Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Unwrapped

Time for the big, "Samantha Crafted It" reveal.  Don't be too let down...

Hand puppets for a nephew. 

 A writer's notebook for my brother.

Headbands for my sisters. (I got the idea from http://sewcraftcreate.com/2011/11/felt-medallion-tutotial/)

Scarves for my sisters.

Not pictured: A beanie for a BIL, a beanie for Eden, and a decorative "E" for Eden's nursery. Whew!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


What do you do on the day that you become your mother and father's daughter in a court of law and you're just so excited about it that you can hardly breathe?  Easy.  It starts with chewing on your toes..

But things rapidly progress as you notice that you're wearing a super-interesting, ruffly dress...and it has a delicious, sparkly bow!

So you begin to chew on it...until you discover that your mom is watching you.  Then you try to look innocent, but instead you look all sorts of guilty...

SO just to make sure that your parents follow through with this finalization thing, you turn on an extra dose of cute.  Cue the big blue eyes...

Hey, look!  It worked!

Friday, December 9, 2011

30 Hours of Christmas

Eden is a wonderful baby.  Truly she is.  For about the last six weeks she goes to bed at 8 pm and sleeps through til 5:30 am, eats, and then goes back to sleep until 9 am.  Do you know what that means?  It means that for three whole hours in the morning I get to do WHATEVER I want (plus whatever housework intrudes on my solitude).  It's glorious.  SO what have I been doing with my glut of time?  Crafting, of course!  To be precise, I have made 9 Christmas gifts by hand over the course of about 30 working hours.  And I'm dying to post them; but that's problematic for obvious reasons.  Instead, I'll merely show you this:

My handcrafted wrapping job.  You'll just have to wonder what's inside. (As a side note, I am wrapping EVERYTHING this year.  My mom was and is the anti-wrapping nazi...and I quote, "I refuse the fill the landfills with unnecessary paper garbage."  In principle I agree, but there is still a pretty-packages-deprived child inside of me and this year I'm cutting her loose.  Sorry, mom.)

Oh, and I've also been doing some baking...

Anyway, it's been a lot of fun.  I love getting creative.  And it is amazing what Santa can accomplish if she takes advantage of one very "helpful" elf's sleep habits. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

She's Adopted...?

That's what I tell people.  Because it's true.  But it only really comes up with strangers in the following way, and I never can resist toying with them, just a little bit.  Here's how it goes:

Stranger: Awww!  Cute baby!  How old is she?

Me: She's _____ months. 

Stranger: Oh, my GOSH!  You had a baby ____ months ago?!  I did NOT look like THAT after I had my baby. You look great!  How did you do it?

Me: You want to know my weight loss secret?

Stranger: (Leaning closer, thrilled to have found the secret sure to engender skinniness, fortune, and fame.) Yes!

Me: She's adopted.

Stranger: (Confused, deflated, dreams of easy thinness gone, maybe just a little amused.) Oh. 

Of course those opportunities are rapidly diminishing.  When Eden is a year old, no one will be surprised to see me looking like I've never been pregnant.  So I'll enjoy the joke while it lasts.  Evil of me, right?  Why do I make my little joke at the expense of some nice stranger?  I could just say, "Thank you," and spare the complimentary individual.  For one thing, that just feels even meaner.  Like it's the equivalent of affirming, "Yes, that's because I'm better than you.  In fact, you're worthless. Anyone worth their salt looks like they never had a baby immediately after having a baby." (Guarantee I would not look any less beach-ballesque than the next postpartum lady if ever I was postpartum, pardon the offense.) So I feel pressured to rescue the stranger's self-esteem by explaining Eden's origin.  I guess I also do it out of revenge for making me choose between lying and telling the truth.  Apparently I have some form of mild resentment that a stranger can make me say that Eden is adopted.  I hate labeling her that way.  "Adopted" isn't an appropriate adjective for describing a person; it's the past tense verb for how some babies come to their families.  You know, basically equivalent to the word "conceived," and we don't call people that (Example: Johnny, the conceived kid, is really hyperactive.").   But lest you get the wrong idea, I'm not at all embarrassed about how Eden joined our family.  It isn't that.  I think adoption is a beautiful miracle and I WANT to share our story.  Just not in the checkout line.  I guess it's that people who birth their children never have to explain to a perfect stranger how that happened.  There is no "Cute baby!  Oh, thanks, I conceived her myself.  Let me tell you all about it..." conversation. (And I think we can all be thankful for that!)

Here's the other part...I often completely forget (but for these little reminders when buying milk) that Eden didn't come from the swirling spirals of my DNA.  Her birthmom was so awesome to let us go with her to every doctor's appointment and to be there when Eden was born, that it kind of just feels like WE were pregnant.  And certainly when Eden wakes up in two hours, all smiles and giggles to see me, I won't be thinking anything along the lines of "You sure are cute for an adopted kid!"  Nope.  She's just OURS.  And I love her completely.

What kinds of frustrating questions do strangers ask you about your kids (or about not having kids yet)?  Do you ever play jokes on them in response?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dear Eden,

I want you to know something that you won't remember, but which I will never forget:

There once was a time when my smile (nothing more complicated or expensive than that) brought you pure joy. And me the same of you.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Several years ago Sierra and I discovered that the BEST apples and cider are found at Paradise Valley Orchard.  It was an accident the first time, a whim on the side of the road during a fall leaves photo shoot.  Oh how quickly a whim becomes an addiction! 

This year I visited Paradise twice.  The first time (with Sierra, naturally!) we didn't get any photos or cider because the apples weren't ready yet.  The second time happened as an accident while trying to locate a pumpkin patch with friends.  True story. And it was the most gorgeous day!  The sky was grey but not cloudy, the air cool but not cold.  And it just felt like the most wholesome, pure thing to do, snapping apple after apple from their perch.

That's what I call quality family time!

 Eden wasn't too sure what was going on, but I think she liked it.  Even if she was dressed like a hobo, since the change in weather caught me a wee bit off guard (after a summer of onsies...sigh).

This is my great friend Stephanie and her adorable son (i.e. the man that Eden will marry one day, whether they like each other or not, but of course they will since she will grow up to be the nicest, prettiest woman around and this little chap will be the handsomest, nicest gentleman around...).

See?  They already have a thing for each other. ;)

And here is our friend Mark with the apple barn where you go to purchase the cider.  Um...cider!

I simply adore fall and this was one sublime day. Thanks again, Sierra, for discovering Paradise with me lo those many years ago!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Four Months!

Eden is on the cusp of being a big, 4-month-old baby.

Sometimes we both cry about it.  She's just growing so fast and changing so much every day!

She's as shocked as I am about the way her cankles are now Michelan Man-esque. At all of 10.5 lbs., Eden has more than doubled her homecoming weight and nearly tripled her lightest measurement.  But don't worry...sheis still only 22" long.  She'll never catch Kris in height.

But Eden does follow in Kris's footsteps by adoring his wife.  Morning is Eden's best time of day and she wakes up happy every time, thrilled to find that we still exist.  Her current super-powers include sleeping for eight hours in a row at night, splashing in the bathtub, chatting up a storm, and wiggling her bum in prodigious efforts to roll over. 

We can't get enough of her big blue eyes and infectious grin.  How DID we get so lucky?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

First Ride

The Christmas I was five, my mom scrimped together the money she made from substitute teaching and bought me a horse.  He was a scrubby colt coming on two in the spring, all beggar lice and ringworm.  You know, the kind of horse you can get for $200.  I didn't care.  I named him Bug because the star on his forehead made him "cute as a bug" in my eyes.  (Incidentally, this is what comes of allowing a 5-year-old to name a horse.  I often repented of this juvenility during my more mature tween years, wherein I would alternately call him names better suited to the racetrack or romance novels, appellations like "Night's Shadow" and "Chestnut Glory.")

He was my best friend.  During summers, my sister and I spent every day but Sunday (a horse's day of rest too) bridling Bug and Baby (the long suffering bay Sierra inherited from Dad) and then "driving" them from playhouse to playhouse.  Other little kids had Barbie Ferrari's and electric G.I. Joe Jeeps--not us, we had horses and that was far better. 

When I got old enough that college was looming over the horizon, I cooked up all sorts of schemes for taking Bug with me so we wouldn't be parted. They all cost way too much.  So he stayed at the ranch and I went on my academic way.  But one day, I determined, I would have a little girl who would ride Bug too and love him with my same love.

Well, owing to infertility's delays, I don't know that this last dream is realistic:  Eden is so young and Bug so old.  But during the two weeks we just spent in Colorado, I did get to give Eden her first horseback ride.  And it's Bug who had that honor--I'd trust no other horse with such precious cargo as that.  I think she liked his softness on the soles of her feet and the smooth rhythm of his gate.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Product Placement

I often think that I should have gone into marketing.  There's just something about the whole process of conceiving a message and working out subliminal ways to insinuate it into people's minds that simply works for my devious brain.  I see packaging and billboards and think to myself, "Oh, no you don't, you sneaky marketing execs. and graphic designers...I see right through you!"  Take for example the packaging McDonald's puts on their chicken sandwiches.  It shows (in series) real pictures of a tomato, cheese slice, onion, and origami chicken.  Yes, folks, that's right.  The onion used in your sandwich looks like this:
But don't worry.  The chicken part of your chicken sandwich only looks like this:

See, kids, it's ok!  No actual animal was harmed in the making of your delicious white meat meal!  Isn't that great news! But onions, you had better run for your lives!  Thank goodness the advertising gurus can save us from reality. 

Yeah, I totally get this marketing thing.   

Well, that was one long and only slightly connected preamble to today's post, the subject of which is really several products that I can't live without.  In general, I'm a simple person.  I can travel pretty light and get by with very little.  But some things just make life richer, so I'll share a few of my picks.  And for the record, none of these companies is sponsoring me in any way (but if they want to...I won't say no...Chaco, if you're listening, I could use some love!)    

Which brings me to product numero uno:  Chacos.  I've been permanently wedged into mine since early 2005, and I am not sorry.  Cute, stylish in that earth-goddess sort of way, they are the most comfortable footwear around. Hiking, apre-skis, work, gardening, chillin' at the movies, any occasion, they're good for it.  I really love these things.
Number two on my list is the single best baby item we own.  I owe my good friend Stephanie big time for introducing me to, lending me, and ultimately creating my own MOBY Wrap.  Eden spends (by insistent demand) about twelve hours a day in it.  See?

We would die without it. On a side note, is the Boppy the most overrated baby item out there, or is that just me? 

Anywho, the thing I have to share next is an amazing band. Eden and I listen to The Avett Brothers frequently as part of our daily "music appreciation" hour.  They're a crazy eclectic mix of banjo, rock piano, acoustic guitar, southern accents and occasional screamo vocals.  They refer to their style as "punk-grass" and you should totally check them out.  In fact, they are so cool that you can listen to their songs for free by clicking here http://www.theavettbrothers.com/us/home.  And if that isn't enough to convince you, just try telling yourself that you don't need to listen to three people who look like this:

Can't be done.  You might as well just give in.  Start by listening to I and Love and You (the song, or just the whole album).  And then, when you can't deny your inner banjoist any longer, dig back through their older stuff...it gets all crazy up in there!

Alright, I'm done for now. I hope that you feel a little more hippie for having known me.  The end. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Summer Reading

I have to confess that between three weeks worth of NICU sitting and six weeks worth of nighttime feedings, I've been quite the voracious reader this summer.  Eden tends to be a little spitty, so after each feeding I have to keep her upright for a while and the Kindle has been a lifesaver for my sleep-deprived brain.  I'll try to keep this brief, but here's an annotated list.  Prepare to be amazed...

Picture of Dorian Grey, by Oscar Wilde  3/5 stars.  Witty as always, but not Wilde's most engaging story.  Part hedonistic celebration, part cautionary tale. 

Skeleton Man, by Tony Hillerman 3/5 stars.  A nice, clean mystery with engaging characters.  Not a whole lot of meat to the plot though.

Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery, 4/5 stars.  This was a reread, and Anne is just as engaging now as she was when I first read her exploits. But I still think that Montgomery tried to cram in too much time-wise and would have been better off with the series concept sooner. 

Kitchen Daughter, by Jael McHenry 3/5 stars. Clean other than a two-page explosion of F-bombs, this was a pretty good page-turner.  The protagonist is autistic and it helps you have a feel for what that would be like.  Cool idea.  But the main character also doesn't really have a sense of humor and it's harder to engage with her. And some of the plot "twists" were fairly obvious.

The Arabian Nights, by Andrew Lang, 2/5 stars.  I'll confess that I haven't finished this one and probably won't.  It's the most ridiculously complicated frame-story within a frame-story within a frame story, ad naseum.  Clever idea, but annoying after a while.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 3/5 stars.  A nice little collection of short stories, great for start-and-stop reading. 

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, 4/5 stars.  This one was just a lot of fun to read.  I can't help it, I like a good swashbuckling romance now and again.  And I've always been interested in the French Revolution.  I must protest though that this is not very subtly written.  There wasn't a single plot twist that I didn't see coming for miles.

Nurture Shock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman, 5/5 stars.  This is nonfiction reporting about various topics in child development (language acquisition, lying, racism, etc.).  It has a bibliography that's as long as a regular chapter, but it's written in a very accessible way.  Not everything in it was new to me, but it was all interesting.  Worth the read for anyone interested in the subject. 

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly, 3/5 stars.  The prose is lovely and the concept is a good one.  But I felt like the characters were insufficiently developed and the plot sagged.  I kept asking myself, "Why am I still reading?  To what end?" It's not like I need some huge battle between good and evil sort of a climax to stay interested in a book, but I need something to pull me along! 

Eden Emerson Bell and I are also working our way through the collected works of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Usually puts her right to sleep, but I'm loving it! And speaking of that little girl, isn't she cute?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I started this blog as a new beginning of creativity.  It wasn't (and still isn't) much, but in a time when I couldn't fashion so much as a haiku, it was a start.  We had just moved into our sweet old person neighborhood and I also felt really isolated and friendless.  The blog was a bit of a desperate bid for some kind of human connection.  With that loosely constructed idea of purpose I began setting loose to the net as we know it snippets of poetry, thoughts on books, accounts of vacations, random musings on life.  Dim little butterflies, perhaps some of them moths, freed from a crusty chrysalis.  Therapy, but cheaper.

I'm at a crossroad again.  In two short weeks there will be a breathless rush of nerves, excitement, dread, glitter and bad cologne (way too much glitter and cologne) as school resumes.  And for only the third time since my sixth birthday, I won't be a part of it.  If any of that sounds wistful and nostalgic, think again!  I'm thrilled to be out of that game.  Not many things have ever felt better than walking up to the HR secretary and saying, "Hello.  My name is Samantha Bell and I'm here to quit my job.  Where do I sign?" It was a heady moment, I assure you. But now what? 

Oh, I know.  Lest you think I've forgotten, there is eight pounds of PURPOSE snuggled up against my chest as I write this, her fingernails badly in need of a trim, reminding me that every inhale I have remaining is already spoken for.  And I love it.  Her.  Motherhood.  I can say that today without reservation because we slept for six uninterrupted hours last night-- joie de vivre has such simple causes these days.  So I know what my purpose is.  But I'm still figuring out HOW.  Still and for like the next eighty years.  It's a journey worth taking. 

I guess that all this transition time has me thinking about my dear old blog, and how its purpose may be changing along with my own focus.  I'm much more settled into our life now.  I'm immeasurably happier than I was two years ago. So much desperation has evaporated--or at least morphed into fears for why my baby has acne and how I can possibly make sure that she is the kindest, smartest person in the entire world. I have friends here.  So much of what I started this online thing for is obsolete.  I no longer need an audience in order to feel like I matter.  (There is an exhibitionist in us all.) This doesn't mean that I don't want comments--they make my day, truly, they do--but I think that I'm ready to post things without caring if they entertain or provoke someone else's interest.

Then what changes?  Fear not, those six of you who actually read this thing.  There are still bound to be book reviews and Eden updates.  Vacation pictures and occasional verse.  But I think that there are going to be a lot more posts like this one too: thoughtful, multi-paragraph compositions written for me.  Or rather written for anyone with the patience to read them, but written because I need to write them.  I AM a writer.  And rusty skills notwithstanding, I'm finally up to acting like it. 


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Incidental Jerkiness

When you're infertile, you get to be on the receiving end of a lot of incidental jerkiness.  You know, the relative who tells you that you should care more about starting a family and less about your career.  The coworker who loudly asks you in the middle of a crowded faculty lounge if you are pregnant, because she felt just how you look when she was pregnant with every single one of her thirty kids.  The lady at church who tells you jokingly that you can't sit in THAT pew, because it's where all of the moms sit.  Stuff like that. 

And the thing about incidental jerkiness is that we've all been there.  It's what happens when things that normally sweet people say hybridize with circumstances they don't even know about to become cosmic sucker punches.  Or, sometimes, it occurs when we simply say ill-considered things. Like the time a black friend of mine was helping me move and I told him not to wimp out on the heavy stuff because I'm a real slave driver.  Yeah, that was one big forehead slap.  But it happens. And I guess the good thing about receiving so many heaping helpings of incidental jerkiness over the last few years is that it has made me more aware of my own mistakes.  And hopefully I avoid being THAT GUY a little more often. 

But here's the kicker.  Ever since Eden came into our lives, I fear that my very existence has become one big tribute to incidental jerkiness.  The NICU nurse who just had her first failed in-vitro.  The car-seat check lady who has been trying to adopt for three years through our same agency.  Every prospective adoptive mom and frustrated couple trying to conceive.  I'm sorry.  Really, I am. Just not sorry enough to give Eden back.  And so here I stand, like the schmuck I am, all fresh cut marble graven in the likeness of incidental jerkiness.   

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Family Pictures

We are lucky enough to know TWO amazing photographers.  And both of them volunteered to take pictures of Eden and of us as a family.  It was quite thrilling actually.  These were our first ever family photos. I mean, sure, we had engagement pictures and shots from our wedding, random candids taken on hiking trips and the like...but never have we had family pictures.  Until now.  It's almost like we're all grown up!  Anyway, if you need a photographer for anything, you can just contact Sierra (my baby sister!) at skunkeymonkey@hotmail.com or Shantel at http://www.slurpee4bys1grl.blogspot.com/

Alright, alright, I'll assume that you don't want to see any more.  I can't really blame you, but then you can't blame me for being absolutely obsessed with this beautiful girl. 

P.S. Mikelle, you people need to stop by sometime on your way north.  Consider this your personalized, anytime invitation.  And you won't hurt my feelings if you leave the green jello casserole behind... 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Two By Two

I hate ants.  Really, really hate ants.  I thought they were kind of cute when I was a kid because the only ants where we lived were little and harmless and busy.  Then I served a mission in Georgia and met the state mammal: Fire Ants.  Seriously those things are big, mean, and dastardly.  They inject you with some venom called solenopsin and leave open sores that weep for days, which happened to me there on several occasions.  Once, I attempted to toss in a dumpster a McDonald's fries basket that someone had thrown in the street: a whole hive of  those hellishly red fiends ate my hands raw.  I HATE ants. 

One thing leads to another.

SO, imagine how I felt when (at three in the morning) I came up our stairs to make a bottle for Eden and found instead the ants, not marching orderly and two by two, but swarming through our side door.  I lost it, people!  Some of them were the winged colonizers, you know, the scouts that decide if the new location is a great place to establish a new nest.  Oh, oh, no you didn't!  I may assure you that there was no Squantoesque "welcome to my land, let's have Thanksgiving" mistakes around here.  Ha! I ran back downstairs, assumed some form of clothing to hide my skivvies, and bolted through the back door for our garage.  Armed with a spray pump of Raid, I did what we Indians should have done when we colonial white folk first started coming 'round: Let the rest of them keep on thinking Columbus sailed straight off the edge of planet earth, that's what. It was a total massacre.  And although my normally peace-loving self feels a trifle sheepish, I'm not really sorry.

Dear Ants, want another piece of this?