Baby J.

Something happens with nieces. You start creating mobile photo albums devoted to this little girl, watching videos of tummy time and waiting for your favorite part (that split second when she scrunches up her nose), making the 8-hour trip to see her with no thought to the time and travel, just for a chance to hold her for an hour or three.

My little June curls into a hot little ball against your shoulder and snoozes or squeaks or fusses. Her hair gets curly after a particularly sweaty nap, and one eye scrunches up more than the other when she grins — just like mine. She has her mama’s nose and her grandpa’s goofy facial expressions.

Sometimes she’s sleepy:

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Sometimes she’s sassy, telling it like it is:

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Mostly, she’s our chunky little goofball:

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And she’s the spitting image of her gorgeous mother:

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K + K.

This lady got married Saturday, the culmination of three straight nights of parties starting with the bachelorette festivities (Annie and I pulled out our pinkest heels for the occasion).

Katie and I met when we were little college babies — she was my first new friend at Truman — and shared tiny dorm rooms and plates of brownies. I was there for Katie and Kevin’s first date — we all had Forest Park ice-skating plans on the same night — and for their first dog adoption, so it was an honor to stand with her at the ceremony this weekend.

Here’s to firsts and forevers, Katie!

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Down to the river.

Yesterday was so steamy ice cream cones were smoking in the heat. The plan last night: Step 1, Wading in Indian Creek. Step 2, Ice cream for dinner.

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C and I went wading here last summer in the middle of the drought. We hunted mussels species with names like “Plain Pocketbook,”  “Giant Floater,” and “Wabash Pigtoe.” Mussels, fun fact, make curving paths in the creek bed, pulling themselves along with alabaster tongue-like appendages.

This year, the water and the jungle surrounding it were about two feet higher than last. We got dirty and scratched and C guided me through ankle- then knee- then thigh-high parts of the river to our secret mussel grounds. Pinkie finger-size fish were all over me, doing that head bump/nibble thing they’re wont to do when you’re in their turf and the food chain is topsy-turvy. C passed unscathed, King of the Creek.

IMG_1906IMG_1915You can kind of see one of my little mussel buddies scurrying along under water there.

We broke for ice cream at the best DQ in town (they’re liberal with the hot fudge), then a drive through Bever Park turned into a dip at the public pool there which is whoa — a throwback. I don’t think I’ve been to a neighborhood pool in a decade, the most memorable times being the year we lived in Indianapolis and went to the pool with cousins every other day all summer long. I was about 10. One thing you forget, they’re crowded. And shallow. And still, so much fun, especially with a belly full of soft serve as the sun sets.

Too _____.

It’s easy for me to support C’s Antarctica dreams because I’ve received nothing less. When I wanted to ride horses as a little girl, nobody said, “That’s too high.” When I applied to my crazy expensive dream school in D.C., they didn’t say, “That’s too much.” And when I didn’t get in, they didn’t say, “That’s too bad.” My parents knew I’d find the other, better road for me.

From there, it was all world travel and Iowa.

I come from a family that preaches its children’s only limits — because we’ve been gifted with comfort and education and stability — are how hard we work and how much we want it. It’s a lifestyle that embraces the uncomfortable, swapping out familiar for transformative.

This philosophy works under the idea what’s best for those we love is best for us — even if it hurts, even if it’s scary and lonely and 6 whole months — because ultimately what you’re doing to enrich the world enriches me too. I’ve learned so much from so many people’s Antarctica’s: Kat’s quick promotions based on hard work and kindness, Amelia’s practical-meets-passionate double majors, Annie’s move to Boston because she wanted to move to Boston, and Dori’s raising our new all-time favorite person, Junie.

In light of this gem on friendship and gratitude, I want to say thank you to these do-ers and be-ers making it happen.

There is no greater joy than watching people I love chase their dreams. It must have a placebo effect because it inspires me to dream bigger. When friends help you expand your vision of what is possible — simply by living their lives and honoring their ambition — I like to think a thank you is in order.

And thank you to the parents who told my short and skinny-ass 7-year-old self I could ride horses and go places.

Fair or fowl.

This Wednesday Lunch (an institution going strong after about a year and half), we skipped down to CR’s dreamboat Bever Park. The place — over 100 years old — is criss-crossed by the original worn brick road, which winds by a public pool now full of screaming summer vacationers,  Scouting fire circle, forest trail, and Old MacDonald’s Farm.

That last attraction is…a sort of gross/wonderful menagerie that’s fallen on hard times. Used to have a monkey house. That’s gone, along with its (I’m told) rancid odor and neighboring big cat exhibit. My favorite legend about the farm: There used to be a prairie dog exhibit until one day, there wasn’t. The story goes the dogs had been steadily tunneling themselves out of the enclosure and finally made it to the other side, never to be seen again.

Today, it’s mostly farm animals. A white donkey who’s seen better days, several goats, a cage full of exotic birds watching cartoons, one gorgeous, behemoth chicken and a waterfowl exhibit. Kids eat it up. Full disclosure: I do, too.

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In the meantime.

Seeing: Pharoah Sanders at the Iowa City Jazz Festival; blossoming CR bike culture; blossoming neighborhood alleystop-notch iPhone photo editing with the VSCO app.

Being: Big news! C is headed to Antarctica this winter, after our Iceland adventure. You can look for him on the McMurdo Station webcam — he’ll be one of about 1,100 scientists and support staff outfitted in some seriously cozy looking red parkas. I’m so proud, and so looking forward to his pictures and penguin tales. It’s going to be a long five months on this end, but I’m already composing love letters, email updates and Photoshopped images of the two of us swimming with orcas. Take my word for it, they’re  majestic.

While this big change was going down, we got to celebrate a friend’s wedding in STL. He’s a real upstanding gentleman, the model I hold all others to, and I was bursting with pride (and Turkish tapas from Aya Sofia). This also meant more time with Junie J, who is a real upstanding sassy chunk of a girl at only three weeks old.

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Listening: To “The Big Chill” soundtrack on vinyl. C exxxtremely generously let me borrow a turntable, upgrading my indoor window garden into an altar to Bowie, Brazilian guitar, and my old standby, the soundtrack of Glenn Close’s ‘fro (RIP). My sisters and I used to sway in kid-drunk living room dance circles to these songs.

Reading: Slowly. After a couple months browsing a history of modern China with Wild Swans, I’m ready to move on to M. Twain at his most biting. Also looking forward to Molly Wizenberg’s new book Delancey next spring!

Eating: All kinds of ice cream. Most recently, homemade sandwiches rolled in mini chocolate chips and sprinkles.

Working: On designing K’s wedding programs and a new direction for this blog.