Before we get to the weekend…

We had lots of responses to and conversations about our last blog post and wanted to share with you this book that reveals exactly the way to quiet your mind enough to enjoy where you are.  It is called The Untethered Soul and we are totally amazed by the first chapter alone.

(Google images)

On another note, after being 66th of 74 holds for Downton Abbey Season 2 at the library for several months, I picked it up yesterday and it is sweetly calling my name from the dining room table on this lovely day off.

(Google images)

And one more thing we are totally enjoying right now is this album.  We have been listening on Spotify for free, but it’s good enough that it warrants a purchase in my book.  It is a $6 download for the whole album on Amazon and it’s great if you think classical music puts you to sleep.  This is a motivating but not obnoxious set that is great for cleaning the house or encouraging independent toddler play or studying without snoozing.

Happy Friday!  Cheers to the weekend and Notre Dame football… in DUBLIN!  Angela Kelly (my former roommate at SMC) is on her flight there right this minute.  Jealous?  We are, too.

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Seasons

I bet after all my chatter about Fall coming at a snail’s pace, you were betting on a post about seasons of the year.  Surprisingly, I was referring to seasons that we go through in our lives, and the things that we spend time doing because of them.

Before we get to that, let’s recap the super weekend we just had in Alexandria.  I don’t know how I ended up with so few pictures from a weekend involving a hike, four birthdays, a jubilee celebration for Sister Gerald, and some really awesome family time, but I did.  “Absentmindedness” is still a symptom by the end of six months of pregnancy.  Go figure.  All I have to show for a fantastic time with my side of the family are these pictures:

My cute, cute husband rocking new trunks and Ray Bans

My darling Momma, queen of hosting whatever gathering ends up at her house

Wrapping up the sixth month…  Excuse my glaringly white belly!

Newlyweds!  Just got back from Alaska.

Aside from the weekend, Tim and I have been doing a lot of talking and trying not to get totally sucked into having cable.  We have decided after a week of having it that we already watch more tv that we actually like less, so we are trying to consciously pick a few evenings a week with no screens (tv, computer, phone) in an effort to maintain closeness in our busy world and talk about things that are meaningful and important.

For the last month or so, Tim and I have been having discussions about lots of things, but one thing that keeps creeping back up is how we all have seasons in which we feel good about life and some in which we just don’t.  I tend to want to make big changes about everything at the beginning of the summer while Tim tends to get antsy about the way life is from mid-to-end of summer.  This leaves us spending the warmer months in sort of an emotional funk where we try to figure out why it is so damn hard to be happy with what we have.

The million dollar question of the week:  Why is it that after we decide what we want and get what we said we wanted, we still don’t feel content/happy/at peace?  How do you quiet the mind enough to be here, now, and enjoy what you have without letting the past or the future or what you don’t have get in the way of feeling full and happy and positive about your the life you have created? 

This weekend, one of my trusted souls told me one of the greatest things she has ever learned is that “happiness is a choice.”  I agree with that, and I think anything less than a full commitment to that belief (or to anything for that matter) will get you absolutely nowhere.  Do you have any tips for letting go of everything irrelevant and making today enjoyable and positive?  Disciplining the mind is no small task, and we are hoping one of you has a great tactic for calming the thoughts and claiming contentment.  Anybody?

This is the current funk we are in, which we are troubleshooting in a few ways.  We are big fans of intention boards.  Does that remind you of The Secret?  Perhaps.  Don’t knock it ’til you try it.  We made one when we lived in Anderson with twelve things on it (including yoga practice, a porch, a garden, a house, a baby, a UU emblem, and other things I don’t remember now) and exactly two years later, we have accomplished/found/created everything on that board.  EVERYTHING.  We took them down as we accomplished them, which happened to be half of the things about a year ago and then the other half just this summer.  If you think it sounds crazy, the next time you feel dissatisfied as we all do at times, identify the things you really want to see or change in your life, find a picture representation (Google images is super) and pin it up somewhere you will see it regularly.  Tim and I are getting ready to make a new one now that ours is empty.  We are pretty excited about it.

I think intention boards work on several levels, but mainly because a conscious reminder of what you want triggers your subconscious to figure out how to make things happen as long as you keep your mind focused over a period of time, which is the hard part if you don’t have a physical reminder.  If you can’t even visualize your life the way you’d like it to be, it’s time to spend some time in the quiet and figure that out first.  Something you can’t even imagine for yourself is also something that is not likely to happen any time soon.  Right?

A more ethereal explanation is the give and take of good things by the Universe, where you open yourself up to the things you want and God or the Universe or whatever you want to call it creates the opportunity for you.  It is hard to stay focused on positive things in a culture as busy and noisy as ours, and this is something that has proved grounding for us and helped us trust the process of Life, knowing that things change and get better if we can keep our minds in an open, positive place.

Another topic of conversation in this house is obviously my growing belly and baby and how we want to give him the world.  Hopefully this includes a worldview and general attitude of positivity, encouragement, and wonder.  Hence all the work on our mindsets before he gets here.  We are getting pretty excited about having somebody who resembles us grow into a little human who can play in the woods and go to Chicago for the first time and see the National Parks with us on summer road trips.  So far, our tactic is to show him all the things we love about the world and then hope by the time he moves out he can make decisions about where to go and what to do based on the things to which he has been exposed.  I think he’s going to be one rockin’ kid, personally.   I can see how three more months of pregnancy might leave me reeeeeeally ready for him to make his appearance.  I am already excited to meet him.

This weekend we will be in Onarga and I will try my hardest to be better about taking photos of the happenings.  In the mean time, enjoy Labor Day weekend and some time away from work!

Wrapping up the summer

This is what the end of our summer is looking like:

…but don’t be too jealous, because this guy just worked 12 days straight at his new job and is pretty exhausted.  He is loving the work, but the hours have been a little plentiful.  Don’t worry, changes have been made and this will not be a permanent pace of life for Timmy.

In other news, one of our two detours wrapped up and for a solid week, we had a mostly normal commute to town and back.  It didn’t last long and despite some moaning on my part about winding way the heck out of the way to go to work, this is what I pass in the mornings now as I come around the bend:

It is such a quiet, marshy, woodsy place to sit and in the mornings it looks misty and ethereal.  Tim and I went this morning to have our tea and watch the herons, beaver and squirrels do their thing.  It looks like there is a great trail that runs along the shore all the way into the ridgeline, so we will explore that at some point.  We have been going to an SRA that was full of boaters and people fishing/hanging out on the rocky beach, so it’s nice to accidentally discover something just as close to home that is so much more peaceful.  I went three times this week!

Tim had the daytime off on Thursday and worked in the evening, so he put up some trim and baseboard.

Caulking and painting to come, but it’s nice to have some more gaps covered, one nail at a time.  There are a handful of house projects we are feeling motivated to resume lately, so hopefully we will have some fun updates to share by the time Fall is in full swing.  I also finished the bookshelves and got them back up, but not the cabinet doors, so I will spare you the clutter and save that for a later date.

We have been reading some of our usual things (Wayne Dyer for Tim, murder mystery series for me for the moment) and we have also picked up a few parenting books, including this one:

available here on Amazon.

We have been talking about the choices we make as individuals, as a couple, and the ones we see ourselves making as parents in the coming years.  This book seems like it focuses on creating happy kids without a whole lot of stuff, which is right up our alley A. because we don’t like stuff cluttering our lives and B. because we are by no means going to live ostentatiously from a financial standpoint with two jobs in public service.  We will keep you posted, but it looks like a great read!  Any other simple parenting books you would recommend?

We will be joining the real world for the next six months because Comcast, the little dears, are jacking up our internet service to the point that adding $5 more gives us cable for six months.  This gets us through Notre Dame football and most of the season of Bones.  We have not had tv in this house since we moved in and it has been really nice to just have netflix and stream things, but it will also be nice for the colder months/maternity leave/football season to have the cozy option of television when everyone else gets to watch it.  Right now I have to say silent prayers that there won’t be Rookie Blue spoilers on facebook by the time I get to watch it 24 hours later each week.

The simple life in the woods we strive to maintain is not absolute and we are excited about the media induced break with cable for a while.  We are countering that with the choice to cut down our phone plans and get rid of data.  It’s expensive and it doesn’t foster better personal relationships, so we are nay saying the data package.  Goodbye, crackberry.  I will miss you, but I know I waste my waking hours clicking your buttons and looking for some sort of meaning in all the wrong places.  Sigh.  More books, more conversations, more time in the quiet.  Tim and I have both recently realized how hard it is to be isolated in the woods.  He works with people of many ages and mindsets, but I can go for weeks only seeing Tim and the toddler/her family.  After a while, it wears on a gal.  I was never overtly social, so I cope pretty well with it, but I think it’s safe to say we have both reached a point of wondering what we should do to feel more connected.  We do the farmers’ market and UU service every week that we are in town, and perhaps the problem lies in the frequency with which we leave town, which has been considered.  Just something we are thinking about.  Suggestions welcome…  Do you live in the boonies?  How do you keep your sanity and kindness in tact without forgetting to stop talking to yourself every time you are in public?

25 weeks prego!  Three months and counting, says Tim from the other room.  I am back on the cooking bandwagon finally and enjoying our open windows and burning candle.  Ah, weekends.  This is what you are supposed to feel like.  I remember now.

Next weekend, Alexandria will be our focus as we celebrate a handful of August birthdays (mine is the 23rd!) and also Sister Judy’s jubilee.  I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure this means she has been a nun for 50 years.  She is one rockin’ lady and the coolest, kindest nun I ever met with her arty talents, chunky sweaters, and birkenstocks.  We will be excited to see her because she has never met Timmy and probably has no idea that boo boo is on his way to meet us this winter.

Labor day weekend we will be going to spend a day at the Dunes and then head to a Ballard family get together on Sunday.  Let the good times roll!  We haven’t seen them since the end of June!

Part Two

*If you are not pregnant, not considering being pregnant, or generally not up for talk about the experience, by all means read no further.  There will be no hurt feelings; this is just an attempt at honesty for the sake of relating to others through human experience on a topic in which I found it hard to come by. 

In baby land, we are 24 weeks today which is pretty great!  I feel really great for the past few weeks and I even slept 8 hours in a row, two nights in a row last week.  I felt like I had hit the restful jackpot in reclaiming some of my really wonderful, solid sleep from pre-pregnancy days.  Never fear, it didn’t last, but I sure enjoyed it.

Tim and I met later in life than perhaps we would have liked to, but we also both crammed in a ton of travel and life experience that normal 20-somethings don’t have long before we knew each other.  Despite this, we have both had fleeting moments of “oh CRAP we should have waited and travelled more pre-baby raising!”  Then we think about being 29 and 32 by the time he is actually here and we realize now is the time to start this show.  It is exciting and terrifying, but really getting more fun by the day.  We don’t make a ton of money, but we also value a simpler life than most of our peers and we really have everything we need, including our transcendental home in the woods.  All in all, we are looking very forward to our nest in the woods hatching another nerdy baby hippie soul.

I have hesitated to speak much about my mental adjustments to pregnancy, but my Mom mentioned that maybe I should blog a little about it so here goes.  I have raised my share of other peoples’ babies from 0-2, but you know, even when you start with a babe at 3 months old, there is a lot that had to happen first!  You know this, of course, and so do I, but somehow it eluded me when I actually thought about being a parent.  I knew I wanted to be a mom someday from the time I was about five, and by 27 I was committed to teaching, not marrying anyone, and adopting two babes on my own.  Then I met Mr. Ballard teaching next door and I was a goner.

Even though I knew instantly that I wanted a family with Timmy, I feel totally blindsided by the experience of pregnancy as it happens to me now.  The entire first four months I think I asked my Mom and sister about 800 times “is this normal??”  They were probably ready to kill me.  Now I try to only call them when something freaks me out at least a 6 out of 10 on the creepy scale.  I have had friends tell me how much they loved being pregnant.  Never sick, felt great, loved every minute of it.  Seriously?!   Maybe it’s all about your mindset, but I tried and tried to convince myself that I would love being pregnant and that my body would adapt wonderfully.  Nope.  Let’s hope this isn’t a sign of my coping skills during natural childbirth, eh?  (My Mom is saying “you can say that again” as she reads this.  She will be my doula, heaven love her.)

I am sort of prissy, I suppose.  I like my solid sleep, I like my routine and my uber healthy cooking and eating.  The first 20 weeks of pregnancy I was nauseated, couldn’t look in the fridge, had to pee, or was just generally uncomfortable.  These words as I type them totally do not convey how not good I felt.  The emotional turbulence made me feel borderline sad (thank goodness not to the point that I cried too much) and worried about not making Tim happy, or not being able to do enough in the house, or not feeling like I could remember what I was supposed to do, let alone get it done and cross it off the list I couldn’t even make for lack of coherent thoughts.  The first trimester was also hideously nausea-ridden and narcoleptic in nature.  This isn’t easy for a girl who likes to know what to expect and relies heavily on lists to maintain a positive demeanor!  If this happens to you, it will get better.  I am going to apologize for the universe and say I’m sorry that there is absolutely nothing to make time pass faster than it already does.  Find a hobby.  Or a tv show, preferably with several seasons, on Netflix.

Second trimester, my energy came back and I felt less nauseated by far (meaning I get really hungry at least twice a day,) but I still have a pretty significant set of “rules” I follow to prevent feeling sick in a day’s time and I am fine with that!  For me this means no dairy, no meat, and only fresh food and peanut butter toast/crackers/rice cakes until dinnertime.  Cooked food?  Not before dinner.  Cheese?  Just a little?  No.  I do have it a few times a week, and then I mumble about poor decisions and feel generally like I don’t want to see food again, ever, until the next day when my dairy-free resolve is strengthened again.

I think if I had looked at early pregnancy with a troubleshooting mindset to figure out what foods made me feel gaggy, I would have found my “rules” much earlier and felt better earlier.  People say eat what sounds good, but I applied it as “eat what sounds good as long as it is nutritive on some level.”  I craved one food first trimester:  dark chocolate cake.  I didn’t eat much of anything aside from organic apples, grapefruits, peanut butter, and pretzel rods or I was sick as a dog, but I regularly wanted cake.  For those of you who don’t know, this is quite unlike me.  I didn’t eat a single piece, but I remember thinking at least ten times over several weeks “if Kroger wasn’t so damn far away…”   I should probably thank Tim for picking the house in the woods.

I don’t want to be negative about the pregnancy process because it is really remarkable to look down right now and see him wiggling around (apparently he likes Mozart, too) but I had a hard time with it because people don’t tend to talk about how hard it can be to feel so unlike yourself when there is so much going on in your body.  Of the stacks of pregnancy books on my shelves, nothing made me feel like anyone understood my experience, and that feeling of loneliness on top of sore boobs about put me over the edge.  Just ask Tim.  I vehemently argued that no one would ever have more than one child if they remembered what it felt like those first months.

I have had a few very good weeks now and already I feel all of the negativity of my first one and a half trimesters dissolving as I get more and more excited about a tiny human and as I get more used to the new routine that keeps me feeling energetic and not sick.   So there’s my take on the first half of pregnancy.  Here’s hoping that this little tirade on pregnancy can make at least one person feel less alone when the time comes.  It gets better!  I finally feel like pregnancy is fun.  Once you figure out what to do to feel good and commit to doing it, you will feel so much better.   Anyone have any tips for the second half of pregnancy?  I’m all ears.

Part One

I wore a long sleeved shirt to the market yesterday and it was divine.  I even wore a puffy vest that absolutely does not button over my belly, but I rocked it anyway.  Bring on 50 degree mornings!  Turns out my bump has graduated to absolutely no more pre-pregnant shirts.  Tim didn’t warn me my belly was sticking out last week and I looked like an idiot for a whole day.  We had a conference about it later, but just in case it happens again, TELL ME for heaven’s sake.  Hello, 24 weeks!

The past few weeks have been filled with lots of small things changing around the house while nothing really impressive got done.   We rearranged the house… again.  I mentioned it last post, but here is a photo.  When you live in 1000 square feet and basically one huge room, you learn to get creative.  I am a gal who needs constant change to keep up any sort of creativity flow, much to Tim’s chagrin.

 


Sweet Pittsburgh cousins, Maggi and Greg (and Mike and Sharon,) came to see the house and Mags tells me that pictures don’t capture the space.  While this is true, unless you are up for a road trip to the woods, you probably won’t get a good feel for the space because it is so open and I am lacking a wide angle lens.  We are contemplating a few shifts when the holidays start to make room for a tree and a fireplace-mantle-turned-entertainment-center (we like to pretend we don’t have a tv.)  I am also on the hunt for a wicked kitchen island, preferably in a minty green which is obviously something I can amend if color is the only obstacle.

We hung pictures on the wall at long last.  It feels so much more like home with a few of our favorite things on the walls.  Our collage includes a vintage Italian piece of art from Goodwill, a Gwen Frostics fern print card my Mom sent me years ago, the Mayan calendar which we like for aesthetic and sentimental reasons but not chronological ones, a favorite wedding photo, and a picture of Jane Austen, Henry David Thoreau and Ghandi, but my centering eyes were a little crooked when I went hammer happy.  Tweaking ahead!

Timmy also nailed down some baseboard in the main living area and it looks great!  We need to add shoe trim around the bottom to camouflage our ridiculously not level floors, but it looks so much cleaner already.

In baby world, we have rearranged the nursery and assembled a few things.  I also got some organizing done with blankets, tiny clothes, tiny diapers, breastfeeding supplies, and the new/used things I have been gathering from friends down here.  We definitely have a drawer full of baby spoons, pacifiers, breast pads, monthly onesie stickers, and about ten other random things.  They will have to find a home later.  On the docket for this week:  teaching Timmy how to buckle an infant/stuffed bunny into a carseat and how to put on a sling or Moby wrap.

They like the nursery.  Maybe a little too much.  I can’t even take a photo without them plopping at my feet.  Get ready, kitties!  Colder weather means you’re almost back on duty for mouse patrol!

In other news, thanks to BabySwede, we have a brand new Baby Bjorn Babysitter Balance!  It was on the porch when I got home one day last week and I giggled out loud at the sight.  Love it!

 

Kait and Oliver came down for a few days mid week and we had such a fun time with them.  We played and snuggled and went to Lake Monroe and ate a lot of pasta.  Pretty much my ideal quality time.

We have been sitting outside a lot this past week with the beautiful weather.  It is so much nicer to live in the woods when you can sit outside and enjoy it!  We had highs in the 70s at the end of the week and 80s this weekend.  It has been wonderful and renewing.  Waking up to fresh, cool air in the mornings starts my day of in such a good way.  Perhaps it is my love for soup, but Fall is coming and I sure am happy about it.  Hope you are all enjoying the summer!

It’s August.

You know what that means?  Next comes September, which means Fall, which means less sweating and more hot drinks and vest wearing and long sleeves and Notre Dame football.  It is my favorite time of year!

We also have many things keeping us busy through the autumn, like my birthday late in August, our second anniversary in September, Tim’s birthday in October, and then maternity leave mid-November.  It is going to be the best Fall ever.  I am so excited!  Even more freakishly excited than I normally am, since I love the holiday season to begin with and this year we look forward to a baby shower and Log and Vanessa’s wedding reception!  If you follow me on Pinterest, you know I am already on the holiday decorating bandwagon.  I didn’t start yet, just gathering ideas.  I’m not that much of a freak.  Slash we watched Miracle on 34th Street last night and I have been listening to holiday tunes for months.  Loooove iiiiit!

Forgive the infrequent posts.  We just aren’t doing much these days.  It’s awesome!  We did rearrange the house, which I forgot to capture in a photo.  We went to Alexandria last weekend to surprise my Mom for her birthday and see my Dad after his brief hospital stay (don’t worry–everything checked out fine.)  It was nice to have everyone in one spot, despite the quick turn around!  This weekend we are off to Onarga to celebrate Tim’s friend Matt’s wedding to the darling Rena.  Congratulations to those two!

We also are continuing to work on the nursery… without much visual difference at this point.  But how cute are those tiny baby clothes??

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We also have been doing some prep work for FINALLY getting some art on these naked walls.  So far, it has hardly made it past this stage:

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If you plan to visit ever, you will be glad to know we got a new, superbly comfortable bed for the loft!  We also enlisted a new frame since it allows us to make a daybed-feeling space which is more suitable for an office slash guest space.  If we hadn’t just bought a new mattress, I would totally be sleeping up there.  Sorry, Timmy.  It is a divine bed!  If you didn’t want to come visit before, you so do now.  I mean it.  Nevermind the trashbags of various clothing articles under the bed that haven’t been stored properly yet.

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Today, I successfully washed all of our pillows (random) and made Banana Walnut Muffins with espresso and a few chocolate chips for good measure.  They turned out way better than last time, and last time I obviously ate them all so they couldn’t have been too bad.  I used high protein flour and greek yogurt, so these fellows have a wicked protein punch, which my body needs dearly these days.

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(The recipe can be found here http://www.chow.com/recipes/12073-espresso-banana-muffins)

Makes: 12 muffins

This decadent espresso-flecked morning muffin with a big, walnut-crusted top is everything a muffin should be. If you need more than espresso to lure you out of bed, stir in some chocolate chunks.

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 cups white whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon fine espresso powder
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup natural cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 3 large bananas)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Heat the oven to 375°F, position the racks low in the oven, and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, 3/4 cup of the walnuts, and the espresso powder in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. In a separate large bowl or a stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar and then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla, yogurt, and mashed bananas, then briefly and gently mix in the dry ingredients; overmixing will result in tough muffins.
  4. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin (an ice-cream scoop works well), top with the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, and bake until golden, about 25 mintues. Fill the cups two-thirds full for regular muffins or to the brim for a big-topped version. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.