There are Birds Here, Too

You have no idea how much I miss my little hobbies!  Maybe it would be different if my hobbies didn’t require sharp objects or expensive cameras, things that aren’t really compatible with small sticky people?  (In fact, right this second I am being shouted at because she wants the laptop.)  The truth is that she’s not a great napper, and when she does nap I am either job hunting, attacking the Laundry Monster, or – more likely than not – sitting on the couch and stare blankly into space for 45 minutes, because I am THAT drained.  I have been able to knit, albeit in furtive spurts, but enough to finish one sweater since January with another one just waiting a second sleeve.  (That sleeve would be knit already if someone hadn’t decided to help and yank a chunk of stitches out.  Toddlers are grabby and fast, y’all.)

Particularly during the winter months, often the fine line between sanity and completely losing my mind while being cooped up at home with a small person, was taking pictures from an open window.  We had a flock of what I believe were cedar waxwings that stopped by every afternoon for lunch at the tree in our front yard, and then a woodpecker (maybe even a yellow bellied sapsucker) visited our backyard.  This spring, the cedar waxwings were replaced by chickadees and goldfinches, which are all over our neighborhood.  We also appear to have a number of pairs of cardinals around, which I haven’t managed to get a good shot of yet.  Miss O’s highchair sits next to a very large window overlooking our birdfeeders, and while I doubt she has yet mastered the difference between the birds, when I ask “are there any birdies out there today” she looks out the window and, if there is one there, she points and hoots.

Also?  you know you live near the coast of Maine when you have to chase seagulls away from your trash on trash day.

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Interlude

Let’s catch up, shall we?

In November my husband got offered a job in Maine and then next thing I knew it was New Year’s Eve and we were moving boxes into a rented house in below zero temperatures.  (I say “we”, but it was mostly him because I spent most of December with the worst virus I’ve had in years, courtesy of daycare.  And it was mostly him because we had a royal screw up with the movers, which is a whole other story.)  At any rate, it was thus that I entered into the exhausting realm of stay-at-home motherhood.  Now it’s six months later and good gracious, I have a one-year old that is trying to walk and talk and who, surprise surprise, has OPINIONS about things.  Chiefly among these opinions are SIPPY CUPS MUST BE HURLED ON THE FLOOR, SLEEP IS FOR WUSSES, and KITTIES!  DOGGIES!  ELMO!

Let’s just say it’s been an adjustment.

The thing is, I hated going back to work after she was born; she was only 12 weeks old, I was still exclusively nursing her, she was so tiny, and it was so awful to spend so little time with her.  We would get home at 6 and she would often fall asleep by 7, wiped out from daycare.  I actually loved our 2 am feedings because it felt like sneaking in a little visit with her.  I was really looking forward to having her all to myself again, if only for a little while until I could find a job.

As my dad used to say, be careful what you wish for – you just might get it.

There are parts of being home that I have loved, don’t get me wrong, but the first months were brutal.  One of us would finally start feeling better and then the other one would get hit with something else.  I was hell bent on nursing her through her first birthday, but by the end of January we were both done for various reasons and the subsequent hormone crash (and the completely misplaced and irrational guilt that only a mother would understand) kicked in.  Then of course the weather was terrible and we were often trapped inside for days on end.  There were still boxes that hadn’t been unpacked and the kitchen was a disaster and then THE BASEMENT FLOODED.

On top of all that I was job hunting while juggling a tiny bit of consulting work from my old job.  To my surprise I found a number of jobs to apply to, but I will spare you my rant about the job postings looking for masters degrees and extensive experience (both of which I have) that paid less than what I was making…back in 2007.  I will also spare you my rant about the lack of 9-5 jobs anymore, apparently we must be available nights and weekends now, and forget about telecommuting.  (Given winters in Maine, I just don’t understand the lack of work from home options, other than some misplaced native pride in being able to drive through anything Mother Nature throws at us.)  I will also spare you the disappointment over a job I thought I was a total shoe-in for and didn’t get, and how twice I was interviewed by women ten years younger than myself who left me to wonder, how did they get “there” while I am somehow still “here”?

(And, y’know, where exactly *am* I?)

Meanwhile, every time I left the house people thought my daughter was my grandson.  Also every time I left the house there would inevitably be some older gray haired man wearing a plaid flannel jacket and a baseball cap talking in a slow, deep Maine accent and I would get that swooping, pit-in-my-stomach feeling because whoever he was that day, he wasn’t my dad.

It’s weird being home and still being homesick.

But you know what?  Last weekend we were at the grocery store and I ran into a former coworker that I had not seen since I left Maine over 10 years ago.  She practically fell over when I introduced her to my husband and daughter, and she said she didn’t recognize me because I looked so happy.  I’m not 100% sure she wasn’t just being nice, I expect a lot of it had to do with the fact that I used to have super long dark hair and now it’s short and decidedly silver gray.  But I was pretty miserable back then.  And despite all the ridiculous stuff, I’m pretty happy now.

I also go back to work in a few weeks.

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A Short Blurb on Motherhood

I really had no idea.

You love them before they are born, and you think that’s it, that’s enough, that’s as deep as this lake gets.  But then they arrive and this whole other part of you that you didn’t even know existed gets unlocked, and you are completely blown away by your capacity to love another human.  And then, it seems impossible but each day you find that you  love them even  more than you did yesterday.

And you understand with stunning clarity that she will break your heart, a million times over, and that she will never understand this love, this depth, unless and until she has her own child.  It’s fine if you never go down this path, I almost didn’t myself, but I’m convinced that you have to be a parent to understand it.  Because words are simply insufficient to convey it.  And not only do you know this but you embrace it, full stop ahead, because she deserves no less.  This tiny, magical being you have brought forth deserves all the light and love she can get her tiny little hands on.

In fact, you are but putty in those hands and just hope it takes her through her teenage years before she figures it out.

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Introducing Miss Squish

On a snowy Friday in late March, I officially became a mom to a beautiful 8 pound, 14 ounce baby girl.  She has a proper name, of course, but we’ve taken to calling her Miss Squish because she has the most delightfully squishy cheeks.  She also has blue eyes and coppery red hair and a generally happy disposition.  We think she’s just the bees knees and every day we marvel in wonder at her.  Honestly, we’re still surprised we even got pregnant, let alone that we have a real, live baby to snuggle.

Also?  The last few weeks of my pregnancy until now is all sort of a blur.  Some of that is due to lack of sleep, of course, and some of it is that I’m still processing a lot of stuff.  For one thing, I miss being pregnant!  Although the last few weeks I grew increasingly uncomfortable, I mostly loved being pregnant (I do NOT miss the heartburn though;  I seriously thought I was dying.)  As glad as I am to have her out in the world, I miss having her in my belly.  Also, I never really expected to be pregnant so there was a surreal quality to the whole experience; even after the ultrasounds and feeling her move inside me, it was hard to believe it was actually happening.

I’m also still processing our birth experience.  While I wouldn’t label it traumatic, it was not the magical experience I had anticipated:  the several failed induction attempts and the persistent throwing up from the medication; the unbelievable pain of them trying to break my water (4 times…); the birth plan that I knew not to expect to go perfectly, but did not expect that NOT ONE PART OF THE PLAN would actually happen; the c-section I didn’t want but in retrospect was probably inevitable; the sheer terror I felt before and during the surgery; how seriously awful the maternity nurses were (sorry, but it’s true…I believe every word of this article); how I don’t remember holding her for the first time because of all the drugs in my system (there are pictures though, thank goodness); how I had a uterine clot burst two days after she was born; how I blew up like a balloon for almost 3 weeks afterwards from all the excess fluids they gave me, to the point where most of my MATERNITY clothes didn’t even fit; how two lactation consultants and two pediatricians at a designated breast feeding friendly hospital (that has a tongue tie clinic!) could fail to diagnose a tongue tie; how incredibly HARD breastfeeding is; how what I expected to be this massively empowering experience just left me in tears, wanting to sneak out of the hospital with my baby and go home.  (In fact, I was contemplating just that when the uterine clot burst and I suddenly found myself covered in blood.  When the nurse came in and told me not to panic, even though it was quite clear SHE was panicking, I really wanted to run).

And then, how much I wished my dad were here, not only because he would have loved being a grandfather again but because he would have made me focus on the positives…like we got a really great, healthy baby and let’s just move on, rather than seethe with rage.

***

Alas, I still have moments of seething.

***

Recently I overheard my husband tell someone that the baby arrived at just the right time, as she has been a bright shining spot after my father’s death.  He’s not wrong, but at the same time as happy as the baby’s arrival has been it has not made the loss of my father any less significant.  In fact, there have been moments when it felt like the bandaid holding my heart together was ripped off, because Dad should be here.  He should have been there in the hospital when my family came to meet the baby, he should be there when we visit Maine, he should be there to make her laugh just like he did with his other grandkids.  When I get upset I ask myself what he would say to me if he were here, and I always think he would say, “Don’t worry, I’m right here”.  I can only hope that’s true.

Before he died, Dad’s wonderful oncology nurse asked him what his favorite song was and it took some careful consideration on his part before deciding what that song was.  It was seemingly an unlikely choice for my Johnny Cash loving father, but he said his favorite was “Today” by the Christy Minstrels.  It was played practically on repeat up until he died.  (I just remembered I wrote about this here.)

Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine
I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine
A million tomorrows shall all pass away
‘Ere I forget all the joy that is mine today

All those failed gratitude journals, all those attempts at finding some good every day?  Well, it turns out that it took my father dying and this song being stuck in my head for me to really get it.  I sung this to the baby while I was pregnant, it was the first song I sang her after she was born, and I’ve sung it to her every. single. day since.  At first I did it because my dad couldn’t; it was the best tribute to him that I could think of and I wanted to be able to tell her when she got older that this was her Grampa’s song.   As it turns out though, no matter how terrible a day I’ve had, no matter how exhausted I am (and oh lord I am exhausted), one smile from that baby and it’s like Christmas and singing this song is a great way to stop and appreciate it.  (I mean, seriously.)  And nine times out of ten, she smiles when I sing it.  While he was sick Dad tried to find some joy in every day, and whether he knew what he was doing or not by choosing this song, he managed to get me to do the same.

Oddly enough, the last thing my dad said to me in person was “you need to write a book, and you need to sing“.  He’d spent the last twenty years telling me to write so that wasn’t anything new, but I thought the part about singing was an odd thing to say – not the least of which being that while I sing a lot, I don’t exactly sing well.  At the time I had no idea those would be his parting words to me, although in retrospect I think he knew.  I’m not sure what sort of singing he really had in mind, but I hope that in those dark early mornings, when I am singing to a sleepy, soft-haired baby, that he hears me too.

 

 

 

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The Spoils of Summer

It was…an *interesting* summer.  In large part because of this:

20160910_16-23-08

(Photo by Wood+Copper)

Being pregnant for the first time at age 45 is not for the faint of heart, especially after 2+ years of trying (including all sorts of medical procedures along the way).  That’s a whole other post entirely, one that I don’t even know if I can write any time soon – if at all.  Partly because  it’s a difficult and super private thing, but also because PREGNANCY BRAIN IS REAL, PEOPLE and most of the time I feel like half my brain just got up and walked away.  At this point I just hope it comes back.

I’ve had a fairly uneventful 12.5 weeks, so much so that I can now understand how some women are blissfully unaware they are pregnant.  But because I knew I *was* pregnant, and because I am by nature an anxious worrywort, I have spent the past three months freaking out about Every.  Blessed.  Thing.  (I’m told this is normal.)  The fact that I’ve had virtually no morning sickness worries me (although I will confess that it amuses me a bit, since both my mom and sister spent 9 months throwing up and I just assumed I’d be in the same boat).  Mostly I’ve just been tired, so there was a lot of sitting on the couch knitting…mostly for other babies that arrived this summer (or will be arriving this fall).  I also finally found some quilting mojo and was able to sew a few baby quilts (again, for other people).    Here’s the parade of sweaters, all using Malabrigo Worsted (pretty much my favorite yarn):

The top left blue and yellow sweaters, made for our friends’ boy/girl twins, are the Hyphen pattern, which I highly recommend as an easy knit.  The green one (it looks teal, but it’s really green) is Leaf Love, another fairly easy knit (and I love the off-set on it).  And then finally, the little blue sweater with the leaf placket is Cascade (all links on Ravelry).  I found Cascade a bit challenging, in fact I was going to make another one but so far have ripped it out at least four times.  I think it’s doomed.

On the quilt front, 2 “Yellow Brick Road” baby quilts were made, for the aforementioned twins (pics aren’t great, I had them all packed up before I remembered I hadn’t taken any pictures, and they are super wrinkly):

crab-quilt

The white fabric actually has pale blue clouds on it, but it’s not showing in the picture.

mouse-quilt

I decided that for the next baby quilt I would try a new pattern.  I can’t find this pattern in the sewing room, I hope it didn’t get thrown out, but there are a bunch of chevron designs out there.

whale-quilt

This…not my favorite.  Partly because I used two directional prints and they just didn’t work the way I had hoped.  Also, the pattern itself did not call for borders, but without them the quilt was really tiny, but then I regretted adding them.  And it’s too bad, because this fabric was kind of pricey.  Oh, well.

At the moment, my projects for OUR baby are on hold until we find out whether it is a girl or a boy.  Because I’m old, we’re having some genetic testing done that should give us the gender in the next week or so, rather than having to wait until 18-20 weeks.  I will admit that I have been secretly hoarding mermaid fabric (the Mendocino line by Heather Ross), just in case it’s a girl.  To be fair, I have a pile of blue yarn in case it’s a boy!

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Midsummer Miscellany

  1.  Back around  Christmas I somehow clicked on the wrong button and, poof, we became Amazon Prime members.  That led to the discovery of Acorn, which is a subscription service that gives you streaming access to all sorts of British television, including my latest obsession:  TIME TEAM.  It’s a show about a bunch of quirky British archaeologists running around Britain digging up remains of the Roman Empire, among other things.  When I was a kid I went through a phase where I desperately wanted to be an archaeologist, and this show has me wanting to dig up the backyard.  I’m a little obsessed.
  2. Were I to dig up our backyard, I would have to navigate the many skeletons of dead mice that one of the cats keeps dragging home.  I was actually fine with her killing the mice,  but when she caught a bird I made Erik buy her a collar with a bell on it.  The collar in no way deterred her, in fact I watched in despair one morning as she tortured a chipmunk while the little bell on her neck tinkled away.  (In her defense, the stupid chipmunk kept running off and then coming back, even after Erik intervened with a broom.)  So far, she’s lost two bell collars and the dead mice keep piling up. dip digging
  3. Although only one bird has come up on the wrong side of the living, I am now conflicted about filling the bird feeder.  I worry I’m luring them to their inevitable demise at the paws of the Dipster Kitty.  Technically there’s no need to fill the feeders this time of year, except that I like having the birds around, but this of course presupposes that the birds are alive.
  4. The other problem is that, after she lost a third of her fur and I became worried that someone would call the ASPCA on us, and after several trips to the vet, we discovered over the winter that this cat is allergic to normal cat food, necessitating the purchase of ridiculously expensive cat food made with rabbit.  Once we changed her food she perked up quite quickly and her hair grew back.  All was well until she started catching critters, and even though she’s not eating them completely, we are starting to see indications she’s over-grooming again and think she probably is supplementing her diet.
  5. The obvious answer, you’d think, would be to leave the cat inside.  The problem with that is she beats up on the other cats, runs around IN CIRCLES as if she is chasing a ghost, PEES ON THE WINDOWSILLS to mark her territory (!), and generally makes life miserable for everyone else.
  6. Yes, we *have* watched “My Cat From Hell”, why do you ask?
  7. In other news, I am going through one of my increasingly frequent “I want to move back to Maine” spells.  There is truly nothing like summer in Maine, and I miss it, and also if someone could maybe FedEx me a lobster roll and a big bunch of lupines I’d be much obliged.
  8. I still miss my Dad.  A few days before he died we were up in Maine visiting him, and on the way home we listened to an NPR segment on Florence & the Machine.  They played the song “Saint Jude” and I cried, because even though I had no idea I still knew….“and even though I’m grieving I’m trying to find the meaning / let loss reveal it”.  At any rate, I keep hearing this song in weird places, like restaurant bathrooms, and it gives me goosebumps.
  9. If you are here for the knitting, there’s been a lot of that while I’ve been watching Time Team.  Skeins of Malabrigo Worsted keep following me home from yarn stores, begging to be turned into baby sweaters, and I am happy to oblige because the people we know keep procreating.  I continue to be conflicted about knitting baby sweaters with hand-wash wool, because I’m guessing it’s pretty impractical, what with babies generally being messy…but, well, I’m not the one that has to worry about that part. I just keep making them.  (New favorite pattern here….I’m on my third one.)
  10. Looking forward to our annual August camping trip, this time to Lily Bay in Rangeley, as well as two weddings and a family get-together.  Also looking forward to our anniversary at the end of September, because every time I open the freezer the top layer of our wedding cake taunts me.  I can’t believe it’s lasted this long.
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The Honeymoon Part 4 (West and Misc.)

I mentioned we bought a guidebook, and the author raved about Furnas, a popular tourist destination on the western third of the island.  So, we dutifully set off to see the steam plumes and the Terra Nostra botanic garden; I also had hoped to see how they cook stew in the ground, in big pots heated by the volcanic forces bubbling down below.

Like everywhere else on the island, getting to Furnas wasn’t that hard (though yet again the thick fog plagued us all morning).  Finding our way in Furnas was a whole other matter entirely, and we were supremely grumpy after about the fifth time we circled around town trying to find what we were looking for.  It’s definitely possible our mood affected our visit, but this was our least favorite day.

First, we stopped off at the steam plumes, which are right smack dab in the center of town.  Basically Furnas is a furnace.  Or more specifically, it’s sitting on top of a geological furnace.  It’s interesting and all, but I wish they’d left these in a more natural state.  Instead, they’ve tourist-trapped these sites so where rather than marvel at the fact that you are standing on a volcano, you are reading hokey signs that seem completely out of place with their environment.  I went out of my way to *not* take pictures of those signs, and now I regret it, but they were…strange.  At any rate, here we go:

furnas 1

furnas 2

furnas 3

furnas 4

furnas 5

Somehow we missed the place where they cook the stew, so we moved on to the Terra Nostra botanical garden.  Our guidebook raved about this place, but we just found it sort of sad and unkempt and not very interesting.  Maybe we were just too early in the tourism season and they hadn’t done any work yet? Maybe our combined grumpiness and the cloudy weather were affecting how we saw the place?

terra nostra 2

terra nostra 3

terra nostra 4

terra nostra 1

The big thing to do here is swim in the big thermal pool, which is full of rust-colored mineral water.  We had really looked forward to this, and in fact I’d even brought an old bathing suit because I had read that the water can stain fabric.  But once we were there it was just…unappealing, I guess?  And the water wasn’t as hot as we had expected, so we passed.  After a spectacularly mediocre lunch we decided to head out to Nordeste to see a bird sanctuary.  It was closed, and we spent another two hours lost out of our minds, but on the way home we found a waterfall; I’d tell you where it was if I could remember…

waterfall

blue thing 4

Happily, we saved the day by having a really nice dinner at a restaurant that, sort of oddly, is in the middle of what seemed to be an industrial park.  Here I proceeded to eat both the best and largest steak I have ever eaten.  There’s no factory farming here, just free range cows blissfully grass fed, and I’ll spare you my subsequent rant about the US industrial food complex and how it’s probably killing us.  After dinner (and my rant), we went back to the hotel for a nice swim and sauna, two of the best antidotes to travel crankiness I’ve ever found.

***

A few other pictures from the trip:

furnas 6

horse pasture

clouds coming

rib grande houses

village

hydrangea bee

rocks

rock walls

lizard

***

A Few Details

Hotel:  Pedras Do Mar Resort & Spa

Restaurants We’d Recommend:  Alabote in Ribeira Grande; Cafe Canto do Cais in Capelas (no website – probably the best meal we had!); Solar do Conde (also a hotel) in Capelas; O Alambique in Lagoa; the aforementioned Restaurante Associacao Agricola in Rabe de Peixe.  We also ate at the hotel one night, the food was good but the service was SO bad it was beyond reason.  Two people can eat shockingly well for under 30 euro.

We found the nearest Sol Mar (grocery store) and stocked up on bottled water and snacks for the car and for our hikes.  There aren’t a lot of convenience stores, and most of the gas stations we stopped at just sold gas.  Also, buy gas well before you hit empty as the gas stations are spread out a bit.

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