why having a baby is kind of like having a dog

See also: Why Having a Baby is Kind of Like Having a Cat

1. You get excited when they sit, stand, and roll over. New tricks! So exciting!

2. They chew on things. Anything and everything. Sophie the Giraffe is just a glorified chew toy.

3. There's a lot of drool.

4. They try to sleep in bed with you. And then they take up all the space.

5. They have to be potty-trained.

6. They like to be taken on walks. And to the park. Anything to get out their energy.

7. They beg for table food. 

8. It's fun to dress them up in cute outfits and costumes.

9. They're always happy to see you. 


heat wave

This post is coming at you from the center of hell. This picturesque, rural paradise known as Iowa currently has a heat index of a roasty 121 degrees outside. That's ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY ONE DEGREES.

What I'm trying to say is that it's freezing out.

We had to suspend our touristy activities due to getting heat exhaustion from just looking out the window. We did, however, make a quick trip to Walmart for an emergency pair of sunglasses since I left mine at home. Walmart has a surprisingly delightful assortment of super cheap sunglasses. If you see a girl driving a black SUV wearing either a mint green pair, a turquoise and lime green pair, or aviators, it's probably me. The baby in the backseat might be wearing a pink pair of aviators. We had to cover all the bases. And also buy the pumpkin pie chapstick at the checkout counter. And maybe something from the Pioneer Woman line of kitchen linens.

Speaking of. I bought my mom some PW kitchen things for her new house as part of her birthday present. I opened a kitchen to drawer my first night here to find she had already bought herself exactly what I got her. But at least they weren't covered in pictures of illegal substances.

Yesterday my mom took me to get my hair cut. It's been 10 months since my hair was butchered, and I haven't gotten the nerve to find someone new. My mom loves her new stylist here, so we made an appointment before I could talk myself out of it. It's the best haircut I've had in years. She even curled it! Every other stylist I've gone to for the past decade always wants to curl the ends of my hair under with the flat iron and poof my bangs, and I walk out looking like a 5 year old. Would it be weird if I start driving to Iowa for future haircuts?

we tried.
I felt like the queen of the world with my new hair. The salon is right on the Mississippi River, so we decided to put Gracie in the stroller and mosey down the river walk for a few minutes. Of course it started pouring which mostly ruined my curls. I wouldn't have minded if we weren't about to visit my dad at work so he could introduce Gracie and me to his employees. First impressions have never been my strong suit.

After the meet-and-greet in which Gracie was happiest pulling books on HIPPA laws off my dad's office bookshelves and flipping through them, we hopped over the bridge to Illinois for lunch. There's this tiny, cute little town with dutch windmills (??) and an amazing cafe. We waited an hour for our soup and sandwich, but the food was worth the wait. The sky was darkening throughout our lunch, and once we finished eating, I decided to put Gracie in the car while my mom paid the bill. I had a gut feeling the heavens were about to burst forth. The sky was black as we ran toward the car and it started sprinkling as I opened the door. I strapped her in the carseat as fast as I could, and just as I was finishing, lightning flashed right on top of me and the bottom fell out, further ruining my hair. If you've been keeping track, racing storms is becoming a theme on this trip.

My precious angel daughter who I love more than life and who is usually very happy and easygoing has been a perfect hellion this week. The combination of being off-schedule despite my best efforts, in new places and a new time zone, extremely sleep-deprived, and cutting a molar has been the death of me. I've learned the age old truth that the more tired a baby is, the harder it is to put them to sleep. Every nap and bedtime has been the fight of my life and has resulted in tears for both of us. The drive home this weekend should be a bundle of giggles for both of us. What I'm saying is: pray for us.

Today we're driving going to Antique Archeology--Mike and Frank's store from American Pickers. I've watched that show since college and one night we looked up the location on the map after they showed a bunch of gorgeous views of Iowa. I remember thinking it looked so pretty and I wanted to visit, but I knew that would probably never happen. But as Justin Beiber says, never say never. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to figure out which pair of sunglasses to wear with my outfit today. Not that it matters because it's supposed to storm again. Expect stories. 

you haven't lived until you've cleaned vomit out of your car in the middle of nowhere in 110 degree heat

^^^The title of this post should tell you everything you need to know about our drive home Saturday.

But before there was Saturday, there was Friday. And Friday was so good.

We had lunch in a gorgeous restaurant on the river. We watched boats and barges go by and ate the famous local fried chicken while Gracie kept sneaking her foot onto the table.

After lunch we grabbed an iced coffee at a local coffeeshop. This place looks straight out of Portlandia and not something you'd think you'd find in small-town Iowa, but let me tell you, I don't even think my favorite coffeeshops in Columbus could compete with this place. I don't know what any of it meant, but apparently my coffee was triple filtered and infused and blasted with nitrogen, and OH WAS IT GOOD. Science is delicious. I nursed that baby all afternoon and I can't stop thinking about it. 

We drove 20ish miles down the river to Le Claire, Iowa, the home of ANTIQUE ARCHEOLOGY AND AMERICAN PICKERS AND MIKE AND FRANK. I've been watching Pickers since college and I LOVE IT. Never in a million years did I think I would ever be in Iowa, let alone Antique Archeology. I was probably more excited than I should've been, but it was just SO COOL. My dad teased me that I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. It was blazing hot and I had to change a gnarly diaper in the back of my mom's car. Someday I'm going to have Gracie watch American Pickers with me when she's older, and I'm going to point to the parking spot near the white van and tell her that's where I changed her diaper.

Every single customer asked the employees where Mike and Frank were. On the road, apparently, and if you happen to be in Eastern Iowa at the end of August, they'll be there too. You're welcome. One of these days I'll track them down. There was a giant reindeer head on the wall that Gracie kept pointing at, wanting to make sure we all saw it. My dad bought her a onesie, and I walked away with a coffee mug and a guitar pick for James. If only I could figure out how to fill up my mug with some more of that nitrogen coffee.

We drove home bright and early Saturday morning. I knew things were going to be dicey when I took a wrong turn 5 minutes into the drive. An hour later, a lady with severe road rage pulled in front of me and slammed on her brakes for reasons completely unknown to me. I had been minding my own business, staying in the same lane for miles, and going the speed limit--maybe even slightly over. After nearly causing a bad accident at 70 mph, she then got next to me and rolled her windows down, flipping me off and screaming obscenities for miles. I tried to lose her in traffic but she insisted on taunting me. Maybe I ran over a Pokemon she was trying to catch? Is that how it works? I don't know--if you try to talk to me about Pokemon I'll instantly be annoyed with you.

She finally merged onto an exit ramp, her middle fingers high in the sky and her mouth full of insults, but I finally felt a safe enough distance away so I blew her a kiss and hit the gas. I was too scared to look back for her reaction.

An hour later, in the middle of Illinois, Gracie threw up. I should've known it was coming since she had been crying and screaming, but there hadn't been a good place to stop. I found a McDonalds and pulled in to clean her up. It was 110 degrees outside, perfect weather for scrubbing barf out of a carseat. Once I got the car and the baby cleaned up, I hauled us inside for my reward--an iced coffee. As we were getting ready to leave, I realized I lost my car keys. I found them a few minutes later, in my purse of all places, but I cried anyway.

There wasn't any more puking or lost car keys, but there was another 6 hours of crying and fussing and screaming and the lingering smell of vomit from the backseat. I guess her perfect behavior on the way there bought me the drive back. I can't blame her, though. She was such a trooper. I got home so ready to wipe the smell of vomit of me to find that our shower had broken while I was away.

I think I have a crush on Iowa. No one is more shocked by this than I am. I feel...homesick. I miss the rolling hills, the wildflowers, the wild turkeys, the scary storms with wind that nearly blows the house over, the Mississippi River. My parents, obviously. And of course the nitrogen coffee. Whenever I travel, I usually breathe a sigh of relief when I cross state lines into Ohio again. But this time, I didn't. I mean, I felt relived that I only had about 2 more hours of crying to endure and excited to see James. But man, I left part of my heart in Iowa. I guess that just means I need to go back and visit it.


weddings, roadtrips, and a cautionary tale on sock buying

I have been SO BUSY lately. This is not like me at all. One of my best friends got married on Saturday, and I had the honor of being one of her bridesmaids. The day was absolutely perfect and not one thing went even slightly wrong. When it comes to flawless weddings, I am completely unfamiliar with the concept. I saw a handful of old high school friends I thought I would never see again, and we all tore up the dance floor to rap songs from the mid-2000s. I had a deja-vu moment and felt like I was back at prom. Normally that would sound like my worst nightmare, but it was so much fun. I felt like I went back in time 10 years. I took absolutely no pictures because I was too busy eating brie during the reception and jumping on the hotel bed to the Backstreet Boys while we were getting ready for the day. It's no wonder my curls fell out.

I wound up with some sort of upset stomach from a lethal combination of rich food and dancing and lack of sleep. It felt a lot like food poisoning but no one else got as sick. I was up all night on the verge of puking. I felt a little better in the morning, so I took Gracie to church since James was playing guitar. She screamed and cried the whole time to the point that I had to take her home early. She fell asleep on the way home and then refused to take her nap, my upset stomach came back with a vengeance, and short story long, it was the worst day ever.

I had been planning to drive to my visit my parents on Monday, but I wasn't sure if my stomach would be up to it. I had gotten only a couple hours of sleep over two days and Gracie has been a monster lately due to the "m" word: molars. I've been stressed to the max about driving across the Midwest with a baby, but I was so busy with the wedding the last few days I barely gave it a thought, so I woke up Monday morning determined to do it before I could overthink it and talk myself out of it.

Just as we were getting ready to leave, a massive thunderstorm rolled through. I pulled up the weather map, and sure enough, the storm system covered every highway I was planning to take for all 4 states. We started our drive with lightning striking down on both sides of the highway and torrential rain for three hours, which wasn't the worst considering I had forgotten my sunglasses at home. My GPS was bound and determined to take me on all the toll roads even though there was another route that took the exact same time with zero tolls. I spent half the drive fighting my GPS and trying to remember the Google Maps directions I had tried to memorize and the other half arguing with my dad on the phone over which highways and exits to take. I changed Gracie's diaper in a crowded McDonald's parking lot while black clouds and a wall of rain raced toward us and she covered the entire backseat in wheat thins and goldfish. Once we arrived, I staggered out of the car, road drunk and loopy from sleep deprivation and not eating since my stomach was still wonky. It was quite the adventure, but we made it. I have no idea how I'm going to survive the drive back. Please don't talk to me about it.

I'm actually much more tired than I look, thanks. 
This is the first time I've been able to see visit them in their new home. Iowa is freakishly pretty. There are rolling hills covered in lush cornfields and green trees and red barns and wildflowers. I can't even deal. My parents' backyard has literal HAY BALES in it. Actually--I just went in the kitchen (to get ice cream, you know) and looked out the window. Hay bales, rolling hills, flowers, and a DOUBLE RAINBOW (what does it mean??). This morning I could see thunder clouds growing in the distance. I feel like I'm being flirted with. We drove through town today, and random cornfields were sandwiched between houses and businesses. The town is right on the Mississippi River with old victorian mansions and parks and coffee shops and a hundred and two antique stores. I hate that it's not Ohio, but I love visiting a new place. There's so much history here! So many farms. SO MUCH CORN. You think Ohio has a lot of cornfields? You haven't seen Iowa.

The Mississippi. I'm still looking for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

In other news, my mom brought us souvenirs from one of our favorite surf shops in California. She bought me a pair of socks, thinking I would love the colors and the palm tree print. Well! She took her pair out of the package, unfolded them, and realized they were not palm tree socks, they were POT SOCKS. MY MOM BOUGHT ME POT SOCKS. We can't stop laughing about it. I feel like this is one of those family stories that will be told for decades. I'm allowed to keep them but under strict instructions to never wear them in public. 

I'm making her a birthday dinner and cake tonight. Under the circumstances, I thought it best to not make brownies.


reading rainbow

Let's chat real quick. Just us bookworms. Do you ever recommend a book you love to someone, they read it, and they don't feel the same burning passion about it you do? How do you react? Do you feel like you need to reevaluate your entire friendship with that person? Divorce them? Do you not care? Do you feel like you just told your crush how much you like them and they told you it's not mutual? Do you question life itself?

No? Just me?

Cool. Glad we had this talk.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys-4.5 stars: GAH. This book hurt so good. I flew through it. Sepetys is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Salt to the Sea is a fictionalized account of the true story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship rescuing refugees from the Soviet Occupation. She brilliantly writes about little-known parts of history that need to be talked about. As someone passionate about history, I'm ashamed that I was so ignorant to the plight of those in the Baltic regions during WWII. When it came to Hitler vs. Stalin, there was no good vs. evil. It was just evil, and the poor refugees were caught in the middle of the power struggle. While the overall story is tragic, the ending, like The Nightingale, is satisfying and bittersweet. But be prepared to lock yourself in your bedroom so you can cry a little bit when you finish reading it. Maybe bring a chocolate stash with you.

For fans of: historical fiction, crying, maritime disasters, refugee stories, WWII

The Mark of the Lion Trilogy by Francine Rivers--4 stars: Granted, these are three separate books (Voice in the Wind, Echo in the Darkness, and Sure as the Dawn), but I felt like I couldn't review them all without giving spoilers. I LOVED this series. It focuses on Christians in ancient Rome--one was a slave, some from a wealthy family, and one a gladiator. There's fighting, action, adventure, love, and faith. Some was a little ridiculous, some a little cheesy, but it was gripping. I read these in a time when I sorely needed some encouragement, and while these books cover some really dark things, they're ultimately uplifting. I loved the way certain people from the Bible were woven into the story and the tension between the Jews and Christians. I've been fascinated with ancient Rome ever since reading this. I think it's also really helped me understand the cultural context of the New Testament so much more.

For fans of: ancient Rome, faith, googling pictures of Russel Crowe in Gladiator to get a better mental image of the characters in the book

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath-3.75 stars: I feel weird reviewing classics, like I'm not qualified to do so. I usually don't include them for that reason, but I'm going to start since I find it helpful when other people write about reading the classics for pleasure instead of a school assignment. We all know what this book is about, right? A girl going a bit crazy and fighting depression? I stayed away from this book for a long time. Like Brain on Fire, I was scared of it, since I know it deals with heavy things and I once again found myself worried it would be contagious. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I think reading about descents into insanity and whatnot are fascinating. Terrifying, but fascinating. There were parts I didn't like and things that made me uncomfortable, but Plath was such an amazing writer that she could've written a chemistry textbook and I would've been hooked.

For fans of: depression?, books about mental health, praising God shock treatment is no longer a popular thing

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly-4 stars: So much historical fiction, I know. I CANNOT BE STOPPED. Ok so listen. Your name is Caroline Ferriday and you're a New York philanthropist dating a French actor. Wait! Now your name is Kasia, and you're a Polish teenager doing whatever you can to protect your country from the war. But wait--there's more! You're now Herta, a female German doctor who will do anything to get to the top, including operate on the Ravensbruck Rabbits: over 70 women who had horrifying medical experiments conducted on them by German surgeons while imprisoned at Ravensbruck. The book follows each woman's story through the war and how their lives intersect afterward. It's based on the real life of Caroline Ferriday and the Ravensbruck Rabbits. It's a beautiful story of friendship and redemption. If you need more convincing, google the Bellamy-Ferriday house. That is the setting for part of the book. Gorgeous, no? Yes I realize my last name is involved and I'm willing to pull whatever strings I need to in order to make that my permanent residence.

For fans of: France, WWII, holocaust stories

I Capture the Castle-4.5 stars: I ADORED THIS BOOK. The English countryside in the 1930s. Castles, dinner parties, literature, and countless Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte references. SO WONDERFUL, right? I knew you would understand. This book was charming, quirky, eccentric, and just wonderfully adorable. Cassandra Mortmain is a teenager with a penchant for writing who lives in a dilapidated castle in the English countryside. Her family is poorer than poor and eccentric as all get-out. The book is comprised of 6 months of her journal entries and all the changes her family goes through. It's such a happy, light read. But! The ending. It wasn't awful, but it just didn't work for me. Maybe it will work for you? I nearly tossed the book at the wall. I wish a few things in the plot turned out differently, but it's still very good and worth reading.

For fans of: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Jane Austen, all things British, literature, castles

My Life in France by Julia Child--5 stars: Maybe this is shameful, but I knew nothing about Julia Child until I saw Julie & Julia when it first came out. I love that movie, and I've been mildly enamored with Julia Child ever since. Her personality! She comes through so well in this book. It's about her move to Paris in 1948 with her husband Paul, how she discovers cooking, the writing of her cookbook, the filming of the French Chef, and everything in between. The writing is completely delightful and charming. I couldn't put it down. I mean I like cooking, but I wouldn't call it a great passion of mine. I'm certainly no foodie (just gimme pizza!), but I still loved and appreciated this book. I love that Julia didn't discover her life calling until she was 37, and I love how she threw her whole self into it. A lot of french food doesn't sound appetizing to me, but I still salivated every time she described a dish she cooked or ate. She gets a little ranty about people who hold different political views and sometimes she waxes on about random culinary things I don't care about, but it's still worthy of 5 stars. I was so sad when it was over. And also hungry.

For fans of: France, cooking, questioning your cooking abilities, youtubing The French Chef late at night and then wondering if it's too late to go make an omelet 

What are you reading? Tell me!