Thursday, August 29, 2013

Painting on the Porch

I use to be the type of person that had expectations. If you ask my husband, I still am. I like to think though that I have gotten much better at not building up experiences before they happen and simply trying to wait to see what they will be. My mind works too much and my imagination is too vivid to simply not think about the future. When I start thinking about the future, I start picturing how things might be. And then I try and tell myself these things are stories I am making up and not real life.

I write this because when Andrew and I were moving down here, we had not even seen the place we were going to live. We kept going through the photos of the showroom on the website and trying to imagine our retro red kitchen table in place of the modern one in the picture. All I really knew was that we would have a little fenced in porch. Which may not seem like anything too special, but in Arkansas we just had a slab on concrete and Blanche knew no limits to her wandering. I started picturing how I could sit and relax with a gated patio. Then before I knew it this new little luxury turned into a full on expectation of greatness. I would put Blanche's easel on the patio. We would have our chairs and she would paint while I drank coffee.

What has surprised me is that this has actually happened. Well, Blanche does throw her markers (no paint yet) almost every time by the end of our session outside. Which results in having to put them away. And for awhile she was dropping bits and pieces of chalk down to the first floor over the railing. She has gotten better at that. Plus its a little warm for coffee. But I know it will get cooler.

This morning Andrew was sleeping in a bit after working a late shift. As I tried to wake up while drinking my coffee there was a little sadness that I often get when I feel like all I am doing is surviving. People that love to create and express themselves artistically can't just live to survive. We have to make things too. I do try to constantly let myself create in ways that can benefit my family. Thats why I make baby books for my babies and why I sometimes write and post on this blog. This morning when I started feeling lonely for creativity I saw almost at the same time how the morning sunlight was pouring in through our big glass doors and onto the floors. I also noticed that wow, Blanche has really great hair. Sometimes when you are around a person almost every waking moment you don't notice those things. I love the feeling of looking through my fixed 50 lens at her in the sunlight. Even if that fixed 50 is plastic and the auto focus in broken. Its almost more romantic. I see her soft skin and beautiful blonde hair come in and out of focus as I try so hard to get a crisp shot before she moves again.

We went out to the place I had dreamed about, our little apartment patio. Blanche colored and tested the boundaries like she always does. Coloring a little on the board, a little on the patio, and a little on her fingers. Always looking up to see what I would say. I would say what she should do probably ten times. And then I started to think maybe I am more artist than mother because I would rather let her do what she wants so I can capture a beautiful image over teaching her boundaries.

I am thankful for mornings like these when I can capture the ordinary and look back to see the beauty in the moment. Photography has always been a beautiful thing to me because once I start capturing the images around me, I begin to see that so much of the ordinary is beautiful. It is also why I love to write. I recently read something like, "We write to taste life twice…" And thats why I take pictures too. So I can taste the moments I love again and again.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blanche's New Room and Our New Life

With our last place we had set up slowly over time. I was pregnant with Blanche when moving into our old townhouse, and once she was born and grew so did the things in our home. Moving to this apartment we lost over 200 square feet. We will be a family of four in an 800+ square foot apartment. I know that this is spacious compared to many families' situations, and I've seen families in big cities with adorable and simplistic places. Andrew and I felt like we had down sized quite a bit before moving, but once moved in it seemed like we had to find a place for everything. I tend to be on the sentimental side, which can make it hard to get rid of things. I feel like I'm always in a constant battle with my self to either donate most of what we have and live in a very simplistic nature, or to go ahead and keep what I love and to dream of my bohemian farm house filled with four kids.

I have learned over the last couple of years that sometimes it okay to keep things. Most of our treasures are family heirlooms, thrift store finds, or quirky things from either Andrew or my childhood. I also try and donate things any time I bring something new into our home. There is however a beauty in learning that more is not always the road to happiness, and that living creatively with what you have can lead to a happier life.

I had taken a few pictures of Blanche's room already, so I thought I would show her space first. It actually seems my readers prefer to see Blanche's room over any other. There is something soothing about a child's room. Blanche has a twin bed in her room, which is mostly used for company. She is still a little small to climb up on her new (adorable and vintage) bed frame, and also prefers to reach out for human life every few hours in the night. I can understand that. I like being close to people I love while I sleep. She also has the rocking chair that my Meme (my dad's mom) was rocked in, next to a dresser given to me by my step mom and a wardrobe given to me by my mother. The wardrobe was actually built for my mom when she was a little girl by her grandfather, the original Blanche's husband. I did not paint or try to match the two pieces of furniture. It just worked out perfectly. I love when that happens. The window seat is a favorite spot of Blanche's to read and snuggle with her blankets and pillows. Her room is mostly filled with books and stuffed animals. Her closet has a wooden trunk filled with other toys like a barbie or some funny toy that use to belong to Andrew. She has my old scarves from India hanging in her closet as well, which she loves to pull down and dress up with.

I do love that Blanche's room has two closets. Once the baby comes I know we will have less space, and I'm glad that each child will have a designated space. I think Andrew and I are both secretly (maybe not that secretly) hoping to be out of this apartment around the end of our lease next summer.

Although an apartment seems less like a home than our town home, we are thankful for this new place and the location we are in. I am also thankful that there aren't any stairs inside the apartment. Being pregnant, potty training, and stairs do not go together. Andrew and I both seem to feel like we have made a huge step towards the life we are wanting. We are so thankful for his mom and step dad being close and all of their support in moving here. Andrew also has a job that he loves at Whole Foods, and even though he isn't at full-time yet, he will start getting benefits soon and we get 20% off our groceries. Maybe we were too young to be scared, but we often talk about how crazy it is that we decided to just move across the country. At the time we decided to move he didn't even have a job yet. I admire Andrew for being a leader and also helping us achieve our goals. We would talk so much about the life we wanted and where we want to be, and he helped us start to make that happen. It has been a lot of work at times and even pretty exhausting. We are now though starting to get into the swing of things. We both have our Texas drivers licenses (after 5 combined trips? and me retaking both the written and driving test), our family's insurance is working out finally, and Blanche and I both have new doctors. The ideas of moving can seem magical and exciting beforehand, but actually doing it is mostly work. I am thankful for what we have been through and how God has provided for us. I am also excited to see more of what is ahead in our adventure.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blanche Olive at Almost Two Years Old

In less than two months, Blanche will be two years old. I would have to say that the second year has went by even faster than the first. I know I write a lot about Blanche on my blog, but I haven't been as good as I would have liked at documenting the little details of her personality. She grows slowly and quickly at the same time. It feels like she's always been the way she is currently, until I look at a picture from a few months back. Its always been little Blanche. From those first fews months of restlessness, to her messy little self while learning to eat solid foods, to this quirky little toddler that is still messy and restless.

In the last week I have had two different moms with daughters Blanche's age tell me, "I love this stage. Aren't you just falling in love with this stage?" And honestly I say yes, but I also feel really tired. Today after putting Blanche to bed I just laid there for twenty minutes. My entire body hurt. Sometimes this feels discouraging because I'm only 18 weeks pregnant. I haven't even gained that much weight yet. And my whole body hurts. Sometimes it is hard to imagine being nine months pregnant. But it is not Blanche's fault. And honestly she brings so much light and laughter for any ounce of exhaustion she brings. Being almost two must be really hard. She walks around the house or apartment complex saying "NO NO NO" at certain things we have talked about. There are just times when I feel (and know) she is so smart, so its confusing why she still hasn't completely learned not to run into the parking lot. The other day on the way back from the pool she walked down the sidewalk ramp into the parking lot. I had my hands full and was feeling tired and hungry. I told her to stop, which she didn't, and then when I yelled, "BLANCHE OLIVE" very loudly because I was scared, she ran even more. I don't spank Blanche. But I did on her leg while she was in the parking lot. I told her ouchie on her leg happens if a car would hit her. Andrew talked with her to about how we yell because we are scared because we love her. I told her I was sorry but it scares mommy to see her where cars could hurt her. These are the types of situations I wish I wasn't having while standing in 100 degree weather, pregnant and in my swimsuit. But the conversations have to happen. We have these types of talks many times a day.

I do see that she is really picking up on so many things though. Blanche has known anywhere from 50-100 signs from ASL since she was about a year old. I do think this kept her a little more quiet from trying new words. I mean who would try to say helicopter when you could just sign it? (And she could, well her version at about 18 months) But in the last couple of months, especially since we have moved to Austin, she has started saying and signing some words, dropping signs to just speak, and trying brand new words. Yesterday she said "diaper" perfectly even though I have never heard her say it. The same with "rabbit" today. She also started telling me to "watch" her today for the first time, and then repeated it with everything she did. She has started saying "Black" and "Brown" when she colors. And she can say and sign "purple, pink, green, blue," and tries to say yellow and orange but still signs them. And knows them all correctly. Blanche hasn't taken a real interest to counting or letters yet. She knows what two is though. And since a little over a year old has been able to find her letter "I" alphabet book to find the ice-cream.

I have either started saying "Okay" a lot since I've become exhausted and pregnant or maybe I always just said it. Not like "Okay Blanche, sure do what you want" but more "OOkkkaay, lets eat lunch." Its my word that I get to have about three seconds to figure out what I am doing while I say it. So now, Blanche says, "OOOOTTTAAAYY" Pretty much exactly like that. Even when she is trying to poop on the potty. She takes a deep breathe, pulls off her diaper and exclaims, "OOKKay." I love it.

Blanche is also still nursing even though I doubt there is any milk left. I ask her if there is milk and she says yes. But I wonder if she just thinks there's a little in there. I have been open to tandem nursing for two main reasons: 1. I want Blanche to have a smoother transition and closer bond to her sibling through breastfeeding 2. Breastfeeding has always made everything about one thousand times easier for me. Its just how I parent. So, not having much milk, and Blanche really backing down has been harder and more tiring. Blanche does know though that there is a baby in my belly. And right now there isn't much milk. She also knows more milk is coming and when baby comes she has to share. Blanche has now tried several times to push my breast to my belly to "give the baby some milk." It might sound weird to someone without kids, but to me, it is so sweet because Blanche is willing to share something that is very special to her. This has given me hope that I can make it through the next couple months of a dry spell, and continue on in a loving and beautiful breastfeeding relationship with Blanche and the new baby.

I wanted to take time to write down the things that are going on with Blanche in this season. She is very smart, but also loves to watch a "SHOW." She exclaims it just like that. "Melmo" (elmo) is her best friend. She loves to play outside and in the dirt. The other day we had a play date with a mom. I guess Blanche touched rocks that were extra dirty, or maybe the mom was cleaner than me. She told Blanche the rocks were very dirty, and when Blanche reached out to touch her daughter she told her she had to clean her hands first. While Blanche was being lifted up to the kitchen sink and getting her hands scrubbed with soap better than they ever have been, Blanche was looking at me like "where in the world did you bring me?"

I could go on and on. Blanche loves to dance and take a bath with bubbles. She can request both of these things. She knows what she likes to eat and always has a specific thing that she would like for meals or snacks. She is also starting to be more successful in dressing herself and putting on her shoes. She even goes into the closet and grabs my shoes for me when we are about to leave.

Anyways, she is a bright light to our day and a loud scream to our night (only occasionally). I will say she may have my sleeping habits (not really that great) but hopefully has the creativity that comes with staying up late.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Finding Gems in the Sand

Wednesday Andrew and I celebrated three years of marriage. When its put in years it sounds like we have barely begun. It really is true though. I would feel robbed if I was only given three years of marriage with Andrew. What I love about my relationship with Andrew is that so much of the time it feels so easy. I remember one time crying over my old boyfriend to his mom, (sounds really weird but it was a long and complicated story) and why it may seem weird to bring this up during a post about my anniversary, I remember it because of what she said. She told me that when you find the right person it won't be hard. Not that love is always easy, but that I wouldn't have to try and force a relationship to work. We would both want it to.

Andrew has been my friend from the beginning. He has always been so good to me. Marriage is such a raw and vulnerable thing. You are naked in every way. Even though it is scary sometimes, I think you learn to love it. Because Andrew gets to see everything. He saw my smooth and young tummy turn into a huge pregnant belly. He helped me shower after giving birth to Blanche. He sees my stretch marks and my again growing belly with this new baby. And he loves me. That is the best feeling.

He is there when I have had the best day, and watches me take photos and create with my hands. Andrew is the one who wakes up to me pregnant and crying in the night. But when the new day comes, he never comments on how overdramatic I was, but offers to take me to get french toast. Real life love is so much more beautiful than anything you can see in a movie or read in a book. Its not always about passionate sex or going out to fancy restaurants. But having someone that sees all of me, even the parts I am still trying to discover, and that he says yes to those things, to all of those things, that yes is the most beautiful thing in the world.

How I feel about Andrew is everything he has shown to me. I love him because of how well he has loved me. I try to be the same to him.

Having children is similar to learning to be married. Because in a way you are married to each of your children while they live at home. There really is no way to get away. One might envision soft baby kisses and little baby toes. And while that comes with a baby, so does many nights of crying and wakefulness. Each year you fall more in love with that little person. Some how you love a naughty toddler more than you did when they were brand new. Blanche is a symbol of Andrew and I's love for one another. She shows us the good and the bad, and sometimes we can't believe that it was us that made something so beautiful and so exhausting.

Andrew and I had went out earlier this month for our anniversary and my birthday. So we spent the day as a family doing things like grocery shopping and excavating rocks. Andrew bought me a rock kit for our anniversary. We had so much fun making such a big mess. After we were all covered in dirt we went and jumped in the pool. It was a day when I wasn't expecting much but was pleasantly surprised by my love for my family.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Another Baby

Often times I sit down at computer to write because I know its what I should do. I am actually proud of myself for sitting down to write. It will be a year ago next month that I wrote this resolution. Part of me sort of feels like every other mom out there writing a blog. And I am. But I also know that so many bloggers become great writers and photographers by simply practicing with what they have.

I have always been an imaginative person. I am not sure if its called an artist or a visionary or maybe just a child. I see and hear beautiful things that I want to put down on paper. I see Blanche in some moments of the day and feel so much love, and I wonder if I could ever take a picture that would let someone feel that. I see other photographers and read beautiful poetry and know it is possible.

I know I won't have quiet afternoons forever, so during these times I write. When I was pregnant with Blanche I wrote more on the blog about how it felt to be pregnant. I never really officially announced that I was pregnant again. I do think I have mentioned it on here. In the midst of moving across the country, taking care of a toddler, and still having this experience in the back of my mind, I guess this pregnancy hasn't seemed as real to me yet. I am showing now. And Andrew will tell you I have the stomach and emotions of any normal pregnant woman. This week we are going to have a sonogram done and will get to hear the heartbeat and see the baby for the first time at almost 17 weeks.

I was looking through newborn pictures of Blanche just a bit ago and this strange feeling came over me. So much of the time I find myself processing the stressful things with Andrew. I find myself so tired in the evenings with Blanche and wonder how I could have another baby. But as I was looking at her newborn pictures I realized that if all goes well, by mid January I will be holding my own little newborn once again. I will get to smell that newborn smell and have a baby roll from one hand to another with such little muscle control. Sure there will always be worries and stresses. But no mother ever got herself through pregnancy and labor by thinking about the long and sleepless nights ahead. Mothers continue and stay strong by focusing on so many of the beautiful moments that come with babies and children. I am hopeful and excited to bring another baby into the world. To nurse and rock and love again. To surprise myself with how much love I have to give.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Historical Hippy Tour

Yesterday morning I received a text from my Aunt Larissa telling me that her and my Uncle Doug were in Waco seeing my cousin Philip, and that they wanted to stop in to see our family. I was happily surprised and told them of course to come down to Austin. This morning they came to our apartment and were our first official guests. Although, Andrew's parents and sister have been here. So maybe the first official guest from my side of the family. Just showing someone where you live can help it sink it in that yes, we do in fact live in Austin.

Blanche was shy at first but began to warm up quickly as she saw that I had a birthday present from them. My present included tootsie rolls, matching aprons for Blanche and me, and two little books. Blanche knew these things were for her (even though the candy was for me). She slowly warmed up to Aunt Larissa and Uncle Doug more as the day went on, and by the end was playing with Uncle Doug in her room and cried when they had to leave.

My Aunt Larissa had mentioned doing lunch, and at first I figured we could just go to a restaurant close by. But when we found out they really didn't have plans for the day we decided to go into downtown Austin. We were going to go to a sandwich and wrap place called Pita Pit, but when finding out they were closed we decided Mellow Mushroom would be good. We all split a veggie pizza, and Blanche liked seeing the man who was "surprised in the boat." It was actually Willie Nelson with a frightened look on his face, but I try to make things understandable.

After lunch we drove around the Capital building. My aunt wanted to see where Andrew and I were engaged, which was under a tree on the side of the building. We had our picture taken for memories sake. I added it to my instagram (which you can see by clicking on the blue camera on the side). We then headed to a vegan ice-cream shop. All of the ice-cream was made from coconut milk and so yummy! By this time my aunt was feeling we had really taken her on the hippy tour. She said at one point, "This all just feels so bohemian." That really made me laugh, and I told her she was the one who was vegan, so she's probably more bohemian than she realizes. I did however say I would wait on getting my sleeve of tattoos for awhile.

We all had so much fun on just a little surprise visit. Having my aunt and uncle here made me feel not quite so far from home. Blanche seemed to take to them quickly knowing they were family. Tonight I got a text from Aunt Larissa saying that between Andrew's historical car tour of the capital and our vegan dessert, they were able to have the hippy and historical in one. And really, thats exactly what the Nycums strive for. So any of my readers, friends, and family wanting to come visit… know that you will be treated well.