maybe the crazy neighbors would feel better after a cappuccino

Aside from our dramatically horrible start to this trip, it hasn't been all bad. It's actually been pretty good. In fact, I even extended my stay by three days. That's partially because we're having fun and mostly because I'm too scared to drive home with a carsick baby and I'm putting it off. I haven't been stung by anymore bees, but I did find a wasp's nest IN my mom's car and I will be scarred for the rest of my life.

Gracie and I have been completely spoiled. We went shopping the other day, and while I unfortunately didn't wind up with any more clothes covered in illegal substances, Gracie and I did walk out of a store with matching Nikes, and I'm not upset about it. We've eaten at all the cafes and bakeries and explored all the local parks--one resembling the English countryside, and another overlooking the Mississippi River full of eagles, trails, and a castle tower. Gracie has always loved being outside, but now she cries and begs to go outside constantly. We touch all the flowers, play with rocks, and run down the sidewalk. This kid has had the time of her life, so much so that she refuses to sit in her stroller or be held. She is only happy when she's holding my hands and walking.

We wound up driving north to an apple orchard on Wednesday. It was in the 50s and drizzly. The forecast was predicting 70s and 80s when I packed, but the weather has been more in the upper 50s and 60s. All I have are flip flops (aside from my new Nikes), and my feet and everything else have been freezing, but I love it. We drove on a little two lane road through cornfields and hills. There were barns and cows and old farmhouses everywhere. It was pure Midwestern delight. There was an apple orchard tucked away in one of the hills, and I think it's the most delightful place I've ever been. I walked away with homemade apple butter which I can't wait to smother on some cornbread once I get home.

There's also a coffee shop in town that I cannot rip myself away from. They serve the best breakfast burritos and cappuccinos I've ever had. Keep in mind we're in small town, rural Iowa here, and this is the trendiest, most hipster place I've ever been. It would put Columbus coffee shops to shame. I AM IN HEAVEN. I'm afraid they're going to get a restraining order because I won't leave them alone. They have some of the best coffee ever, and they have ridiculously delicious baked goods and sandwiches. They announced a few weeks ago that they were hiring, and I almost applied for a job even though I live 8 hours away.

In crazy neighbor news, they have only gotten crazier. The other day, he mowed the entire lawn with a push mower and then RE-MOWED IT with a riding mower. Yesterday, when Gracie was trying to nap, he decided to edge the lawn and then get the leaf blower out. He didn't just blow the grass of the sidewalk; he literally swept over the entire yard AND THE STREET with his leaf blower. I have never seen anyone so OCD about their yard in my entire life. They wake Gracie up from her nap everyday with their shenanigans. I have yet to go yell at them, but they've received some death glares through the window. Under the cover of darkness tonight, I plan to go rip out a handful of grass and put it on their driveway.

Tomorrow we drive home. If I think about it, I get carsick too from the stress. I was able to finagle a prescription for some anti-nausea medicine for her, so there is a chance we will survive. But if you could do me a huge favor and get down on your knees right now and pray, fast, offer up a sacrifice, whatever you have to do. JUST PRAY SHE DOESN'T PUKE. Because if she does, my next post will come to you from the insane asylum.

In the meantime, you can find me at the coffee shop stress-drinking cappuccinos.


things went south as we drove north

Lately, my blog has become a collection of disaster stories. I'm sorry to say that trend will be continuing. For the last few months, I have continually been in a place where I have to laugh so I don't cry. And once again, I'm choosing to laugh. Just as soon as I'm done crying.

My week continued to go downhill after my migraine. On Thursday, Gracie and I left to visit my parents as James left for a business trip. I was nervous about the drive since it's so long, I had only gotten about 3 hours of sleep the night before, and Gracie tends to get carsick about 50% of the time. But this time I was prepared--I had two extra outfits available and a tub of wet wipes that looked as though they could last me a year. Thanks to the internet, I also had an arsenal of toddler car activities that were guaranteed to buy me hours of silence. They were a giant flop. She did not care for magnets on a cake pan or pipe cleaners in a bottle, but the Winnie the Pooh flashcards and a library book about kittens did give me a small break from the whining.

About three hours into the drive, my nose alerted me to the fact that Gracie lost her breakfast. It was at least ten minutes before I reached another exit. I got her cleaned up, gave her something to drink, and bought myself a coffee and snack. Before I left on the trip, my friend gave me a long sleeve bib to put on her in case she gets sick. I had completely forgotten about it when we first left, but I put it on her before we got back on the road. An hour later, she ripped the bib off and then threw up chocolate milk all over herself and the backseat. I pulled over again, cleaned her up, and as I lifted her out of her carseat, she threw up everything she had left all down my shirt.

And that was when the tears hit.

I let myself have a good cry in the gas station parking lot before changing her into her third outfit of the day and putting us back in the car. I was so tempted to turn around and go home, but I was just over halfway, so I figured we might as well push through. James was in Texas, and if I made it to Iowa I would at least have someone to help me clean up. An hour or so later, I pulled over to get gas and something to drink. I had packed a PB&J to eat, and I pulled it out and shared it with Gracie. She seemed like she was feeling better, and I figured the worst was surely behind us. I stopped about an hour later to get her out of the car to hopefully keeps the motion sickness at bay. I missed the exit I wanted to take and wound up in the parking lot of a Dermatology clinic, but I gave Gracie a small snack since she was doing so much better. We had an hour and a half left, and I was starting to feel like we were going to survive.

Literally thirty seconds after pulling back onto the highway, she pulled the bib off and threw up everything. It was the worst thing I have ever seen and smelled in my life. We were in the middle of Illinois with nothing around but cornfields and no exits for miles. I drove another 20 minutes with my shirt over my nose to keep me from throwing up from the smell. We finally found a gas station where the local clientele were wearing mullets and fanny packs. I completely emptied my ginormous canister of wet wipes attempting to clean her up. I had to strip her onesie off and put her in a raincoat for the rest of the drive. Her carseat was soaking wet. The straps and buckles were caked in regurgitated PB&J. Her toys were covered. And we were both sobbing. Heaving sobs. I was bent over next to a busy road, trying to scrape vomit out of the carseat while the wind blew my shirt up. Gracie was covered head to toe. I was covered head to toe. I stopped to dry heave a couple times because it was just so disgusting. AND WE STILL HAD AN HOUR OF DRIVING LEFT. We cried and cried, and I promised I would never ever do this to her again, and I'm so sorry, but we have only one more hour and just please don't throw up anymore. I finally got a glimpse of how my parents must've felt the day I threw up the whole way to California. I was in such a state of heightened drama and emotion that I accidentally left a pile of vomit covered wipes the size of Mt. Everest in the middle of the gas station parking lot. The poor employee who had to deal with the mess is in my prayers.

Back on the road, I called James and cried and sobbed and begged for help even though he was probably a thousand miles away. Gracie and I both had tears and snot flying all over the car, and I looked to my right to see a trucker staring at me, eyes wide with horror. He fell back for a minute, and then he pulled up next to me again and did a double take, clearly disturbed by the mother/daughter cry-fest that was my car. For the rest of the drive, the highway went down to one lane and a reduced speed limit due to construction. I just kept begging God to keep my car from breaking down, because that was about the only thing that hadn't gone wrong. Thankfully we made it. We were in tact but highly traumatized.

It took an hour of intense scrubbing to clean the barf out of my car, but it will never smell the same again. I washed the carseat cover and Febreezed the straps into oblivion, but at this point it just needs to be set on fire. My parents' neighbors were sitting across the street in the their lawn chairs, watching me throw wipes out of the car and occasionally poke my head out to gag. They also saw me that night when I was so busy wrangling Gracie I forgot to close the bathroom door all the way, and they had a direct view of me on the toilet through the upstairs window from their lawn chairs outside.

I was hoping I would sleep off the new worst day of my life, but I managed to break the garage door bright and early the next day. I fixed it, and then I broke it again a few hours later by accidentally closing the emergency pull cord in the car door and then trying to close the garage door. I spent the better part of the afternoon trying to throw the garage door up to get it to latch in place, and who was there to witness it all but the nosy neighbors in their lawn chairs out front. That night, Gracie Houdini-d herself out of a duct-taped diaper, and I was stung by a bee the next morning. I was determined that I was going to start fresh yesterday morning and all would be well. My mom had stocked the freezer with pumpkin and mocha latte ice cream anticipating my arrival, and my dad had saved a WWII documentary for me. I indulged in both, certain life was going to turn around. I woke up yesterday morning with a raging sore throat and a headache. Gracie was crying and teething so bad she wouldn't eat, so I made her a smoothie for breakfast. Due to a blender malfunction, I blew blueberry banana smoothie all over the floors, walls, counters, and my mom's recipes. After cleaning everything up, I got a text from James that our cat has decided to stop using her litter box. I

At least the neighbors weren't around to see any of that. Speaking of them, the man was outside ALL DAY yesterday scrubbing the siding of the house with a wooden bath brush, hosing it down, drying it with a towel, and then Windexing it. Suddenly, I'm starting to feel a little bit less like a freak. However, I wonder if I could get him to clean the inside of my car?


evidently, someone somewhere wants me to go on a diet

It's only Wednesday, but this week has been a doozy.

Yesterday, I had my first real migraine. It was as awful as they say they are. It started Monday night and hit full force when I woke up yesterday. You know what else hit? Cramps. Yes, those. Every time a sliver of light hit my eyeballs or I heard the sound of a whisper, lighting bolts hit my brain. The timing was great, because Gracie got TWO new teeth yesterday, so she screamed the entire day. Not just fussing and crying, but shrill, demonic screams of pain. I spent much of the day curled up in the fetal position with my green blanket on my head and my fingers in my ears while the screech owl threw her books at my bed and screamed. It goes down as one of the hardest days of my entire life. I called James crying so hard I could hardly speak because I couldn't find the Excedrin that is ALWAYS on top of the fridge. For the first time ever, he took it to work that morning and couldn't leave to bring it to me. This time, the shrill, demonic screaming came from me.

I made it to the store to buy some medicine (and chocolate), and it took the edge off. I finally started to feel a bit of relief, the sound of my own voice wasn't making me dizzy and queasy anymore, and the brain squeezing got slightly better. Aside from feeling loopy and exhausted and like I had downed a bottle of NyQuil, I felt a little more like myself. Which is good, because I had my first MOPS meeting last night. Going into a two hour social-fest feeling like I could sleep for a year was not my smartest move, but I was committed. It went surprisingly well. There was a cake decorating demonstration from some local bakers, and I was ALL about it. Cake decorating! Surely we'll get to eat some, too? After the worst day of my life, I NEED cake. They wouldn't decorate cakes in front of us and then not let us eat some, right? That would be cruel, right? But then, the bakers said they were supposed to have personal cakes for each of us to decorate, but they weren't able to make that happen so we had to practice on paper plates instead.

We ate no cake.

To top it off, a suggestion was made by someone to do away with Christmas cookie exchanges in favor of exchanging bars of soap. While I may have some potential friends in this group, she will probably not be one of them.

This morning, as I was on a walk with Gracie, my friend texted me and asked if I wanted to meet her for storytime in a bakery in an hour. "Free cookies!" she said. I turned the stroller around as fast as I could, because free cookies are always the answer. I took a fast shower and we were out the door and on the road. We got there and found they decided to do storytime outside for the first time. The high today? 90 degrees. There was just enough shade for the reader, so Gracie and I stood off to the side trying to find shelter under a scrawny pine tree. The lady talked about circles extensively before pulling out a book on the rainforest. She was spouting off the scientific names of insects and birds in the rainforest, and I haven't been this bored since high school chemistry.

Then finally, the moment I had been waiting for. She reached into her basket of cookies and started handing them out to the kids. I gave Gracie a bite and then took a bite out of her cookie, because I was not about to let her eat the entire thing. "Excuse me, the cookies are for the children."

You have got to be kidding me.

 "The company paperwork only specifies that children can eat these. It doesn't say if parents can, so only children can have these cookies." There were approximately five kids, and AT LEAST 20 cookies in her basket. 20 cookies just going to waste. If it were me, I would've given the parents two cookies for having to take those toddlers home, but once again, I was forced to be in the presence of delicious desserts and not allowed to touch them. Not long after, the heat drove everyone away except for us and our friends. My friend asked the reader if we could go inside. "No, we have a full hour and we need to do this craft first." Twenty minutes later, we finally left, drenched in sweat and armed with a lion mask I glued since Gracie is still a bit too little for crafts. Gracie fell asleep the last five minutes of the drive home and thus refused to nap this afternoon.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow Gracie and I embark on another road trip, just the two of us. I'll be bringing my own junk food. And Excedrin.


currently, vol. 23

reading: Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis and The Midnight Dress for my online bookclub.
playing: THE PIANO! James cleared a spot in the living room on Sunday afternoon and set up my keyboard since my piano is still with my parents. I finally feel like myself again, except Gracie keeps hijacking it.
watching: How I Met Your Mother and DWTS. It's embarrassing how much I love it. I want to be a celebrity only so I can be on that show.
trying: to find stroller-friendly walking/easy hiking paths. I'm in the mood to go exploring.
cooking: tonight I'm going to attempt homemade sweet & sour chicken. The pizza delivery man will be on speed dial just in case. 
eating: cookies
laughing about: my friend posted this photo on Facebook the other day, and I'm still laughing. Nothing could describe my current phase of life better. 
loving: I've been so physically active lately and I love it. I've been feeling strong, healthy, and much more energetic. Gracie and I go on long walks almost every morning, and when James is home in the evenings I go run. The other night I was in a horrible mood and the gym was full, so I grabbed my bike and went on a long ride. I haven't done that in so long. It was the first time in months that I've felt completely calm and at peace.
envying: Gracie's fall wardrobe. I had a gift card/very strict budget to use during Labor Day weekend, and she is going to be dressed in denims, greys, mustard yellows, and burgundy. I'm in love with seasonal clothing. Seasonal everything, really. I sorted and washed it all this morning and I want it all in my size.
thinking: about sewing a pillowcase for Gracie's crib. It's so easy but CAN I MANAGE IT? Probably not. I'm having fun looking up vintage fabrics, though. Joellen, I know you're reading this. HELP A SISTER.
working on: decorating for fall. I pulled out the few decorations I do have, and then I bought a pumpkin at the grocery store. I can't wait to buy 17 more. This is going to be the year I carve my first pumpkin since childhood.
listening to: Elephant Revival
planning: another solo roadtrip with a toddler. I'm constantly vacillating between excitement and pure dread.
sniffing: my berry pumpkin strudel candle. Life changing.
buying: last week I bought Gracie three different articles of clothing in a fair isle print to prepare for winter. No shame, no regrets, just love.
starting: MOPS on Tuesday. I'm terrified/excited.
finishing: these cookies so I have an excuse to bake something fall-ish. Hence the real reason I've been so physically active lately!


don't cry over spilled raspberry sparkling water

Recounting my stories to a friend who understands.

My life lately has felt like a comedy of errors.

You know those horror stories we've all heard of toddlers who take their diapers off in the crib and the horribleness that ensues? Well. We woke up to that literally crappy scenario Thursday morning, and then we had to change the crib sheets and Gracie's pajamas late Saturday night. There is no article of clothing that kid can't maneuver out of in two seconds flat. A mom friend of mine suggested safety pins, and I was certain that would be the answer to our problems. We safety pinned the zipper to her pajamas, certain our troubles were over. I checked on her a few hours later and found her pajamas on the floor, along with my jaw. The next night, we used two safety pins. Once again, she unfastened them both. I shouldn't be surprised. This is the kid who managed to take off an entire outfit while buckled into her carseat. Out of desperation, we duct taped her diaper. If you have any better ideas, I am all ears. During the day, I have the opposite problem. She lives to rifle through laundry baskets and put on every article of clothing she can find. This morning, I ran out of the shower in a panic when I heard her screaming, and found that she had put a too-small shirt on and was struggling to get it over her head and take it off. 

As you can see, life with Gracie is anything but boring. I've been craving no bake cookies for a month, so I made some last week. I hadn't had them since high school. My high school cafeteria used to have giant no bake cookies for sale, and I would buy them a few times a month whenever I had a little extra lunch money. James and I devoured the cookies, yet my craving had yet to be fully satiated. So I made more, naturally. While I was standing over a hot stove, Gracie was smacking my legs with a book, desperate for me to read to her even though reading is 90% of our day, and she let out a scream so shrill that startled me so much I dumped the sugar on the floor. She did it again as I was measuring oats, and I wound up dumping half the container of oats in the pot. At one point, she grabbed onto my shorts to pull herself up, but instead of pulling herself up, she pulled my shorts down. After spooning the cookies onto a cookie sheet, I stuck it in the fridge to set. Gracie tried to shut the fridge door while I was getting the pan situated, knocking over a full, open can of sparkling water that spilled everywhere. Next time, I'll wait till naptime to bake. Speaking of naptime, convincing G that her nap was non-negotiable was not fun. I went upstairs to calm her down, and as I held her, she wormed out of my arms and made a beeline toward her bookshelf. I can't pretend like I don't understand the desire to read instead of sleep. 

We were both in tears 45 minutes later, but she eventually went to sleep, and I went downstairs determined to recharge and have a relaxing 2 hours. I went to light my new pumpkin candle. I realized a few weeks ago that I must've burned through all my fall candles last year, and panic ensued. Buying new candles is all I've talked about for weeks. It can't be fall until my house smells like a cider mill and pumpkin patch spritzed with cinnamon. James finally kicked me out on Sunday to go hunt some down, and I did. I've been walking past them the past 24 hours, sniffing and cuddling them. I finally grabbed the lighter, literally ready to pull the trigger, and...nothing. It picked that moment to call it quits. Much like my ability to cope. I kid! I had cookies.

After two hours of digging into a C.S. Lewis book, I was feeling rejuvenated. Gracie woke up, we played catch with pillows, and I ran upstairs to use the bathroom while she was preoccupied with a basket full of laundry (her favorite toy for the past 9 months). We were about to leave for the library and I realized I hadn't put my wedding rings on, so I grabbed them and was just about to slide them on my finger as my foot slipped on the first stair. My arms whirled back like a windmill to catch my balance, but I went down so hard it shook the foundation of the building. I proceeded to fall down the entire flight of stairs, hitting every step on the way down while my wedding rings flew out of my hand and were later found under the couch. It felt like my brain sloshed around in my skull and I immediately began crying for my mother. Other than a rug burn on my arm, some bruises, and a sciatic nerve with plenty to say about the experience, I'm fine. I gathered myself and crawled into the living room, where Gracie was quietly (red flag) sitting on the floor, poking at my phone that she found hidden behind a pillow. I snatched it away from her and found that she had taken a picture of her foot and texted it to my dad, as well as downloaded a random app. Upon further inspection, she was also wearing a pair of my underwear that she had pilfered from the laundry basket.

I finally got us in the car to go to the library. I grabbed my sunglasses from the cupholder, and on autopilot my arm reached up to the glasses compartment, pulled out my mint green sunglasses, and put them on right over my aviators. I realized immediately what I had done, but it still worried me that I hit my head a little harder than I realized.

It's no coincidence that the book waiting for me was Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches. Though unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have a chapter on walking down the stairs.