Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sometimes the Parents Get Sick

It was ten till nine o'clock at night - a perfectly respectable time for Grace to be sleeping, but she was awake and screaming (she went to bed after 7:30 p.m.), and as both her parents are sick and not feeling great, we decided to invite Grace to our work-on-the-bed party. I had prep to do for my AP class, and Will is reading for journal club tomorrow.

Too excited to be up to stay still for a picture!
"Do you know what you need Grace? A hamster wheel. For your next birthday, I am giving you a toddler sized hamster wheel." - Will

My highlighter?
"For someone so small, you take up a lot of space," Will said to Grace. She was definitely marking her territory on the bed.

I am holding onto her sleep sack to keep her from face planting off the bed.

45 minutes later, she is back in her crib: not crying, just rubbing her eyes and snuggling back into her blankets. I'm done with my work, and typing up this quick post about a tough part about parenting without support nearby. My in-laws left yesterday, and I am already mourning the loss of familial help and support. 

But I have Will, and I would never wish to underplay the importance of our life together: as we work together, and struggle together, and appreciate each other. There are plenty of good days, and some times there are awful days. Today, I was not alone: Will and I worked through today together. He went to work way too early; Grace and I had two OT sessions today; I taught class; Will studied for his advanced trauma life support test later this week; I let him nap in the late afternoon, he fixed dinner while I fed and then played with Grace, and he took care of me later in the evening when I was too sick to get off the couch.

For better and for worse, for sickness and in health. I appreciate and feel strength in those vows we took, especially tonight.

Then, there is Grace.

Those beautiful eyes.

Grace made us parents. She helps us get out of the "this is what I want" routine of life, and she brings us so much joy. Even when I'm trying not to cry because my throat hurts so badly, she is so cute and amusing when she flops from Will and I, basking in our love of her. She trusts us and loves us, and sometimes, she cries because she wants to be with us. Can we blame the girl?

I love us too, Grace. Now go to sleep. Your parents need their rest.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


"Persimmons" by Li-Young Lee (copyright 1986)

In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner  
for not knowing the difference  
between persimmon and precision.  
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.  
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.  
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.  
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.  
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.  
Naked:   I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo:   you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,  
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.  
Wrens are small, plain birds,  
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.  
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;  
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class  
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun  
inside, something golden, glowing,  
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,  
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,  
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding  
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night  
waiting for a song, a ghost.  
I gave him the persimmons,  
swelled, heavy as sadness,  
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking  
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,  
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.  
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,  
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,   
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times   
eyes closed. These I painted blind.   
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,   
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.

Friday, September 26, 2014

GHB: Year One

Dear Grace Harriet,

What a year!

One day old.
We brought you home...

You anchored yourself to us, and we to you.

You joined in all family fun!

You give me a reason to smile, always, every day.

You helped me explore and enjoy New Orleans while Dad studied. Thanks for being my adventure buddy!

You joined us on the road to residency!

Literally, on the road. Panera in Kansas City!
You are delightful,


and the sweetest daughter.

You are graceful, grace-filled and charming.

You really, really, really love your Daddy!

Yogurt? Not so much. But you're enjoying many more solids now!

You love your mama too, and the beach (but not the waves).

Grace, you are so fun!

Smart and inquisitive!

You are the best person to take on errands, even though dozens of people stop us to tell me how cute you are. (I know!)

I've learned so much from being your mother! Your joie de vivre and willingness to pose for my millions of photos

to your complete loyalty and unconditional love you show your Father and I every day.

I won't even talk about your stubbornness and drive, and how absolutely AMAZING you are doing in physical therapy. You are crawling, baby girl! You are moving!

Your dad and I don't even stop you - we're just thrilled you're moving! Then we grab you away from the wire, from falling off the couch, etc. Whatever hazardous position you find yourself in more than once a day...!!

We love you GHB! The first year has been the best year, and I can't wait for many, many more.

Mom and Dad

Monday, September 22, 2014

Philosophy, Science and Theology: Complementary!

{I'm not sure how much I have talked about starting grad school at Holy Apostles College & Seminary, but I thought I would post my discussion posts now and then as interesting reads!}

Q: Distinguish between philosophy, theology and science.

The relationship between philosophy, theology and science is complementary. People must use all three in order to discover what is true, grounded by reason.

Science is the study of the tangible; knowledge is acquired through empirical and measurable evidence and inquiry. Science is limited as it is only what your senses can measure; however, it can serve as a guide for philosophy by its insight to the workings of the natural world.

Philosophy is the knowledge of everything that exists as determined by their causes, which are open to the investigation of reason alone. In contrast to science, philosophy allows us to obtain truth that transcends the empirical, such as the nature of right and wrong, or a person’s purpose.

Philosophy can show us that humans have the capacity to know truth, though people may deny that there is truth (a different question altogether), and that people seek truth because there is a need to understand the world beyond empirical data. That is, the need to explore the spiritual and metaphysical.

Theology is the reasoned discourse of the study of “faith seeking understanding”; knowledge is acquired through divine revelation, the study of Scripture, tradition, history, human reason and experience. Theology can tell us about the human soul and body in relation to God. We study theology to better understand God, while accepting that we will never have perfect knowledge of Him. It is necessary, however, to have philosophy with theology so that knowledge through faith is also consistent with reason and not based in absurdity and contradiction.

Science can help us understand theology in that understanding the natural world helps us understand God better. Everything taken in with our senses can help us understand and experience God; philosophy allows us to take these sensual experiences and to apply what we know about the natural world to the metaphysical, and the meaning and purpose of life.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Grace's Nursery

When Grace was born, we had just (okay, 3 months earlier) moved to New Orleans. Her parents were counting pennies, and sadly, did not really decorate her space. I suppose it was the most sad for me - I doubt she'll remember the trauma.

Nonetheless! When we moved to Pennsylvania, I promised myself Grace would have the cutest room this side of the Mason-Dixon line. I think I've done a pretty great job, with plenty of white wall space ready for this mama to hang up a few more pictures and hopefully a super cute GHB monogram for above her changing table.

Without further adieu... Grace's nursery!

Crib - gift from Alexander family (two cousins slept there before Grace!), Pottery Barn
Green mat - IKEA
Road map carpet - IKEA

The raspberry couch - a pre-marriage purchase I made from my good friends B&Z, before they moved off to their Minnesota adventures. So many good memories were made there, and continue to be made!

Blanket - gift/ handiwork of Mrs. K, friend of my parents

Pillows - HomeGoods find

I took a lot of these pictures from a relaxing spot on aforementioned couch
Banner - Martha Stewart brand (Target?)

Bookcase - Target

Lamp - gift from my Gusweiler family

The dresser - a gift from my former employers! My SIL Ellen (whose blog you should read, cough) is a very talented artist who freehand drew and painted this. THIS. I'm serious. Girl's got talent, and it's not even done yet. She'll be back at the end of October to visit us and finish painting!

Changing pad - Amazon

Cover - Aden+Anais

Shake that puzzle, Grace.

Rocking chair - My MIL wanted a portable rocking chair for Grace until we bought one of our own... so it's just hanging out, being comfortable, not exactly encouraging us to buy another one. I think this one is from Bass Pro (it is foldable).

Boppy - another pre-loved item from my Alexander family!

Girl painting - I want Grace's room to have a Southern Belle feel, since she is our New Orleans baby. I found this reprint at Goodwill, and am convinced it is a more famous painting. Can anyone place it?!

Louisiana parishes print - The Grove Street Press, located in the CBD of New Orleans, right by St. Patrick's, one of the parishes we attended. Two cousins who do really fabulous work - their instagram is fun too!

I heart NOLA print - A gift from my dear sister-friend Emily, from another fabulous NOLA boutique - Hattie Sparks.

Black frame - "Grace the Goose" poem by Will Baldwin, his Christmas present to me. I'll have to type it up and share at some point - he is such a talented poet! 

Sunny day...
"blackout" curtains - Eclipse brand; they do not really blackout, but they definitely dull the bright light and have a cute, almost fleur-de-lis pattern. Win-win.

End photoshoot, cue yawns.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Handling It

If there was one thing I could change about myself, it would be my over commitment compulsion. I am constantly saying "YES!" when I should be saying "another time" or "no thank you!"

This has led to happiness, and defeat. For me, it currently leads to stress headaches.

I'm not going to say that's okay, but it is my life right now, and I accept the responsibilities. God gives you what you can handle... And you ladle on the extra gravy. It's human nature, y'all. Never satisfied; just one more bite!

Will tells me to focus on one thing: I'm perpetually scatter minded, or maybe I am just trying to multi-task poorly. So before I go back to dancing with GHB (she's self-feeding more breakfast to the tunes of Taylor Swift) or another load of laundry or prepping for class and whatever else I have to do this morning, I'm going to write about how I "handle it" because, frankly, sometimes I don't.

Life is never going to be easy. Let's just accept this fact right now. It's not going to be easy to make friends, meet people, be successful, feel financially set, be caught up on your work load, get enough sleep, find time for X, Y, or Z. Exercise? It's not easy. It's hard. And it's important for a healthy life. You make time for the things that matter, and you handle the rest.

Do you feel like you're on a hamster wheel? Do you feel bored or lonely? Take an honest look at your life. What concrete changes could you make (and control) to make life more fulfilling?

My biggest stumbling block right now is my nausea and overwhelming tiredness, but I also procrastinate on everything. Not feeling well only enables that. So, while picking up printer ink and paper at Staples this week, I found a ready-made To-Do list notepad. Unnecessary and super awesome purchase for $1.49. On one side, I write down the immediate must-dos. These include taking a shower, drinking coffee, prepping for class. On the other side, I write the day's goals: vacuum, clear off the downstairs radiators, empty and load the dishwasher, make the beds.

I have bigger goals too, like put Grace's 0-9 month clothes in the new plastic bin, and put away my own warm weather, non-maternity clothes away in the second new plastic bin. My office needs serious hours put in so that it is functional more than a very large storage room, and the laundry room needs help too. And even bigger goals! Like finishing all my readings for my classes! Finishing multiple articles I have started! But those are not for today.

Today started when Grace woke up around 2:48 a.m. I went in to nurse her, and normally, she goes right back to bed, but since my supply has tanked, she cried ferociously instead until Will was the Hero and took her for the rest of the night/ morning, because I was so tired, I could hardly open my eyes, let alone take her downstairs to feed her two more jars of baby food.

Will is going to be gone all day - grand rounds, then a shift in the ER till 9 p.m. Today is a day I have to handle it. I have to get Grace to therapy, I have to teach two classes, I have to make sure I eat, and taking care of GHB. I am not thinking about the right side of my to-do list because it can overwhelm me, so I focus on one thing at a time. Right now, I am focusing on actually finishing a blog post, which I have failed the do the past few days.

Married folks, in-between people, and single ladies and lads, I am a full believer in living up and appreciating your current vocation. Don't accept that hardships are your lot. Don't depend on other people to make you happy or engage your mind - but don't push people away either.

Cultivate a community. They may not be your best friends (not everyone can be!), but find people you can depend on, and people you can ask for help. Be there for others in their time of need. Listen to others more. Volunteer your time, if you do have it -- there are so many more people who are desperate for the kind of help many of us take for granted.

I am going to keep today's responsorial Psalm close to my heart this day:

R. (1) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
“The right hand of the LORD is exalted;
the right hand of the LORD has struck with power.”
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
You are my God, and I give thanks to you;
O my God, I extol you.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

Whatever your troubles are - be they too much time or not enough time - may you find solace in your human purpose and propensity for good, and may you spread love and laughter to those around you. Keep your blessings close and your problems in perspective. Whatever you need to do, you can do it. You can handle this life - and enjoy it too.

Friday, September 12, 2014

I Need A Duplicator

Finishing up my first week of teaching was exhilarating... and exhausting. I am teaching two sections of U.S. History (6-8 graders) and two sections of AP U.S. History (9-12 graders) for Memoria Press. I have felt like I am going to fall over after every class, but today, one of my younger students typed in the combos, "you're a great teacher!" and suddenly, the skies were the brightest blue, like Grace's eyes.

It's amusing to be called Mrs. Baldwin, and to wear the hat of "teacher" when I am also "student" at Holy Apostles, "editor-in-chief" at Ignitum Today, and "writer" here and elsewhere, and "chief of operations" at Chez Baldwin.

Frankly, I'm exhausted. I need a duplicator.

Calvin, you understand me.

And before I go off to do 20,000 loads of laundry, I wanted to point y'all to Haley Stewart's blog post today: "Instagram Envy, Being Authentic on the Internet, and When It’s Time to Break Up with a Blog" because it is worth the read.

These days, I feel like I am barely holding it together. Will is at the hospital more than he is at home (sleep time included), and I am at home, taking care of Grace with the help of our part-time babysitter (while I teach online); and with all my responsibilities plus all my pregnancy nausea, I just feel like I need a break. But I often do not write about that, because writing about how damn tired I am, and how I threw up again this morning even though I hadn't even eaten breakfast yet doesn't appeal to me.

My question, dear Readers, is that dishonest? Am I cultivating a picture of bliss and happiness? A picture of the Easy Life? I think so many people are attracted to Grace Patton's blog precisely because she is so real. She talks about the bad parts and the good parts, and she posts so many cute pictures it is unreal.

I especially appreciate her honesty about residency, and it is with a slow nod that I truly understand her words. I was talking to Will about that last night. Since he had been working ridiculous hours all week, he said he would come home early last night (aka right after his shift ended) and would chart in the morning. Then, 20 minutes till the end of his shift, he texted to say his last patient was going to take him another two hours. Commence my super sad/bad mood, lifted only by my sweetest sister-in-law, who called me and talked to me for an hour.

I won the lottery!
Will asked me, Is residency really that bad? For us, it is only three years. So, in many respects, no. And once intern year is over, I hear magical unicorns prance around his schedule. But yes, it really is that bad -- for me. And I was already warned about this. When Will is at work, he doesn't think about me or Grace or eating: he is focused on his patients, and getting it right, and charting, etc. But sue me for being the wife at home, really missing her husband, wanting to eat one meal a day with him, and watch him play with our baby, or go on a walk. Sue me. He has one day off a week, and he usually spends half of it at the hospital or studying.

When you love your spouse, that should be hard. You should be happy they are happy in their respective line of work, and thriving, but a tiny part of you can't help but hate the sacrifices when they're in your face. Overall, we're doing fine. I'm glad I can work from home and I'm thrilled we found such a nice babysitter for Grace. I'm happy Will loves his job and his program. But it's still hard - and that's okay too. Life can be rosy and ridiculously difficult at the same time.

So, how do you seek to be genuine in your online shares and conversations? Or are you purposely crafting your image? Or has this never crossed your mind? Let me know - I'll be sitting in a cardboard box, pretending there's more of me to finish putting the laundry away.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

My View (vol. 22)

What I am reading: Still on Wilder; also picked up Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth (part of book club this month!) Also: a lot of history, a lot of philosophy, and some basic copyright/ intellectual property readings.

What I am eating: If I could fix waffles every day, I would. I should. Strawberries! (GHB loves them too!)

Meal planning: My MIL has been here this past week, fixing lots of food for us... so I might take a pass this week, even though she is leaving tomorrow, because we are in Leftover Heaven. I did, however, want to share the super simple burrito recipe I fixed this week:
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • ~2 cups cooked rice (ours was leftover from another meal)
  • 1 can black beans
I cooked the ground pork through, chopping it up as it went, and once it was done, I added the rice and black beans (did not drain first - all in!), and cooked at a lower heat for 10-15 minutes. Warmed up the tortillas, and serve with fixings! Diced cucumber, tomato, salsa, avocado, sharp cheddar cheese... we have leftovers, so I am going to prepare the rest and freeze them, and then warm them up for a quick meal this week! Very satisfying. Depending on personal preference, I cooked the pork with Greek seasoning as well, and it added further satisfaction to the taste.

I bet quinoa would be a fun add too!

This week in history: Grace started waving! It is beyond adorable. She loves playing "high five!"

Crawling all the time too...!!

I survived five night shifts in a row (Will did too) because my MIL came in town to help. Never ever was I so grateful to have her around! I spent the week getting caught up before and during classes - I start teaching on Monday! It was an overwhelming week: I can't believe today is Sunday.

On the plus side, the porch is nearly completely cleaned off and we are working on creating a fun place to spend time while the weather is decent!

Prayers: For peace in the Middle East and in Russia. For those suffering from sexual, emotional and physical abuse. For all marriages, especially for my friends A&C who will be married in less than one week! For the single ladies (and gents!).

Next week, I am going to: TEACH US HISTORY. Read and highlight. Go to a wedding in New York! Snuggle and play with GHB. Work on our porch more. Spend time with my SIL, who is coming in town for a medical school interview! (Well, in Philly - close enough!) Spend more time with my favorites. 

Off to finish slides! (Eep!) Have a very happy week, y'all!

P.s. We have some news...

... that we are thrilled to share!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Today: A Love Song

Today Grace did not nap... when she was supposed to. Rise and shine at 5:15 am (my MIL is visiting so basically I am in sleep-in Heaven), with a brief 20-30 minute nap on her stroller ride this afternoon, before forcefully being put into her crib at 4 pm. She emitted a few extra sobs, but none of those lung blasters she sang earlier. Nap, check.

Her dad woke up around 5 p.m., which was awesome, because he finished his fourth night shift this morning (and has his fifth and final one tonight!), and has been sleeping poorly. As one of his resident buddies responded when I told him Will was sleeping and definitely not going to make journal club: "Night shifts are the worst. Let the man sleep!"


I did not nap today, even though I very much wanted to, as I have soooo much reading to do for class. I am getting really nervous-excited about starting my stint as history lecturer/ teacher/ instructor/ mind molder next week, and am reading ALL THE BOOKS to feel ready. Tomorrow, I'll work on lecture notes.

My MIL has been keeping the house moving and shaking, and I'm at a loss what I'll do once she's gone... cry? Not finish the laundry? Let the dishes pile up? All of the above? We shall see. The house is in better order with her here, so perhaps not!

And I didn't even snap one thousand pictures of Grace today, but we had a nice family dinner, then Will, Grace and I went on a long walk. It was so nice to spend one-on-one time with Will -- it's been too long (a couple of days seem really long, okay? Okay.). We came home, gave Grace a bath, read to her and prayed with her, and like a miracle child, she went down easy peasy, like she normally does, and all was forgotten of the day-long battles for GHB to shut those little eyes and sleep.

But here's a picture from yesterday, after I tried to do yoga for 20-25 minutes, and ended up laughing too much because Grace kept rolling or crawling on the mat to be closer to me. We decided to do some fun PT standing and sitting exercises.

And now, sleep for me too. I hope today was a love song for you too, Reader.