Ready, Set, RANT

Well, here’s something to tick you off:

Did you know that according to a 1999 study (the most recent available), award-winning and best-selling children’s books featured male characters twice as often as female characters in central roles? Females were similarly underrepresented in illustrations and books titles.

Furthermore, in a survey of 19,664 children’s television programs from 24 different countries, only 32% of main characters are female. If you look at nonhuman characters like animals, robots, and monsters the number drops to 13%.

And finally, in a list of the 101 top-grossing G-rated movies from 1990-2005, less than a THIRD of the speaking roles were given to female characters. There was no improvement in this statistic from the start of the period to the end.

These stats come from a fascinating book called Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine, which is actually not about children so much as about the way neuroscience is portrayed in popular media. If you’ve ever read a relationship book that explained gender differences in terms of brain “hardwiring” then you really need to read this book. Actually, strike that. If you’ve lived in the world for more than 3 months (the age at which infants seem to begin to recognize gender as pattern), you should probably read this book.

(And if you are regularly exposed to either TV or religion, you should definitely read this book. Was watching the red carpet interviews for the SAGs the other night when a female reporter asked Sofia Vergara which of her body parts she liked the best and which she liked the least. This could be one of those list games where you try to come up with all the levels at which this question is so not ok, but since this is just a parenthetical point I’m going to go with 1) pretty sure Daniel Craig has never been asked this question, 2) pretty sure the awards at this show are for acting, 3) pretty sure inviting women to criticize their bodies on national television is a fail).

Anyway, I thought the book was interesting on a lot of levels, but since I spent most of yesterday organizing the nursery, the points that were really sticking out for me were the ones about children.

I’d thought a little bit about children’s movies and television—and movies that definitely weren’t going to be staple viewing in our house—but I hadn’t thought much about books. And we already had a shelf full of them in the nursery. Out of curiosity, I went upstairs to see if the statistics I’d read in Fine’s books matched what I’d randomly collected over the last few months and years.

I was still picking my bruised jaw off the floor when Carl came in a bit later to ask what I was doing.

“Sorting books,” I said, now a bit grim. “Getting rid of the ones that aren’t gender-neutral.”

Carl laughed. Not a mean laugh, but one of those friendly, you’re-not-100%-serious-are-you? kinds of chuckles. Well, to be fair, I hadn’t thought I was serious when I first sat down. I thought I was doing a little unofficial survey to test a theory. Because surveys and theories are fun, right?

Not fun anymore.

I directed Carl’s attention to the pile of books. Most of them were inoffensive color & shape  or story books featuring animals, but when the animals were designated by personal pronoun, it was always male. Believe me, I have nothing but warm, nostalgic regard for Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows, Frog and Toad and Dr. Seuss, but it gets to be a little bit weird when you don’t see a single female character for 40 pages. And then we wonder why boys “have trouble” relating to female characters. (Hilariously, our church actually has a policy against having female leads in Christmas pageants because men just don’t seem to relate to female leads. It’s not that they want to exclude women, but since women are “naturally” so good at empathizing and seeing things from other people’s perspective… well, why not cut the guys some slack? As Lady Catherine says in P&P, You will never be REALLY good unless you practice…).

But the hands down worst offender on our bookshelf was the Toddler Bible. Out of 22 stories, only two featured women. Guess which ones? Ruth, who was kind and therefore rewarded with marriage, and the Mary/Martha incident with the housework.

I’ll be the first to admit there aren’t many good roles for girls in the Bible (according to Wikipedia only 14% of the named characters are female), but wouldn’t you think Esther would get chosen over Mary, Martha, and the housework? And why is that story always about Martha’s poor attitude anyway, when the really revolutionary thing is that Mary was acting like one of the disciples and Jesus was all about it? Or what about Deborah? Or, I dunno, the women at the empty tomb… Any way you look at it, if you’re going to condense the Bible into 22 stories, Martha’s bad attitude about housework shouldn’t be topping the list.

“I’m sorry,” Carl said when I’d finished.

“You don’t have to be sorry to me,” I said, chucking aside the Toddler Bible. “You can be sorry to our daughter in twenty years when she has a complex.”

“She won’t have a complex.”

“She will if she has a brain,” I said. “Those are her options. Either she has a brain and a complex or not. No brain, no complex.”

Carl was consoling. We’ll find her some good books. We’ll write her some good books if we have to (Carl suggested Dimension Power II, a follow up to the book he wrote and illustrated for school when he was little). All of which made me smile and feel much less like crying, but here’s the nagging thing I can’t quite figure out:

I can write my daughter 100 books, give her a home where girls get to be main characters, value her adventures and contributions just as much as anybody else’s.

But I can’t give her a religion like that.

Years ago, I read a blog post by a Lutheran father (I think he was Lutheran) who mentioned casually that he limited his young daughter’s access to both Disney and the Bible for exactly the same reasons. I remember thinking that was sad and conflicting and moving on with my day, but now that I have a girl on the way the words are a bit more haunting.

I can teach her—I think I can teach her—to take the world with a grain of salt. It would be nice if the world was equally friendly to everybody, but we know it’s not. Whether you’re black in a white culture, or religious in a modern culture, or poor in pretty much any culture, most parents understand that life isn’t fair. Part of the job of parenting is to teach your child how to navigate a world that, while beautiful and exciting, is also sometimes indifferent and occasionally downright hostile.

But somehow you expect better things of your religion.

It’s disheartening, frustrating, and deeply saddening to know that if I give my child my faith (knowing, of course, that ultimately it’s hers to accept or reject) I’m giving her something with the potential to be as wounding as it is healing. Faith isn’t supposed to be like that. But faith is experienced through people, so it usually is.

How do you explain it all to a child? I don’t particularly want to be a “feminist Christian” but what if the only alternative is to be a sexist one? How do you explain, for example, that even though God is spirit and therefore without gender, it’s orthodox to refer to God as male and blasphemous to refer to God as female?

It doesn’t make sense because it’s nonsensical.

But don’t try telling that to your pastor. And don’t teach your child to pray to “God who is both Father and Mother” unless you’re prepared to get put on the prayer chain. One of my friends told me recently that her church is now boycotting one Bible translation because the new version of that translation is using gender-neutral terms for… gender-neutral concepts (mankind is now humankind). For real.

Not to be flippant, but the hills our churches are willing to die on seem to consist of some pretty poor topsoil.

And yet, I’m not going to stop going to church. I’m not going to limit my daughter’s access to the Bible just because the Bible fails to represent women in equal or even very positive ways. To be honest, I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it.

Stew, probably.

And write a lot of children’s books.

And hope I come up with something better by the time she hits 3 months.

Assessing the Garden

We went to Barnes & Noble the other night for tea and a good forage in the stacks—Carl to check up on his design mags and me to a brand new haunt: the gardening shelves.

This is a slightly intimidating world to me, because even though I like plants I seem to kill them more often than not. Also I get bored easily. Also they seem to take a long time to mature and the gardens I like best are the ones outside English homes that belong to the National Trust and have been continuously managed by experts for several hundred years.

The chasm between my abilities and the desired results does rather gape.

On the other hand, I have loved our little back yard from the first glimpse, and love, as everyone knows, inspires rash deeds. Thus: the gardening stacks at B&N.

I skimmed a lot of books, but the one pictured above—Rejuvenating a Garden by Stephen Anderton—was my fav by far. Most landscaping and garden design books start with a blank canvas and offer you all sorts of scintillating layouts and color combinations to try, but we happen to have inherited a very specific, very mismanaged little garden that already has a character and flavor of its own. I don’t want to design a garden; I want to coax the one we already have back to life.

For that, Anderton is apparently my man, and I’m going to cheerfully summarize and cannibalize his hard work without further attribution and with a great many of my own embellishments.

1. Form a clear picture of how you’d like to use the garden and what style will suit both you and the house behind it.

This is easy and fun and doesn’t require any grubbing in the dirt. I’m so down with that.

For me, the primary purpose of the garden is to have a place to relax, read, lounge, and generally enjoy being outside. Here’s the more specific wish list:

  • an open, grassy place for kids to play
  • an area for outdoor cooking and eating
  • a comfortable, shaded respite from heat (no AC for us)
  • a place that’s private from our neighbors
  • a good mix of interesting greens and bright colors
  • a visually interesting space that’s also realistic in terms of upkeep

As for style, our garden is very much like our home. The bones are vintage. The plaster walls curve up to the ceiling the way plaster walls did in the 50s. The stairs creak and the bathroom’s tiny. The brick patio has grass growing contentedly between the red bricks. The retaining walls are made out of broken up, repurposed cement. It’s old-worldy without trying too hard.

The bones are vintage, and it would be tempting (for me, anyway) to go whole sale—to fill up the house with vintage fixtures and shabby chic furniture, quilts and mason jars, to plant the back yard in rambling roses and drippy vines.

Exactly what we won’t do, Carl says. Exactly what would make the place look dated, like a museum diorama. Because while we appreciate the past, we don’t really belong there. We like clean lines and minimalism. We like fresh smells and open spaces. Our taste, if unchecked, would probably run to the cold and utilitarian, but in this house it just brings balance and life to what would otherwise be an old house growing still older.

It’s a blending of old and new, traditional shapes and modern colors. It’s finding an aesthetic that connects and explains and harmonizes our personality with that of the house. It’s finding a happy middle place.

Having a very clear idea of what you want will also help you stay focused as you move on to the next step, which is even easier than the first (although it takes a lot longer).

2. Do nothing, preferably for a year.

Ok, so that’s not exactly what Anderton said. There are plenty of things you can do in that first year, but most of them have more to do with observing than doing. It’s easy to decide a garden isn’t working, but if you want to restore something it helps to know how it works before you start messing with it. Catalogue the bulbs that flower and take pictures to keep the color combinations fresh in your mind, check the health of your trees and what areas they shade, get an idea what kinds of pests/critters you’ll have to contend with, learn where the sunlight falls and where the ground stays marshy after rain, get to know which areas you use and which ones you don’t and why, try to get a clear sense of the original garden’s design and evaluate what works about it and what doesn’t.

And while you’re getting familiar with the garden, there are plenty of odd jobs to tackle:

  • make decisions about the big structural elements. Retaining walls that need to be propped up; trees that need to go; how the garden will flow from one space to another. Don’t waste time and money investing in a flower bed that will have to be trampled next year when you finally get around to fixing the retaining wall behind it.
  • if you want lighting in your garden (or if, as in our case, you have lighting that doesn’t work) get that put in/fixed the first year. Again, there’s no point in planting a bed that you’re going to have to tear up later.
  • do any major pruning or clearing projects to open up light and space.
  • manage any obvious weed problems.
  • work on restoring the grass or, if necessary, re-sod.
  • plant annuals to fill in the gaps and try out color combinations, and if you’ll be dressing up any decks or patios with container plantings, start investing in those.
  • even if you don’t buy any lawn furniture or statuary, start wish lists of what you like and where it might go.

3. Make a long-term plan and start a garden journal.

The idea of a long-term plan is comforting to me, because when I first thought about tackling the garden the idea was pretty overwhelming. I mean, the extent of my gardening up to now has been to keep 2 potted geraniums alive, and even that wasn’t what I would call a rousing success. Trying to whip into shape a terraced backyard with lots of beds and plants of unknown origins was more than a little intimidating.

So I like all of this easy-does-it and the-first-year-is-about-observation stuff.

And I like knowing that real gardeners take a long view of things and don’t even try to accomplish more than a few big jobs each season. Gardening is a patient endeavor. I like that.

Personally, I’m not looking to make any drastic changes or go crazy. I just want a small, sunny garden where I can read my books and drink my lemonade and soak up the sun in peace. So for me, the first year of my three year plan is fairly simple… and even so it’ll probably be more than I can reasonably do.

Year One:

  • fix the outdoor lights
  • clean, weed, and generally declutter the yard (tacky birdhouse must GO)
  • fertilize the grass on the top tier and see if we can coax it back to health (save some cash if we don’t have to re-sod the whole thing)
  • get to know the garden (keep a photo journal)
  • remove the remains of the fallen tree
  • plant annuals to fill in the gaps of the long beds
  • plan the outdoor furniture and buy a couple of pieces when the sales start
  • buy a few containers and plant with long-blooming annuals

That’s the plan.

Which might be slightly jumping the gun since… now that I count… we still have like a quarter of the year left before spring really gets going here in Michigan.

At least I’ll be prepared.

A Drop in the Bucket

I didn’t really plan much for today. Earlier this week I painted the nursery closet a nice, clean white. I wrote all my thank you cards from the shower. I washed the baby clothes and sorted them by size. I packed my hospital bag. I scheduled interview dates and generally kept the ball rolling for the nonprofit. Last night we set up the crib.

But I didn’t plan anything for today. I finished reading The Uncommon Reader in bed this morning. I put stamps on the thank you notes and tracked down addresses I didn’t have on hand. I joined Pinterest the other day and spent a few minutes adding pins to my still very bare wall.

It’s nice not having anything to do. I feel almost bored. Not the kind of boredom that leads to channel surfing and irritation. The good kind. The kind that opens up enough space for creativity, for long walks and mulling things over.

I think a lot about being a mother, how that will change things and how it will feel to have my sense of identity shift and compensate and try not to capsize. How much bigger life seems, more ocean-like in the vastness of love but also in the corresponding capacity for loss. There are no maps for these kinds of journeys.

I think about my books, too, and how much longer it will take to write them. How much I still want it all, how much less time I have for it…

And I think about turning 30 this year.

It seems—not old, because there’s nothing like saying you feel old to prove how very young you still are, but grown up. Adult. One is supposed, at this age, to know what one is doing, to be competent, to speak directly and take charge when circumstances warrant.

And the funny thing is that I am competent for the most part. I can speak directly when I have to. I do make things happen (after hyperventilating quietly to myself first). And I know what I’m doing.

I just didn’t really notice when I became this person…

I blame Pinterest.

When you join Pinterest, they start you off with a bunch of sample boards. I don’t even remember what they all were, but the one I started because it sounded like fun was one devoted to my Bucket List. I like reading people’s bucket lists, and you know how much I love goals, so what better way to start a visual board than with picture of all the fabulous things I want to do and experience in life?

I started pinning.

It’s harder than you’d think. After I got the first half dozen things done I sort of dried up mentally. Baby stuff and creative writing and pugs are always on the radar, but after that things got a bit sketchy. I needed a refresher with my bucket list, so back I went to the document I hadn’t opened in a couple of years.

And wouldn’t you know at the very top it said:

THE FIVE YEAR PLAN

AKA BEFORE I REACH THIRTY

Well, crap.

That gives me 8 months, during which I must also give birth. Slightly dampened, I scrolled down the list. Some of them I’d done. Most of them I hadn’t.

  • Write five essays and publish at least one
  • Publish several poems
  • See the Hudson Bay
  • Visit the Smithsonian museums
  • Publish a novel
  • Read 75 novels from a list of 100 most influential novels in the world

I did actually go to my reading list after seeing that last one to see how far I’ve gotten, and it turns out I’ve read 49 books from that list, so… only 26 to go. Which would be doable if the books left on the list weren’t things like Tom Jones and all of Proust and The Tale of Genji.

Sigh.

And I don’t want to talk smack about my 25-year-old self, because I was very 25 then and was, as the zen master would say, the best 25-year-old self I knew to be. Furthermore, I worked hard. I made choices that prioritized my time for writing, and I wrote two novels in those years and large chunks of a third while working and getting married and occasionally freaking out. I needed that narrow vision. I needed to stay focused.

In the same way, I’m almost thirty now and need bigger dreams. Not necessarily new ones, note.  Publish a novel will always be on my life list, even after I get to highlight it in blue and put the date of fulfillment next to it. That’s part of who I am, and those kinds of things don’t change. Well, not at thirty anyway. You can ask me when I’m forty, I guess.

I don’t want to get rid of my old dreams, but I do need to add some new ones. I need big, expansive, roomy ones that can stretch like a soft knit handbag to carry all the odd pieces and unwieldy experiences of my growing life. To nurture curiosity and interest in the world, yes, but also to validate the parts of my life that aren’t showplaces, just places where I live.

So I started a new list today. I’m not finished with it, and some of them are still unreasonably out of reach, but I think the magic is in the mix.

THE HOWEVER LONG PLAN

AKA UNTIL I NEED SOMETHING NEW

  • keep chickens
  • become an early(ish) riser and get the day started right (tea, breakfast, a little silence)
  • breed dogs
  • develop a beautiful, old-fashioned cottage garden with unbelievably comfortable places to lounge and sunbathe
  • cut my hair really, really short (just to try it)
  • have a baby
  • give said baby the gifts of a home not saturated in media or social commitments, parents at peace, easy access to nature, and room for creative growth
  • avoid totally losing myself in the attempt to actually be this paragon of enlightened motherhood
  • create my dream home, knowing it will never be “done” but enjoying the process and always on one of the burners—forward or back
  • meditate more
  • go on a spiritual retreat (a real one)
  • take the time to reflect on the things I avoid and the things I fear and have the courage to deal with them openly
  • become an activist for women’s rights. I’ve been reading up on it for 5 or 6 years; I should probably do something about it now
  • create family traditions for all the major holidays and invent a few of my own (Dr. Seuss’s birthday always seemed to me like a holiday begging for more traditions)
  • take yoga or tai chi
  • be part of a group of women who meet regularly to discuss their goals (in career, family, creative endeavors). Besides updates, encouragement, and problem-solving, each month  the group would focus on a specific issue (finances, career paths, family issues, assertiveness, time management, etc). I have wanted this group to magically materialize for me for YEARS, but it looks like I’m going to have to start it if I ever want to join it…
  • pay off our school loans and mortgage as quickly as possible
  • consistently earn money by writing
  • read more poetry and memorize my favorite ones
  • rent a beach house and laze around it for a week
  • develop a personal style that does not involve pajamas
  • see every movie Audrey Hepburn ever made (I’m getting close on this one actually)
  • have a place in the house set aside just for scrapbooking and art journaling, where I can leave my projects unfinished, pick at them when I can, and never feel badly about it
  • teach writing and get paid for it
  • play more tennis
  • have a mentor (this probably requires meeting more and liking more people…)
  • have a juicer and make my own juice blends
  • eat a meal prepared by a world class chef
  • be hypnotized by someone who believes in past lives
  • grow my own vegetables
  • host a themed murder mystery dinner
  • take a 365 day challenge (not sure which one; so many good options)
  • Visit Moscow and St. Petersburg
  • Visit Ireland
  • Visit Scotland
  • Visit the Hudson Bay
  • Visit the Smithsonian museums
  • Visit San Diego and go to the zoo
  • see a tennis match at the US Open
  • be in the audience of a talk or tv show
  • go to a film festival (Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca… I saw a film at Tribeca once, and it was amazing. I must see more!)
  • be a brand—have a great website, be awesome at social media, be known for something—and then probably give it up because it’s way more work than it’s worth. But at least then I would know
  • read 75 out of 100 of the world’s most influential novels
  • write my memoirs or a collection of personal essays
  • write a collection of poetry (not for publication)
  • keep a literate, entertaining blog and get 3,000 visitors per month
  • publish a book and maybe someday a bestseller
  • learn to be comfortable speaking in public
  • publish a scholarly article in a literary journal
  • be part of an active writing community
  • win some kind of literary prize (doesn’t have to be big)

It’s good to be who you are, and it’s good to know who you are today as well as who you you were yesterday. Aphorisms are almost never true in any sort of literal sense, but I like them anyway.

Half of happiness is knowing what your life is supposed to be about. The other half is accepting what you find.

Corn Pone ‘Pinions

It would be interesting to know—because I’m a nerd and these things appeal—the actual percentages of the subject matter of our conversations. But since I haven’t yet constructed an elaborate system for monitoring and categorizing every word spoken between us, I suppose I have to guess.

First, of course, we talk about the business of the day, what we’re going to eat and when and what time it is and whether we want to go to the coffee shop this evening or just go to sleep instead.

Followed by the baby and the house, both of which are endlessly fascinating topics. Mostly because it’s like talking about yourself… without the creeping, uncomfortable feeling of growing narcissism.

But the most common PHRASE by far has to be what are you thinking about?

Hockey, where to hang pictures, videos, books… why Seal and Heidi Klum are getting divorced (Carl insists it’s because Seal’s black, which, for a couple that’s been together long enough to have 3 children (I think?), is kind of hilarious). The question is usually a good conversation opener, although not so much this morning when Carl asked.

“Poverty,” I said, trying to squeeze the hazy cloud of ideas in my brain into some sort of recognizable subject.

Although I guess now that I think about it what I really mean is closer to applying Marxist literary theory to spiritual formation and ideas regarding gender roles.

I’ve been reading this book on female immigrants in the US during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and while the style is dull the info is fascinating. I mean, we all knew the immigrant/pioneer experience was gritty stuff, but reading the actual statistics is pretty horrifying… even more so when you look at what the women went through. Did you know, for example, that according to a study during this period the women not only routinely held jobs, but contributed roughly 50% of the family’s income? When you factor in the universally lower wages given to women, it becomes obvious that women were probably working more hours outside the home than their husbands were.

Naturally, there wasn’t dependable birth control and forget about maternity leave, so women were not only contributing more than 50% to the family’s income but often doing so while hugely pregnant or responsible for the raising of 3-10 children.

Oh, and probably best not to read the statistics on or first-hand accounts of pregnancy, infant mortality, and spousal abandonment.

All of this could really fire you up if you were a feminist in need of firing (or, say, a history teacher interested in teaching history rather than the usual bunch-of-things-rich-white-guys-did), but to be honest I keep coming back to the whole Christian gender thing. And I know this isn’t a new thought, but after reading this book I see it with new distaste—

When we hold the opinion that Christians need to get back to traditional family values, the opinion we’re really holding is that Christians should be part of an idealized upper class experience.

That’s kind of terrifying theology.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying mothers should work outside the home. What I am saying is that the whole debate suddenly seems pretty classist. Problems for rich white people. I’m kind of embarrassed that I literally could not tell you anything about the spiritual experience of these immigrants—most of whom described themselves as Christians. The Norwegian woman in a sod house whose husband was gone for 12 weeks at a time looking for work while she supported the family alone… is her experience as a Lutheran not part of our collective history as Christians? And besides all the people we’ve written out of our past, who are we writing out of our present in order to cling to our wishful thinking about what the Christian life and marriage should look like?

Why do Christians rhapsodize about the brave prairie women who raised their own food, made their own clothes, and did it all while raising twelve children… while ignoring the same generation of urban women who worked 10 hour shifts in factories, made their own clothes, and did it all while raising twelve children? Does it really just come down to money? That old, faux-genteel squeamishness that says it’s glamorous for women to be uber-productive as long as money isn’t involved?

Mostly, when I reflect on things long enough, I feel incredibly and unreasonably blessed.

There’s no yay-for-my-convictions and God-must-be-thrilled that I get to stay at home and take care of my planned for and very much wanted baby. What happened is that I was fortunate enough to be born in late twentieth century America into a solidly middle-class family and therefore had the connections and expectations that led me to marry someone from another solidly middle-class family. Despite a bad economy, my husband was fortunate enough to find a job that pays well and provides for all of our needs and most of our wants. Thanks to contraception, we were able to delay pregnancy until we were financially ready and emotionally excited to be parents.

So far, my situation has nothing to do with personal awesomeness or convictions. If you want to be spiritual, you could say it has everything to do with blessing. And, though we American Christians famously ignore it, my situation also has a lot to do with class.

Mark Twain tells a story about a black slave he knew as a boy, how the slave used to stand on top of his master’s woodpile every day and practice his oration skills.

This was his most memorable text:

“You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I’ll tell you what his ‘pinions is.”

“The black philosopher’s idea,” Twain continued, “was that a man is not independent, and cannot afford views which might interfere with his bread and butter.” My brother (who happened to be in the same American lit class) and I thought it was hilarious and true and used to talk a lot about the connection between corn pone and ‘pinions.

Bad enough to have corn pone ‘pinions about politics.

I don’t want to have them about spirituality. Though how to avoid them is probably the much harder issue.

Ice. Ice. Baby.

The Plymouth Ice Festival turned 30 this year! There appears to be some debate about the facts—Wikipedia claims it’s the largest and oldest ice sculpture fest in North America, and the festival page claims it’s the largest and oldest FREE ice sculpture fest—but either way, it’s a fun, nippy, crowded time.

We met up with Carl’s dad and step-mom, his brother, sister-in-law, and (of course) the twins for Sunday lunch and a long stroll through the park.

Soph took her time getting into the spirit of the thing.

Unlike Bella. They might be twins, but they’ve definitely got their own grooves going.

Cinderella’s glass slipper, however, is cause for major cheer.

Starbucks and snowball fights to warm up.

And lots of playing in the snow. Cute girls in their cute hats. It was a great way to close out the weekend… and then naturally it warmed right up and rained most of the day on Monday, so the park is probably all mud and ice stumps now. We’ve had an unusually mild winter this year—four inch daffodil stalks and one inch iris greens in our front garden already.

Hope the crazy weather doesn’t confuse the flowers too much. I need to know what we’ve got in those flower beds before I can figure out how to take care of them.

Adventures for another season, I guess.

Almost ready, little stranger

Meant to sit down and write yesterday.

Meant to do a lot of things yesterday, but it turned out to be one of those two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of days. For those of you who don’t know me in real life, my mom lives two hours away and I don’t have any bio sisters, so the M agreed to come to my side of the state to throw my baby shower. Which is fabulous on the one hand and on the other meant a lot of cleaning and last-minute projecting and general tears of frustration.

My brother called to discuss work stuff the other morning, and caught me in one of those bad, throat scratchy and defeated moments. “It’s just my shower,” I moaned. Jon was instantly solicitous, sincere, and so sorry to hear.

…. did he need to get off the phone so I could call a plumber or something?

Cute man.

I wish they made plumbers for baby showers. I would’ve called one pronto. Then again, things came together, I finally got the house clean and some of the food prepped around midnight, while Carl finished painting the trim in the living room and pulled off the tape. And now my Fruit Loops are gone, and the shower’s calling. My lovely and handy friend Jenn is going to be along in an hour, and things are going to be ok.

In fact, they might be spiffy.

And the little woman is well on her way to having everything a little woman really needs. And maybe a little extra.

Ok, maybe a lot extra. Oops.

Twig by Twig

This morning was supposed to be a marathon of shoppage. I had my list, I had my route—and then on the way to drop Carl off at work we fishtailed it up 5 Mile, went 30 in a 50 mile zone, and blew through a pink light because stopping was not an option.

Why hello, winter.

I have since decided to put the plans rather than the car, as they say, on ice. Woman-child and I are now having a nice cup of tea and trying to decide how best to use the first part of our day. Weather reports say the snow should stop by 1pm, so I think shopping may safely recommence by 2. That gives us a couple of hours to work with.

There are a lot of things I could be doing with a few extra hours, but I’m probably going to spend them in the nursery. I am at this point fully in the clutches of a pretty major nesting instinct that seems to dictate large chunks of my day. Last week Carl was still taking the baby wipes out of my grocery cart to put them back on the shelf. This week he just says all soothingly, “you do what you need to do.”

Huzzah!

I’m not sure why the room itself seems so important. She’ll probably spend the first few months in a basinet in our room while the nursery collects dust. But I have the time and motivation now, and I’m betting it will be a whole lot easier to do this now than when she’s two months old. Anyway it’s fun.

Here’s the before shot from when we bought the place:

Yes. The ceiling is also painted the same ganky brown. Solid choice, right? There was also a faded SpongeBob light switch, and while the floors look nice in this picture, they were pretty gnarly up close. Lots of goo and ick.

We started with a nice wash of primer over the whole room; painted the ceiling white; painted the walls two shades of light green; put up chair molding, filled the nail holes with wood glue, sanded off the excess; painted the trim a snowy white; took the closet doors off (wood that didn’t match the floor) and have gotten as far as to get the primer on them to prepare for future whiteness; replaced the electrical plates.

Sigh.

It’s coming along.

Tomorrow we pick up the crib (simple, white). Next week our green, old-fashioned braided rug should arrive. We’re still looking for an inexpensive but comfortable chair. We’ve found the pink bedding we want, but haven’t gotten around to buying it yet. And then, of course, there are in the inevitable setbacks:

Where you go to pull the tape off around your perfect trim and a whole sheet of the wall paint comes off with it. GAH! I’m going to pretend it was not laziness but good thinking that kept me from putting away the primer and paints yet.

Anywho, that’s where we are now.

One day I may also regale you with tales of the woeful extremities of the protective instinct that I’ve also got raging, but I think that would probably qualify as too soon. Nobody could be more relaxed when it comes to hypothetical tree climbing and chocolate at six months, but when it comes to human dysfunction, I’m pretty much on track to be a Rapunzel witch. The turret solution sounds fabulous to me… So far 25% of the time I’m right and 75% of the time Carl successfully talks me down.

I have married myself a good man.

But it’s starting to occur to me how truly marriage pre- and post-parenthood is kind of like those old video games where you beat the game and then it instantly restarts with twice as many bad guys and the music going much faster.

Take that, marital discord. Your purple hair is no match for our jump kick.