  I have to admit that this year was already pretty awesome, and while I can feel this baby wiggling all over the place in its “bedwomb,” as my sister coined it once, next year we will have a whole new meaning of the word wiggle. It is nice to have everyone excited about it and feel like this baby is going to be born into a rockin’ village of love and support.  Timmy got a few fun things, but he was most excited about the fire pit (as the fire ban went into effect yesterday) and the mug that says Daddy Needs Coffee.  He’ll be needing that thing in about five months.

We were originally going to have my parents down for the weekend, but it turned out that my siblings had off work and wanted to have the weekend at our parents’ house, so we ended up going to Alexandria.  It.  Was.  Awesome.  Saturday we were outside all day, sunning, swimming, grilling, laughing, patting the baby bump, and celebrating dads with some pretty awesome gifts.  I think the men were all thrilled with the day.  It looked a little something like this:

We are getting really baby-excited as the weeks pass by at lightning speed (and at the same time like molasses in winter.)  We are in the fourth month of pregnancy already.  The nursery is coming along, one tiny decision at a time, and we are having a great time with our slow-paced approach to things we want done in the house.  This is less of a 100 meter dash and more of a 367 mile hike, we have found.  I hate to admit that I tend to be better at short, go-at-it-like-I’m-killing-snakes bursts of productivity while my sweet man is literally a long distance runner for fun.  I never did understand people who ran for fun.  They tell me I just stopped too soon, but I think sputtering, wheezing, gasping for air means it is definitely time to stop.

My baby bump is still pretty small, but from a month ago, it has definitely grown, says the fam.  As a girl who has genetically good abs and a tiny waist without any effort, I have to say I feel like it sticks way the heck out there.  Yes, I know this is only the beginning.  I am still below my pre-pregnancy weight, which is awesome since the babe is using up some of all that stuff I was storing in the trunk, if you know what I mean.

When Tim showed me this picture, I literally asked him if it looked accurate.  I swear that thing feels huge.  I am realizing how midsectionally blessed I have been my entire life.  Nothing like a pregnancy to make you truly grateful for things you didn’t even know you had.

Now that summer is upon us, I am going to start walking a lot more to enjoy the sunshine before the heat of the day.  Walking has always been sort of meditative for me and I know my body will be glad I did come wintertime when I am in labor.  Ten minutes a day will change your life.  I will challenge you to do it with me, if you want to.  Do it for a month and see how you feel.  It’s remarkable.

Finally, we have made literally no progress on our house since rearranging but we are gearing up for gutting the bathroom in the next few months.  Yipee.  Instead, we have been enjoying our mama and baby kitty for the last week.  I get home from work and just watch and play with them for hours.  I know this is my hormones speaking because I am a total dog person, but I am totally enthralled with watching these two interact.  I even hated to leave them this weekend to go see my family.  It’s true, I have lost my mind.  My brother rescued the mama from the side of the highway and she was pregnant at the time.  He kept her until the kittens were weaned, found them good homes, and we adopted these two together.  We are so glad we did, because they have so much fun together.

The mama’s name is Metta, which means loving-kindness, because she is a totally zen, loving, reserved cat.  She is only a few years old.  The baby is a few months old and quite the tyrant when she is awake, which is in one hour spurts throughout the day and night.  The girl is like the feline matrix.  Her name is Francie, because she just seemed like a Francie almost immediately.  Spritely, slightly wily, impish, and completely adorable.  We love them both very much, especially because in about five days we were down four mice.  We thought we only had one.  Surprise (and not in a good way.)

Bird/snake/chipmunk/deer watching.  Yeah, they are all in our front yard.

Napping on the nursery chair after a vicious round of chase-the-ball-with-the-bell-in-it.  She doesn’t last long, but it is so fun to watch.

Here’s hoping you could either hug, talk to, or be intentionally grateful for your dad this weekend.  I know Tim and I both feel like we had wonderful men to look up to and learn from, and I know that Tim is going to be a darling, collaborative father to our children.  I mean seriously, we had to drag him out of the pool along with Oliver.  The man likes his play time.

Simplifying Relationship

Why is it so hard to be kind to the people who love us the most?  Why are we not taught in school how to deal with and express our emotions?   Tim and I have chosen to spend a lot of energy on the way we communicate.  We know when we have a baby who is awake several times a night it will be harder to have these kinds of conversations, let alone the daytime energy to work on the ways we deal with the stress in our lives.  It seems like emotional education is essential to a happy, kind life.  It also seems like the window for changing the way a couple communicates tends to be rather short and definitely precedes children.

We are saying “carpe diem” about creating a simpler relationship right now in which we can communicate openly about anything without getting defensive or raising voices.  We are done having the same arguments over and over again.  Warning: This is harder than it sounds.   Feelings get hurt more easily when you are—ahem—hormonal, tired from the week, frustrated by an argument with someone else, discontent with your job, out of orange juice…  Hurt feelings make it so, so easy to be nasty to the one you love and we regret it every single time we do it.  So we are going to stop.   Today we are committing to working on our relationship, to keeping ourselves accountable, and to ask our friends and family to support us in this challenging adventure of kindness.  Here are a few things we are reading to get us started with perpetual loving kindness:

Nonviolent Communication  is something Tim really loves, but I find it rather dry.   It holds the same theories as the next book, which is…

Conscious Loving.  This is Meg’s all time favorite relationship book, and was recently featured on www.goop.com.  It changed the way I see myself and the people I choose to have in my life, and it changed the way I interact with them for the better in every way.

Scream Free Marriage is our most recent, well-reviewed library pick that we are going to read together so we can relearn how to disagree with our dignity and kindness still intact.  Despite the fact that this has been a constant goal for us, it is a perpetual challenge not to let the rest of our stress affect the way we communicate when it is just us.

What about you guys?  Anyone have any books they loved about kind relationship building?   How do you keep your long term relationships kind and loving as the years pass?

Vacation time!

Vacations are such a long time coming, but it seems like they are gone so quickly.  Tim and I kicked off the week with a very last minute trip to Onarga, which I mentioned previously.  Aside from the engagement announcement of Tim’s sister, we also spent some time at the Kankakee Farmers’ Market.  We had such a great time!  Fresh lemon shake-ups, beautiful cello solos drifting in the air, blue skies and gorgeous sunshine.  We lunched on olives, gourmet cheese, hummus, and homemade pita and bread.  You just never know what you’ll find at the market!


For sure we are sporting a baby bump these days.

This week has passed so quickly!  Monday was a day of cleaning after our vigorous rearranging on Sunday night.  Here are a few shots of what our house looks like today, mess and all.  Spacious living room!

Nature cocoon bedroom!

Soft gray nursery!

Excuse the terrible pictures.  My camera got misplaced in the shuffling of furniture.  Mary Kay and I also planted lots of hostas, red bud trees, and a beautiful blue hydrangea that reminds us of our wedding flowers.  Tonight we will have Logan and Vanessa (Meg’s brother and his future wifey) here, and they will be bringing the two kitties we are going to adopt!  We are very excited, because mister mousey left us tons of mouse poison pellets in our shoes this morning.  No joke.  We didn’t even know we had mouse poison in this house.  Gross!  Tim is on duty to hunt them down when he gets home from work.

Now for a little Father’s Day shopping!  Hope you are all having a splendid week!

Summer soup

I admit, I could live on soups of every variety.  I know many people who hardly approve of soup as a food, but I love it year round and Tim lets me cook it all summer long without complaint.  Here is one of our favorite summer soups.  Head to your local farmers’ market or back yard garden and snag some squash and basil and give this a go.  The result is a light, buttery, herby soup that is perfect even for the closing of the hottest day.

Zucchini Soup with Fresh Basil

3 tbsp butter
1 cup celery
1 cup of onion finely minced
one bay leaf
1/2 tsp of dried or fresh thyme

When the onion begins to look translucent, add in:
1.5 lbs. zucchini, peeled and cut into ½ to 1 inch chunks
2-3 c. stock

Cook for 20 minutes at a low simmer and remove bay leaf.  Stir in a 10 ounce bag of fresh spinach leaves if you’d like, but we usually omit this.  Puree and strain for stems if using spinach.  Then puree with at least 10 fresh basil leaves.  Season to taste and serve!

This recipe is similar to this one found at Food & Wine magazine:  http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/zucchini-soup-with-basil, which could be the original recipe, but it was given to me in pen-and-paper form from a dear friend in L.A. so I could be mistaken.

Simplifying Stuff

We are on a crazy kick over here.  We are getting rid of everything we don’t use or love.  It is so liberating!  It began with the flooding of the basement, but really it began long ago since we both are sort of minimalist nomads at heart.  Now that we have a house in the woods with a basement full of stuff we still haven’t unpacked, it is sort of seductive to consider blindly throwing it all out and never wasting another thought on where to put it or what we might need from one of any number of boxes.  We might do that, but we are more inclined to force ourselves to use pre-baby months to go through it all and give away what we will not use.  The sticky part is finding the energy to go through what we already have, but it is easier to think about it like this:  “I will never have to unpack, house, or use this stuff again.” 

When the basement was full of water and we had feverishly hoisted boxes on top of anything we could find to keep the contents dry, we vowed two things.  One, the space downstairs will never be the movie-watching, home theater, relaxing space we thought it would be when we moved in.  Two, all this crap we have accumulated has even less space than we thought it did to find a permanent home. 

Verdict:  we will choose to make our roughly 1000 square feet plus the loft suffice as a living space for a family of at least three, if not four.  Since we are not big on wasted belongings/space/money anyway, this isn’t a problem for us.  It does, however, mean that we have to recreate floor plan choices like our huge dining room table that takes up the biggest gathering space on the main floor.  If we have no sofa in the not-so-finished basement, then it must go in the living space and probably exactly where that table was.  We have been sketching out different ideas and plans for our remaining furniture and things.  We like where it’s going, but it definitely is about 700 square feet shy of what we thought we had coming into this thing.  

This weekend, we had a last minute trip to Illinois to surprise Tim’s sister, Sara, who got engaged on Saturday.  She didn’t know she was getting engaged, and she didn’t know both of their families would be there for dinner.  It was a great surprise!  Congratulations to Sara and Derek!  After the long drive home last night, Tim and I rearranged nearly every piece of furniture we have and so far, we are happy with it.  The master bedroom was in the loft, the spare bedroom in Baby GB’s room, the living room in the front room full of windows.  Here’s what we have now:  master bedroom in the room full of windows, office and spare bedroom in the loft, living room in the main living space. 

The compromise is our lack of a huge dining room table, but the up side is waking up with walls full of windows and a much more open living space while we gain a third bedroom.  Plus, when people come to stay they have their own deck, seating area, bathroom, and desk/computer to use.  I will post pictures later on, but for now this place looks like a freshly rearranged train wreck.  Tim’s Mom will be here in a few hours, so I have a lot to do before she gets here so we can jump into nursery business.