Week 32.

(It’s technically week 33, but the weather is too rainy for photos and I never managed to finish this post last week. So here it is.)

Only 20 more weeks until Bea turns one! I don’t know if I find that depressing or exciting. She’s still not gotten beyond the slow topple (= not sitting up) and she can only scootch backwards. She finds that pretty frustrating, actually. It must be maddening to flail all your limbs so you can reach something only to find that you are farther away than before (and, to add insult to injury, half-buried underneath the sofa). I want to treat her as immobile because she doesn’t technically crawl, but she certainly gets around if given enough time.

Week 32.

Tee hee! I have big plans for our living room as soon as I master that pesky locomotion thing.

Tee hee! I have no idea what’s in store for me after sister can start taking all my things.

So that’s where we’re at. It’s been a busy couple of weeks in other respects, but I like having things to look forward to. Lots of visits from friends, and my mum is coming in February. Yah! We’re pretty much counting the days till then.

Since it’s the end of the month, I thought I’d give an update as to how those New Year’s resolutions are coming along. I have been slowly but faithfully pursuing no. 1 (to lose weight) and recently kicked it up a notch. After a few weeks of wondering whether I was actually getting thinner, I started plotting my weight every day on a chart in the bathroom, a la the Steve Ward Diet. It quickly became apparent that just trying to eat healthier would keep me at a roughly flat line but not make the line go down. Phooey. So much for the No-Effort Diet.  Then my sister joined www.myfitnesspal.com and I followed suit. We are both trying to keep track of our calories for a month and oh boy, has that been illuminating. Even though I’ve done it before on paper and felt like I was doing it still in my head, it turns out that I have definitely not been adhering to a number that favors weight loss. It seems that every day there was some moment when I felt like I needed a little extra something–and I found it. Now I’ve actually got to cut back somewhere if I overindulge, which is something that I have always had trouble doing. Using the website does add one more thing to my day, but sitting down at the computer for a few minutes after a meal is totally worth it as long as I don’t get sidetracked into doing a bunch of other things as well. Ahem.

Now, there are a few things about using the site that I don’t like. There’s not an option that I can see for breastfeeding women, so I just add it in as exercise every day to increase my calorie limit. Also, I really prefer to eat whole foods and I could see how it would be easy to gravitate toward packaged ones because it’s easier to find the calorie/nutrition information (you can add in your own info if they don’t happen to have the food you want in the database, but it’s obviously going to be more work). I have also had to start measuring a lot of foods, which adds some complication and a few more dishes to a possibly harried day, but I imagine that you have to do that on most diet plans. In general, though, I really like the feeling of security that, if I keep careful track of what I eat, I will eventually lose some weight. It also helps that I think my sister will probably take a look at my meal diary at the end of the day. :)

As for no. 2 (exercise), husband and I take the babes for a walk in the evening a couple days a week and I’m trying to get in the habit of doing a short dance/aerobics video in the morning with Camilla. The last two days I did my workout with Beatrice in the baby carrier, which added a bit of extra zing. I expect legs of steel after a few weeks of this. Sometimes I think about lifting weights, but bouncing Bea around a few times seems to have about the same effect. If I can only increase my reps, it will be a complete workout.

As for no. 3 (to read more books), I have sadly fallen behind. I finished Close to Home, a really wonderful book about motherhood from an Orthodox perspective. [Lauren Pope, I think you would really like it]. I re-read Thrones, Dominations, an unfinished Lord Peter Wimsey novel that was taken up by another author, and had a good time with it, especially since the setting very similar to Upstairs Downstairs so it’s easy to visualize. I have started on some very enjoyable short stories by Nikolai Gogol but Milla’s naps are all over the place (i.e. sometimes they happen, sometimes they don’t) so I don’t get much momentum going. Must try harder to make reading happen.

As for no.4 (to not shop online), I am waivering. While I still think it’s a good idea to try things on in person, there are some items that I just have a hard time finding in the quality/price range that I want. Goodwill has come through for odds and ends, but I just don’t enjoy shopping at department stores very much anymore. I am giving Boden another try — it’s usually out of my price range, but I got two t-shirts with 20% off + free shipping and I think I might save up for a few more things from the current season. They do go on sale eventually, so if I know what I want then I can try to snatch it in my size when it’s a little more reasonable. Quality, not quantity, is my new wardrobe motto.

Of course, this easiest way to be happy with your wardrobe is to…be happy with your wardrobe.

Contentment, you save so much money in the long run and bring me closer to Godliness. I should try so much harder to get you than to get a new dress.

Classic Movie Mondays.

We’re trying something new chez Gibbs: watching a classic film together on Monday night after the kiddos go to bed. It would seem more natural to do this on the weekend, but there seem to be all sorts of things that pop up on weekends and Monday night is usually not too busy for husband. Someone loaned us the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and it has provided all sorts of ideas for things to watch. (Ideal bathroom reading, if I may say so.) Plus, husband organizes the monthly Classic Film Society at school so this kind of sort of counts as research. I don’t think I need to go into a big long explanation about why I think it’s better to watch good movies than bad ones or why I simultaneously believe that you shouldn’t get all snobby about it and that occasionally watching something like Twilight or 2012 isn’t going to kill you (at least, it hasn’t killed me). But I will say that we don’t watch nearly as many movies as we used to, so there’s been a growing desire to make it count when you decide to lose the sleep take the time.

Husband and I saw some pretty good new-to-us movies in 2010. Some that come to mind (in no particular order) were: Stalker, The Sacrifice, Solaris, Sans Soleil, Wings of Desire, Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, Tokyo Story, Jane Eyre,  Bright StarBarcelona, The Island, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Paper Moon, The Last Picture Show, The Iron Giant, The Darjeeling Limited, and The Myth of the American Sleepover. We also polished off all the available episodes of Mad Men and Downton Abbey. There were also a lot of good repeats that one or the other of us saw for the second (or third!) time, like La JeteeThe Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic with Steve ZissouThe Red Shoes, A Life Less OrdinaryLover Come Back, 24 Hour Party People, On the Waterfront, A Serious Man, and a bunch of others that I can’t remember right now. We have a reasonable existing film repertoire (husband’s is better than mine), but I think it’s safe to say that both of us could stand to become more well-rounded in both American and foreign films. And if you can become more well-read, why not more well-watched?

So, we started last week with my pick (Forbidden Games), and tonight is husband’s choice (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold). We plan to go back and forth like that because, to be honest, I have an easier time accepting someone else’s choice then finding something that we both “feel” like watching. Between our excellent local university film library and Netflix streaming, it will be a long time before we run out.

What are your favorite classic films?


If I can remember, I’m going to keep a running log of the movies we watch here so I won’t have so much trouble remembering what they were at the end of the year.

The 2012 Notable Film list:

Forbidden Games
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold 
A Handful of Dust
Out of the Past
The Bicycle Thief
Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy
Dirty Harry
Days of Heaven

Never on Sunday
Apocalypse Now
The Black Stallion


Every year I struggle with the issue of New Year’s resolutions. Some years I don’t even bother because I know I’m going to fail to keep them. Other years I have a brief enthusiasm for one idea or another that fizzles before the end of the month. In truth, I know very few people who make a New Year’s resolution that affects their life in a lasting manner. The problem is that I am married to one of those few. Five years ago, my husband resolved to lose weight. And then he did. And continues to do so. The man weighs something like 120 pounds less than he did when we were first married. (In this, as in so many other ways, he continues to impress me). So, this year I’ve decided to give resolutions another go. But I’m going to approach the issue a little differently, based on what I’ve learned about myself in the past. I have found that a change that you plan to make at a certain date in the future has far less chance of success than one you begin right away: the diet that you plan to begin next week is always less successful than not eating a cookie this afternoon. I have also found that changes cannot be an all-or-nothing affair: if you do eat the cookie, you cannot use that as an excuse to have the brownie and the lemon square too. Really caring about something means that you are willing to pursue it imperfectly and to try again each time you fail.

Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking about what it is that I really care about and which I would like to do differently. The list was initially quite long and I quickly deduced that I needed to take a this-for-that approach. A mother with a toddler, a baby, and a household to take care of cannot simply start adding more to her life. So, things like “take more photos” and “make more art” were set aside for now in favor of things I deemed more important. Also, some things that I do now need to be dropped to make room for others. In the end, I came up with the list below. I am making it public in hopes that some of you will ask me from time to time how I am doing and that I might remember to comment about my success or failure.

(1) To lose weight. Yup, the classic. Specifically, I would like to get down to 135 lbs and a definite size 8 by my 32nd birthday on April 29. Before you get up in arms about breastfeeding women trying to diet, let me say that just trying to eat healthier usually tips me in the right direction. If I drink a green smoothie in the morning, eat salad sometime during the day, snacks on fruit or veggies, save the sweets for special occasions, and just apply self control in general, I usually very slowly drop some weight. I am currently about five pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight, even after having eaten like a pig for about four months after Beatrice was born. Unfortunately, I got in the habit of eating way too many carbs and quick meals and have been trying to get back on track, so this is a continuation of something I have already begun. I have something like 8 pounds to go, so I think I can do it. And then I can spend birthday money on some new clothes. :)

(2) To exercise most days. I started walking again a few days after Beatrice was born and progressed to jogging when she was about 3 months old. I felt great, but it proved unsustainable. There is just no good time of day to run by myself, and there is no zen to huffing behind a double jogger with a chatty toddler and a fat baby who wants to grab her sister’s stuff. (Let’s just say that they don’t call it a “double sprinter” for a reason.) Plus, I have weird scalp/hair issues and if I have to wash my hair every day then I need to cut it short. And I kinda like having long hair again. So, jogging is out. I scaled it back to a daily walk of 1 to 2.5 miles but got lazy when the weather cooled off and getting the girls ready took practically as long as the actual exercise. But husband and I have been taking little afternoon walks and I can get back in the habit of doing some sit ups and stretches before I shower in the morning.

(3) To read more books and less computer screens. I used to be a  big reader when I was younger, but sometime in the past few years I fell off the horse. I can say in all honesty that I rarely read pages anymore and that most of my reading is on a screen. I really want to change that. Since my free time is (very) limited, I decided that I want to read more than I want to draw or sew or batch edit great photos of my kids.  And, I specifically want to read old/classic books. Husband and I started The Brothers Karamazov at the beginning of break, so I want to finish that and then start on some other great gift books (really, the topic of reading deserves its own post). I also started a new commonplace book, which I am excited to fill up. To make book reading possible, I know that I need to cut back on my computer time. I never sit down and think “now I’m going to spend 5 minutes on facebook, 10 minutes blog-hopping, and then 10 minutes looking at expensive sweaters,” it just seems to happen. So, I am pondering ways to curtail my online time (only in the evening? set a timer?) so that I hopefully get in the habit of reaching for a book instead of the laptop if I get a quiet minute to sit down. Any suggestions to this end are greatly appreciated!

(4) To shop in person rather than online. I wish this was out of some sort of “shop local” conviction, but it’s really a continuation of no. 3. I have a Goodwill budget but J.Crew aspirations, and I find that I can spend a lot of time cruising the internet for items that I never actually purchase. Plus, I’m really picky about fit and almost never take a chance on something non-returnable. So, I think I just need to quit. Whether it’s clothes or shoes or fabric, I need to see it in person to make a purchase. We have pretty good sources for a lot of things in Pensacola and I mostly shop at the thrift store anyway, so online shopping is rarely necessary for something other than books or the occasional obscure baby item. Bye bye, Boden and Piperlime and Lands End Canvas. Now to find a way to stop looking at potential craft/sewing projects that never happen either!

Are you making resolutions this year? If so, what are they?


Week 13.

I’ve been toying with a few posts in my head for the last few weeks but I just can’t seem to get the words right. It’s hard when you want to be witty, concise, wise, and anecdotal all at the same time. You know, just your average blog post.

Anyhow, I think I’m going to give up on trying to write An Ultimate Post because wanting to seems to ensure that it will never happen. Instead, I bring you a few not-so-witty, not-so-concise thoughts about happiness.

Week 13.

I don’t know how else to say this: we have just been really happy lately. Husband has been managing to finish a lot of his teacher duties at school, and as a result he is really home at the end of the day and on the weekend. Consequently, we have been able to cook leisurely meals, play all together with play-dough, jump on the bed, take Camilla out for surprise breakfasts, go for walks in the evening, and fun things like that. Life is good, as the bumper sticker says (see Ecclesiastes for details).

The other night, as I sat on the bed with a contented baby gnawing on my finger and watched my husband and daughter hide in the closet, I realized that I was just so happy the way things were right then. Having nicer sheets on the bed, blue paint in the walls, cuter clothes on my kids, or being 15 pounds lighter would in no way increase the happiness I felt right then.

And then I came up with this theory.

I have always had a problem with envy. Whether it’s other peoples’ stuff, personalities, bodies, or bank accounts, I find that I very often believe my life would be better if I could change a few things. Not the most important things, mind you, just the peripherals. But I think we all know that getting one thing you want doesn’t lead to lasting contentment because you just move on to the next one. (I had a light bulb moment once when I sat in my living room looking at rugs on the internet and realized that, at one point, I had wanted everything in that room just as badly as I wanted that new rug. And then I had gotten it. And there I was, still wanting the new rug.)

So my theory is that I (we?) really only think getting a new thing will make us happy when we don’t have very many moments of true, happy contentment in our lives. (I think C.S. Lewis called it “joy.”) The more contentment and happiness we experience, the more we realize that having more or different stuff is just irrelevant.

So there you go. It’s just a thought.

Some thoughts on thinking.

It’s not very often that I use this blog to write a big long post about What I Think. This is partly because I don’t have a lot of time, partly because I’m lazy and don’t want to take the trouble, partly because I’m afraid I’m wrong and wiser people will laugh at me, and partly because I know that various students and school folk read this blog and I worry  that it wouldn’t be prudent for everyone to know their teacher’s wife’s thoughts.

Lately, however, I have been feeling as though I need to make myself think more in general, and about better things. When you spend most of your time dealing with very young humans, it can be easy to slide by on the bare minimum and have a thought life mostly concerned with food, cleaning, shopping, and Duplos. (And some days are just going to be like that, no matter how elevated you want to be.) The problem is, this doesn’t make very good grounds for conversation with a husband who reads all sorts of good and challenging books and has a very interesting thought life. Or with your friends and family, for that matter. When someone asks, “Did anything exciting happen to you today?” it’s disappointing to find that the culmination of your precious free time was catching up on the blogs of people you don’t know and finding a cute striped backpack for $24.

The problem isn’t that I don’t read anything, it’s that what I read is almost exclusively on the internet. I used to be a big craft & design blog follower, partly because it gave me what I thought were good ideas and partly because it was fun to be on top of the trends for once. Ever since I was in high school and first became aware that I had no idea what clothes were cool or what music was new, I have wanted to be on top of something. However, I found that in the end these blogs just ate up a lot of my time without really affecting my life. Knowing what great choices are currently available in $2000 sofas is really pretty useless in day-to-day living on a teacher’s budget. I also realized that a steady stream of enviable photos of other people’s houses did, in fact, make me envy and that I just needed to cut back. So I did. But over time, a few more stops got added to my daily internet route. I still follow 2 or 3 design blogs and have added a few more lifestyle bloggers whose writing and taste I enjoy. Oh, and then I added in some baby sales websites that have tempted me more than once to make purchases a bit out of my budget. And facebook. And then there’s Pinterest, which is simultaneously an awesome place to keep visual bookmarks and a massive black hole that wants to suck up all your free time.

When I add it all up, the sum of time I spend on the internet while nursing the babe can be regrettably high and not really very satisfying. Sometimes I’m looking for ideas for a specific project and looking leads to doing, but more often then not I’m just looking and wanting and those words and images end up going nowhere. It’s like flipping through Vogue all the time when you know that you can’t afford a single thing advertised. So then, why do it? I like to think that “getting inspiration” justifies a lot of internet gawking, but if I’m not actually inspired to do anything, what difference has it made?

Now that I have a bonafide toddler, I realize that I forgot how much kids love candy. Camilla loooooves sweets. And if sweets are present in the vicinity of dinner, the grilled chicken and vegetables just don’t look appetizing anymore. Pretty much every time I want to correct Camilla for some shortcoming in her little life, I realize that I have a grownup version that I don’t want to extinguish. Do you want to eat jelly beans instead of green beans? Well, mama would like to read a blog instead of beginning St. Augustine’s Confessions. Do you want that Hello Kitty backpack at Target? Mama’s not going to get it for you, but she will make you sit patiently in the cart while she peruses the clothing & shoes. The other day I read a friend’s facebook update about how upset she is with her children’s obsession with toys. We’re not quite to that stage yet, but I’m sure we will be in a year or two and I realized that if I am going to ask Camilla to temper her materialism and desire for more, I had better not be spending all my free time looking for new shirts.

Anyhow, all of these thoughts and observations have combined into the realization that I need new reading material. Husband puts it quite succinctly: “Read more old books.” Since I enjoy having my hands free to do a small project at the same time, I think I might also try good podcasts (I love Ancient Faith Radio and need to get back in touch with This American Life) and there are quite a few free audiobooks available online. I listened to Frankenstein that way last year when husband was teaching it in class and really enjoyed it. Got a lot of knitting done, too.

So my new, small, practical goal (i.e. the best kind of goal in my life right now) is to check email and facebook everyday but only look at blogs two or three times a week. And when I’m coasting around the internet, it needs to be because I’m looking for something in particular (i.e. kimono onesies for an ever-growing babe) and I need to do my best not to go down those time-sucking rabbit trails.

Any suggestions for good quality reading or listening material that you want to send my way?