Archive for July, 2012

  • Little Words

    Date: 2012.07.30 | Category: Baby, Dogs, Family, Sarah | Response: 29

    Let’s talk about toddler words.

    I’m still kind of paranoid that Sarah isn’t talking as much as she should, but as long as the doctor reassures me that she’s just fine, I’m just going to shrug my shoulders and say, “ok.” I know all too soon I’ll be saying, “Please be quiet!”

    I can tell that her limited vocabulary frustrates her sometimes as she rattles off a series of unintelligible phrases and looks at me like an idiot when I don’t understand.

    But as more words come into focus, I start to realize what having another little talker in the house is going to mean.

    One of her most recent words? “No.” But she says it like I say to her when she’s doing something she’s not supposed to. That is, a string of “no’s.” When she’s getting her diaper changed, it’s “No no no no no no.” When I take something away from her, that little string of N’s comes flying off her tongue in angry succession.

    And then there are the “one off words.” These are words I’ve heard her say more than once in the correct context, but she quickly gets tired of them and won’t say them again. “Shoes,” for example, or “Dance.” When I ask her to say them again later, she looks at me and laughs like it is the funniest thing in the world and completely ignores the request.

    And she refuses to attempt “kitty” or “cat,” but instead emits an enthusiastic mew. I guess she’s speaking their language?

    But of all her words, her favorite is clearly “Dog.” Every animal is a dog. She points to photos of horses, “Dog.” She points to our dogs running through the house, “Dog.” She hears the dogs barking outside “Dog!” And she says it with a heavy assertion. DOG.

    One of my favorite things though is that she can correctly identify my words. “Do you want some milk?” She runs to the fridge and tries to open it. “Are you hungry?” She runs to her high chair and tries to climb in. “Do you want to go outside?” She runs to her sandals, grabs them and then runs to the door. “Will you give mama a big kiss?” She comes at me smiling, mouth open and lays one on my cheek. “Can you point to the dog?” She walks over to her book and points to the Dalmatian.

    I get such a kick of her ability to figure things out and interact with us. We’re just shy of 16 months. Where has the time gone?

  • What I’ve Been Reading

    Date: 2012.07.26 | Category: Books | Response: 10

    Yesterday during lunch, after a lively discussion about J.R.R. Tolkien, a co-worker asked me if I’ve noticed that I read less now that I have a child. “No,” I replied, “In fact, I think I read more.” This is due in large part to owning a Kindle, having any book imaginable at my fingertips and getting on the audio book bandwagon so I can listen while I design. Plus, thanks to my mini book club with Noel, I’m reading and talking about books with someone, which makes it a whole lot more fun.

    Here is what I’ve read lately:

    Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

    This is the sequel to A Discovery of Witches, and I think it’s actually better than the first installment. Yes I know you’re probably tired of vampires and several feature predominantly in this story, but there’s also a time walking witch that takes you back to the late 1500’s to Elizabethan England, France and Prague. The School of Night features predominantly in this story, including Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Mary Sidney also plays an important role, and the vampire turns out to be an important member of the heretical group. I love the story in this book, and the star struck awe of the historian witch as she learns to embrace Elizabethan England and those around her whose fates she already knows. Plus the love story is volatile and beautiful. This book was a win for me.

    Matched and Crossed by Ally Condie

    These are the first two books of a trilogy. After reading Divergent and Insurgent (below), I wanted something else to read in the dystopian YA vain.  And while I was skeptical of this series it ended up being good! Is it completely original? No. I could tell the author was very familiar with The Giver, but I love how the books emphasize the importance of creating and art and its impact on culture. The main characters are a bit confusing, but the story is a good and a quick read. I’m looking forward to the final installment this November.

    The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

    This story takes place in Old Testament times and centers around Masada, a refuge for Jews fleeing the Roman empire. The four different women who tell the story in this book all work together at a dovecote attending to the doves. This one started slow for me because there was just so much desert wandering. Once they got to the camp though, the story improves drastically. There are many things I love about this book. For one, there is a definite exploration of all the aspects of “female,” for another, I learned so much about the Jewish culture of the time and I felt like it gave me a fresh perspective on OT scripture. And finally, the author researched Masada for years prior to writing the book and it shows. There is a lot of fact incorporated into the story. It’s an intriguing read.

    Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

    I’ve been a fan of the Sookie Stackhouse books since the first season of True Blood aired. However, they’ve been going down a slow decline and are just sort of boring now. Love interests are all pittered out. Vampire drama is off in a far away state. The north Louisiana backdrop has all but faded away and we’re left with a grade school style murder mystery in this installment. I love the characters, but this was so disappointing.

    Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth

    Get ready for a gushing review, because I can’t say enough good things about these two books. Again, these are the first two books of a trilogy. The premise is that there are five factions that represent good qualities in the human race: erudite (knowledge), dauntless (courage), amity (peace), abnegation (selflessness) and candor (honesty). Each person in the society goes through a simulation at a certain age and gets labeled with a faction. However, there are a few people who are “divergent” and match multiple categories. The main character, Tris, is a great lead female, and her story of the faction she chooses and the initiation process to enter that faction is a page turner. When the dystopian elements really come into play at the end, the story escalates and I couldn’t put it down. The sequel, Insurgent, is equally intriguing. And to top it off a 22-year-old wrote these books in between homework assignments. I really can’t recommend these two books enough. The final installment will be one I stalk on the Kindle store.

    Fifty Shades of Gray by E.L. James

    Who hasn’t heard of this racy book? Practically every woman in the U.S. is reading it. But you know what? I didn’t like it. Not even a little. I cringe at bad writing and I cringe at bad stories, but sometimes I can get over one if the other is good. But this book is bad writing with absolutely no plot. The writer needed an editor. BAD. Plus, it’s Twilight fan fiction, so it’s hardly original. I’ve heard the sequels are better, like they actually have a story line, but I don’t think I can get past the terrible writing to read any more.

    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

    Disclaimer: I’m a huge Murakami fan. I listened to the audio book of this one. Per the writer’s usual style, it was weird and probably a little too long, but it was so good. I’m trying to think of how to even explain it. It’s about a girl who writes a book about something supernatural and it turns out to be true. The guy who ghost writes her story to improve its style also gets involved. And then there is another story about a girl who kills men who have done bad things and a cult that centers around that supernatural event and somehow it all gets tied together. Weird? Absolutely. Beautiful? Without a doubt.

    Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

    If you haven’t’ figured it out by now, I love YA. This was YA fantasy, but not in the traditional sense. It involves trading teeth for wishes and a battle of chimera against angels. There’s a great tragic love story interwoven, and another world like I’ve never read before. It’s a fun, easy read and I’ll take the time to pick up the next one.

    There you have it! Now, I’m on to the other book everyone is raving about Gone Girl.

  • Olivia

    Date: 2012.07.23 | Category: Baby, Friends, Love, Photography | Response: 18

    A  little over a week ago, my best friend Susan gave birth to a beautiful little girl with a head full of soft brown hair. I consider this little one my niece and I can’t get enough of her. So this weekend we went to visit and brought the camera. We moved furniture, shifted blankets opened windows, took down picture frames and turned her living room into a studio. It was great fun.

    I loved how she looked like a little pixie in this head accoutrement.

    I photoshopped out her full name and birth date for privacy sake. Her mom gets the full version though.

    I really can’t get enough of baby kisses.

    I think that’s how she must have looked in utero.

    Don’t be surprised if there are a million more baby photos in the future. But that’s what we do around here, lots of babies and dogs.

  • Online Friending

    Date: 2012.07.17 | Category: Friends, Life, Travel | Response: 13

    I’m not sure what I expected when I started blogging.

    A place to keep my thoughts and share life stories and books? I thought a few of my close friends and family would stop by, read every once in a while and say hello in the comments.

    While I still do all those things, it’s also evolved into a place where I share my life and interact with my friends. And by friends, I mean all the people from across the United States who I’ve somehow befriended through this little place of Internet real estate.

    It’s funny, I often hear people embarrassingly explain how they met their spouse or significant other on the Internet, like it’s some great, big, bad, disrespectful thing. When I hear that, I quickly wave my hand and tell them that I’ve met some of my best friends on the Internet, people who I’ve flown to see and people who have, in turn, laid down their hard earned money to come see me. And while I find that some people tend to balk at such notions, more and more people tell me how great it is.

    So often I hear people complaining about the blogosphere: complaints about how blogging opens them up to hate and scrutiny from others, complaints about the overabundance of parenting advice and opinions, complaints about over sharing and differing opinions. And I know all of that stuff is very real and out there, but as a whole, I’ve found my blogging experience to be the exact opposite of that.

    I have found more support and friendship through blog buddies, most of whom I’ve never met in person. It starts with words of comfort, sharing stories, fears, similar experiences, advice. Then someone will send a chat, an email, a Facebook message or friend request and a personal conversation begins. And occasionally, you meet a brave soul like Cassie who just cold calls your phone to talk to you in person. And just like that you have a bonafide friend.

    Over the past couple of years blog friends have inspired me in so many ways. I’ve learned that coping with PPD is ok; that getting off your butt and going to the gym is actually possible with a busy life; that using natural and organic products isn’t just some hipster crap; that reading and discussing books gives you some very satisfying and intellectual adult conversation; that it’s ok to still write fiction even though I’m not in college anymore; that even though I’m married and have a kid, it’s still ok to have personal style; that it’s ok to be a little more adventurous in my culinary pursuits; that it’s ok to laugh and have intelligent conversation, even when you don’t agree; that you can take comfort that other parent’s kids aren’t saying full sentences at 15-months-old.

    I’m constantly amazed that all of these great people continue to engage in conversation and talk with me both on and off this blog, and I’m incredibly thankful for all the socialization my little piece of the Internet brings me every day. I mean, how else would I have befriended people in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Kentucky, New York City, South Carolina, and even in my own city?

    So if you’re not commenting on blogs, my advice to you would be go out and do it! You never know who you’re going to meet along the way.


    Cassie, me and Bluz at the Pittsburgh blogger meetup.

  • Wanting It

    Date: 2012.07.12 | Category: Friends, Health, Life, Mark, OMG YAY! | Response: 27

    I have this set perception of who I am and what I’m capable of, and I don’t often go beyond that, but when Cassie asked me to go to her RPM class in Pittsburgh, I agreed anyway. I partly wanted to support her in her fitness class and see what she’s capable of, and I also wanted to see if I could do it.

    Honestly? It kicked my butt, but I felt fantastic afterwards (well besides my friend heartburn which always settles in when I push myself). And when Cass told me the class is a near 700 calorie burn, I really felt fantastic, though a little wobbly-legged and butt sore.

    When I came back home to Louisiana, she urged me to find a gym and try Body Pump. I was really intimidated by it, but I had a free pass and managed to rope my sister and Angela into joining me. I did that class Saturday and my legs are still sore five days later. Was it easy? Um, no. I sucked at lunges, planks and pushups. Bad. But I did it. I completed it and  I felt accomplished.

    Today I decided to take on RPM again on my home turf. I already knew I could do it going in, which helped my mindset amazingly. I attacked it and pushed myself harder than last time. I fought and burned and struggled and said a litany of swear words in my head. Over half way through my brain clicked and I said, “Wow, I can really freaking do this.” And then I owned it. And afterwards my endorphins were soaring. I felt exhausted, but on top of the world.

    During the hardest part of RPM I had a flashback of the training I put my body through when I rowed in college. I was about 15-20 pounds lighter and in the best shape of my life. And during tonight’s class when I felt that familiar burn that I used to get on the rowing machine, I made a commitment to get myself back in that kind of shape.

    It will take a long time. It will take persistence. It will take a patient husband watching Sarah so I can do it. But I can.

    My goal for now is RPM on Wednesdays, Pump on Saturdays and core at home during the week. I hope I can work up to more as I get stronger. And I hope I can maintain this endorphin high. My sister is on board for going with me when our work schedules match up, so that will be good to have an ally too. Plus, for Mark’s sake, we’ve dubbed Wednesdays “crock pot Wednesdays” so I’m not rushing at the gym to get home and help fix dinner.

    I hope this is going to work. Send me good thoughts please!

  • Dancing Through Life

    Date: 2012.07.10 | Category: Baby, Bonnie Barrell, Books, Dogs, Family, Mark, Pets, Sarah | Response: 7

    Life has been kind of rough lately for a number of reasons, partly because my dog had explosive diarrhea all over my house while Susan was borrowing my steam cleaner, partly because the hubster has been frustrated a lot lately, partly because Sarah nearly ran in front of a car into the street two days ago leaving me with a lingering sense of guilt and fear, and partly for reasons that I may bring up another day.

    But today was suddenly brighter when a few things happened:

    1. The hubster surprised me with a  lunch date and fro-yo.

    2. The book I’ve been anticipating forever came out today and I downloaded the audiobook of it so I can listen while I design.

    3. I watched this video I took this past weekend of my beautiful grandparents, their dog and Sarah all dancing to some fantastic old piano music. If this doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what will.

    It’s already a better Tuesday.

  • Pittsburgh: the Vacation Edition

    Date: 2012.07.06 | Category: Family, Food, Friends, Life, Mark, OMG YAY!, Photography, Sarah, Travel | Response: 18

    The rest of my time in Pittsburgh was like a vacation at a bed and breakfast. Cassie and her husband cooked for us and let us lounge on their deck in the gorgeous weather.

    Mae and Sarah even took to sharing the Elmo chair and watching Rio together.

    Note: that stuffed dog Sarah is holding is one of Cassie’s childhood toys. Sarah fell in love with it and carried it everywhere.

    Sarah also joined in the kids’ dress up shenanigans and Luca was kind enough to lend her his boots.

    Cassie and Matt were excellent hosts and treated us to a Pirates baseball game so we could take in the beautiful view and sports culture of the city.

    On our way to the game, we stopped in at Primanti Brothers to get one of their infamous French fry sandwiches. Mark and I both thought they needed some kind of sauce, but we enjoyed them.

    The walk into the park was gorgeous.

    And Sarah took to the game like a champ.

    We rounded out our time there with a day in the park. We couldn’t get over the beautiful weather and neither could the kids, so I pulled the camera out and snapped some photos of their beautiful faces.

    Sarah joined right in with Cassie’s three.

    Claire.

    Luca.

    Mae.

    Sarah.

    Whee!

    And let’s not forget their beautiful mother Cassie.

    Thanks to the whole Cassie family for an amazing vacation in a beautiful city. I hate that we live so far away, but I’m counting down the days until I see them again. Which, believe it or not, is already scheduled and not that far away!

  • Welcome to Steel City

    Date: 2012.07.03 | Category: Family, Food, Friends, Life, Mark, Me, OMG YAY!, Photography, Sarah, Travel | Response: 7

    Somehow we managed to perk Mark up with antibiotics our last day in Indy, but he was still feeling tired that evening, so Sarah and I met Tammy, Dylan and their little girl at Steak and Shake for burgers and shakes.

    Sarah had fun wearing the hat…

    And nearly falling asleep on her tray.

    Bright and early Saturday morning we were off to the airport to fly to Pittsburgh to see Cassie.

    Another strange thing happened there.

    During my conference I met the Rome (as in Italy) photographer for the news wire service we subscribe to. Well, at the airport I bumped into him again and he was on the exact two flights to Pittsburgh we were. We had a great time talking professional photojournalism and I quizzed the poor guy on the best lenses and settings for different atmospheres for the better part of our layover.

    Once we got to Pittsburgh though, it was totally like one of those cheesy movies where I spotted Cassie at baggage claim and ran into her waiting arms. I think Mark chuckled, but it was great.

    After a lot of traffic, we drove through the tunnel which opened up to the spectacular view of the  rivers and city of Pittsburgh. Once I got over the fact that I had somehow screwed up my camera lens, I was amazed at how beautiful the city was. I mean, when I think of Pittsburgh, I think of the steel industry, but this was just different. Water, yellow bridges, mountains, sports stadiums. Beautiful.

    And Cass was even forced by traffic to take us through downtown and graciously pointed out where Mark and I should each get jobs so we can come live there.

    We headed to her house and met her entire family. I promptly fell in love with them all. Mark and Matt even hit it off and, considering how shy my husband can be, I was amazed by that.

    That night we went to a blogger meet up graciously hosted by Bluz Dude and Cassie at La Tavolla at the top of Mt. Washington. Not only was the food outstanding, but I finally got to meet Bluz (who is exactly what I thought he would be, except even nicer), the Carpetbaggers (the Mrs. loves walking and border collies!), Cassie’s Mom (who I felt like I already knew) and the hilarious Bethany. There were a few other bloggers who came, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to them. The boys took the kids home early so Cass and I could enjoy the wine and conversation. And let me tell you, with a group of bloggers there is never a lull in conversation.


    The lens chose to focus on the wine bottles, but that’s Cassie, Me and Bluz.

    I’m so thankful they arranged the meet up around my visit and I felt honored to be the special guest. I really hope I can make it back to future meet ups. Great people, great food, great city… what’s not to love?

    After Cass became the object of three misguided drivers while she held on to two bottles of wine, we made our winding way to the lookout platforms at the top of Mt. Washington.

    Talk about a breathtaking view.

    And the weather? Well it’s what we would consider fall weather in Louisiana. It was the perfect farewell to Indy and into to Pittsburgh.