Some things I've particularly enjoyed or been moved by in blogland the past few days. Go read.
Other things I'm loving right now:
having a newly-organized husband
my new Ikea shelves
using the library's website to reserve books for once a week pick-ups (I'm never searching through mis-filed shelves again)
that my friend's baby is fine after all
a long massage this afternoon
sun and rain colliding into all-day rainbows and mist and dark blue skies
Pea saying "good lawd!" over and over and cracking herself up (and sounding, with her little high voice, very Southern and to the manor born)
a clean and mostly organized music room
Pea in the grocery store looking over at the cart of three kids completely losing their shit with their equally angry mother, and saying loudly while pointing, "litten to Mama!" (I didn't stick around for obvious reasons...)
being 28 weeks pregnant tomorrow
a clean house completely quiet for one hour while she sleeps
And now here she is.
Tall and strong.
washing (a favorite!),
and making us laugh.
I'll post my birthday note to her on Thursday, the real day. For now, I'm just trying to process all the time, memories, moments, happiness, frustration, tears, joy, and love that have been these last two years.
Every single day she changes my life.
Posted by Annagrace at 9:58 PM
Today is Anzac Day. As children of an Australian father we often marked this day by making Anzac cookies (or biscuits, I suppose) when we were growing up, but I'm not sure I was told much about the actual reason for the holiday until I stumbled upon an old Life magazine in an antique shop several years ago. Go read Kim's post and think about it for a few minutes. That sort of loss of life is always staggering. As I become less and less sure in the childhood belief that a "just war" really exists, I find the human numbers, the numbers equaling loss (collateral or purposeful) in any conflict to be heartbreaking. I believe, more strongly than ever, in protest against all forms of injustice and that as someone who claims to believe in god I HAVE to speak out for those who our society ignores or takes advantage of. But I no longer believe war and violence are ever justified and I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to bring up children who are confidently outspoken in their world and yet have an innate distaste for the taking of any human life.
More on that later. I have a lot to think about first.
Everyone who has or currently is struggling with sleep issues with their children will NOT want to read this next line. Seriously. Look away. Skip down to the next paragraph. Okay, don't say I didn't warn you, though. It's 10:15 and Penelope is still asleep. Yes, that was AM. Granted, she went to bed late last night (we were at my mom and sister's for dinner) but she is like most children in that the later you put her to bed, the earlier she rises. Except for today. I went in at 9:20, when I woke up with a start because I got to sleep in too (and as much as I always dream of that, it feels very strange when it actually happens) and tried gently to wake her but she was still deeply, deeply asleep. We don't have anything going on till this afternoon and she should still fall asleep at her normal hour of 8:30pm tonight, so I'm not really worried. She's been growing SO so so much lately (I show her measuring slightly over 37"! At not even 2!!!) and she's been acting over-tired ALL the time--even on her regular schedule. And trying to get the kid to nap for more than 70 minutes or so, on a regular basis is not something I usually feel like fighting over here, preferring gratefulness for the 1 hour I can always count on to a long-fought struggle resulting in heated emotional protests from a child who is already over-emotional at a wrong look from me of late.
So I'm sitting here at the computer, feeling very lazy and pregnant, with her bowl of breakfast yogurt and honey sitting by me waiting for her to wake up. Think I'll catch up on some blog-reading...
Posted by Annagrace at 10:01 AM
3 hour conversation with amazing friend in Texas. In which we discuss our days and weeks, our families, our frustrations, our hopes, some funny stories, people we admire, food... Two years later I still soak up precious phone time with her like some sort of greedy little plant.
A good girlfriend is hard to find.
Penelope says goodnight with freshly washed hair and zip-up jammies that barely fit her ridiculously long body.
I've just sat by myself and talked in complete sentences (most of the time) without any interruption for the first time in too many days and it feels amazing.
I think I can go on.
I think I can do this baby thing again. Even if I'm misunderstood again and the old label of "selfish" gets stuck on me again.
Directly after, another 3 hour conversation, this one with Jeffrey. We talk about everything--the best (and non-private) parts of my earlier conversation, family stuff, everything we're learning about ourselves at this point in our marriage, everything we're finally figuring out about ourselves at this point in our lives, painful stories, happy things, the way having children finally gets some things really clear in your head (including just how much dysfunction you're no longer willing to take on, even if it means no longer being the "good", "reliable", "get-you-out-of-anything" kid.) We talk about how much we want for our children and none of it has to do with material possessions or income.
We talk about how glad we are to be doing this together.
It's late. Or early, I guess.
The sound of trains is always at the edges.
There is only low light as we sit opposite each other on the kitchen counters.
The house is getting cold and it's not going to be a long night of sleep for anyone but Penelope.
It was SUCH a good night.
Posted by Annagrace at 1:38 AM
It's raining again. After the absolutely gorgeous Friday and Saturday we had, warm with brilliant blue skies and a slight breeze, this feels a little cruel. Now "they" are predicting snow by the end of the week so I'm using photos from nicer days to cheer me up...
Penelope is dancing around my bedroom in her pink and yellow-flowered long-john jammies, with socks of mine pulled up around her calves like boots. She's making up songs at the top of her lungs, per usual, and stopping every so often to have imaginary telephone conversations into the baby monitor. Or to check and see that I've noticed that she's clapping--AND SINGING! Dancing--AND CLAPPING!
The few days for me have been very difficult emotionally. Pregnancy brings up a lot in me at the subconscious/unconscious level of sleep and dreams...childhood memories I'd rather forget, emotions I don't usually slow down enough to feel fully, stray fears and anxieties. I know it's partly my physical vulnerability and partly that I'm carrying another girl and that's a heavy thing for me in my family, where typically girls are not noticed except to prey on, not heard except to ridicule or ignore, and not seen except to criticize. I know that there's a reason I have been given daughters and I'm trying to continue to be brave and not shy from this enormous challenge. Most of the time I feel pretty good about the job I'm doing--watching Pea grow up almost fearless and always confident in her abilities tells me that I'm not fucking this up entirely. And she's sweet and empathetic, which I can't always take credit for, but it's rewarding all the same. But some days, when I'm so painfully aware of how deep down some of the hurt in me goes, the task of raising two girl-children feels completely overwhelming. I still struggle with even basic boundary issues with my family and yet I want my girls to see their mama hesitate less to stand up for myself and what truly feels good and right to me, regardless what terrible things are said to me in the process. And I fear losing my family again, when it's taken so long to even get to this tenuous place of semi-health.
I've cried more the last few days than I probably have in two years. Yeah, I guess since Pea was born and I was trying to process and deal with all the family expectations and disappointment surrounding her birth. That was a rough few months, let me tell you. And most of the people who had told me that they would be there for me, most of the people who'd been in my life the previous 4 years, suddenly weren't or suddenly had better things to do and I was terribly, awfully alone in the midst of something so amazing (Pea's birth), so emotional (post-partum issues), and so terrifying (helpless, dependent human being). I know this time will be so much different and in many ways so much better, but though I have almost no fear around giving birth and love that part VERY much, I'm scared of being alone again. Or having people around me, but people (family) who are quick to criticize and analyze every single fucking thing I do or say. I should also say that I HATE being emotional in front of people, and Sunday I was so tired that I let my guard down in front of a group of people that I love but, come on, all at once? I can do ANYTHING in front of a group except be emotionally vulnerable. It was fun, to say the least.
And then yesterday I dragged Pea all around town to try and get more things checked off our list and when we were waiting to return something at Target there was lady in line in front of us who kept giving me disapproving looks. She was older, 60's, and I realize now that she was probably just looking that way cause the girl who was "helping" her wasn't, which makes my reaction even worse. I'm ALWAYS nice in public, even when I shouldn't be (it's a fault of mine, always looking good). So when we had finally done our exchange, I realized that Pea had a dirty diaper and I took her back to the car to change her, lying her down in the backseat, when I suddenly felt a tap on my shoulder and a voice said, "can you please close your car door for a minute so I can get into my car?" It was the same lady from the line. And I freaked out. "Um, I'm trying to change a diaper here?!! And then I'll be HAPPY to help you!" Totally rude and uncalled for and her only response was to pat my back and say in a very, very sweet voice, "I know, hon, I raised 4 of 'em. I just want to leave, that's all." And that's when I started crying. Big, fat tears just rolling down. I got Pea finished and into her seat and got into my seat to drive away and I had to lay my head down the steering wheel and just sob. And then Pea started crying, "Mama's crying..." Oh, and we weren't done with our errands yet.
So when we were finally done, Pea and I came home and made banana bread.
I was determined that she have some good memories from this awful day. Then she played in the sink for almost an hour. She was happy (beyond) and I got to talk with my brother, who had come over to practice piano.
We spent the evening dancing to Marvin Gaye while we made and ate dinner.
I woke up this morning to a love letter from Jeffrey. Second one in two mornings. He told me when we first fell in love that he was going to write me letters my whole life and every so often, when I've begun to wonder if he's forgotten, the letters begin again.
And they always seem to arrive on difficult days, which is amazing.
Posted by Annagrace at 11:05 AM
We had our dear friends, who are also Penelope's adopted aunt/uncle/cousins, over for last dinner Thursday night, and this is what I made:
I know it's ungarnished and unadorned, but it's some of the yummiest pasta ever and so it really needs nothing other than a nice glass of wine, and a crisp green salad with some sort of sweet, juicy fruit like ruby red grapefruit slices or good mango. It's NOT super healthy and I have never tried to make it so, but it's the perfect thing to serve to company or to have for a special family dinner. Trust me--it's so good you won't even care about all that cream! And it's super easy to make, so you can chat with your guests while you're cooking without having to obsessively check the recipe every 2 minutes.
This is originally from Fine Cooking, my very favorite cooking magazine ever (great pictures and the recipes ALWAYS turn out!) but I'm posting my version which I like even better. Warning: you're going to get asked for the recipe...
Pasta with Sausage, Olives, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Cream
2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1 med onion, finely diced
2 med cloves garlic, minced
1.5 pounds hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 cups dry white wine
1 jar (usually 8-10 oz, so do to taste--I use the whole jar) Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 jar (8.5 oz) oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
16 oz heavy cream (don't worry--it's worth it!)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsely (optional)
1 lb dried farfalle or fusilli pasta
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into bite-sized pieces with a spoon, until just cooked through, 6-8 minutes. Spoon off the fat if it's excessive. Add the wine, increase the heat the medium high, and cook, scraping up any browned bits in the pan, until the wine has reduced by half. Stir in the olives and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the cream, increase the heat to high, bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, till the cream thickens slightly, about 5-6 minutes. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.
Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to its pot, add the sauce, the cheese and half the cooking water. Gently toss the pasta for 30-60 seconds, adding the rest of the water if you think the sauce is absorbing into pasta too quickly or completely. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I almost never think it needs salt!) and divide among warm bowls. Garnish with parsley if desired.
It's one of those weeks where the completely doable To Do List seems to stretch more than a mile in length. Everything feels a tad bit overwhelming. Maybe it's being pregnant on top of parenting a (very busy! all the time!) toddler, on much less sleep than I've had in years, thanks to nothing but hormones apparently. I'm reading a lot again, which is nice, but quite frankly I'd rather be sleeping. And everything on the list for this week requires physical exertion which just feels cruel. Yes, I'm whining. But I don't even know when I last whined to the internet, so bear with me, will you, I've earned it.
We got a lot done last week and I'm starting to feel like maybe we really will have a playroom in the garage by the time the baby comes in July. Pea's closet is almost completely set--just need to secure the new organizational system to the wall for safety and hang up two more pictures and her room is done. Well, except for the free-hand birds and flowers painting that I want to do around her window... Now I just have to finish some touch-up painting in the downstairs left over from last fall (when I got so badly sick) and purchase and install the big Ikea shelving system in the front hall, get all the toys and books reorganized, buy fabric for the Moses basket bedding my mom is going to help me make, spot clean the carpet and couch, plan and organize Pea's birthday party, finish those (damn) Shutterfly albums (I just keep hoping I'll actually fall asleep at night and so I haven't been opening the laptop after 10), wipe down the fridge, finally post all those blogs that I started last week, and try to make it to the Naturopath before the week's end for more pregnancy stuff. That's the rest of my list, people, (9 other items have already been completed) and it's already Wednesday. Oh, and on Saturday Jeffrey is having Garage Day, pt. 2. Last weekend's was hugely successful including the removal of a certain large, electronic organ. I have to say this about us: we have very interesting crap. Next week I have a couple of appointments already scheduled so it's not like I can just shift everything till then. Maybe I'll be in a better frame of mind tomorrow...
Today was fun--nothing checked off the list but we got to hang out with friends for a few hours and that was much better than wiping down a fridge. Penelope had such a good time with Ian, as always, and the sharing thing is getting easier and easier (cause it really couldn't get any harder!) Then Jeffrey's parents came for dinner and I managed to make it through dinner (enchiladas!), a tiny bit of clean-up, and putting brownies into the oven before I felt like I was going to collapse and headed upstairs to bed. We don't get to see his family often enough, so I felt bad, but I just literally couldn't walk another step without feeling like I was going to cry.
While I'm whining, I should also mention the tiny but annoying zit that has sprouted to one side of my mouth, right where people want to stare and ask if it's a bit of leftover food or something contagious. It's so pretty.
Posted by Annagrace at 9:54 PM
Yes, the internet just told you what to make for dinner. This is one of my very favorite things to make, especially in nice weather when I need to make something filling for dinner that doesn't require an oven. I also like it because it's great when it's first made and warm, but equally good the next day (or the next) when it's been in the fridge and the flavors have blended--either eaten cold or warmed gently. It makes a BIG bowl-full.
I'm going to write this recipe exactly the way I cook it, and you will then shortly see why I'm not such a good baker: I loathe exact measurements and having to worry too much about chemistry. This was originally (I think?) a Cooking Light recipe, but I got it from my sister and then I've fiddled with it a bit, since it's nearly impossible for me to leave any recipe completely alone (another reason I shouldn't bake).
Asian Chicken Rice Salad
2 cups short-grain brown rice (NOT instant or quick-cooking!)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Fresh carrots (6 to 8 medium, approx)
Green onions (good-sized bunch, or to taste)
Big bunch fresh cilantro
Handful or two (up to you) toasted, skinless peanuts (whole)
2 heaping tsp. crushed garlic (I admit to buying this already crushed, much easier than peeling and mincing the cloves)
1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
Juice of 4-6 fresh limes, depending on juiciness (or to taste)
Sea salt and fresh-cracked black pepper
Cook the rice according to the package directions. Short-grain brown rice takes a while but while it's simmering you'll have everything else done and the dressing will have time to sit and become more flavorful.
Juice the limes into a bowl, add the sesame oil and garlic, whisk to incorporate, and then salt and pepper to taste. While this sits for a while (or stick it in the fridge, covered, overnight) cook the chicken.
Trim the chicken breasts if needed, sprinkle with sea salt and fresh pepper and put in a hot skillet with a little bit of olive oil. Once the chicken has a nice sear on each side, cover with a lid and turn down to med. low and cook till it's done all the way through but still moist. Covering it and cooking it over moderate heat will take a few minutes longer, but it will make the salad taste better than if the chicken is dry and tough.
While the rice and chicken are finishing up, grate the carrots. If you want, add more or less depending on much carrot you want in your salad. Slice the green onions and roughly chop the cilantro. Put all three ingredients in a BIG bowl--the bigger the better, at least for ease of mixing all the ingredients (you'll see!)
Stir the cooked and still hot (or at least warm) rice into the bowl with the veggies. Pour the dressing over it all and stir well to coat. Shred cooked chicken and add. Last of all, add toasted peanuts to your taste. You could substitute almond slivers if you wanted or if peanuts are a problem. Taste, and add more sea salt or pepper if desired.
This salad is SO good! And Penelope can eat bowls and bowls of it. It keeps well in the fridge, and is a great thing to bring to potlucks or picnics since it tastes really good at room temperature.
I made it last night, in fact, and Penelope couldn't wait till her bowl was filled...
I think I'm going to keep her middle name a secret till the end, or at least till a bit closer to her arrival. Spoiler alert--it's a Gaelic name, just like Pea's middle name, which means that some of you will hate it, some of you will think it's beautiful, and most of you will wonder why. But it has exactly the meaning we're feeling for this tiny life and I, for one, think it's gorgeous.
Watching a movie with friends tonight and then hopefully I'll post more--recipes, pictures, Penelope, etc. etc.
Posted by Annagrace at 7:22 PM
Beth Orton playing "Central Reservation" in the background. That whole album is still one of my all-time favorites. Always brings up so many memories, too...of me and Jeffrey when we were dating, of everything that was going on with my family and two of my friends...all the things I was so conflicted about that now seem so clear now, 5 years later...all the things I wasn't addressing in me, about who I was, how I felt, what I wanted, and yet managing to not totally fuck up the best friend/love relationship that had ever happened to me.
Oven heating up for cookies, two kinds, if I can make it that long tonight.
A perfect spring day, today-- 60's, not a cloud in the sky, and two and a half hours at the park with a very happy little girl.
I actually have about half of this week's to-do list completed. Let's see if I can get those Shutterfly albums finished, however--they're taking forever because I'm being a perfectionist (what's new?)
Have so many half-written posts to finally finish. I WILL get them up soon. It's just been too beautiful outside and I've been reading a lot more than writing.
Friends coming over in the morning for coffee and more friends coming over in the evening to watch a movie with me after Pea goes to sleep.
Jeffrey's working on his laptop at the kitchen counter. The lights are low. It's getting late but we're going to watch more Foyle's War anyway. The windows are open even though it's cold out--the air is so fresh and clean.
The house is cleaned, the lawn is mowed and edged, and we finally have a date (Saturday!) to work on our wreck of a garage. Why, oh why, do these things make me so crazily happy?
6 months pregnant tomorrow. Picture coming. I know, I know--I make many promises to the internet...
The kettle is on.
I dreamed about Adeleine today while I was napping. Nothing big, just dreams of wondering who she is, who she will become, what she looks like. I'm so excited to get to hold another tiny baby in my arms.
"It's like living in the middle of the ocean
With no future, no past
And everything that's good about now
Might just glide right past
I'm stepping through brilliant shades
All the color you bring
This time, this time, this time
Is fine just as it is..."
Posted by Annagrace at 8:55 PM