Writing What’s Wrong

I’m glad we are back! There are so many things I want to blog about, I don’t even know where to begin. I have been paralyzed by stress for most of 2017. The inauguration of doom was exacerbated by our own family drama of unemployment. Job searching when you have a family to support is an emotional roller-coaster. I want to write about that. We tried to use what we had: time. So we went on the family beach trip, visited Colorado for August birthdays, traveled to totality for the eclipse and celebrated our 10th anniversary in TX. I want to write about that too. The veil of stress definitely rob some joy out of most of the moments of the last year. I want to write about that even though it is hard. It turns out I’m an anxious crafter, so I have been prolific this year! I have plenty to write about that. Ellis started public school and Cal started forest school. I want to write about that. The most important thing is I WANT TO WRITE! More to come!

Everything and Nothing

Blogging has been hard for me this year. It’s been hard to talk about craft projects, baby milestones and home décor (and there’s been a lot of it) when I felt that basic human rights and our environment have been threatened. Coupled with a time when I wanted to slow down, savor and soak in all of the time with a baby we know will be our last, it felt like the right decision to put pause on the blog.

The first year with a new baby is all consuming and now that we’re finally sleeping through the night and our little man is able to amuse himself for five whole minutes, I can take a small breath and begin ever so slightly to think about doing something for myself.

I think that all the trite parenting articles have it right when they say that you need to let things go when the new baby comes home but I often wonder are we realistic about how long that period lasts. With Lucas, it was definitely a year before I really felt like we started to find our groove. The last six months with Sean have been exponentially easier than the first six but sleep is a factor second to none. I no longer have to jump into bed the moment their eyelids close and I have a spare hour — even 20 minutes — to take some time for me.

A few months ago we went to a kids birthday party where we caught up with five couples that we spent our 20s with. Every family has 2 kids and we all look worse for the wear. The resounding groan to any inquiry about how people are doing was a reflection of how tired everyone is. These are hectic, busy days and it’s a season of life I wouldn’t give up for the world. I know we’re not alone in that but it has simultaneously been a very isolating time.

That said, it’s important to me to write, to connect with you and to document my experience with these two boys who I hope we’re shaping to make this world better and stronger.

We had an amazing first year full of trips, smiles, milestones, laughter and brotherhood. Thanks for standing by. I missed you much!

Lo

Magic Coloring Potion

I have a confession. I don’t like kid art. Or kid crafts.  I certainly love to create art and crafts myself, and I appreciate that art and crafts of other skilled artisans and crafters, but I don’t appreciate them from kids. I am deeply grateful that Ellis has only brought home 3 crafts from school in 3 years. It is probably the elitist in me that likes things done well and I don’t want to save every little scribble my kids make. It is my small rebellion against the cherish-every-moment pressure I often feel as a mom. I cherish a lot about my kids, but not their fancy recyclables.

That’s how I felt until Ellis painted this masterpiece.

After days of feeling sick and laying on the couch, Ellis requested to paint. (He actually looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “Why haven’t you given me that magic coloring potion yet?” But that’s what happens when you are sick and depleted and you just want to make something). So I pulled out the watercolors and Ellis ran in the backyard to find the dog. He brought her inside and had her sit for his painting. Then he carefully painted this beauty.

I love everything about this paining. I love the colors and the fact that it actually does kind of resemble our dog, Tess. I love that he gave her lots of legs “so she could run extra fast.” I asked Ellis if we could frame it and he looked at me puzzled, probably since I have never saved any of his artwork before. Now I’m on the hunt for the perfect frame.

I am revising my stance against children’s artwork, maybe just my children’s artwork, but that’s a mother’s prerogative. Looks like I drank that magic coloring potion.

Not today

Today I will participate in the Women Strike. I will not do my usual work. There will be no school drop off and pick up. No story-time at the library today, even though I know those things are important. That’s the point. When women don’t work, important things don’t happen. I will strike (as much as a mom can). Join me in striking or supporting a woman on strike, because let’s face it, it takes a village. This is not “just” a women’s movement. Tomorrow my husband will support my strike effort by taking care of business at home with the kids while I march with my friends and family including my dad, who took me to my first protest over 30 years ago.

I will NOT bear witness to what is happening in DC. That is NOT. MY. PRESIDENT.

Instead we will focus on the good in the world and do the things we love. So we are off to the Duke Lemur Center, because SCIENCE IS REAL and so is evolution. May we evolve into a better world in the years to come, one act of resistance at a time.

Today I strike. Tomorrow I march.

Some people are brain-stormers, others are organizers, others excel at inspiring. I’m a crafter. That’s my gift and that’s what I have been giving to the march effort. For the past month I have been busy crafting for the resistance.

Using a skill fostered by my grandmother, I knit 20 pussyhats (and re purposed four more from a thrift store scarf) and sent them to marchers across the county, from Denver to DC. Knitting is always and act of love for me, but rarely has knitting felt so important. I love that a skill that intertwines me with important women and my life (my knitting guru, Michelle, my mom, my grandmother and you, City Mama) is valued and useful to this movement.

Wearing my pussyhat has also helped me find my tribe. I wore it to school drop off and ended up chatting with more moms  than I ever have, probably because they recognized my signal of resistance. Right before I left my son’s teacher whispered “I like your hat. I’m marching in Washington. I wish I had one.” Fortunately I had a spare in the car that I gave to her. I love knowing that the beautiful things I created will be part of powerful (visual) statement tomorrow.

Earlier this week I pulled out my husband’s grandmother’s sewing machine and I created 5 sashes for my local march (Raleigh). It felt good to create something beautiful on a machine that has been taking care of my family for generations.

All of this crafting used Icelandic yarn as a symbolic connection to the country with the world’s first democratically directly elected female president. I have found it very hard to hope since the election. I felt shattered. I am not convinced I will ever be able to feel the same way for a candidate as I did for Hillary. But with my Icelandic yarn I am reserving a spot for a female president I can be proud of in our future. I’m not there yet, but I’m holding space for when that time comes.

Hold space. Strike. March. Resist. Craft. Do what you can and we will get through this together.

 

Christmas in Garlandia

After seeing the Young House Love holiday house tour I was surprised at the lack of garlands. Which made me realize that at least 80% of my holiday decorating relies on garlands. Why, you wonder? They are super quick to hang and visually you get a lot of bang for you buck.

Here is a picture essay of our garland game this year.

The living room is where Christmas is really at in our house. This garland includes sliver snowflake tinsel around the windows and three strands of lights.

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Vintage garland around the advent calendar. Check out those amazing mercury glass beads. I also like that this is clearly a Christmas garland, but also confidently bright pink.  (There is another pretty gold garland on the adjacent wall, but it surrounds the french doors to the laundry room which is currently my dump zone and I can’t get it cleaned up enough to take a pic. Trust me it is glorious, especially at distracting from the utter mess that is going on right through the doors).

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In the kitchen we have three garlands over the banquet and one fancying up the sink.

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Our cards also become a garland when you string them up with some festive gold jingle bells.

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I throw a string of mini lights on our wedding picture every year. I think they were once necklaces, but now they are garlands.

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And because I got worried that we didn’t have enough garlands going on this year I decided to make another one. I found this cute little gnome cookie mold and pressed paper pulp into it every morning and let it dry overnight. I did that for a week and volia: another garland.

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Good on you if you made it to the end of this ridiculous post. And in case I didn’t write this word enough: Garlands are where it’s at in the Good house.

Name that Dude

Let’s talk about baby naming. It’s hard! Harder than I thought.

I know I’ve written before about how, as a little girl, I never envisioned my wedding but I definitely day dreamed about being a mom. I have thought about baby names my entire life. So it should have been easy enough to stop the buck and decide names for these little dudes.

However, both pregnancies the process of finalizing our names was a little harder than I expected.

Lucas is a name that both Eric and I have loved for years. Not long after we got married we heard the name a few different places and it fit so many of the things we consider when naming.

  • Can’t start with A
  • Can’t end in -er or -or (due to rhyming with our last name)
  • Has to be a name that would work for everything from a CEO to a ski instructor
  • It has to be a name that you’ve heard before, but not so common that there will be three of the same name in the kid’s kindergarten class (unfortunately Lucas got really trendy by the time he was born so we’re already contending with this)
  • No other family members or jerks that you know with that name already
  • And, once we had Luke, we didn’t want a name that started with L or rhymed with Lucas

It should have been a slam dunk to formalize Luke’s name during our pregnancy, but for the fact that, I had in my heart named our angel baby Lucas. It felt to me that since that baby would have so little — nothing really — that the least we could do was give him the best name. Meanwhile, Eric’s opinion was different — that the universe is far more complicated and humorous than we could ever know and that it was likely we’d get that soul back again in some way. I think carrying the baby for 16 weeks versus being a first time dad, we were just at different places in terms of the bond we felt at that time. We’re oddly comfortable about having wildly differing opinions in our marriage so we didn’t have a problem not sussing it out more fully.

However, it was hard when Eric wanted to use the name and I was reluctant, wanting to save it.

At some point during my pregnancy with Luke, my mom and I were talking about genealogy and she shared that it was very common generations ago for subsequent children to be named after a child that had passed. Writing it, that sounds a little morbid but given that we’d never had a funeral, gotten a birth certificate or even gotten to see our first son, it gave me a sense of peace thinking about the boys sharing something special.

Still, I wanted to get through the delivery and see the baby’s face before we named him. I wanted to look in his eyes and see if he looked like a Lucas (or Logan, Garrett or Sean, which were our runners up). So, nearly immediately after Luke landed on my chest, Eric was excitedly asking if we could make the final call on the name.

I was so exhausted. And Luke was nestled so high under my neck that I could see his face anyway. That I really didn’t feel ready to call the name. But — people were waiting — we had a baby to announce and I knew that it would thrill my husband to the ends of the earth. So, Lucas James was formally named and in the years since I couldnt imagine him being called anything else. He actually only calls himself Lucas (Lew-tas is actually how it sounds want he says it), and the meaning of his name, to bring light, is so apt. He brightened up our lives and I think he brought with him more than two babies worth of love. James is Eric’s father’s name and it was actually what I would have been named were I a boy. (Plus I love that he and Ellis share a middle name.)

When we decided not to find out the sex during Sean’s pregnancy, we already had our favorite girl name on standby, Jillian Irene, so we only had one name to decide anyway.

Jillian was chosen because I love the name Lillian and Eric loves the name Jade but we couldn’t compromise. Meanwhile jokingly one night I proposed the mashup of the names and it turned out we both really liked it. Jills would have been her nickname but I’ll put it out to the blogsphere if someone else would like it. That ship has officially sailed.

Irene is my maternal grandmother’s middle name and my sister Heather’s middle name. I know that we’d be able to tell a boatload of people we loved them with that name.

Picking a boy’s name this last pregnancy took us so much longer. We dusted off some of the finalists for Luke — Garrett, Logan and Sean all came back up in discussion. We also talked about Bradley and William pretty seriously and probably a dozen others in passing at one time or another.

The final weeks we were down to two options Sean Philip or William Harrison.

Will is a name that we both really liked. It also happens to be the main character in our favorite children’s series, The Castle in the Attic. And Harrison is a mashup of Harry, which is what we called my grandfather when he was being contrary, and Anderson, my maiden name. Philip is my dad’s and grandfather’s name.

On the night of our induction, we were in our yard looking at the super moon with Lucas before we headed out to the hospital. Eric pulled up an ap that tracks stars to show Luke some of the constellations. As luck would have it, the star my sister had named for our first baby was positioned directly above our house that night. There have been moments during the last four years that have brought me to weeping at the randomness and wonder of life. But this one takes the cake. We’ve only been positioned under that star one other night that we know of. On his due date when we were in Hawaii. Every other time we’ve looked, it’s been below the horizon probably shining down on the southern hemisphere somewhere. I know that sweet soul is a part of our family forever and that each of our boys who came home with us carry a piece of their brother.

Sean means a gift from God. As soon as I saw that star, it was locked in for me. Our boys — all three of them — have been amazing gifts and I have absolutely come to agree with Eric that the universe is infinitely more complicated and humorous than we can ever know.

Ornamental

Each year I knit a signature ornament of sorts. I usually make about 30 to throw into packages or stockings. Two years ago I made hummingbirds. Last year was tiny snowmen. This year was….drumroll please…toadstools.

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I knit most of these cuties during car naps last spring. It was nice to be able to focus on my actual Christmas knitting (stockings and Pussyhats) this year.

I also needed some cheer for my tree, so I made myself a Hillary ornament. Now I think of our tree as our Hilla-tree. (I pun about a knitted item is the best kind of two-for-one).

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Our Christmas decorating is pretty standard at this point. You know me: once I find the “right” place for something I don’t want to rearrange. After 6 years in this house, stockings go in the same order in the same place. Garlands are labeled with their rightful home and go there without much fanfare. But we have one new addition this year: Ellis also got a bead tree on his door.

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I found 10 strands of beads at the thrift store when we were at the beach in April. They were 50 cents so I snatched them up thinking I would put them on the tree. Turns out our live tree was too busy for that, so those beads became their own tree. Ellis loves his bead tree almost as much as I love having a new seasonal cheer.

Re-Adventing the Wheel

Although I had plenty of energy for Halloween creativity, I haven’t been able to muster the same enthusiasm for Christmas crafts. I did make one tweak that I hope will solve our book advent issue finally.

For the past three years we have done a Christmas advent. I posted about it last year and the year before. I love the tradition, but we hadn’t yet landed on the best system. The first year I just taped numbers to the books. It was ok, but I don’t really want the books covered with tape. The next year I wrapped each gift in butcher paper to teach Ellis how to open presents. This method took a lot of time and produced more waste than I want. Last year I made tags that Calvin delighted in tearing off.

I decided I wanted reusable “wrapping” so the books each night are still a surprise. I found some very forgiving red crushed velvet stretchy fabric at the thrift store (for $2!).

This week I have been preoccupied with other things and I realized on the last day of November at 3pm that I would only have one night to turn out this entire envelope project.

You see, Adam’s Grandmother died this week. She went peacefully in her sleep at the age of 97. She was the matriarch of this large family. Calvin is the youngest of 27 great-grandkids. There is even 1 great-great grandchild! She created a big beautiful family and was the sweetest woman.

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I was happy for the chance to sit down with her sewing machine and make something for my family. I sewed 30 sleeves in the hours before December officially began (we have a few extra books for swapping out).

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I also needed a way to tag the order and fasten the envelopes. I spray painted some old buttons gold and they should do the trick for years to come.

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I am looking forward to next year when I can just pull out the books and pop them in their sleeves instead of figuring out a new way to do it again.

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For now let the countdown to Christmas begin!

Welcome welcome

On Sunday, November 13th, Eric and I went to the hospital for our scheduled induction.
The next day, Sean Philip Astor was born.
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At our 36 week appointment with the doctor, an ultrasound showed that our baby was quite large. Our doctor was concerned that he may get stuck in the birth canal, or that we would be facing an emergency C-section if we waited for my labor to progress on its own. Given that we induced with Lucas, we knew that I’m a good candidate for it and I wanted my best shot at a vaginal delivery.
My labor with Sean was much more challenging than with Luke. Upon arrival at the hospital the doctors were commenting on my contractions and their regularity. I was already at 3 cms and 90% effaced so I was hoping things would move quickly. That this would be more of a labor augmentation than induction. We started pitocin at midnight but come 7 am, I had made no progress only having more regular contractions. My doctor offered to break my water at that time but we opted to wait and see if it would break on its own. I walked the halls, sat on the birthing ball…nothing. Finally, at 2pm, the baby was in position and I was ready to move things along and have our water broken. Once the doctor broke my water I was in intense pain. I had delivered Luke without an epidural but I felt like I wouldn’t be able to stand what was looking to be hours more until pushing (I had only progressed to 4 cm). Plus, knowing this was my last labor, I wanted to enjoy it and not be screaming for it to end. I came to find out that in that half hour I had gone from 4 cms to 9.5 in 30 minutes — no wonder it felt like a fright train was pushing on my cervix!
After the epidural my doctor wanted the baby to labor down allowing my contractions to naturally push him much farther down the birth canal than she would have done if I was unblocked. I didn’t start pushing until 7 pm and was able to rest and sleep for much of that time we were waiting. After just 20 minutes of pushing our son was born. He was 8 lbs. 13 ozs. at birth. So far he’s nursing great but it’s taking my body some time to get up to speed and feed a baby of this size. We’re recovering fine, and settling into life as a family of four.
After four years of loss, TTC and worrisome pregnancies, I feel like I’ve burst through the finish line. That my body gets to be mine again and I can stop being mad at it. I always wanted a houseful of children but am so thrilled to have my two boys and am ready to focus on time as their mom. I wasn’t sure if I would feel this relieved to be finished having our children. Logically, it’s right for us but emotionally I was prepared to be sad. The truth is though, I’m thrilled that I never have to wear maternity clothes, manage heartburn or deliver…and that’s not even factoring the challenges we faced when things went wrong.
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Lucas is embracing his role as big brother. It helps that both grandparents and teachers have supported us in talking a lot about what good and bad things come from having a new sibling. He has said Sean is his best friend — but he’s also said having Sean makes things different. Luke is clamoring for all the mom time he can get and I’m doing my best to give it to them both and really letting everything else fall to the wayside. Having grandparents here for three weeks has certainly helped as I’ve only prepped one meal the entire time. This Thursday my mom and dad will head back east, Eric’s work is picking back up since he had held a few weeks in November to be home with baby. We are flying solo for three weeks before my in-laws join us for Christmas and New Years so I’m hopeful that things will only get so bad before we have extra hands on deck.
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For his own part, Sean is a relatively easy guy. I noticed from day one that he flies into a rage pretty abruptly going from mellow to thoroughly pissed in a matter of seconds but coming out of it just as fast. Luckily it’s few and far between but when he’s mad, he’s crazy mad. This is, if I’m being honest, a trait he surely inherited from his mother. Otherwise, he’s a chowhound and a pretty good sleeper. At two weeks he’s nice and alert in the morning and for an hour or so in the evening. This means that at night he’s up to eat and then back down to sleep. So, even though my sleep is broken, I’m just up for about a half hour to feed him and then I’m able to lay right back down.
All in all, it’s been a great two weeks. I’ve been day dreaming about football Sundays and camping trips. I’m thinking about what it will be like when these guys are in high school and eating us out of house and home.
I have lots of thoughts on the election — and I fully intend for a post on that but it’s been important for me to delineate this time for Sean and focus on the new life and positivity and hope in our home. I hope that you’re finding some ways to seek peace, I noticed you’ve been quiet online lately and that maybe seeking less screen time has been one tactic. We’re here when you’re ready. Missing you and eager to hear about your Thanksgiving and how you’re riding out what has surely been a hell of a year.


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Finding Thanks

Well a lot has happened since the last post. The world literally changed for both of us. City Mama we look forward to your joyful update whenever you are ready…

I have been recovering from the earthquake of an election. I have been shocked at how similar the grief has felt to our loss earlier in the year (can 2016 just end already? It has seriously been the worst year of my life, even the best vacation ever can’t save this year from that distinction…) I have been feeling all the feels since Hillary’s unthinkable loss. I have not handled it well. I pretty much just burned everything to the ground. I went on a rampage and unfriended every Trump supporter I know. Family and friends alike got the ax. I still feel sick to my stomach each day listening to the news. But I am making a concerted effort to notice the good in our lives and create it where needed.

The simple way we are observing this is our wall of gratitude. Adam and I have a nightly ritual of sharing our gratitude right before bed. It helps us see the good and voice our appreciation. For the month of November we have been doing this with the kids as well. Each day we add a gratitude to our wall of thanks.

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There is plenty of Hillary on there and I hate to admit it but the day after the election the only thing I could come up with was “water” (I was so dehydrated from crying that water was my saving grace on November 9). We will be able to count our blessings concretely by Thanksgiving. It is helping me regain my bearings.

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City Mama what will Thanksgiving be like this year for you with your new little turkey? No matter what I know you are beyond grateful for your family. You cup overflowth with boys!