Little lessons learned

Things Moses has taught me

  1. I apparently have a wretched memory for lyrics, demonstrated by my fraught desire to sing hymns to him while he drifts off to sleep. I can only get through a verse before I start making up lines.
  2. I have, perhaps, idolized having a sense of “control” over my daily life.
  3. It is therefore hard to have one’s idols toppled.
  4. I consistently miscalculated how hard this would be.
  5. It is silly to be frustrated with a baby.
  6. Babies cannot be reasoned with.
  7. But I will still try, and I will drive myself to the edge of madness trying to apply reason to the baby’s behavior.
  8. I thus become comfortable with living on the edge of madness.
  9. This edge of madness seems like a new (albeit claustrophobic) home.
  10. So I settle in to this new habitat, congratulating myself for showering, remembering how to drive, and speaking a full sentence in the morning without mixing up any of the nouns.
  11. The new habitat also reveals that kissing babies is extremely delightful.
  12. It is best to do it as many times as possible on any given day.

. . .

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I have an iPhone 5 (yeah, I’ll brag about it); this is the best I can do.

As I suspected, I continue to be very interested in dogs, but I am also more interested in babies on the whole, babies as a universal concept and lived experience. This I did not expect. I even find other people’s babies pretty interesting now. I want to stare and them and find out what they know.

. . .

Pyrrha, our German shepherd, has been a silent angel during these past two months of life with Moses. I wasn’t sure how she’d behave, and I’ve been impressed and grateful for her calm acceptance of this new, often bewildering, creature. She greets him in the morning with a gentle lick to the back of his head or feet, and then she quietly lies down on her rug in the hall, waiting for someone to give her a little attention. She doesn’t stress when he screams (making her the calmest family in the moment).

The other afternoon, I was in the kitchen when he woke up from a nap, and I swear Pyrrha had the purest Lassie moment. I didn’t hear his cries at first, and so Pyrrha got up from her post in the hall, walked up to me in the kitchen and looked me in the eye with concern. She then walked back down the hall toward the baby’s room and stood in front of the door, glancing back at me, as if to say, “Lady, the baby needs you! Please follow me and perform your God-given duties before I have to intervene.”

She’s a good girl.

. . .

During my maternity leave, I was a little depressed to learn that reading is rather difficult while nursing. I can do it if I have a lightweight and semi-floppy paperback that I can hold with one hand, but because Moses has been a rather high-maintenance feeder, I’ve only read a few books during my leave, which is almost up. This has been a bummer. (And no, I don’t want a Kindle. I hate reading on them so much that I’d almost rather not read anything at all.)

As a consolation, I’m really into email newsletters right now. Nicole Cliffe’s has been a daily delight, along with her wise and often hilarious advice column at Slate, Care and Feeding. (Leah Finnegan’s Leah Letter is my other favorite newsletter, but she only writes once every few months. But when she does, it’s worth the wait.) I just wanted to give some public thanks to Nicole Cliffe for getting me through much of my maternity leave with amusing ideas and great articles to add to Pocket and read during that long 3 a.m. feed.

. . .

My esoteric titles are a holdover from my moody days as a teen blogger, which is a real shame, but I can’t help it. I don’t often write posts focused on a single topic, and so choosing some title that could have been a tantalizingly vague AIM away message, circa 2005, well, it continues to appeal to me. No regrets.

A happy haze

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Looks can be deceiving. This little darling looks so gentle and calm, but he is extremely demanding. He does a fabulous interpretation of the demon possessed between the hours of 6 and 8 pm; really, you should stop in for the show. My most common nickname for him is Little Dragon. This is not news to anyone who has had a baby before, but it still feels like news to me.

I am tremendously needed right now, and I can’t say that I perceive it as fun. I would like to be less necessary. From my nursing chair, I watch people walking and biking and running along our street, and I feel envious of all of them. All people who don’t have to worry constantly about a newborn. How carefree and happy all other humans must be! This is a thought I have every day. The other day I think I had three total hours, out of the 24, during which he was not attached at the breast. He is five weeks old now, so we’re apparently in the trenches of baby care, with the expectation that his murderous rages and constant feeding will start to taper off soon. Some days it feels more relentless than others.

We’ve had an army of wonderful support, and I don’t know how we would have made it without our generous community: Family who came and stayed and cooked and cleaned and held Little Dragon while we slept. Friends who brought and keep bringing us food. Doulas who made us feel sane and guided us on all aspects of postpartum life. Neighbors who check in on us regularly. A dear friend who babysat for us so we could go out for dinner. Unbelievably generous mothers who donated their own milk during the week we had to supplement his feedings, so I could work on my own supply and avoid formula. And of course, Guion, always and forever Guion. I knew I liked him before all this, but now I know for a fact that I could not live without him.

Things I am trying to treasure up and ponder in my heart: How frequently the mothers of older children tell me, “Oh, I miss this phase,” when gazing upon my squalling infant. And I think, “You must be insane, lady. I can’t wait until this creature can tell me what he wants and sleeps more than a few hours at a time.” So there is some shift that happens. Perhaps it’s simply that everyone recalls and longs for the seasons past, because they always seem easier than the one you’re currently in.

But there are lovable aspects, which even I can discern in my incarcerated, sleep-deprived state: His milk-sweet breath. The smell of his little head (now beautiful and round, after looking like an old potato right after birth). Wearing him in a wrap. Cuddling with him on my chest while he naps. Getting eye contact. His small animal noises while he nurses. These are lovely things.

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He has no idea how much he’s in charge. But look at that face. Would you dare cross him?

Meet beautiful baby, greet returning husband

Pretty Pellyn! So nice to meet you.
The conquering musician, home at last.

Baby Pellyn arrived last week and I got to meet her (and her Aunt Sarah) on Saturday; Pellie is a beautiful girl with such wonderful, generous, and calm parents! And then my beloved husband finally returned. We had a wonderful reunion. We even ran together (3 miles, we’re getting serious) for the first time ever. It was kind of a big deal. I have a lot to do and so I don’t have much time for pensive reflection. Maybe that will come later.

Babies and old men

Nettles at The Southern.
Happy Phinehas and his dear mother.
Baby buns! Phin is clearly appalled to be embarrassed in this way.

Oh, this schizophrenic half-winter of ours: Snowstorm this morning and now, at noon, it has ceased and the sun is coming out.

This weekend: Nettles, the Hill and Wood, and Luke Wilson played at The Southern; Matt Kleberg had a really wonderful opening at McGuffey; I began to re-read and fall in love with Absalom, Absalom! and retract every bad thing I ever said about it; and we got to watch UNC gloriously shame Duke at the McDermott’s on brew day. A very good weekend, by my estimation.

On Friday, I transcribed a painstaking, largely unsuccessful interview with a 106-year-old man, a legend in the industry. These were the important takeaways to me: If you are 106, you have the right to say things like, “Are you here just because you failed in the movie business?” to the unctuous young videographer coaxing you for an answer you thought you already gave. If you are 106, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t feel like it. If you are 106, your brain will start to winnow out all of the unimportant things, so that when the interviewer asks you to talk about your big career highlights, you will instead talk about your sons and how they graduated at the top of their class and how they tried to avoid going to war and how you named them after your best friends.

Sickness and babies

Today I am thinking about…

  • How unpleasant it is to be sick. For days. And yet still be “functional” enough to go into work.
  • The strange paradox/dynamic between the poor having too many babies when they are too young and the rich trying to have babies when they are too old. (Even though this sounds slightly evil, I think it’s nice that fertility is the one thing that not even the super-rich can buy.)
  • How much I want to get into bed right now.
  • In re bullfighting in The Sun Also Rises: Is there any likely fatal sport that modern Americans do for no good reason? I guess rodeo is the closest thing we have to bullfighting, but it is somehow different in my mind.
  • Christian’s Pizza.
  • I should really start figuring out what’s going on with all of these crazy GOP candidates.
  • Having a weekend at home, just with Guion. Haven’t had that in… months.
  • Sean and Julie’s new baby boy!

Basically, all I’m thinking about are babies and sickness. But don’t worry: I’d rather not have either of them any time soon. Whee. Happy Labor Day weekend!

Monday Snax

Long weekends are such a gift! Yesterday, we had the pleasure of joining Andrew and Tara at her family’s farm in Rapidan, Virginia. We played with the beautiful Leah, swam in the pool, and planned our future farm commune. A lovely afternoon, and some more photos on Flickr.

Sweet baby Leah and her mama.
Andrew in the perfect pool.
One of the dozens of breathtaking farms in Keswick. We live in the prettiest countryside.

Oh, and happy Independence Day and a BIG welcome home to Grace, who has finally returned from her world travels! Hallelujah! We get to go see her this weekend and I CANNOT WAIT.

A lot of Snax with a lot of juicy watermelon wedges:

Miss USA: Should Evolution Be Taught in Schools? THIS is the greatest thing I have seen on the Interwebs in months. Tears fell from my eyes. You can’t write this stuff. After you watch that, please also enjoy Mackenzie Fegan & Co.’s hilarious response. (The Daily What and Got a Girl Crush)

When You’re the Breadwinner in the Family. The dynamics of the American family are shifting. Many newly married women I know are out-earning their husbands and yet it’s still a touchy subject. One of my all-time favorite bloggers has a beautiful and honest post about her own experience as her family’s primary source of income. (Sweet Fine Day)

The High Line. A mile-long urban park in New York. What a cool idea; looks like a great place to bike, run, or walk a few dogs. Jenna, from the Sweet Fine Day post above, has some pictures of her visit there with her family at the end of post. (Wolf Eyebrows)

From When Grandma and Grandpa Davis Came to Visit. If you’ve talked to me lately, you know that I’m not into childbearing ANY time soon. And yet I can’t help but melt when I see pictures of grandparents and their fresh grandbabies. Something about that interaction always gets me. (Rockstar Diaries)

America’s Progressive Catholics: Another Side of the Church. It’s not all anti-abortion rallies here. An interesting perspective on the small but growing group of Catholic Democrats. (The Atlantic: Politics)

Top Metros for Same-Sex Couples with Children. Do the results surprise you? They surprise me. Way to go, RTP! (The Atlantic: National)

Palin vs. Bachmann: A Poem-off. The stirring words of the Tea Party’s leading ladies, converted to poesy. (The Book Bench)

What America Looks Like: Variations on the Swimming Pool. A collection of photographs of the various forms of the pool around the country. Some are weird and jovial, others decrepit and haunting. (The Atlantic: National)

The Five Food Groups. Amen. (Little Brown Pen)

Lobsters Don’t Age. Um, hey, God? That’s weird. Why? (Broken Secrets)

Kari Herer. Dark, lush photos of beautiful bouquets. Can never get enough. (Design Sponge)

Better Book Title for Wuthering Heights. Truth! I’ve always thought that about this book, too. (Better Book Titles)

The 20 Most-Watched TED Talks. Will be adding these to my list of things to watch when I feel like killing time productively on the Interwebs. (TED blog)

Monday Snax

Mallory walking down the aisle. Didn't she look exquisite?
Us!

This weekend, we enjoyed the beautiful wedding of our friends Michael and Mallory, who tied the knot at James Monroe’s gorgeous estate, Ash Lawn-Highland. Photos on Flickr! Warmest congratulations to Michael and Mallory!

Snax with an enormous wedge of watermelon:

God Caught Backing Multiple GOP Candidates for President. Haha. God needs to make up His mind; it’s getting confusing. (Daily Intel)

The Hyena and Other Men. These photos are mind-blowing. Photographer Pieter Hugo became interested in a group of Nigerian men who capture hyenas and then keep muzzled on huge chains. Why? Not really sure. My best guess is because these animals are TERRIFYING to look at. These photos are astonishing. I also recently learned that hyenas are not from the canid family; rather, they are more closely related to cats. So bizarre. (Pieter Hugo)

Whales Have Regional Dialects. Yet another reason to be totally in love with whales, especially the idea of whales. (Broken Secrets)

DIY Wedding Hair: Chestnut Bun. I don’t know if this would work with curly hair, but I’m inclined to try it. (A Cup of Jo)

Flowers A-Z: O Is for Orchid. I love orchids so much. They’re the only plant that I seem able to keep alive for an extended period of time. I’m inspired to buy another one from the Charlottesville farmers’ market to put in our bathroom. (Design Sponge)

Interview with Christiane Lemieux about Her Book Undecorate. I really like the idea of this book. I would really like to have it on our coffee table. (Bloesem)

A Tribute to N&O Copy Editors and Page Designers. The Raleigh newspaper, the News and Observer, closed its local copy desk this past week. A sad day in journalism. (The Editor’s Desk)

Bundle of Joy. A+ on the execution, fellas. (Young Me, Now Me)

Forest Spirit. Moss-covered trees are always so enchanting and eerie. (The Lighthouse Keeper)

Monday Snax

Family ladies
It's unreasonable that our grandmothers look better than we do.
Lucy and Loretta
Coolest grandmothers ever.

Coming back from Davidson is always so hard; I just want to stay forever. Mom said she’d write me a note to send to my employer: “Abby has a headache. She can’t come back to work for another week.” I wish! We had a beautiful, sunny, and happy weekend with the family, celebrating with the grandmothers and celebrating the end of Lent with an absurd amount of chocolate-raspberry cake and Peeps. Just as expected. More photos on Flickr.

That said, here are your snax with day-old Peeps:

Goin’ to the Chapel! DANIELLE AND LOGAN ARE FINALLY ENGAGED!! (Gallimaufry of a Girl)

Still Lagging: Women’s Earnings in America. Even though they’re not exactly new, these statistics always depress me. Particularly now that we have more female college graduates in the work force than male! What is going on, Patriarchy? Where is thy death? (Mint)

Night Pruning. Cate has such a beautiful home and baby and just look at her perfect appropriation of nature! I got to hang out in her verdant cottage with her baby on Wednesday night and it was lovely; hoping to do it again soon! (The Charlotte)

Hello, My Pretty. Grace used to make this face when she was doing something naughty, like zipping up the family rabbit in a purse or trying to snatch Sam out of his crib. (Awkward Family Photos)

Word Portraits by John Sokol. Now this is a cool idea: Portraits of authors using their own words. (Le Projet d’Amour)

What If Corporate Logos Were Honest? Imagining big companies displaying their true slogans. (Flavorwire)

J.P. Toad’s. That’s so disgusting. Who thinks of these things? Actually. I know some people in Carrboro who would probably try to sell this at the farmers’ market. (Regretsy)

A Lesson in Posing, Religious Observance Begs Sabbatical. The Man Repeller makes fun of the numerous poses that Cool Lady Bloggers adopt when modeling stuff from their own wardrobes. (The Man Repeller)

Bingley Takes a Bath. You know I’m not a cat person, but I love this. (Fat Cat Orange Studios)

A Birthday. This looks like the absolute perfect day. So peaceful! So elegant! (Sweet Fine Day)

Vladimir Nabokov’s Drawings of Butterflies. Yep, still fascinated with anything I can find about Nabokov and his butterflies. These are quite lovely. (Flavorwire)

Mikhail Gherman and Karen Walker at Home. Hipsters to the max, but they look like they’re having SO much fun at their house! And Karen Walker is amazing looking. (The Selby)

Monday Snax

We are still creeping back to good health, but it has been very nice to have a week at home to hibernate and recuperate. This week I have been fairly possessed by the need to read and exercise. This is good, because they are both included in my 2011 resolution list. I’ve been able to stay active thanks to Rodney Yee (Grace, Kelsey, remember our mornings with him?) and his yoga DVD and the New York City Ballet workout, found on Chinese YouTube by Catherine. Brilliant. Ballet is also freaking HARD. I’m going to keep trying, though. Gotta learn what all those French words mean…

Snax with pastrami, because it is one of the more hilarious meat-like substances:

Books as a Way to Grace a Room. I mean, if you’re not going to READ them–because, really, who does that anymore?–you might as well turn them into home decor, right? I don’t know how I feel about this. Actually, I do. I feel bad about this. I’m all for wall-to-wall bookshelves–it’s my personal dream–but they must be known and read first. Not so for these rich people. (New York Times)

Dream Jobs: So You Wanted to be a Veterinarian. This girl was totally me. Except I decided not to take this path after I endured my first animal dissection when I was 13. I love how quickly this imaginary veterinarian turns into a deranged animal liberator. A hilarious article, at least. The paragraph that describes when the scales fall from your eyes: “As you settled into the routine of your field, it became glaringly obvious that the bulk of a veterinarian’s day is spent giving rabies vaccines, castrating animals so they won’t make new ones, or humanely killing animals whose owners are either unable or unwilling to take care of their supposedly beloved pet. Toss in a prescription flea repellent here and there and that’s the whole job. It was grossly unsatisfying. You weren’t some great caregiver of God’s creatures; you were the enabler of a system that subjugated those creatures for human whimsy.” (McSweeney’s)

Adorable French-Speaking Kids Play with 80’s Technology. And try to figure out what it is. First, it’s true that we wish all children were French. Because listening to them talk is probably the cutest thing ever. Second, I love the boy who thinks that the diskette could be a camera. Twenty-first century children! They think anything is possible. (Flavorwire)

Morimura Ray. I can never get enough Japanese prints. These are so modern, beautiful, streamlined. Also, I also can’t get enough of Miss Moss’s blog. I realize that I link to her stuff all the time. I don’t know who you are, Miss Moss, but I think we’d be friends. (Miss Moss)

Samantha and James: A New Year’s Sneak Preview. This really fun wedding video was shot at the wedding we attended in Durham on New Year’s. It was done by our very talented photographer’s sister and her husband. They did SUCH a great job; everyone probably looks way cooler than they did in real life in this film. Really cute. (Inkspot Crow Films)

A Thoughtful Farewell. I love it when kids express themselves in letters. I remember writing stuff like this. Girls are so mean: Poor Bri and Grandma. (Found Magazine)

Fully Validated Kanye West Retires to a Quiet Farm in Iowa. “So I just want to say thank you to everyone who bolstered my self-esteem by showering me with so much acclaim,” added West, sweeping some dust from his front porch. “Because it worked. I’m good to go.” Also love the picture of him making snickerdoodles for his neighbors. So sweet. (The Onion)

I Think It’s Time for Us to Have a Toast. Josh Groban sings Kanye West’s tweets on Jimmy Fallon. It’s worth it, regardless of what you think of either of them. (Via Dooce)

Joe Biden Thought of a Joke and Will Not Rest Until Everyone Has Heard It. … but it’s not a very good one, and it’s just kind of creepy. (Daily Intel)

Things I Have Needed to Google While Writing Poems to Turn into My MFA Workshop. Guion, I hope your list is quite different from this one, even though we’ve talked about some of the things in this roster. Yours might go like… “Barns Civil War beekeeping horse racing beer condemned buildings,” etc. Maybe? (McSweeney’s)

Bangable Dudes in History: Dmitri Shostakovich. This new blog is amazing. Blog creator Megan takes suggestions and then creates pie charts to describe the sexiest famous dead guys. I’m just happy my dead dude crush–Alex Hamilton–made the blog already. Of course he did. (Bangable Dudes in History)

World’s Largest Hanging Flower Basket. Now that would be a pain to water. (Urban Gardens)

Censoring Mark Twain’s ‘N-Words’ Is Unacceptable. If you use the Internet regularly, then you’re already aware that a publisher has taken it upon himself to scrub The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn of the n-word. I think The Guardian makes one of the many good cases out there why this should not have happened. (The Guardian Book Blog)

The Best Boring Books. More from The Guardian: A list of the 10 best, most boring books. I feel rather proud that Woolf’s The Waves made the cut. It deserves to. Because it is beautiful… and nothing happens. What books would you include? Has anyone read any of these? (The Guardian Book Blog)

How to Make a Decent Cup of Tea. Christopher Hitchens teaches all of us heathen Yanks how to make tea. I drink tea every day, and I daresay I learned quite a bit. (Slate)

Christmas in CT. Brian Ferry, how do you make everything so beautiful? I always want to be exactly where these photographs were taken. (Brian Ferry)

Tilt Shift. Same goes for you, sister. This is from Grace’s new photography portfolio online–which you should all go check out! I really love this technique in photographs and I think my little sis makes great use of it. She is in New Zealand now, about to start her new life on a farm there! So excited for her. (Grace Farson Photography)

The AFP New Year’s Babies. One of the many reasons I’m frightened of having children: What if they turn out looking like one of these!? The chances are high. Why? Premise 1: because we are white, and Premise 2: all these babies are white. (Awkward Family Photos)

“Toddlers and Tiaras” Returns with a Very Special Southern Baby Dinosaur Episode. And this is why America is The Greatest Country in the World. (Best Week Ever)

Bahaha

So, I read a lot of great blogs. I have a category on my Google Reader called “Cool Lady Bloggers,” and it’s full of the best and most beautiful blogs on the Web. These Cool Lady Bloggers have lots of sponsors, so they often like to hold giveaways. I never win raffles or anything like that, but recently I figured, “Hey, I’m going to start entering some giveaways on blogs. Won’t hurt, doesn’t cost anything, and hey, maybe I’ll win something. Just maybe.”

Well, this afternoon I noticed that my blog was getting traffic directed from this cool blog, Bleubird Vintage, home to one of the cutest and trendiest families. For real. Those kids look better than I do on any given day.

And then I see that people are finding my blog because, welllp, I won a giveaway. Yep: A $50 gift certificate to a BABY store! Whee! I don’t even HAVE a baby! But watch out, friends who do: You may be getting presents for your baby early. It’s a pretty cute store, though: My Sweet Muffin. I kind of want some of those stuffed Bambis for myself…