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I Can’t, I Have Yoga

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Whew, it’s been a busy few weeks! Lots of fun and family and food, all of which has been wonderful.

For some reason, I had this past weekend in my head as The Last Hurrah. I don’t know why, really – I could keep on being pregnant for another two months before anyone would try to induce my labor.

But this week was earmarked, at least mentally, as the week I start to really slow down and take it easy on myself. I’m still getting baby stuff together and organizing bit by bit, and I’m only getting started on Christmas stuff. For the most part, though, I’m giving myself some space.

This is not easy for me to do, as you might guess if you’ve read any of my posts about the insane projects I take on or how busy I tend to keep myself. But I’m trying to be very intentional about it.

One piece of that is really protecting my yoga time. I take a prenatal yoga class twice a week right now, and although it would be very easy, given how very large I am getting and how very frantic this season tends to be, to start blowing it off.

Yoga was a huge part of how I got ready for labor with Ella. I don’t even think I knew that’s why I was doing it at the time – I just liked the relaxation and the particularly badass group of women I met at my old studio in Salem. Even without my knowing it, all those weeks of stretching and breathing and focusing wound up being critical practice for childbirth.

So that’s partly why I’m making my yoga class a priority. I feel like I’ve done so little to focus on and prepare for this baby. With Ella, I felt like I already knew her by the time she was born – this new daughter still feels like a tiny stranger. Yoga is a way to prepare for having her, and it’s also dedicated time to connect with the little human living inside me.

But there’s more to it than that.

It took almost two years for me to get pregnant with this baby. In the time between, I gained a lot of weight. I tried and failed to breastfeed. I came down with every illness that went through any of Ella’s daycares, whether or not she got them herself. I took less care of myself than I’ve ever taken, and I lost a lot of confidence in my body – the body I was so proud of during my pregnancy with Ella June, the one that amazed me with the way it brought her into the world.

Natural childbirth was, for me (at least last time!) intensely athletic, physically and mentally. The last thing I need going into round two is any lurking doubt about my body’s strength and ability to do something it was literally designed to do.

So yoga is another way to build a little of that confidence back. Hell, if I can stand on one leg and wave my arms in the air without falling when I look a lot like the freaking Hindenburg around the middle, I can do anything, right?

Which is why twice a week, from now until the day this kiddo decides she’s had enough of riding shotgun, I’ll be planning around my yoga class. Because there’s only so much time left before I’m flying solo in this body again, and anything that helps me enjoy that time is worth prioritizing.

Even when I’m tempted to be too busy. And even when we’re on a tight budget and I feel a little iffy about spending the money.

Thank you, God, for giving me this outlet, which is basically the only fitness activity I have ever enjoyed. Thank you for giving us the basic financial stability to be able to continue this sort of thing, even with my current employment status. And thank you for helping me stay motivated to keep this as a priority for the next month or so, so I can be at my strongest when I bring this baby into the world.

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‘Tis the Season…

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…for panicking about paper goods!!

Just kidding.

Here is a not very secret secret: I looooove paper. Stationery, greeting cards, invitations, fancy envelopes with liners. You name it, I have spent a stupid amount of money on it at some point.

I’ve spent a stupid amount amount of money on paper because good paper costs a stupid amount of money!

I first realized this when I went to find a stationery suite for our wedding. Champagne taste, meet champagne of beers budget. This was back before the DIY wedding thing really took off, so there weren’t too many resources out there for someone looking to tackle this on their own.

I started with our save the dates, although I had no idea what I was doing. I pulled a random antique map image from a google search, slapped some text over the top, and hoped for the best in terms of color matching with our peach and sea foam green theme. Then I sent it off to Vistaprint and waited with baited breath.

Spoiler alert: these were a hilarious disaster with bad margins, poor paper quality, pixelated text, and a pumpkin/olive color combo that actually turned my stomach a little. But, because of aforementioned champagne of beers budget, those vibrantly awful postcards are what went in the mail.

I learned some good lessons from that little adventure. So when it came time to do my actual wedding invites, I got serious about quality. I still did the design myself, but I worked with a local nonprofit letterpress studio that focused primarily on teaching printing. They were a) absurdly inexpensive for letterpress, and b) infinitely patient with me, helping me discover and fix design issues, choose a quality but affordable stock, and adjust my expectations about color.

Since then I fancy I’ve become a better than average amateur designer, despite having no particular talent for anything visual and no access to fancy design programs.

In short: I am a real graphic designer’s worst nightmare, as a number of colleagues from my professional career can attest. (Sorry, Jess and Cathy!! I love you!)

I’ve designed wedding suites for friends’ nuptials, baby shower invites, and numerous birthday party invitations for my daughter.

So this holiday card season, when my champagne of beers budget is actually more of a “hey can I have a sip of YOUR beer?” budget, it seemed like designing my own was an obvious solution.

I’ve been down this road before though – the “I don’t want to pay full price for this so let me spend four times as much to buy all the stuff to do it myself from scratch” road – so this time I did the responsible thing and priced out the graphics and fonts I’d buy, the printing costs, the cost for buying envelopes separately, etc.

And hey, what do you know, even when I factored in the specials some of my favorite paper goods vendors (Minted, Shutterfly) were running, it was still going to cost me less than half to design and print my own.

SO, here’s what I did.

I chose four of my favorite photos from our family photo minishoot this fall (done by Liz Oberacker at Pure Style Photography – she is awesome!). And then I poked around online to get some ideas for elements I liked on other cards that could fit four photos.

Once I had a general idea of what I was going for, I went onto Creative Market and favorited about 200 graphic sets I could use to piece together something myself. See, I don’t have Photoshop or anything fancy right now, so I need little graphic files I can paste together to make something pretty.

Let me just say that if Creative Market existed when I first got engaged, that save-the-date fiasco would never have happened. There are so many people hawking so many awesome, easy to use design options. No one from Creative Market is paying me to say this, I just love that site.

I narrowed my choices down and picked one graphic suite (this one!) plus one package of rustic backgrounds (this one!). It took a long time because I wanted to buy All The Things, but I am a grownup and I am being financially responsible, so I did it.

I will be accepting medals for this later, just FYI.

Then I did some Googling to get some ideas about free font pairings that look good together. This was overwhelming and unproductive.

Seriously, try it. Click here and see what happens.

In the end, I landed at a font site I’ve used before and picked a script and a not-script (see? Not a real designer! What do you call something that isn’t a script?!) that were free for personal use.

Then I put them together. And actually hated them.

I finally went with a script that was already on my computer, plus the not-script font I’d found online.

And then I played around in Publisher for about a million hours, moving bits and pieces of graphics around, supplementing some of the already assembled graphic pieces with some of the individual files the package I’d purchased included, messing around with colors and switching up fonts.

I used the specs provided by Vistaprint to build a double sided postcard. Yes, I know, Vistaprint is where I printed those pumpkin/olive Save the Dates and it was a horrible mistake. But Vistaprint has actually gotten a lot better in the last few years, and they have a great matte recycled stock I’ve used for some birthday invites recently that looked downright high end. SO that’s what I went with!

I also ordered these envelopes in Botanic green from Cards and Pockets, which is a great resource for DIY paper goods. I heard a rumor it was founded by a woman from my high school, which makes it even greater.

I did, in the name of financial responsibility, opt to skip the custom return address stamp I’d planned on ordering. I have the handwriting of a serial killer, but since I’m only sending 50 or so of these, I should be able to scratch out our address carefully without getting carpal tunnel.

And here’s the big reveal!

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I’m not sure I didn’t go overboard with the wreaths on the back, but I’ve already ordered these so please don’t tell me if I’ve made a huge mistake! I may not be a real designer, but I saved us a good chunk of change and still get to send out holiday cards with our favorite family photos.

It’s a particularly special year for our little family, so I’m pretty happy I was able to find a way to afford this, even though we’re down an income, house poor from our move, and trying to scrape together a nest egg in time for this baby to get here. Plus, it’s always fun to have a creative project to work on to kick off the holidays.

Thank you, God, for the wonders of the internet, where you can learn to do just about anything and find just about any resources you need to do it. Thank you for giving me the time to dive this far down the rabbit hole on something creative I enjoy doing. And thank you giving us a year worth sharing with our family and friends via holiday card. It’s been a great one.

 

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Day of Rest

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Pretty sure the person who wrote that part in the Bible about Sunday being a day of rest did not have children.

Weekends are rarely a restful time for our family. Even with me out of work and running the mundane errands during the week to take the pressure off, Saturdays and Sundays tend to be full of household chores and obligations.

And if they’re not, they are vast expanses of unstructured time, during which our four year old requires infinite snacks and entertainment.

Not today, though. Today, we needed a real day of rest.

I had an awesome time planning, getting ready for, and then celebrating this weekend and last, with the added bonus of Thanksgiving thrown in the middle.

But boy, this mama is B.E.A.T.

The thing about me is that I like to be busy, most of the time. And I’m kind of like a car battery – if I just keep moving, I’ll just keep charging myself up. But the second I stop… crash.

That’s kind of what happened today. Even after the party was over yesterday, I kept going, like the Energizer bunny, cleaning up, packing away leftovers, putting everything back in its place, long after I should have called it a night.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I woke up at 7 this morning to Ella wandering in that I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.

That makes it sound like I resent the work I’d put into all of this festivity over the last few weeks. I don’t! I really did have fun.

So, let’s say I felt like I’d been hit by a party bus, because that sounds funner.

Most weekend mornings, Jon will get up with Ella while I wake up for a bit so I can have a little quiet time and so Ella can get a little daddy time, since she’s still asleep when he leaves during the week.

Today though, instead of poking around on Pinterest while I waited for the cobwebs to clear, I fell completely, snoringly, out-cold asleep after they went downstairs, for a solid hour and a half.

It was amazing. God bless my husband, because he must have been tired too, and Ella June was definitely even more tired, which does not make wrangling her an easy task.

We had some friends over to visit this morning – dear old friends, the best kind, the ones you don’t need to clean up for before they come over. As soon as they left, I tucked Ella into our bed with her current favorite show on the TV, because she’d been in meltdown city all morning. She’s not a napper, but she was in desperate need of some enforced downtime, so I crawled in with her around 1pm to encourage restfulness…

…and I woke up at 4:30.

Now it’s almost 10. Ella went down before 8, which hasn’t happened in months. I took some time after she went to sleep to finish designing our holiday cards (which I’ll share tomorrow), but I shut down early.

Tomorrow is a mumma Monday, as Ella calls them. We’ll run a few errands and pick an activity or two. I’ll be on all day, although we’re going to try to take it easy.

So right now, I’m calling it and winding down for even more rest.

Goodnight, folks. I hope your holiday weekend was both bustling with love and food and family, and also restful.

Thank you, God, for giving me the energy to see the plans I was so excited about through, and for giving me enough energy at the end to be able to actually enjoy it. Thank you for slowing my body down when I couldn’t do it myself. And thank you for Jon and Ella, who both made giving me the rest I needed a priority today so I can be back on my feet and back into the swing of things tomorrow.

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Warming the House

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We had an open house today – just for family, many of whom hadn’t seen the new place yet.

I spent the last few weeks going completely nuts with food preparation, for no real reason. We cleaned the house and spring for fresh flowers. Basically, this was A Very Grown Up Party.

I wasn’t sure why I was going so overboard on this one until everyone got here. I made a lot of jokes about how I should probably get back to work since I’m obviously bored, or how I felt like I needed to pull my weight somehow since I’m not contributing much financially. And sure maybe there’s a little truth in both of those.

But when our house was filled with family and we were giving the fourth tour of the day, it hit me that this is, God willing, our close-to-forever home, and I wanted the people we love to love it as much as we do. I went crazy on the snacks and baked goods and cleaning and decorating because I wanted everyone to see how at home we are here and how much sense this house makes for us.

When our house was filled with family, I kept thinking that this is why they call it a house warming. It’s a home now, warm and settled and ours.

And also one less fuzzy explanation, which didn’t occur to me until after everyone went home and I mentioned to Jon that I had a lot of fun figuring out the logistics of the whole thing.

“You’ll get back to big idea logistics again,” he told me.

And he’s right. There’s a big part of my brain I haven’t been using in this weird unemployment time. Planning and making an overly complicated menu for a party we didn’t 100% need to throw let me stretch that neglected brain out a bit.

I’m loving being home with Ella right now, but I’m going to need to figure out some outlets – creative outlets, thinking outlets, social outlets – or I might lose my mind. Not right away. The baby will give us plenty to focus on for awhile. But longer term, if I’m home and not working, it’s going to be really important to make sure I’ve carved out space for me, too.

So, fun party, warm house, small life epiphany. Great day, great family. Happy preggo.

Bedtime.

Thank you, God, for my wonderful family. Thank you for letting me share our home with them, and for giving me a completely unnecessary project to focus my energy on. And thank you for my husband, who knows me better than I do sometimes.

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Multitasking

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Ella recently made up some lyrics to the tune of that old “this is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands” song. Her alternate words go something like this:

“This is the way I do everything,
Do everything,
Do everything.
This is the way I do everything,
With octopus arms.”

She told me it’s a song about having eight arms like an octopus so you can do everything yourself all at one time. I don’t know why this is something she aspires to, really, except that she sees me pretending I have octopus arms every day.

There was a point tonight when I was frosting some sugar cookies. I was using my hands for that task, but that’s about it. The rest of me was split in about 100 different directions.

Smelling to make sure the onions weren’t burning.

Listening for the sound of the butter I was browning, to make sure the bubbling hadn’t stopped yet.

Breathing slowly through yet another Braxton Hicks contraction, accompanied by enthusiastic movement from my little hitch hiker.

And thinking about what I’d write about tonight (surprise: it was multitasking).

The fact that our brains are even capable of following this many paths at once is a miracle.

I’m not naturally a multitasker- or at least, I wasn’t until I became a mom. My tendency is to go way down a rabbit hole on one task or idea with complete tunnel vision.

But having a baby rewired my brain. I could no longer stick with just one thread, I had to somehow be weaving a whole blanket, all the time. It took some major organizational changes for me to relearn how to balance competing tasks and priorities, but I did it.

And now I’m firing along a million synapses at once most of the time.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I got a hilarious amount of cooking done today for a party we’re having tomorrow. And the fact that I’m not laser focused on one thing hasn’t, so far, detracted from the 201 things I’m dividing my attention between.

But I also know that my brain needs a bit of a break. This weekend and the week ahead – with Thanksgiving and family plans and a fall open house to show off our new home, doctors appointments for me and Ella, yoga after missing it all week last week, a breastfeeding class, and lists upon lists of chores to attend to, needs to be the last hurrah for frantic-energy Danielle. But come December 1, all bets are off.

It’s going to be hard to fight the Christmas frenzy, but I’m hoping to very intentionally use December to slow down. There could be as little as a few weeks or as much as a month and a half left for us as a family of three. I want to make sure we savor it, and I’m going to try to remember that holding on to this precious, fleeting moment in our family’s life doesn’t mean filling it with frenetic activity.

Ella got a fat lip during bedtime tonight. I had set her up on the toilet while I went to get her bed stuff settled in her room, which involved not only making her bed, but also gathering her entourage of stuffed animals, throwing laundry into the basket, and clearing the floor of any debris that might be an obstacle in the middle of the night. I was frantically throwing toys into a bin when I heard a sudden thunk, followed by a wail.

Ella had bonked her lip on the tub while trying to get off the potty head first.

(Side note: all kids do this, right? Tell me we are not the only ones whose child tries to make dismounting from the toilet a daredevil stunt…)

Blood everywhere. Screaming kiddo. Concerned cats underfoot.

I barked a few instructions to my husband (ice pack, wet paper towel, stuffed bunny for snuggling). And then all multitasking stopped, so I could hold my daughter and tell her it would be all right.

Thank you, God, for our supercomputer brains that can juggle so much at once. Thank you for occasional reminders that they don’t always need to. And thank you helping me find a new pace as the days – and the wait for this baby – get shorter, even as my to do list gets longer.

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Giving Thanks

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Turkey Day!!

It feels like it’s the middle of the night and I am stuffed to the gills with food and baby, so I’m going to keep this one short and sweet.

A day focused on thankfulness in a month when I’m trying to live gratefully feels like a lot of pressure…

I don’t have a grand statement to make, though. Just know that I feel continually grateful for my family, our home, our health, and this little space where I can get to know my writing voice again.

Thank you, God, for those blessings, and a million more.

Happy Thanksgiving, all. And thank you for reading.

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Magic and Mud

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When we were growing up, we had a Magic Book.

I can’t remember what it was actually called, although I’m pretty sure my dad still has it on a shelf in his living room – “Treasury of Children’s Tales” or something like that, full of nursery rhymes and short stories. To my little girl arms, it was impossibly heavy, with that faux leather binding and the spine printed in gold foil.

We called it the Magic Book because it was so huge that no matter how many times you went back to it, you always found a story or a poem you’d never seen before.

Now, living out here in Central MA, my family has a Magic Field.

It’s on the way to Acton, which is where the train station, the Trader Joe’s, our pediatrician, and a convenient Starbucks are located, so we drive by it often. And the magical thing about this field is that you never know what you’re going to see in it.

Sometimes it’s a herd of sheep, way back in the corner. Sometimes it’s cows, snoozing by the fence closest to road. Sometimes it’s a bunch of errant turkeys, or a horse, or a mammoth tractor that looks too old to work but too dirty to be decorative.

Sometimes it’s a heavy veil of mist, rolling lazily over the rise and fall of the land.

This field, and others like it out here, make me absurdly happy these days.

I’m not naturally a country girl. I like the aesthetic, I think, and I love watching wildlife through the seasons. I love the idea of curling up by a fire in old house someplace in the woods after a day out in the fall leaves, or of being the first footprints to crunch through the snow – after the fox and the squirrels and the bobcats. Maybe I’m a country girl just for long, cold weekends.

But when we moved here from Salem, I had a really hard time adjusting. It wasn’t just that the nearest cappuccino was 20 minutes away. It was that I love a good sidewalk stroll, with window shopping and restaurant choices and stores you can pop into and find just the right thing you didn’t know you needed. At heart, I’m still kind of a New Yorker, and Salem was a nice little micro-city for us for a while.

The move to Bolton was jarring, and it took us a few years to finally admit that it wasn’t working for us.

I am so glad to say that the move to Hudson has been exactly the opposite. We love our creaky old house and the work it’s going to want from us to make it really shine again. We love our yard and our little downtown, with our favorite restaurant and our favorite brewery and a speakeasy that could make me forget I’m not really in the city anymore.

And we love, love that we can drive for just five minutes and still feel the awe of being a tiny speck in nature’s surround. It’s particularly beautiful to me this time of year, when the foliage is past its peak and the trees and ground have settled into russets and deep clove browns.

This morning Ella and I drove Jon to the train early, since we’re headed to Boston tonight for a family event and didn’t want to have to deal with two cars on the way home. We were the only car on the road, probably because of the holiday tomorrow.

We passed the Magic Field about half an hour after the sun came up, but we couldn’t see any light through the heavy gray cloud cover. The field and the sheep who were wandering it were smeared with rich brown mud, and the barn looked like it might cave in at any moment.

But all I could think was

Thank you, God, for all of this rustic glory. Thank you for giving us a home that straddles the best of both worlds for my city girl heart and my country girl ideals. And thank you for helping us find unexpected magic, even in the mud.