a load of croup

This has been a very stressful week.

It all started a few nights ago. I honestly, truly can't even tell you what night it was, because my brain is fried right now.

Whatever night it was, the cat went insane. She had the bushy tail and crazed eyeballs, and she ran up and down the stairs yowling for at least an hour. She has what we call The Witching Hour every night where she goes momentarily insane and has to run around howling at the moon to exorcise her demons, but it's typically short-lived. That night, it was not. I almost kicked her out of the house.

We fell asleep awhile later, and I woke up to "BEEP. BEEP. BEEP."

This is it, I thought. We're going down in a blazing inferno. The house is on fire, and either I hold my baby and jump out of a 3rd floor window onto the concrete sidewalk below, or we're going to burn to death.

Turns out, the batteries in the smoke detector just needed to be changed. Also turns out I should probably stop reading so much about the fires in California. The night before this saga, I dreamed that we lost everything in a fire, and the fire chased as we tried to evacuate.

Has anyone else noticed the batteries need to be changed ONLY at night? It's never gone off during the day. Ever. ONLY in the dead of night which makes it 500 times more stressful than it needs to be. Not only are you delirious in the middle of the night, but it is always impossible to figure out which smoke alarm is going off. You have to unhook one, take the batteries out, hear the beeping again, drop a swear word, then continue the process until you find the offender. It never fails that you have to check every single smoke alarm before finally finding which one is going off. It's always the very last one you check. And that beep is so disorienting. Sometimes it sounds like it's upstairs, sometimes it sounds like it's downstairs. Sometime you wonder if it's a neighbor, and sometimes you swear it's right on top of you except nothing's there. It's like The Hunger Games of the middle of the night. Nothing makes sense, all bets are off.

I realize I'm going on a tangent here about smoke alarms, but I am REALLY annoyed by how difficult the whole thing is.

Moving on.

We finally fell back to sleep. Not much later, there was a THUMPTHUMPTHUMP sound that was so loud, I catapulted out of bed and ran into the hall. My first thought was that Gracie fell down the stairs. She was asleep in her crib, so that was out of the question. Then I thought James did, but he didn't. I thought someone was breaking in. I don't think anyone was. We have no idea what happened. Looking back, I think my neighbor pounded the wall next to my head as loud as humanly possible. Who knows. But it scared James almost as much as it scared me, and he's never freaked out. With all that adrenaline, it took me hours to go back to sleep.

So yeah, I've been pretty well-rested this week.

On top of that, we've had a lot going on. A lot of things to figure out and just a lot of life stress.

Tuesday night, I dreamed that I was on vacation, and someone was babysitting Gracie. I happened to spot Gracie and the babysitter, and they weren't taking care of her correctly, so I chased after them yelling. I was so stressed and panicked in my dream that I woke up feeling very upset. The first thing that I heard upon waking was a cough from the room next door that did not sound like a good cough. At all.

I ran into Gracie's room while James got her changed, and she was wheezing and gasping for air. It was terrifying. Her cough sounded horrible. I immediately knew it was croup. She's never had it and I've never been around it, but I just knew from the barking cough that had to be it. We've been very fortunate that she's only had minor colds before, so this was entirely new for us. So many people I know have gone through awful bouts of sickness with their kids, but somehow we've managed to avoid that. I figured her first cold and flu season sans nursing would be a doozy, and so far it has been. James told me a few times that he didn't like her cough at all. After she would cough, she would look up to me and with her little raspy, wheezy, voice would say "Daddy don't wike it. Daddy don't wike my cough." It was HEARTBREAKING.

I had an appointment an hour away yesterday morning, and she came downstairs and ate breakfast and played like normal and sounded better, so I figured we were ok to go. Halfway there, the coughing and wheezing came back worse than ever. I was so panicked I almost drove her straight to a hospital, but I compromised with myself and called the doctor to make an appointment instead. We made it to the appointment and she fell asleep on me. This is UNPRECEDENTED. She hasn't spontaneously fallen asleep on me at any time other than nap or bedtime since she was a newborn. I put her in the car and she slept the entire way home.

We got home, and I was in the kitchen making lunch when she started screaming for me. She ran into the kitchen, looked at me, and projectile vomited everywhere. I almost drove her to the hospital again, but some strange calmness came over me and I cleaned her up, cleaned the floor, and sat on the couch with her to calm her down. She was so hysterical she was hardly able to breathe. And then she fell asleep on me again. I won't lie, I loved it more than anything, but I knew this girl was very sick if she was sleeping the day away. Once she woke up, she looked at me and said "Uh oh mommy, I spilled my apple juice on the floor." The last thing she had before she threw up was apple juice (my desperate attempt to get fluids in her), so she told me all day she spilled her apple juice on the floor. So cute, but so sad.

When she wasn't sleeping, she was coughing and wheezing and crying. It was heartbreaking and the most terrifying sound I've ever heard. The croup cough sounds like death and suffocation. It is awful. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, ever. Because I am a drama queen, all I could think about was the scene in Anne of Green Gables when Diana runs to get Anne in the middle of the night because Minnie Mae was dying of croup. I DIDN'T EVEN HAVE IPECAC. (I'm joking, I would never actually use that.) Not that it mattered since she threw up already and it didn't help, but WWASD? (What Would Anne Shirley Do?)

By the time we went to the doctor, she was so lethargic and wouldn't eat, and I was so worried. My nerves were frayed from trying to make sure she was breathing all day. I was too scared to put her down for a nap, so I held her all day so she could snooze upright. She hates the doctor because she still remembers getting shots at her 18 month appointment, so she screamed for a few minutes and then once again FELL ASLEEP on me. I can't stress how unusual this is for her. We had to wait for the doctor for 30 minutes, and on every side of our exam room was a screaming infant getting shots and kids running down the hall hollering. It was chaos, but my poor girl slept soundly through everything. It was sweltering in the exam room, and with a feverish baby on me, my clothes were so wet you'd think I had just showered with them on.

The doctor finally walked in. Our pediatrician was out that day, so we saw a doctor we hadn't seen before. She was INCREDIBLE. She walked right in, saw Gracie sleeping, and said "Isn't it amazing how sick babies create such a powerful physiological bond? You are magic to her right now, I can tell." I burst into tears. She went on and on about how holding our sick babies and loving them is so powerful and teaches them that we'll always be there to help them when things get hard. I sobbed like a baby. I don't know what it was about this woman, but she was like an angel of comfort, and all the stress of the day just hit me. She sat there while I cried and told me to let it out, heard Gracie cough once and said "Oh that's croup. No big deal, she's going to be fine." She examined her and said she's old enough that croup shouldn't be dangerous, even though it sounds like it.

They gave her a steroid in the office to help stop the wheezing. I know people are hard on modern medicine these days in favor of things like essential oils, but I love it. Praise God for steroids and antibiotics. I sheepishly told the pediatrician I couldn't get that scene from AOGG out of my head, and she nicely told me that things are dramatized in books and movies (of course) and that things like scarlet fever and croup are much less dangerous these days with modern medicine. One of the nurses was leaving for the day, and she walked out to the car with me, telling me stories of her son who's gotten croup many times and how scary it is, but that he's always ok and Gracie will be too. We need more kind people like that nurse and doctor. Gracie was still very sick, but I drove home feeling completely calm, comforted, and at peace. I can't thank them enough for calming me down and reassuring me. I was the epitome of a terrified first time mom.

The steroid kicked in, and as the evening progressed, her cough sounded less like a bark and more like a normal cough. We opened her door last night to hear her a little better in case she had a bad coughing fit, and a few minutes later she stood up, walked to the end of her crib, leaned over, and slammed the door shut. That's when we knew for sure she was going to be just fine. And then she amazingly slept 14 hours.

Hopefully she didn't have any bad dreams like her mother.


from the week, vol. 3

+ Gracie and I went to visit James at work for the first time at his new job. I walked in and my jaw hit the floor. It was so modern and fancy. Everyone looked so nice and I felt a little like a frumpy mom. I know it sounds like I'm just saying this because I'm her mom, but Gracie was the star of the show. We got stopped constantly for people to compliment her hat. She held James' hand and walked around saying "I go to work too, mommy! See my work?" It was the cutest thing. I remember visiting my dad at work as a little girl and how much I loved it. It's so fun to see Gracie do the same thing.

+ This won't excite anyone but me but GRACIE DREW MINNIE MOUSE. The week with her was very difficult and I was at the end of my sanity. I found this after I put her down for a nap (she didn't nap) and it reminded me again why being a mom is the best. I love watching her figure things out. She's been so close to drawing faces and I've been waiting for this!

+ James turned 32 over the weekend. We went out for barbecue and had a great time. James was drumming on the steering wheel on the way home, and Gracie yelled "STOP JAMES!" We laughed so hard. Apparently I've said that one too many times. What can I say? My annoyance over repetitive noises is real. We came home and finally watched Wonder Woman. No lie--I had to watch a video explaining the backstory and then start WW over again to understand what was going on. I'm not a comic book person.

+ We went pumpkin picking on Saturday. We've done strawberry, apple, and now pumpkin picking this year. I feel very accomplished. It was pushing 80 degrees which is just ridiculous for October. Most of the pumpkins were monstrous. We found a small one that didn't cost a rent check. They had some pre-picked that were so big they were almost $30 EACH. For a PUMPKIN. These farms don't mess around. We also got fresh pumpkin donuts and an apple cider slushy. It was heavenly.

+ Years ago, I read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. It was an incredible non-fiction book about the Chicago World's Fair and H. H. Holmes, the world's first serial killer. He lured single women into his hotel he built with secret gas chambers and trap doors and crematories all kinds of horrifying things. It was so wild I've never forgotten about it. When I was in Iowa, I saw a commercial for American Ripper on the History Channel. I just realized we have the History Channel app on our Apple TV, and since I'm a mooch I logged in with my parents' info, and OH MY WORD, WATCH THIS DOCUMENTARY IMMEDIATELY. The great-great-grandsom of Holmes set out to prove he's the same man as Jack the Ripper. He hired an ex CIA Operative to help him investigate the murders and interview experts. I haven't been this absorbed in a show in ages. James got hooked, my mom got hooked, and so did my best friend. It's like Dateline meets Sherlock mets Edgar Allen Poe. It's creepy, but it is GOOD.

+ Last week when we came out of the grocery store, there was a firetruck parked across from us. Gracie was exhilarated. She waved and smiled and the woman in the truck waved back. A few firemen walked by, and Gracie stood up and yelled "Hi firefighters! I firefighter too! See my fire hat?" and she waved her red hat around. It was the cutest thing EVER. I'm writing this out because she's whining in the baby monitor instead of napping and we're having a bad day, and I need to be reminded that she's usually wonderful. So wonderful, but so full of mischief.


a visitor

On the show Frasier, there's a running joke that everything falls apart when his ex-wife Lilith is in town. Things will break, there will be an icy chill in the atmosphere, and then Lilith will walk in the room and it will all make sense.

My mother-in-law is nothing like Lilith. She's warm and generous, but the same rule applies.

I woke up on Sunday morning after a shoddy 2-3 hours of sleep thanks to a sudden appearance of insomnia. I had a pounding headache. We got ready to go to church, and the car wouldn't start. We moved the carseat to the other car in the pouring rain. A week of bad sleep and stress went to my stomach, as it always does, and I ran to the bathroom on the verge of throwing up in church. There was no room to jump my car when we got home, so we called roadside assistance. They got it up and running, but the radio system required some super secret code to keep working that I couldn't find anywhere. Gracie spent the whole afternoon crying, so overtired she couldn't sleep. I went to the library to pick up a book. I had gotten my normal email that it was waiting for me, but it wasn't.

Nothing bad happened, but it was all just a little harder than it needed to be. Pair that with sleep deprivation, and I was not dealing. I kicked James and Gracie out of the bedroom by late afternoon so I could lock myself in and desperately try to give myself an attitude adjustment. James gave Gracie a bath, and I went downstairs to grab something and instead found my MIL standing in my living room. This is not unlike the time I woke to find her standing over my bed. Apparently someone had forgotten to lock the door after taking the trash out.

And suddenly the whole day made sense. It happens every time, like clockwork.


James helped her get everything out of the car. She came on a Sunday night and was scheduled to leave Wednesday morning. Bag after of bag came out of the car, as well as armfuls of clothes. I counted 17 hangers that she strategically hung around the house though closet space was offered to her.

She gave Gracie a present she's been threatening to give for years now--a book that contains a recorder. She recorded herself with her thick, manic drawl, reading the book to Gracie. The sentiment is sweet, but it's like hearing Paula Deen in hysterics every time Gracie pushes the button. And she loves to push the button. It's huge and about as hard to hide as butter in a Paul Deen recipe, but I did my best.

She sat down on the couch next to me and said "I have something for you and James in the car." James rambled downstairs a few minutes later, and she told him to get our gift out of the car. I had no idea what to expect. She often brings us her favorite flavor of coffee. Last time, it was in a sealed bag covered in peanuts that said Nuts.com. We couldn't see the inside, so James asked what kind of nuts where inside. She looked at him like he was from Jupiter and said "It's not nuts, it's coffee beans. Nuts.com has the best coffee, didn't you know that?"

In May she also gave us a popcorn maker that is only a glass bowl with red rubber lid. "I used my points I earned at work and got it for free!" She always knows how to make a girl feel special. On the bright side, we've actually used it a lot.

James walked inside a few minutes later holding a small package of generic toilet paper and two rolls of Bounty paper towels. "I bought it in bulk at Sam's Club, but I didn't need all of it, so I thought I would give the rest to you." She said it as though she were bequeathing upon us a family heirloom.

At least toilet paper doesn't talk. And honestly, we were running low.


Whenever she comes to visit, I ask her what she'd like to do. Anything she wants! Columbus is full of amazing restaurants, parks, shops, you name it. Her answer, however, is the same every time. "Let's go to the mall and the market for my soap." She loves to go to the mall. She has two amazing malls that are just as good as the ones we have here, but she shuts us down whenever we remind her. The market she's always asking to visit is none other than Trader Joe's. They have a lavender soap she can't live without. She buys every one on the shelf when she's here, and we send her boxes of it throughout the year per her request. Never you mind that she has two Trader Joe's near her. We remind her every time that she can buy it home, but it's brand new information every time.

While checking out at "the market," the very kind and long-suffering cashier asked her where she's from.

"North Carolina."

"Where in North Carolina?"

She thinks long and hard. "The middle."

This is categorically incorrect. We tell her so.

"Well, I don't live on the beach, so I live in the middle."

She takes the opportunity to mention there are no Trader Joe's in NC (false, as previously stated), and she starts yelling at the cashier for not selling the soap in NC so she can buy it. She is heated, passionate, and letting him know how much money he's losing by not selling lavender soap in North Carolina. She is so fired up that I cut in to apologize to him and remind her she has not one, but two Trader Joe's near her at home.

I hear lavender has a calming effect. She might need more soap after all.


Later that day after Gracie's nap, she decided she wanted to go to the mall to buy James some clothes for his birthday. She is a typical southern woman and will not show her face unless it's covered in makeup. She went so far as to tell Gracie she'll have to wear lipstick when she gets older to look beautiful. James and I shut that down real fast. Even more than she believes in lipstick, she believes in perfume. She's worn the same one as long as I've known her. It's suffocating. It smells like a nursing home threw up in a garden. After her visit in May, I had to wash everything she touched multiple times to get the smell out. It permeates every thing in a 10 mile radius. 

I don't say all of that just because I don't like the smell of her perfume; I say it because I inherited my mother's perfume allergy. After pregnancy, she couldn't wear perfume again because she has such a bad reaction. The exact same thing happened to me. I can't even walk down the laundry detergent aisle in the store. 

My MIL doesn't just spritz a little on her wrist the way I was taught to, she douses her entire body with it the way I spray the floors for ants. She uses it as liberally as hairspray. Before we could stop her, she sprayed it on Gracie despite constant warnings of her sensitive skin. We piled into the car minutes later where the confined space caused a toxic cloud of her perfume to form. The sneezing began immediately. 

"Mom, that perfume is kind of strong." James tried to gently say. He knew I was in misery, and he was just as upset about it as I was.

"That reminds me. You know what? I was called into my boss lady's office the other day. Some girl actually complained about my perfume! Can you believe that? What is wrong with her? She sprays her air freshener when I go by. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?"

James and I share a look and try not to laugh.

"Well, I'm sorry that happened, but your perfume is kind of strong. She might be sensitive to it. A lot of people are sensitive to fragrances. I know I am." I said between sneezes and coughs that made it sound as though I was a cow dying from emphysema. My eyes were on fire. I was nearly choking on my own mucous. Loudly.

"That's ridiculous. No one is bothered by it. It's not even strong!"

"It is. It's really strong. It's bothering both of us. We kind of can't blame her" James and I said.

"Oh that's silly. My perfume doesn't bother anyone and I told my boss lady so. I said I will never stop wearing my perfume! This is my perfume and you can't tell me not to wear it!"

"Mom, you need to listen to her. Michelle is struggling to breathe right now. She's allergic to your perfume, can't you tell?"

"You are? Why didn't you say anything? I didn't think anyone could be bothered by perfume."


Her final request was to visit Ikea, or "The Kia Place" as she calls it. She drives a Kia, so I was half-wondering if she expected it to be a Kia dealership. She told us she wanted a rug to match her burgundy couch and her pillows that are "black with poppies, but not normal poppies, crazy-like poppies with lots of colors. They're just wild. The rug has to match those poppies. I love my poppies." 

It was a tall order.

We looked at every single rug they had. She fell in love with a grey and black striped rug. I loved it too, and it would coordinate well with her pillows. I introduced the concept of pattern mixing and she was horrified. 

James and I found a lamp we both loved. We've been wanting new bedroom lamps but haven't made it a priority. Our nightstands are in bad shape and they've also been on the list, but they haven't been a priority either. 

We found the boxes for the lamps, but they didn't have it in the color we had wanted. They had another color we liked, so we grabbed those.

"No. You can't get those. I don't like them." My MIL said.

"But we love them. And they match what we have."

"Well you can't get them. You need to get the white lamps."

She had also mentioned buying us new curtains for the living room. I don't like what we have, but I'm not in a big rush to change them either. After the lamp debacle, I skillfully distracted her so she didn't notice we were walking through the curtain section. She wants us to have bright blue curtains to match our blue rug, but I'm set on a neutral. We've been at a stalemate. 

She perked up when we walked past the pillows.

"Don't you need new bedroom pillows?"


"Yes you do. Yours are terrible.'

"What? They're actually pretty new. They're fine."

"No they're not, they're terrible. You have to have new ones," she said as she shoved two pillows in our cart. Why she thinks our pillows are terrible, I don't know. But just like the toilet paper, at least we'll use them, and at least they don't talk.


The main reason for her visit was to see James for his birthday. She didn't come on his birthday, though she had the day off from work, she came earlier in the week. We've stopped asking questions about why she schedules things the way she does. With the amount of clothes she brought, I was afraid she had changed her plans. 

James is an only child. So am I, but our moms are very different. She thinks her angel baby James can do no wrong. She tells him constantly what a perfect child he was. I know from stories this is far from the truth. My parents, on the other hand, are the first to call me out on something. 

While James was loading the boxes for our nightstands (we are both so careful about spending money these days, but James suddenly decided we needed to replace everything. I think he discovered the healing powers of retail therapy), my MIL leaned over to me and said "He is just the best man. Absolutely the best." 

"Yup, he's pretty great." I said half-heartedly, trying to calm Gracie who was overtired and hungry. 

She continued. "James was such a good child. He was the best. He never did a thing wrong. Never! Even when I was pregnant I didn't feel him move once because he was so obedient. He never even kicked me! The only time I felt movement was the moment I conceived. I felt a butterfly in my stomach. It fluttered the moment I got pregnant and that was all I ever felt." 

I laughed out loud. I couldn't help it.

She said all of this, of course, while Gracie was unruly and disobedient. 

She repeated herself three hours later, telling James he was a "perfect child."

He countered, reminding her of things he had done wrong. Big things, like getting held back in school for never doing his schoolwork. 

"That's because of the people in your life. It wasn't your fault. You did nothing wrong. If you ever did, I rebuked the spirit of rebellion out of you."

I'll try that on Gracie next time she has a public meltdown.


She left Wednesday morning. My head was spinning. I sat down on the couch last night to celebrate with a cookie when I got a text from her.

"Buy these curtains. They're only $50. They'll look good with your rug." 


currently, vol. 33

reading: Schindler's List. I CANNOT get through this blasted book. I'm going on 3 weeks which is ridiculous for me. I love the story, but the book is terrible.

watching: We're finally finishing Frasier which is devastating. We paused and watched Victoria. OH MY HEAVENS. This is filling the Downton Abbey-shaped hole in my heart. I have the book the show is based on waiting for me if I can ever get through Schindler's List.

drinking: Coffee. Duh.

eating: I've been eating scrambled eggs for lunch every day because I still haven't gone to the grocery store since getting home. Tomorrow!

smelling: Something smells rotten and it's driving me crazy. I can't figure out where it's coming from. I should light a candle, but it's blazing hot outside and I can't bring myself to light fall candles when it feels like July. The weather and I are not getting along at the moment.

annoyed by: This week is gonna drive me to drink. Nothing bad necessarily has happened, but it's been stressful. We drove home on Monday. As luck would have it, my insomnia kicked in and I laid awake in bed all night long until my alarm went off at 6:14 am. Normally it's all I can do to keep us fed and alive on the days after a night like that, but I had to drive through 4 states. I prayed a lot of prayers and drank a lot of coffee. I managed to keep it together, but Gracie did not. She cried and screamed for about 4 or 5 hours total. It was stressful. I also got a call during a particularly rough part of the drive that our rent check hadn't been filled out correctly. A couple hours from home, I pulled off to get gas and heard a horrible sound. The only thing I could think was that the exhaust pipe was dragging behind the car. It sounded like grinding metal on asphalt or something equally terrible. I had a near panic attack about being stranded in rural Indiana. I examined the whole car and everything looked normal. I prayed for safety, called my dad in hysterics, and started the car again. The sound was completely gone. Just as I pulled in the parking lot at home, the sound came back worse then ever. It literally sounded like my car was falling apart as I was driving it. James, the furtherest thing from an alarmist, heard the sound and said "that sounds horrible and very expensive." We were stressballs all night worrying about the cost of yet ANOTHER car repair. We took it in the next morning. 6 hours later they called back.

It was a pebble.

It was only a tiny little rock that got caught in the wheel. It would occasionally knock around and make horrible noises. A PEBBLE. I am so relieved. I was convinced we would have to sell our kidneys to pay for whatever was wrong. It was an unnecessary and criminal amount of stress. I truly believe God held the sound off until I pulled in at home, because the car did NOT sound safe to drive and I don't know what I would've done if it hadn't stopped. I also lost the lid to my Hydroflask water bottle that I use everyday. Please respect my privacy in this time of grief.

Gracie has decided not to sleep on road trips anymore. She hasn't slept more than 20 minutes on a trip in the last YEAR. Even though she was sleep-deprived beyond words, she napped a measly 20 minutes on the way home and zero minutes on the way there. She didn't nap yesterday, and she fought her nap for 2 hours today. I can handle nap strikes MUCH better than I used to since we're getting to the age of inconsistent naps, but after the past few days I NEEDED SOME SILENCE. As soon as she fell asleep, the neighbors turned on their thumping base. The same sound we heard at midnight last night. Jesus take the wheel.

loving: my Bible Study. It has taken me years of work to make friends at church and to feel a part of everything. I still have a long way to go, but this Bible Study has been such a blessing to me and exactly what I need right now. I feel giddy about going every week. Gracie loves the people who watch the kids and I love being with the women, which is something I never thought I would say. It's completely uncharacteristic of me to keep pushing and trying to make a Bible Study/friendship work, but it has been so worth it.

dreaming: I had the weirdest dream last night that the Kroger produce man and I were holding hands. Not in a romantic way, just because we wanted to walk around holding hands? If he's working when I go grocery shopping tomorrow, I'm not going to be able to make eye contact with him.

cooking: My MIL is coming this weekend and specifically requested chili, so I guess that's what I'll be making.

listening to: The Modern Post. Their versions of Before the Throne of God and Rock of Ages have been on repeat lately. SO GOOD.

buying: Don't talk to me about how many clothes and pajamas Gracie has. Just don't.

happy about: While Gracie was having words with the monitor about her nap, I sorted through her toy box and got a huge bag of baby toys to get rid of/pack up, which means I have more room to store toys that have been sitting out. It looks less like a daycare now and more like adults live here too and I am thrilled. James surprised me and ordered a new rug for our living room that I've been wanting for months. It was on the floor when I walked in the door Monday night. It makes everything look happier, which makes me happier. I've also finally talked him into a mustard chair that I've had my sights on for ages. Since it looks like we'll be retiring in this townhouse, I might as well make it my own.

If only I could soundproof the walls...


my appletite for fall delicacies is unpearable

This trip has been exactly what I needed and the perfect kick-off to fall. If you're reading this on Monday, that means I'm currently winding through half-harvested cornfields on a highway in the Midwest trying to calm my whining toddler and cursing the road construction. Prayers for sanity are much appreciated.

On Friday we went apple picking. We visited this orchard last fall and I've been anxiously awaiting our return all year. It's tucked away in the rolling hills of Eastern Iowa between dairy farms. We picked pears and honeycrisp apples and accidentally bought an apple pie or two. Gracie was much more into it this year and had the time of her life. She was...wait for it...be-cider-self with joy. We may or may not have picked up pumpkin donuts on the way as well. Fall can't officially begin without apple pie and pumpkin donuts.

I know people get uppity over that ubiquitous Anne of Green Gables quote about Octobers, but it's popular for a reason. She was on to something.

We drove a little further north to this little town on the river for lunch. It was the most beautiful place I've ever seen. There were cliffs, an old mill, a riverboat on the Mississippi, streets lined with old Victorian homes with wrap-around porches and porch swings, and even a coffee shop and bookstore. It's the Stars Hollow of Iowa. I couldn't take pictures because I was too busy weeping. I made the mistake of looking up houses on Zillow. It's totally affordable. I wept even more. That's when the pie and donuts really came in handy. Lorelai and Rory would be proud.

Sometime after these events, I was hit with the curse of destruction. Within one day I stepped on a carpet tack that went through my toe, stepped on a splinter that went straight into my other foot, broke two toilets--one of them twice (not how you think, the handle broke!), got a mosquito bite on my forehead so large it looks like a golf ball is trying to break through the skin, tripped over an acorn and fell in the middle of the road tearing up my knee and left hand, dumped a hot cup of coffee down my pants, and blew a fuse while blow-drying my hair.

I almost locked myself in a padded room.

Thankfully, the curse lifted on Saturday. My mom and I left Gracie with my dad for the day and went shopping. This is the first time I've left her that long to go do something fun, and even though I missed her, it was exactly what I needed. We picked an Italian place for lunch that we've never heard of, which is always a little risky, but it will go down as one of my favorite meals of all time. I ordered a bowl of butternut squash and apple soup and a crab cake slider. A totally strange combination, but just like a butternut squash latte, you can't knock it till you try it. You butter believe I was nuts about it.


We went shopping for ourselves yet walked out of the mall with bags for Gracie, even though we spent an obscene amount of time comparing candle scents in Bath & Body Works. That's always how it goes. Buying kids clothes is all the fun of retail therapy with none of the body issues. It's October 1st and she already has 3 pairs of Christmas pajamas, so the trip was a giant success. We walked past a Gymboree store in the process of closing. The store had giant cardboard boxes full of clothes of various sizes and seasons with no rhyme or reason, but they were 70% off, so there I was. I dug through a box and found some treasures, including an over the top sweater dress with a skating llama on it. The seat of my jeans may be on the verge of getting holes, but my daughter is going to look amazing.

I was sweating after burrowing through boxes of clearance clothes, so we stopped in a Barnes & Noble for iced coffees. We sat in the cafe next to a group of teenagers asking each other what interest rates are and if their credit cards had them.

Ahh, the blissful ignorance of youth.

My mom pointed toward a book on an end-cap and said "Look! Your name!" The name of the book was Shelly Bell, which is what my parents have called me my whole life and also a shortened version of my first and last name. I was giddy. The tagline read "At His Mercy" and I thought Oh! A book named after me, and it sounds like some kind of Christmas memoir? Something about life and God's mercy? I might have to buy this! I walked over to it and underneath the title it read "A Forbidden Lovers Novel." And then I noticed Fifty Shades of Grey was directly underneath. It was a trashy romance novel. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but that's out the window when you can't even judge the cover correctly.

Ahh, the blissful ignorance of youth.

Suffice it so say, we had a good laugh.  Clearly my iced coffee hadn't kicked in yet.

After getting so lost we wound up in a neighboring city, we went to Old Navy. My mom hadn't been in years, and I needed to grab some things for Gracie. In a strange twist of fate, I found a pile of things that fit me perfectly. Gracie got a few things and some cat shoes (which she is currently wearing over her cat pajamas), and my mom and I walked out with matching sweats and pajamas. Shopping with my mom is the most fun thing in the world. We laughed until we cried all day. I laughed more than I have in ages. I can't tell you how good it was for my soul.

This will also go down as the first time clothes shopping was more successful than book shopping.