I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trolling Etsy lately for baby gifts. Does anyone else know approximately eight million babies due in May? I love the idea of personalized baby gifts, and this new Irish Etsy shop Larollie has some sweet and cheerful options. I did a quick interview with Kirstin, who runs the Larollie, for my Irish Independent column and it should be in the weekend magazine next weekend. Consider this a sneak preview!
Happiest of Fridays to you! After a week of thunder, rain and flooding (for a lot of people in Houston, but thankfully not us), it’s clear and sunny today and we are so looking forward to a weekend outside the apartment! Every time it rains here, I’m reminded that when we return to Dublin, we’ll be returning to much more regular, chillier rain. But somehow here it seems to affect everything so much more. It could be because our apartment is a little on the dark side to begin with, so rainy days mean the lights are on all day long. Our old Dublin apartment was so bright, even if it was pouring outside. I miss that and I’m so grateful that our new house in Dublin will be bright as well.
Speaking of that new house, most of the time I forget we own it! Ha! But I’ve been remembering a little more frequently and starting to pull together some inspiration for it for when we return. I might share that with you next week, despite the fact that the finished product will be a long while in the making.
Do you have nice weekend plans? Michael and I are going on a date tomorrow night! For the first time since Christmas! We have no idea what we’re going to do or where we’re going to go, but we are excited.
And now, for some links I think you’ll like. Enjoy your weekend!
My friend Ruth is discovering the history behind Irish freedom fighters who lived in her apartment a hundred years ago.
Marie Kondo for parents is a hoot.
This long form article about immigrant caregivers in the United States is not a hoot. I’ve been thinking about this article all week, it’s really shocking and devastating on so many levels.
My dad’s latest book, Strawman, his 11th Jack McMorrow novel, comes out in May. He’s sharing a preview on his website this week! I’m absolutely biased, but Strawman is hands down my favorite Jack book yet. It’s so, so good.
A few great tips for getting more green as a family. We’ve run out of paper napkins and I’m ordering cloth replacements today.
Have a lovely break, everyone!
My friend Nora made this lovely video of seven things to do in Dublin in the springtime. It’s egging on my Dublin homesickness this week, although it’s probably compounded by all the (flood-inducing) rain we’ve been getting as well. I miss those Irish springtime’s cherry blossoms and sheep, that’s for sure!
Nora and I shot a few videos in Dublin before I left last summer. Hopefully we’re getting close to being able to share them! In the meantime, enjoy this dose of pretty springtime!
Maya woke us with her little chats this morning at 6:30, as usual, so our little family of three decided to take advantage of the early morning wake up call. We got spiffed up and took the ten minute drive down to Buffalo Bayou for a little weekend breakfast at the Kitchen at Dunlavy.
It’s only open to the public from 7am-2pm for breakfast, brunch and lunch all week. Which means it’s perfect if you have to be awake so early on a Saturday morning anyway! In the evenings, it’s an event space. Michael and I both remarked what a lovely spot it would be for a wedding or a big birthday bash. There’s lots of outdoor space with a terrace behind and cafe seating down near the pond. You wouldn’t know that it’s sandwiched between major roads because it’s tucked in behind trees and sits just on the edge of the bayou. There’s a running path we’ll have to go for a stroll next time we’re not under so much pressure to get our tiny Texan back to nap! I had avocado toast with lemon ricotta and poached eggs and Michael had the southwestern breakfast bowl. Both were yummy, and I’m pretty sure I could recreate that avo toast so I can relive it without having to leave the house! And a little blurry, slightly sleepy photo to document our daughter in the cutest romper you ever did see. Pom poms!
The patio was full but the indoor seats were just starting to fill up as we were leaving. I imagine the brunch rush is busy!
Happy weekend, friends, I hope it’s full of avocado toast and a few extra snuggles!
The Kitchen at Dunlavy / 3422 Allen Parkway / Houston, TX
There’s an enormous bougainvillea bush in bloom at the moment a few blocks from our apartment. Maya and I took a walk to take a few photos today, since the sun has finally shown its face for the first time since the weekend. Every time we go out for a walk or I go for a run, I make sure to go by this giant bush. It’s pretty fun! The bougainvillea starts in someone’s yard and grows over this metal archway over the sidewalk. There’s kind of a hostile dog behind the fence in the owner’s yard, so it’s more peaceful take photos when he’s inside, but he eventually got bored of me and lay down for a nap. I hope you’re having a nice week – and I hope that spring is springing wherever you are!
How was your week? Ours was actually quite lovely. The weather has been heavenly – dry, warm and sunny. We’ve gone for walks, Maya giggles all day long, and I’ve gotten real things accomplished. We have low-key weekend plans that involve watching Michael’s school team play soccer and then we’re going to watch Houston’s annual art car parade! Michael’s itching to get into a pool somewhere but nothing seems to open before Memorial Day. Can you believe that? It’s 86 today! We might invest in a $7 tiny paddling pool for Maya for the back patio and we’ll dip our toes in while she splashes around.
And now, links this week. Some really important ones that I hope you’ll find time to read. I had the climate change revised estimates open for about a week in a tab before I could bring myself to read it. And then I read it and declared to Michael that we are no longer eating beef. He told me he needed to see the article. We all do, buddy, we all do!
A climate change primer from the New York Times, including a few suggestions on what we normal people can do.
Midwives in El Paso. Close to this home.
The most incredible sculptures made from tubing and lemonade bottles.
The Obama Doctrine is also required reading this week.
I opened this article entitled The Sugar Conspiracy honestly hoping that it was going to tell us that sugar actually isn’t that bad for us. Spoiler alert: this is not what it says. Womp womp.
A paper sculpture (from a really nice California home tour) that might be perfect for a DIY.
I just discovered Longmire (about a Sheriff in Wyoming) on Netflix and I’ve watched more episodes this week than I care to admit. And a friend just recommended Catastrophe (about an Irish woman in London who gets pregnant by an American guy) on Amazon Prime and it’s a little vulgar but hilarious!
Have a happy weekend, everyone.
Maya and I zipped downtown this morning between naps to snap a few photos of the city’s new art installations, Art Blocks. Patrick Renner’s Trumpet Flower is made up of a whole lotta wooden slats painted by the people of Houston at a painting party earlier this spring. I think they used the extras for another sculpture along Heights Boulevard as well. It looked like they were doing some work on the structure’s base, but normally you’re supposed to be able to sit under it on benches. Jessica Stockholder’s Color Jam covers a whole corner in paint – even the trash cans and the painters! Maya and I had a fun little half hour walking around among all the people in suits. The Art Blocks certainly add extra color to the area! It’s been fun to get my camera out again!
Art Blocks / Main Street Square / Houston, Texas
I’ve read a few “daily schedule” posts this week and always find them fascinating (this one is much funnier than mine, but then again, she has 5 kids under 5 and you’d have to somehow make that funny!). It’s interesting to get a glimpse behind closed doors to learn what people really do all day long. And I want to be able to look back and remember what days with six month old Maya were like, because I know how fast I can forget the everyday things. Neither Michael nor I can remember what it was like to have a one month old, or even a two month old. It’s like really strange amnesia!
So, a day like today, perhaps.
Maya wakes with chats and giggles. It’s gone from squawks to ba-ba-ba in the last few weeks. The last few days she’s been debuting a new dinosaur roar like a little quiet growl. It’s hilarious. We leave Maya to chat to herself for 15 minutes while we hit the snooze and have one more snuggle in the dark. One thing about Houston is that the sun doesn’t rise until way later than we’re used to by this time of year. It’s still dark at 7, making it really hard to motivate, even for this morning person.
Michael goes to get Maya from her cot, which is something we both love the chance to do (mostly, depending how much sleep was had the night before!). When she sees the person who’s going to free her, she gives her biggest smile that takes up her whole face. Michael changes her diaper, makes her a bottle and then delivers bottle, baby and burp cloth to me in bed. It’s probably the most luxury I enjoy all day!
Michael leaves for school and Maya’s fed and gotten a few wiggles out in our bed. She and I get up and get the day going. I get her changed out of pjs first and lay her down on a blanket in the living room (slash dining room slash kitchen) while I put the house back together. Michael always manages to make more mess after I go to bed, go figure. I put away the remnants of his late night snacks and unload the dishwasher. I do whatever dishes are in the sink and wipe down the counters. I make the bed and put on work out gear (just until lunchtime, most days).
Maya usually manages about 90 minutes of awake time, so we sit on the floor and play. She’s just mastered rolling from her back to her belly, so she wiggles around until she gets frustrated that she can’t get too far. She’s working on sitting, so she’ll sit in the bumbo seat and bash at the toys on the tray. Sometimes we sit on the couch and she tries to sneakily grab big handfuls of my hair and yank them. She giggles when she meets resistance and I yelp with pain. If she’s not grabbing my hair or my chin, she’s grabbing at my neck with tiny lethal pinches. She likes to get right up close to my face and look right at me, especially if I’m looking away. It’s hilarious to turn around to her face two inches from yours, staring intently.
She’s starting to get grumpy, so I swaddle her and put her down for her first nap. I pull the string on the musical bunny (thanks for that one, Grammy!) and shut the door. Sometimes she chats to herself for ten or fifteen minutes, but sometimes she’s quiet straight away. We worked hard on nap training, so I always count her falling asleep as a major victory. I make myself two eggs, scrambled, with a wedge of cream cheese (I’m aware that it’s odd) and reheat coffee from the French press that Michael made before work. I sit at the dining table to eat breakfast and then answer emails and work on articles or blog posts for the two-ish hours she’s asleep.
I can hear Maya waking up so I go free her from her swaddle. She’s wiggled herself sideways so she can kick the side of the bassinet. I always wonder how long she’s been awake in there before letting me know. She’s oddly content in the dark by herself sometimes. I change her, then feed and burp her straight away and she slowly waves her tiny little hands in the air while she eats. It’s like her interpretive dance, swishing them around in circles and running her fingers over the ridges on the bottle. She’s very deliberate and extremely tactile.
We usually try to Skype or Facetime with a grandparent when she’s up again. They love seeing her as a little bonus during their work days. We try to make her perform her latest tricks and it rarely works. She definitely recognizes her grandparents and likes watching them while we catch up.
Sometimes we’ll try a snack now that she’s starting solids. Today I made an extra scrambled egg and let her gum on a few chunks. I’m not convinced she’s getting much down the hatch, but my sister-in-law reminds me that “food before one is fun” so I count it all as exploration. So far, we’ve tried oatmeal, Greek yogurt, banana (too slippery to grab really), corn on the cob, sweet potato and red pepper.
Michael comes home from work on his lunch break. He grabs leftovers from the fridge while we chat about his morning. Then he takes over from me when he’s finished eating so I can go to the gym or go for a run. Another luxurious perk of my day!
I come home and Michael’s already put Maya down for her second nap. I shower and put on real clothes for the rest of the day. I pick up the trail of toys again and put away whatever Michael took out for lunch before finishing up whatever I was working on online. For her second nap, Maya sleeps for 45 minutes then usually wakes up. We give her the pacifier and she’ll knock out for another 45 minutes to an hour. It’s not perfect, but she’s fairly easy to figure. If she wakes up whining, she’s still tired. If she wakes up talking to herself, we’re good to go.
I make myself a smoothie with bananas, strawberries, spinach and Greek yogurt and eat it with a few spoonfuls of crunchy peanut butter for lunch. My favorite combo! But did you know how hard it is to find peanut butter without added sugar in this country? Took a while. In Dublin, I used to make almond butter but here I don’t have a food processor and almonds seem more expensive. Such is the season we’re in, folks.
I hear Maya chatting so I go free her from her swaddle again. She has another diaper change and another bottle before we head out the door to run errands or go for a walk. She’s a trooper in the car seat and loves watching what’s going on around her but she always gets so sweaty! And that’s only going to get worse as it gets hotter in Houston!
Errands get a 90 minute window, sometimes two hours before Maya will fall asleep in the car seat and mostly ruin her last nap, because there’s no way she’s staying asleep once I bring her in the house.
Naptime again for one sleepy lady. Sensing a theme? Ha! We recently weaned her from four naps down to three but it’s still a little bit of a stretch to keep her awake between those. I try to remind myself that some babies need more sleep than others, but we do really try to maximise her awake time with action and play because she sure sleeps a lot still!
While she naps, I work more on my computer, put away the car seat and stroller, and think about getting dinner ready. It’s nearly always some version of meat and vegetables, and I rarely know what it’s going to be until a half hour before I start making it. I try to make it interesting with a few new recipes each week, but we are fairly boring clean eaters during the week (but more than make up for it at the weekends). Last night it was grilled chicken (Michael’s purview) with onions, zucchini, asparagus and thin spaghetti and vinaigrette. The night before that I made Camille Styles’ sweet potato and black bean chilli which was super fast and yummy. Definitely a make-again recipe. Tonight, we had a very bizarre combo of chickpea, kidney bean, corn and green chili salad and a chicken dish I made up as I was making it. Sometimes I even impress myself. Michael always reminds me that I learned all my made up dish ability from my mom. She even coined her own term for it – wung food – what you come up with when you wing it! Ha!
Maya wakes crying so I pop the pacifier in and hope she knocks out for another half hour. Go back to looking up recipes for non-boring vegetable recipes on Pinterest.
Maya’s up again so I get her out, change her and give her another bottle. I remind myself once again to order the Level 3 nipples for her bottles because she gets fed up halfway through. There’s exploring to be done, enough laying around, mom! We struggle through the end of the bottle and play for a little while on the floor before Michael comes home. He goes to the gym after school so he’s usually home by 5:15. We load Maya into the stroller and head out for a walk around the neighborhood if the weather is nice enough and not too hot. We stroll and chat for 45 minutes and it’s one of my favorite parts of our routine.
We get home in time for another snack for Maya. If we feed her anything with a spoon, like mashed avocado or sweet potato, she insists on holding the spoon with you and shoving it into her mouth. At which point, her little tongue pokes whatever is on the spoon farther from her mouth. It’s not efficient and usually results in her needing a bath directly after. The mess of feeding babies isn’t my strong suit but I’m trying to let it go. She eats sitting in her Bumbo since she can’t sit upright enough in her booster seat yet, so I hose that down in the sink while Michael runs her a bath.
Bedtime follow bathtime. Pajamas, another bottle (usually the most quickly gulped ounces of the day), then she’s into her swaddle again for bed. We put her in the cot (she’s been sleeping there at night since the first week we brought her home, thank goodness), explain that it’s bedtime and that means time to pray with her. We both stand over her crib and one of us prays while she looks up at us with that giant smile. Every night we pray that she has a peaceful night sleep, that she has sweet dreams, and that she wakes with a smile on her face in the morning. Then we pray for her birth parents, for our family around the world, or for anyone who might need extra boosts from our family of three. For whatever reason, Maya loves this part of the night.
Then we give her way too many kisses, tell her we love her billions, and pull the cord on the bunny that plays a little tune. (We use that bunny for naptimes and it’s a great Pavlovian reminder of what should be going on!) We close the door and listen to her babble for fifteen to thirty minutes, depending on the night.
I usually make dinner while Michael takes care of most of the nighttime routine, so we sit and eat together while Maya babbles herself to sleep. We usually leave dishes on the table and decamp to the couch when we’re through. We should really try to clean up before but that never happens.
Veg out time on the couch with either sports if Michael’s in charge or West Wing if I’m in charge (did you know Connie Britton was on West Wing? Completely forgot.). Kind of depends on who gets there first and/or what important sport thing is happening that night. You’d be surprised (maybe not?) how many very important sport things usurp my right to the remote.
Some version of me working on the article that’s taking me too long to finish, one of us running to the grocery store for half & half before we really need it the next morning, and slowly picking up the dinner mess. Sometimes we talk to Michael’s brother in Colorado since he’s the only one behind us in the time zones.
I make moves toward bed so that I can read for a little while (part of my anti-insomnia plan that, so far, is working brilliantly). I just picked up a Camilla Lackberg mystery novel on our weekly library run (a whole one block away!) and I usually read approximately seven pages before knocking out.
Michael usually dream feeds Maya, although if I’m up and he’s still doing school work (or watching important sporty things) I do it. She sleeps through the bottle and whoever feeds her usually sits there and looks at her sleeping face for five minutes before putting her back in the crib. She’s been sleeping in a cot or bassinet or bouncer for naps and nighttime since she was six weeks old, so sleeping Maya is a novelty. In some ways I wish there was a happy medium between having her trained to sleep on her own so well and getting some snoozy cuddles. I have millions of photos of my niece Eabha sleeping on me but so few of Maya. Sometimes I snap photos of her sleeping during naps just to remember how peaceful she is.
By 11, I’m definitely passed out. Sometimes Michael watches more sports and then comes to bed. That guy can run on way less sleep than me! If I’m still awake when he’s done feeding Maya, he always comes in and we talk about how cute she is. We are so in love with that girl, it’s silly!
It feels like we’ve had this routine for ages, but it’s really only been about a month. When Maya was still waking for a bottle between 3-4am I would have to nap during her first nap. And of course, when she wasn’t able to stay up more than an hour at a time (which wasn’t that long ago!), there were even more naps involved. But I’ll count her sleepiness as a blessing – I get a whole lot done and still get to spend quality time with her whenever she’s awake. And she is one happy chica when she is awake.
I can’t wait to share photos of her sweet face with you soon. Only a few more weeks!
The first visit, Michael and I decided to take Maya because he had Good Friday off from school and we needed a little adventure. We packed her into the car and hoped she would nap while we drove. And she mostly kind of did! By the end of the day, we were all exhausted, but it was so nice to get out of Houston and see something different.
Then last Friday, my brother flew in to look at the University of Texas law school, which is in Austin. At first we thought he could just take our car for the day, but it’s a standard and it’s a long drive with a lot of stop lights at the end, which would have been stressful for someone who’s only driven a standard a few times! So Michael stayed home with Maya while Charlie and I went to Austin for another day trip.
I’m not sure I’d really recommend Austin as a day trip from Houston, but I’d definitely recommend it for 48 hours. It’s a long two and a half hours in a car that was built before cruise control! But that said, when I put the two long days together and I really enjoyed Austin. It’s surprisingly different than Houston – the nieghborhoods are quite similar to our Heights ‘hood but not quite as manicured. And it’s hilly, which made me realize how flat Houston is. The drive between the two is beautiful, with ranches and pastures and beautiful enormous trees. If we hadn’t already had enough driving, I would have loved to just turn off the highway and see where the little rural roads end up. One day!
Day One: No clouds in the sky, perfect 70 degree weather.
Houndstooth Coffee – Very good coffee and friendly service, but in my humble opinion, overpriced. $4.60 for a latte that comes in a paper cup? Where are we, London? But there was a line to the door the entire time, so who knows. The Capitol Building – Just had to Google the difference between the words capitol and capital because I knew I was doing something wrong. And I learned that the capitol building in the capital city was a great little cultural stop! It’s free to stroll right in, and you can take free half hour tours all day, which was the perfect length for us. The building is grand – it’s the largest state capitol building in the country! Go figure, right? Food Truck Lunch – We headed to South Congress to find some lunch and with it being a holiday, it was very busy. So instead of dining in, we decided to try out a food truck. I wish I had taken a few photos of the food trucks – there were so many! I expected a few, with Austin’s reputation for food trucks, but there were so many more than I anticipated! Here’s a site that has lots of different food trucks you can track down. We opted for schwarma pitas but I can’t remember the name of the truck.
Barton Springs Pool – After lunch, we zipped over to Barton Springs since the weather was so nice. Barton Springs is $8 for non-residents for the day (and you can get a stamp to come and go as you please) and $3 for residents. It’s a natural pool that they’ve cordoned off and clean every Thursday. It’s quite large, is manned by several lifeguards and there are lawns on either side for lounging. We had a great time and even put Maya in her bather for the first time! It’s pink with ruffles, and even with her lumpy swim diaper was about the cutest thing ever. The water was too cold for her, so the bather wasn’t really necessary, but it made me happy! Michael swam and loved it, but he’ll swim in any temperature water. I’m not so brave but I did enjoy the whole scene.
Day Two: Pouring rain and thunder and wind! It felt like a Dublin summer day!
Manana Coffee – Also overpriced (what is up, Austin?), but they have really lovely blue tile and it’s very quiet tucked just off South Congress.
Laguna Gloria – After dropping Charlie at UT I drove myself along the Colorado River to Laguna Gloria, which is an arm of the Contemporary Austin museum that’s out on the water. It’s an old estate with beautiful grounds that is often used for weddings and events, and there are giant sculptures dotted throughout the paths. It also has an art school, which looked really fun. Part of it is open air, which reminded me of my time at Haystack on the Maine coast when I was in high school. There’s something about creating art with no walls around you that’s especially lovely. I wandered all around the grounds and mostly got soaked but had the nicest time. It was so good to be tromping through the woods right next to water. Everything smelled like wild honeysuckle and a few swans even swam over to me while I was waiting out a downpour under a tree. Very soggy, but very magical.
Foodheads Lunch – While I warmed up in the car after my Laguna Gloria adventure, I was texting Michael for Maya updates and mentioned I was hungry. He sent me just a few blocks away to Foodheads. It was a little mobbed with college students (Austin has 60,000 college students! That’s a whole city itself!), but the food was yummy. I had a Thai curry soup and a squash and chicken sandwich with pesto. I sat alone and wrote in my notebook and felt old. Ha! There’s a lot of outdoor space, so on a nicer day it would have been lovely to sit outside.
Elisabet Ney Museum – With about an hour to kill, I was driving around the Hyde Park neighborhood looking at all the pretty houses. I pulled over to see if there was anything I could squeeze in before I had to pick up Charlie, and typed ‘museums’ into Google Maps on my phone. Lo and behold, just around the corner was the Elisabet Ney Museum. It was such a serendipitous find. It’s a big old stone estate called Formosa on an overgrown lot, which is intentional – they’ve let it be some kind of natural habitat. It looks like a castle with a turret and a Texas flag flying from the top. The building was sculptor Elisabet Ney’s home and studio in the late 1800’s and it’s full of marble and clay busts she made both in Germany and there in the studio. She was so talented and sculpted a lot of famous people, like Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. The museum is free and you can get a peek from their blog. You can climb this tiny iron spiral staircase to the turret, which she had built for her husband. The down part is not so fun, but there’s a typewriter up there and you can type a note!
A few kind friends left more recommendations on my Facebook post about my visit. I’ll be noting those for our next trip, which hopefully will involve staying at least one night!
I’m on my way to Austin today! My brother is in town looking at UT Austin’s law school and I’m playing chauffeur and hooky for the day. It’s the longest I’ve been away from Maya in about five months and I think it will be good for everyone to get a little break. Michael will be with her for most of the day and he’s looking forward to a little undivided (read: un-micromanaged!) time with his little girl. It has been so fun to see their relationship grow as she becomes more aware. He’s rocking a serious beard at the moment and keeps claiming he can’t shave it because Maya loves to grab onto it. The hierarchy has changed quickly!
While my brother attends law school seminars today, I’ll be exploring Austin. Any suggestions? We were actually there last week for a day and took a tour of the capital, ate pitas from a food truck and visited Barton Springs. After this trip, I’ll have those to share and more.
This past week has been more productive than previous weeks. Some of you may have noticed, also, that we actually exceeded our goal with Maya’s adoption. We’re still floored. Thank you for all your help. I think the relief contributed to the productivity this week; there’s a new lightness that, paired with Maya finally sleeping through the night, has made me feel so energized! We are so looking forward to Maya’s adoption day in May. We’re pretty sure we’ll be able to live stream it using Periscope! Which means if you’re looking for a distraction on a Friday in May, you could see Maya’s adoption in real time! I also have approximately a million photos of our girl, from birth to present, that I’ll be sorting through and hopefully sharing in some cohesive and chronological way.
And now, a few little links for your weekend.
Champagne jello shots with edible gold dust are about the only jello shots that sound at all appealing.
How American individualism is destroying our families. An interesting read and I think I agree. Being away from our families has been the hardest part about having a baby in Houston.
All that Instagram hoopla and what it says about our need to be liked. Spoiler: it’s not good.
I just finished reading A Man Called Ove this week and I’d highly recommend it. My dad gave it to me for Christmas and it was such a lovely read. I laughed out loud and cried several times through it!
An inspiring video about a high school program in Oakland for young black men, headed up by black men.
Why fewer toys – and a little enforced boredom – is better for kids.
We’re saying extra prayers this week for my godmother, who underwent emergency surgery this week. It’s all quite scary and we’re hoping she’ll be okay. She’s always been one of my biggest cheerleaders, so it’s hard to be so far away at a time like this.
Hope you and yours are safe and healthy this week.