currently vol. 29

reading: A Boring Evening at Home by Gerda Weissman Klein. It's a collection of essays she wrote about her life after the war and her emigration to America. In the last one I read, she was in Amsterdam in the 60s and talking to a new friend she had made, who she discovered was a good friend of Anne Frank's and was transported to Auschwitz with her but managed to survive. So many feelings. On the flip side, The Eeyore's Balloon Tree book has gotten a lot of mileage over here lately.  Spoiler alert: balloons don't grow on trees, as Eeyore is devastated to find out. Bring your tissues and see how Christopher Robin saves the day. I give it 3 three eye rolls.

watching: James and I have been watching Frasier. It was one of those shows I caught random episodes of growing up, and then I started watching it religiously in the mornings during college while I ate breakfast after my morning run. The comedic genius of Niles Crane is highly underrated. My parents bought the series, and we watched the entire thing the year I lived at home during college. I'm making James watch it through with me again. That early 90s glory is doing some kind of healing work in my soul, except when I realized that we have the exact same bookshelves Frasier has in his apartment. I guess my current Ikea Chic decor is channeling 1993.

cooking: I haven't done much cooking lately, but I made this chicken alfredo bake the other night. Healthy? No, though I threw in a bunch of spinach and served it with broccoli. Delicious? Oh yes.

loving: James didn't wake me up for church yesterday, and I slept like a rock until almost 9:30. It was bliss, even though I'm still exhausted. Clearly, last week was a doozy.

listening to: old-school John Mayer, and let me tell you why. I was in a store last week, and one of his older songs came on (No Such Thing, maybe? I can't remember), and the wave of nostalgia was so intense it nearly knocked me over. I liked John Mayer back in the day, and I like him now, but I had no idea what a big part of my life his music was. Middle and high school memories came flooding back to me. I remember when Room for Squares came out, and I was at a sleepover at my friend's house. We laid on her bed and listened to it. After coming out of a tiny private school and just starting to dip my toes in public school on the other side of the country, I felt so with it in that moment. We rode bikes down country roads, and her mom made us scrambled eggs with velveeta the next morning. I had completely forgotten all those things until I heard that song in the store, and suddenly it was all so vivid. I remember hearing those songs on the bus in the morning, the radio, and even writing a paper about Waiting on the World to Change in college. Also, the live version of Neon? I still can't get enough of it. We went on a drive yesterday and blasted his new album. I love it. I didn't realize how much of his music has gone through life with me.

laughing at: Do you guys know about JP Sears? He posts spoof videos making fun of trends like coconut oil and gluten-free foods. He kills me. I'm dying over his minimalist video. "Having the maximum amount of minimalism is the key to being a good minimalist." "It's about being so rich that you can afford to live like a poor person." He's just TOO GOOD.

annoyed with: ALLERGIES. I've never had even a smidge of allergies until 5 years ago. We had a mild winter that year, and it caused my allergies to explode for the first time ever resulting in a 3 month eye infection. We had a similar winter this year, and every day I wonder if I'm coming down with the flu or if the beautiful flowering trees are trying to murder me.

drinking: Trader Joe's Harvest tea that I stockpile every fall to last me until the next. It's soothing my sore throat from the aforementioned allergies.

confused by: clothing trends. I'm having a clothing crisis. Everything in stores is hideous. I mean, crop tops and shirts with holes in the shoulders? It looks like toddlers got ahold of some scissors and attacked their moms' closets. And off the shoulder shirts? No. Listen, if a strapless bra is involved, you can count me out. I haven't owned a strapless bra in years because I don't hate myself. I'm a mom nearing 30 who lives in the midwest--I don't need to dress like I'm on my way to Coachella. My wardrobe has been in survival mode since pregnancy. I lost the baby weight awhile ago, but my body never went quite back to the way it used to be, so I'm trying to figure out how to dress myself now. I think I'm turning into less of a t-shirt person now and more of a billowy shirt/tunic person. They're comfortable, and also very convenient for when I accidentally on purpose eat too many cookies.

One more word on trendy clothes--why are there toddler shirts and dresses that are off the shoulder (looking at you Old Navy)? How do they comfortably move around and play? If I put one of those on Gracie, she would rip it off faster than you can say WORST IDEA EVER.

Time to go listen to more John Mayer (Stop this Train is playing and it's doing something to me) and weep over memories. Send cookies. And consequently, more tunics.


a good old-fashioned meltdown

I haven't used my blog to write a rant in years, but today feels like the right day to bring it back. I used to write them almost daily about my horrible nonprofit job years ago. Remember Passion for Fashion? She was a girl who tried to dress like Kim Kardashian and was as snooty as could be, and it was my responsibility to train her. I still get a chill down my spine when I think of her and her top-knot so tight it gave me a migraine.

All you people who only like to write about sunshine and fairies and unicorns? You might want to find another blog to read today, because I am unhinged. This is coming off an already terrible week involving cat vomit, broken toilets, and screaming babies. Honestly, I'm writing this so someday I can look back and see how far we've come. Because this has to end someday; it has to.

Our housing situation hasn't changed since I last wrote about it, whenever that was. Our realtor retired out of the blue, so we found another who came highly recommended by some friends of ours. She has been a NIGHTMARE. She's been deceitful, unhelpful, unavailable, and very rude. More than once she's belittled my decision to stay home with Gracie, and even laughed at me for wanting to attempt homeschool (at least for the early years). Gracie screams whenever she's around and I don't even blame her. We have the contact info for another realtor, but we haven't contacted him yet and I'm not completely sure why. Actually, I do know why. THE HOUSING MARKET IS ON CRACK. Houses selling in hours. Literally, hours. The produce guy and I almost hugged at the grocery store yesterday because our stories are identical. We've been house-hunting for over a year and have lost in some nasty bidding wars. He recently bid $30,000 OVER the asking price and STILL LOST. That's what's happening in my city right now. Yes, we have looked in surrounding areas, please don't ask.  Yes, we have done/tried/looked at everything you want to suggest, so please don't. It's not better anywhere within driving distance.

We've decided we don't want to buy at the top of the market. I am not about to spend $30k more on a house than it's really worth. James and I both feel deep down in our gut to lay low for awhile, so that's what we've done. I still check the listings every day, and even though our budget is not bad, there is NOTHING we would want. People are unloading their crap houses full of mold and 1960s carpet, and they know they can get away selling it as-is for far more than it's worth.

So, as you know, we're stuck in our townhouse where we've been for SIX. YEARS. Well, this exact one for almost 4, but this complex for 6. I bristle when people call it an apartment. I know it technically is, but our office refers to it as a townhouse, it has 2 stories, and saying that makes me feel less like I'm living in college housing. Can you tell I'm, grasping at straws here? This is my mental state over this mess. For an apartment (ugh) complex, it's actually really nice. The location is fantastic, we have a ridiculous amount of closets, a gorgeous wood-burning fireplace, vaulted ceilings, and plenty of space, and the management is very good about handling things. If this were a single family home, I might even buy it. Rent here is also insane at the moment, so we're paying almost double what we did in 2011. Not to mention, the neighbors.

I might as well introduce you to our neighbors--at least the ones I know. When I say "know," I mean "I've seen them." No one here is that friendly or outgoing, so I don't actually know anyone other than the guy and his fiance who let Gracie play with their dog. Our downstairs neighbor is the pot smoker. I hate him with the power of a thousand burning suns. I know it's unChristian to hate, but he is awful. He's made me so sick for months, and he gives me a death glare so intense that makes me wonder if he's about to physically assault me. I don't even feel safe around him. The day he moved in, he knocked on our door and introduced himself. He was SO nice and I thought maybe we would be friends. He looked past me, took one look at my mom holding Gracie, and I'm not kidding--he turned around and walked away without saying anything. That's the kind of person I'm dealing with. Our next door neighbors are two guys who have a cat. This was the only thing I knew about them until the other day, when suddenly one of them started playing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen on the piano. LOUDLY. If that wasn't weird enough, a saxophone soon joined in. I mean, WT to the actual F. The neighbors on our other side are a lesbian couple who have a one-eyed dog they push around in a stroller.

I really can't make any of this up.

The people who lived in the Christmas Saxophone apartment were kicked out a year ago after playing profane rap that woke Gracie many times. I got so mad at them one day I banged on the wall so hard, the shelf fell down and smashed my Grandma's Depression-era china. I don't know what it is about that apartment, excuse me, townhouse, that encourages loud music.

All of this leads me to this morning. The pot smoker has been driving me up the wall for months now. We call the non-emergency police every time we smell it. Sometimes they come and talk to him, and sometimes they say they can't smell it outside so they leave. We've just been trying to build a record. The police say it's the management's problem to take care of, and they say they can't legally do anything without the police involved. It's a catch-22, and we've been playing monkey in the middle with them for an eternity. We were told the other night that pot smoker is leaving. I have literally NEVER seen James so jazzed about something. I almost fell to the floor in tears. They said it will be awhile until he's gone, so I'll believe it when I see it, but at least I have HOPE.

And then this morning, we got a letter on our door that we're too noisy and in violation of our lease. A complaint has been filed that there is "yelling, stomping, and banging" noises coming from us. HI, HAVE YOU EVER MET A 2 YEAR OLD? Since we've had so many bad neighbors over the years (don't get me started on the TV explosion noises that wouldn't let me sleep a wink last winter), I try VERY hard to not be an obnoxious neighbor. I don't let Gracie bang on the walls, I try to be quiet, and I rarely even listen to music even though that's all I want to do. However, I have a two year old, and no matter what I do, she's going to throw tantrums, drop things, and just generally be loud. No matter how much I try, I can't silence her 24/7. It's impossible! She's virtually quiet from 7pm-7am, and she naps in the afternoon, and we're usually out of the house in the morning. When she's in bed, James and I are reading or quietly watching TV so we don't wake her. The other day I dropped a pot on the floor and considered a hand-written note of apology to my neighbors until I realized they were probably all at work. Due to the "stomping" complaint, we're 99% sure pot smoker is trying to exact revenge on us by getting us evicted too. No one else would be able to hear the NONEXISTENT stomping. She's been crying more than normal this week due to a tooth coming, but I am NOT going to apologize for that. No one is more tired of the teething than I am.

So this is where we are. We spent MONTHS begging the office and the police to do something about the illegal drugs being smoked that were affecting my health, the music next door, and that's to say nothing of the dog that barks 24/7 to the point that I've considered breaking in and shooting it. But my daughter throws a tantrum and now we're in trouble. I don't think anything will come of this and I'm not worried, but I am so tired of this. So tired of not being able to play music or let my daughter make normal 2 year old noises.  I want to replace our stained, gross living room rug, but who knows what the size of our next living room will be? We need to upgrade some furniture, but obviously we can't do that until we have a home and an idea of what will work. I WANT FLOWER BUSHES. I want to grow my own zucchini! I want TO PAINT A WALL GREY. All we want is a little home somewhere that belongs to us. We don't want anything fancy, just a home and a garden and maybe some chickens a la Laura Ingalls Wilder.


I got so upset over that stupid letter that I took Gracie out for cookies. The store near us is closing next month, but their bakery is fantastic and basically across the street. For weeks I've been wanting to stop in for one more treat. We walked in, just to see an empty bakery and a sign that the bakery counter closed for good on April 17th. I'm not even going to lie--I cried real tears in the middle of that store. There's nothing more depressing than an empty bakery counter, especially given the reason I was there.

In the grand scheme of things, this is dumb. We have our health, a roof over our heads, and I even splurged on organic milk at the store this week. We're doing fine. But we've been stuck in this horrible holding pattern for an eternity and nothing is changing; if anything, it's getting worse.

So, future Michelle, if you're reading this and complaining because you don't want to get eggs from your backyard chickens or weed the garden, SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND GO STOMP ON THE FLOOR. Not one can hear you because it's yours and you OWN it. And you can't smell pot! Unless you've picked up a habit, in which case, we should chat.


a post about books that's so long it could be its own book

Minding the Manor: The Memoir of a 1930s English Kitchen Maid by Mollie Moran--5 stars: Imagine, if you will, that Daisy from Downton Abbey wrote a memoir about her life as a kitchen maid. But instead of being cranky Daisy, imagine that she had the personality and moxie of Sybil. That would give you Mollie Moran. She is a real life person, and I knew as soon as I read on the back cover that she loves to host Scrabble tournaments, she and I would be kindred spirits. During the 1930s, Mollie worked as a scullery maid in an aristocratic house in London and a country estate in Norfolk. She talks a lot about what it was like to live in London during that time period, what it was like to work on staff of a grand house (there was a footman eerily similar to Thomas Barrow), and even how being a maid in real life compared with Downton Abbey. She secretly dated other members of the staff, explored London on her breaks, and eventually worked her way up to cook--she even shares some of her favorite recipes from that time period. I ADORED every single part of this book. I was so sad when it ended, and I wish I could go back in time and see the things she saw. She was cheeky and silly, but she worked grueling hours. I can't even wrap my head around the amount of cleaning she had to do every single day, and yet she took so much pride her in job. I found it all so fascinating that it goes down as one of my favorite books ever.

For fans of: Downton Abbey, WWII, true stories about maids sneaking out of windows to go meet soldiers at a town dance

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking--4 stars: This book has been making the rounds on the internet, and hygge has become the trendiest winter buzzword. Normally that would make me run the opposite direction, but I felt compelled to read this since I come from a danish family. I'm well-versed in traditional danish foods and a few words in the language, but I know very little about the culture as a whole. The first thing that threw me off was the pronunciation of hygge. I always read it as "hi-gee,'' but apparently the correct pronunciation is "hoo-ga." Anyway, the whole concept of hygge is basically a transcendental amount of coziness. The entire culture of Denmark is allegedly based around making life as cozy as possible, from the food they eat down to the wool socks they wear. Since Denmark spends the majority of the year in a cold, dark, winter, they have to learn to adapt. I love that they are all about enjoying winter instead of complaining about it. I think my fellow Americans could learn a few things (me included this past winter, ugh). The writer is a bit pretentious and apparently lives under the assumption that we all have a family cabin to escape to in the summer or a group of friends to ski the Alps with in the winter, but overall the book just made me happy. It's full of suggestions for how to make your life more cozy. I found myself nodding and agreeing with a lot of what he said, his politics aside. I called my dad (my danish parent) to tell him about it when I finished, and we couldn't get over how his descriptions of Danes fit us perfectly. We may not live in Denmark, but we certainly have danish blood in our veins. My favorite line was something about how Danes love dark, moody rooms, and if you want to torture a Dane, put him in a room with bright lights.

For fans of: winter, Denmark, wool socks, candles, pretentious ramblings about drinking mulled wine in cozy cabins on a ski weekend with 16 of your closest friends

The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson (and obviously LIW, duh)--5 stars: I think we all know now that my love of LIW runs deep. After I finished the Little House series, I scooped this book up. At first, I had to slog through this book a bit. Some of the letters did not need to be included. She was on the board of a Farmers Credit Bureau or something of the sort, and letters pertaining to that made my eyes glaze over. There were also a collection of letters of a road trip she took with her daughter from Missouri to San Francisco around 1915 that were fairly interesting from a historical point of view. What redeemed the book for me were the letters to her daughter Rose. Rose helped her write the Little House books, and I LOVED hearing Laura's reasoning on why she wrote things the way she did. I knew they were based on her life, but I had no idea how true they really were. She refused to make changes Rose suggested that would portray an event differently than how it really happened, with only a few exceptions. A lot of fan mail was included, and she responded to every piece of mail she received, which is so sweet. She took the time to write detailed responses and elaborated on stories in the books, what she was planning to write in the next book, and what her life with Almanzo was like at that point. The letters even chronicle the death of her husband and how she coped with her sudden fame. Some of the letters are a bit dry and unneccessary, but there are more than enough gems to make up for the boring ones. She was such a sweet, special woman, and it seriously pains me that I can never meet her. I have big plans to visit all her homesteads and more or less do my best to turn into her. If I ever stop blogging, search the prairies. You'll be sure to find me living in a claim shanty with my chickens and cows.

For fans of: Little House on the Prairie, pioneer life, being nosy and reading other people's conversations

On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri in 1894 by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane--5 stars: Have you ever wondered how the corn crops were doing in Nebraska in the summer of 1894? How about the temperature or the price of acreage in Kansas? WELL HAVE I GOT THE BOOK FOR YOU! All jokes aside, this was really interesting. It's a collection of dairy entries Laura wrote when she, Almanzo, and Rose decided to move to Missouri and start their own homestead. She talked about the state of the agriculture, the fellow covered-wagon travelers they met, the food they ate, and even the temperature every day. I promise it's more interesting than it sounds, and it was a quick read. I love anything that helps me better understand what it was like to live in a bygone era. If you've read all the other LIW books, you might as well read this one too.

For fans of: see above--I have nothing new to say 

Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Mike Massimino--5 stars: OH MY HEAVENS(<--pun intended), this was a good book. It starts off with a detailed, vivid description of what it feels like to sit in a rocket during take off and then enter space. I was quite literally on the edge of my seat with my heart racing, feeling sympathy motion sickness. Mike grew up in Long Island, where most people don't grow up to be things like astronauts. He manages to defeat every single odd, some of which should have disqualified him from being an astronaut forever, and yet he was eventually accepted into the astronaut program, flew on the Space Shuttle, and did intensive repairs on the Hubble Telescope in space. I was SHOCKED at how difficult it was to become an astronaut. I honestly had no idea. I have absolutely zero desire to be an astronaut, but I am in awe of the people who do it. Mike gives an incredibly detailed account of what it's like to train to be an astronaut and then live and work in space. I've been obsessively following the goings-on at NASA ever since, and this morning I even live-streamed a rocket launch that was headed to the ISS. I watched on the edge of my seat, and it was so cool to actually watch it take off, enter orbit, watch the rocket boosters fall off, and see Mission Control clapping, cheering, and congratulating each other on a succesful launch. I was like, I AM A PART OF THIS AND IT'S AMAZING. I have an entirely new respect and appreciation for everything it takes to get a rocket, not to mention a HUMAN, to space.

For fans of: NASA, Hidden Figures, The Astronaut Wive's Club, feeling motion sick from reading, looking up to the sky and realizing PEOPLE ARE UP THERE OMG

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton--4.25 stars: This was the rollercoaster of the century for my emotions. MY GOODNESS. Even though Kate manages to shatter my heart, glue it back together, smash it again, piece it back together, and then repeat the processes 7 more times in each of her novels, I can't get enough of them. She is a master. Laurel Nicolson was a teenager in the 60s when she sat in her treehouse and watched her mom kill someone. As most Kate Morton stories do, the plot weaves through different time periods and points of view. It follows Laurel as an adult at her dying mother's side, trying to figure who she killed and why, and Laurel's mother during the London Blitz as she worked and dated in London during the war and dodged bombs. The pieces slowly come together, along with a plot twist that I had guessed but deemed entirely impossible. I almost screamed. JUST SO GOOD. A little tragic, a bit sad, but satisfying. Read it and weep, literally.

For fans of: WWII in England, the Blitz, murder mysteries, Secrets of a Charmed Life, emotional turmoil

All But My Life by Gerda Weissman Klein--5 stars: I have read a truly astonishing amount of
memoirs and literature about WWII and the Holocaust, and aside from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, this is by far my favorite. I will never forget this story. Gerda was 15 when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. Life very quickly changed for her Jewish family. After they're sequestered in the ghetto, the entire family is split up and sent to concentration camps. Gerda is sent to a mill where she learns to weave linens for the Nazis. By the end of the war, she's sent on a horrendous 300 mile death march. Out of thousands, she's one of the very few survivors of the march found by American troops at the end of the war. Every single on of Gerda's friends and family members is gone; she's the only one alive and has to figure out how to put her life back together with the help of the American solider who found her on the brink of death. This book was so beautifully written and important. I can't say enough good things about it, and her attitude despite her situation is incredible. She still happens to be alive and wrote several other books following up on life after the war that I'm currently reading. I want nothing more than to meet her and talk to her. Reading her words was an honor.

For fans of: WWII, Holocaust memoirs, Cinderella stories

Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard--4 stars: I read her first book, Picnic in Paris, a few months ago with mixed feelings. This one was so much better. Maybe because much of this book was about her life as a married woman and becoming a mom, I felt like I related to her so much more, though she's still a bit eye-roll worthy at times. She seemed a little more down to earth, plus I really like the way she has with words. She and her husband decide to buy an old house that hid a French Resistance worker during WWII (swoon). They leave their busy life in Paris and make a life in a tiny village in Provence and adjust to life as parents and business owners. She talks a lot about her neighbors and the local ingredients she learns to cook with, as well as how much she struggled the first few years of motherhood. It made me want to go live in a small village in France where I can have my own cheese monger too, as well as borrow some cherries from my neighbor's tree.

For fans of: food memoirs, France, snobby talk about how beneath you it is to buy meat at the supermarket instead of your neighborhood butcher

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner--4 stars: This book reminded me a lot of a Kate Morton book. It took two separate disasters in two different eras and juxtaposed them. First was about a girl who witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in NYC in 1911 (a real fire! Google it--it's awful). She goes on to work as a nurse on Ellis Island to hide from aspects of the fire that traumatized her and treats immigrants with Scarlet Fever before they can go on the mainland. The book mostly focuses on that storyline, but it occasionally flashes forward to 9/11 and a woman who lost her husband in the North Tower. The link between the two women is a scarf with beautiful marigolds on it that played a big roll in each of their stories. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and I loved reading about Ellis Island at the turn of the century. The main character was a bit annoying at times with the way she thought about things, and I'm still not sure how I feel about the ending and other aspects of the story. There was nothing bad about the ending, but it felt a little rushed. Overall, definitely worth reading, especially if you read and loved her book Secrets of a Charmed Life. This book made me think about how weird it is that someday people will write novels set around 9/11 the way they do WWII.

For fans of: disaster stories, mysteries, historical fiction, Kate Morton

I feel like I've hit the jackpot lately in terms of books. I'm so stingy with my 5 star reviews, but these books have been THAT good. Now tell me what to read next!


on feeding babies

This is not a sponsored post. The Honest Company is interested in hearing stories about feeding a newborn to help promote a healthier discussion of feeding newborns. I'm getting nothing for doing this, and everything here is my own experience and opinion. Normally I turn these kinds of offers down, but I've adored this company for years and love what they do, plus I have some passionate thoughts on the matter that I've gone back and forth on writing. I figured I would take this opportunity to share my story, even though it makes me a bit uncomfortable to talk about my boobs so much on the internet. This topic is also important to The Honest Company because they provide high-quality organic formula and prenatal vitamins for anyone who's in the market. I've never personally used either, so I can't vouch for them, but we used their diapers and wipes for 8 months, and I loved them so much. I would buy everything from them if I could afford it.

When I was in the throes of breastfeeding hell, I found a blog post somewhere deep in the internet written by a mom who had gone through the same thing. I had it bookmarked and read it over and over. It brought me immense comfort and reassurance that this too shall pass. I'm writing this for any mom who has or will struggle with nursing or choosing to formula feed, and I hope it will encourage you to learn from my mistakes and to comfort you that you are not alone. 

When someone mentions breastfeeding, I have two competing reactions: warm fuzzies, and pure horror. This might sound ridiculous to anyone who didn't struggle with feeding their child, but breastfeeding is hands down the hardest and most painful thing I've ever done in my life. Giving birth was child's play in comparison. A few hours of pain and it was over; but breastfeeding was like stabbing myself in the boob with a dull knife every three hours.

I had every intention of breastfeeding my daughter when she was born, but I was no idiot. I had a stash of formula and bottles in the pantry just in case. I was stocked up on nursing pads, lanolin, and nursing bras. If I had any idea what I was about to get myself into, I would've set them on fire instead of packing them in my hospital bag. When Gracie was born, she latched right on. She needed a little help at times, but she was nursing like a champion. I was so grateful. I was held together below the waist by stitches, recovering from a hemorrhage, and got zero sleep in the hospital. I needed something to go smoothly! I had several nurses who made it their mission to make sure I knew what I was doing by the time we left. A pediatrician told me early one morning that she nursed her baby for 16 months, and it was the hardest thing she had ever done but completely worth it.

My milk came in the day we got home from the hospital. My supersized nursing bra couldn't even contain me, the girl who cried in high school over her A cups. Gracie suddenly couldn't latch on anymore. It was like learning to drink from a straw that suddenly turned into a basketball within hours. I dreaded feeding her. I would have a true anxiety attack every time I saw her sucking on her fist--the newborn cue that she was ready to eat. I would start shaking and sweating. My heart was pounding. I knew it was going to be excruciating for us both. We both forgot how to nurse. It would take her upwards of an hour to finally latch, then she would nurse for an hour, sleep for a few, and the process would repeat itself. By the time it ended, I would be dripping in blood and tears. I had open wounds from teaching her how to latch. I couldn't sleep because I was so scared she was going to want to eat. I lived in terror of feeding my own baby.

Not only was I losing my mind from the pain and stress of learning to breastfeed, but my recovery from birth was just as awful. I couldn't sit up. I had to nurse partially lying down and propped up with pillows. The only way I could even attempt to sit up a little would be if I stuffed my pants with ice packs and sat on the Boppy. The Boppy was zero help with nursing, but I took that thing everywhere to sit on. I had no shame. No dignity. I was just trying to survive the black hole of pain I was in. I wasn't even fazed when I opened the door for the pizza delivery man with half my nursing bra undone.

The nurse at our pediatrician's office was studying to be a lactation consultant, and she saved my life. She had me nurse in front of her so she could see what the problem was. Things would improve for a day or so after our visits, and suddenly the tricks she gave me would stop working and we would be back to square one. I was in her office about once a week, sobbing uncontrollably. I fell apart every time I saw her. I was failing horribly and felt so ashamed. My only saving grace was that despite our issues, Gracie was thriving. She surpassed her birth weight in less than a week and was growing by the day.

Eventually, Gracie learned to latch, but the damage had been done. From weeks of sucking and pulling her off and putting her back on, I had large, open, gaping wounds and exposed flesh. I was bleeding, occasionally infected, and in so much pain I couldn't even hug my husband. I wanted a sling or wrap to carry her in as a newborn, but my chest was so sore I couldn't imagine being able to hold her against my chest. Even the water in the shower touching my chest was excrutiating. Putting on my bra and shirt without hurting myself was like doing a strange interpretive dance. I would start to scab over between feedings, but every time she nursed, she would pull off the scabs and reopen the wounds. It was a pain like I had never experienced before, not even in childbirth. The only thing I can equate it to is an attempt at an unmedicated amputation.

The lactation consultant was mildly horrified at what a hard time we were having. She finally told me that if I was going to heal, I would need to start giving her bottles. I knew that, but I for some twisted reason, I couldn't bring myself to do it. It would be admitting to failure. All I had heard were fear mongering stories of nipple confusion, and once you go bottle, you never go back. Our nursing problems had nothing to do with milk supply or an anatomical issue preventing her from latching. They were about me not being able to push through the pain, and it turning me into a shell of myself. I was deep in the throes of postpartum depression. I cried nonstop. I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn't feed my baby without writhing in pain, and I still couldn't sit or walk comfortably after birth. I was constantly in pain. On the back of my discharge papers, I had a chart marking the times I had nursed and the times I could take more Tylenol. My entire life revolved around those two times.

At 5 weeks, I finally consented and let James give her a bottle of pumped milk. I watched as he happily fed her, she eagerly ate, and I wept. I felt equal parts relieved that he could share this burden of feeding her with me, but also weirdly betrayed that she was getting my milk from another source. It was ludicrous, of course, but I told him I didn't want to give her another bottle until nursing clicked. You can't expect a woman with raging hormones, sleep deprivation, and constant pain to be rational. I was determined. I can't begin to understand why I had that drive inside me to make breastfeeding work. It just felt like something I had to do, had to prove to myself, had to do for my baby. But I drove myself insane in the process.

It took 7 full weeks for nursing to click. That's 7 full weeks of sobbing and writhing in pain every time I fed her, every 2-3 hours. I would scream at the top of my lungs every time she latched, occasionally dropping some profane words in the process. It would hurt so bad I would be scared to let her latch. I would pause a tv show or set a plate of cookies next to me. I wouldn't let myself unpause the show or take a bite of a cookie until I had let her latch and the initial pain had lessened. I have always been one to run from even the possibility of pain, but I had to train myself to push through it for the sake of my daughter. I became obsessed with making sure her latch was perfect. I smothered myself in creams to help me heal. I prayed with her before every feeding--for healing, and for the pain to subside. I laid in bed at night googling nursing techniques and problems. Sometimes it brought me comfort, but it often gave me something else to worry about that I had never thought of before. During every pre-nursing cry session, James would tell me to pump and give a bottle. Every time, I told him I was going to try just one more time, and then I'd give a bottle. The next feeding, I told him I was going to try just one more time. I refused to think about the next feeding and took it one session at a time. A friend told me that every feeding was one feeding closer to it being pain-free. I clung to that. Once her latch was perfected, I very slowly started to heal, which was nothing short of a miracle. The pain finally eased to the point that around 9-10 weeks, I could nurse mostly pain free. I got my life back. It wasn't until the trauma of nursing passed that the fog of postpartum depression slowly began to recede. I started to feel like myself again and started bonding more and more with Gracie and motherhood in general.

Eventually, breastfeeding became second nature. I nursed in restaurants, parks, airplanes, airports, beaches, stores, coffee shops, you name it. Two years later, and we're still going. Yes, she's still nursing, only once or twice a day. This is not information I regularly volunteer, since at two years it's less good for you! and more so which commune do you belong to? but I think it's important to know. When the doctor in the hospital told me she nursed for 16 months, I thought there was no way. My first goal was 6 months, then 12, then 18. I never thought we would make it this long, and I feel like it's helped to redeem those horrible early months. It hasn't been a walk in the park, though. For the first year, I had a clogged duct at least once a month, and I woke up on Gracie's first birthday with mastitis. But this is the one thing in my life I can look back on and know I overcame every obstacle to accomplish my goal. It's the hardest and most painful thing I've ever done in my life.

If I had been a working mom, I would be writing a very different story. Had I gone back to work at 6 weeks, there's no way we would have been able to push through and come out on the other side. It's for that reason and my experience that I don't think moms should ever feel ashamed of bottle or formula feeding. I don't regret my story, but if there's a next time, I'm going to do things differently. No matter what your breastfeeding support group on Facebook says, bottles are not evil, they are merciful. They do what you cannot. They give you your life and sanity back. I used to look at moms feeding their babies with a bottle and feel jealous. I wanted to breastfeed, but feeding my baby should not have been such a traumatic event. If you have to switch to formula so you can be the best mom you can be, I applaud you. Sometimes I think that's the braver choice, because it's admitting you need help. That's something I couldn't do. For whatever reason, I felt that it had to my burden alone to feed my daughter, and that is so wrong. I'm so thankful for the way our story turned out, but I wish it hadn't happened quite the way it did. If I had let James give her a few bottles while I let myself heal, I know it would have made me a more present and emotionally stable mom.

Here's the thing: the one year of feeding your baby formula or breast milk is so fleeting. It's a blip on the radar in the scheme of things. While you're in the middle of it, it's life and death. It's The Thing everyone asks about. Everyone wants to know how you're feeding your baby and then give advice on the matter. Your entire life revolves around milk. It's all you think about, all your baby thinks about. It's the first thing your pediatrician will ask about. But at 4-6 months, they'll start eating solid food. By one year, they may very well be weaned. In one short year, the whole thing will be a non-issue. It won't matter. Gracie is two, and I can't remember the last time someone asked if I nursed her or not. Her college and scholarship applications won't ask if she was raised on formula or breastmilk. It will have no lasting impact on her life. I remember feeling shocked one day when Gracie was a newborn, and I realized we were only a handful of months away from her eating solid food. I felt a burden lift. I was so consumed with the round-the-clock feeding that I forgot it's only a tiny chapter of our lives.

For some women, breastfeeding is completely natural and comes easily. For people like me, breastfeeding is like stepping off a plane in China and being expected to communicate fluently with the locals. I don't know why some moms have it easy, and some don't. It's the same way some people are born with the aptitude for math, and some have to put in a monumental effort to get a passing grade. I won't extol the benefits of breastfeeding, because we all know them. If you can and want to do it, I think you should. But if you can't, it's okay. It's like deciding you need to drop your calculus class and find something that suits you and your life better. We've all heard stories of moms ridiculed for breastfeeding in public, and even moms charged with high crimes by the Nursing Nazis for giving their child a bottle of formula. We have no idea what kind of experiences that mom had that caused them to nurse or not to nurse. The only reaction we should have to moms feeding their babies is "I see you're feeding your hungry baby. That's awesome. You're a good mom, and your baby is happy, healthy, and thriving."

We are all in this together.


unfortunately my powers only seem to work for evil instead of good

I'm starting to wonder if I have some kind of twisted superpowers. A week and a half ago, James and I spent the weekend watching tornado documentaries. That Sunday night ended with a tornado warning completely out of the blue.

A few days later, I was walking through the library when a book on tornadoes caught my eye. I immediately grabbed it and checked it out. I checked my phone a few minutes later to see we had just been put under a tornado watch despite the decent weather.

I told my parents last weekend that I didn't think Gracie would try to climb out of her crib any time soon. Tuesday afternoon, I heard a loud THUMP and an intense scream, and I just knew. I found her lying on the floor next to her crib. In all fairness, I'm 99% sure she was trying to reach the door handle and not trying to climb out, but still. Nothing like that has ever happened before. There were many hours of scream-crying that afternoon and frantic phone calls to see if she needed to go to the ER, but she's just fine despite a sore arm and a bruise. My nerves, on the other hand, are not. I might be more traumatized than she was. I think my heart is honestly still racing.

Not to mention, this was her fourth injury in as many days. I also discovered that not only did she fall out of the crib, but the first of the two year molars came in, which I think accounted for some of the crying.

Suffice it to say, I was honestly terrified to get out of bed yesterday. I could not live through another day like that. Maybe it was all my worrying, but yesterday turned out to be a rare golden day. It was brilliantly sunny and warm, and we spent as much of the day as possible outside. She picked every dandelion she found and said hi to every squirrel in the park and duck by the pond. We even saw a goose pull a kamikaze and dive bomb another goose in the pond. Gracie was hysterical with laughter, and I loved it just as much as she did. After lunch, she took a three hour nap. Those used to be standard, but they haven't happened in months. I drank coffee, listened to music, and read. It was pure bliss.

But that's not even the best part! Well, aside from the nap. Nothing outshines a 3 hour nap.

We were expecting severe thunderstorms last night. All day long the sky was a clear blue with no clouds, but knowing that storms were rolling through the Midwest and would be upon us in hours gave me a thrill all day long. I LIVE FOR STORM TRACKING. It's all the excitement of waiting for a package delivery without having to spend money. If I felt myself getting cranky at any point, I pulled up the weather radar and watched the storms creep ever closer.

For once, the forecast did not disappoint. We played outside before dinner, and I could see some darkening clouds in the west. By the time Gracie was in bed, the sky was turning black. I rushed around closing the windows and peeking at the radar. Our local meteorologist (who I'm mildly in love with---not because I want to marry him, but just because he's a meteorologist and all I want is someone to talk weather to me) does a Facebook Live video whenever there's severe weather going on. He goes into all the science and talks about how to read and interpret the radar and I LIVE FOR IT.  I sat down with my reheated enchiladas (hallelujah) and watched his video with the local news on and the tornado-less storm churning outside. Reheated Mexican food and thunderstorms. This is me living my best life now.

If only I can figure out how to harness my superpowers for more days like this.