He’s here

Oliver and me

Oliver William made his unexpected but much celebrated debut at 9:57 p.m. on Sunday, April 12!

At 3 lbs., 9 oz., he is our tiny and precious little one. Though he was eight weeks early, Ollie is already a fighter who amazes us every day. He is being well taken care of until he’s ready to come home with us, and we hope fervently that moment is coming soon.

Having a baby is a beautiful, life-shattering thing . . . and having to go home while our little one remains in the NICU has been one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life. I don’t know how we would have survived the last week without our families, and I definitely could not have survived any of this without Spencer. He held me up — literally. In every way possible.

I’ll share his birth story in the weeks to come . . . likely when I’ve had more time to process it all, and hopefully when we’re able to hold him constantly in our arms. In the meantime, you’ll likely see radio static here. I have a million things to say but no idea how to say them, but I know I’ll need to find a way as we press on.

‘Til then, we’ll be daydreaming and driving up to see our little love. We already know the roads by heart.


That sweet bird feeder life

Bird

I never thought I’d turn into a crazy bird lady.

Or, um, a faithful Walmart shopper.

But here we are. Ah, the suburban life.

At some point in the homeownership/adulthood process, Walmart — and its seasonal department — became our new hotspot. You know you’ve settled into married life when a stroll through the potted plants, bird baths and mulch is fine entertainment . . . especially when combined with a trip to Lowe’s. (Likely your third that week.)

My pregnancy-addled feet are so swollen that walking anywhere is a chore right now, so I prefer to lean on the cart and waddle behind my energetic husband. Now that spring is here, with trees beginning to bud and our dormant yard is coming back to life, my husband has big plans for grass and gardens and grilling.

All the Gs, basically.

Our bird feeder — like a new grill — was a bit of an impulse buy. While I’m more of a saver than a spender, especially with Baby J on the way, I was lured by the idea of having a cute spot for birds to hang out. Our persistent cardinal and his girlfriend are still around, tapping on windows and loitering in Bradford pear trees, along with lots of other birdies. I love to hear their trilling in the woods behind the house.

Armed with a new cedar feeder and a starter bag of seed, Spence suspended the birdies’ cafeteria from the deck railing near our living room. It’s visible from where I typically plant myself on the couch, giant feet propped on the coffee table, and we’ve already gotten hours of enjoyment out of it.

First of all, there is nonstop traffic trying to land at the feeder. I can look out at any given moment and find birds coming in for a landing or quickly departing, depending on who is in charge, and usually they sort of . . . line up along the railing for a turn. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of chaos.

We’ve seen blue jays and woodpeckers, our cardinals and tiny bluebirds. And lots I can’t identify. Some are pudgy and stout, others lean and aggressive. Some prefer the feeder all to themselves while their compatriots are happy to share.

I spend a lot of time staring at birds.

And I’m oddly okay with it.


Tree


There are times I still miss our condo, conveniently centered in a neighboring town. It was the first place Spencer lived without roommates and the first place we lived together as a married couple. I miss the gorgeous sunsets painting the sky from the second floor, and I miss walking to restaurants and bars when we wanted to combine exercise with a deliciously fattening pub dinner.

But we’re coming up on one year since we bought the house and moved. Though it was a process getting here, it has completely become “home” to me. I can run my hands along walls in the dark to feel for light switches I know to be there. Though I still have those weird moments where I don’t feel old enough to have my own place, let alone my own place with my husband, that has faded. And I’m sure will only fade further when our little boy is here.

Hanging the bird feeder feels domestic — and permanent — in a way that few other home tasks have. Though we still talk about the condo, living on our own in the woods is actually . . . pretty great.

Until the bird seed runs out — and those buggers totally turn on us.

Speaking of which . . . er, better run to Walmart.


Book chat: ‘The Precious One’ by Marisa de los Santos

The Precious OneTaisy Cleary thought she’d finally banished him. After her father abandoned the family when she and her twin brother, Marcus, had just turned 18, Taisy made it her mission to press on without the dominating, controlling, sneering Wilson Cleary. With his pregnant second wife quickly ready to welcome a new daughter, his first wants only to exorcise him.

Wilson makes it his mission to protect Willow, this precious babe, from all the world’s hurts. As his third child lives a sheltered, academically-rich life under her father’s tender wing, Taisy and Marcus work to erase difficult Wilson from their lives. And they succeed — mostly — for 17 years. But after learning of her father’s recent heart attack, Taisy is shocked to receive an invitation back to the hometown she fled so long ago.

Faced with a surly teenage half-sister, dreamy stepmother and father who remains as self-obsessed as ever, Taisy is also confronted with memories of another man she lost so long ago: her first love, Ben. Returning to the Delaware town where she’d once been so happy, she hopes to forge new connections . . . just as her sister needs her the most.

Lyrical, thought-provoking and filled with memorable characters, Marisa de los Santos’ The Precious One challenges our notions of family, loyalty and second chances. Though it got off to a slow start for me, I became lost in the beautiful language and sucked into the world of the complicated, broken Clearys.

In chapters alternating between Taisy and Willow’s viewpoints, the story begins with Taisy estranged from her father and his second family — but still faced with a longing to understand, and be understood by, her dad. While her brother has long given up on Wilson, Taisy can’t seem to shake her strange, misguided feelings of loyalty to the man who destroyed to their once-strong family unit. Even decades later, she can’t help wondering . . . why?

With Wilson now in his 70s and in questionable health, he calls his oldest daughter — a writer — for a favor: to ghostwrite his life story, one of his marvelous mind. An unquestionable genius, Wilson places education and knowledge above all else. His daughter, Willow, was molded in his image: a brilliant, savvy young woman who thinks easily for herself . . . but can’t function away from her father’s grasp.

Public high school is a new circle of hell for Willow. With Wilson unable to continue her homeschooling, she enters eleventh grade without any of the grasp of culture or social norms. And it’s painful. When the author has us join Willow in a dirty stairwell where she’s somberly eating her lunch alone, I ached for her. Who hasn’t felt like the misfit?

And that’s why it’s so easy to understand how she is quickly adopted by a new mentor: her English teacher, a 30-year-old man who easily quotes poetry and Shakespeare but harbors dubious intentions. The Precious One is as much the story of a family as it is one of predation and loneliness, hope and belief.

I related to Taisy — in her thirties, still smarting with the dissolution of her first love — and with Willow, this sad and lovely girl who can’t understand just how sad and lovely she really is. No matter your age, there is probably a bit of Taisy and Willow in all of us: people who still seek the approval of their parents, regardless of what’s come to pass between them. Willow’s fondest hope is to never make a mistake, and Taisy’s is to atone for her worst one of all.

Can you tell I liked this book? I really liked this book. I read it almost entirely in one afternoon with my swollen pregnant feet propped on a coffee table, lost in the Clearys and their myriad issues . . . swept up in the idea of Wilson’s mysterious past and how much he inflicted his own issues upon his unsuspecting children.

Though I didn’t feel we got the most satisfying story arc from Wilson’s history, I appreciated Taisy’s desire to dig deeper — to try and find the root of what made this man so calculated, austere and cold (to everyone but Willow, that is). As Willow begins to clear a small path in the real world outside her parents’ arms, I felt a surge of protection for her . . . even though my loyalty was, for the most part, with Taisy.

The evolution of the sisters’ relationship is at the heart of the story. Though we have sinister subplots peeking into the crevices between paragraphs, Willow and Taisy finding solace and camaraderie in one another — and the changes they help bring to each other’s lives — was moving, to say the least. Though Willow would have never admitted to needing a “sister” around (and Taisy could never imagine being that sister), their changing dynamic was my favorite part of The Precious One.

With a satisfying conclusion and engrossing plot, Marisa de los Santos presents a winning novel that swept me up with its gorgeous prose and compelling characters. This family isn’t one I’ll soon forget.


4.5 out of 5

Pub: 2015 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor on Facebook
Complimentary copy provided via TLC Book Tours for review consideration


Sweet pregnant progress

Cookie dough ice cream

Remember how I was once all, Meh, sweets, bleh, whatever, just pass the chips and queso?

Well, I still really love chips and queso. (And salsa. And French onion dip. And anything salty, really.)

But my sweets aversion? Well.

I feel like I’m reaching critical mass in my pregnancy — and still have about nine weeks-ish to go. (Um, did I just state a single digit for the countdown? Yeah, I’m not ready for that.) Just in the last two weeks, I’ve started swelling within an inch of my life — just call me sausage foot — and have actually outgrown some of my maternity tops.

Just let that sink in a minute.

I’ve long resigned myself to not being one of those ladies “with a basketball up her shirt,” and honestly? I’m okay with it. I’m not a skinny girl. But I feel like I’ve gone from “Er, is she pregnant?” to “MY GOD, SHE’S PREGNANT.” in the span of two seconds.

(That Cookie Dough Blast has absolutely nothing to do with it, I’m sure.)

I’m regularly stopped by strangers on the street with kind questions, then avert my eyes from their pitying looks when I inform them that this little guy and I will be hanging out until June. Coworkers have commented on how I look like I’m already “about done,” and I have to laugh.

Because I am, in some ways. But also: I’m not.

While I’ll admit that the constant backaches, poor sleeping habits and inability to get up from couches and beds is a wee bit inconvenient, I am excited to be firmly ensconced here in the third trimester. It’s nice to feel the baby moving all the time, and reassuring to know we’re getting into the final lap of this journey.

We’re less than two weeks from my local baby shower, about a month from Spencer’s birthday and our New York shower, and I’m already working ahead to prepare for maternity leave. We got the nursery painted last week, have been doing some shopping and I’m finally at the point where I feel an urge to stock up on baby clothes. And diapers. And other necessities.

All this to say: I haven’t been doing much non-baby-related stuff lately. Or thinking about much beyond the growing kiddo treating me to 5 a.m. alien kicks each morning.

But I have been reading. And I’ll have reviews heading toward your eyeballs shortly.

Just after I finish this milkshake.


Book chat: ‘Attachments’ by Rainbow Rowell

AttachmentsLincoln didn’t plan on becoming a snoop.

Hired by the nascent IT department of a local newspaper to ensure their employees aren’t using the new-fangled Internet for nefarious purposes (it is 1999, after all), Lincoln’s primary job is to hang around at night reading others’ email.

For a while, nothing interesting happens. Aside from the occasional off-color remark, his filter remains resolutely boring. Until chains of messages begin to pour in between Beth and Jennifer, two members of the editorial staff who share their lives through a series of notes passed like a digital middle school experience.

Though he feels awful invading their privacy, the friends’ emails keep appearing in his filter . . . and he keeps reading them, partly because he’s bored silly — it’s an overnight shift in an empty building — but, gradually, because he starts to feel connected to them. Especially Beth, a sharp and funny movie critic stuck in a dead-end relationship.

When their paths cross in daylight, everything feels different . . . and his affections only grow. But how do you confess to snooping on your love interest for months — and all on the company dime?

Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments is a sweet, modern love story that immediately sucked me in. As an editor at a local newspaper myself, it was literally impossible for me to not relate to this quick, quirky and entertaining read.

Lincoln is the sort of dude you can’t help but root for — a man floundering a bit to find his way in the world after a nasty break-up, but undoubtedly someone with a heart of gold. I loved his relationship with his well-meaning but overbearing mom, of all things; it was incredibly realistic, right down to her shoving casseroles into his hands on his way out the door.

In his late twenties, Lincoln doesn’t plan to still be living at home . . . or working in a soulless IT position, where even a monkey could read flagged emails and send warning messages to the paper staff. But he knows there is something more — and he’ll find it. Eventually. His predicament is one many can relate to, I’d wager, though the story was set in the chaos of Y2K. (Also: nostalgia.)

Beth and Jennifer’s dynamic was wonderful. I read Attachments thinking often of who my own Beth would be (I mean, I’m definitely Jennifer, the married and nervously pregnant editor). Though we only get to know the pair through their constant emails to each other, this style — a modern epistolary — worked really well for me.

And it made for an incredibly quick read. Though Lincoln is the star of our show, every side character held his or her own — and as the story progressed, I was dying — DYING — for Lincoln and Beth to meet. I kept wondering how they would eventually run into each other, waiting to see if instant sparks would fly. Wanting shy, handsome Lincoln to finally make a big move.

Lovers of contemporary fiction and the ever-funny, ever-wise Rainbow Rowell will find much to love in this savvy story. It was an incredibly entertaining way to spend a few weeknights, and definitely solidified my Rowell love.


4 out of 5

Pub: 2011 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Complimentary copy provided by publisher for review consideration


Thoughts after childbirth class

Well, we survived childbirth class.

And not just survived, exactly . . . I think we thrived.

So, um, I went into the experience pretty nervous. As I’ve documented during the last 29 weeks, I entered pregnancy basically wanting to know as little as possible about how this all was going to wrap up. I’ve always been nervous about childbirth as a concept, and I can’t say it was something I was eager to experience.

Having a baby? Yep, want to do that. But having a baby? Er.

My biggest take-away from Saturday was that our birth experience will be our own. It’s okay to compare notes with the ladies in your life, but don’t expect a replica of anyone else’s labor. “It won’t be your mom’s, or your sister’s, or your girlfriend’s,” Maura, our instructor, told us. “It will be yours.

We learned some deep breathing exercises (“Don’t hyperventilate!”) and how to tell the difference between “real” contractions and Braxton Hicks. Maura touched on infant care, our likely experience in the hospital, breastfeeding tips and tricks, and how much water we should all be drinking (answer: lots).

We did watch a few videos of real births and, yep, that was wild. I know childbirth is a miracle and our bodies were made to do this and so on and blah blah, but c’mon: it’s gross, too. But I expected that. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the time in college when I literally ran from a family studies class because I got physically ill during an informational video. So: progress?


Onesie


I’m still nervous. Still a little fearful of how everything will go down. But as a type-A note-taker, I’ve been studying the hospital’s handouts and pondering all of Maura’s sane advice. After reaching the point where it was worse not to know than to simply educate myself on what we’ll be dealing with in just a few short months, I actually feel . . . empowered.

No one else can do this for me. Though Spencer will be there to cheer me on, I am responsible for bringing our child into the world. Now that I’ve accepted that, I really feel better.

It was nice to be back in a classroom, too — even if just for a few hours. I’m a geek; I can’t help it. Spence and I took seats at the front of the room, and I scribbled notes like the overachiever I am. We found comfort in the knowledge that we’re certainly not the only nervous first-timers; twelve others were in the room with us and having their first children, too. And one couple is expecting twin boys.

Basically, it’s real now. Really real. There have been so many surreal moments throughout this pregnancy — seeing him move on the first ultrasound; finding out he is a he; feeling that first kick, etc. — that took time to process. But I think we’re finally in a spot where we understand we’re having a baby, and I feel like we have a game plan for this whole process.

It’s just a plan, of course — and plans often change.

But it’s a start.

Less than 11 weeks to go . . .


Five years

Spencer and me in 2010


Five years to the day from when we first met, Spence and I will take our first childbirth class.

Could I have seen that coming? Maybe not on March 21, 2010 — but life moves fast when you’re in love.

Because we had a “date-aversary” before a wedding anniversary, I still look kindly upon March 21. When I started researching childbirth resources, the six-hour class tomorrow — filled with all the “necessities” of getting ready to bring a baby into the world — was the only Saturday available. Everything else was held during the week, broken up over multiple nights, etc., and I’m already tired with a short attention span.

And I really need to pay attention.

I’m 29 weeks along today, the first day of spring, and starting to get these jittery, anxious nerves firing through my body. In the home stretch. This is a phrase I’ve heard often lately — and even said myself — but, honestly, it hasn’t really processed yet. The third trimester sounded impossibly far away when I was struggling to keep down dry toast in those early days, and yet . . .

And yet . . .
And yet . . .

Here we are. Closing in.

I woke up at 2 a.m. this morning when Baby J landed a few good kicks to my left side. I put my hand there to feel that jerky, alien-like movement and was suddenly alert, wide awake. With each punch came the sudden, jarring thought that there is a baby in there. And that he must get out.

I know it sounds ridiculous. I mean, I’ll be 30 years old this summer — this isn’t exactly a mystery or anything. But I’ve always had a mental block regarding childbirth and have been, you know, afraid of the concept, so I was determined to know as little as possible in advance. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

That theory worked . . . in the beginning. Back when we were still in shock that I was actually pregnant, I consoled myself with the knowledge that we had so much time before I had to worry about a hospital stay and breastfeeding and pushing and . . . well, everything else.

So much time. Months. Three-quarters of a year.

But now, 11 weeks from D-Day, it’s time to be a big girl.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about what comes after the baby is here. We’re meeting with a day care provider this Sunday, for one, and Spence and I have already started talking about how we’ll be changing our schedules to accommodate the little guy.

Though I know nothing can really prepare you for parenthood, I’ve done some soul-searching about how our relationship might change . . . and how we’ll be growing as a family, not just a couple.

That’s intense, too — but in a different way. A good way. A way that decidedly does not keep me up at night.

But everything else?

Well.

Part of me is ready to get this show on the road . . . I mean, between the back aches, heavy belly, feet swelling, occasional bouts of lingering nausea and other fun symptoms, I’m less than comfortable. I can’t get off the couch unassisted. I’m tired all the time. The weight gain has been hard for me — and I still have months to go.

But another part of me? A bigger part, perhaps? Is totally okay with Baby J just, you know, hanging out in there for as long as he needs to. I recognize that this is a precious time in my life, and I’m not trying to rush it. Spence and I have our happy routines, and I’m content to daydream about all that’s to come.

Anticipation is half the adventure, right?

There’s something to be said for just soaking up the moment. Be Here Now — my life’s mantra — follows me everywhere.

And tomorrow, while I try not to panic and gag at the thought of all that labor entails, I will remember how I felt the day a curly-haired Spencer walked into a cafe and met my eyes with a smile. How we talked and sipped coffee on the first warm day of spring, soaking up the sunshine in a stiff breeze, and how my nerves drifted away immediately.

There was such a sense of this is right, you know? A sense of realness that I have never questioned. Anticipation buzzed right through me.

Five years later, we’ll be listening to the early signs of labor and taking notes. Later, we’ll pop over to the restaurant where we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day — probably one of our last “nice nights out” before Baby J arrives — and likely reminisce about that day at Panera.

It’s fun to remember what was . . . but even better to think of what will be.

As long as he’s next to me.


Wedding

Christmas 2014