two months

11/28/16


Dear Eleanor, 

As you sit, cooing and chatting on my lap, I smile and say to you, Hello, little person. You are my little person, aren't you? And you grin and giggle, as if you know what I am saying. As if you understand the bond that has tethered us together. At two months, you're still quite the dream baby, and your unique personality is beginning to peak through those baby blue eyes of yours. You love cuddles, and hate being left alone in a room. You still hate bath time, but you've become rather fond of showers, so long as you have someone to cling to. You hate being hot, and I've learned to dress you in fewer layers than I dress myself, though all the baby books tell me to do the opposite. You smile and laugh when we make clicking noises with our mouths, though, like me, you startle yourself easily and a smile can turn to a frown in a flash. And yet your frown is so cute, that sometimes we'll make you frown on purpose, just to see your pink lips form the deep horse-shoe shape, before we smother you with kisses and you perk right back up. Each day we figure each other out a little bit more, and each day I'm more in awe that during the time you spent growing inside me, I didn't know all the unique beauty you would bring to our little world. Happy two month, bebe love.

xo

while she sleeps

11/15/16

I try to write as she sleeps beside me on the bed. Her arms are crossed one over the other, while her small mouth suckles the air. Still sleeping, she thrusts her fingers into her mouth, gnawing on them like the small animal she is, before drifting back into a quiet peaceful slumber. 

It is difficult for me to write, or even accomplish much, when we lie together like this. 
All I want to do is stare at her. To breathe her in. To gently lift the edge of the muslin blanket away from her face when she shifts in her sleep. Her pink tongue flicks in and out of her mouth. A wide grin stretches across her dreaming face, and, occasionally, a throaty laugh will escape her small lungs, startling me with its suddenness. 

Writing, reading, laundry, work; it all feels so impossible these days.
And yet, there is so much writing, reading, laundry and work to do. 

Time is laughing at me. I am trying to control it--with notebooks and iPhone photos--to hold it in my hand, as I hold her when she sleeps.

There is so much to be done, and yet, as I sit here, staring, all I can think about is this:
What marvels can a nearly-seven-week-old possibly be dreaming of?

one month

10/28/16


Dear Eleanor, 

Wildly obsessed with you would be putting it mildly. Our house is a love bubble, and you, the third little member if our tiny little home team. You're kind of a dream newborn. Which is partially your sweet personality, and partially (I believe) an abundance of grace that God has granted your two very new parents. You sleep for five hour stretches every night, and, though you hate bath time, its really the only time you scream till you're face is red and hot. You have big, beautiful blueberry eyes, and I wonder if you'll start to suck your thumb soon, for you're hand is always finding its way into your mouth. You smell like heaven, coo like a bird, and you're milk-drunk smiles melt my heart every time. We're still pretty in awe that you're here. 

xo

Eleanor Susan Ritchie

10/9/16

A first tiny hello from our new little lady, born September 28th at 7:50 pm. 
She is the light of our lives and then some. 
Welcome to the world, sweet girl. xo

A Nursery Tour

9/9/16

Could there be a more bloggerly post than this? A photo tour of a room in our house. Particularly a room carefully curated for a little girl who, once she arrives, won't truly care or notice what it actually looks like? 


The nursery, like the rest of our house, is arranged and decorated in a way that suits us best: eclectic, lovely, and neutral. I want colors and decor to match, but I am not a huge fan of pre-ordained themes. Let us live simply and beautifully. Her hanging mobile was handmade by my sister; the tiny quilt by a certain great-grandmother; her teddy bear was a gift from her soon-to-be auntie; and the little lamb in her crib was knit by skilled friend. I am overwhelmed by the multitude of tiny handmade things that have been so lovingly given us. 


We framed postcards and watercolors from Europe to hang on her wall, basking in the sentimentality of those prints. For her changing table, we recycled an old family dresser. It was Zack's dresser when he was a newborn babe, and though I painted the once-blue outside a more neutral white, I couldn't bear to remove the tiny dino contact paper that my mother-in-law so lovingly lined his drawers with over twenty-five years ago. (There is, after all, nothing against girls liking dinosaurs).


And, of course, since she is my daughter, there are books everywhere. And tiny stuffed African animals, loving carted across the ocean by my mother before baby girl was even a wisp of a thing. 


Truth be told, baby girl's nursery is far nicer than our own bedroom. But isn't there something fitting about that? The amount of love we already have for this little lady is already pretty ridiculous. xo

twenty-seven days (or more)

8/23/16

When autumn (finally) arrives, I will let out a fierce sigh of relief.  
Though, of course, I will be sad too.
Once fall is here, it means that I have completely missed summer.

In Uganda, they have a saying—a response to just about anything:
There is no what to do.

I’ve spent the summer hot and pregnant, a little bit sick, always curled up close to the AC unit in our living room. Don’t think me a bad mother (a bad woman?), but this is my truth: I am so excited to meet my daughter, but I have hated being pregnant—every week, day, and month of it.

This morning, with three-and-a-half weeks ‘til my due date, the unbearable heat of this particular summer lifted (if only for a moment), and I stepped outside into the cool, sweet damp of a crisp morning in late August.

I felt like an entirely different person. Renewed. Hopeful.

Abandoning my daily perch by the AC unit (finally), I drove to the café, first thing, before the cool evaporated in the clear heat of bright sunshine.

Eight months ago, I could not handle the smells of that kitchen. Remember when you made me hate the smell of bacon and eggs? I silently say to the tiny girl in my belly. I talk to her often these days, though rarely out loud.

She and I sit at a corner table. I sip at a warm mug of jasmine tea and open a book. Content.

I am reading a collection of short stories by Amy Hempel. I heard her give a reading my first evening at Bennington, and her narrative voice blew me away. Now I am reading her entire collection, four small volumes bound into one. I rest the paperback spine on my thirty-six week bump and remove the tea leaves from my mug, settling the tea bag on a saucer.

The book rises and falls as baby wiggles and turns, tapping at the weight resting on her space.
Jab, jab, kick.

Three-and-a-half more weeks (though maybe six if she is late).
Twenty-seven days (or more).
Who knows? There is no what to do.

I wonder if I will miss feeling her move inside me. Miss knowing to expect swift kicks every time I drink a glass of ice water or eat a bowl of watermelon.

I pat my growing bump, relishing the cool of the early morning, the social clatter in the café’s kitchen, the taste of jasmine in my mouth.

Come as soon as you like, baby girl, I think. Come soon.

high-colored magic

6/27/16


"Most areas in the world may be placed in latitude and longitude, described chemically in their earth, sky and water, rooted and fuzzed over with identified flora and peopled with known fauna and there's an end to it.  Then there are others where fable, myth, preconception, love, longing or prejudice step in and so distort a cool, clear appraisal that a kind of high-coloured magical confusion takes hold."

-John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley 

--

The truth is, I am just popping over here to announce that I have begun an MFA program, and, as exciting as that is, life is now filled with books to be read and manuscript pages to be written, even more so than it was before. So I am breaking this bit of blogging silence to say Hello! and, alas, expect even more silences in the coming months. Then again, who knows. Perhaps blogging will once again become the break from academics that I need. Until then, sweet, sweet summer wishes your way. xo

on heartbeats + happy news

5/10/16


"I heard the heartbeat today and it sounded like someone hammering beside the sea."
(Rebecca Elson)

--

At first glance, this might not seem like much, just a jar of rhubarb preserves.
Stewed fruit and sugar, laced with an East African vanilla bean and double-strength bergamot tea. One pound of rhubarb made only a single pint. And, over the course of the last day and a half, I've eaten multiple english muffins and several pieces of toast simply as a means of eating more jam, so it doesn't look like the pint will last long. 

For those of you who might not follow along on Instagram, you may not have heard the happy news that we are anticipating a tiny addition come September. Somehow, by grace, there are now three heartbeats between the two of us. 

So thats all to say, we are celebrating around here. Mostly, in excitement over this tiny new person, but also because this jam is the first thing I have cooked at home since the last days of January. It has been a rocky nearly-five months, filled with intense sickness and trips to the ER. But we seem to have moved out of the darkness that is hyperemesis, and I finally feel like myself again. 

Despite my own physical struggles, the baby is happy and growing. Last week, at our twenty-week scan, we heart her heartbeat and learned that she's a healthy baby girl. In a way, I wish that we were the kind of people who could wait a full nine months to know the gender of our child, but I am too much of a planner. And after four months that legitimately felt like four years, we were eager jump back into full-blown excitement. 

So, in honor of this little girl, I made pink jam, and we bought pink flowers for the windowbox out back. After our scan, we drove to the cafe where I used to work and scribbled notes and baby names in a tiny moleskin notebook while eating muffins and sipping large cups of tea. Things are just going to get brighter and brighter from here on out. xo


If you're feeling the need for something sweet and pink in your life, this is the recipe I used for the rhubarb jam (though, I halved this recipe and omitted the pectin altogether). 

Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam
Recipe adapted from Food In Jars
Ingredients
·       10 cups of chopped rhubarb (approximately 2 1/2 pounds of stalks)
·       5 cups sugar
·       1 cup brewed Earl Grey tea
·       1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
·       1 lemon, juiced (I substituted grapefruit juice, since that's all I had on hand).
·       pinch of salt
·       1 packet liquid pectin 
Instructions
1.    Sterilize your jars in a large pot of boiling water. If you're making refrigerator jam (it will keep nicely unprocessed in the fridge for 2-3 months), skip this step.
2.   In a 5-quart, non-reactive pot, bring the rhubarb, sugar and tea to a boil.
3.   Add the vanilla bean, lemon and salt to the pot and let it bubble gently for about ten minutes (on my stove, this means I set it to medium-high).
4.   After ten minutes have elapsed, add the pectin, stir to combine and let cook for a few more minutes.
5.    At this point, dip a spoon in the jam and see how it coats the back of the spoon. If you get a nice, even sheet, the jam is done. You can also taste at this point, to see if you like the balance of flavors. Add a little more lemon juice if you feel it needs additional brightening.
6.   Pour into hot jars, wide mouth and rings to remove any spillage and apply lids/rings.
7.   Process in a hot water bath for ten minutes.
8.   Remove from water and let cool.

rocky mountain view

3/18/16


"In the months that followed, the world and nature and weather did what they did regardless of human suffering or bewilderment or grief.  There was day and night and day and night and the light fell away earlier and the frost came and then an early blizzard blew in and the cattle in the pastures turned their rumps against the wind and snow."

-David Bergen (Leaving Tomorrow)

--

An unexpected phone call urged us to fly to Colorado over the weekend, suddenly and without much of a plan. By the time we arrived, his grandfather was no longer critical, and the visit became a much happier one than we'd expected. In between hospital visits, we took a drive to Rocky Mountain National Park and snapped snow-capped photos with our iPhones (bulky cameras not making the frantic packing list as we hurried to catch our flight Saturday night). The wind was fierce up in the mountains, though the sun was bright, and we dashed in and out of the rental car, soaking up the expansive view, before hurriedly returning to the warmth inside.

habit | day twenty-nine

2/29/16


Twenty-nine days later, here we are. xo

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