Wind and Warmth: Ireland

When you arrive in Doolin, there is one thing you will not be able to ignore: the wind. On the western coast of Ireland, “windy” isn’t a mere adjective used to describe the weather or that helps you fly a kite. In this part of the world the wind is most definitely a noun, and a noun with an opinion and a presence that rarely takes a backseat. The Wind is everywhere. From the ribbons of field grass cutting across the hillside to the dramatic cliffs that dive into an angry sea, where foam collects then scatters with the surge; it is as if the landscape itself were created with the sole purpose of exposing the power and tenacity of the wind.

Now imagine you’re driving through this seaside village in a tiny rental car, stick shift, naturally, on the LEFT side of the road. You’ll later learn that traditional Irish music enthusiasts from all around Europe are huddled in nearby pubs, and that just down the coast lie the striking Cliffs of Moher. But for now your focus lies just a few feet in front of your car, as it bounces along between cow pasture and stacked-stone walls. You veer to the right then begin a steep incline, following directions you hope will bring you to your Bed and Breakfast. That’s when you notice the castle. A simple tower overlooking the valley below, taking a beating from the pummeling rain like it has for ages. As you approach at your slow, trying-to-see-between-the-wiper-blades pace, you notice a peculiar sight: bright yellow ponchos, pulled taught and billowing like inflatable Christmas yard statues atop a roadside fence. Rick Steves, the famous travel writer, is known well in this region for sending tourists on long walking tours and hikes. No doubt this is what we witnessed that day: a couple of past-middle-aged travel enthusiasts determined to complete the three mile hike along the cliffs and see the Doonagore Castle, even if it meant scaling a thin fence on the side of a windy road, taking turns holding on to each other to keep from blowing off the island like a kite.


The first year of life is marked with more “firsts” than a sleep-deprived parent can record in a baby book. Before Henry was born, I didn’t realize how enthralled I’d be by every single little development. The moment his eyes first looked out a window, the time his little arms stretched upward and finally met the cheerful toys above, when he belly laughed, sat up, tasted solid food, flew on a plane, crawled off the blanket in our yard, touched the ocean, when his sounds started to resemble discernible words, when he learned to crawl up the stairs with wild abandon (scary!), how he became obsessed with pushing everything around the house like it’s his job (too funny!) and now we are waiting for those first independent steps. It is so much fun trying to keep up with it all and adjusting to the newness that each new “first” brings.

Of course, for every first, there is a last. As a poem posted to a mom group on Facebook pointed out, there will be a last time you swaddle your baby, nurse him to sleep, or carry him on your hip. I understand the sentiment: appreciate life with baby now – the sweet moments and the challenges – because it will all be over soon. After all, babies don’t keep.


My mother’s hands. They shuttled heavy bags of groceries to and from the car, leaving lasting lines where plastic pulled taught from the weight. Some days her hands rested on our foreheads, testing for fevers or soliciting calm after a day of play. And other days they settled softly on piano keys, to infuse the house with “Threads of Love” and hymns of praise. But I learned of their true super powers when I witnessed them dip in scalding water to lift a dropped fork or wash a bowl. “Wait until you’re a mom, you’ll be able to snatch noodles from a pot of boiling water,” she said. And as she released the drain stopper and let the water loose, her wedding diamond spun to her cupped palm where bubbles still clung, like pearls.
In my work at St. Olaf College, I am fortunate to be surrounded by good music and deep thinkers. Kenneth Jennings, the former conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, recently passed away. A colleague told me that the current conductor of the choir, Anton Armstrong, once compared Dr. Jenning’s hands to a potter’s, “used with an artist’s gift to mold something beautiful, fragile, exquisite.” I’ve always thought of the conductor as a magician, calling forth music from those who stand before him. But perhaps a potter and a magician aren’t all that different – both use their hands to create their work of art.


It never fails to take me by surprise when that first pop of orange makes its way into the foliage. I know the days will grow shorter and the nights cooler, but until they actually do, I am somewhat in denial. Don’t get me wrong, I love fall, but something about it keeps me waiting on the doorstep. Once those fall colors start coming in, however, I dive right in and embrace the change. It’s almost as if I need that signal from the trees. They know it’s time for change before we do.

I was feeling antsy this weekend with the coming change of season. There is so much pressure, at least in Minnesota where fall is short-lived, to fill it up with apple orchards and bonfires and all things pumpkin. And now with Henry in our life it would be easy to get wrapped up in the season with the single pursuit to DO IT ALL. After all, this is the only year he will be learning to toddle about amidst pumpkins and leaves. But doing everything – even though the crisp air and Pinterest boards beckon me to try, that’s not what fall is about.

The Adventures that Bring you Home

I once heard a tagline to a movie that went something like this: the greatest journeys are the ones that bring you home. In the context of the movie, it reflected the struggles and ultimate coming-of-age experience of a young man of Indian-immigrant parents. I’ve always been a sucker for movie trailers. Something about the grand scope of a preview, where you take a step back and see the big picture, one broad stroke of the story set to dramatic music (of course!) makes my creative spirit say YES! So it’s not unusual for quotes from previews to stick with me. This particular line is one that comes back to me again and again, especially whenever we travel. And although I’m not in the midst of a coming-of-age moment or haven’t even traveled all that extensively, I truly believe that the greatest adventures are the ones that bring you home, both literally and metaphorically.

If you’ve ever traveled with a baby, you may have enjoyed the unique experience, upon your return, of seeing a little soul recognize home. We recently came back from a trip that, although only 10 days long, was a record for our little guy. He was a great traveler and loved tasting new foods, exploring new spaces and listening to new sounds (hello Irish pub), but we could tell by the end, he was antsy for the old familiar (or more specifically, his toys and space to exercise his latest skill: crawling!). It was late when we landed in Minneapolis, probably about 10:30pm by the time we unlocked the front door. But the light of recognition that popped on in his tired eyes as I carried him through the house could mean only one thing: he was happy to be home. In his nursery I showed him his beloved cow painting on the wall, we played with the felt balls hanging from his mobile, and he lay down on the soft sheep skin we use on his floor. He kept looking at us with what I can only explain as Christmas-morning giddiness. Priceless. And all from seeing the familiar, from coming home.

New Beginnings

To continue reading about the Tales of E and C (and now H!) head on over to Home Heart Wings, my new corner of the internet. I've transferred all of my old content from this blog and although the site is still very much under construction (broken links, poorly sized images, unfinished header, untwined tagline, missing About content, etc) I've decided to let go of the pursuit of perfection and share it as is.

For those of you who currently subscribe to my blog (hi Grandma!) I will get something like that set up for the new blog as well. 

Why a new blog, you ask?

Well, sometimes you need a change of scenery, you need to repaint the walls in your house, or maybe just put your bed on a different wall. It's no secret that my blog here has been lacking for the last year or so, and it's my hope that a new space will inspire me to find time in my day (or night!) to reconnect with my writing, thinking, and creating. Oh I know starting up a new blog won't really change any of the challenges I face in my day-to-day that are keeping me from fitting a little "me time" in (...motherhood...) but it's worth a shot. Blank pages and notebooks have always inspired me, and a new platform is essentially the digital version of a new notebook. 

See you over in my new home! There's already a new post up there about the art of decision-making and our upcoming trip.

The Art of Decision Making

It was 9:32am as we sat around our breakfast table. On the surface it had every appearance of a leisurely Saturday, complete with coffee, scrambled eggs, and the iPad all ready for a nice long Facetime with grandma and grandpa. But underneath, the adrenaline was already kicking in.
“Well, should we do it?” Evan asked.
“Umm … I mean, we could,” I stumbled in typical non-committal fashion. “It’s not like we’re flying to Europe.”
And with that, we checked the computer one last time to confirm we still had a shot, and then commenced the Great Mad Dash as we threw together overnight bags, baby diapers and airport badges. Everyone should get to experience the incredible high awarded to those who succeed in packing for the weekend, driving to the airport, making it through security, to the gate at the very end of the terminal and on the plane all within 90 minutes. Bonus points for remembering to bring the baby along. Since we started this crazy non-rev adventure (flying non-revenue, aka standby, where you don’t buy a ticket and only get on if there are open seats) a few years ago, I could probably count the times on one hand that I’ve walked calmly onto a plane without looking like I’ve just run a race. But it’s all part of the fun, the adventure, the game.

In Pursuit of Sleep

You know you're sleep deprived when you start dreaming about being tired. Last night while I cuddled a sick baby in my arms all night, waking every half hour at times, I managed to dream ... but in my dream I got lost on our street, couldn't find our house, and then somehow missplaced Henry. I kept running into people I knew but was embarrassed by my inability to think straight. Even in my dream state, I knew the root cause of my confusion was the simple fact that I was over-tired.

Hmm, something tells me that when you dream about being tired you aren't exactly getting the most restful sleep. (And dreaming about castles and Romans is a clear sign you are jet-lagged.)

When you're a new parent, "sleep" becomes the sexy topic that everyone wants to talk about, yet no one really wants to hear when someone else is getting it. How much sleep are YOU getting? Is he sleeping through the night? Every night you feel a little nervous and excited hoping that this will be it, this will be the night when you'll finally get some sleep!

Blooma Blog

This will be a really quick post because 1) there are signs of movement on the baby monitor and 2) I'm in the midst of washing a bunch of new cloth diapers. But I just wanted to bop in and share a link to my story published over on the Blooma Blog. Most of you have already seen it, linked up from my Facebook page last week, but in case you haven't read it yet - go check it out! My yoga studio, which specializes in prenatal and baby-yoga classes (among other things), sent out an e-newsletter about new year's resolutions and choosing one word as a mantra for the year. Well, considering I essentially did just that last year, I sent them an email back sharing my story about my Year of Being Fearless (I already wrote about it on my blog here, but now I tightened it up a bit and finished the story). Turns out they thought other new mamas or soon-to-be mamas would also like to hear my story, so they asked if they could share it on their blog!

As a side note, let me just add that Blooma is always featuring birth stories and other mama tales, so if you have something to share, send it their way!

New Mama Energy Bites

It's a funny thing that happens when you have a newborn living in your house. All of a sudden you revert to your college ways where it's acceptable to partake in midnight dorm room relay races, sing rowdy songs, and eat {or drink} at all times of the night. Only now you're bouncing on an exercise ball at 2am, hoping your singing and someone's crying don't wake the neighbors, and waiting for the arrival of milk-drunk sleep.

Although I still hold that our little one is a relatively easy baby, as far as babies go, I definitely underestimated a few things about motherhood: 1) sleep deprivation is a serious - and scary - thing. I'm sure we'll laugh about it later, but for the first few weeks I hallucinated {dreamt?} about nursing on such a regular basis I had to start writing down our feeding times so I knew what was real and what wasn't. One minute you think your infant is in your arms and the next your baby morphs into a pillow - it's quite traumatic and not what your new-mama-heart can handle at the moment. And 2) nursing = hunger. Serious hunger pangs at 2am.

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