Monday, April 29, 2013

ten months

Seeing as Nell is already nearly a year old (how did that happen?), I thought I should finally get around to posting her ten month pictures.

At ten months old, Nell had three bottom teeth and no top teeth.  She loved clicking her tongue and making the sound "Tuh! Tuh! Tuh!" with great enthusiasm.  After a brief hiatus, she regained her ability to make the sounds "Mama mama."  Her babbles grew to drawn-out "sentences," and I even noticed her "talking" - and smiling - in her sleep.

Her understanding of cause and effect became increasingly clear.  If she did something that made us laugh, she'd immediately do it again, and again, and again.  And we began to see the first hints of a wave, a gesture she initially reserved particularly for my friend Melissa, who is an excellent baby-waver.

She loved riding in grocery carts, loved playing with her feet, loved taking baths (and hated getting out).  She thought dropping objects from heights was the best game ever.  She liked reading, but thought the best part about books was poking her finger into the binding.  The screws on her high chair held a similar fascination.

Everyone kept saying she was days, moments even, away from crawling, but she preferred to scoot around, one leg folded in front and the other one sticking out behind her.  Her method wasn't yet perfected, but she was beginning to get the hang of actually going places she wanted to go.

Just before turning ten months old, Nell began to give me some hope about the possibility of actually, you know, eating food.  She ate sweet potatoes!  And avocado!  And then pears!  She didn't gag!  She liked them!  I began to think that I wouldn't have to nurse this child until college, after all.

A typical progression of the faces of Nell are fairly well expressed in the following three photos.  First, she's happy:

Next, she's excited:

And finally, she's so excited that she has to cough.

Yes, cough.  Because the coughing game, which gave her so much joy, seemed to develop in this child the sense that when one is quite happy, one coughs.  We feel sort of bad for confusing her by playing this game with her so often, but not bad enough to stop, because let's face it, it's cute. 

Dear Ellen,

Your emotional state this month has had me a little mystified and more than a little curious.  Twice when your Uncle Andrew dropped by to visit, you took one look at him and promptly burst into heart-wrenching sobs.  It really got me wondering what goes on in your head.  Were you sad that he got his own place and moved out after living with us since before you were born?  Were you so happy to see him that you felt a little overwhelmed?  Do you just hate him?  (Just kidding about that last one, of course.)

It will be so much fun when you can tell me all the interesting things you're thinking and feeling, little one.


Sunday, April 21, 2013


Oh, Boston, my Boston.

What can one really say about all of this?

I live north of Boston, and we were fortunate to feel pretty safe on our suburban cul-de-sac.  I wish I could say the same for my friends who were in lockdown, not very far away at all, who had helicopters hovering over their houses, SWAT teams and police everywhere, controlled detonations on their streets.

The marathon bombing happened just a few blocks from the school where I did my master's degree.  I know those streets, those shops.  I know Boston and I know her people.  And while I wasn't born in Massachusetts, I've grown to love this place and her people.  Newbury Street, Boylston Street, Mass Ave.  The Boston Symphony concerts, the Public Garden with the duck statues, the runners along Storrow Drive.  Watching the people ice skate on Frog Pond in the winter.  The undying love Bostonians have for their sports teams.  Even the accents, the use of the word "wicked," the magnificently complicated one-way streets.  Okay, maybe not the driving.  And maybe not traffic on the Leverett Connector.  But still.  I love Boston.

How can one not be moved by the stories of the first responders, of the everyday people and law enforcement and medical workers alike springing into action to help the wounded?  The runners who finished a marathon and then kept running to donate blood?  The way the Yankees played Sweet Caroline and declared, "We stand united with Boston," all rivalry set aside as baseball fans all over the country cheered for our team alongside their own teams?  


I keep thinking of the mothers of the three victims killed in the bombing.  One was a child, yes, but they were all someone's children.  I know they will forever ask themselves if they could have done something differently that day.  Stayed home, or stood somewhere different, or left a bit sooner.  It could have turned out differently.  Of course those are pointless things to think about, but I know they can't help but think about them, anyway.

I think of the mother of those boys, one now dead, one captured an lying in a hospital bed. Did she see this coming?  Did she know their lives had taken this turn?  When they were young, did they see enough beautiful art, hear enough good music, feel enough hugs?  Does she feel somehow responsible for what her sons have caused?


Over the past few days, it felt a little surreal to see friends' facebook updates about regular life - the weather, or what they ate for breakfast.  Life in the greater Boston area had ground to a halt, but elsewhere, life went on as usual.  I wonder if that's how my day today seems to someone in Texas, though, or even more, to someone in Syria or Iran.

On Friday morning, I read some of the news updates, and then I carried my baby outside and set her on
a blanket to play in the sun while I worked in my front garden bed.

Maybe that seems trite, to go dig in the ground and laugh with my baby on a blanket on the grass while not far away, people are awakening to a new life without limbs.  Without daughters.  Without sons and brothers.

But around the world, tragic things are happening every day, and yet we go on living, don't we?  We go on hugging our babies and baking bread and working in the garden.  We do it because, in spite of the sadness and suffering, there's joy too, and there's hope.

One doesn't put brown bulbs and tiny seeds into the ground without hope for tomorrow.

Friday, April 12, 2013

This & That from Here & There

The days are becoming - for the most part - more and more spring-like.  Consequently, I am getting cheerier.  Not that I was overly gloomy, but I do notice that as the days get warmer, I enjoy my work more, I'm a little more patient and a little more fun in the violin lessons I'm teaching, and I have renewed energy for all the little things that need to be done.  Even 'eskimo kisses' and snuggles with my baby girl seem better when the sun is shining, if that's possible.

{Of course, come September, I'll be oh-so-ready for Autumn, and by December, the anticipation of snow and Christmas will have me nearly giddy... but I've said that before.}

Spring is notoriously a tease, however, so if you find yourself indoors on a chilly day sipping a cup of tea -- as I am this gray and dreary morning -- here are a few interesting reads:

* * *

From Nell at Whole Parenting Family: Parenting Styles Vary. Get Over It.  She mentions pretty much all the major differences in parenting babies that I've already noticed (sleep training vs. co-sleeping, organic vs. conventional foods, mall shopping vs. thrift shopping, etc.) and offers the reminder that only moral issues are the ones worth worrying about.  In other words, don't dwell on the small differences between friends when it comes to child-rearing.  In my own case, I've felt the lure of comparisons awaiting me around every corner.  It's easy to either come up lacking in these comparisons, or perhaps to momentarily pat myself on the back and consider myself morally superior.  Oh, how foolish...!

I want to give my daughter the gift of not comparing her to other children.  I want to give my fellow mama friends that gift of non-comparison, too.  And you know who else?  Yes... myself.  To be able to live without comparisons is freeing!

* * *

From Jenni at Story of my Life: Advice for Bloggers, Vol. 2: Blogging Your Life.  I was particularly struck by her discussion of the importance of including photos of oneself on one's personal blog.  It may come across to some as weird, or even egotistical, but I think Jenni is right -- what's a story without a main character?  While there are certainly a few blogs I can think of that remain excellent reads with only the rare photo making an appearance, the majority of the blogs I enjoy show me regular glimpses of the blogger's life, including the writer herself.  Recently I've found myself thinking, "Which posts will my daughter most enjoy reading someday?  Which will give her a full picture of what our life was like?  Which will Nathan and I enjoy browsing years from now?"

{If you've read my Why I Blog page, then you know that this is, in part, all about Nathan and me being able to remember our little life, such as it is.}

What do you think?  Are you more drawn to read blogs where the blogger is seen frequently in photos, or more 'behind-the-scenes'?

* * *

I found myself surprisingly moved -- if not to tears, then to glassy eyes, shall we say -- by this post from Shaye at The Elliott Homestead: Uphill. All the way.  I suppose any blog post quoting a Christina Rossetti poem has to be a good one!

* * *

If you weren't following along with Auntie Leila's series on Pope Pius XI's encyclical Casti Connubii (Chaste Marriage), it's not too late to go read all her posts now.  The last post (and possibly my favorite) in the series is up: What we do "in here."  From there, you can find links to the earlier posts, as well as the encyclical itself.  But even if you don't have time to read the encyclical, Leila's posts will edify and inspire you!
"If you can love the hidden and resist the lure of the oversized and loud and lucrative claim to fame, you will have the privilege to know how it can be that one woman, one family, one home -- yours -- can change and build and restore."
So quickly, go read all her posts in this wonderful series!

* * *

Have a wonderful Friday, friends -- whether yours is sunny and warm or a bit overcast like ours is here in Massachusetts.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Envy is Like Socialism

Recently, sitting in an orchestra rehearsal of Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony, I had a realization:  Envy comes from a similar place as socialism.  It's like socialism of the heart, you might say.

I don't often get super political on this blog, but I am not a person who thinks that the more the Bill Gateses and Steve Jobses of the world have, the less I have.  On the contrary, I think that people like that are creating jobs for others, creating economic growth, and allowing not only the potential for economic flourishing, but also for creativity to flourish, for advancements that foster all kinds of far-reaching growth.

I may be struggling to pay my mortgage some months, but I don't think a doctor driving a BMW is somehow causing my problems.  And I actually do pretty well with not envying those hypothetical people, the folks running big businesses, the men and women I glimpse from afar in their designer clothes and expensive vehicles.

Your friend that lost 30 pounds?  She's not making you heavier.  Her new clothes from Nordstrom aren't making your thrifted clothes any worse for the wear.  Someone else's nice car isn't the reason my husband drives a Honda that is falling to pieces, and another man's Armani suit isn't why Nathan's two suits he's been rotating for years are in sore need of replacement.  We're not eating home-cooked beans because someone else is dining out three meals a day.  And the gorgeous house across the street from ours isn't the reason ours came with such a long list of things needing repair or renovation.  I know all of that.

But I am totally, absolutely, definitely guilty of envying others their gifts and talents.

That guy is getting better gigs than I am!  Growl, fume, sigh, etc.

She has a better violin than I do!  Bristle, stew, seethe, etc.

I'm exaggerating, of course, but haven't we all felt the bitterness of jealousy creeping into our hearts at times?

His tone is better than mine!  She started younger than I did!  He went to a better school!  He won that audition I should have tried for!  She just knows the right people, that's why she's more successful!  He has more time to practice than I do!

The truth is - while there's an element of scarcity in the market of talent, and sure, there are only so many orchestra jobs to be filled - another violinist's beautiful tone, or superior sight-reading skills, or amazing bow technique don't make me a worse violinist.  His $60,000 violin isn't making mine cheaper.  Her wealth of talent or ability isn't making me poorer.

On the contrary, you might say that those abilities are bringing about a flourishing of the economy of ability.  One violinist's sensitive phrasing inspires me to play more beautifully, too.  A musician with a particularly beautiful subito pianissimo makes me want to practice mine.  Hearing a violinist behind me race through a particularly tricky passage cleanly motivates me to practice it so I won't keep messing up that one little spot. 

Another violinist may be, in a sense, the reason you or I are not in that symphony we wanted to be in.  At the end of the day, there are only a few seats open, and a hundred violinists vying for them.

Or maybe it's the guy at your work who got the promotion or the raise you wanted, or the woman who landed the job you had hoped for.  Sure, on the surface, maybe you didn't get it because he or she did.

But the skills or abilities they have that led them there... those gifts are not making you or me poorer, are they?

There's enough talent to go around.  Our differing gifts and abilities make the world a more beautiful place.  And there's enough beauty to go around.

So thanks, Mendelssohn, for the moments of beauty, and for the realization that socialism in the economy of talents is as silly as it is in the economy of finances, and that, after all, I'm pretty rich just the way things are.

Don't be jealous.  It's such a waste.

Monday, April 1, 2013


I think it's safe to say that the Easter Vigil is my favorite service in the church year.

Nathan and I got to sing in the church choir together for the Vigil, as some kind friends generously offered to watch Nell so we could go.  I couldn't help remembering last year's Vigil, in most ways so similar: Nathan and I singing in church choir together, the Pascha Nostrum, the ringing of bells at the Easter proclamation, the feast of chocolates and sweets galore afterward as happy churchgoers mill about drinking wine from plastic cups.  

But last year, I was very pregnant... and now I have an almost-one-year-old!

Easter Sunday was a busy day for us.  Nathan had three services to play at the congregational church where he is organist.  He encouraged me to not even try to make it to any of them, what with traffic and parking nightmares and all the services being so packed there wasn't seating for everyone.  So Nell and I went to my church, where I played violin for a couple of pieces, and got to watch Nell experience her first Easter Sunday.

Nell wore the sweetest little Pottery Barn Kids dress I had found at a consignment store a couple of months ago.  I didn't even know they made clothes, but it was a beautiful dress, very well-made, with a pale green polka dot sash.  I found her a little cardigan to go over it at Target.  

{I tried to find her a pair of shoes, but with no luck.  Honestly, I never really think to get her shoes, because she's not walking yet, but when I tried some on her, I found that the chubby tops of her little feet didn't fit in any of the shoes that were close to her size.  Good thing warm summer months are coming up!}

I started the morning off with a dressier blouse than the cardi I'm wearing in these pictures, but Nell managed to dribble milk all over it while nursing in church.  Yes, it was one of those mornings.  One of those mornings when I looked around at all the other women in church who seemed to look great, have perfectly quiet children, and have their lives all in order.  And I couldn't even manage to keep my shirt clean.  I felt slightly discouraged.  There may have been some self-pity involved.

Following church services galore, we had friends over for Easter dinner.  There were ten adults in all, and three babies who obliged us by taking turns fussing or crying, but never deciding to all cry at once.

There was ham (for those inclined to eat such things - not me!), and homemade rolls, and green bean casserole, and brussels sprouts chiffonade, scalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, spinach salad, and wine and mimosas.

I'm getting better at delegating these days, at saying "Yes!" when people ask, "Can I bring something?", and I've been pleasantly surprised at how sharing the workload a bit makes everything not only easier, but that much more enjoyable, too.  It leaves me feeling like, "Hey, we should have friends over more often!" instead of, "I've been cooking for three days, I'm up to my armpits in dirty dishes, and my feet ache... let's never ever do that again!"

{Not that I've ever really felt that way, but you know.}

For dessert, I made my Mom's carrot cake, these almond joy bars, and strawberry shortcake from In Honor of Design.  It's so handy when a blog you read posts a recipe you want to make just in time for Easter, isn't it?

I'm so grateful to our friend Cara for not only taking the above pictures of the strawberry shortcake, but also for snapping some really special pictures of our family.  I can't stop looking at these shots she captured of Nathan and Nell.

This little girl loves to ride on her Daddy's shoulders.

Are you ready for the cuteness?

{That may be my favorite picture of Nathan ever.}

All in all, it was a good day, until all the chaos wound down and I received some very sad news.  Not something it's my place to share, but the kind of news that makes you hold the ones you love a little closer, and realize the insignificance of worrying about milk dribbled down your shirt.

{I think there's a saying about spilled milk that probably applies here.}

So, our thoughts and prayers are with those we love right now even more than usual.

And that was our Easter.  How was yours?

The outtake:

Check out Fine Linen and Purple, as well as Camp Patton {which is pretty much the funniest blog around} to see others in their Easter finest.  As for us, we try to look slightly respectable at least once a year.