Tag Archives: family

the outdoors, northern new mexico and more pots

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Last weekend, we drove up to Northern New Mexico, where one of A.’s coworkers owns 220 acres of land that’s been in his family for a century. He’s an Army guy who went to West Point and carries a gun on his hip (but I didn’t see it). It was the first time I’d chatted with his wife, and she was easy to talk to and had many qualities I admire (easy going and a problem solver).

We stayed in the house that’s been in the family for 100 years. It was built in 1898 and there are no hallways. The house feels like it’s out of the ’50s, with a TV from that era, a kitchen with a stove that has an opening to burn wood and a toilet that’s so low it was easy for my 4 year old and 2 year old to get on it.

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There were Readers Digest books from the ’40s on the shelves. The floral curtains and the smell — oh that smell — reminded me of my grandma’s and grandpa’s house in Flint, Mich.

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The next morning, we drove up to the land. Open, beautiful land where elk and bears roam at almost 9,000 feet. The leaves were starting to turn color. A. brought a newly crafted tire swing for the boys, and another guy made ribs on the slow cooker. I had decided to go home that night because L., at 2 1/2 months, is a bit young to camp — he’s already had two colds in his short life — and the temps got down to the 30s. But I enjoyed my morning/early afternoon out there and I know it was the right decision, even if I missed the ribs and the stars. Just being out in the fresh air and staying in what felt like a museum invigorated me.

Another thing that has invigorated me: I opened my Etsy shop (Erin Killian Pottery) more than a month ago and already have 15 sales and 9 good reviews. I was worried I’d be overwhelmed — you know, with three kids under 5 including a newborn — but I haven’t felt like that at all. It’s a fun challenge.

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The pace has been perfect — a sale every few days. With the two older boys in preschool three days a week, I’ve been able to get an hour in here and there to throw more.

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And I was pleased with my last firing. One of the potters at New Mexico Clay, where I do my firings, said, “They’re looking really good,” and she sounded surprised when she said, “You did all of this with a new baby?” Well, babies do sleep a lot and L. is particularly chill. (Besides a few days of gas, but gripe water helped with that.)

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I bought a book Mastering the Potter’s Wheel: Techniques, Tips, and Tricks for Potters, which has some important tips for me and is also inspiring. I keep waiting for my love of pottery to wear off and it hasn’t happened yet. So I’ll keep on throwing and keep on growing and keep on finding ways to feel invigorated. I’m sure the cool fall air will help with that, too, and getting ready for family to visit soon. Here’s to making the most of life and living in the moment. Hugs to you all.

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the first weeks (not home)

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If A. and I have learned anything in the past two weeks, since our third boy, L., arrived at almost 11 p.m. on July 5, it is to respect the fever.

In L.’s first two weeks, he spent three nights at home. All of the rest were in the hospital. The first two were the standard recovery nights. The next one was because his bilirubin numbers (jaundice) were too high and he needed light therapy. And then, a week after he was born, I was admitted for a 104 fever.

The fever came on five days after L. was born. And it broke with Tylenol. But by the third day, I knew we had to go in. Something wasn’t right.

At the OB/GYN triage, my fever spiked. The pain was concentrated in my lower back and head and I was so cold the nurses put four warmed blankets on me and I was still shaking.

That Tuesday evening, my pulse reached 220, which had the doctors running to see what was going on. I was on IV antibiotics, but it wasn’t till the next morning that they knew that I was septic (blood infection). That afternoon my right lung started to hurt when I breathed. And by Thursday, my liver enzymes were rising.

The blood cultures finally showed I had group a strep — an aggressive bacteria that releases toxins to shut down your organs. And the way to treat it is to act fast and get rid of the source of the infection. For me, that meant an emergency hysterectomy.

My doctor told me I was the fifth case the hospital had seen in two years (some were flown in from rural New Mexico, one was after a home birth), and the other four ended up in the ICU. One of them died. Because my doctors acted fast, I didn’t have to go to the ICU and I came home a week after I was admitted. I’m still finishing up IV antibiotics to get rid of the blood infection.

It was a scary week, and I plan to write about it more fully, but that’s what we’ve been up to. And I’m grateful for good health care, fast-acting doctors and, truly, my life.

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getting ready for babe no. 3

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I’m two weeks away from my due date, and feel like I’m barely holding this baby in. Achey back, waddling when I walk, pressure on my bladder, swollen ankles. The baby is doing constant dance parties inside of me and punching me in uncomfortable places. I’m amazed I ever worked in this state. I’m eating well — I cut out all ice cream and treats in the last three weeks — and yet I’ve still gained 45 pounds. This pregnancy? Hardest yet. It’s probably because I’m 39. And because we’re living in a dry climate at almost 6,000 feet. And I’m spending my time with a 4 year old and a 2 year old. And it was 100 degrees today.

But the end is near. And the sleepless nights holding a sweet newborn are quickly approaching. We still don’t have a name. A. is finishing up a dresser for the big boys — made entirely out of 2x4s — so we can move the one with a changing pad into our room. I registered at UNM hospital last week, and A. installed the car seat (three seats in the back of a tiny Mazda 3, thank you very much).

I’ve been trying to keep the boys engaged with fun summer activities while I rest. Play dough, ice pops, the trampoline park, playing with the hose in the backyard, play dates with friends, library time and dinners on the deck.

Today, I picked up the last batch of pottery I’ll do for a while. My mind spins daily thinking about different combinations of glazes and what my “style” is. I’m cleaning up my shop, knowing I’ll have to shut it down till probably the end of August, though the thought makes me cringe. Then, I’ll throw more and open an Etsy shop. I’ve realized I can’t keep this hobby up without selling — it’s expensive and we can’t keep everything I’m making. And the truth is, I’m excited about a new challenge, but I won’t be able to launch it till the fall. Until then, I’ll put my energy into three boys under 5 years old. Wish me luck.

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a homemade christmas

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This year we’re getting into the holiday spirit, which says a lot because both A. and I have been scrooges in our adult lives — though I always knew that would change if I had kids.

C., who turned two this month, is old enough to get the magic of Christmas. And because I’m turning into a six-bedroom house at 30 weeks pregnant, family — including my 18-month-old niece — traveled cross-country to the desert, where the skies are California blue with highs in the 60s, but it’s cold enough in the evenings to light a fire.

So this year was our chance to decorate with homemade family ornaments and stockings that will last year over year and create our traditions.

We made ornaments to deck the halls. A. turned wood and glued on rocks I tumbled to make wreaths.

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We picked up pinecones lying haphazardly in our backyard and strung jute through them. I made a bulb (picked up a small plastic one from WalMart) filled with pine and pomegranates.

A. made a bell out of wood, using a tumbled rock as his knocker.

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I found a recipe for homemade gingerbread ornaments and made stars, snowmen and Christmas trees.

And A. made a star for the top for the top of the tree out of wood and painted it our kitchen yellow.

Over the past month, A. and I crocheted stockings (see photo above) to hang on the mantel. I spent a few hours looking for patterns — for the big red stocking to the far left, I followed this pattern, and for the big white stocking with red stripes, I followed this pattern.

But I really wanted to replicate a cream-colored knit stocking I saw in the Anthropologie catalogue.

The Anthropologie stocking

The Anthropologie stocking

So I made up my own pattern (the two cream colored ones above) — I’m thrilled I’m getting good enough to make my own patterns. A. crocheted three of them, including the Dr. Seuss boot and small red-and white-striped one. (We think you can see our personalities quite clearly though the stockings.)

I’ve been reading C. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and “Santa Mouse.” And we plan to leave Santa homemade cookies — with a handwritten note and a thick glass of milk — near the fireplace before C. goes to bed on Christmas eve.

We’ll have a wood-burning fire and cuddle under blankets and play board games and watch C. and his cousin sing “Jingle Bells” on a homemade stage A. made.

Yes, I’m excited about Christmas this year. I hope you are, too. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

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rain, a funeral and thanksgiving

It rained here for three days, a strange event in the desert. The clouds rolled in Thursday, the day after we found out my mom’s brother died — one of eight siblings, and the third youngest. Plans were swift — on two days’ notice, family flew cross-country and we drove four hours to Atascadero on the California coast. My cousins and aunts and uncles packed into my aunts’ houses and hugged and cried and laughed and sang and drank and ate. After the funeral Sunday, we had the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch New Years’ meal of pork and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and cabbage.

The whole time, I kept thinking of this article: “Always Go To The Funeral.” It’s true — a mantra to live by. And I kept thinking about how precious life is. And how much I love my family. And how thankful I am my parents — who live in Michigan — can join us and A.’s parents and brother for the holiday. And how I’ll tell A. and C. how much I love them over and over and continue to squeeze them tight. Happy Thanksgiving, all.

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a midwest vacation

C. and I have been on the road for more than two weeks — visiting my parents in the Detroit suburbs and my brother and sister-in-law and niece in Chicago. The last few days, C. was saying, “Go home, go home?” Yesterday, we arrived at the tiny Inyokern airport — which was virtually empty (United only offers two flights there daily), and A. was standing in the doorway, and C. ran toward his papa and giggled insanely.

The last two weeks, we mostly relaxed and visited family and friends. We swam, played in the sprinkler, saw penguins at the Detroit Zoo, visited family in Port Huron — and I watched A LOT of Tigers baseball, which I enjoyed, but I’m happy to be back in our quiet house without a TV. (Well, our TV is under the bed in our guest room for special occasions.)

My favorite moments were seeing C. snuggle up to his grandparents and ask for them every morning when he woke up, long conversations with girlfriends (that’s what I miss most since moving to the desert), catching up with two friends I literally haven’t seen in more than five years, watching 19-month-old C. and his 13-month-old cousin bond (babies can really get each other, can’t they?), and delicious meals, including carry-out pad Thai in Chicago (ohhh how i miss good Thai food).

Now I’m ready to be back in the quiet so I can launch into some creative projects, cook more, read more and write more. Happy Friday to you.

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the land of meltdowns

Last week, A. and I crossed into the land of meltdowns (said with a booming voice) where storms can unleash with little warning. Our little helper — who loves to sweep, rubs down the floor with tissues and toddles to the trash can to throw away litter — gave me his first forceful “NO!” when I tried to change his diaper. It was accompanied by a little kick and I raised my eyebrow, like, “Really? You’re going to go there?”

In general, this kid is awesome. He wakes up in his crib and reads to his llama and owl for an hour. The other day I heard him counting. He giggles like crazy and has a new way of saying, “Hi!” that brightens up a room. He sings to himself, and says things like, “Mama, hat, on” when he wants me to put on a hat and “Book, couch” when he wants to read with me. He says “mama, nine” (that’s wine) and “papa, beer.” (Hmmmm…) He always says please (“peas”) and he grabs my face to give me kisses.

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And now there is this budding streak of independence and “no” is his new favorite word. Last week, he tried to shake off my hand and run into the street. I grabbed him, jerked him to safety and made him look me in the eye while I told him why that wasn’t OK. Major Meltdown. (A few drivers flashed me sympathetic smiles.) He has a new fascination with outlets and crouches down to see if he can look into the wall. Cool! Electricity! He drags us objects to plug in and we shake our heads, “No, buddy, how about we don’t plug in the curling iron where you can step on it?” Meltdown. He loves the food processor plunger, but we decided that hey, maybe that’s not a great toy so let’s lock that cabinet. Meltdown.

He’s only 16 1/2 months, but I’m seeing a rapid change. It’s natural development and A. and I agree that we’d worry if he didn’t go through this stage. And, really, he’s so much easier than when he was an infant and I had a trillion hormones coursing through me and his cries made me want to crawl into a corner, curl into a ball and rock. So much easier.

But I’m getting prepared for this new stage: I plan to put on a heavy raincoat and boots AND carry an umbrella as we enter the land of meltdowns.

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the accidental housewife

I didn’t plan on being a stay-at-home mom/housewife.

I dreamed about it when I was a teenager and in my early 20s. Then I grew up. I got my masters and worked my butt off till I finally found a job I loved and supported myself comfortably. When that happened, I couldn’t imagine not working.

Then I met A., fell in love, got pregnant, had C. and we had an opportunity to move to the desert, where rent for a 3-bedroom house and substantial backyard is cheaper than a studio in D.C.

So I changed mental gears, fairly abruptly. I decided, “A-ha! Here’s my opportunity to write creatively, because there are no jobs in the desert for me.”

What I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be to find the time. Several years ago, when my dear friend J. had an infant, I said to her, “What do you do all day?” It hurt her feelings, so she remembers and told me in a recent conversation. I don’t remember saying it, but I was clueless, so clueless. And now I get it.

C., who is 13 months, naps at best three hours a day — an hour-and-a-half at a time. By the time I make my coffee and fry up some eggs and clean up and catch up on emails and find a recipe and maybe return a phone call, an hour is gone.

How does it happen? Where does the time go?

So, for this week, I’ve embraced the stay-at-home mentality (even if I’m not particularly good at the role). I went to Home Depot and bought two outdoor plants to pot and put near our front door (I’m pretty sure I killed one in the process.)

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I made a pot of vegetarian chili with hominy (never heard of it before Monday), minestrone from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and carrot soup from Smitten Kitchen. (All three turned out quite well, though I destroyed the kitchen in the process.)

Last night, I roasted a whole free-range chicken for the first time and it turned out juicy and tasty. (Never mind that both of the smoke alarms went off — one of which has a woman who actually says, “fire, fire,” which is very disconcerting.)

I can’t stop thinking about decorating our home — I want to make it cozy for guests who have to travel far to see us, so I ordered an orange throw for the guest room, some vases to fill with flowers and these awesome lanterns (who knew a lantern could make me so happy?).

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I’m really trying to embrace this time I have at home with C. — the freedom and flexibility and not panic that I’m not padding my resume. And not freak out because it’s so quiet.

I’d like to teach myself how to bake bread. And plant some tomatoes. I’d like to set up an easel in our backyard and practice painting on a canvas. I’d like to throw some bowls and pots (I signed up to a pottery class every Tuesday evening starting Jan. 22 at a local artist’s home just up the road toward the mountains.)

I don’t like the term “housewife” — it feels very ’60s repressive. My relationship with A. is not so — he gets home from work and gets on his hands and knees and cleans the kitchen floor. He’s making a bookcase (the third one in a set) so I have a place to put my coveted books. He made me a pork-and-broccoli dinner on Tuesday. We are equal partners.

So, because I don’t like the term, I’ve been in denial that I am just that: a stay-at-home mom/housewife. There, I said it. I’m ready to embrace it — play-dates and all.

Now if only I can make a little more time — ditch the excuses — and be a stay-at-home mom/housewife who writes.

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kicked in the head

When I came out of the bedroom, where I was nursing C., I saw blood. It coated A.’s hands.

I put my hand on the dining table to steady myself and locked eyes with my aunt. Sunlight filtered through the windows and A. was bent over at the waist near the kitchen island.

I didn’t have to say anything.

“He was helping (7-year-old) M. zip-line, and her boot caught the side of his face. It looks deep — he might need stitches.”

“I’m OK,” A. said, his voice muffled.

It was about noon on New Year’s day and we were visiting my aunts and uncles and cousins in Atascadero. We had just returned from a walk to the neighbor’s, where we stared at about 20 big-eyed alpaca, and my cousin’s two girls and A. were excited to jump on the zip-line in my aunt’s backyard.

And then A. got clobbered, which quickly ended the fun.

My aunt, who’s a nurse, followed A. into the bathroom. I decided to stay back until A. was cleaned up. My aunt applied Steri-Strips to the gash above his left eye. Once clean, he looked fine, just tired.

But then, as we were standing in the kitchen debating whether the cut was deep enough for stitches, A. said, “I’m seeing a light. It’s hard to explain. It’s in both eyes.”

That was all we needed.

In that rushed, quiet, serious mood that can fill a room, I packed the car. My aunt assembled a bag of waters, peanut butter sandwiches, fresh-baked muffins, banana, oranges and apple sauce for a long day in the hospital.

So, instead of our traditional pork chops and sauerkraut New Year’s dinner, A., C. and I spent the afternoon in the sterile Twin Cities Community hospital in Templeton.

C. kept the patients entertained, toddling around, saying “Hi,” and flashing his two bottom teeth to anyone who would give him attention.

A 6-foot-tall great-grandmother slumped in a chair with a limp left arm — her horse had kicked her — and she called C. “darling.”

A man with a graying mustache in a muscle T-shirt showing off tattoos leaned back in a wheelchair and laughed at C. “We should pay you for the entertainment,” he said. It was unclear what was wrong with him, but he reeked of smoke and a young hospital worker angrily walked over and admonished him: “We have rules for a reason,” she said. “You’re not only putting yourself at risk, but you’re putting everyone else at risk, too.”

A young Latino woman holding a bundled 4-week-old was there by herself. She smiled at C. “I hope that baby is OK,” A. said to me.

A.’s vision was altered for the 15 minutes at my aunt’s, and then it was normal. But we were at the hospital, so we continued to wait as the sunlight softened. When we finally saw the doctor at 3:30 p.m., he confirmed that if A. wasn’t disoriented or didn’t have memory loss or a killer headache, he probably didn’t have a concussion. Just a nasty cut and an eventual black eye.

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We left the hospital and drove up to Paso Robles to have dinner at the Odyssey World Cafe. C. slept in the car seat at our feet while we quizzed each other with Trivia Pursuit cards, ate soup and I fueled up on a latte for the 4-hour drive home. “It feels like a date,” A. said.

A. kept apologizing for spending the day in the hospital, but it also didn’t surprise me when he said: “You know I love this.”

A. loves adventure — and to be inconvenienced. He feels like he’s living if he runs out of gas or falls into a ditch or gets kicked in the head. He makes light of difficult situations. It’s one of the reasons I married him.

“‘How are you?” I asked as we left the restaurant.

“I’m good, just tired,” A. said.

And so I drove my two sleeping babies east along a two-lane highway, singing to the Avett Brothers, and looking out at the brilliant California stars lighting the way.

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the big (not fat) italian wedding

A.’s cousin who lives in the Bay area turned to me and said with a big smile, “You ever been to a Guido wedding before?”

I laughed. No, no, not like this.

We were in Queens at a 250-person reception Saturday for A.’s other cousin (A. has a lot of cousins). And I was in the ballroom trying to soak it all in — the flashing lights, the sparkling chandeliers, the thick New York accents, the tight dresses and high heels, the music videos of Adele, the shots of tequila and coffee that were delivered every five minutes to our table. The ballroom was lined with mirrors and the bride and groom sat on 15-foot gold thrones when they weren’t dancing or touring the tables to say hello.

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