thoughts on. . .Paris?

I spent my 21st birthday and New Year’s in Paris.  It was one of the best times of my life.  I’m not going to litter Instagram or this blog with pictures of my travels and in conjunction, talk about how tragic the terrorist attacks were.  They were.  Everyone loves Paris, almost everyone has been to Paris.  Even my students in rural Japan knew all about Paris.  It’s the city of love, cafes, great art, and spiritual pilgrimage.  But it has people like any other city and the reason the attacks there are garnering so much attention and sympathy (and front page news multiple days in a row) is because Westerners—white Westerners—feel it is their city.  And if the terrorist attacks can happen there, they can happen in London, Chicago, Toronto.  Anywhere.

Pot here, calling kettle black.  Honestly, I cared more because it was Paris.  And I shouldn’t.  It popped up more in my news feeds because there are more English-speaking, Western journalists on the ground or in close proximity to Paris than to Cairo, Beirut, or Istanbul.  I may have to actively seek out news because my feeds are biased towards people who are already like me—even if that “likeness” is only the fact that we’ve eaten croissants in front of the Arc de Triomphe and we really like Monet.

LEBANON-master675If we want to go by casualties, more people died in Egypt at the hand of ISIS this month than died in Paris.  224 innocent people dead.  100+ innocent people died in Istanbul last month while attending a PEACE RALLY.  Their stories were blips on my screen, and received brief news coverage.  They certainly didn’t receive an outpouring of love on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.  This might sound harsh, but I believe that’s because Westerners lump all Middle Eastern/Eastern countries together.  No one will make a movie about the Russian passenger jet downed by terrorists.  That’s already been done.

Anywhere where brown people are the majority of the population, we assume, like we assume of victims of rape, that they were somehow in close proximity or were asking for it or knew the perpetrators.  And while these things are never said, aren’t they implied by our disinterest in HIGHER and MORE FREQUENT murders in those countries?  Aren’t they also victimized by ISIS, just like France?  Or if we are going by the number of occurrences and casualties, we should word that more like “France was attacked by ISIS, just like these other countries.”

I’m notoriously bad at following the news because it’s incredibly depressing.  There isn’t a huge difference in political knowledge between me and my toddler.  Fo reals.  College was my Joni Mitchell period: I was the secretary of Students for Social Justice, attended political rallies, listened to NPR religiously, read the NYT almost from cover to cover, and knew what was going on.  And it didn’t make me happy.  But you know what, maybe I don’t deserve to be happy when terrorist attacks are more common that earthquakes.  When people are fleeing their beloved homelands so their children can be safe, go to school, have food.

But I mean to become more educated and to care more, because Jesus suffered and sat with the poor in spirit.  He lived in Egypt, and Lebanon, and he was brown.  Mary looked much more like the women in the above photo than a fair Mona Lisa.  And Jesus’ empathy for others was generous and egalitarian.  God is hurting with France, Turkey, Egypt, Russia, and Lebanon.  He’s hurting with Syria and Iraq too.  My only thoughts on Paris are that I have to open my eyes to the world and send love, sympathy, solidarity to all those who are suffering.  Especially those whose voices aren’t as loud, whose deaths don’t gain the attention they deserve.

**Image courtesy of the NYT.


confession: I have diabetes.

IMG_2863Heart on sleeve.  You may have noticed a little *chirp. . .chirp* with this whole blogging thing.  I used to blog 2-3 times a week, even with a newborn.  It kept me sane.  Lately the posts have been dwindling, not because I didn’t want to write but because I lost passion for the things that make me ZOOM.  Call it mojo, ambitions, hobbies, whatever. . .I’ve been in a rut.  And the best way to get over that rut (for this consummate extrovert) is to share it.

With past ruts, my husband would command, “Heather, turn on some music, get into the kitchen and cook!” (in the least sexist way possible).  I would grumblingly put on some angry 90’s bitch rock, bust out a beautiful cookbook, and for an hour be focused on scooping, measuring, and producing something deliciously ephemeral.

Then about a year ago, a lot of things happened.  I’m one of those annoying people that things happen to/around, and I rather wish they wouldn’t.  Let’s leave the earthquakes and shootings stories (and a beheading!) for another time.  The point is, I learned a year ago that one of the most unsettling things that can happen to you is for your own body to suck.

I was diagnosed with several conditions and allergies, most of which have the same dietary limitations. If I say “screw it” and decide I’m OK with my face swelling if I eat a slice of pizza, it will affect another condition and I’ll have fun symptoms times 2.  Here are the dietary restrictions if I’m going to be perfect for a day:

  • low nuts
  • low fruit
  • low dairy
  • low alcohol
  • no gluten
  • low “healthy” sugars like agave, honey, maple
  • low fake sugars like aspartame, splenda
  • no meat (this is the only self-imposed restriction)
  • low carbs, including rice and whole grains
  • low salt & caffeine
  • keep cold & hot foods and drinks to a minimum
  • consume exactly 100g of protein every day

As you can see, this diet leads to starvation and malnutrition.  I stopped cooking and blogging with passion, because I LOVE blogging about food.  I baked tons of things for other people just to live vicariously and became that crazy lady who forced brownies on people: “EAT them!!!! They are cooked with Guinness and have a ganache icing, I promise you’ll love them!”

Along with this, I was diagnosed with the ugliest of words: diabetes.  I’ve had another endocrine condition since I was a teenager—PCOS. There’s a great, humorous, heartwarming blog post I am entirely grateful for about it here and a more science-y Atlantic article here.  PCOS causes insulin resistance, and women with PCOS are more likely to be overweight.  In turn, overweight people are more likely to have diabetes, which is an insulin-resistant state.  It’s a triple whammy.  33% of women with PCOS also produce little to no breast milk, which I found out after giving birth to Lucy and trying to nurse her.  I wrote a blog post about that struggle and feeling like a non-woman here.  Given the risks of getting diabetes with PCOS, and being overweight since before the Internet was invented, I’ve been regularly tested for diabetes.  It was always negative.

After my pregnancy with Lucy, I lost all the pregnancy weight and then some.  I weighed less than I did when the first negative diabetes test came back.  And you guessed it. . .I had diabetes.  How could I be diabetic after LOSING a significant amount of weight?  My doctor said “It’s not your fault.  You’re predisposed, and pregnancy often exacerbates conditions so that things you are prone to become a reality after having the baby.”  I started crying, picturing endless insulin pumps in my future.  I felt like I was diabetic because I was fat.  I hid sugar testing strips, kept my food diary a secret, or swung the other way and ate everything other people ate so they wouldn’t think I was weird.

It turns out there is no direct causal relationship between being fat and having diabetes (as my skinnier, healthier, diabetic self proved) but there is a lot of shame surrounding diabetes because that was the old way of thinking.  Do a lot of fat people have diabetes?  Yes. But there are also 300 lb.-plus people who don’t have it at all.  There is merely a high correlation, much like how there is a high correlation between having acne and being a teenager.  But not all teenagers have acne, and many adults do.

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.  Type 2 is generally perceived as the preventable disease you eat yourself into, much like how a lot of people with lung cancer smoke excessively.  Type 1 diabetics love to talk about diabetes: “I’m Type 1 diabetic,” say Halle Berry and Chef Sam Talbot, while the rest of us say “I’m diabetic,” and leave it up to others’  imaginations whether this is because of diet or not.  It’s time to debunk that shame.  Type 1 diabetics, good for you.  Type 2 diabetics, hold your heads high.  Even if you are fat.  After meeting with nutritionists, several endocrinologists, a diabetic educator, and regular doctors in New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas, I can say with confidence: “I’m Type 2 diabetic, and it’s not my fault.” Managing diabetes, with PCOS and other conditions, requires a sense of humor, creativity, and weighing pros and cons on a daily basis.  I’ve learned that:

  1. I can’t follow the diet listed above.  It’s not possible to eat only vegetables and beans and be happy.  Plus you’re a really annoying houseguest.
  2. It’s OK to choose “lesser evils” and deal with some annoying but manageable symptoms.  For example, I had a small slice of birthday cake at a party this week, carefully scraping around the icing so I was just eating cake.  I dealt with the facial and eyeball swelling, and the fun indigestion because of the gluten.  I tested my blood sugar and it was fine.  1 point for managing diabetes!  You win some, you lose some.
  3. I need to continue to enjoy eating, cooking, and blogging to stay sane.
  4. I need to come to peace with my body and do the best I can.

It’s weird to advertise a personal medical condition on the Internet for anyone to read.  And there are so many worse things I could have like cancer.  Don’t think I’m not grateful to have something that’s manageable.  But diabetes, especially Type 2, is an elephant in the room that needs to be talked about. Diabetics and women with PCOS struggle with health on a daily basis.  We don’t need a sticky layer of shame on top of that.  We definitely don’t need to be fat-shamed.  You know what fat-shaming does?  It makes people bury their feelings in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

So I’m getting back into the kitchen, and (hopefully) blogging more regularly.  Lucy napped this morning (thank you, Jesus), and I took the opportunity to open the “Smitten Kitchen” cookbook for the first time, carefully earmarking all the fabulous recipes to try.  I may have to tweak them, eat them sparingly, and weigh pros and cons, but opening up that cookbook and getting excited about cooking *for myself* was an achievement a long time coming.  I’m going to go turn on some music and cook.

to tidy or not to tidy?. . .a skeptic’s review

IMG_2585-2When this bestseller was released I snickered.  Any book title that begins with “The Japanese art of ~” gets an automatic eye roll from me.  Can you imagine a book called “The American art of sport/food/cleaning/etc.”?  Labeling a skill as not only an art but one that is shared by an entire culture is a dangerous enterprise.  I lived in Japan for five years, and there are hoarders and slobs there like anywhere else.  There is no sweeping “art” driving the Japanese to modify their lifestyles or houses.  But several people recommended the book to me, my friend Chris being the last to say “No really, I was skeptical too but you have to read it, it’s changed my life.”  Since Chris is similarly skeptical of Oprah Book Club lists and New York Times bestsellers and is my go-to for all kinds of inspiration, I immediately ordered it from Amazon.  And you guys, it’s changing my life.

Maybe Marie Kondo is trying to start a movement and her methodology IS the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing, much like how Martha Stewart invented the American art of being, well, perfect.   I’ll swallow the icky title and take it as a bold manifesto rather than a generalization about the entire culture.  Sidenote: the flip side to exoticizing an entire culture is that you continue to see them as “Other.”  The more you travel and live in other cultures, the more you realize people are similar everywhere.  “Stars, they’re just Like Us!” etc.

The truth is, I’m 50 pages into “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and started reading it LAST NIGHT.  And I stayed up until 1:00am (poor choice, I’ll admit) throwing out an entire trash bag of old stationery, letters from students I looked at once every five years, etc. In doing so I basically didn’t follow Kondo’s advice, which is to start tidying your home by just sitting and thinking.  But still, I was INSPIRED quickly by a book I expected to hate.  Here is Kondo’s basic advice, distilled for all you skeptics and translated into my own words.  It’s incredibly simple yet I’ve never thought of how effective and transforming it would be to organize this way:

  1.  Start by asking yourself what kind of life you want to have.  What are your goals?  Example: I want to be a writer who is calm.  I’m calm when I do yoga.  I want to write and do yoga on a regular basis.  This step is necessary because “tidying up” is not just cleaning or organizing.  It’s creating space for the life you want, not the life you get caught up in and just maintain out of laziness, busyness, etc.
  2. Ask 3 follow-up questions (at least) for each of those goals.  Such as “OK, I want to be a writer?  Why?  What does writing achieve for me?  How do I feel when I write?” etc.  For yoga:  “How does yoga calm me?  Why yoga and not another activity?  Do I want to do it for agility, weight loss, etc., or just to calm my mind?”  This step is necessary because anyone who starts off with a vague goal like “I want to write” will never do it on a consistent basis without knowing all the why’s.  And in asking the why’s they may discover what they REALLY want is to do another activity.
  3. Think of an ideal space you could come home to that would nurture this lifestyle and habits.  Be specific.  For example, what is your ideal writing & yoga environment?  This could be as simple as having writing utensils on hand and a sturdy desk & yoga mat, or it could be (and probably should be) more cohesive, like “Well, I do yoga best when the room is organized a certain way and the mat is one of the first things I see when I walk in the room.” This is the daydreaming portion of the KonMari method: look at magazines, notice friends’ houses, and think of an ideal space.  I’ll add one caveat that Kondo doesn’t talk about: think of an ideal space, not ideal STUFF.  Because in my ideal yoga space, I’d have a reflecting pool and a garden facing the mountains.  And that’s not realistic with my budget or with living in Houston.  But how I want to FEEL when I come home and creating a yoga-inducive environment IS something I can daydream about.
  4. Once you have a vision in mind, DO NOT CLEAN OR ORGANIZE ANYTHING.  Instead, start by throwing stuff away.  The only criterion for throwing stuff away is asking yourself “Does this spark joy?”  Of course this criterion doesn’t apply to things like floss and tampons.  There are functional practicalities we have to keep around, and I wish Marie talked more about those.  By throwing things away you will create space for the items you want to keep, and all you have to do after that is find space for the things you truly love, and then your life is about maintain that one place for that item (i.e. putting it back on a daily basis), rather than about organizing.  Ever again.  In fact, Kondo says she spends 1-2 hours once a YEAR organizing her home.  That’s all the time you need when everything is already in its place, and you’ve eliminated huge amounts of closet items, storage items, and anything that doesn’t spark joy or isn’t immediately useful.   (Note the word immediately, not “I’m saving this old car mirror because it might look cool if repurposed into a mirror for my vanity.  One day.”)
  5. Throw things away quickly, in concentrated spurts.  Do not ask “Do I have room to keep this?”  Or “where could I place this?”  Only ask “Does it spark joy?” or, phrased in another way, “Does this object contribute to the lifestyle and goals I outlined earlier?”  I get stuck on #5.  This is the meat.  Kondo says that we have to throw things away quickly because otherwise we will find reasons to keep them. And also because when we tidy up on a continual basis, our lives are never the way we want them to be.  We are constantly back to square one (How many times have you thrown away a garbage bag of stuff, only to spend $200 at Target and replace that quantity with another?)  Kondo says, Give me 6 months.  6 months of your life where you will intensely throw away and then reorganize your remaining space, and you will never have to tidy again.  She says this will be intense, hard work, and it is.  This is not a “buy these handy-dandy storage systems” kind of book.  You are basically gutting your life.  #5 is also hard because I’ve always approached organizing from the point-of-view of the object itself, rather than from the point-of-view of my life as a whole.  For example, I used to collect little bodhisattvas and Buddhas from our travels in Asia.  When we acquired a new one, I would think “What shelf can I put this on?” and if I got too many, “Who can I give this to?” or “Could this fit in storage?”  I gave the object itself authority to determine whether I kept it or not. If it was small and could easily be stashed someplace (like the drawers under our bed) it stayed.  100 tchotchkes later and I may have room to walk around my house, but the longer I live the more things keep piling up.  I revisit them when we box up our stuff and move, do a quick little, “Ah, cute Buddha!” and move to a new city.  All while hauling this STUFF.
  6. Throw items out by type, not by area.  Probably Kondo’s most useful tip. I’ve tried to clean out Lucy’s closet only to spend hours smelling her old baby clothes, showing them to Michael, reading through old letters from my students, etc.  I MIGHT come away with one bag to donate.  Instead, Kondo says you should say “Today, I’m going to throw out all the books that don’t bring me joy.”  All. the. books. in. your. house.  Because we are nesting, complicated people we tend to have different areas for the same objects (6 rolls of masking tape, anyone?)  Eliminating by type rather than by area helps you identify multiple objects and not get sidetracked by mementos.
  7. Revisit #1-6 as you struggle with throwing away items.  Cleaning and organizing will come later. For now, just throw away items.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten in the book, but I hope this helps other skeptics.  Like most self-aware people, I can TASTE #1.  I know what my ideal lifestyle looks like, what kind of space I need to come home to.  Now I just need to keep whittling down our space like a beaver cutting tree trunks into poles. It’s hard work but I think our home and life will be a lot less heavy without all this stuff. More to come once I’ve finished the book. . .and deep thanks to Chris for convincing me to give it a try!

PS.  I realize this isn’t a very critical review, but I don’t have much to critique at this point.  One thought while reading it though was to distinguish between what brings you joy and what brings other people joy whom you live with.  My daughter has little nests of what I would call “trash” all over her room, but they bring her a lot of joy to crinkle and play with.  And similarly, my husband has a lot of Genesis albums lying around.  Also trash.  Just kidding. . .kind of.  (Love you, Michael :))  There is a lot of “I” in Marie’s book, but we have to consider the people we live with.  And they may have different criteria for what brings them joy.

tip Tuesday: parenting advice I should have listened to

Experts come out of the woodwork when you are about to be a parent: the postal worker, the mom at Whole Foods. . .even our godkids gave us advice.  And yet I look back and think “they were right, why didn’t I listen?”  With another baby on the way, I want to revisit pieces of advice that I never listened to. . .but should have.

1.  You won’t know unconditional love until you are a parent.

This one made my skin crawl, especially since we spent a long time trying to get pregnant.  Of course I knew love, I’d been dreaming of this baby for years!  I thought unconditional love was similar to love you feel for your best friend or a spouse, but it’s not.  You can love your partner a whole lot, but if he/she starts killing people you’ll quickly rethink that commitment.  It’s conditional.  But Lucy could kill someone and I’d be like “Tell me why, honey.  Let’s work through this.  I’m calling a lawyer.  Where’s the body?” Similarly, NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.  Our mere existence brings joy.  I include our first baby that we lost through miscarriage in this category.  So maybe it’s better to define “parent” more broadly to include those who don’t get to meet their kids, because they love those babies as fiercely in the womb as out.

2.  A beautiful, good birth is one that ends in a baby being born. 

C-section, epidural, natural birth, birthing tub. . .who cares?  Parenting choices stem from so many different factors, many of which are outside the parent’s control.  Let the birth happen how it will and enjoy having a baby.  That’s the goal, no judgment.

3.  The days are long but the years are short, so enjoy them.

I wanted to slap everyone who said “The time flies, enjoy it.  My baby is now 18, and it seems like she just started walking!  You are so lucky.”  I looked at them with raccoon eyes and a bit of panic.  Why were they telling me to enjoy something that was happening to me, as if I had time to catalogue it and soak it up?  Time is interminably long when you are vomited on, getting little sleep, toggling too many schedules.  Michael’s cousin who has grown kids said “You are tired now Heather, but let me know when you get weary.”  Weary is a whole other world, my friends.  At weary I forgot my last name when filling out a doctor’s form.  Seriously.  But then your baby is turning one and you stare at your partner like “How did this happen?”  I still haven’t made Lucy’s baby book, or organized the thousands of pictures of her or found the perfect diaper rash cream.  She went from being a tomato-faced preemie to running through parks with me, cracking jokes, saying sentences and asserting her independence.  She has the funnest personality and is one of my favorite people to hang out with.  I wonder if I wasted all those early moments, yet I know I enjoyed them as much as possible.  There is never enough time.  And yet there is also too much when we are firmly entrenched in the daily grind. Love warps time.

4.  Sleep when the baby sleeps.

We never learn.  Lucy goes to bed at 7:30 and it is PARTY time.  It’s our time to watch Orange Is the New Black, have a late dinner, connect as a couple.  Sometimes after hanging with Michael I’ll stay up until 1am reading and listening to music.  It’s not sustainable, especially when Lucy has nightmares or wakes up early.  When she was a newborn we would watch her sleep, not because we were worried about her but because she was so cute and beautiful.  We’d channel Annie Leibovitz and do a photo shoot.  But yesterday Lucy took a two-hour nap, and for the first time EVER we both napped and it was mir-a-cu-lous.  I’m going to do that more often—knock on wood.  It’s also OK to take some Benadryl (if you can’t nap like me) and conk out.  You’ll wake up happier to see your baby.

5.  Be silly.

This advice came from our god kids.  It’s easy for my life to become over-scheduled.  Last Thursday I decided enough was enough and we went to the pool with Lucy and were just silly.  No agenda.  Bills and appointments and house cleanings have a way of finding you, but joy is ephemeral.  So it might seem ironic, but plan silly time. Parenting culture can be so fussy, competitive, overworked.  Nina Garcia’s voice rings in my head when she sees a “tortured” outfit on the runway:  “It has no JOY. It’s just. . .sad.”  When I feel my chest tightening up and it seems like we’ll never have enough money or time—THAT anxious moment is an opportunity to be silly.  Even if it’s for 60 seconds in the car with my favorite dance music.

6.  Don’t put clothes on your baby registry.

People like to see babies toddling around in whatever onesie they bought, so you will get oodles of outfits your child will wear for a week before they need to go up a size.  I mailed half of Lucy’s clothes to friends and family, and yet somehow have 4 boxes in storage for the next baby.  Register for necessities like books, diapers, creams, wipes, strollers, diaper bags, bottles, etc.  Register for unsexy things like gift cards.  If people think that’s “impersonal” they can feel free to buy you something off the grid and when they have a child they’ll understand why you registered for boring stuff.

7.  Don’t be hesitant to ask for specific help.

This is one of my biggest faults.  I’ll ask people to pray for me vaguely but I rarely ask for concrete help. In reality, people are willing to help, they just won’t offer without prompting.  Ask for specific things. Use a barter system or an IOU for when they have a child.  Karma can be a beautiful thing and when they have children, I will lop off my right arm for the people who were so generous to our family, especially during the first 6 months.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask for hand-me-downs from parents who have older kids. Specifically items like diaper bags, breast pumps, toys, etc.  You can always mail them back when you are finished or pass them on to someone else in need.  They are probably gathering dust in a storage unit anyway.
  • Ask your “foodie” friends to make dishes for you, especially right after your child arrives.  Anything you can throw in a freezer and reheat is great.  I seriously cried over food deliveries, especially after having a botched C-section (which I’ve never blogged about, come to think of it).  I can still taste Emily’s casserole and Nora’s cookies.  God bless you both.
  • Ask your OCD friends to do a housecleaning party, either before or after baby.  Turn on some awesome tunes, order in lunch and make it fun.  Or put cleaning service gift cards on your registry.
  • Update everyone on how stuff is going with your baby.  If your baby is in the NICU, or has developmental complications, people want to know and want to help. They will never be able to support you emotionally or physically if you don’t let them in.  Births and the first couple years can be rough.
  • Have a “time shower.”  Ask for gifts of time rather than money/stuff.  You can make a list of things that would be helpful like watching the baby while you and your partner go out on a date. Email the list out and include it with your registry.   It might sound cheesy but time is a parent’s most precious gift.

8.  You can be selfish in making decisions for your baby. Don’t feel guilty about it. 

Michael’s brother got married two months after Lucy was born, and Lucy and I didn’t go to the wedding.  Because she was a preemie and immunizations were at the three-month mark, our doctor said it was best for her not to be in close proximity to a lot of people, and to especially avoid places like airports, even if I wore her at the wedding and we ducked out of the reception early.  I felt super guilty for not buying tickets and not being there for a big event in our family’s life. A few days before the wedding, Lucy ended up being hospitalized for RSV, a serious respiratory virus.  She was in the ICU for several days and would have had to miss the wedding anyway.  This confirmed my decision—her body was still fragile and weak.  But even if she hadn’t been hospitalized, we made the best decision given our doctor’s advice.  In turn, I will always be flexible if someone needs to opt out of things for the sake of their child.

9.  It’s OK to go off the face of the earth for awhile.

I was ordering baby shit on Amazon the day after major surgery.  The nurse came in to help me go to the bathroom and and I was sitting cross-legged on the bed with my laptop and a to-do list.  The first few months especially, sleep, eat, sleep, love your baby, repeat.  Let other things fall by the wayside, lose touch with people.  Pull a Dave Chapelle, have a breakdown and let people wonder where you are. It will work out.

10.  When you make mistakes, apologize. And know that your child thinks you’re the bomb.

This advice came from one of my friends who has three grown kids and had a similar upbringing as me. Whenever she hears the undesirable parts of HER parents coming out of her mouth, she apologizes, hugs her kids fiercely and moves on. So do they.

11.  When someone gives you bad/hurtful advice, say “thank you” and don’t let it eat you up.  They are trying to be helpful in the best way they know how.

One of my friends is a zen-like nurse and does this when people give her advice about her daughter’s issues.  I suck at feigning gratitude and letting things slide; I’m trying to be more like her. When people gave advice to us about helping Lucy walk (she has structural problems with her arches and ankles and now wears orthotics) I would spit back “We do keep her toys up high” or “We take her to the park all the time,” etc.  Same with the nursing debate.  They’d be like “It was difficult for my daughter to latch but we were persistent and finally got it.”  I’d say, “I’m assuming you produced more than 50ml of milk though, right?”  Especially with people you don’t know well and random strangers, put on your therapist hat and bounce it back at them.  Say, “Wow, I’m so glad that worked for you, thanks” or “You must have been relieved,” and move on.  You are under no obligation to adopt their advice.  Nor are you under any obligation to accept any of the above advice.

This is just stuff I’m hoping to remember for baby #2 because it rang true for us. . .eventually.  What is some of the best parenting advice you were told, and maybe never listened to or had a difficult time following?  I’d love to hear it!

Minnesota Homecoming

@Bobbie Printz

@Bobbie Printz—Little did I know that I was PREGNANT in this pic!

Mill from GuthrieComing home to Minnesota after 14 years away was like trying on that elusive pair of “skinny” jeans in the back of the closet.  They fit like a glove, you know all their contours, and yet they are surprisingly foreign-feeling: could this really be my new ass?   I was born in Owatonna, Minnesota and lived in St. Paul and Minneapolis on and off for 13 years total, so it’s the closest thing to “home” in this vagabond life that I find myself in (29 moves to date).  In my book, Minnesota ranks up there with Maine and Tennessee in the beauty department, which makes up for its lack of mountains.  Minnesotans (long ‘o’) believe in city planning and preserving nature and yes, it has over 10,000 lakes and hundreds of rivers in a small space.  I finally decided needing a vacation to see my bosom friend Bobbie was a good enough reason to go last May.  The trip was equal parts nostalgia and discovery, which is exactly what I wanted.IMG_0065Being away from Lucy for longer than 24 hours was difficult at first, but emotionally much-needed.  Can I get an AMEN, parents?  Nothing beats having quality girl time.  Here was our itinerary just for the first two days, and a few favorite pictures. . .OK more than a few favorites.  I blame Bobbie for knowing all the best spots in town.  .  .she is an amazing photographer and I had as much fun taking some candid shots of her as of the scenery!


  • Tongue in Cheek restaurant, St. Paul–Bobbie is friends with the owners and I’d been drooling over her Instagram feed of shots from this place for months.  Highly recommend the cocktail flyte that has fun names like “Tickle My Pickle.”  That flyte was just for me (crazy mom out on her own).  #sorrynotsorry  The appetizers are to die for.  New American cuisine and had some innovative flavor combos I’d never encountered before.
  • Cafe Latte—great coffee but you go there for the cheesecake!  Missed you Chris and Merry!
  • Long luxurious bath to get rid of plane grime at Bobbie’s adorable place
  • Watched “Center Stage,” our classic chick flick, and another movie I can’t remember

Tongue in CheekTongue in Cheek friesBobbie & drink flightCafe Latte in the RainBobbie's placebathSaturday (highly recommend this itinerary if you ever go to Minneapolis.  Great workout, very walkable, good mix of parks, backroads, and city). 

  • Caribou date (wish we had Caribou in Texas!)
  • Stone Arch Bridge
  • Nicollet Island
  • The Guthrie Theater–I’d been here as a kid for a couple stage productions, but we went for the mirrored windows that give you cool views of Minneapolis.  It was like being inside an Escher painting.
  • Mill City—a flour mill next to the Guthrie that burned down and was turned into a museum, with modern glass parts woven into the old brick and steel structure.  Probably my favorite thing we saw.
  • Chill night in: Chinese food, painting, and “Bridesmaids”—important when you are traveling to not get TOO burnt out and eat in.

photo 26

photo 50

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Mill from bridge

Mill City copy







@Bobbie Printz

@Bobbie PrintzIMG_0391