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Fall

3 Nov

Autumn has always been my favorite season.  The cool, crisp weather feels like Taiwan in the wintertime.  Since moving to State College, however, I’ve come to really enjoy spring.  I love the bright yellow-green leaves and all the flowering trees in our neighborhood.  Even winter isn’t so bad here, with a lot less snow and gloominess than Western NY.

Unfortunately, I’ve been remarkably unimpressed with this entire year’s showing of seasons.  We had a long, dark winter.  Spring was ridiculously brief (and allergy-inducing).  Summer was hot and miserable.  Fall, so far, has been rainy.  And, horrors, A successfully built a snowman in October.

BUT–today was beautiful.  The sun was shining; the temperature was in the 60s.  For the first time in a while, I realized how gorgeous our backyard is.  Tomorrow promises to be a similarly perfect day.  

I dare this year to redeem itself.

Autumn backyard.

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One of the best parts of autumn

3 Nov

A leaf pile

Happy birthday to me, just a whole month early

14 Oct

Birthdays used to make me a bit manic-depressive. I’d anticipate it all year, build up expectations, then spend the entire birthday miserable because I ended up, say, receiving luggage for my birthday instead of a discman (this only sort of happened).

One of my favorite things about being an adult is birthdays are no longer a big deal. If I want to have a party, I plan one. And if I want a discman for my birthday, I budget it in (Ha! What a grown-up concept.) and it’s a done deal. (Alternatively, there are years where I really, genuinely don’t want anything for my birthday–and as a grown-up, that’s okay, too!)

This brings me to the real topic of this post–I got a new camera! For my birthday and Christmas! Because it was on super sale (more than is reflected on the Amazon link below) and various family members wanted to chip in! And because I’ve wanted one for a while now! Even though my birthday isn’t until November and Christmas isn’t, well, until December!

I got a Canon s95 and it is sweet. I used to have a Canon Rebel DSLR and it spoiled me for good in terms of image quality expectations… No point and shoot I’ve had (all hand-me-downs) since then have seemed to be worth the trouble to actually use. I’d heard such great things about the Canon S series, though, and felt strongly that a small point and shoot is a much more logical choice than a DSLR right now because 1) P has a DSLR and 2) I want something I can throw in my purse and whip out quickly. Also, my meager photography skills don’t warrant the financial investment of a DSLR!

Anyway, it arrived in the mail on Wednesday and I love it. It takes great shots, even in low light. I am so enjoying messing around with the manual controls.

We’ve been housebound because of the rain and A, my most promising model, refuses to cooperate, so I’ve had a tough time finding photography subjects. But below some examples of very low-light, no-flash shots that aren’t painfully grainy and terrible like the products of other point-and-shoots I’ve used. As you can see, they’re not meant to be artistic by any means, but I’m pretty pleased with the quality.

I’m usually quite liberal with post-processing but all of these images are untouched, save for cropping in the first shot.

Go to sleep, little squirrel

22 Sep

I can’t sing. It’s true.* The only person who would argue is P, but he doesn’t count. I have enough of a musical ear that I can tell when something sounds bad (which is why singing is probably frustrating to me–I can’t stand that I have no range and have trouble hitting each note).
At any rate, I find myself singing a lot more these days because I have a preschooler who likes to sing and I also have a newborn who is soothed by lullabies. Thankfully they are not judgmental.
It didn’t take me long after having A to realize that my lullaby repertoire is severely lacking. Most often I would find myself making up crap to the tune of Brahm’s lullaby:

Go to sleep, little girl
Go to sleep now, my baby
Go to sleep, little girl
You’re the sweetest in the world.

Go to sleep, go to sleep
Go to sleep now my baby.
Go to sleep, go to sleep
Go to sleep now my girl.

Can you tell that I’m a little weak in the lyrics department? (Hilariously enough, whenever P makes up songs to sing to A or L, he almost always ends up rhyming “girl” with “squirrel.” So we end up singing about squirrels a lot.)

Anyway, the point of this is that I don’t know a lot of lullabies. There was one lullaby album (on cassette when I was growing up, of course) that I loved as a child and sometimes I sing songs from that. But my unfamiliarity with kids’ songs means that I’ve had to adapt other songs as lullabies.

Here are some of the songs my girls hear fairly regularly (linked when possible):

  • Bob Marley–“Three Little Birds” (To be fair, this is oft-adapted as a kids’ song by various artists)
  • Edelweiss” (I don’t know all the words to this. Often I end up singing about my elementary school principal, because a friend’s mom rewrote the lyrics for him when he retired: “Mr. Wentz will go from hence, and (?) twenty-six years of service. We’d like to sing our thanks to him, although we’re all a bit nervous!”)
  • various hymns (I always go back to “Like a River Glorious,” for some reason. That and “I’ve Got Peace Like a River.” Rivers must be calming.)
  • The Beatles–“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (A’s favorite)
  • The Wallflowers–“Josephine” (Really, only the chorus. L smiled at me when I first sang this to her, which obviously means that she likes it, right?
  • John Denver–“Annie’s Song” (Always reminds me of my dad, a Denver fan. If I think too hard about this song, it makes me cry.)
  • Michael Learns to Rock–“Sleeping Child” (Yes, I sing my daughters cheesy Danish rock)
  • Counting Crows–“Long December

*Proof that I can’t sing? I once volunteered to lead worship at the church I attended in college. The congregation was made up of mostly elderly folks and they had no one to lead in the singing, so they resorted to having everyone singing along to MIDI files. NO JOKE. I felt so bad that I figured anything is better than a MIDI file, right? WRONG. I led worship once and was never asked to lead again.)

And now I’m full

21 Sep

I’ve been feeling guilty about the vegetables from our farm share that end up unused (beets, anyone?).  Today, I cut up a bunch of veggies and roasted them.  Rutabaga, turnips, beets, potatoes, onions.  And then I ate almost all of it for dinner, straight off the pan.

Quiet afternoon

21 Sep

A is not allowed to watch TV for the rest of the week because she complained when I turned off PBS when it was time for her nap.  So far, she’s had the best afternoon she’s had in a while.  (Maybe TV is the devil, at least for our particular kid.)  We read Peter Rabbit and she went down for a nap without a fuss, which might be the first in a long time.  She woke up happy and we’ve been playing with her birthday Play-Doh (and snacking on bananas, peach bread, and coffee–for me) ever since.

Watching her concentrate on various creations is so much fun.  And I am thankful for the millionth time that she got her dad’s eyelashes, not mine!

A minor obsession

20 Sep

During our visit to Naples for R and S’s wedding, R’s mom stocked the lodge refrigerator with all sorts of goodies.  My favorite treat, by far, was the peach bread from Joseph’s Wayside Market.  I kept going back to the fridge to sneak slices and, on our way home, we decided to go a bit out of our way to stop by the Market to pick up a loaf to take with us (we were also on the hunt for Arbor Hill black raspberry preserves–delicious!).

I made the loaf of peach bread last a whole week and a half but finished off the last slice last Friday.

Tonight, I decided to try my hand at peach bread.  I just found a random recipe online (bad idea) and went to town.  The verdict?  Bleh.  My peach bread is okay but completely misses the pound cake-like texture of THE peach bread.  I’m not really one to experiment with recipes nor have I necessarily ever been on a quest to track down something to recreate at home, but this might just change that.

Realizing that it is tough to make a hunk of something brown look appetizing.  Need to work on my food photography, that’s for sure!

Lucky

20 Sep

I’ve been feeling a little silly lately, realizing that almost all my Facebook statuses (because, of course, that is the true barometer of real life) are related to parenthood/my children. I’ve wondered if the funny things A says are really the most interesting part of my life (according to FB feedback, the answer is a resounding YES).

My friend AR and I were talking about parenthood recently and she mentioned a friend of hers who has had a tough transition to motherhood, fighting the change of her identity from person to mother. AR said something about understanding the difficulties, but also feeling like parenthood shouldn’t be that much of a fight.

That really hit home. I certainly am guilty of “fighting” motherhood. As evidenced by my little FB status insecurity above, I get panicky when I feel like my entire life is consumed by my kids. I might even have to admit that a big motivation to be back in school is my desire to have something other than motherhood define me. (Really, this is me being a broken record because this theme has come up OVER AND OVER in the past three years.)

That said, at this very moment, I am feeling content with the balance in my life. I turned in a paper yesterday and successfully completed a group assignment. I slept in this morning and have spent the afternoon so far catching up on e-mails and cleaning the kitchen. Anna is upstairs napping and Lucy is right here, sleeping on my chest in the front-carrier. After P gets home from work, we will go to pick up our CSA share, then we might make a stop at the library to pick up the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which I have yet to read (!!) and which we hope will be a good choice for our first foray into chapter-book bedtime reading for A. Then home again to make dinner and do more house-related chores before A goes down for the night and P settles in to do some reading for class tomorrow.

I still feel some envy when I think about my friends with careers and social lives.  But when the day comes when my life is more clearly defined by my job, I know I will miss these days.


Yes, that is a pile of laundry behind L.

**incidentally, A just woke up from her nap. I offered her a graham cracker and she exclaimed, “I’m so LUCKY… if you want one, I can share mine with you!” Yep, my kids are the most interesting aspect of my life right now and really, that makes ME lucky, right?

Adjustments

19 Sep

I completed my first year of graduate school as a mother of a two year old (and I was also pregnant for the entirety of the second semester).  With the exception of a few particular points (mid-terms, finals, and group project deadlines), it was not difficult.  P was working full-time but did not take any classes and A was in part-time daycare.  This meant that I had free time for homework in between classes, and anytime I needed extra time in the evenings, P took over childcare and I could escape to the library, a coffee shop, anywhere away from the house.  I essentially did all my assignments in the same back room at the library or holed up in a study carrel late at night in the almost completely dark law school library.

This year, A is three and is in half-day preschool (and we plan to stop her enrollment mid-October, since my parents will be with us until Christmas).  P is still working full-time but is also taking two classes.  I am only taking one class.  L was two and a half weeks old when classes began (she is seven weeks old now).

Because I’m only taking one class, which meets once a week for three hours, I fully expected the school-home juggle to be easier this semester.  And yeah, in some ways, it has been.  I like only having one class’s assignments and deadlines to keep track of.  But over the weekend, it became apparent that we will have to be more intentional about everything this year!  First of all, A is so much more demanding of our time as a preschooler than she was as a toddler.  Secondly, both P and I are students, which means that I can no longer assume that P will be free in the evenings if I need to take a couple of hours to do homework (since he very well might have homework, as well).  Lastly, I had forgotten how much attention a newborn needs!  L is a sweet, easy baby, but is less content to not be held than A was at her age.  I sat down to write a paper last night and everything took four times as long because I was simultaneously trying to keep L happy.  I’d sit to write for a few minutes with L on the swing… L would fuss, so I would move her to the front-carrier… fifteen minutes later she would want to move again.  It was just hard to keep any sort of momentum going on my work.

P and I have agreed that the days of procrastination have to be put behind us if we’re going to survive this semester.  We need to plan everything the week ahead and take turns covering childcare so the other person can fully focus on whatever work is at hand.  We learned the hard way last night, but hopefully this single experience of both having to start the week on 2-3 hours of sleep will ensure that we’ll plan things better next time!

Saturday

17 Sep

My ideal Saturday morning consists of sleeping in, waking up to the smell of coffee, and enjoying said coffee over a book (or, to be completely honest, Google reader).  Either that or meeting a friend for brunch downtown.

Our 3-year-old, A, often climbs into our bed once daylight hits (That is our rule for her–stay in bed until daylight.  We established this rule over the winter and paid for it over the summer, when the sun rises at 5 AM), and we spend the next hour or two cuddling in our tiny bed and dozing in and out of sleep.  When A finally decides that she is too awake to stay in bed, P gets up with her to get her breakfast and lets me continue to snooze with L.  P then often whips up brunch or works on a backyard project while A eats and plays (and I sleep).  It is glorious.  Saturday mornings remind me of how lucky I am to have married someone unlike me–someone who doesn’t find the appeal of being lazy just for the sake of it

On this particular Saturday, P’s working on the back patio.  A had cereal and blueberries for breakfast and is now splashing around in the bathtub.  L is snoozing in her bouncer.  I caught up on e-mails over coffee and pumpkin bread.  Soon we will head to the grocery store to do some much-needed shopping.  Later, we hope to make an appearance at the annual Great Insect Fair.  We will then spend the evening at our CSA’s farm for hayrides, a potluck, and all sorts of other early Fall festivities.  Then hopefully we’ll be back home for A’s bedtime, after which I have a paper to write.

Happy Saturday.

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