Vivienne’s Room in Pictures

I’ve had high hopes of taking and sharing a whole lot more “after” photos of the house, but every time I set out to do it (in a photos-of-the-room sort of way, not photos of kids who happen to be in a room) I realize that something still feels incomplete and decide that I ought to wait. But you know what? We will always be making changes and there will always be time for more pictures, so I’m just going to start sharing rooms as they are even if they could be improved upon.

We really didn’t buy much of anything for Vivi’s room with the exception of paint, bedding, and art. We inherited a bed from the previous owners and decided that we would paint the headboard to make it more fun (which was a nice early project when we weren’t doing much work on the house ourselves – it felt like we were actually making something beautiful with our own hands). Her dresser went with Jonah’s crib (which has since been given to a Syrian refugee family in town). Someday I’m sure we’ll have fun picking out furniture for a new version of her room (given her personality I suspect she’ll care about this sooner than most) but for now we’re actually really happy with it.

This was her room before we made any changes at all. It had laminate floors that didn’t match any other rooms in the house (they were using it as an office) and sort of a moss-green wall color (which honestly wasn’t objectionable, but in such a small room we wanted to go a bit lighter).


And here’s where we ended up:






The pictures on her walls are Elly MacKay, whose work is lovely on the surface but even more interesting when you read about it. She basically creates scenes out of layers of paper in a tiny theatre and photographs them.

Her walls are Benjamin Moore Peach Cooler, and we put the same carpeting in all of the bedrooms, so that wasn’t chosen specifically for her. Her quilt is from Land of Nod, and I love it. And we painted her headboard (which was wood before with some dark green accents…I can’t find the before picture right now) Benjamin Moore Pinot Grigio Grape.

The baby cradle at the end of her bed was a gift from my parents before I was even pregnant with Jonah. We’d been struggling to get pregnant and my dad bought it from this wonderful antique store that had a sad ending here in Kzoo. Despite there being no baby yet, he declared “to become, act as if” and that was that; we had a cradle well before we had a baby. Ultimately Jonah never spent a night in it since we ended up co-sleeping, but it’s become a wonderful place for dolls.

I feel like her room could use a few more personal touches, but we’re pleased with how it’s come together so far.

January Fever & Mental Leaps

Apparently there hasn’t been much news from us in the last couple of weeks. We’ve had so much illness over the past six weeks or so that we really haven’t had a lot of activity that would be of interest to anyone but us. We’ve spent most of our weekends cooped up at home, with the exception of a couple of dinner invitations to the homes of friends which have been a welcome change of pace.

It goes without saying that America is quickly becoming something out of a dystopian nightmare and that the last week and a half have been pretty rough on the psyche. We learned at the tail end of last week that Jonah been somewhat depressed all week long at school. His teacher told me that he’d been sitting in his cubby feeling sad, refusing to talk to or play with anyone despite multiple invitations from good friends. This isn’t all that uncommon on Mondays, when I think he’s struggling a bit with the transition from a weekend with us, but it went on all week last week. Obviously Jonah isn’t really aware of what’s going on politically, but he’s highly perceptive and susceptible to taking on our emotions. K has been particularly apocalyptic recently, and hasn’t been terribly careful about keeping it from the kids. And let’s be honest: there’s a lot to feel apocalyptic about. There’s a poem that I saw shared on Instagram just after the election that I think about often, “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith. We’ve been trying to bring Jonah into issues that we think it’s important for him to know about: being kind to everyone, embracing difference etc. but I don’t want to scare him either.


While we weren’t about to make the trip to DC with the kids, we were thrilled when a local women’s march emerged in Kalamazoo just five days before the event. We took both strollers and did the 3.5 miles as a family. The weather was amazing (mid 50s and sunny for most of the walk!) which was a welcome change from the constant gloom we’ve been having lately. The kids were amazing (then again the bar was low – they were in strollers with snacks) and it was incredibly empowering to see over 1,000 local people come together in support of progressive causes. It renewed my faith in Kalamazoo, and it was heartening to run into a number of people we knew.


When Jonah was a baby, I had an app on my phone that helped parents to track these “mental leaps” that babies supposedly go through during different phases of their development. I can’t recall the name of the app, but I remember it introducing a variety of concepts that babies would supposedly begin to grasp during these big periods of transition. This past weekend, Kristin and I were talking about how Jonah seems to be making a leap of his own lately (all depression of last week aside). Suddenly, rather than throwing a tantrum at the slightest disappointment, he’s saying things to me like “That’s OK, I don’t mind it when I can’t have something that I want” or beginning his requests with “When you’re done with what you’re doing, could I please have…”


All of a sudden he seems more patient, more tolerant, more able to cope with disappointment. Kristin remarked that it’s amazing what a few months of stability can do for a child, but I also wonder if it’s because we’ve been making more of an effort to ignore the bad and praise the good. Back in November we took him to a counselor a couple of times because of some behavioral concerns, and while we did a terrible job of following through on much of our homework and reading, we did get the gist of her philosophy which was just that: ignore bad behavior whenever possible (unless someone is being hurt or something is being destroyed) and praise positive choices and behaviors at every opportunity. We haven’t been super consistent, but we’ve been making an effort and I feel like there’s been a dramatic change.


Jude is definitely doing more talking, lots of singing, and continues to be pretty happy-go-lucky. We have noticed a bit of a tilt towards two-year-old behavior lately, however. He rarely digs in his heels when reprimanded or intercepted, but lately he’ll respond by tossing something he’s holding just to register his displeasure with our command. We hear the words “no way!” more often than we used to. His bravery and spunk are showing up in their own unique ways. While he may find sledding to be terrifying, he was the only one of the three who wanted to pet the leopard gecko and the chickens at our friends’ house on Friday night.



Vivienne continues to be a source of endless amusement. She dances and sings all the time, she has strong clothing preferences already (the boys really don’t care much at all, with the exception of Jonah preferring leggings to jeans) and will pick things out to wear and even tell me no if I pick out an item she doesn’t care for. She loves to play pretend and seems to think it’s both wonderful and hilarious when we play along. Her newest phrase is “be right back” which sounds more like “be back!” and is usually accompanied by an index finger shake. She’ll say this when she’s asking us if we want coffee, before she runs off to the toy kitchen to get it.


Both she and Jude sing parts of the ABC song, and it usually goes something like “A, B, C, D….LMNOP!” with a few other letters scattered in at random intervals. Today Jude wore a shirt with writing on it and when Vivi saw it, she pointed to the letters and began singing the song. I love that they’re learning so much and becoming so interested in new things. Both Vivi and Jude are really into books lately, and they’re especially fond of the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. They both love to interact with the books by pretending to pluck things from the pages and eat them, or knocking on a picture of a door and saying “knock knock” and then they laugh at their own silliness. They are also beginning to memorize words and phrases from their favorites and will recite things as we read. Another big favorite of Vivi’s is this Pip and Posy book that was given to us by good friends in the UK, and I think that Vivi pretty much has it memorized.



The view at thirty eight


I turned 38 yesterday, and I have to say that I’m feeling pretty good about it. While a part of me is aware that I’m quickly approaching forty and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the anxiety we’re socialized to feel about that number, an even bigger part me of went to bed the night before my birthday and reflected on my life right now: the view at 38, and quickly realized that I have everything I ever could have hoped to have at this point in my life. I think that a lot of the anxiety we feel at milestone birthdays is related to the question of whether we’ve done “enough” by this point. By no means do I feel like I am everything that I want to be, nor have I done everything I might like to do, but I truly feel like this life that I’m so fortunate to have is everything to me, and I’m so happy with that.

Some days it still feels unimaginably lucky that these three wonderful tiny people are ours and we’re theirs, that we have a house and a yard, that we’re near my parents and our kids will get to spend so much more time with them than ever before, that the kids love their school, and that K and I have good jobs that allow us to provide what our family needs.

I also feel so much more comfortable and familiar with myself in this phase of my life. I’ve talked with friends before about identifying an age that just feels like the age you’re sort of meant to be. I was kind of a strange little kid and was never comfortable around teenagers, not even when I was one, I was happy to say goodbye to my 20s when I turned 30, and I kind of feel like my 30s are just where I make sense. I might even go so far as to say my upper 30s (and who knows, maybe the 40s will feel just right too). This phase of life makes sense to me, and I feel at home in my skin. I also feel a lot more inspired to be creative (within reason) and have pushed past a lot of “I have to be perfect or I’m not trying it” in recent years.

I’m not big on new year’s resolutions, but since I have a January birthday it often feels like the right time to take some time to think about what I want in my life in the next year. A few things come to mind. I want to:

  1. Continue to do things that allow me to engage my creative side, even when that means doing things imperfectly and pushing through a fear of failure. That includes keeping up this blog, making things with the kids, continuing the Halloween costume tradition, putting the time and energy into learning more about my camera and improving my photography, and maybe even finishing that scarf I began knitting for Jonah roughly three years ago.
  2. Push us (K included) to invite more people over, make social plans more often, talk to people more, spend time building and deepening friendships locally.
  3. Start getting some exercise again, in the name of self-care and better health and wellbeing. I haven’t figured out the “how” of this one yet.
  4. Yell less, model calm and patience for the kids, and play with them more often.

Having kids has dramatically altered the way that I make wishes. They’re so rarely for myself anymore, but here’s to a year of health and happiness.


On being “new to town” forever, or How long can introverts go without making new friends?


The other day I made an appointment for a haircut at a salon I’ve never been to. I’ve had my hair cut twice since moving to Kalamazoo, both times at the same place but by two different stylists. K and I are still trying to find a place that feels like “the one” after years of really good NYC haircuts on the Lower East Side. I started thinking about the kind of smalltalk that I make with stylists while I’m getting my hair cut, and started reflecting on how things like that have gone since we moved back. My brief “about me” is always centered around the fact that we just moved back to town: what neighborhood we’re in, why we moved, the time we spent in NY. Follow up questions are usually related: what we did about jobs when we moved back, how we feel about being back etc. I suddenly realized that at some point (probably before too terribly long) I won’t be able to lean on “we’re new here” as my go-to introduction. We won’t be new anymore, we’ll be established, or at least that’s how I would imagine it’s supposed to go. That doesn’t mean that we won’t still have a few things to sort out (that list is long: nobody has a dentist, we just found the kids a pediatrician…) but it won’t make sense at some point to talk about how we just moved here.

If there’s one element of feeling fully settled that I think we may find ourselves falling behind on for awhile it’s making friends and building a new community here. I’m firmly in camp introvert, even though people who don’t know me well sometimes find that surprising. That doesn’t mean that I don’t need people or care about deep relationships, but it does mean (in my case, anyway) that I’m terrible about taking advantage of (or creating, for that matter) opportunities to meet new people and potentially build new relationships. One of the things that I miss most from our life in New York, besides our good friends there (which I’ll get to in a bit) is my open-concept office. When I sat in a closed cubicle I rarely got up to wander over and chat with someone, because that required some sort of awkward conversation starter. Once we remodeled and went to an open office, all of these opportunities to overhear and jump into a conversation that intrigued me suddenly appeared and I found myself socializing way more than I ever had before. I love organic opportunities to get into a conversation that might be wonderful, but I’m terrible at finding them and downright averse to setting up a scheduled opportunity to talk with a new person. Now that I work from home full-time, I almost never talk to anyone about non-work-related topics besides my family. I have zero opportunities to meet and talk to people. An extrovert would do something about that, but I seem to be digging in my heels.

At this stage in my life, with young kids as both a time suck and a convenient excuse to decline things I don’t care about, I’m just not sure what my community and friendship needs even are. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have them, I’m certain that I do, I’m just confused about it lately. In New York we had really wonderful friends. Some of our friendships shifted over the 13 years that we were there, some people came and went, but we met lots of people we truly enjoyed and by the time we left we were especially close with a small handful of other families with young children. Spending time with those friends was so effortless because we knew each other so well, we could be fully ourselves, they knew about our flaws and loved us anyway. And as Kristin pointed out the other day, those bonds were built up in part through the sharing of some pretty significant life milestones.

This transition is going to seem unrelated, but stay with me.

The other day I told Kristin about a blog post that had resonated with me by a blogger I really enjoy. When I shared it we weren’t talking about community or friendships at all, we were actually talking about the end of the holidays and what a downer that can be for me (which was more or less the focus of the post). The TLDR, if you don’t feel like clicking away right now, is that the end of really special things are generally a total downer for the writer, but she’s trying to focus more on the mantra “there is more” to remind herself that yes, there is more joy to be experienced, there’s more beauty to be found, there’s more magic with her family and her friends and that it isn’t limited to Christmas and vacations. I really enjoyed her post and felt it was a good reminder.

On that same car trip (K and I were headed out of town for a wedding, so we had some uninterrupted conversation time) I asked K her thoughts about a conversation that popped up on our FB mom group the other day. The conversation was about the concept of Friday night meatballs, a trend I’ve been hearing about for awhile now where someone decides to host a group of people for a casual, inexpensive dinner party on a very regular basis with a rotating cast of guests, with the purpose of seeing more people and making those connections a priority. A good friend back in New York mentioned that she and her best friend’s family have been doing crappy dinner parties for awhile now and are really enjoying it, which is another spin on the theme. Here’s another good piece on why making dinner with good friends a priority is important to your sanity and wellbeing. This topic came up in our mom group and so many people jumped in to say what a wonderful idea it was and that they wanted to start hosting these gatherings immediately. I read the thread with interest but never commented because, honestly? I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy it. I’d probably enjoy attending something like that occasionally, if I knew the people super well and liked their other friends, but hosting? Historically I’ve hated hosting; it stresses me out and I often end up in tears from the pressure I put on myself to make it work, and I have such social anxiety that I annex myself in the kitchen with tasks to avoid having to mingle. Kristin and I both agreed that we also hate the obligation of a recurring commitment. We could both imagine having a few friends over for casual meals from time to time when we’re in the mood (and in fact Kristin just said the other day that we ought to buy more bar stools so that we can have parties, which surprised me), but the basis for a lot of these meatball/crappy dinners is that you do it on a recurring basis no matter what because it matters. We don’t even meal plan on a weekly basis because we want to have the ability to change our minds depending on how we feel.

So if Friday night meatballs aren’t our thing, how to make friends? How to build any sort of real community here when we don’t have the “new to town” excuse any longer? Kristin brought our conversation back to the blog post I shared earlier about the mantra “there is more.” She suggested that because our friendships in New York were forged through the sharing of some significant life milestones (prenatal yoga and breastfeeding classes together as we prepared to become parents, experiencing the accidental home birth of a friend’s second child, leaving our two-year-old in the care of two wonderful families while our twins were born, visiting each other at the hospital and sharing tears over unwanted c-sections), that maybe there isn’t more. That sounds bleak, and maybe K was just playing devil’s advocate or maybe she was feeling particularly anti-social in that moment, but she raised the question “what if we can’t expect to make friends like that ever again if we are done having babies and those milestones that forged such strong bonds are over?” I think that there will be plenty of other firsts in our lives, but I agree that bringing children into the world is pretty incomparable to most other things two families can experience together; sharing some big life changes probably does expedite the relationship building process. We’ve actually met a family or two via the kids’ school and have enjoyed them thoroughly, but we’re getting in our own way of deepening those relationships or continuing to find new ones because we aren’t making much of an effort.

I love having deep relationships with old friends, I love the way you can just pick up wherever no matter how much time has passed and no one is offended by the passing of that time or the lack of phone calls. I love having a history with someone that erases all need for explanations, but at this stage of my life I kind of can’t be bothered to create new relationships like that. I need them to happen naturally and our lives are not terribly conducive to that. Without having given it much thought (up till now) I may have been hoping that after being here awhile it would just happen organically, but I’m realizing now that might not be the case. We may need to push ourselves a bit.

Bathtub art


K and I left for a wedding late this morning and didn’t return till around dinnertime, so I was bummed to miss a Saturday with the kids (even though we were glad to be there for our friends today). Fortunately we got a little time in before bed, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching this girl create art in the tub. We had bath crayons back in New York, but Jonah was always funny about them. He’d use them occasionally, but most of the time he would request drawings from K or I (we got a little competitive about it from time to time: who could draw the best Scoop from Bob the Builder, for example). Vivi, on the other hand, loves to take the reins (or the crayons, as the case may be). I may have mentioned before that she’s been in a writing phase for awhile; she doesn’t really draw pictures so much as pretend to write things. Tonight she was writing everyone’s names (or so she told me): Jonah, Jude, Mama D, Mama K, Gigi, Papa Doc. When she ran out of people I suggested others, and pets, and she kept going. She seemed to be very proud of her work.




Feeling the end of the holidays

Today is the final day of our holiday week (really ten days) at home together as a family, and I’m feeling a bit sad about it. Another mom in my Facebook mom group mentioned recently that she’d foolishly forgotten how un-relaxing it is to have a vacation at home with three children, and while I don’t disagree, I really love having this time with them and wouldn’t trade it. Kristin is off for two weeks in this school district, so she actually has this whole week off as well (so I imagine she will get some recuperation time) and I took tomorrow off so that she and I could have one day together, but the kids return to school tomorrow. Their school was actually open for most of last week, so we could have sent them Tuesday through Friday if we’d chosen to. We knew that we would pay for the days either way, but we chose to keep them home because we both remembered the excitement of holiday breaks at home with family, and wanted to share that with them.

Originally we’d planned to get out of the house a whole lot more than we did, but never-ending illness really put a crimp in our intentions (I can’t call them plans really, since we only talked about all of the places we might go). The pink eye that showed up on Christmas day made its way through the house until we ended up at urgent care on New Year’s day. The cold that we all had a couple of weeks ago seemed to return for both K and I, and in spurts for the kids, and I ended up with a painful ear infection that almost had me driving myself to the ER on NYE. As a result, we ended up with almost zero social interactions, save for a couple of drop-bys earlier in the week, and we decided that it was best to quarantine ourselves at home for the most part. Thankfully the kids had new toys to amuse themselves, and there’s always the bounce house in the great room to burn off some energy. While a part of me wishes that we’d done more novel things, another part of me knows that sometimes all the kids want is to play at home and have our attention.

This morning I checked the weather and told Kristin that we really ought to get outside in the morning because it was going to rain in the afternoon, and suggested a walk at The Nature Center. We got everyone dressed and headed out (a pretty significant drive considering it’s Kalamazoo) only to realize when we arrived that we’d forgotten to bring the twins’ coats. Since we don’t let the kids wear puffy coats in their car seats, it’s actually somewhat astonishing that this is the first time we’ve forgotten them. I was super bummed, but K was optimistic and felt that we’d dressed them warm enough (since they were both layered on top and had snowpants on the bottom) to give it a go. We gave them our scarves and off we went.


It wasn’t a long hike, but we foolishly failed to consider the fact that Jonah had a crappy breakfast of two orange rolls and nothing else (our kids are all huge breakfast eaters, but Jonah slept late and then we decided to head out without a more significant meal) and was probably starving by the time we got going. He cried and yelled almost the entire walk, and I can’t even remember why at this point. The photo above was pre-meltdown.






I think that one of the reasons I find this post-holiday period to be so emotionally challenging is because I spend so much time looking forward to Christmas, and when it’s over there are fewer traditions to fall back on and just a lot of cold, grey weather and the usual grind. I usually get through the transition by finding something else to look forward to on the horizon, and much of the time that’s some sort of spring break trip. This year we’re planning to drive down to Charleston to visit my parents and my sister and brother and law and their kids, and I love seeing the cousins together so I’m certainly looking forward to that. I don’t want to give up on the months in between like I may have in the past, however. I’m curious to know what others do in order to get through the winter once the holidays have passed.