rocking a toddler to sleep

1:03 pm. 

The one o' clock hour is much anticipated in this house; it marks not only the beginning of nap time, but the halfway point in the day. 6 hours up, and 6 hours till bedtime. We're in the homestretch. We've got this. All I have to do is put the baby to sleep and dive into that steaming mug of coffee and library book waiting on the coffee table. After that, just a few short hours until the trifecta of dinner, bath, and bed. I summon the energy despite my yawning.

I fill up the pink raindrop humidifier and turn it on. The blinds are down, the curtains are closed, the pink and purple blocks back in their bag. The toddler crawls up the stairs, and after a quick diaper change, climbs on my lap as we sit in the white, wooden rocking chair. She's holding a knitting bag, a plastic piece of cheese from her play kitchen, an unsharpened pencil, a Mickey Mouse book that days later will be covered in green scribbles and ripped to shreds as protest against a nap, a spoon, an orange Ikea cat rattle, a thick grey string stolen from a hoodie, Pooh Bear, and a hand-sewn doll. All of these have been deemed treasures and essential to the cause. She's leaving no man behind. Try to take one or hide one, and she'll notice. There will be a roll call the second you lay her in the crib, and answers will be demanded, punishments doled out. There is no mercy when it comes to missing toys. She's also wearing her red hat that is slowly starting to smell like wet dog. It scratches my chin as she snuggles her head against my chest.

I start rocking as she wraps her arms around me, consequentially scraping my chest with the edge of her Little Golden Book and wielding an unsharpened pencil dangerously close to my eye. She asks me to sing, and I start into the first verse of Amazing Grace when I'm suddenly interrupted.

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound--"

"Uh oh! Uh oh hat! Uh oh!"

I look down, and her red hat is sitting by my left foot. I pick it up, and she flounces it atop her head but drops her spoon in the process.

"Uh oh spoon! Fall down! Uh oh spoon!" 

We pick up the spoon, and I start singing again.

"that saved a wretch like me, I---"

"Me Mouse? Me Mouse? Uh oh Me Mouse!"

Mickey found himself wedged between my right thigh and the chair rail, poor chap. I set him free, but she drops 5 of her treasures as she reaches to grasp her beloved Mickey book that she will later destroy in a violent battle. We reconfigure and reconvene, and by nothing other than amazing grace, I finish singing Amazing Grace without further interruptions. 

"Jesus loves me this I know, for the--"

"Brush? Brush? Brush? Brush? Brush? Brush? Brush? Brush?

She spotted her hairbrush on the bookshelf, and urgently wiggles herself down to go grab it. There will be no nap without the hairbrush. I know it's ridiculous, but at this point I would let her sleep with a gallon of paint in her crib if it meant a few minutes of quiet. She hops back up, and we negotiate the  toy situation. She won't give any up, but she does agree to let me hold the knitting bag, book, pencil, and kitty cat rattle. With all four of our hands full, we rock. I sing. I close my eyes as my singing is on autopilot by this point, and I imagine what it would feel like to be rocked to sleep every day. Every so often, she moves her head to look up at me and smile. The dirty, rigid, scratchy felt of her red hat scrapes my chin every time like sandpaper. 

"When peace like a river attendenth my way," I quietly, sleepily drone.

She knows this song and loves to sing it with me. She looks up at me, smiling, but all she sees is my head against the back of the chair and my mouth wide open. 

At least one of us is asleep.


currently, vol. 28

reading: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton and Anne of Green Gables. A million thumbs up for both.

watching: we're in-between shows right now. All the shows I had wanted to watch are no longer free on Amazon Prime, and I'm very bitter about it. We did watch about 4 episodes of American Housewife the other night, and it's unnerving how much I resemble Katie Otto, though not quite as outspoken and hopefully a little kinder.

cooking: cheeseburger soup and homemade bread. I'm also looking up baked donut recipes so I can put my new donut pans to good use. I should probably just go ahead and buy some pants 2 sizes up.

loving: my friend was in town this weekend, and she gave Gracie a tea set. It's the cutest thing ever, and Gracie LOST HER MIND with excitement. Our weekend was one giant tea party. I can't believe we're finally at the age for tea parties! I believe I can thank this turn of events for the fact that Gracie pulled her Mary Poppins book off her bookshelf for the first time that night and wanted to read it over and over. She walked around in her pajamas saying "spit spot! spit spot!" I found her in bed that night having a tea party with Pooh and Piglet. Then yesterday morning she danced to the Saved by the Bell theme song. Just doing our best to raise a well-rounded child.

frustrated by: I think half of what we own broke last week. My car battery died Tuesday, James' car broke down on the way to work Thursday morning due to an electrical glitch, our vacuum completely died via a small explosion on Saturday, and the garbage disposal broke yesterday. It was an expensive week. My two migraines were probably not a coincidence.

listening to: I've been rediscovering my love for Sondre Lerche lately.

creeped out by: Bloglovin' telling us who's reading our posts. It unnerves me for some reason. I'd rather not know, and I don't like someone being alerted when I read their post. This is exactly how it makes me feel.

collecting: evidence to get the pot smoker evicted. The smell was so bad Friday night that I texted James to whine about it. He called the non-emergency police from work since we were 99.9% sure we knew who it was. Two hours later, once the smell had considerably died down, I heard the cops downstairs. I turned the tv off, tiptoed to the front door, and (very loudly) cracked it open to eavesdrop (I felt like I was in an thriller movie; it was all very dramatic). I heard the cops tell him they can't smell pot outside, but they smell it on him. They didn't do anything but warn him, but now our suspicions have been 100% confirmed. I'm so glad he was dumb enough to open the door.

drinking: a Flat White from Starbucks. I've been very social this week which means I need a lot of rest and caffeine for the foreseeable future. I think Gracie feels the same way. During her playdate on Friday, she got so tired she walked into the baby's room, pointed to his crib, and asked to take a nap.

planning: a scouting mission to my local Aldi's this week. My friends swear by it, but I've, gasp, never been. I got overwhelmed at the thought of paying for the cart and bringing your own bags. It's all I can do to remember to bring snacks and a sippy cup when we leave the house.

sniffing: homemade bread in the oven and my lavender vanilla candle


turning 28

I'm a big believer in birthday weeks. I believe in early celebrating and then dragging out those celebrations as long as you can. As I wrote on Sunday, my birthday week did not start off on the right foot. Monday was almost an exact replica of Sunday, except James wasn't home to help.

And then Tuesday. James was supposed to have the night off, but he got called in to work. Gracie napped for less than an hour and woke up angry. For both our sanity, I knew we had to get out of the house. We were both in awful moods and there were still too many hours until bedtime. I decided we would go visit James at work, maybe hit the library, and I would use my free Starbucks birthday drink. We would redeem this day! I bundled us up to brave the frigid wind and blowing snow and got us situated in the car.

Which didn't start.

I immediately wailed on the phone to James and then called roadside assistance. Maybe they could get here quickly and we would still have time to get out. The man on the phone chuckled and said "Believe it or not, our van broke down. The roadside assistance van needs roadside assistance!" I mean, seriously. He said it would be a couple hours to get the van fixed, and they had another call before me. I hauled us back inside while Gracie yelled "I wanna go bye bye! Go bye bye!" I felt her pain. We barely survived the rest of the afternoon by watching too many episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Just as I was getting dinner out for Gracie, RA showed up. They jumped my car and I kept it running to let the battery recharge. By the time we finished, it was way past dinner time and almost bedtime. Gracie had a hangry meltdown and yet refused anything that wasn't cheese. It was a very long evening.

Needless to say, there hasn't been much celebrating this week.

Yesterday was my birthday, and thankfully there was finally some celebrating. Not did I turn a year older, but it means that in exactly two weeks, Gracie turns a year older too---don't talk to me about it. I had been sad that this would be the first birthday of my life that my family wouldn't be here to celebrate with me, so James took the day off. Having a full day with him in the middle of the week was the best birthday gift by far. I opened birthday presents with Gracie, who was just too happy to help me rip wrapping paper, and I blew out my candles while still wearing my cat pajamas.

It was snowy and 8 degrees when I woke up. It's usually in the 50s on my birthday, so this was strange. I can't remember the last time my birthday was so cold, but we still spent the morning going to a handful of my favorite places. I call this the Michelle's Favorite Things birthday, and it did not disappoint. We spent most of the morning in German Village, and started at Stauff's for cappuccinos. My favorite bookstore just so happens to be next door. 32 rooms of books! I wanted to spend all day there, but keeping tabs on Gracie and her Pooh Bear that she kept hiding in nooks and crannies was anything but a relaxing, book browsing experience. I decided to start a new birthday tradition of buying myself a new book every year on my birthday. There were a million books I wanted, but I wound up with Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.

After mentally taking note of 300 more books to buy once I win the lottery, we walked up the street to a bakery for a little treat. It was at this point that Gracie ran out of snacks and was asking for lunch, so we went out for Mexican food. It feels wrong to celebrate life events with anything other than tacos. We went to our favorite place since it's always good and the food comes out eerily fast. After 5.5 years, I guess we were due for disappointment. The server forgot to put our order in, Gracie was melting down, and I was feeling overheated and extremely queasy from motion sickness and low blood sugar. She cried while I tried not to throw up on the table. An hour later and after the manager went back to the kitchen three times for us (the restaurant wasn't even that busy!), our food came out. Half of mine was ice cold, but I was so hungry I didn't even care.

We went home, and Gracie gave me the second best gift ever by NAPPING. Oh, it was so sweet. I curled up on the couch and chowed down on the macarons I got from the bakery while James and I caught up on New Girl. I wound up with an upset stomach for the rest of the afternoon (not pregnant, thanks for wondering) and felt miserable. I'm looking at you, Mexican food. But we redeemed our lunch experience with pizza and birthday cake. All day long I thought about my birthday two years ago, when I was hugely pregnant and a week from my due date. It was only two years ago, but so much has changed. Including the fact that I didn't spend yesterday evening sniffing new shoes due to a pregnancy-induced obsession with the smell of rubber. Ahhh, the good old days.

Food, books, and lying on the couch. There is literally nothing more I could want for my birthday. And there's still plenty more week to celebrate, in the form of ordering my groceries online instead of dragging a screaming kid through the aisles and finally redeeming that free birthday coffee.



stream of consciousness

Every weekend when I think back to the week, I remember almost nothing. The days are so long, but after a few of them, they blur into a fuzzy picture of exhaustion and skipped naps. The only thing that stands out to me from the past week is Tuesday evening. Gracie had once again skipped her nap and was writhing on the floor in tears, so I decided we were going out for donuts, torrential rains or not. I had earned it. I tried to run to the car while carrying Gracie, but something went wrong and I twisted my ankle while running through a puddle. I very clearly felt a tendon do something it's not supposed to do. I hobbled to the car in the rain, and I was so distracted by my ankle that I drove the opposite direction I was supposed to go. Once I finally got there and ordered, I opened my wallet to find my debit card missing.

At least I had donuts to console me. And at least I had my emergency credit card on me. I later found my debit card lurking in a dark corner of my wallet. I have no idea how or why it was there, but at least it wasn't lost.

On most weekends when James is home, I crash hard. I'm so drained from a week of solo parenting that I can barely pull myself out of bed or function on Saturday and Sunday. I had a strange burst of energy this past Saturday, so I cleaned and scrubbed the house and did a little toy organization. Do you know how much scrubbing goes into getting crayon marks off the furniture? Nothing is safe anymore! Any scrap of paper is immediately scribbled on, and I keep finding renegade green and blue drawings on the table and the coffee table. No matter how closely I watch her, she manages to leave her mark on everything. By lunch time, everything was clean, I was on my third load of laundry, I had been to the gym, and a pot roast was cooking in the crockpot. I felt like a superhero. It's amazing the things that can get done when James is around to wrangle her. He also brought me coffee and a bagel in bed in the morning. I have never known such luxury!

As expected, I hit a wall today. I think we all have. Gracie took only two solid naps this week, and she slept horribly last night and would not nap today. She has been screaming at the top of her lungs all day. With the constant pot wafting in from the neighbors, the screaming, and the snowstorm on the way, I've had a raging headache all weekend. She fell asleep in my arms for exactly 5 minutes this afternoon after the most fearsome tantrum she's ever thrown, and she woke up when I tried to lay her in the crib. Cue all the tears and screaming for two full hours. I know we lost an hour today in the time change, but I swear we gained one, because this day just won't end. I escaped to the bedroom and I can hear Daniel Tiger on downstairs, so I know James had to call in the big guns to calm her down. This is not how I wanted to start off my birthday week!

The good news is that James went full Burt Macklin, FBI, and discovered who the pot smoker is. The guy downstairs! I had narrowed it down to him and someone else, but he stepped outside this morning as James was outside, and a wall of marijuana smoke/air freshener hit him in the face so intensely that his eyes were burning for hours. We told the landlords, but they still need tangible proof to evict him. We're trying to hold each other back from attacking him. I want to let him have it for affecting my health for months. I can hardly sit in my living room without having an atrocious allergic reaction, and it's been so cold we can't crack the windows. I've even gotten hives! I will not rest until this guy is gone and I never have to see him again.

We've slowly been coming out of hibernation and socializing again, and it is so good to have adults to talk to again. I realized that I have three things on my calendar coming up this week and immediately felt anxious. Over three plans. I mean, really. Ridiculous. I am in this constant tension of wanting to hang out with people and then feeling anxious once I have plans, because that means I have to be somewhere at a certain time and not fall asleep sitting up. I think I have to re-train myself to be around other humans.

I finished reading the book Spaceman on Friday night, and I can't stop thinking about it. It was very well-written, and the prologue itself gave me an adrenaline rush. He talked about all the sensations of sitting in the space shuttle as it launched and entered space. HOW COOL IS THAT. I have no desire to go to space (hello motion sickness), but the whole concept is so mind-boggling and fascinating to me. I spent the rest of the evening watching videos of space shuttles launching and space walks, and then I wound up watching a documentary I found on youtube about what it's like to live in the International Space Station for an extended period of time. Can you imagine just floating around in the air with no gravity for 6 months?! I'm still thinking about it. I've even dreamed about it every night since. I took an abrupt literary turn and finally started reading Anne of Green Gables. That L.M. Montgomery can write. It is even more charming and delightful than I could have ever imagined, and I'm only two chapters in. And because I'm crazy, there are 5 books waiting for me at the library. I requested one, just to think of another one I want to read, which reminded me of another, and before I knew it I was drowning in library requests. Story of my life.

In non-book news, James and I blazed through the second season of Mercy Street this week. It was SO GOOD, and then I googled to find out when season 3 will air, only to find out it's been cancelled. Like a punch to the gut. Only the good die young. Now I'll never know if the Union Officers find the dead body in the warehouse or if Nurse Finney recovers from Typhoid. I demand answers! Just as soon as I take care of the hooligan who lives downstairs, I'll turn my attention to the BBC Masterpiece Theater and demand a script for season 3. I need closure.

I also need donuts, but no way am I leaving my house for them again.


50 questions

I've had some major writer's block for awhile, and I came across this somewhere on the interwebs and thought it would be perfect. I love answering stupid and random questions.

1. What are your nicknames? What you do like to be called? I don't really care what you call me. I'm mostly called Michelle or Shell, but if you can't remember my name, there's a 97% chance you'll call me Melissa. A creepy guy in high school used to call me Smelly Shelly. It was ironic coming from him, because he had so much dandruff he left a trail of it everywhere he went. 
2. What books are on your shelf begging to be read? Don't murder me, but I've never read the Anne of Green Gables series. I can quote the movie, but I never made it past the first book. That's my goal this spring.
3. What often do you doodle? What do your doodles look like? I never doodle anymore! I barely even write on paper lately. That's so depressing now that I realize it. When I was a kid, I made a doodle of a bird and submitted it to an American Girl's doodle contest. It was accepted and printed in the Doodle-a-Day calendar in the late 90s. This is funny because a stick figure is challenging for me to draw. I have zero artistic skills. 
4. What do you do if you can’t sleep at night? Do you count sheep? Toss and turn? Try to get up and do something productive? I feel personally attacked by this question because this has been my life for MONTHS. I have zero strategies except to down a bottle of ZzzQuil (bonus points if you accidentally knock it over at 1am and neon blue liquid covers your toilet, rugs, floor, counters, mirrors, and bathtub, and the stickiness NEVER GOES AWAY) and cry. Sometimes I sing hymns in my head, and that's worked a few times. But mostly I just cry and think about how tired I'm going to be the next day. 
5. How many days could you last in solitary confinement? How would you do it? Being a SAHM is its own version of solitary confinement, so I could go for years and be just fine. Well, mostly fine. 
6. Do you save old greeting cards and letters? Throw them away? The really sweet and special ones I save. I feel so guilty throwing away cards, but I don't have room to store them all.
7. What is your dream career? I could go two ways with this. My ultimate dream career is to be a writer. I have zero idea what I would write about, but I would probably go the Sloane Crosley route and write a book about random embarrassing experiences. I would get just famous enough that I would be on a season of DWTS and be partnered with Val, and then I'd go back to my life of writing memoirs and creative nonfiction from my house and spend the evenings taking care of my goat and chickens. 

My other dream career is to be a meteorologist. I am unnaturally obsessed with weather and meteorology, as we already know, but I don't have the math and science brain to handle it. I just have 6 different weather apps on my phone, and I get giddy talking about barometric pressure. Whatever. 
8. When making an entrance into a party, do you make your presence known? Do you slip in and look for someone you know? Do you sneak in quietly and find a safe spot to roost? The last two. I need a comfort blanket in human form whenever I'm in some kind of gathering. I need a friend I can glom onto, and if I don't have one I'll hide in the corner and awkwardly scroll on my phone, and then leave via the Irish Exit. 

Invite me to your parties! I'm super fun.
9. What is your strongest sense? If you had to give one up, which would it be? My sense of...humor? Ha. I have no idea, but my sense of smell has been off the chain since pregnancy. It's no longer at the level where I can smell and identify everyone's shampoo from miles away, but the other day I could smell a candle I haven't burned in years. I'll keep all my senses, thanks.
10. How many times a day do you look at yourself in the mirror? Silly me, I never keep track. I tend to avoid them these days.
11. What’s the strangest thing you believed as a child? I remember going through a long phase in which I was CONVINCED Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak were the same person. I made a comment to my parents one day about how he must be busy hosting back to back game shows. They told me Pat and Alex are two different people, and I was so adamant that I was correct that I burst into tears. I think I believed this for years. I thought they looked the same!

12. What is one guilty pleasure you enjoy too much to give up? Reality TV.  At the end of a long solo-parenting day, my brain is too tired for books and crappy TV is the perfect escape. 
13. Who performs the most random acts of kindness out of everyone you know? Joellen for sure.
14. How often do you read the newspaper? Which paper? Which sections? We don't get the newspaper, but I kind of wish we did. I used to read it online, but it stopped being free. I'm such a millennial. 

15. Which animals scare you the most? Why? Snakes. I can't even type that word without shuddering. I can't say it without hyperventilating. It is a real and irrational fear to the point that we have a code word in our house: snausage. If you ever here us use the word snausage, RUN. 
16. Are you more likely to avoid conflict or engage it head-on? I will mostly likely jump off a cliff before engaging in conflict. I once got roped into a raging twitter fight with someone I know and it bothered me for WEEKS.

17. What was the most recent compliment you’ve received and savored? I'm not sure if it was the most recent compliment, but a friend and my dad both told me I'm a good mom on the same day. After a bunch of really hard weeks, it was a balm for my soul. It's so hard to know how you're doing when you're elbow-deep in tantrums and diapers and laundry all day long.
18. What is something about yourself that you hope will change, but probably never will? My skin tone. I'm incredible pale, and my cheeks are always splotchy red. I look like an Irishman with a chronic fever. 
19. Are you a creature of habit? 

20. Are you high maintenance? Explain. I hope I'm not in general, but I am when it comes to sleeping or riding in a car. I can't fall asleep unless there's complete silence and no movement. If James turns over in bed, I have to start the falling asleep process all over again. In the car, I have to sit up front or I'll get severely motion sick. Even up front I'll probably get motion sick, but there will be less chance of me barfing.
21. When was the last time you really pushed yourself to your physical limits? March 29, 2015. Childbirth. Boom.
22. Do you have a whole lot of acquaintances or just a few very close friends? Why? A few close friends. Just the way I like it. I don't have the social energy to keep up with more than that.
23. Are you more inclined to “build your own empire” or unleash the potential of others? I don't even know. 
24. What’s a strangest occurrence you’ve experienced but have never (or rarely) shared with anyone? A few months ago, I had a really upsetting dream about a conversation I had with someone. It was outlandish and weird and not something I thought would ever happen, but then the person from my dream said the same things to me later that day almost word for word. It was unnerving. 

25. What do you think about more than anything else? What to eat/when I can sleep.
26. What’s something that amazes you? The human body and the way it heals itself and just keeps staying alive. BLOWS MY MIND.
27. Do you prefer that people shoot straight with you or temper their words? Kind of both. I hate when people beat around the bush, but I'm also unnecessarily sensitive. 
28. Where’s your favorite place to take an out of town guest? Thanks to a slew of visiting friends, I used to have my tour of the city down to a science. Lunch at Northstar, ice cream at Jeni's, explore the Short North, visit the Book Loft in German Village, Stauff's coffee and a snack at North Market, etc. If you're really lucky I'll drive you past the Old Navy where Casey Anthony was spotted right after her aquittal. 
29. What’s one thing you’d rather pay someone to do than do yourself? Clean the bathrooms. I hate it. I will do your laundry and anyone else's if you'll clean my bathroom. I kind of love laundry. Sickening, I know.
30. Do you have a catchphrase? I hope not. But if I had one, it would probably be "I'm so tired." I am a fun and thrilling person to be around.
31. What is one of your most cherished memories? Staying with my grandma the last time I was in California. She told me stories of her childhood, pulled out pictures from the 40s and 50s, we played the piano together, and she helped me take care of Gracie. She's the best. I talked to her on the phone a few weeks ago and it made me smile for days. She's the best.
32. How and where do you prefer to study? I don't study anymore! It's so wonderful. My roommate constantly had friends over making noise, so I had a chair at the Starbucks down the street where I wrote many essays and did my French homework. I can't drink a Starbucks iced coffee without involuntarily conjugating irregular French verbs. 
33. What position do you sleep in? Curled up on my side, like I'm back in the womb.
34. What’s your all-time favorite town or city? Why? I'm not sure. Probably Santa Barbara. A lot of awesome family memories there, and it's the most gorgeous place on earth. 

35. What are the top three qualities that draw you to someone new? If you make me laugh I'll love you forever. Also kindness and, I don't know, sincerity? 
36. How has your birth order/characteristics of siblings affected you? Being an only child has made me fiercely independent. I'd rather go places/do things alone when most people would call a friend.

37. If you could eliminate one weakness or limitation in your life, what would it be? MY SHYNESS. It's exhausting. 
38. If you could restore one broken relationship, which would it be? I think the ones I would most want to restore have been restored to some level.
39. If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? My parents almost named me Sarah, and I went through a phase where I was very angry that they didn't. I don't mind my name at all now.
40. Do you believe ignorance is bliss? Why or why not? In the case of calories, absolutely. 
41. What do you consider unforgivable? Nothing is truly unforgivable, but a lot of things come close.
42. Have you forgiven yourself for past personal failures? I think? No use dwelling on it. 
43. How difficult if it for you to forgive someone who refuses to apologize? Difficult, but possible.
44. Do you hold any convictions that you would be willing to die for? Yes.
45. What three fictional characters best represent you? Remember when this was all over social media? I never participated, but lemme tell you I thought hard about it. Definitely Lorelai Gilmore for her sass and addiction to coffee (and throw in Rory's bookish ways), Jess Day from New Girl, because we are the same person. She's worn several things on the show that I have in real life, she's quirky, she knits, and she's always making things awkward. And....and....and...I have no idea. Oh! Miranda Hart. She's the British version of me, but she's much funnier. If you're having a bad day, youtube The Miranda Show. There's definitely a pinch of both Nick Miller and Ron Swanson in me as well.

46. In what area of your life are you immature? I can never resist a That's What She Said or a Your Mom joke. 
47. What was the best news you ever received? That I was pregnant with a healthy baby girl. Best day ever.
48. How difficult is it for you to be honest, even when your words may be hurtful or unpopular?  Very hard.
49. When did you immediately click with someone you just met? Why? What was the long term result? Conversely, are you close with anyone now that you really disliked at first? I met a friend of a friend at the zoo back in the fall. I was a bit skeptical, but we hit it off and have hung out since. It's not often that I instantly click with a new friend, but I love when it happens. I don't think any of my close friends are people I disliked at first. 

50. When do you find yourself singing? Every day in the white rocking chair before nap time and bedtime.