The Dark Side of Love

I am sorry for the long silence, friends. Last we spoke, my little Hatchling was only 7 weeks old, and he’s now tripled in age. At 21 weeks old (almost 5 months) he’s become a curious little boy who giggles, watches everything, and gives sloppy, full-face, open-mouthed kisses. He’s basically the cutest thing ever and I absolutely love being his mom.

But I’m not going to lie, parenthood hit our family like a ton of bricks. Our feeding issues (he never latched) caused a lot of stress for me, personally, and impacted my marriage as well. I won’t recount the whole sad story here but suffice it to say that we saw endless lactation consultants and doctors and had multiple incorrect diagnoses before it was finally confirmed that Oliver had a tongue tie AND a lip tie, both of which prevented him from latching on and breastfeeding successfully. We had the ties released (with lasers!) which vastly improved his ability to suck and eat from a bottle, but by the time we had the procedures done, it was too late for our nursing relationship. The little guy was too smart, he knew his food came from a bottle and there was no way we could convince him otherwise. So I pumped as much milk for him as I could and cried oceans of tears over this. It is difficult to explain to anybody who is not a mother but breastfeeding was immensely important to me and I definitely grieved the loss.

At the same time, I was dealing with some lingering postpartum complications, including hormone-driven anxiety and depression, as well as trying to get back on the same page with my dear Fiasco. Time has healed most of the postpartum complications, and new parent couples counseling has done wonders for the communication issues that the Fiasco and I were experiencing. I’m telling all this to illustrate that a whole hell of a lot changes after you have a baby, and I think it’s important that it doesn’t get glossed over and buried under the cultural narrative of cute onesies and sweet lullabies. It’s also important (to me, politically) that parenthood remains a choice. Having a baby is an incredible responsibility and it will directly (and permanently) impact your health, your finances, your relationships, and the course of your entire life. It should not be entered into lightly or because a distant politician has ideas about the autonomy of a blob of partially-divided cells.

It’s not just a ‘transformative experience’, as I’ve heard it described. I’d call it obliterative. It takes everything you think you know, and everything you are, and shakes it all down to your foundation. Then it makes you slowly pick up the pieces, rebuilding each bit with new corners and edges where the baby fits in. And through it all, there is intense, spellbinding, all-consuming joy. And pride. And fear. And doubt. And hope. And a deep, dark, breathless love.

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So much love.

Now, finally, it’s also starting to get really fun. Around three or four months old, he started interacting more and it’s wonderful to get some feedback from him. To know that he’s ok, that we’re fulfilling his needs, that he recognizes us and wants to be with us. It’s amazing to watch little pieces of his personality developing. Our boy is a wee bit demanding but also persistent, and has a somewhat low tolerance for frustration. He’s also super smart, pays attention to everything, and he thinks being surprised is the funniest thing. We’ve even developed a couple of ‘private jokes’ of a sort. He gives me a special smile whenever I sing a certain part of his favorite lullaby, and he giggles like a fiend when I say “suck suck suck!” during his suck training exercises.

All of this is to say hello again, I’ve missed you, and here’s some of what has kept me away. It’s also to say I’m here, if you are a new parent and are maybe feeling alone or like you need help. And that it gets easier. I am now back at work again, I have even been knitting a little, and am finally feeling ready to¬† rebuild a few more lost bits of myself. I hope you’ve all been well.

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WIPWed 105: Monster of a Week

Today, I bought three different cards at the same time: one ‘sorry for your loss’, one ‘get well’, and one ‘happy wedding’ — all for immediate members of our family. To say this week has been a bit of a monster would be an understatement. The Fiasco’s mom is getting re-married this weekend, which will be a nice celebration of hope and happiness. My own mom is currently in the hospital, she underwent major reconstruction surgery to repair damage that was done to her implants from radiation treatment for breast cancer. It was a 10 hour surgery and she’s due to be in the hospital for another few days. She’s recovering quite well but it will be a few months before she’s all healed.

And the saddest event of the week is that the Fiasco’s dear Nana, who is probably his favorite person in the world, passed away.

She was truly one of the kindest, sweetest souls I knew. I’m sad that I only got to know her for the last 6 years, but I’m grateful that she treated me as if I were her own granddaughter nearly from the start, and that she had such a big impact on her warm, loving grandson. She lived a full life and had many wonderful stories to tell about it. She will be sorely missed. It’s hard to believe she’s gone.

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Stray Cat Socks yarn, colorway Are We There Yet?

Thankfully, she was sick for only a short time. When we found out her kidneys were failing and there was nothing that could be done, I impulse-bought some cheerful sock yarn because I knew I’d want something beautiful to work on while I thought of her life and mourned her death. That’s probably a strange concept to muggles, but as fellow knitters, I’m sure you can understand. (The pattern is a modified Geek Socks by Wei Leong of Kiwiyarns Knits and it’s perfect for self-striping yarn.)

Monday began this year’s Spinzilla: a Monster of a Spinning Week. I was hesitant to participate as this week is going to be insane and emotional and I knew I would have very limited free time, but then I realized that taking time out to spin might be just the thing to do. Spinning is calming, meditative, and something that can restore my energy in the midst of what will be a crazy time. So I spun the last of the Polwarth sock yarn I had begun during Amy King’s sock yarn spinning class, and I started in on a big bag of Louet’s commercially-dyed Merino/silk blend that I had received as a prize last year. I wanted to keep the spinning simple and easy, not worry about color management or technique, and the black felt fitting while the silk adds some tactile and visual interest. I’m planning to make a fingering-weight 2-ply for a shawl.

I signed up too late for the Louet team but joined the MadWool team instead, which is a great little shop in Connecticut that I’ve visited a few times, most recently when I was hunting for a spinning wheel. I feel a little bad that I won’t be contributing significant amounts of yardage to the team total, but there’s a lot happening right now and I’m choosing to use Spinzilla as a coping mechanism rather than an added stress, so I’ll just have to do my best.

As for reading, Last Night on Twisted River by John Irving has utterly bored me. It seemed to combine bits and pieces from some of his other books while not making the characters very sympathetic or interesting. Plus, he killed off three important people in the first 100 pages, which seemed a bit excessive. Perhaps I’ll finish it later, but in the meantime I got distracted by another book: Fat Girl by Judith Moore. This one fascinated me, but was horrifically depressing. It’s a memoire about growing up as an obese child in a dysfunctional family. I think it paints an accurate picture of the kinds of negative self-talk and extreme stress and childhood trauma that results from the way people treat overweight kids, but it really just made me want to reach into the past and give that little girl a hug, tell her she is loved, and she is enough just as she is. It has taken me 30 years to get to that point with myself, though, and it’s a difficult thing for a child to learn when they are taught the opposite by family members and society in general. It was not a happy book but it was well-written and I loved the tone.

Unabashedly sassy excerpt from the intro.

I hope you all are doing well and I apologize in advance if my posting will be irregular in the coming weeks. Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

Exactly Like That

You know when people say something “feels like being hit by a truck?” Well, that’s exactly how our post-honeymoon life has felt, especially since we were literally hit by a moving truck our first morning back in Rhode Island. Not fun, guys. Thankfully we were moving slowly and nobody was hurt but filing police reports and dealing with insurance claims is not a particularly pleasant way to transition back into ‘real life’.

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The Fiasco inspecting the (hopefully) minor damage.

Blargghhh. In other news, our Costa Rican honeymoon was fabulous. It was truly incredible. Neither of us had ever been on an international trip before so it was extra exciting, full of adventure, and a real learning experience. Maybe that’s not what most people want for their honeymoon (relaxing, sunny, and decadent comes more often to mind) but it was perfect for us.

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View of the Central Valley.

There were lovely mountain views.

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A gorgeous plant.

There was incredible plant life of all shapes, sizes, and forms.

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Typical Costa Rican casada.

There was lots of delicious food.

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Adorable snuggly sloth.

There was an abundance of amazing wildlife.

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A glimpse of the Caribbean Sea.

And there was just a bit of sunny splashing in the Caribbean Sea (it was the rainy season, so sunny days were unfortunately rare).

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Honeymoon selfie!

The morning we were leaving I cried, I just didn’t want to go. The country is beautiful, the people were so friendly, and each day brought something new and wonderful into our lives. Now that I’m home, I’m trying not to be overwhelmed by all the little stressors that seem to be piling up around us. I’m trying to get back into the groove of things, to appreciate how much our cats missed us (lots of kitty snuggles), to prepare for upcoming Sweet Sheep shows, to take stock and prioritize, and to figure out how to best relate our adventures. I think I’ll replace my typical Inspiration Saturday posts for the next few weeks with posts about each of the three parts of our trip, to spread things out a bit and more quickly resume normal knitting and spinning-related blogging in the meantime. How does that sound?

I hope you all have been well! I’ll be playing blog catch-up for a while, but I’m looking forward to getting back in touch with the creative world again. This summer has passed by like a speeding train which means that fall is just around the corner, which always brings with it lots of knitterly goodness, so who wouldn’t be excited about that? I’m doing my best to take things one thing at a time and remember what they say in Costa Rica: pura vida (pure life)!

Wedding Whirlwind

Thank you so much for all of your well wishes! Our wedding weekend was absolutely fantastic. It was certainly busy and a little bit stressful at times (so much to keep track of!) but we had a ton of help from our incredible families and friends and everything worked out even more wonderfully than I had hoped.

Our (amazing!) photographer won’t get most of our photos back until next month but she sent a little preview to tide us over and I thought you all would appreciate this one, especially:

alicia+rich_preview_07Oh yeah, that’s a bride knitting a sock. I just couldn’t resist. Even though nothing very ‘big’ was DIY (we didn’t cater the thing ourselves, for example) crafting still played an important role in the day.

alicia+rich_preview_12Here’s where we sealed the deal with a kiss! Note, if you will, the crocheted doily under the unity candle (thanks, Mom!) and the presence of the previously-featured, handmade, hula hoop ribbon thing.

alicia+rich_preview_16Here you can kinda see the jewelry I made for myself: necklace, earrings, and bracelet. I decided to make jewelry for myself since I made a bunch of earrings as part of my bridesmaids’ gifts, but I’ll talk more about those later this week on FO Friday since they also involved some knitting!

IMG_6764We kept our table decorations simple with basic table runners, some color-coordinated votive candles, and beribboned mason jars full of glass gems and flowers. The Fiasco (or should I say, my new husband!) wrote, printed, and hand-cut Mad Libs for each table, as well!

IMG_6753 I did not actually make anything on this table, but other people did! One of my best and oldest friends crocheted amazing bride and groom horseshoe crabs as a shower gift, which obviously had to make a wedding appearance. (The Fiasco and I met when I hired him as an assistant for my horseshoe crab research.) Our adorable little horseshoe crab cake toppers and the polka-dot paper garland were handmade and came from shops on Etsy.

IMG_6735Our biggest DIY project was putting together all of the flowers for the bouquets and centerpieces. I ordered wholesale flowers from Blooms By The Box and then we trimmed, hydrated, and arranged them under the guidance of my aunt (who fortuitously had taken a flower-arranging class at some point in her past), and with the help of my cousin (both pictured above) and the rest of my bridesmaids. Even though the arrangements were fairly straightforward (blue hydrangeas, mini green hydrangeas, white roses, green carnations, ferns, baby’s breath) it was no small task to put everything together. However, the flowers came out absolutely beautifully and I loved them a stupid amount.

I’m sure you’ll hear lots more about the wedding than you will ever want to know, but I think for now I’ll leave off with one of my absolute favorite preview shots that makes the entire day feel like a fairy tale (and makes us look like we can actually dance):

alicia+rich_preview_14Squeeeeeee!

 

 

IS #76: This Guy

On this day — our wedding day — my inspiration can really only come from one source: my Fiasco.

yarn 075If there’s a sweeter, kinder, more giving man out there — I haven’t met him.

renfaire 005He’s inappropriate and hilarious and consistently keeps me on my toes.

He’s great with kids and amazing with my entire family.

yarn 062He loves to cook and clean (thank goodness!) and really does the lion’s share of the work around the house.

IMG_5641He’s creative, brilliant, and enthusiastic about everything he does.

2009_June 047And he’s equally enthusiastic about everything I do — from horseshoe crab surveys to fiber festivals and Sweet Sheep vending shows — he supports me in anything and everything I dream up.

IMG_6368I am incredibly lucky to have met this man and am proud to make him my husband!

(P.S. If you’re the type that likes to peek at wedding photos, feel free to search the #morandi2014 hashtag on Instagram or check out our Wedding Party app site where people can upload photos as the day progresses.)

IS #68: Ode to My Field Pants

I have these pants, see. I’ve had them for a full decade and there are more fond memories tied up in them than any other piece of clothing I own… but I think that today was their last outing.

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Trusty old field pants.

They’re just cheap, lightweight nylon pants from Old Navy but they’ve been everywhere with me. They’ve been coated in mud from the cypress swamps of South Carolina.

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First fieldwork, circa 2005.

They were the most comfortable pants to wear over my knee brace when I tore my ACL and had surgery in my last year at Cornell.

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Rockin’ out, circa 2007.

They accompanied me on my move to Florida where I made new friends and explored new ecosystems.

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My friend Candace and me in some palmetto scrub, circa 2008.

I basically lived in them underneath my waders for two straight summers while I surveyed the beaches of Connecticut for spawning horseshoe crabs. The first of those summers is when I met and fell in love with my Fiasco.

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This shot was totally posed, btw. Either 2009 or 2010.

Basically, these pants and I have been through a lot together. Every field class in college, every summer spent outdoors, every hike, boat ride, and camping trip… they were there. They were stretchy enough to see me through a pretty wide range of sizes but now, this year — I’ve lost so much weight that I just can’t wear them anymore.

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Baggy, baggy pants.

I’m nearly 70 pounds down and the only thing holding those suckers up is a cloth belt through three belt loops. They’re done and while I know that’s a really good thing, I’m still a little sad. I’m happy that our last outing involved a nice walk on a beautiful day and a siting of some harbor seals sunning themselves on rocks in Narragansett Bay.

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That blob is a harbor seal on a rock.

And now it’s time to find new pants worthy of more adventures.

Do you have a particular piece of clothing (handmade or otherwise) that’s worth more to you than the sum of its parts? What’s been inspiring you lately? Leave a comment and share with us!

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Piece of Cake

I have met my cake-related soulmate. On Saturday, the Fiasco and I embarked on an epic road trip to my cousin’s Sweet 16. Along the way we planned to stop at 3 bakeries to try wedding cakes. We only made it to 2 because the second bakery was just. that. good.

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Supported spinning in the car!

In truth, I liked the place based on the name alone: A Little Something Bakery in West Hartford, CT. The owner, Beth, does some amazing things with cake.

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Don’t lie, you kind of want an ombre purple goth cake now, too, don’t you?

 

We had just come from a bakery that didn’t even offer to let us try their cake, we had to sort of awkwardly ask for it and they only had 2 different flavors (one of which was cryptically named ‘bride’s white’), so we were extra thankful when Beth pointed us to trays brimming with about 10 different flavors of cupcakes and let us have our pick. I gotta say — I’ve been on a low-carb diet for 6 months, and those cupcakes were a revelation.

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Scrabble tile wisdom.

She had so many flavors and such amazing combinations… eventually we ‘settled’ on coconut cake with lemon cream filling and red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I showed her a photo of the simple sprinkle design I wanted and she didn’t bat an eye when I requested only teal and green nonpareils instead of rainbow — while the other place basically told me I’d have to buy my own sprinkles to get the look I wanted. AND she’s going to make the red velvet cake in a blue/green color to better match the exterior decorations (I’m ridiculously excited about the blueness of the cake. It’s a silly little detail but I love it.)

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Handknit cupcakes!!!

Perhaps best of all — she’s a knitter! (Of course she would be, since she’s so awesome, amIright?) The knitting kinda clinched it, not gonna lie. It feels silly to be so excited about one detail of one day but honestly, it makes me incredibly happy to work with a wedding vendor who happily works within our budget, offers quality services, and truly seems to love what she does. She made us feel so welcome and wanted even though we didn’t have the largest budget and couldn’t afford one of her bigger and more elaborately-decorated cakes. It’s like that didn’t even matter to her — she was happy to have our business and we’re thrilled to be serving a fabulous cake to our wedding guests.

If you’re ever in West Hartford, consider swinging by for a cupcake or two. You won’t be disappointed. We were so giddy and excited by the whole thing that we got 20 minutes down the road before we realized we should’ve bought some cupcakes to bring to my parents (seeing as we were on our way to their house). We turned around, sheepishly purchased the cupcakes, and then when we reached the same stretch of highway we had gotten to before — there was a giant accident that held us up for 45 minutes. Those cupcakes cost us an hour and a half of our time but man, they were worth it! I can safely say that ordering the cake was hands-down the best part about wedding planning. (Though maybe that’s the residual sugar high talking…) If only everything could be this easy!