Jack Attack


A few things have changed since my last blog post, which was over a year and a half ago. I ordered HelloFresh, Stitch Fix, and Birchbox subscriptions; I gained and lost 30 lbs; and last week I got a new bathing suit, complete with a forgiving ruching across the front, a little skirt, and ample ahem support.

I had a baby. It’s a boy.

The midwife said I was an excellent pusher – I was at once both intensely proud of myself and thought wildly, I bet she says that to all the girls. However, in barely 20 minutes I pushed my baby boy out to meet the world, pulled him up onto my chest, and became a mother. Months of anxiety, stress-eating, insomnia, restless legs, carpel tunnel, and amazon-shopping came to an end and, for a few short minutes, were covered over by that red, wailing, wrinkly beauty that my husband and I named Jack.

Being pregnant became sort of an obsessive thing for me. Before I knew I was expecting I symptom-spotted constantly – even informing my mother at one point that a runny nose was an early sign of pregnancy. Later, in the second trimester I became overly anxious about what I ate [now that food was actually appetizing again] and would sit in the evening on the couch, frantically googling what I’d just eaten in order to make sure that it was ok for the baby. In hindsight I probably had some pregnancy-related anxiety, but I guess I’m symptom-spotting again.

In the days leading up to giving birth (which happened a week before my due date) I did not get the nesting instinct that people talk about (thankfully my husband got it and built the crib, changing table, and set up the car seat). Instead, the day before I went into labor, I watched 3 seasons of Sherlock and ate pecans dipped in salted caramel for dinner. For breakfast, while my contractions were about 3 minutes apart and quickly approaching the “table grippers” my midwife told me to look out for, I ate a cinnamon roll. Jack does not seem to have been adversely affected by my ill-advised pregnancy cravings.

I had two lovely baby showers and received lots of beautiful gifts. Why do babies grow out of their most adorable clothes the quickest? I waited for months for Jack to fit into some adorable patch-work overalls we’d been given. He wore them once, promptly spit-up, and had outgrown them by the time they’d gone through the washer and dryer.

I’m currently sitting in my gliding chair surrounded by a nursing pillow, a floor jungle gym, a book titled LMNO Peas, a jump-a-roo, a video baby monitor, and a dying plant, with spit-up on my shirt and the tv turned down too low so as to not wake the baby. Babies involve a lot of life-changes, but I didn’t realize how multi-colored my living room décor would become.

I took six weeks of maternity leave and, since my time seemed so short, I would snuggle Jack during naps and would only lay him in his bassinet at night. Just last week, since I’m on summer vacation now, I started to teach him to nap in his crib. This involves a lot of humming (whatever tune pops into my head in my hurry to get him back to sleep before he wakes up too much) and rocking. I tried to let him “cry it out” – but I think he has inherited my stubbornness, and all that ended up happening was he just skipped that nap. But, now that he is sleeping in his crib during the day, he has stopped sleeping at night. They say that I should sleep when the baby sleeps, but then when would I cook, clean, shower, do laundry, and watch HGTV?

Baby Jack has innumerable adorable traits. The most adorable, I think, is when he smiles really big, so so big that he pushes his chin in tight [creating multiple chins], shows his two little teeth, and pushes his belly up in glee, all while making a fuzzy sort of excited growl. He is especially excited when his daddy comes home from work. He also recently started planking and, when he really wants to, lunging at his toys across the floor. He can almost sit up and enjoys trying to grab at our food while we’re eating. We might try sweet potato next week.

Remember when I mentioned that Jack has stopped sleeping properly at night since he started napping in his bed? Well – progress has been made – in the process of writing this blog post, I’ve only had to hum three renditions of “God Bless America”, two run-throughs of the Welsh national anthem, and one excerpt from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.



The Sun Spoke…

I crawled through the dark tunnel, careful to keep in my group of four, snagging my green tights on something that stuck out from the carpet. It was very dark. I couldn’t see where my hands were touching the floor. I emerged into a dim bubble of gray. I fought the rising claustrophobia as I heard someone near me cough and splutter. I looked for a safe place to sit.

The sun spoke to me. Venus and Mars had a school-yard fight about who was better. A laser-pointer narrowly missed my eyes.

A few days ago I was, in fact, not on drugs, but attending a presentation by a planetarium at school. There was a bouncy-house-esque bubble in the gym. I went in with my K-2 classes to the bubble to see a presentation on the planets. There are several pieces of equipment that I would have appreciated the opportunity to bring with me into the planetarium. One such item would have been a night-light. Crawling into the bubble was dark and confusing. I’m surprised that the kindergarteners managed it without breaking into a cold sweat. I’m surprised that I managed to do it with only a cold sweat. A little glow-in-the-dark night-light would have made a huge difference to my comfort while going into the planetarium.

A second item that would have brought me peace within the planetarium was a facemask to block out all the germs. As time went on the air in the planetarium became heavy and hot. I could practically sense the germs from 70 little ones settling into my body and beginning to grow into a stomach-flu monster. In my mind, at that time, the stomach-flu monster looked an awful lot like the presenter’s rendition of Mars – hot and swirly.

Speaking of monsters, the sun introduced us to all of the planets. Along with the increasing sense of an oncoming fever, the disorientation of sitting in a dark bubble, and a strange sensation that sound seemed to come from anywhere except where it was actually originating, I started to feel a little dizzy. When Jupiter opened his mouth to swallow us whole I started to wonder if I wasn’t just making the whole thing up in my head as some sort of pre-vacation mental breakdown.

But no, it was very, very real.

Adding to my increasing disorientation was the realization that the children were in no way disturbed by any of this. They had no concept that the sun should not be talking to us, nor that it was ludicrous for Venus to carry a parasol. They did not mind that they were baking in an oven of bacteria, and neither did they hesitate when asked to crawl into a dark hole.

After the presentation was over I had a discussion with a co-worker who had been fascinated by the display and was overcome with a sense of smallness in comparison with the stunning display of God’s heavenly handiwork. Perhaps if I had worn a facemask I would have noticed these things, but instead I focused on the slow introduction of laryngitis into my system.

The children learned wonderful things about the stars that roam the heavens. I learned that next time the planetarium comes to town that I will provide my own mask, night-light, and take some preemptive Vitamin C.


Teaching Tactics

Now that we are back to school I thought it was about time I wrote something again. I meant to write over the summer. But, you know how it goes. I could have told you how I binge-watched Grey’s Anatomy or killed my hanging baskets, but that would have been embarrassing. I like talking about work, that way you’ll all think I accomplish things.

Throughout the course of my job I sometimes wake up and find myself saying the strangest things. Yesterday I was working with a group of first grade students, and I suddenly heard myself saying [in my teacheriest of voices], “We can only drive our dirt bikes if they are silent dirt bikes.” No one listened to me. Additionally, only a few minutes later, I heard myself [as out of a dream] advising my group of 6-year-olds to park their buses outside my door as they would be too big to park inside.

Later that same morning a couple of second graders decided to imitate my sit-down-and-shut-up face for the entirety of their half-hour with me. It’s really hard to get 7-year-olds to sit down and shut up when your usual tactic has become a source of hilarity. [I should note that these students don’t know the name of my sit-down-and-shut-up face, for they all believe that Shut Up is the S-Word, which makes curse-word tattling very difficult to decipher]

In order to encourage students to be on their best behavior [and avoid S-Words of all kinds] in several of my groups I use a system of check marks and stars. Three stars equals a special ticket and three check marks means they lose 10 minutes of recess. Lately I was working with 3 first grade students and one of them was doing a great job, quietly working, not bothering anyone. So, I gave him a star to encourage him. As I continued my work with another student I felt this boy’s eyes on me, then on the board, then on me. After several minutes of this I noticed that his eyes were swimming in tears, and I realized that I had given him a check mark instead of a star. I tried to fix my tragic error by giving him two stars instead – but the damage was done. His little first-grade heart was broken.

You would think that walking down the hall is the easiest thing in the world – but if you are in 1st grade it is completely necessary to dance, swing, run, throw out your arms to block someone from cutting, and drag your body along the walls. If you stop in the hallway for any reason it is totally reasonable to attempt to climb up the walls. Children who climb walls get check marks, not stars.

One student has discovered that there is food in the teacher’s room on Fridays. Every time we walk past the door he gazes in longingly and then looks at me as though he has never seen food in his life – even though I know that his lunch bag is stuffed full of every delicious morsel imaginable. Yesterday I was smart and took a different route to my room [through the gym] in the hopes that he would forget. He didn’t. He asked three times if we could walk back the regular way. I did not give him stars.

Sometimes I wish that people would give me stars and check marks so I know how I am doing with my teaching – you know, so if my groups of students manage to walk down the hallway without trying to cut in line, then I will get a star. If one of mine gets lost while in the bathroom, then I should get a check mark. If, at the end of the day, I have more stars than check marks I should get a reward. Maybe I’ll be allowed to eat something delicious from the teacher’s room. Maybe a nice, ultra-caffeinated, cup of tea.


Ten Tips for a Maine Springtime

There are a surprising number of things to remember now that Spring has finally come to Maine [the snow that fell up north this morning doesn’t count – that was practically Canada, right?]. I thought I would put these things together in a blogger-friendly list so that you, oh reader, would be sure to get through this season with few ill-effects or embarrassing moments.

  1. Never, ever walk in long grass. Or medium grass. Or short grass. If you walk in grass you will, inevitably, get ticks on you and then you will catch a list of horrifying diseases. Some people say it is ok and that all you need to do is check yourself for ticks after you return from the fields. This is not good enough. So, next time you see a luscious grassy knoll that it would be oh-so-romantic to go and sit on with your book and your glass of iced tea – don’t! Nothing kills the romance like ticks taking up residence behind your ears.
  2. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to photograph the birds eating on your birdfeeder on your iPhone through your living room window-screen. Instead of the bright colors of the Blue Jay, or the fuzzy feathers of the Chickadee, you will see crisscrossing lines and fluffy lumps in the background. If you try to photograph by lifting the screen you will kill two birds with that stone – you will scare the birds away, and you will let the blackflies in.
  3. Don’t even get me started on blackflies. There is a bite on my wrist and if I think about it too much it will start itching.
  4. Planting flowers is a very exciting aspect of Spring in Maine. If is important to wait to plant your delicate little flowers, or hang your hanging baskets, until after the last frost. The last frost will likely be mid-July. Consider getting a space-heater hooked up under your hydrangeas so as to thaw your soil enough to plant pansies before they die off.
  5. Just because it is 42 degrees Farenheit outside does not mean that you will not get sunburned. Invest in a miniature bottle of sunscreen to keep in your purse. Or resign yourself to ¾ cardigan-length sleeve tan and hair-part burning. Just because you have goose-bumps does not mean that your goose-bumps are not burning. I speak from experience – putting sunscreen in your hair is better than getting a peeling scalp. Not much better, but better.
  6. Take time to mentally prepare yourself for the influx of tourists who will arrive over Memorial Day weekend. The line at the coffee shop will be longer. The line at the lobster shack will be longer. The line on Rt. 1 in Wiscasset will extend from Brunswick to Newcastle. There will be no escape.
  7. Spring in Maine signals one thing: winter is coming. Prepare for the upcoming winter by stocking up on body fat – this will keep you warm during the long winter months when the snow prevents you from ordering pizza or picking up a slushie. Consider copious amounts of lobster dunked in only the richest, garliciest butter. Become a regular patron at your local home-made ice-cream stand. Eat blueberries by the carton and get your mother’s recipe for strawberry shortcake. Supporting local breweries and wineries goes without saying – I know you do that.
  8. Make sure that you remove your snow tires before it becomes time to put them back on again. You will be amazed by the soft humming noise your car will make with the normal tires back on. Your ears will appreciate the lack of deafening roar as you travel to and from the Farmers Markets. Store the snow tires in your basement. Don’t wait until you drive off the road in a snowstorm before putting them back on again. Don’t ask me how I know that. I just do.
  9. Keep copious amounts of cash on hand for when you accidentally come upon an unexpected Yard Sale or an unexpected ice-cream stand. Yard Sales are a peculiar animal – they usually sell the exact thing you are looking for 2 minutes before you arrive. They say they begin at 8:00am, but you have to account for the time it takes to get there after parking on a hill behind the line of professional Yard Salers who have been camping out since the night before. Also. It’s cool to look at other people’s stuff.
  10. The final thing to keep in mind whilst surviving your Spring in Maine is don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. Apparently the pink roses we see growing wild up and down the Maine coast are invasive – so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to smell them while you’re sitting in traffic trying to get into Bar Harbor, or while you’re searching for some anti-itch cream after a run-in with a horde of angry blackflies, or while you’re checking yourself for ticks after an ill-advised walk in the woods.

Although this may not be an exhaustive list of things to do to survive the Spring in Maine I hope that you will find it helpful and not too much of an encumbrance. I never felt like stocking up on strawberries and ice-cream was too hard a task but, then again, you’re not me.


Marble Halls and True Israelites

We didn’t end up with marble halls in our living room, but we had our fair share of diamond sunbursts and, at the end of the day, we just wanted blue.

The long-awaited painting of our living room, hallway, and staircase was scheduled for this past week of vacation. Thankfully we had help from my brothers and my parents in order to get the work done in good time and without too much cursing. It would probably be bad luck if I cursed our living room as much as I cursed our bedroom during our last painting extravaganza.

The painting project began when mom and I left work on Friday to go to Home Depot to buy the paint. I had narrowed the choices down to three blues: Clear Vista, Carefree Skies, and Promise Keepers. After 45 minutes re-examining the color swatches in Home Depot we ended up with an entirely new color altogether: Clear Water. We chose this color by my mother holding the cards up in the light from the garden department and me squinting at it without knowing which color name it was. This method, while confusing to other customers, was very successful.


On Saturday I moved everything out of the living room except for the couch and the piano. I took all the pictures off the walls, washed them down with warm, soapy water [I also inadvertently washed out my eyes] and filled in all of the little holes in the wall with spackle. I also filled in the larger holes in the wall left by the former owners. It looks to me like they attempted to drag furniture down the hallway without turning it sideways and left gashes in the wall – looking much like a deer sharpening it’s antlers. I know this is rather farfetched but, “when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worthwhile.”

Sunday was a day of rest. And a day of staring at the walls, while holding up the paint swatches, and allowing my imagination to run away with me. I decided, much like Anne [you know, of Green Gables fame], that Clear Water was a truly boring color name. It will henceforth be named “The Blue of the Lake of Shining Waters.”

I then decided that I would make a patch out of spare drywall to fill the hole in our wall where the former owners ripped out a thermostat. I used three kitchen knives, a tape measure, a straight-edge, and a proficient amount of second-guessing myself. Eventually I ended up, through trial and error, with a piece of board small enough to fit in the hole, but big enough not to fall out the other side. I was not able to work out a way to attach the piece into the wall. I decided I would leave that mission until tomorrow, for “tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.”


On Monday, bright and early, the painting began. Painting on this day was done to the playlist “Chuffed” which is a Northern Ireland word meaning “warm and fuzzy happy feelings inside.” Littlest Little Brother and my mother were in attendance, and we began by putting a coat of sealant on the trim. At this point we realized that when you paint the trim above the door you look remarkably akin to an Israelite painting the door posts of his home with the blood of a lamb to prevent the entrance of the Angel of Death. From this point onward all door-trim painters will be known as True Israelites and are entitled to all the rights and privileges thereof. [For those of you unfamiliar with this Bible story you may refer to Exodus 12 or your handy video-cassette of The Prince of Egypt]


The worst part of painting, as I am sure you will agree, is the preparation to paint. The coat of sealant was the only painting we completed on Monday because so much time was taken by taping up the carpet, the door handles, the trim, and the window-panes. My dad came and painted the sealant of the built-in shelves. We should put a picture of him on the shelves in celebration of his work.

On Monday night we celebrated by trying out the non-pizza food of the new local pizza place and watching the first half of Anne of Green Gables. To say that tears were not shed would be a lie. When Marilla told Anne that she could stay at Green Gables my brothers cheered and hugged.

Perhaps the paint fumes were getting to us. Perhaps there was something in the calzones. Perhaps there’s something about Anne.

On Tuesday, Mom, Littlest Little Brother, Biggest Little Brother, Husband, Father, and Me all painted. We started [as each was able] and went from 8 – 5. On this day we were accompanied by the tunes of the 80s. Events included frequent validations of our True Israelite status, impromptu hall-way dances to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and falls into the “depths of despair” when Almond Cream drips settled onto the Blue-Gray carpet or into our hair.


Mom and I under no circumstances followed everyone else around with our paintbrushes to finish their previously finished doors. We aren’t fussy or perfectionists at all. We did not instruct Littlest Little Brother on the correct method to put paint on a brush or the correct way to stick tape onto the floor.

At the end of Tuesday’s painting we had completed the second coat of Almond Cream and all of the trim was finished. Words could not express our joy.


Wednesday morning dawned bright and windy. Impatiently and excitedly Mom and I opened The Blue of the Lake of Shining Waters. Mom did the “cutting-in” by the ceiling and I did the edging by the floor. We filled in the middle with the paint rollers. At this point we sent panicked texts to my Father to ask him to pick up another gallon of paint. The Blue of the Lake of Shining Waters did not go quite as far as we had expected.

Additionally we realized that we were not giants, nor Mr. Fantastic, and could not stretch to reach the top of the wall on the stairs. We tried to balance planks on our stepladder, but they were too short to reach the top of the stairs. Our lives were “perfect graveyards of buried hopes.” And we had to paint only up to the edges by the stairs.

At times when the paint went on the wall it looked white. At other times it looked brighter than the brightest color on the color cards. We hoped that when it grew up it would be a “real nice auburn” [that is to say, blue].


By the end of Wednesday we had completed our painting [the stairs aside] and it was lovely. We, accompanied by the strains of popular Disney songs, did two coats and then touched-up around the trim to get rid of any accidental drip-marks of blue where it was not welcome.

On Thursday I slept in. Then my husband and I moved the furniture back into the room. We tried various configurations and [because the piano weighs 435,565,359 tons] we settled on the one that required it to move the shortest distance.

Friday was made of grocery shopping, laundry, and pizza. The second half of Anne of Green Gables was watched. When [SPOILER ALERT] Matthew died tears were shed, shamelessly.

On Saturday my mother and I went to one of our favorite places: T J Maxx. We got curtains. What a simple sentence that was, “We got curtains” – what actually happened was a 1.5 hour trip to the Home Goods department where we had in our carts, at one point, 4 different styles of curtains. We narrowed it to two piles of room-décor stuff and, after much deliberation, calculation, measuring, hemming and hawing, and over-chair-draping we decided on one of the piles.


I will [for the sake of time] gloss over the 2 hour event that was the measuring, drilling, assembling, ironing, hanging, and rearranging on the curtains and leave you with a picture of the final result. “I know I chatter on far too much . . . but if you only knew how many things I want to say and don’t – give me some credit!”


At Home in the Depot

Prior to purchasing a house my average trip to Home Depot lasted about 3 minutes. It was typically a mad dash to the snow-shovel or light-blub department and a quick self-checkout. I would then recover from the dreaded visit with a double-shot latte and a large oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.

I would spend the rest of the day complaining about how the big-box-store air dried my contacts out and the bright lights gave me a headache.

I would spend extra money at local, smaller stores, just to avoid going inside.

No more.

I went to Home Depot and Lowes three times this past weekend. I perused many aisles. I took photos of things to send to my husband. I did multiplication and square-footages estimates on my cell phone. I drove through the parking lot slowly so that I could see the prices of things placed outside Home Depot. Then I went to Lowes and took more photos and stood staring at samples for 35 minutes. Then I went back to Home Depot and looked at their samples and did more multiplication.

Then I went home and went on lowes.com and homedepot.com and put things in baskets.

I am planning our next painting adventure. Our living room and hallway are currently a half-hearted shade of mustard. It is as though the previous owner wanted to paint the living room yellow but didn’t quite have the guts to do it properly and settled for a not-quite-so-yellow compromise. They also seem to have run out of paint halfway up the stairs. You can see where they rolled the paint roller and then where they gave up on rolling.

I will be painting the living room, stairs, and hallway a lovely blue color that has yet to be determined. My recent trip to Home Depot [along with my long-suffering mother] was to acquire paint cards to stick up and around the room. The colors vary in loveliness from “Afternoon Siesta Blue” to “Hazy Seacliff Teal” and “Ionic Sky.”

While at Home Depot we almost purchased kitchen tile, laminate wood flooring, a lawn mower, a shed, bushes, and counter-tops [this blog entry does not even include the trip we made to TJ Maxx the same day where I almost purchased three sets of curtains, five paintings, and a large assortment of throw pillows].

I should set up some sort of deal with our bank where I am not able to spend more than an allotted sum of money on any given trip to Home Depot or Lowes without adult supervision. It is my grown-up version of a candy store.

[Let’s be honest, though, I would behave exactly the same way in a candy store]

Tune in sometime after April Vacation to read about our upcoming escapades with the blue paint in the living room! I will count this décor-spree a success if I manage to paint the entire room without getting any paint in my eyebrows.


Dresser Woes [Or, The Night that Netflix Won]

Yesterday I tried to build a dresser. It was going to be wonderful. I had this great plan. I even tweeted about it. I told people at work about my plan.

Thursdays are the day that my husband doesn’t get home until late, so I thought I’d build the dresser and put all the clothes in it, instead of their current position on the floor in piles [or not in piles, as the case may be], and set up the new bedside lamps and put pictures on the walls [which have been blank since my recent painting extravaganza]. Then, when my husband got home, I would surprise him. Oh, it was a lovely plan!

Being proficient in DIY is an important part of owning your own home. I thought to myself, what better way to practice DIYing than to DIY a dresser all by myself on a school night before dinner.

The first step to building any dresser is opening the box. I tried to move the box into a convenient opening and building location. It was too heavy. I thus decided to build the dresser in the living room, blocking the entrance from the kitchen to any part of the house. It would be built by the time anyone needed to access a bathroom, right?

I searched for our box-cutter, but when I came upon a steak knife first I decided that it was more than sufficient for opening the box. When I opened the box it contained all the pieces in a color much darker than I had expected – so dark, in fact, that I might decide not to paint it after all. I also decided not to use that steak knife for eating steak ever, ever again. The box did not seem like it came from a frequently cleaned warehouse.

There were approximately 543,459,305.21 nails and screws and other screw-like things and those special screwy things into which you screw screws. They were itemized in 14 languages on a piece of paper that contained 20 deceptively simple looking steps to build a dresser.

I couldn’t find a hammer, which the pictures strongly recommended, but I thought that the back end of my Phillips Head screwdriver would work just fine. It was heavy. I could hold on to the screwing part and swing it like a hammer.

One of the first steps included hammering little plastic pieces that are used to make the drawer slide in-and-out into the wood of the drawer. My screwdriver was insufficient. I narrowly missed my fingers several times and so I spent an additional 30 minutes searching the house for the hammer. I found it in the kitchen drawer where I had tidied it after I had last done household fixer-uppering.

After 15 minutes of very loud hammering the first step was done. 1 down, 19 to go! Then it came time to screw the front part of the drawers into the side pieces of the drawers. The picture of the screws that I was supposed to use looked like no screws I was in possession of, and so I took a guess and started screwing. Forty minutes and two blisters later I was done with the left side of the drawers. I couldn’t figure out how to make our special screwdriver go “righty-tighty” as opposed to “lefty loosey” and so I had to use the regular screwdriver and, at one point, nearly poked my eye out while rearranging my wayward pony-tail.

The next step also called for unidentifiable screws. Eventually, after much measuring and deliberation and comparison, I chose a screw and started to try to put it where it was supposed to go. I screwed it [despite my blisters] and it would not screw. I tried hammering it on the top a little and it would not hammer. I tried fitting the other options into the hole and they either disappeared or wouldn’t fit. I tried cursing the screws. I tried cursing the screwdriver. Neither was intimidated into fulfilling my request.

At this point my husband arrived home to quickly change his clothes before heading out again. My brother was riding with him. I’d been working on the dresser for over 2 hours.

They entered a house to see me, grumpily, sitting on the floor trying to force several different screws into several different holes with several different screwdrivers. I [in high-pitched tones] informed them of my troubles with the hammer, and my plan about the pictures on the walls, and I [tearfully] demonstrated to them the actions of the rebellious screws.

Then I moved all the pieces of the dresser to lean against the wall and made myself a bowl of pasta in alfredo sauce and watched Netflix.