for richer for poorer

flower_girls

Call me a scrapbooker but I want to post my Maid of Honor speech for my sister. It’s such a wild honor to get to speak at your sister’s wedding. Sort of bizarre, no? Why do we hear from a random person and not the bride? Why do the new in-laws have to hear from a wandering relative when they want to get to know the lady herself?

Well, because I know the lady herself better than she does. And it’s not a funeral is it? I’ll see her again. But really, it’s one of the few chances you get to publicly say how much you love someone. We don’t toast enough these days.

Of course I was all sorts of anxious before this. I love public speaking, not that I do it anymore (miss you, college!). But it’s a boat of a different sort when you’re totally adrift on a sea of confusing emotion–elated for love, sad for the past behind, proud of her, overwhelmed by the power of 100 humans you love being in one room. I was nervous and not eating my food, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for my moment coming just after the second course, crying when it came anyway. I felt the weight of all my siblings when I wrote it. My brothers didn’t get a speech, after all.

anyway, here it is…..
For much of her life Joanie has been an outlier. And I mean that in the flattering, Malcolm Gladwell sense of the word. At the youngest age of anyone in my family, Joanie thanked my mom for her good work and bid adieu to homeschooling. Later, after trying out school for a bit, she realized our putzy Michigan high school wasn’t up to her standards she found a school in the Bahamas instead.  She was the first one in my family to pick California for college and to declare she always wanted to live here. Now that I’ve brought my family our from boston and spent a week here, I think she might be the first one who has truly seen the light.

Although this isn’t an award my family actually gives out, she would win most frequent communicator. Despite the long distance, she is an outlier within my siblings for how often she calls and keeps up with my parents.

She has always been pretanaturally stylish. It feels like for years she and I were picking out clothes alongside each other. Then suddenly she began selecting the things that looked crazy in the store and one week later became elegant and cool. She is fearless in the face of understanding a new trend. In the old saying you are only as strong as your strongest member, for my brothers and I, in our younger years we have only ever been as stylish as Joanie deigned to guide us to be.  And she has always deigned to guide, I’ve never seen her down turn down someone’s request for help and advice with what to wear.

This city of angels is actually a city full of artists. These artist may feel valued, or probably instead often do not feel valued, or not even noticed until they’ve worked for a very long time. Living as they do in this city, I so admire the way Joanie and Cale value each other’s art and the hard work behind the art. I love that Joanie tries to get to a movie at least once a week with Cale and keeps up with his conversation about his passion. I love that Cale admires Joanie’s taste and thoughtful presentation of herself. Although….I think some of that support might have turned to concern when as a kind of modern day hope chest, Cale realized all those clothes are coming to a closet near him.

They can both talk to you at length about their favorite restaurants in the city and why they love them, or the very best pour over coffee, the coziest breakfast, their favorite walks to take together, until you get the feeling that they’d better go ahead and write a Happy Couple’s Guide to Los Angeles. These are good things in life they can share. These things also ebb and flow, as they said in their vows, for richer for poorer.

And that is why it is truly wonderful to notice that the things they value most in each other are kindness and sensitivity of each other’s hearts. They are givers, of actual physical gifts, but also of words and thoughtful observations. As I stand before so many already married people here, I know we can all speak to how incredible valuably these abilities are.

I speak for all of my siblings when I say Joanie, beautiful, talented, gracious Joanie is an incredibly vital part in our family. We take our cues from her in so many ways. We are so excited for Joanie to have find this matching soul, and I am delighted today to cheers this Union. To Joanie and Cale.

Six years

six

Six year anniversary for us this weekend! It’s much more satisfying to look back on a marriage and see how far you’ve come than to look back on oneself, and wonder why you were so annoying. I get a little flustered looking back at old me–gosh she was whiny! But looking back on our early marriage years well, things have come along way. I’ve always wondered if a marriage might end because people forget what it’s like to do things by all yourself–get an unexpected bill in the mail by yourself, arrive at a new airport when all the taxis are gone, by yourself. I don’t take those things for granted and I never mean to, but I can read this article about masters of marriage and know in a split second what he means by “little bids for one another’s attention.” They happen all day long and it’s easy to decide you’ll catch up later and explain yourself. Nope. It’s a challenge for me now and I imagine it will be challenge next year too; I know what I’m up against.

We only have one tradition and it’s a bottle of Veuve. :  ) Easy, delicious, and no guess-work about reservations or the right gift. We caught the golden hour last night after lumping the girls into bed like quick-scrambled eggs and scooting up to the roof.tradition

pocketful of sunshine

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My younger and only sister Joanie came to visit last week (we have five brothers, but just each other, sister-wise). She knows me like no one else and even though she used the word “exhausted” to describe me four or five times, I love her. Her advice is like gold to me, other than when she tells me about movies because I only see one once every three months or so and she has five to recommend at any given time (yeesh, LA people! I tell ya). She did dozens of dishes, complimented my granola, didn’t get annoyed when Lux woke her up at 7AM (4AM Cali time), brought in cheese and champagne for dinner, hauled groceries back up the hill, taught Lux to say “where’s my money?” and watched a few too many Daniel Tiger episodes for my taste. Aunts. What rascals they are.

We went vintage shopping at Oona’s in Cambridge and she loved it like I hoped she would. (Joan says cable knit sweaters are about to have A MOMENT which, of course they are, because I gave mine away to goodwill oh, six months ago. Like clockwork, those trends and my closet clean-outs. But honestly mine was scratchy and didn’t fit well in the shoulders.) We ate burgers and skinny onion rings and drank Crispin ciders in the basement of Tasty Burger. She read books all morning to Lux so Joe and I could go get waffles at Beacon Hill Bistro. One morning I did errands like a CHAMP, paying off ten bucks in library fines (HERE THEY ARE AT LAST, I screamed as I threw the board books down on the counter. Not really, of course. I meekly doled it out and the kind man even knocked ten cents off my bill), mailing a few things, consigning a pile of clothes.

sigh. It was lovely. Visitors make the week go by so fast and adventurously.

alienation in the first year

Recently I’ve started feeling that I only need to get Joan to age two and then I will hand her off to Joe for her further education and edification. Joe says he’s in the “newborn disenfranchization” period with Joan. A period that we blessedly now know is short and temporary. He says that, before Lux, no one told him as a new dad that he would feel helpless and alienated from his child for a good while, that the first time he held her it wouldn’t necessarily be like a light-switch of bottomless love was flipped.

hello_bunny

There’s a few things dads can do with young babies—get them to sleep occasionally, offer a bottle here and there—but overall for the dad who really wants to be involved, it can feel like he’s not wanted. Sometimes I exhaustedly hand Joan off to him and she just cries harder for the five minutes he’s holding her. That brief respite for me is life-saving in the moment, but there’s no moment of engagement in return for him. He’s merely an extra set of hands helping his wife.

There’s science behind the breastfeeding success rate for women who breastfeed within two hours of the baby’s birth. Scientists believe the hormones that are released in the woman’s body by breastfeeding create feelings of connection and intimacy with this newborn. Feelings that will propel her to pick her up when she cries, to carry her around for hours, to feed her every three hours for almost six weeks before the mother might get anything in return, such as a smile. There’s no doubt that it can take a little boost from nature to assure the mother of their connection. Dads don’t necessarily get that.

But now that Lux is long-since through that stage, it’s amazing to see Joe and Lux together. Despite the time he’s gone each day at work, they still get in countless games of “ghost tent” and “fly bear,” bike rides, and drawings. Before bed they talk through tucking in each of her 8 stuffed animals. He seems to read aloud at least 10 books to her every Saturday. They share their cereal bowl in the morning. He’s the only one who can get her to both try the new food on her plate and love it. If she and I find anything broken throughout the day–a ripped page, a cracked egg, a plant knocked down on the sidewalk, a creaky door–Lux declares, “Da-da fix” with a confident nod. In the last hour before he gets home from work, she walks dolefully around the apartment, looking at me like I’m some kind of CSPAN to Joe’s Disney Channel.

IMG_7315 - Version 2

Sometimes I get annoyed that on the scale of self-sacrifice, I feel like I’m at an 8 and Joe is at a 3. Sometimes I feel like saying, you are a child compared to me. The things you’ve given up, the frustrations you encounter, they are so petty compared to what I do everyday. You thought that was frustrating? Try that times two, at three times the volume, then multiplied by three hours. The first week postpartum with Joan I remember saying you do realize I’ve sacrificed my body on an alter to our family, right? We laughed (that was the first week, of course. I felt much much better exactly seven days later. Worry not.). I think about him going to the gym a couple times a week and spending an hour in pursuit of nothing but a better physique, walking out to buy lunch in a cute cafe and eating it at a table by the window, having a meeting over drinks in the evening. I am almost aghast at the differences in our daily lives right now. Remember when we were dating? Remember when we were all matchy-matchy, and both liked spending an hour at used bookstores, and both liked buying scones on a morning walk, and both liked seeing indie movies at the theatre every week? I wonder, will he ever catch up to me? Or will it have just been me all these years, becoming infinitely more patient, or more beleagured, as the case may be?

I think I spent a whole week being simultaneously jealous of Joe and Lux’s evolving relationship—that she doesn’t need me wholly and comprehensively anymore—and wearied by the very same needs from Joan.

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Then I think of something my friend Kellyn said to me when Lux was two months old. We went out to visit her on Nantucket and one day while I made lunch, Kellyn held Lux, showing her around the cottage.

“Lux only smiles like that when you walk into the room,” she said. “She doesn’t smile like that for anyone else.”

Oh the gravity of a compliment.

To hear a baby cry, to pick her up, to feel her relax against you in contentment. To whisper a request in your toddler’s ear and have her to do just what you asked. To have your children turn away from a stranger and search for the safety of your hand, the beat of your heart, the back of your legs.

 

this week

here_we_go nevermind cuddles, stretches, cries

honey_peachesyogurt, honey, peaches. repeat.

qual_eggsquail eggs to mix up Lux’s favorite snack of hardboiled eggs.

baby_cardithe cutest abandoned baby cardi, a quilt from kacia, blocks from more & co

bpl_bookplate chocolate_cake

a pretty bookplate and my favorite line from A Baby Sister for Frances:

“Oh yes, said Mother, ‘you may be sure that there will always be plenty of chocolate cake around here.'”

Nesting

cooler_days

This weekend was a nesting weekend. I had written up a list of all the things I wanted to get done, some of them enormous–ORGANIZE CLOSET, FINAL LIST OF NAMES, LABEL FOR DOORBELL– and some of them rather arbitrary–CANCEL CREDIT CARD, WASH CARSEAT COVER–though every last thing seemed equally important as its kin in my mind. Joe had a mental list of things he’d been hoping to get done in the next six months that he decided to accomplish immediately as well. We went to the South Bay shopping center, one of those awful Sim City big box outposts with a shared parking lot that you believe never should have been developed, but then when you frequent it once a year they feel like the answer to everything. Wood for pantry shelves, a little metal hook for the bathroom door, hangers for Lux’s closest, storage bins for baby clothing, a new electric toothbrush, nursing bras, a pair of shorts for Lux, lanolin…. One of those shocking lists that bridges three stores and you know you need everything on the list, nothing is whimsical, and yet somehow is there so much of it?

Halfway through our Saturday epic I shared a hot dog and a box of Pizza Hut breadsticks at the Target Cafe with Lux. Lux asked for a second hot dog and then decided she wanted to be carried to the counter while I bought it for her. I refused, and we had that moment, the one you’ve all seen: a crazily pregnant woman watching her toddler dramatically throw herself to the ground in front of a clear cabinet of fake-dough pretzels and weep as if she’s never had a good day in her young life. SOS, I texted to Joe. But we got through it and the breadsticks tasted exactly as I remembered them from childhood (did they trademark that spice mix in 1990?) and now I don’t have to eat at Pizza Hut, or (pray to God) Target, for another four years.

An involuntarily primal love was tapped as Joe bustled alongside me on Saturday. It was the mess before the organization, each of us creating small piles of chaos only systemized to our eyes, dragging things from one end of the apartment to the other. He sorted through an entire shelf of excess cleaning supplies inherited from the previous tenants (there is nothing I like less than dealing with cleaning supplies as it is my personal opinion that none of them should exist, they are all toxic and harmful to our environment), built a hanging rod for Lux’s closet, outfitted and built a pantry into a closet, reorgnized our kitchen in some magical way that made it appear 10x bigger, and carted two loads of laundry down and back from the laundry mat. Nesting is the hormone you don’t ask for, and when it arrives, it’s a thirst that feels so relieving when quenched. Seriously, it was like a 7UP ad over here.

The Lux Clothes Archive is now housed in eight plastic bins, each labeled with a small index card. I think of these bins as I think my Gmail Inbox: it gradually grows with no foreseeable end and no cause for examination. Have you ever seen an ad for Gmail? Very clever—it shows how much gigabyte storage you get for free, and as you stare at the screen contemplating a new email account, the number keeps growing before your eyes. In my mind I can see 10 neatly stacked plastic bins, then 16 bins, all somehow lining the upper shelves in her room. This baby will use everything Lux did (though unfairly marked from the beginning with the avocado stains of her ancestors–the clearest visual of the phrase generational sin as I’ve ever gotten), and then–will there be another baby after that, using them again? And as that happens, Lux will grow and there will be more sizes, as yet unlabeled and unbought. I am more befuddled by this steadily accruing clothing collection than I am at our actual family size.

 

weekend notes

This weekend I briefly thought strawberry picking sounded fun. Then I remembered that would mean me crouching in a field with the sun overhead.

greenway_fountains

Instead we walked over to the greenway fountains near the North End. I am a big fan of these fountains, except when it is really sunny because there is no shade for the weary over there. I picked out three pastries for us at the new bread + butter, including a “nutella danish” that was like a flattened cinnamon roll with nutella in the middle….um hello. After promising Lux blueberries from Haymarket to lure her into the stroller, we stopped for cappuccinos at Caffe Paradiso. It was noon and a man ordered a campari with lemon on the rocks–that’s when you know it’s authentic Italian spot.

I went to the library by myself and paged through the new Martha Stewart magazine. There was a feature on the Leelanau Peninsula where my family vacations every year. Of course the year that we can’t go and I’m sad about it, Martha Stewart does a feature on it. Whatever. Anyway, they didn’t mention Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor. Big oversight, ladies.

one_pan_pasta

I made this one-pan-pasta that’s very viral right now. It’s viral because is the quintessential Pinterest recipe–it results in one great photo and involves one great tagline–“all in one pan!” I didn’t really like how it turned out. Because I am devoted to my cookbooks I’ve mostly avoided Pinterest oddities, but the number of times I’ve heard someone say something has totally flopped from there is amazing. I’m sure there’s a Pinterest fail tumbler out there, but I don’t even want to look.

If you don’t mind using two pans, I think this summer pasta recipe from Bridget is 5x more delicious and just as easy.

 

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On not waiting

hallway

I have always been one to strive forward, ready for the next thing and the next level, breezily leaving the past behind the bend and looking to the future. The woman we’ve hired as my doula suggested I try to cherish these last weeks with only Lux by my side; to focus on the ending of something instead of the impending beginning. The three of us were sitting next to each other with our feet in the murky duck pond of the Public Garden. It was 90 degrees, and Lux was periodically jumping up to gather sticks and then tossing them into the water, joyfully shouting “stick!” with each throw. She was almost completely soaked with pond water and she was loving it. Lorenza said words like “cherish” “dwell” and “relish.” I was sweaty and thinking about how many diseases Lux might be contracting from the water which contained at least three different kinds of bird poop.

But later, when the heatwave finally broke and as the rainy days have come, I have engaged this intention. We stroll through June’s afternoons, rainy or not. We stop to sit on stoops along our street. We pet whatever dogs have the time (according to their owners) to stop and talk to us. We wander on for ‘treats’ (one of Lux’s first firm words), trying chocolate croissants across the city, lemonade from a street vendor, a new box of cereal at the grocery. We climb into bed with a pile of books and share the pillows. (Somehow our hand sign for share turned out like most people’s ‘hang loose’ so I find myself reminding Lux to both share and just relax, dude). We sit in the garden behind our building and meow, hoping the nameless neighbor cat will hear us and climb over the wall, as he does every now and then. “I wait,” she says when I ask if we should give up and head inside. “I play,” she says when I suggest it’s time for lunch instead. We buy strawberries and melons and eat the whole thing in one sitting. We finish our dinner so we can have popsicles. We discuss when Dad will be home, and how he took the train to work, and how he’s probably going to be all wet because it’s raining.

hallway_down

It’s a season of receiving advice, most of it terrible, some of it is gold. My midwife Connie finally told me to quit it with trying to talk to Lux about the baby.”You’re just stressing her out.”

What a relief. I thought back over the times I’d attempted the conversation, all of them met with confusion, anxiety, or denial. The future is a frustrating concept to someone Lux’s age. It better be five minutes away, or don’t bring it up.

And it’s a little hilarious to imagine what I thought all that prep work might ideally add up to: was a screaming infant going to arrive in our apartment and Lux was going to walk up and say “soo good to see you! at last! just what I’ve been waiting for, someone to completely screw with my life and schedule!”

Connie also suggested I encourage Lux’s interest in talking about the baby growing in her belly. A parallel imagination game that, I’m really sorry to say, I’ve so far been correcting. “No, I have a baby, you don’t have a baby,” I’ve actually said.  In hindsight, I feel like a real jerk. Now, we’ve started talking about the baby in bunny‘s belly. It was Lux’s idea, but to me this feels like a very wise and safe proposal: a tiny fluffy baby from bunny could hardly do us any harm, right?

So here we are, we’re not waiting. We’re relishing. One of us might be a little tired, a little sore in the back, and little overstretched, but we’re relishing all the same.

Birthday gifts

A little post of what I got for my birthday this year. Perhaps because of pinterest, I’ve gotten gifts for both Christmas and my birthday that I really wanted. What a treat! This year, sweet family sent me money before we left for Rome so I was able to pick out a few things there. That was really fun. The candles and tea kettle have been on my list to splurge on for a long time.

beeswax

I’ve become a bit of a beeswax candle fanatic. It’s unfortunate because they are so much more expensive than the plastic-y ones, but I really do buy the hype that they emit negative ions, clean up your air, etc. A room just feels better after a beeswax candle has been lit. These were from Terrain on sale, but more affordable ones can be found here.

sandals

Leather sandals from Rome. I hate telling people I got these in Italy when they ask where they are from–so typical! Why isn’t there a shop selling great simple stuff like this here? (mention in the comments if you have found a good US source!)

kettle

Something I pinned that Joe bought for me. A bright hardy enamel teapot for the stove. From Poketo, the most fun web store.

ring_drawer

Two gifts pictured here.

1/ a brass signet ring I bought in Rome. I talked with the artist in Italian for a long time, and I have almost no idea what he was telling me. He was very Eat, Pray, Love; by which I mean he had longish curly dark hair and seemed to only work two days a week. I bought it in the Monti neighborhood, where I also had delicious coffee and gelato and admired great hanging walls of ivy. Yes, brass does leave traces of green on my skin sometimes, but I really love the color.

2/ a letterpress drawer repurposed as a drawer for my jewelry. For now it is out of Lux’s reach! This is the first letterpress drawer we’ve bought that has those letters sketched inside, I guess it really was used to store type, ha. Joe and I are always trying to come up with more uses for these drawers, but in reality there aren’t too many useful ones.

slippers

Little slippers bought in Rome from a lady in her tiny shop near where we stayed. I thought she told me they were 60 euro and I was sad. But then I realized she said twenty-five. My Italian has really taken a turn.  : ) They are the type of thing I would love to learn to make for myself, but until then…

It’s fascinating how different the things you aspire after from year to year are. I hope I can keep up this type of post and track my changing acquisitional interests. What did you ask for this year?

 

Mother’s Day Requests

For Mother’s Day I asked for breakfast in bed and a New York Times. By the way, who is killing the monk seals? I didn’t find out because the Travel issue was hiding right behind it. I enjoyed this urbane man’s review of the Airbnb experience, Joe liked this essay on traveling alone.

Deborah Needleman is now editing the T Magazine for the New York Times. She was Domino Magazine’s editor and had a brief glorious reign at the Wall Street Journal’s magazine. I predict great things for the T issues of the future (which has in the past been very snobby and not all that stylish).

mothers_day

Buy a man a $2.50 frother at Ikea and it turns out he makes a damn fine cappuccino. I had no idea where this cappuccino came from when he flourished it in front of me, all I knew was it was much better than Starbucks (maybe because it was made with heavy cream! my favvvvorite). We’ve been using whole milk too. Takes about four minutes, done in a pan warming on the stove while your espresso pot wells up.