Monday, October 29, 2012

The One Thing

Last Monday ended up serving as a good reminder to me to stick with The One Thing a Day plan.  I woke up with a few errands on my to-do list, and as the morning wore on, I kept mentally adding more and more.  Nathan had reminded me that I needed to go to the bank to deposit checks from my students as well as rent checks from our tenants.  Then, there I was, thinking, "While I'm at the bank, I should go to Target, which is nearby, because we need various things, and then I should stop in at Nordstrom Rack because poor Nathan needs new dress shirts so badly, and... and..."

{Hey, when your husband is a size 15 1/2 / 36-37, it's not actually that easy to find him dress shirts, okay?}

As other moms can probably imagine, what would have been a 20-minute errand at the most was quickly becoming the kind of outing around which naps and diaper changes and feedings had to be carefully planned, and all leaving time for me to get home and prepare for my afternoon teaching and for leaving Nell with a sitter, etc.  Which really meant, it probably wouldn't get done.

So, I reminded myself of The One Thing.  And I scooped up my baby, and went to the bank.  I didn't piggy-back three or four other errands on to the trip, because I knew I wouldn't get it all done if I did, and I probably wouldn't even get it started.

But we did go to the bank, and deposit those checks!

And The One Thing triumphed again.

On Tuesday, I cleaned the microwave out.  And let's just see it was embarrassing how badly that was needed, and leave it at that.

And by the end of the week, I had also disassembled and cleaned and laundered the fabric parts of all of Nell's toys and seats - her bouncer, her walker, her car seat, her stroller, and the jumper on loan from a friend.

I had gone thrifting.

I had gotten a real steal on some used diapers.

I had organized Nell's clothing in the baskets in her changing table:

And I had created a basket on her IKEA Expedit shelving unit for socks and tights, so I could stop digging around for them in with her other clothes:

And of course, I had done the grocery shopping, kept us fed around here, taught my students, tried to keep a modicum of order around the house, and cared for my baby.

And that's enough, I tell myself.

Inspired by Mark Twain, the One Thing series is all about making life manageable by taking on one thing a day, one project or task or errand outside of the daily essentials that adds beauty or order to life.  This is my way of avoiding my pitfalls of making extensive to-do lists, starting lots of projects, getting overwhelmed, and not finishing anything.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

it's the little things

I'm grateful for another week filled with good things!

{This post is a day later than usual, I know.}

number one

More good times with Brooke on her brief visit to Boston, including a concert in Symphony Hall.

Brooke's husband is in The President's Own, and Nathan and I went to hear them play -- our first time out together to hear a concert (and not just play in them for work) since Nell was born.

Naturally, we needed some photos while Brooke was here.  Nell slept through the photo-op, unfortunately, and missed Brooke's idea:

"Let's both gaze at her lovingly since we're sister-wives!"

The subsequent dissolving into laughter:

And finally a halfway decent photo, only after Nathan insisted, "Ladies, pull yourselves together":

number two


Am I allowed to get excited about diapers yet again?

{Public Service Announcement: If you are grossed out by people buying used cloth diapers, stop reading now!}

I found an amazing deal on Craigslist: 25 Fuzzibunz pocket diapers for $5 apiece... except that since I decided to buy the whole lot, the woman selling them ended up giving me all of them for $100, meaning only $4 per diaper.  Considering the diapers are in fantastic condition, and would have cost 4x that much new, I am really pleased with this bargain.

We already have quite a few diapers, of course, but of various kinds and in varying condition, and I had been wanting a few more to avoid laundry emergencies.  Also, with these extras I can give a few to a friend expecting a baby (she doesn't mind used diapers, either), and also, who knows... maybe someday we'll have two in diapers at once, and be very glad for extras!

number three

Nathan watched Nell last Sunday evening while I went into Boston to hear my former violin teacher give a recital.  Bach, more Bach, Ysaye, Chausson, and Ravel... it was all amazing!

I was really grateful that he not only offered but insisted on watching Nell all evening while I enjoyed the opportunity to hear some great music played by a great violinist.

And afterwards, there was frozen yogurt with friends, naturally.  What better way to end a good evening?

number four

My blue-eyed girl in a {thrifted or hand-me-down, I forget!} pretty blue shirt.

I don't think a day goes by that Nathan and I don't exclaim to one another, "Oh, look at her! Just look at her!"

We couldn't possibly love her more.

{Also, the drool on the shirt.  Gotta love that.}

number five

A student's mother brought us two enormous bags of clothing her youngest daughter has outgrown.  It's mostly sizes 2T and 3T, so it won't fit Nell for a long while yet, but we are so grateful to have these things for the future!

'It's the little things' is just my way of remembering weekly the small things as well as the momentous ones; the little everyday things that make life good.

Want to participate by blogging about some of the little things that made your week good?  Use the link-up feature!  Remember to link to your specific post, and not just your blog homepage.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

round button chicken
~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
Every Thursday at Like Mother, Like Daughter


Tea light candles make our living room cozy on these autumn evenings.


I had some good thrifting successes on Tuesday: 22 items of clothing for my girl for $22.00!  A thrift store in Beverly has all children's clothes up to size 6 for just $1 apiece.  Considering you could easily pay $22 for one outfit at most children's clothing stores, I was feeling pretty good about my purchases.

I particularly like this little outfit:

And this sweet little shirt:


Our rhododendron in the front yard has always been a little off-kilter, at least since we moved into the house last summer.  It blooms in the fall and winter!  Last Christmas we couldn't help laughing as we looked out the window on Christmas Day and saw it in full bloom.  And here it is, nearly the end of October, and it's at it again!


Earlier this week, I was trying to nurse Nell in the living room, and she, a typical curious five-month-old, was getting distracted by anything and everything.  Nathan suggested, "You should go in our bedroom where it's quieter and darker.  In fact, the electricity isn't working in there at all, so it'll be perfect!"

I started laughing, he started laughing... we sat there and laughed for a full minute.  It was just the perfect, nonchalant reference to the way the unusual can become usual when you live in an old house, I guess.  He had misappropriated the fuse that goes to the bedroom electricity in order to get the garage door opener working earlier that day!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Seasons

Lately I keep finding a line from Emily Dickinson running through my head:

That it will never come again 
Is what makes life so sweet.

While the rest of the poem these lines open may not be quite along my line of thinking -- nor do I even claim to understand it, by the way -- these lines must wring every mother's heart a little bit.  Oh, these fleeting moments.  I know it's cliché to say, "It goes by so quickly," but I suppose everyone says it because it's so true.  The days may be long, but the weeks, and even the months, seem to fly by.  And the moments, these moments that will never come again, are oh-so-sweet.

At the same time, paradoxically, I often think it is the very things that do come again that make life sweet.  The returning seasons, the springs and summers, the Lents and the Easters, the Thanksgivings and Christmases, and each New Year.  The markers of time that we anticipate year after year.

There's something important about having seasons in our lives, isn't there?

Can you imagine if life were just one long, straight road, stretching before us endlessly?  Rather than a repeating cycle of seasons within years?  Our sense of seasons is universal to humanity: the new year is foundational as we begin the cycle again.  It seems to be utterly central to human life, an idea that spans history and crosses cultures, and yet I find the centrality of it difficult to define or explain.

We celebrate every important event in human history yearly, and we add our own small celebrations of birthdays, baptisms, or marriages to the large-scale celebrations of all of humanity.  It's important that we remember these events; tradition connects us to our collective past.

{Nathan told me once that he read a Russian orthodox theologian define tradition as "that part of our past which connects us to our future.}

We need seasons in our lives.  The church knows this, and weaves beautiful repetition into the seasons of each liturgical year as we remember, year after year, the story of salvation.

The traditions of these repeated seasons are so meaningful, and I've been pondering how to weave these patterns of tradition, both large and small, into my daughter's life.  On a large scale, what will our Advents, our Christmases, our Lents and our Easters look like in this family?  How will we slow down our daily lives to pause and to wonder at Christ's coming?

How will we teach our daughter penitence?  What will our established family traditions be at each season of the year, and for all the meaningful moments, large and small, we pause to remember or celebrate?

I think, though, that a smaller-scale sense of rhythm in life is just as important to a child.  Not only our years, but also our days have patterns and traditions.  Right now, perhaps the ways I show these rhythms to Nell are mostly silly: diaper changes are accompanied by The Diaper Change Song I made up.  Baths feature Bilbo Baggins' Bath Song - sung with great drama, perhaps a ritardando here or there - to a little tune I made up (so you know it's good, naturally).  Nap times and bed times have a song of their own, and before bed comes a book (she likes books these days!), nursing, snuggling.

Little daily traditions, like Bath Songs and Diaper Songs to go along with the rhythm and pattern of our days at home.  Bigger weekly occasions, like pizza night, to look forward to each week.  And yearly traditions, because it's important that the seasons be enjoyed, and more important still that the story of the people of God be told and be remembered.  As we observe traditions both large and small, we hope to manifest in our daughter's life that the events we remember continue to be just as true and beautiful today as they have been in years past, and that they will be true and beautiful for years to come.  And that even the small daily things -- even chores and diaper changes! -- have a rhythm and a beauty and an orderliness of their own.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The One Thing

Happy Monday!  And welcome to 'The One Thing,' a blog series about keeping life manageable by taking on just one non-essential thing a day.  To keep myself accountable to my One Thing resolution, I report back here on Mondays with my little accomplishments from the previous week... and invite you to join me.

Inspired by Mark Twain, the One Thing series is all about making life manageable by taking on one thing a day, one project or task or errand outside of the daily essentials that adds beauty or order to life.  This is my way of avoiding my usual pitfalls of making extensive to-do lists, starting lots of projects, getting overwhelmed, and not finishing anything.

Are you inspired by Mark Twain and The One Thing?  Write your own posts, link back here, and use the link-up feature at the bottom of this post!

{Don't forget to link to specific posts, not just your home page.}

I'm going to be honest: last week was not a great week for me.  There was a day or two where I wasn't feeling well, but even aside from that, my general emotional state was one of "I'm not staying on top of everything, I'm not being a good mother, and I'm not handling life well!"

There was actually a day where my "One Thing" ended up being wiping clean the lid of the kitchen trash.  I kid you not, that was the only extra thing I was able to accomplish on Saturday aside from my teaching violin lessons, changing diapers, nursing my baby, etc.

But wiping the kitchen trash lid counts, and I am persevering in my commitment to The One Thing plan.  So, last week, by following my One Thing a Day plan, here are a few of the things I accomplished:

For Nathan's birthday, I selected some favorite pictures of the two of us and had them printed.  He had been commenting that we really ought to get some art or photos up on our walls since we've been living in this house for a year now, and he was right!  I put the printed photos into an empty frame we had lying around, one of those to-do-list items that had been waiting for a couple of years, ahem.  I gave it to him on his birthday, and the next day I hung it on the wall.  And voila!  Our once-almost-empty walls in the living room now have not one but two things on them.  You gotta start somewhere.

Assembling and hanging that frame (two things, my friends, two things!) were really the only things I did all week that added long-term beauty or order to our home.

But on Sunday I made stuffed shells for a friend with a new baby boy:

And while that sort of "One Thing" may not last very long or be very noticeable, I consider food for a new mama to be a thing of great importance, don't you?

Anyway, I had the cutest of kitchen helpers, who nowadays thinks a kitchen spoon makes a great toy.

Friday, October 19, 2012

it's the little things

It's Friday!  Time for another 'it's the little things' post.

{not to be confused with The One Thing... apparently I like the word 'thing' here on this blog.}

'It's the little things' is just my way of remembering weekly the small things as well as the momentous ones; the little everyday things that make life good.

Want to participate by blogging about some of the little things that made your week good?  Use the link-up feature at the bottom of this post!

As I started thinking about writing this post, my first thought was, "Ugh, nothing good happened this week except for {number four}."  Isn't that terrible?  I call that a sure sign that I need to reflect a bit and realize that yes, this week was full of wonderful little things.

{In my defense, I was feeling sick yesterday, had to cancel students; I felt really stressed about the whole thing on top of feeling headache-y and feverish and generally crummy.  That has a way of making one feel that the week wasn't exactly filled with good things.  Feeling much better today, though!}


My tiny cinnamon broom from Trader Joe's... it smells so good!

{And little cinnamon-scented candles, too!}


While obviously, Nathan being sick over the past week wasn't a good thing, in a small way I actually enjoyed my little retreat to the guest room with Nell for a few days.  Lots of mama-baby snuggling occurred.  


I received two free diapers!  I understand that probably only a cloth diapering mother can understand my excitement about this.  They were the result of a gift certificate I won to the website Ethical Ocean a while ago, just by voting in a recipe contest.  {Probably the first thing I've ever won in my life.  I was so excited.}  I used the certificate for a variety of things, including two fitted Rearz diapers and a cover.  Nell is wearing one right now, in fact!


Brooke is in Boston for a few days!

{See this post for deets on Brooke; in short, she is my personality doppelganger, but sadly, she lives in Maryland and we hadn't seen each other in over a year.}

And she loves, I mean positively loves, Nell.

As any mother will tell you, having your friends love your baby is a major plus.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

round button chicken
~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
Every Thursday at Like Mother, Like Daughter

After being a long-time admirer of Auntie Leila and her family, and a long-time follower of the blog Like Mother, Like Daughter, I'm finally participating for the first time in {pretty, happy, funny, real}.


My pretty baby girl in a pretty sweater.

Did you know that H&M carries baby clothes?  And that occasionally they go on sale and you can find items for $5 and even less?  While I prefer hand-me-downs and thrift store finds, this little birdie sweater was too pretty to pass up.


Happy... Birthday!  To my husband Nathan, who turned 28 yesterday.

We celebrated with a late dinner of french bread pizza and salad, with oatmeal spice cake and french vanilla ice cream for dessert.  All his requests, of course.  

As to the lateness of the festivities, he was in a rehearsal until 8 pm and not home until close to 8:30.  Which, actually, was better than we had thought it would be -- I thought he'd have a rehearsal until 10:00 that night, until he called me in the late morning and told me it had been cancelled.  Oh, the crazy schedules of musicians.

I think he liked having a daughter to sit on his lap this year as he ate cake and ice cream.

(Who wouldn't?)


A wet-haired baby girl, blowing raspberries to her heart's content.


Our dear, crazy, frustrating, promising old house, very much a work-in-progress sort of house (it was built in 1917, which actually seems rather young to us, since our first house was built in 1852!) has no outlets in the downstairs bathroom.  Someday we want to put in a master bath, since our bedroom is downstairs, and turn the itsy bitsy, quite ugly green bathroom downstairs into a powder room.  So, there really hasn't seemed to be a point to put in electrical now when we want to completely overhaul the space as soon as we can afford to do so.  

Consequently, I've used an outlet in our bedroom to plug in my hair dryer for most of the past year.

Until our baby was born, that is.  Since Nell sleeps in our room for now, and I put her to bed for the night before I take my shower, these days I dry my hair... at the kitchen table.

And if that isn't real life for you, with all its oddities, I don't know what is.

I just use the time as I'm blow drying to imagine that someday-bathroom of the future.  It will have a sink with a real countertop and elbow room for washing one's hands without banging into the walls on either side.  It will have a shower big enough to bend over in, with shelves in it for shampoo and soap.  And I'm pretty sure it will have a place to plug in a hair dryer.