• Art,  Life Story

    A few nice things

    1. I had my first conversation with a wonderful potential doula. She was thoughtful and wise and asked me some questions I hadn’t really thought through yet. Before the overview-ultrasound yesterday (in which they check for such essentials as two sides of the brain and heart) part of me was postponing planning for this baby. It seemed a little far fetched—really, another baby? Prove it. Now I have 12 black and white photos to prove it and I feel ready to engage.

    2. This spring-like splash page on studiodeseo.comstudio_deseo

    3.  This poem by Richard Brautigan:

    Oh, Marcia,
    I want your long blonde beauty
    to be taught in high school,
    so kids will learn that God
    lives like music in the skin
    and sounds like a sunshine harpsichord.
    I want high school report cards
    to look like this:

    Playing with Gentle Glass Things  A

    Computer Magic A

    Writing Letters to Those You Love A

    Finding out about Fish A

    Marcia’s Long Blonde Beauty A+!

         

     

     

  • Boston,  Life Story

    Bits this last weekend of January

    I enjoyed reading the interview between Miranda July and Lena Dunham. I did not know Miranda had a baby, and I did not know she was married to the writer behind Beginners! Now I want to watch it again. I can’t wait for Lena Dunham’s book because I’m so curious to learn more about her relationship with her creative parents and how she managed to love them so much while growing up in a little NYC loft with them.

    My brother Leighton renewed our subscription to the New Yorker for Christmas. After a few months without it, I have to say how grateful I am for that magazine. They have the most interesting articles, always taken from a totally researched yet creative perspective. It keeps me savvy, it really does.

    newnewyorker (Newman’s oreos do not taste like real Oreos. Organic isn’t cutting it here folks.)

    These mug shaped loose leaf tea bags from David’s Tea. Aren’t they clever?davids_tea

    Lux and I visited our friends Natalie and Alfie and she pulled out all the stops on the coffee tray. Isn’t lovely when people do that? And she asked me which mug I wanted. Then we listened to Pete Seeger and Sesame Street on the record player. Thanks Nat!natalies_coffee

    Last week Joe and I finally went to a Boston dance party that I’ve been eyeing on Twitter for forever. It’s the third Friday of every month, with a $5 cover charge. It’s just dance dance dance, which was exactly what I needed. We got there at 9pm and felt lame because no one was there yet. However, we had to leave around 11:30 and saw the huge line out in the freezing cold…I’ll be getting there early every time (and making it till 2am one of these days). If you want to look it up, it’s called Picó Picante. I highly recommend it. (mailing list here)dance_feathers

    (and they gave us feathers to put in our hair, which made everything immediately more wonderful. I won’t be able to wear this top for, oh, another year, so happy new year to it too.)

     

  • Baby,  Life Story,  Pregnancy

    2x

    I often think of this as a place to write, but sometimes I want it to be a normal blog with lots of photos too.

    If you ran into me on the street, you would notice that I look suspiciously pregnant. You would probably feel awkward because I would forget to bring it up and force you to. My brain can’t quite catch up to the fact that at 15 weeks with Lux I was still letting people in on the secret, and at 15 weeks with bébé de deux I’m practically in maternity t-shirts.

    together_onetogether_twotogether_three

    Since I don’t believe in due dates anymore, I’ll tell you that the baby is due in July, shortly after Lux turns 2. I think this is the perfect time to have a baby, and not just because I already had a baby on this exact same schedule (read: same seasonal clothes!). I think it will give Lux just enough time to grow up a bit and understand what’s going on, maybe even to be excited. Don’t let that statement lead you to believe I was some how in control of the timing of when I got pregnant, because I was not, and it was a good learning experience to realize that.

    To answer your first question, we will be finding out whether it’s boy or a girl because we loved doing that the first time. The baby will probably be born across the street again, at Mass General. To answer my first question, we may or may not be moving out of our one bedroom apartment.

    together_fivetogether_four

    Our announcement for Lux, way back when.

    ps: My friend pointed out that it’s just too coincidental that Lux and I are pregnant at the same time! Of course, that’s why I had to have her in this photo session with me.

    my sweatshirt is from my cousin Caitlin’s partner’s Detroit clothing brand. I love it, thanks to Joanie for letting me take it after I begged it off her.

     

     

  • Darn Good Ideas,  Life Story,  Website Reviews

    houseguests strangers

    I posted our apartment to homexchange.com a few months ago, hoping some Romans would want to houseswap with us. No Romans want to, but everyone else does. We’ve received requests from Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Bermuda, Iceland, Spain, Florida….seriously if we had a million frequent flyer miles, I would say yes to all of these offers!

    Nothing has happened yet; except that one time a French family stayed at our apartment over Christmas! Here’s what happened: I eagerly set it up via email, Joe comes home from work, he reminds me we don’t have any plans to go to France, just Italy. Ah yes good point.

    So I say, “Hey why don’t you come after all? We won’t be here anyway. Maybe bring us a bottle of champagne and we’ll call it even.” We had one Skype conversation in which I ascertained that they were perfectly normal people who were not going to auction our belongings on craigslist while we were gone, and the deal was made. And so Bindu and her husband and her little daughter came to stay in Beacon Hill for New Years.

    We cleaned the sheets and tidied the bathroom, set out fresh towels, locked the door, and hid the keys for them. When we returned, the apartment was cleaner than I’d ever seen it in my life, and they left all sorts of surprise gifts for us—duplos for Lux, champagne, red wine, French chocolates. I think they might have ironed our bedspread because it looked brand new.

    Bindu wrote out little notes to explain all the gifts. The most surprising one was the foie gras–I known I’ve eaten this before, but only in the tiniest doses, and never with the fig jam and sweet wine that she recommended. Joe and I have split the jar for two dinners now, alongside a baguette.

    So, I learned 1/ how to be a much better houseguest in the future. Now I want to always leave gifts, especially local treats from where you’re from. 2/ It was pretty neat to know someone was enjoying our stuff while we were away. Bindu wrote that her daughter loved all of Lux’s toys, and they found our apartment warm and comfortable. I thought, “yes, I do too!”

    Would you be brave and let strangers stay in your home?

     

  • Life Story

    Rome again, humble this time

    Here’s a funny old picture of us in Italy. We had just started dating, and I was there for the summer intensively studying Italian so I could get all my language credits in and graduate on time. Joe wanted to come visit but I was sort of like “I’m doing my own thing over here.” And then, when I had one month left I was like, “Hey come visit! please come please come” So he dropped everything and splurged on a ticket and showed up (I’m not sure I would have been so gracious, in his place).

    I took him on bus rides to my favorite hill towns, checked him into his hotel because no one there spoke English, brought him to the best gelato shops, and showed him the fine art of an afternoon apertif in the sun. We took long walks during the typical evening passeggiata and drank too many espressos.

    Then we went to Rome for a few days, where I am always out of my element. I get flustered when Italians insist on speaking English, when things feel crowded and commercial, and the streets are filled with crummy tourist things for sale. But he, an architecture student, was over the moon about every nook and cranny of the city.  Oh, the perfect cafe is closed, I would complain. Oh, but look at that wall, he would say. This pizza is overpriced, I would sigh. I think this was done by Bernini, he would exclaim. I wanted to have leisurely breakfasts under porticos, he wanted to actually see every last old stone (as I fondly referred to them). 

    And surprise surprise, two summers later, he went on a drawing trip with his architecture class. They stayed in the city and walked every street of Rome, setting up on street corners, spending the entire day drawing. His initial crush on the city turned into headlong infatuation (two of our four living rooms walls are covered in Rome maps).

    I think every couple has those leitmotifs in their relationship, things they reference constantly that form a strong part of their history together. When we realized we really wanted to get one more trip in before Lux turned two (the mental doomsday on parents’ calendars when children need a full priced air ticket) Rome was first on our minds. Of course I’ll be going for the salami shops, the cappuccini, the food, the markets. Joe will be going to draw.

    Honestly if you put a photo of the Pantheon in front of me, I would probably barely be able to identify it. And if you dropped Joe into a new city and asked him to find a delicious affordable dinner at a tiny spot critics recommend, he wouldn’t have a clue. I didn’t get this when we over there before, so young and so new together, but we can graciously divide our skills and share our knowledge. This time, I’m looking forward to saying to Joe, “what is this place again?” over and over.

    And since psychologists have verified that the best part of vacation is the anticipation, I’ve got my planning-anticipating fired up. Finding language memorization apps, following new blogs written by Roman foodies, examining airbnb rentals, attempting to at least faintly learn some of the history, checking out old travel issues from the library. If you’re a travel junkie and have some favorite blogs, apps, websites, tell me about them please. I’ve got till April to learn every last thing.

     

  • Baby,  Essay,  Faith,  Life Story

    The Seeking Heart

    I read Franny and Zooey, the book J.D. Salinger wrote after Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories, every couple years to keep up with the dramatic little-sister-existential-crisis part of me. I remember first reading it in Italy and our residential program director handed me another book, saying, “Do you know what book she is reading obsessively in that? Here it is.” And it was the strangest collection of Desert Father writings I’d ever seen, and I hated it and read about ten pages (though I left it on my nightstand for weeks to prove my interest).

    But lately, like Franny I’ve been reading curled up on the couch, in the bathtub, and just before bed, reading something that feels like her ascetic text, but actually it’s a French theologian who was a sophisticated advisor to King Louis XIV. My dishelved copy of his three hundred year old writings is one of the books my mom sent me when I had Lux, with a simple annotation, “These helped me when I was at home with all of you kids.” My mom was home with seven kids and there are several books.

    Fenelon says things like “let your anxieties flow away like a stream” and “do not listen to the voice that suggests you live for yourself” and “the pain you feel at your own imperfections is worse than the faults themselves.” He writes very simply and his words ping like drops of hard alcohol into my subconscious muddy puddle.

    Becoming a mother has not come easily always. I’m not stir crazy. I’m not bored. Mostly I’m delighted. But at times I miss the narrative of the self propelled life. I’ve never been more aware of my urge to live for myself, aware of what Fenelon would call my self-love.

    I heard a quote about motherhood in the most unexpected place the other day. Joe and I were watching a documentary about the bizarre performance artist Marina Abramovic (“The Artist is Present”). I wasn’t really listening, and then I perked up at the first sentence, and then I thought this! is! it! Because people ask what being a mom is like, and how it’s going, and I have trouble explaining it.

    The hardest thing is to do something that is close to nothing. It’s demanding all of you because there is no story anymore to tell. There’s no objects to hide behind. You have to rely on your own pure energy and nothing else.”

    Of course there is an object, you might say—a tiny human. But in the day to day there isn’t a narrative. The work is slow and breathtakingly repetitive. There are rarely moments of great completion. The demands feel illogical and relentless.

    And yet I do feel as if this child might have chance of helping me get rid of my blossoming trifecta of impatience, arrogance, and antagonism toward sympathy. Like Marina says, I realize that the wave of selfishness that crashes when I wanted her naps to fall in line perfectly with my plans, that wave that frustrates me so, does come from the lack of anything to hide behind. Here I am, I’m selfish, and I want to do want I want. At the heart, it is not Lux that frustrates me, it is my own frustration that infuriates me.

    Fenelon would say this happens to all of us, from a variety of sources. Mine happens to be Lux, yours might be a family member, an illness, a job, a quiet call that persists. I guess the turn I’ve taken lately, for the better, is to hear what else he says, this:

    Learn to see yourself as you are, and accept your weakness until it pleases God to heal you. Your goal is to be as patient with yourself as you are with your neighbor. If you die a little bit every day of your life, you won’t have too much to worry about on your final day.

    Does any of this ring true to you these days? Thanks for returning and reading, despite the intermission.  : )

    Photos of watching the rain, something we’ve been doing again lately, from this summer.


  • Life Story

    the align center style

    I roasted a chicken for dinner, made stock from the bones the next day, made soup from the stock the day after. I AM THE COOK I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE. forever and ever, amen.

    It’s Joe’s birthday so I made him german chocolate cake. German chocolate is Joe’s dad’s favorite, my dad’s favorite, and now it’s Joe’s favorite. Is there something man-attracting about this cake that I’m not noticing? Baker’s sure isn’t sweating it, you have to buy their German Chocolate and their sweetened coconut just to do the recipe properly.

    But now that I’m the cook I can get rid of those pesky pecans that compose half the frosting in the original recipe. So much better. I wish I loved them, but I don’t. the end.

    we’re only eating this cake by candlelight, by the way, because if Lux is awake to try it, her eyes will be opened to the sugar garden of good and evil and it would be only-cake-only cake-only-cake-please until every bite was gone.

    mmm yes this is how I teach self-control at 15 months. Omission style.

    I bought him Happy Socks for his birthday. Isn’t their logo just the greatest? I don’t know if you can see it, but they stitch their tag on with different colors depending on the sock. I bought them at Uniform in the South End, which is a men’s store I would like to buy from exclusively.

    Warby Parker came to town so we went to try on glasses and see their cool schoolbus. The trouble with their glasses is that you’re like, “yes these look so cool! Wait, I don’t wear glasses…. how about I buy them anyway?”

    (they’re probably coming to a city near you. Philadelphia is next)

    Anyway, we walked away with a photo strip for the fridge, plus the one Lux munched for the photo above.

     

  • Essay,  Life Story

    stacked

    This blog has been documenting many fun things of a carefree and cheerful nature in the last two months.

    I feel the need to tell you that lately, I’ve been walking around muttering, “the luck’s run out.”

    It all started with a letter from the IRS. How frequently do you get important information in the mail these days? Never? Me too. Surprise! This was one fat letter from detailing how many thousands (5+) Joe and I owed them from two years ago (when we ran the market as self-employed business owners). Of course if they’d called and asked us for the money when we first screwed up our taxes, two years ago, we would have had it. But now we don’t, not even close. Before you have a panic attack about your own chances at getting audited: ours was an easy screw-up. We did not pay self-employment tax for that year. I definitely cannot blame it on TurboTax, but I will say I will never use their software again. Too easy to slickly answer questions in a different way and think to yourself: “same difference. This is what the millionaires do, right?” I’ll stick with the paperwork, like my grandparents did.

    Then while driving back from new jersey we heard the sound of an airplane engine and realized it was coming from our car. The muffler was slowly easing its way off the ol’ exhaust system, hoping to catch a ride to Mexico. We shimmed it back into place for awhile. But our mechanic rather pessimistically gives the ’99 Honda crv another six months or so before it needs a major overhaul that would be more than half the value of the car.

    Then, last week at the playground, I lost my favorite jean jacket. At the time I bought it in high school, to me, it was really expensive. And it still fit and still looked chicly cowboy with everything, these 10 years later. How often do I make good buying decisions like that jacket was? Never. Do you have that very short mental list of things you’ve really loved, and lost? Me too.

    I want to write all this down, and not think of it any more. Because once you start listing things that weren’t lucky, you see it everywhere. A friend once said to me, “things just always work out for you.” After she said that, I marched forth thinking yes! things always work out for me. And I’d like to go back to that, as unscientific and selfish as it was.

    Of course I don’t tell you this because I think I have the worst life ever, plagued by flying gremlins who insert “worst ending here” whenever possible. But just to, you know…balance the picture? On the one side, here I am taking these great roadtrips, baking bread, getting tan, and leisurely eating grapes with Lux. But also, on the other, I’m an old worried wart that can’t let someone else have a jacket for a little while. And when you don’t tell people these things, you don’t have a chance for them to tell you the bad luck they’ve had lately. And then you miss your chance to say, wow, that sounds really tough too.

    sincerely, Rachael

    Photos by Paul Octavious, who is also fun to follow on Instagram.

  • Baby,  Boston,  Life Story

    in the park for a birthday

    The weather folks said it was going to be 91 degrees that Saturday morning. I had visions of our guests sipping coffee and sweating, while humidity swirled around. Fortunately that dismal scene did not happen. At 10am it was very windy and slightly cloudy, which made perfect cozy breakfast party weather.menu:

    + granola with steel cut oats, dried apricots and lots of seeds. yogurt (Brown Cow), raspberries, and blueberries.

    + three frittatas: kale, swiss chard, new potatoes.

    + maple blueberry muffins.  One baker friend brought apricot and sage scones, and one thoughtful friend brought Flour treats. Flour treats are the best hostess gift of all time.

    + bacon doused in maple syrup, baked, and cut into triangles.

    + two containers of coffee from Starbucks.

    The great thing about this menu was the leftovers were easily incorporated into our week. (people never eat as much at parties as you expect, right??) Lux loved the frittate which is a discovery for me because they have more chopped greens packed per square inch than anything else I make.Everyone showed up at different times via bikes or just finishing up a morning walk. Lots of the girls wore dresses; I love it when that happens. Strangers walked by with bemused smiles, eyeing the bundle of balloons blowing in the wind and the giddy babies chasing their toys. I met Ellie and Lena at the library when the girls were five months old. Our babies were rather immovable and barely participated in the playtime, but we noticed they were around the same age and quickly struck up conversation. We survived the winter by getting together every week. Friends like them were so important to my first year as a mom, and I’m so grateful for their companionship.

    And of course we all had that moment. That moment of “why don’t we do this more often?” When you realize all it took was the promise of coffee and a few blankets to get people to the park. When you look around and see other families having parties too, and realize, “this is what the park is for!” I hope we do it again this summer, but for now a baby’s birthday was the excuse we needed.

     

  • Baby,  Life Story,  Pregnancy

    eleven thoughts for new moms

    This extreme heat combined with Lux’s approaching first birthday has the early days of motherhood on my mind. The sticky floor in our kitchen, the faint hum of a hundred air conditioners through the window, the smell of baking bricks has triggered a wave of memories I’d forgotten in the last few months. I know several of my readers are expecting babies soon! I thought I would share a few things I would have loved to know in the first month or two.

    Lie about your due date on Facebook. Smudge it a little starting two or three weeks beforehand, no one will notice. Majority of first births are late, up to two weeks! To keep the dear friends and family at bay during those endless last days, give yourself a little leeway.

    Ask for food instead of gifts. If you have friendly neighbors and hopeful friends, tell them you would love for some hearty food in the weeks after the birth.

    A doula might be a bit expensive, but it could be the best money you’ve spent. It could save you the cost of an epidural and c-section! And be enormously comforting to you and husband. It isn’t an indulgence, it is a wise investment. If they do postpartum visits and help, all. the. better.

    Sleep with a favorite bed companion for your baby before they arrive, and infuse it with your scent.

    Never post about how well your baby is sleeping on Facebook. Nothing marks a new parent more than this boasting, and unfortunately, it can really hurt some friends’ feelings who’ve had more difficult babies. Stay savvy and avoid this topic.

    Things that are easiest when the baby is smallest: day trips, plane trips, eating at loud restaurants, and evening adventures.

    Nap when she naps. Truly truly truly. If you can do this as much as possible, you’ll feel way better about the bizarro sleep patterns.

    Avoid sleep training until three months. Do not spend hours googling methods when they are two weeks old. Your hips have to learn to sway, your mouth has to learn the comforting noises, your baby has to stop being a foreign alien to this world. It takes time, and no one’s cheap tricks will help.

     

    Here’s what the hours of Googling inevitably results in: yes other babies do it. No, no one knows why. Yes, it will stop soon.

    The sooner you can quiet the fear of your own intuitions, the sooner you and your baby will feel confident in your decisions.

    Three questions you might ask yourself and will later look back and wonder if you were insane: Is little Lux getting enough stimulation? Am I keeping her from learning? Am I being a “good” parent at all times?

    *Do you have bits of advice you whisper to new moms? I’d love to hear them, please share. Please ignore these until (..if ever) they are useful to you. : )