Tag Archives: books

What I’m into

Argh. This morning, with its thunderstorms and pancakes held so much promise for a chill, productive-but-lazy day. And by that I mean the kind of day when you get your house picked up while the kids nap and you hum a little to yourself in the process. Those are glorious. I wrote poems in my mind while I walked the dog, and watched a bit of CBS Sunday Morning and then geared myself up for all of the peaceful cleaning and then… no napping. Teething and whining and Joe and I taking turns dealing with that noise and loads – neigh, mountains – of laundry. Real life. I was a little bit frustrated that things didn’t stack up like I’d imagined, but our children seem to like to make us pay for the previous day’s fun. Yesterday morning was spend out at the Farmer’s Market and riding bikes.

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I really can’t complain. I did finally manage the excavation to reveal the carpet on my side of the bed, which was about three layers of clothes thick. My discarded garments become like sedimentary rock. I am one of those people who cannot hang something back up, or put it in a drawer or hamper. I pile. I pile on piles. Then, the dog makes a bed out of the piles and I realize: This is why I can’t have nice things.

The bright spot of the day was meeting up with some new neighbors and friends for gelato at Chocolaterie Stam because I won a “Gelato Rendezvous” party in a drawing and wanted to make good on the “We should hang out!” promise we made seven months ago when we met at the caucuses.

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It was a nice break and then Emmett signaled it was over by tripping and falling and bawling and then dropping an entire box of chocolates on the ground because, again, Real Life.

Speaking of, last weekend after our camping trip, we had about two hours to turn around and re-pack to go to a baby shower in Omaha. We hit out marks and got about 20 minutes out of town before the VW started issuing these scary beeps and warnings to STOP THE VEHICLE. So, we limped it back home, repacked into the Subaru and made it to Omaha in time. And now, we’re shopping for a van. Real. Life. We’ll be selling our VW, but I came to the horrible realization that it’s probably worth half of what the awesome electric assist Yuba we drooled over at the Farmer’s Market goes for. If you are in the market for a manual 2003 Passat wagon, holler at me.

I’m heading into a few stressful weeks of work events and feeling pretty anxious about it, so I downloaded “How to Be a Person in the World” after reading this interview  and just started it for a little “me time” to round out the weekend. It’s already putting me in the right mindset. Her advice is funny, and real and vulnerable.

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I need to read her essay about dirty laundry. (Not, like, embarrassing/horrible secrets, but the real deal.)

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Tiny undies

It’s a battle of wills around our house lately, with one potty training kid who inherited his mom’s stubborn streak and another teether who lets you know with all her lung-power her desire to stay up late and chill like her dad. I’m whispering “this is a phase” to myself over and over and over and knowing that some day, I will sleep again and won’t be lugging a travel potty with me everywhere.

Some. Fine. Day.

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There is really no good time in our go-go-go schedule to start potty training, but after we went to our little triplet friends’ third birthday party and I noticed all three of them in undies, it was settled. The next day, we were ditching the diapers and rolling up the carpets. This was our third attempt, so I already had a jar of gummy worms, stickers for a chart and a bunch of tiny boy undies. This time, I had the will and there’s no looking back. We did a couple days of setting alarms and making him try every 10 minutes or so, and it gave us some momentum to commit.

Thankfully, our summer babysitter has potty trained before, and got into it, too. It’s definitely going to be a long, accident-prone road, but I’m trying not to make potty training turn us into total shut-ins and only resorting to pull-ups at night, for nap and during wedding receptions when I want to keep my sanity. Emmett may have further “christened” a Church floor in Indiana this weekend. This photo is after our rest stop pee-s negotiations on the way up. We both got what we wanted, eventually. The struggle, though. Our second week has been way harder because we’ve been out of a routine.

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Thankfully, Emmett did NOT pee at the Vaudeville Mews tonight, when I took him to see the ridiculous band Koo Koo Kanga Roo (mostly because my friend Danny’s band MAIDS was opening and I can really only go to his all-ages, 6:30 p.m. shows!) Emmett ran around in circles and ate ice out of a red solo cup and then barely fought bedtime, so I’d call it a win.

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Let’s hope that’s the first and last time I bring a potty seat to the Mews, although honestly those bathrooms are so scuzzy, I’d probably prefer the Baby Bjorn. Right?

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Also, completely unrelated but I started “The Girls” by Emma Cline on our car ride home from Indiana and it’s been a good, quick read so far. One of those summer books everyone’s packing for vacation.

 

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What I’m into: Boston, books and bunnies

A full 10 months ago, I found out a professional organization I’m part of was putting on an exciting conference in Boston. Eileen wasn’t even born yet, but I immediately booked my mom and aunt to babysit so Joe and I could do a kid-less pre-conference getaway in a city we’d never explored, with one half of the airfare covered. (Because two kids in daycare is no joke on the piggybank.)

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My brother even gifted us a stay at a ridiculously hipster hotel for Christmas with his Marriott status points. That’s a selfie from the lobby. Waterfront corner room, what, what! (Don’t worry – the conference hotel looked onto a brick wall.)

I know some people who couldn’t imagine vacationing without their kids, but I found the trip to be just the spring break from all of the lame refinancing-our-house kind of adulting and we’ve been up to. Plus, uninterrupted sleep. Here are a few highlights:

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Walking everywhere. A day spent walking and reading and eating is my zen. We did a bit of the Freedom Trail and checked out the very cool Boston Public Market (which reminded me of the Des Moines Social Club Culinary Studio on steroids) and shared a giant powdered sugar-covered cannoli from Mike’s Pastry, which is apparently a tourist must. We took the Charlie to Harvard, where people mistook my breastpump for a college student backpack and asked me for campus directions (mamas’s still got it!) and the MIT Museum and Cambridge Brewery.

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It felt so great to explore without worrying about nap times — and I’m such a geek, I want to read more about the “Big Dig” that put Boston’s highway underground.

Expanding my palate. I ate my first ever full lobster and oyster. I’m not really a seafood person (aside from PEI mussels, which always seem to be overpowered with delicious garlicky butter sauce), but I had to get some of the local flavor. We went to the Yankee Lobster Co., a little divey family-owned place, and then washed dinner down at Harpoon Brewery just down the block. We also had solid meals at the restaurant in District Hall (which my startup community friends in DSM would find interesting) and Sonsie.

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Talking about things other than our kids. Sure, we mused about what our babies might be up to, but because we were exploring places like Boston’s Institute for Contemporary Art, I felt like we had fodder for more interesting date-night conversations. Because we had so much fun time together, I felt like there was latitude to strike up conversations with strangers, too. We had an entertaining talk about politics with an organic farmer (who wants to consolidate the US into seven states) while grabbing pre-dinner drinks in the restaurant on top of the Prudential Tower.

Time to read. We browsed bookstores in Cambridge and I cuddled up with “Dear Mr. You” by Mary Louise Parker, the latest selection of the book club I’m part of. A memoir in letters, it was one of those books that’s easy to breeze through, but you really want to savor. I can’t wait to discuss it Friday night! I cried three times (at least), so it’s obviously getting high marks from me.

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(In other book club news: Two of the ladies in our club also just put out a teaser about this dreamy children’s book they’re collaborating on!!!)

Reuniting with my bunnies. Joe headed home on a Monday morning and I stayed in Boston and conferenced until late that Wednesday night. The sessions were great, but it felt so good to return home after so much time away and appreciate my family with fresh eyes. We hung around town and didn’t do much for Easter, which was alright by me!

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Another kind of mom guilt

I’ve struggled to put into words how I’ve been feeling lately.

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I’m not overwhelmed or down on myself. It’s not the blues, although when I brought up the subject with my sister-in-law tonight, I burst into tears. Luckily, she knew exactly what I was trying to express without me fully articulating it.

I feel guilty. Not for being a working mom, or not having a spotless house, or not packing the most healthful lunches. It’s different — a visceral, almost survivor’s guilt. I have a warm home and a beautiful baby and whip-smart toddler and supportive spouse and food in the fridge (although the fridge itself might be on its last leg).

I’m suspicious of my happiness, almost ashamed of my good fortune. I’m ever so grateful, but also kind of waiting for something to shatter, because it doesn’t feel right that I should be allowed to be so content when there is so much suffering in this world. I keep up with the news (maybe too much), and almost daily there’s a story that brings tears to my eyes.

Apparently postpartum hormones are changing at around the four-month mark, and I acknowledge that’s probably a strong contributor to why I am feeling everything so deeply. But  I need to acknowledge my emotions and how motherhood has changed me. I don’t think I was ever indifferent to suffering, but when your heart starts to live outside of your body in the form of your children there is this intense vulnerability and resulting empathy.

I will admit here that I’m not someone who likes to think of things in terms of being “blessed,” and that my spiritual framework is pretty different from a lot of my Christian blogger friends. It’s hard to detach these complex feelings from the tendency for many to have a religious solution, but I’m really not interested in that. A conversation for a different time, perhaps.

And so…I record these days here and in my line a day journal, and find comfort in the beauty of a good book. Currently reading “Cutting for Stone,” by Abraham Verghese. {This NPR book club review is from 2011, not next month}

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2016 Goals for Brain and Body

It’s only the second week of the year, so I’m trying to set some goals that will keep me happy and healthy.

Body Goal: I’m not going to set a number, but I did decide to take a challenge. DMU (where I work) is involved in the ALA “Fight for Air” Climb on April 10, and I signed up to do stairs on 87 floors in four of Des Moines’ tallest buildings as part of the event. I just found out I’m moving offices to the fifth floor, so I’ll have lots of opportunity to train if I take the stairs!

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Brain Goal: I saw this 2016 Reading Challenge image floating around on social media, and I thought the checklist might be a good goal for reading:

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I’m obsessed right now with downloading books through the library on Overdrive (just because I can get them quickly and read hands-free while I feed a baby), and loving being part of a book club. I did finish Fates & Furies at the beginning of last week, although I’m not going to recommend it because – despite some lovely writing, the dialogue and characters irked me. It’s gotten other good reviews, though!

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Lastly, I have another side project happening next Friday: NON-CON 2016. I’m excited/nervous and if you’re in Des Moines and interested in advocacy at all, it should be a cool event!

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Books & Baubles

This spring, I went to a Stella & Dot trunk sale/brunch my friend Nicole hosted just before Mother’s Day. It was the perfect timing to pick out a pretty and personalized piece of  jewelry for my hometown bestie who had just had a little girl & was celebrating her own 30th birthday. And, as tends to happen at those kinds of things, I got a lovely necklace for myself that helped me feel more hip when I was waddling around in my maternity gear.

Our mutual friend Amber is a Stella & Dot stylist/middle school teacher and a fellow bookworm, so this fall when I was thinking about a low-key reason to invite some of my lady friends over, I thought a book swap and jewelry party might be a great excuse. I figured I would get a little lonely being home so much with the baby during maternity leave, and it’s actually easier to have people come to me than will myself to get out in the evening hours.

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It was pretty low-key entertaining. I lit a fire, picked out a Songza playlist, set out a spread of cheeses, Amber brought the baubles and friends came with books in arm. I labeled all of the plastic wine cups with names of female authors, to make it a little theme-y. It was fun to relax with Eileen and see a bunch of lovely women at once. I’m also getting a jump on Christmas shopping! If you’re interested in Stella & Dot, you can shop through this link, long-distance, until Dec. 8.

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I’m excited to read “This is Where I Leave You,” by Jonathan Tropper, which was my pick from the swap, and Joe was jazzed that a Bill Bryson book was left.

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P.S. Apparently Joe was trying to explain what the heck a Stella & Dot party is to his co-worker, and described it as “hipster Mary Kay”. Ha! Not quite, but I thought that was adorable. 

 

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Readers are leaders

As one of those grown up kids who stayed up late to read with a flashlight, I consider this a magical moment of motherhood*: My little boy, zipped up in his outer space pajamas, cozy in a robe and slippers, hair still wet, sticking up and smelling fresh from his bath, snuggled next to me in the dim light of a late October night. We’re sitting on cushions, sipping hot chocolate and reading from the Curious George treasury together — three stories — before he’s off to bed.

He finishes my sentences more than I can believe, with a brain that soaks up words. The kid begs to watch his favorite television shows, but he’s also interested in bringing books in the car and wants to “read” to us from his favorites, which makes this bookworm mama melt.

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My sister-in-law threw me a book-themed baby shower before he was born, and we’ve continued to expand our collection thanks to lots of really great gifts. I thought I’d share a few new favorites in case you’re book-shopping for a toddler this season.

roadworksRoadworks by Sally Sutton 
Singsongy rhymes and fun-to-say noises + all of a toddler’s favorite road machines.

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Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin
I have long been a fan of her illustrations  and this is a whimsical bedtime book parents will treasure.

Snoozefest

Snoozefest by Samantha Berger
Starring a sloth named Snuggleford Cuddlebun who goes to a music fest, so need I say more?

51W+-TrvlbL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Eileen got this from her aunt and imaginative cousins as a welcome-to-the-world present, but Emmett’s been helping her break it in.

dragons-love-tacos-book-coverDragons Love Tacos by by Adam Rubin, Daniel Salmieri
One of the first things Emmett memorized/thought was hilarious was the part in this book where dragons breathe FIRE (because of spicy salsa, of course).

What are your fresh favorites for the kids?  As for my bookshelf, I just started Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” as our next book club pick. I downloaded it to my phone because reading-while-nursing is the only way it’s going to happen!

*Lest things sound too idyllic at our house, I will ‘keep it real’ and let you know that between the hours of 12-4 a.m., I was bouncing back and forth between two children and thus needed three cups of coffee to simply function. 

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R&R

Oh, what a glorious weekend with absolutely no commitments on the calendar. Last week was full of work events (DMU Day at the Fair, DMU United Way Campaign) that I’d been staring down for months – the turning point between me being a perky pregnant lady and one who just wants to put up her feet.

Come Friday afternoon, I was free to do just that, and kicked off a lazy weekend with a pedicure at East Village Spa, which I enjoyed with my nose in a novel.
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(Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins is a kind of companion to Life After Life, which was fabulous. So far it’s good, but not as heart-squeezingly so as Life after Life, which I highly recommend.)

Then Emmett and I begged Joe out of work a little early for a run through the Cowles Commons fountain — something I’d hoped to do as an after-daycare adventure all summer long.

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Aside from some weeding so our house doesn’t look like an extra in Grey Gardens (I’ve been terribly neglectful of the yard all summer!), a few loads of laundry and finally snuggling in as a family to watch CBS Sunday morning and indulge in a second cup of coffee, very little has been accomplished around here and I’m absolutely fine with that.

Next weekend, I’ll be more in the mood to join in the neighborhood fun: Saturday morning (Aug. 29) is the CYC Sidewalk Chalk Flood down in Western Gateway Park (a fun time for families!) and then Ingersoll Live is happening that evening, with a mega block party vibe. I’m hoping I’ll be able to bike to at least one of the events with my big ole belly!

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What I’m into

We have zilch on the agenda for Memorial Day weekend, which is quite amazing, because we definitely need a long weekend to recover from all of the fun we’ve been having before graduation party and family reunion weekends have us traveling again.

Here are a few things I’ve been enjoying lately:

Family date night to Pedal Art at the DMSC. Joe scored tickets to the early evening poster show preview party, so we were able to attend the bike month event as a family and snag a great print before the crowds arrived. It’s so rare that the timing for those events works out for us, so I was in heaven with my 20 oz. chai latte pregnant lady splurge.

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Yummy Toddler Food. My friend Amy (who is admittedly somewhat neurotic about making sure her kiddo gets wholesome food) started Yummy Toddler Food and although many of the meals don’t quite work with Emmett’s allergies, the variety of recipes is great inspiration! Follow Amy on Instagram, too.

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Did you know you could DIY fruit snacks with a healthy supplement boost? (I also love her list of mealtime gear, which is would make practical baby shower/toddler birthday gifts. Emmett loves meal prep.)

Brunch in CB. We finally went to Dixie Quicks in downtown Council Bluffs when we were in the Omaha area for a wedding last weekend and it was a delightful and delicious spot right downtown. Any place that has gourmet chilaquiles and gives toddlers dinosaur figurines to play with is great, but this also has a little attached art gallery. If you find yourself in the area, check it out!

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Image source + more pics 

A fantastic bedside book. I finished “All the Light We Cannot See,” our next book club choice, ahead of schedule because I hated to put it down! The prose was lyrical, the chapters short but the novel thick, and it was set in WWII France, so pretty much my ideal combo. Definitely recommend.

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A mid-week visit from a long-lost friend. Alex, my freshman year college roommate, lives in Wyoming and Alaska and the last chance I got to see her was in the Dominican Republic at a wedding in 2012! It was so special to share Des Moines with her, especially a bike ride around Cumming Tap, a visit to the Jasper Winery Concert Series, and an afternoon outing to the Des Moines Art Center restaurant (nom!!!) for girl talk and Fiber: Sculpture 1960-present exhibition. It’s amazing! Go!

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Visitors are encouraged to walk through this piece and ring the bells and shells. It’s a dream. Also, there is a giant woven vagina. So.

We also visited Beaverdale Books and Backcountry Outfitters, where I bought what look like ballerina sandals for an 80-year old, but feel like the ultimate footwear for a lady who is going to be pregnant through the heat of summer. (Apparently they are “yoga lifestyle” shoes, but let’s be real – they are going to be utilized while eating fried things on a stick at the State Fair, walking the dog and at work.)

Off to soak up more long weekend. Code for: Take more naps!

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Reading lately

I’m finally, FINALLY starting to feel less like a zombie and staying up later, so I’ve been getting more reading done.

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Our latest book club selection, The Paying Guests was a pretty steamy read, set in 1922 London, and rather suspenseful. I stayed up until MIDNIGHT (on a Saturday night in my pajamas) to finish it.

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I just read probably the best answer ever to the age old “Should I Have a Baby or Establish My Career First?” dilemma. Way to go Heather Havrilesky, Ask Polly columnist for The Cut.

Choice quotes:

Because having it all, by its very nature, implies that you have a lot more than you can handle. Who can handle “it all,” anyway? “ALL” IS A WHOLE FUCKING HELL OF A LOT.

Choose both. Choose the career AND choose the baby. Don’t put off one for the other. Choose both now and later and accept that you’ll be juggling for years no matter what you do. Even if you never have a career, you’re going to feel like you’re juggling. Parents juggle. Why not juggle things you love? Sure, you’ll have to work hard and make some sacrifices. Accept it and move forward.

One other thing: Being pregnant makes you irritable and ambitious at the same time. Use that energy to fuel your new business. Once you stop feeling hung-over around the clock, you’re going to want to conquer new terrain and strangle anyone who tells you to “relax” with your bare hands.

That last part, so true. I’m finally coming out of hibernation mode and I’ve put my Let’s Get Shit Done maternity pants on. Bring it.

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Oh, and the book that kept me up and turning pages last night (in a totally different way than The Paying Guests), a geek-out over “Diving Deep in Community Engagement: A Model for Professional Development,” edited by the fierce ladies Mandi McReynolds and Emily Shields, two women who I feel very fortunate to have gotten to know over the past few years.

When I interviewed for my job in Community Relations at DMU, I know I wanted to move my career in this direction, and opening the book was like lighting a torch inside of a cave. I’m just wrapping up my first year in this position and opening Diving Deep was like seeing the way forward illuminated. It feels wonderful to have such intelligent, supportive professionals down the street (and in my Facebook friend feed so I can send them fangirl messages late into the evening, of course) as I move into year two.

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