List of things the books don’t tell you about parenthood

June 12, 2012 at 6:50 pm (baby)

Ok, so everyone warned me that the first weeks of motherhood would be confusing, stressful, at times tearful, and of course wonderful. But I had a plan. I didn’t expect everything to go according to it, but if you know me well you know that my life runs on routine and ritual. I needed somewhere to begin in this parenting thing. So I bought a couple parenting books that had been recommended to me by some experienced parent friends, and spent the last few months of my pregnancy reading and memorizing the guidelines put forth by the authors. My mom warned me that baby hasn’t read the book, and so doesn’t necessarily behave the way the book says she should. So true Mom, so true. Here’s a list of lessons I’ve learned in these early weeks of parenting that the books failed to mention.

1. Babies get overtired FAST

The worst mistake you can make, according to both the “experts” and real parents, is to let your baby get overtired. I never thought I would let it happen to MY child, but I did. Not once, but multiple times. I don’t even know how it happened. One minute Baby Girl is smiling and cooing, the next she’s screaming her head off as if she had just been dunked in a vat of ice water. Somewhere I missed the “obvious, tell-tale signs” (yawning, rubbing eyes, fussiness) and let my daughter get so tired that she couldn’t fall asleep. It took hours of rocking, soothing, walking, and letting her cry before she finally collapsed into an exhausted stupor. Then it happened again, and again! I finally realized that the “window of drowsiness” for my sweet child is extremely short. Like 2 minutes. If I don’t start rocking her IMMEDIATELY after that first tell-tale yawn, forget about it. I can expect to spend the next couple of hours rocking, patting, andย  holding a pacifier firmly in baby’s mouth while she repeatedly almost falls asleep before jerking herself awake, shaking her head back and forth as though she is saying “No I won’t go to sleep and you can’t make me!” Once she does succumb, forget trying to move her. Nope. The minute I shift her or try to stand up to transfer her to her crib, she jerks awake, and here we go again. I’m stuck letting her sleep in my arms until she wakes for her next feeding. This is not a terrible thing, unless it’s two o’clock in the morning, or I have to go to the bathroom.

2. Babies aren’t very good at self-soothing

All the books imply that once a baby does fall asleep, she will stay asleep until it’s time for her to eat again. As I write this Charlotte, who should be sleeping for another 45 minutes at least, is screaming in her crib.ย  She fell asleep easy as you please about an hour ago. But she woke up and seems to feel like she has been abandoned in Outer Mongolia. I’ve already tried to sooth her back to sleep twice. It worked for just long enough for me to sit back down and pick up my computer before she started fussing again. I am feeling like the worst mother on the planet as I type this, trying to distract myself to see if she will settle back down and fall asleep without my intervention. It’s been about three minutes, though it feels like three hours. I’ll give it ten, then I’m going in there.

3. Nursing is not always a beautiful, bonding experience

The books seem to say that once you and baby get the hang of latching on, breastfeeding will be an easy, beautiful bonding experience for the two of you. Not so much in my experience. Breastfeeding for us is more like a battle of wills. She’s fine for a few minutes, but once the initial gush is over she spits out my nipple and cries. Then the battle begins, with me trying to get her to finish eating (at least 10 minutes per side is what the “experts” recommend) and her latching on for a few seconds then letting go again. The scene repeats on the other side. It’s not always so hard, but enough of the time that I am getting discouraged. I know part of the problem must be that she was introduced to a bottle first (in the NICU they gave her my milk but in a bottle so they could monitor how much she was getting) and she got spoiled by how much easier it is to drink from a bottle. It’s been seven weeks. I know the benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby, and don’t want to give it up yet, but each feeding makes it a little harder to keep going. Don’t tell Charlotte, but I think she’s winning.

4. Diapers don’t always work

None of the books mentioned that diapers, which are an amazing invention that I am extremely grateful for, don’t always perform the task they were designed for. Maybe my child is oddly shaped, but she has managed on more than one occasion to miss said diaper and poop on something else instead. The most memorable was when she was sitting on my lap a few minutes before we were supposed to leave for dinner. She had just eaten a half hour before, and as usual started to fill her diaper. As she did I felt a distinct warm sensation spread over my leg. I looked down, and sure enough, she had leaked. Only it was more like she’d missed her diaper altogether. In fact, when I handed her off to Chris to change her so that I could change myself and rinse out my skirt and top (I had no idea how quickly baby poop can stain…must be that bright yellow color) he said that she’d only gotten a tiny spot on her own outfit. The rest had flowed right out the leg hole, down her leg and onto my lap. Amazing.

5. Clipping your baby’s fingernails is more stressful than performing open-heart surgery

The books of course emphasize how important it is to keep the baby’s nails short so they don’t scratch themselves. They don’t, however, explain fully the terrible feeling that cramps up your stomach as you slowly depress the clippers, praying that you didn’t get any skin. I took my friends’ advice and only attempted the operation after Charlotte was fully asleep, but it was still the most nerve-wracking experience I’ve ever had. And yes, I did get some skin. And yes, there was blood. And yes, I felt like I had just murdered six puppies and a kitten after running down a nun with my car. It was awful. Charlotte barely flinched and didn’t even open her eyes. I spent the next hour praying that God would forgive me for hurting my child. I always agreed with the proverb, “spare the rod, spoil the child,” but I mean who could really use a rod on their precious baby? Hmm…glad it will be a little while before I have to figure the whole punishment thing out.

6. You will still love your child more than life itself, even when she is screaming bloody murder at 3am. For the third night in a row.

Thank goodness for God’s gift to new mom’s everywhere – Mother’s Love. Yep, I was told about this too, the indescribable feeling you get when you look at your baby, knowing that no matter what she does or doesn’t do, you will always love her. Charlotte is not as difficult a baby as I’ve maybe made her out to be in this post. She is starting to smile at me, (which makes my heart melt like a Hershey kiss left outside in July every time) and has been known to spend up to forty-five minutes cooing at herself in the octopus mirror that hangs from her playmat. But even now, as she starts to cry fifteen minutes after I laid her down for her nap, sure she was fast asleep, I love her more than I thought I could love anything. She is a gift. A wonderful, frustrating, beautiful, puzzling gift. She makes me see my Heavenly Father in a whole new way.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, I did go back in after ten minutes, rocked her for about fifteen until I thought she was good and asleep, then carefully put her back down. Twelve minutes later I heard her stirring again, and realized it was time for her lunch. After another round of eating, cooing, fussing, rocking, sleeping, crying, I hear silence from the crib. We’ll see how long it lasts. It used to take me about an hour to write a blog post. This one? I started at 10:30am and it is now 1:50pm. You do the math. ๐Ÿ™‚

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A List of Anne Memories

May 26, 2012 at 3:43 pm (Uncategorized)

Today would have been Andrea’s 33rd birthday. I woke up thinking about her, and of the memories I have of moments we shared. There are too many to list, but I want to set down in writing some of the most vivid ones I remember. Anne was my nickname for her…after Anne of Green Gables. It’s the name I most called her and how I still think of her.

1. The Phone Call

When my parents first moved to our dream home in the mountains of Colorado, I had no friends. I didn’t know a single person actually. In California I had a ready-made peer group made up of girls that I’d know since birth. The thought of having to make new friends in this place where I had no connections was…well, daunting. Then, out of the blue, I got a phone call from a girl named Andrea Janski. She had gotten my name and number off the homeschool registration list. I think my mom had met with her mom Debbie, so Andrea knew a little about me, but not much more than that I was close to her age and didn’t know anyone in the area. We talked for a long time during that call…the first of so many. We found out that we had in common a love of books and of writing, the same taste in movies, and could both quote from any Adventures in Odyssey episode you could name. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.

2. The Sunburn

If you know anything about springtime in Colorado, you know that it is really an extension of winter, and that it lasts forever. By the time you can safely expose skin to the air without risking frostbite that skin is so white from being so long hidden it could give the Cullens a run for their money (just no sparkle unfortunately). Anne and I eagerly awaited the first warm day when we could start working on our tan (hey, you can take the girls out of California, but you can’t take California out of the girls!) Finally the perfect day arrived. We decided to put on shorts and lay on my trampoline to soak up the rays. We lay there for hours, talking about our hopes and dreams and fantasies…all while absorbing enough UV rays to roast a pig. The Colorado sun is merciless…and naturally we’d neglected to apply any kind of sunscreen. By that evening our legs were the brightest red they’d ever been, and we were both in agony. We spent hours bathing our legs in cold water in her parents’ jacuzzi tub and applying layers of Neutrogena to our burns (not sure if that helped any, but we were going for any relief we could think of). We learned our lesson about the necessity of sunscreen that day. The only thing that made the pain bearable was that we were both experiencing it together.

3. Ballet Camp

Anne and I had many common interests, but when we both discovered a love of ballet our friendship took on a whole new level. We were single-minded in our pursuit of dance greatness, although we had started late (we were both in our mid-teens when we began taking lessons) and neither one of us had the “ideal body type” of a dancer, we worked our tails off to become the best that we could. We spent hours practicing our technique and choreographing dances. I think it was Debbie who suggested that we form a worship dance group, choreographing dances to praise and worship songs to be performed at church and for homeschool functions. Anne, Jenelle and I took the idea and ran with it. We even had the brilliant idea to hold a “ballet camp” one week during the summer to practice and choreograph. We had a “majority rules” approach to choreography disputes that we employed with great enthusiasm, which unfortunately led to a few lost tempers and hurt feelings. Through it all we managed to hang on to and even deepen our friendship. Dance was such a huge part of my life through my teen years, and I never think about dancing without thinking about Anne too.

4. The Princesses

Our costumes for our worship dance crew were…interesting. We had to be modest of course, so tight-fitting leotards were out. Instead, Mom made us long, billowy skirts and white peasant-style tops. We completed our look by tying gold ribbons in our hair. I don’t remember who it was who first made the observation…it might have been me to Anne. I told her that she looked just like Snow White. She replied that I looked like Cinderella. Jenelle, we decided, was a ringer for Belle. And thus a new obsession was born. We started collecting all manner of paraphernalia related to our “princess.” We called each other by our princess names. For my sixteenth birthday, Anne and Jenelle threw me a surprise party. Guess what the theme was? I’m pretty sure the three of us, thanks to our generous parents and grandparents, helped the Disney Store stay afloat during those years. ๐Ÿ™‚

5. Leadership Camp

I’m not sure where she heard about it, but Anne was determined to go to a certain leadership academy that was held during the summer in a beautiful little mountain town south of Denver. The camp lasted for two weeks. Anne and I went twice. Our first year we some how got it into our heads that all the attendees were ultra-conservative, and in order to fit in we should wear skirts and dresses the whole time. Needless to say we ended up sticking out like sore thumbs among a sea of jeans and t-shirts, but hey, you can’t say we didn’t make a fashion statement! Thankfully we didn’t really care that we didn’t necessarily fit in with everyone else, because who needed a whole group of new friends when we had each other? We reveled in our trips to “town,” where we spent hours wandering through gimmicky souvenir shops and gorging ourselves on sweets from the candy store we found. We felt so grown up when we dined at a little cafe, just the two of us, and carefully selected mementos to take home, and gifts for all our friends and family. I don’t really remember the content of the “academy,” or all the lectures we sat through, but I will always savor the memories I have of Anne and I experiencing our first taste of adult-like freedom…together.

I have so many more memories…trips to Elitch Gardens, lunch at the Coney Island hot dog, swimming in Grandma Bernice’s jacuzzi, counseling at Camp Id-Ra-Ha-Je, homeschool conferences, Christian concerts…and just the regular days that we spent together. Almost every significant memory I have during my teen years involved Anne. She and Jenelle were my peer group, my confidantes, my BFFs, my sisters. Although time passed and distance separated us, when we saw each other again we were as close as we’d ever been. I’m so thankful for the memories…all the special and ordinary times we shared together. I love you Anne. I can’t wait to reminisce with you again. In Heaven.

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Charlotte’s Arrival: Part 2

May 11, 2012 at 6:30 pm (baby)

Sorry to leave you hanging…I intended to write the second half much quicker, but you know how that goes with a newborn in residence :). Where were we…

Tuesday, April 24th

Mid-afternoon

I was resting comfortably in my room (which was about the size of a 3rd class cabin on the Titanic, while my labor and delivery room had been large enough to accommodate several dozen people. Not sure the logic there…I’d rather have my visitors come to the room after delivery rather than during labor, but maybe that’s just me.) A woman came in and announced she was Charlotte’s nurse. I perked up, thinking I was finally going to be allowed to see and hold my daughter. No dice. Instead, she tells me (in the nicest way possible) that Charlotte is having some breathing problems, so they are keeping her on oxygen for now. Alarm bells start ringing, but she assures me that this is fairly common in babies who went into distress during labor. She probably breathed in some meconium (her poop) during delivery, which is very sticky and can gunk up new lungs, making them work harder to bring in oxygen. Her pediatrician was watching her closely, and as soon as her breathing improved they would bring her in for me to see her.

Evening

I spent the afternoon visiting with family members who gave me updates on what they could see through the nursery window, and trying not to be too impatient to hold my baby. I also got a few updates from Charlotte’s nurse, who told me that although she had made some improvement initially, she’d relapsed and was requiring more oxygen. Finally the pediatrician came in. He told us that Charlotte was not making the improvement that he’d expected. He’d ordered blood tests done for infection and started her on some antibiotics just in case, but he really felt like her problems needed to be addressed by a more highly-specialized doctor. He had recommended that she be transported to the NICU at Willow Creek Women’s Hospital. My world shattered. My entire family (both Chris and my sides) were packed like sardines into the room, but I ordered everyone out except my husband. It was one of the darkest moments of my life. I knew a baby who needed to be put into intensive care was a very sick baby indeed. Worst of all, instead of getting to see my little girl, I was being separated from her. I was stuck in a hospital bed in Bentonville, while she would be moved to Fayetteville. I didn’t know how long a c-section recovery was, but I’d heard they usually kept you 2-3 days. The pain I felt at the thought of not being by her side…well, let’s just say I have an idea of what hell might be like. After I’d cried a few buckets of tears (and then some) I pulled myself together enough to let my parents come back in. They gave me a sliver of hope, by suggesting that I ask to be transferred to Willow Creek too. Then at least I’d be in the same location. When I eagerly asked the nurse about the possibility, she shook her head. My doctor didn’t have admitting privileges there, and it was unlikely another doctor would take me on as a transfer. The only thing I could do was ask to be discharged as soon as possible. Fine, I said. I’ll do that. What do I have to do to get out of here?

Late evening

Although my doctor was already off duty, my nurse contacted the doctor on-call who gave the go-ahead for me to be discharged. I was given a couple tasks to complete before they let me go, however. I had to be able to get out of the bed and walk around, and I had to use the bathroom. Getting out of bed wasn’t too hard (painful, but they had loaded me up with some good pain meds, so I managed), but the potty thing took a couple tries (TMI I know, but obviously the epidural numbs all the muscles down there too, and takes longer to wear off than say my legs). I finally managed to squeeze out about a teaspoon of pee, which apparently was enough to let me go home. By now it was after eleven, and despite my determination to see my baby (they had wheeled her into the my room in her transport unit before she left, which looked like some sort of space-age containment unit, but all I could see of her was a blurry outline through the plastic side) I realized that it was a bit beyond me to do much of anything but make it home and crawl into my own bed.

Wednesday, April 25th

morning

Thanks to the good narcotics that my wonderful husband procured for me at the 24 hour pharmacy, I was able to get out of bed. I even made it into the shower, which felt amazing after the past two days. I almost felt human again. Just as we were getting ready to leave, I got a call from the NICU. The doctor told me that Charlotte had been diagnosed with an infection, and that they needed to do a spinal tap to make sure the infection hadn’t turned into meningitis, which would travel up into her brain. Numbly I gave my consent to the procedure, as the doctor went on to tell me that Charlotte was still receiving oxygen for her breathing problems, and that they had detected a slight heart murmur. Was there no end to my baby’s troubles? I’d had such a relatively easy, normal pregnancy, that I was totally unprepared for any kind of complications. We quickly finished our preparations, and Chris and I headed off to see her before they started the procedure.

Late morning

We made it before they began the spinal tap. After a 3 minute scrub-in that would become a very familiar routine throughout the next few days, we were finally admitted in to see her. Although it was awful to see her surrounded by wires and tubes that poked out from her body in all directions, my baby was still the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. My soul gave a sigh of relief. Up to that point I had felt such an emptiness…I knew in my head that I’d grown a baby inside me, but my heart refused to believe it until I could finally see her with my own eyes. She was so beautiful and perfect. Now if only she would get well.

Afternoon

We ran into her neonatalogist after eating lunch, who gave us a quick summary of her prognosis. He shook his head in amazement, and said that sometimes it seemed like Someone was looking out for certain babies, and that was definitely Charlotte’s case. We simply nodded, thinking of all the prayers that were flowing for our baby girl and had been since before she was born. Of course Someone was looking out for her! Jesus was holding her tightly in His arms, though we couldn’t yet. The doctor said that she had the Strep B infection (not to be confused with Strep throat…Strep B is a serious blood infection. I’d been tested for the bacteria at one of my prenatal visits, but had tested negative. Apparently the bacteria can come and go). The pediatrician had saved her life by testing her for infection almost immediately, and putting her on antibiotics so quickly, even though they had no idea if infection was really the problem. The neonatalogist went on to say that if Charlotte had not had all the other complications with her breathing and had not been checked out so quickly, they would most likely not have caught the infection in time. It was a terrifying thought, yet it made us so thankful to God that he had used all the circumstances and caregivers to save our baby’s life. I think the hardest lesson a parent learns is how to let go of their children. I didn’t know I would have to start learning that lesson so soon, but I know that I have to release her into God’s hands. That’s where she belongs.

The next 10 days were filled with small victories. Being the feisty girl that she is, Charlotte pulled her oxygen cannula out after only a few days, and did so well without it they decided she didn’t need it. When the lines in her belly button came out we finally got to hold her, which was still the magical and incredible experience we’d been told about, amplified perhaps by our long wait. After several days of pumping in order to bring my milk in. they decided she was well enough to start eating, and I was able to nurse. After a few false starts Charlotte caught on, and got better at eating every day. Although we had been told she probably wouldn’t be discharged until Sunday May 6th, they took her PICC line out Friday the 4th, and she came home that night!

Life with Charlotte has been every bit of the adjustment everyone told us about. She’s had her ups and downs, but the highs so outweigh the lows. I can (and have) spend hours holding her in my arms as she sleeps (which may explain the delay in finishing this post). I’m so grateful and humbled by this whole experience…and can only hope and pray that her dramatic entrance isn’t setting the stage for Charlotte to develop into a total drama queen. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Charlotte’s arrival: A play-by-play

May 7, 2012 at 6:40 pm (baby)

I will not be offended if no one chooses to read this post. I know many people are uncomfortable with knowing the details of labor and delivery, and I certainly have been told more than my fair share of graphic birth accounts, embellished with far more detail than I ever wanted. However, I know some of my fellow moms and other friends might be interested to know how it all went down. My main purpose is to get it all recorded before I forget how it happened, since I’ve been told all about “labor amnesia,” which helps ensure that women do actually go on to have more than one child. As with most birth stories, Charlotte’s is very different from what I imagined. I thought I’d have a normal labor, aided by copious amounts of pain medication, and that my baby girl would arrive the natural way. Funny how God had different plans.

Monday, April 23rd

6:30am – I wake to a strange feeling that I am much wetter than could be explained by my normal night sweats (a common side-effect of pregnancy, or so I’ve been told). I mumble something about my water breaking to my husband as I lever myself out of bed and into the bathroom. By the time I get out Chris has jumped into some clothes and loaded all the bags into the car (apparently the phrase “water breaking” has an instantaneous effect on an expectant father, causing his adrenaline to skyrocket). I’m still not sure my water has actually broken, but I call the hospital and they tell us to come in. I convince Chris that I’m not about to drop down and give birth, and he lets me eat a bowl of cereal and take a shower before we leave.

8:30 am – I’m admitted to a labor and delivery room, and my nurse checks to see if my water has in fact broken. She’s “pretty sure” it has (not exactly the reassuring affirmation I was looking for) and hooks me up to a monitor. Turns out those painful abdominal cramps I’d been experiencing off and on all night are actual contractions and not false labor like I’d assumed. She checks me, but I’m only dilated to about 1.5, not much more than I had been at my last appointment 5 days earlier. We call our parents and let them know, but tell them not to rush since I’m still just in early labor. My family says they will be on their way about noon.

10:30am – After conferring with my doctor, my nurse inserts a gel inside my cervix to help it dilate and efface quicker (the term I believe is “ripen,” which is rather ridiculous, because at 5 days past my due date I feel like an over-ripe watermelon about to explode). It’s the first step in inducing labor, which we were supposed to do the next day anyway, so I still feel like things are progressing on schedule.

2:00pm – My parents arrive. I’ve just requested my first dose of pain meds (a shot of Fentinal through my IV), since watching Ratatouille is no longer enough of a distraction from the worst cramping I’ve every experienced (if this is “early labor” I’m terrified to know what “active labor feels like.) I ask about an epidural, but the nurse says no dice until I’m further along. Drat. Unfortunately this means I am not able to eat any lunch. I do receive a Popsicle, which does very little to relieve the growling in my stomach.

4:00pm – I’m still not dilated much, only about a 3. I’ve found the meds don’t do much to take away the pain, but they do relax me enough to help me doze in-between contractions.

8:00pm – Still not making much progress. My dear friend Joy arrives. She’s a welcomed distraction, as she sits and regales me with her birth stories, which encourages my mom to do the same. Everyone watches the monitor eagerly, where my contractions continue to display. They are very consistent, but not strong enough yet to really be of much help to my cervix.

10:30pm – The nurse removes the gel, since it’s been the prerequisite 12 hours, and checks me again (this is probably TMI, but if you’ve read this far than I guess you won’t mind) The checks are getting more and more painful, instead of less, since the gel has made me extremely tender down there. I’m barely a 4, maybe. My doctor decides to give me some more time to see if I move into active labor on my own before starting the pitocin. Joy leaves, but promises to return the next day to hold baby Charlotte. I hope she’s not being overly optimistic, since at this point I’m thinking my labor will never end (or even really begin).

4:30am – After a very restless night, in which I find the pain of “early labor” can still become unbearable, I’m still stuck at a 4. My doc finally oks the pitocin, and the nurse says I can get that epidural! I’ve never been so excited to receive a shot in my life! The anesthesiologist is fabulous…true to his word, the only pain I feel is the “pinch and burn” of the numbing medication. They insert the epidural line and tape it to my back, and within minutes I start to feel the sweet relief of numbness as it creeps over my lower extremities. At first I’m worried that it wasn’t effective, since I’m only feeling numb on my right side, but the nurse explains that it works by gravity, and after they turn me onto my left side my pain just eases away, like magic. I feel a strong urge to give the anesthesiologist a hug and a kiss when he returns to check on me, but fortunately I’m unable to get up. The nurse inserts a catheter a little sooner than I would have preferred, since the numbness had not completely taken effect.

8:30am – My doctor arrives and checks me. I am almost giddy with the fact that it no longer hurts! I begin to think that I will survive this after all. Unfortunately, doc seems to think that I’m still not even a 4. She has them up the pitocin.

9:00-10:30am – The nurse continues to up my pitocin periodically, and we watch with interest as my contractions get stronger and closer together (a very strange experience, since I am really feeling no pain and would have no idea I was having any contractions at all if not for the monitor). She is so sweet and encouraging, assuring me that we will have this baby before her shift changes (she is the third nurse I’ve had). At one point she tells me that she’s sure I’m making progress (at this point I’m doubtful that my cervix is capable of expanding past a 4) and jokes that the next time she checks me I’ll probably be at an 8.

11:00am – She checks…I’m at a 9! This clearly surprises all of us, but before we can celebrate the baby’s heart-rate starts falling. My nurse hits the emergency button, and suddenly my bed is surrounded by at least 12 nurses. They shove an oxygen mask over my face, and move me onto one side, then the other, then tell me I need to roll over and get on my hands and knees. Since the epidural numbed my legs to the point where I really couldn’t feel them at all, this seemed impossible. However, you can do the impossible for your baby, as I discovered. I muscle my dead legs into position in about 30 seconds, tears flowing as fast as my prayers as I listen to the beep of Charlotte’s heart-rate get slower and slower. At one point it stopped all together, but the nurse said the monitor had just been dislodged at they had to relocate it. My doctor is now in the room, and as the baby’s heart-rate speeds up she tells me I need to start pushing. The nurses help me into position, and I push for all I’m worth. I don’t know if I’m doing it right, but everyone tells me I’m doing great so I have no choice but to believe them. During my rest period I look around for my husband. He’s clutching my mom’s hand and they’re both watching me with panic in their eyes. I tell Chris I need him, and he’s at my side and holding my hand as I push through a couple more contractions. Finally my doctor checks me again, then says the words I know are coming. The baby is too distressed to make it through much more labor, and although I’m pushing well, it may take me another hour or so to actually deliver. She doesn’t think Charlotte can last that long. I need a c-section.

11:15-11:23am – They prep me for surgery, then wheel me away into a brightly lit room full of scary equipment. I’m so thankful when Chris comes in and holds my hand as they stretch out my arms on either side of the operating table. I’m also thankful for my epidural, which allows me to stay awake through the procedure, until it hits me that I will be awake for the whole procedure. Worse, though the epidural removes pain, I can still feel movement and pressure. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, then squeeze my husband’s hand for all I’m worth as they begin.

11:27am – “You were expecting a girl, right?” the anesthesiologist asks us as the doctor holds up our sweet baby over the sheet. Chris and I look at each other and cry as they move Charlotte onto the warmer and start to clean her up. I can feel tugging and pressure on my belly, so I know they are probably removing the placenta and getting ready to close me up. We don’t hear the lusty cries of our baby, but we can hear her making sounds.

11:30-12:30pm – They finally finished closing me up (Chris followed Charlotte to the nursery, while I lay on the table, feeling my stomach being stretched, pulled, and stitched back together.) They removed the epidural, but gave me a shot of something else, which had me feeling quite calm for my stay in recovery.

12:35pm – They wheel me to my new room, stopping by the nursery on the way where I catch a glimpse of my baby through the glass. I have the strange feeling that I didn’t give birth at all, and long for the moment when I can hold my baby in my arms finally and feel like she’s really mine. I had no idea how long that would be.

To be continued…

 

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List of COMPLETED Nursery Projects!

March 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm (baby)

I realize that I probably should have posted a list of nursery projects to do before showing you the completed results, but I got so busy working on projects that I never got around to blogging about them. Oh well…I’ll start with some pics of the completed nursery first, then give you some close-ups and descriptions of the individual DIY crafts that I made (Pinterest…it’s a blessing and a curse).

The wall color is green, though it’s hard to tell in the pictures. I wanted lots of bright splashes of color instead of the typical pastels you see in most nurseries. My theme was pink, green, and owls – lots of owls. I found this fabric at Hobby Lobby that I ended up designing around. Mom made the curtains, bench cushions, and crib skirt that really give the room great impact. Here are the projects I added:

1. Fabric-covered lampshades – this is a super easy way to add color and pattern without having to sew. You can buy the lampshades at Hobby Lobby. You just peel the label off the shade, revealing the sticky side. Using the label as a pattern, cut the fabric then stick it to the shade. I used hot glue to seal the side seam, top and and bottom to the inside of the shade.

I used my inspiration fabric on this shade, and a bright pink gingham on the other with a green ribbon trim.

2. Felt owl mobile – I picked out all the felt colors at Hobby Lobby (I really should get some sort of endorsement fee) and used a Christmas ornament pattern I found on Pinterest. After I cut out all the pieces I glued the wings, beak, feathers, etc. onto the front owl shape, then whip-stitched the front and back together. It was super easy…I did the stitching in the doctor’s office while I waited through the dreaded 3 hour glucose test (I was borderline on the first test, so I had to go back and get my blood drawn 4 MORE TIMES. Thankfully it was negative that time around, but what a pain!)

I attached the owls to a wooden embroidery hoop with ribbon, and my wonderful husband mounted the whole thing from a hook he put in the ceiling.

3. Tree branch mural – I’d seen pictures of nurseries with lovely tree murals behind the crib, and I just had to have one! I looked for the decal murals, but found them to be awfully expensive. I also read that they don’t stick very well to textured walls. Ours our very textured. I didn’t want to spend big bucks on something that would just fall off the wall when the seasons changed (I deal with that enough in my classroom). So, with my mother-in-law’s encouragement, I decided to paint it myself. I chalked the basic outline of the branch on the the wall (I highly recommend using chalk, since it’s easy to rub off if you make a mistake, and was completely covered by the paint). I made different sized stencils for the leaves, and traced them with chalk as well. My sweet hubby helped me trace over everything with paint…we just used some leftover white glossy wall paint we had from touching up the trim. We ended up doing two coats, but I’m so happy with the results. It was just the subtle effect I wanted, at a fraction of the cost of a decal!

It’s really much prettier in person…the green of the wall is a really nice contrast to the soft white, which also stands out above the dark wood crib.

4.Ribbon frame – I had so many pretty hair ribbons given to me, and it seemed such a shame to just hide them away in a drawer, so I took this idea (also from Pinterest) and ran with it. I found the frame for 1/2 off at (where else) Hobby Lobby, and had Chris spray paint it a soft pink (he was such a trooper…it took about 4 coats in some seriously windy conditions, but it came out great!) Then I just hot glued ribbons to the back in even rows. Tah-dah! One of the easiest projects I did, and so pretty and functional!

5. Canvas art for about the changing table – I was pretty nervous to attempt this, but I just couldn’t find any owl art that I liked in the right colors. So I took a deep breath and decided to paint some myself. I made templates on cardstock first using a straight edge, oval stencils from my scrapbooking supplies, and a compass borrowed from the math teacher at school for the circles. Once I was happy with each design I copied it onto the canvasses in pencil. Then the hard part…filling in with actual paint! I didn’t make too many mistakes, and I used water-based acrylic so I was able to wipe off a goof pretty easily. After the paint was dry I went back and traced out each design with a black paint pen, which definitely made all the difference in making each piece look finished. I just love the results…and am pretty proud of my artistic ability too! (who knew?) ๐Ÿ™‚

I love them all, but the sleeping owl is my favorite. ๐Ÿ™‚

6. Fabric mounted in embroidery hoops – I wanted some more color on the walls, and found this idea (on Pinterest, where else) that I thought would look really good over the glider. I just bought a bunch of different sized wooded embroidery hoops (these are really cheap by the way, from about fifty cents to three dollars) and picked out some coordinating fabric. I used some of the owl fabric and gingham left over from the curtains, but added a bunch of other prints to make it more interesting. I cut the fabric to fit each hoop, then glued the excess down with my trusty hot glue gun. My marvelous husband helped me hang them in a random pattern on the wall. I think the effect is warm and homey, without looking too grandma’s attic, thanks to the bold prints I chose.

7. Baby quilt for the crib – after I finished the embroidery hoop art I still had lots of fabric left over. It seem a shame to waste it, so I thought, I know, I’ll make a quilt! No, I’ve never quilted anything before in my life. No, I haven’t even made a simple blanket. Yes, I’m insane. I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head, so I found a blog that gave me step-by-step directions and decided to just go for it. Cutting out the squares and piecing the top definitely took the longest amount of time, but once that was finished I was able to baste, quilt, and bind it all in a day (a very loooong day, but hey, that’s what Spring Break is for, right?) It’s far from perfect, but for my first attempt, by myself, with directions given in a blog, I’m pretty happy with the results. I can just picture Charlotte laying on this quilt for tummy time as a baby, then dragging it around with her as a toddler. I hope she loves it to pieces! ๐Ÿ™‚

So there you have it…the nursery is complete! It looks much better in person, as I’ve said, so I hope you can all come pay us a visit to see it for yourself. I can’t wait to introduce Charlotte to all of you! In my next post I plan on showing you how I organized the nursery…we’ll see how long it stays this way, but I think it’s a good start anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Accomplishment #10: Cabin getaway with Hubby

December 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm (baby, List of 30, Vacation, Winter)

I’m a bit late posting this, since we went over my birthday weekend at the beginning of December, but I really want to write about the fantastic time we had. We stayed in a private cabin at the Big Cedar Lodge Resort in Branson, MO. The cabin was everything I’d wanted…rustic wood floors, log walls with wide chinking, stone wood-burning fireplace, huge back deck…it even had a gorgeously decorated Christmas tree, and lights outlining the entire outside!

This trip had a dual purpose – my birthday celebration (crossing the last item off my 30 at 30 list before I turned 31) and a mini-babymoon. Since we’d already done two big vacations this year, we decided that instead of taking a long trip somewhere before baby comes, we’d just do a quick weekend getaway. It was perfect. I highly recommend it to all of you expectant parents out there who can…taking just a few days away, driving a short distance, and staying in a beautiful place…the perfect celebration of baby coming and free time becoming less…well, free. Some of the highlights of this trip:

– fire in the fireplace

We had planned to take a wagon ride around the resort to admire their intricate light displays the first night we got there, but with rain pouring down and everything sopping wet, the ride was cancelled. I was a little disappointed, but our evening ended up being much better than riding around in a cold, wet wagon would have been. Thanks to my highly capable, eagle-scout husband, we had a fire blazing in our fireplace in no time. Nothing like cuddling on the couch in front of a roaring fire to make you feel all warm and toasty…inside and out!

– Putting together a puzzle

It was very chilly and damp the next day of our stay too, but fortunately we had come prepared for indoor amusement. In the morning we went Christmas shopping (though we ended up with more baby clothes than gifts…oh well, merry Christmas little one!). After we’d gotten sufficiently chilled and worn-out, we holed up in our cabin for the rest of the afternoon. We’d brought a Disney puzzle to do, which we spread out over the dining room table and spend the afternoon piecing together. I love a good jigsaw puzzle, and this one was not too big or too hard…it was full of familiar Disney characters which were easy to recognize and fit in place. I played my “show-tunes” mix (coincidentally full of songs like “Be Our Guest” and “Under the Sea”), a perfect accompaniment to the activity. We were able to finish it that day, which of course is important to me. I just wouldn’t have felt right about putting a half-done puzzle back in the box. ๐Ÿ™‚ (yes, there’s that “completer drive” rearing its ugly head)

-Massage at the Carriage House Spa

This is the third time Chris and I have indulged in massages. Not everyone likes them, but I’ve found nothing better for relaxation and to smooth out all the tension I carry (not sure why I’m so tense…until I remember that I deal with hormonal 7th graders on a daily basis…oh yeah, that’s why I have knots the size of golf balls in my shoulder muscles). If you’ve never tried one I think you should…especially if you have stress in your life (and who doesn’t these days?)

Isn’t the building picturesque?

– Snowflakes falling as we left

Now, most of you know that I am not a fan of snow. After living through ten winters in the Colorado foothills I’ve seen enough of the white stuff to last a lifetime. However, there is something beautiful and magical about watching snow drift down around you in December…it just set the perfect tone for the end of my birthday celebration and the start of the Christmas season. Thankfully all it did was flurry for a bit…nothing stuck. Driving home from Branson with snow on the road would not have been a pleasant way to end our getaway! (You think Colorado roads are windy…Ozark roads could give them a run for their money. And there is no highway from NW Arkansas to Branson, so you have to take tiny back roads the whole way. It makes for quite the adventure, but not one I would enjoy with slick roads and white-out conditions).

Lesson learned from this trip? Sometimes a quick getaway for the weekend is just as special and memorable as a week in an exotic resort…and much easier to afford! ๐Ÿ™‚

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List of 30 at 30: Accomplished!!

December 8, 2011 at 3:20 am (List of 30) ()

Here it is, the completed list, with notations of course! It is with a great sense of accomplishment that I view all these crossed off items (all my fellow list-makers know just what I mean!) =)

~ Time Well-Spent~

1. Start a blog (have I ever mentioned that sometimes I write things down on a list that I’ve already done, just so I can cross them off?)

2. Go for a long bike ride (once I air up my very flat tires. This goal will be easier now that we own an SUV) Accomplished 1/29/11 in Broken Arrow with my dad, brother, and husband. Happy birthday Daddy! (We surprised him with a visit the weekend before)

3. Find and hike that pretty trail in Devil’s Den that I walked with the CCF youth group (Anybody know which one it is? I remember it followed a creek and went under a rock overhang) Accomplished (sort of) sometime in October…that was a crazy month, so I never managed to blog about this accomplishment. We actually went hiking a couple of times in Devil’s Den…beautiful hikes. However, I never found that elusive trail that I had been looking for. A few weeks ago I was going through some old pictures and found the one of the youth group hiking trip. I could just barely make out the name of the trail on the sign behind us. Lost Valley Trail. Huh. Turns out it wasn’t in Devil’s Den after all. Oh well…guess we’ll just have to plan trip to Lost Valley for this spring…make that next fall. =)

4. Find an enjoyable summer job or volunteer position (part-time of course) I’m going to count this accomplished…though not maybe in the traditional sense. It turned out that once we got back from our fabulous CA trip, I only had 4 short weeks of summer break left (thanks to 10 snow days and school starting a week earlier this year). I ended up employing myself by finding and training our new dog, Elphie. If you’ve never adopted a dog, trust me…it definitely counts as a job (and not a part-time one either)!

5. Complete that unfinished cross-stitch that has sat at the bottom of my craft drawer for the better part of 5 years now accomplished the beginning of June – when I was sitting around, enjoying having too much time on my hands =) I gave it to my mom as her birthday present this year.

~Travel~

6. Take my husband on the Peter Pan ride in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World (as well as all my other favorite rides…Pirates of the Caribbean, Soarin’, Thunder Mountain…etc. This is my official 30th birthday celebration – we’re going for Spring Break)ย  accomplished 3/20-3/26 during our fabulous Disney Extravaganza!

7. Hike the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park (Again…but for the first time with Chris!) accomplished 6/24 during our California Adventure!

8. Take a tour of a Napa Valley Winery (I really wanted to put “take a hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley”, but that may be wishful thinking) accomplished 6/21 at a winery in Carmel Valley. So it wasn’t quite Napa…but the over-all experience was far superior I think!

9. Create a travel photo album of all the places Chris and I have visited so far another summer project I completed just before school started…I’m so happy with the way it turned out! Thanks Shutterfly! Now if only I could get them to sponsor my blog…

10. Find a close cabin destination as our go-to place for quick getaways Accomplished December 3-5. Our getaway to Big Cedar Lodge doubled as a short babymoon…I highly recommend it!

~Relationships~

11. Write 5 personal emails to friends I’ve lost touch with (since Facebook stalking doesn’t really count as staying in-touch) accomplished just a few weeks ago. I actually ended up calling a few of the friends instead of writing, but I figured that was even better, so I should get extra credit! Most memorably, after emailing a childhood friend that I had lost touch with (she’s not on facebook =)) she emailed me back to say that she is married! I hadn’t even known she was engaged! Amazing what information a little typing can turn up! Speaking of which, I really need to write her back…

12. Spend an afternoon (or at least a few hours somehow) with my brother accomplished in October…sometime (I really should have written these dates down) He spent the weekend with us. We had such a fantastic time…we went on a hike, took him to our Mosaic church service (which he really enjoyed) and treated him to dinner out! It was great to spend some time with just him and us. We’ve also instituted a weekly phone call, so we don’t get too out of touch!

13. Take my mother-in-law out to lunch, just the two of us accomplished 7/20…we went to the Crumpet Tea Room, and enjoyed a wonderful long chat about anything and everything!

14. Take my mom on a shopping trip/girls’ getaway accomplished Labor Day weekend…she went with me to see my cousin in Little Rock. My aunt and uncle met us there too. We had such a great time…especially since my cousin Amy had just found out she was having a little girl, and I had just found out I was pregnant! It was so much fun to be able to share our news in person, and Mom was so excited to tell my aunt (already a grandma of 2 with another on the way) that she was going to be a grandma too!

15. Plan a backyard picnic for Chris and me accomplished 7/19 – the perfect way to celebrate our 2nd anniversary!

~Organization~ (yes, there are still a few things in my life that aren’t as well-ordered as I’d like…)

16. Go through my music collection on my computer to weed-out duplicates and embarrassing songs, and somehow put them into a logical order in playlists accomplished over the course of 3 consecutive snow days(2/9-2/11, aka The Snow Event of ’11)…at least I did something productive!

17. Clean out and organize the garage (one of the few items left on my to-do list from last summer) My dear husband checked this one off the list for me…thanks honey! The garage looks great!

18. Re-organize my file cabinet at school…again accomplished the first week of August…just in time for school to begin!

19. Print/copy/organize all my recipes, new and old accomplished 7/19…though I think this will be an ongoing process, but at least I have a framework now

20. Reorganize and find a storage solution for our ever-expanding collection of DVDs still not complete to my satisfaction, but at least they’re all in alphabetical order ๐Ÿ™‚

~Education~

21. Read 3 adult literature books (since I’m now in my 3rd decade, maybe I should read a few things outside of the YA genre) accomplished before the end of June. My picks were The Help, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and Lady with the Dragon Tattoo. I loved the first two, but the other was just too graphic and disturbing. It drove me back to rereading my favorite series by Elizabeth Peters…nothing like a good murder mystery mixed with Egyptology and a healthy dose of romance to clean the palate after an unsavory book!

22. Read 6 non-fiction books about God and/or marriage (because again, non-fiction isn’t exactly my go-to shelf) the books I chose were When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper, Because the Time is Near (a commentary on Revelation) by John MacArthur, The DNA of Relationships by Greg Smalley, Love and War by John and Staci Eldridge, Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, and Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo (okay, so that last one is kind of weak…but it was very interesting!)

23. Read 3 professional books – okay, again I’m stretching on this one. I had planned to read some professional teaching books this summer (didn’t happen) then this school year. Funny how priorities change though…instead of reading books about my current career, I found myself instead reaching for books about my upcoming career – that is, motherhood. I have What to Expect when you’re Expecting, On Becoming Babywise, and a pregnancy journal all sitting on my nightstand right now. I’m going to count them.

24. Study the new Language Arts frameworks (because I’m so looking forward to re-writing my lesson plans for the year…again) accomplished in Searcy during my second 3 day training in August for Lit Lab. Whew.

25. Write new general lesson plans based on the new Language Arts frameworks (this was too big to leave as only on item) also accomplished during my Lit Lab training. I was paying attention too, I promise!

~New Experiences~

26. Order a dish that I’ve never tried before, but seen on Food Network (in an effort to become more than just a wannabe foodie…) accomplished several times over, in both Orlando and California. The dishes included seared scallop (delicious!), escargot, shallots (which I’ve also learned to cook with), and several fancy sauces that I don’t remember the names of but were absolutely delectable!

27. Cook 12 new recipes (yep, 12…I figure I can average 1 a month, or at least do some experimenting this summer) accomplished pretty much on track…my last recipe was a yummy bacon, potato, and corn chowder! Definitely will be repeating that one!

28. Get a dog (yes Joe, you read right…but remember I have a whole year to do this, so no surprising me with a puppy for Christmas) accomplished 7/18 – still working on helping Elphy adjust to the family, but she’s just cute as a bug and super sweet!

29. Try a Zumba class (though I doubt that my classical ballet training will do me any good at all) accomplished 7/6…I loved it! I kept going up until the start of school, finding out I was pregnant, and dropping into a dead sleep every afternoon instead. I was right…ballet did not help me learn how to move my hips that way.

30. Catch fireflies in a jar (never got this experience as a child growing up in CA and CO…and it’s never too late, right?) Accomplished just before school started…we took Elphie on a walk down a trail by the river. I must say, I think I prefer watching them to catching them. Once I got them in the jar they stopped lighting up. I guess I should have known (insert deep life-lesson here).

So that’s it…30 goals, accomplished while I was 30! I didn’t get to blog about all of them, but I did finish it! Where’s my 31 at 31 list you may ask? Well, I think I’m going to take a break, though my husband has expressed interest in making a “family adventure” list for next year…check back after New Years and I’ll let you know!

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List of Changes

November 2, 2011 at 10:58 pm (baby)

It’s been a little while. Okay, a long while. Fine, three months. “You have excuses, but I have my reasons” as the song goes. Most of the reasons I’ve neglected this blog have to do with the adjustments that came with the start of a new school year. I’d gotten so comfortable in my summer routine that fall hit me like a shock-wave, and took me longer than usual to find my footing. The switch seemed a bit more dramatic than usual because of all the changes involved. Here is a list of the many changes this school year brought with it.

1. A new principal

Our very excellent chief of operations at my school received a promotion at the end of last school year, and a new administrator started this fall. Our new principal is a woman, and she’s wonderful. She’s full of passion and great ideas and excitement and a fresh perspective. But as anyone knows, change is hard. Mrs. A’s administrative style is very much opposite to Dr. H’s leadership norms, and she has definitely “upset the apple cart” (in the best way possible) and all the teachers are scrambling a bit to get ourselves adjusted to her way of thinking and doing. The first few days of school were a bit more chaotic and stress-filled than usual, but of course it came out all right in the end. We’re still facing new hurdles and directional switched constantly, but hey, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? We wouldn’t want to be stuck in a rut. No danger of that now! ๐Ÿ™‚

2. A new team member

For some reason the Social Studies position on our team is a bit like Defense Against the Dark Arts (for those of you who are not Potter fans, the professor who taught that course at Hogwarts never stayed more than a year). We’re on our third teacher in as many years. Mr. M is fresh out of college (JBU, so a point in his favor) and is definitely being thrown into the deep end. We’ve tried our best to get him up to speed, and he’s a fast learner (fortunately) but since we’re all a little off-balance these days it’s a bit like the blind leading the blind. He’s really doing a great job though, and it’s been a strange but fun twist to be the “voice of experience,” when I’m used to always being the youngest member of the team. It’s crazy, but doing the math leads me to the inevitable conclusion that this is actually my 10th year of teaching. How time has flown!

3. A new addition to the family

Nope, not just taking about the puppy (though she has brought her own set of challenges to my schedule). Everyone winkedย  at us when we said we were getting a dog, commenting in an all-knowing way, “oh that’s the first step.” Sure enough. Baby Baran is officially on the way! Chris and I are expecting him or her to arrive somewhere around April 18th. It’s perfect timing really. I’m due just a week after our big state testing is over (all my teacher friends just shuddered) and, thanks to an earlier start to this school year, should be able to finish the last six weeks of school out on maternity leave, coasting gracefully into summer. For my mathematically minded readers who are counting back, yes, I did find out right around the beginning of school. The first day, actually. Hence my additional befuddlement and distraction at the start of the school year. This was also the main cause of my “dead air time” on this blog…I found it impossible to compose anything without referring to this monumental (ha!) life change. Chris and I agreed not to make it public knowledge or post it to facebook until after the first trimester was safely behind us, so I had to wait at least that long before writing about it. But as the twelve week milestone came and went, I still felt reluctant it pick up my pen (figuratively speaking of course). I felt like it had been too long. I didn’t know what to say. I was to exhausted and sick in the afternoons to do anything but lie on the couch and watch Buffy reruns and HGTV. But there’s no time like the present, and since I’m finally starting to feel better (knock on wood) I decided to tackle this task that I’ve put off for way too long. Most of you probably already know our big news, but for those who haven’t heard yet, I hope you didn’t mind reading about it here. Hey, it’s better than posting it directly to facebook, right? And now for the FAQs:

– yes, we are going to find out the baby’s gender, but I won’t be far enough along until right before Thanksgiving. Don’t worry, that will definitely go on facebook ASAP!

– No, we don’t have names picked out yet, though thanks to my years of teaching I have an extensive list of NO WAYs (I won’t post any, for fear of offending, but I definitely have had some bad experiences with students who will forever taint certain names)

– I haven’t decided yet if I will stay home with the baby or not. I’m leaning toward yes, but I don’t want to make the final decision just yet. Thankfully I have plenty of time to decide. Chris is super supportive either way, and I’m so thankful that I am able to make the decision and not be forced to go one way or the other.

– We haven’t started the nursery yet (waiting until we find out girl or boy) but we have definitely started cleaning out closets and shifting furniture around. We’re consolidating the office and guest room into one room…we’ll see how it goes. I’ll post pictures of course.

– No, I don’t have any belly pics yet. I’m at that awkward stage where my “normal” clothes don’t fit any more, but maternity still feels a bit like overkill. I look more like I’ve been hitting the Oreos to often than like I’m carrying a baby, but hopefully that will change soon and I’ll start to look pregnant instead of just like I’ve been going overboard at the all-you-can-eat buffet. There will be some pictures Monday however. Strangely enough, there are 5 of us at my school who are expecting this spring. One is due a month before me and one a month after, and the other three are due within a week of each other! Should be interesting to see who wins the final delivery race :). We’re taking the first “baby club” picture Monday, with monthly pics after that. Should be a fun way to document our “progress,” especially as each baby belly is replaced with a babe in arms!

I will try not to go so long before I post again. Now that the secret’s out, I think it will be easier for me to generate topics. Look for the upcoming posts: List of Baby Items I May or May Not Need, List of Names I Like But Chris Rejected (and vice versa), List of Foods I Can’t Seem to Stop Eating, and of course, List of Healthy Prenatal Habits I Should (but may not be) Doing

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Accomplishment #28: Meet Elphie!

July 28, 2011 at 8:09 pm (Uncategorized)

Crossing this item off my 30 at 30 list has definitely meant a big lifestyle change for us. Of course we knew getting a dog would mean added responsibility and certain restrictions to our freedom, and it certainly has had that effect. I must admit when it came right down to it, I was pretty nervous about assuming my position as “dog owner.” My family had dogs growing up, but feeding two huge outdoor dogs that had 30 acres to roam didn’t exactly prepare me to take care of a little house dog. Naturally I read every book I could find on the topic of dog care, dog adoption, and dog training, and watched multiple episodes of the Dog Whisperer, so by the middle of July I felt fairly prepared to take this step. Funny how the books make it seem so very easy…but I’m getting ahead of myself. First let me explain how we found the little addition to our family.

We’d talked about getting a dog this summer, so that I would be home with it for a few weeks to help it adjust and teach it the rules of the house. Unfortunately, what with vacations and birthdays and a wedding on our summer docket, we weren’t going to be able to start looking for a dog until close to the end of July. Not a whole lot of time, considering I start back at school the second week of August (this summer has been criminally shortened by snow make-up days and over eager administrators who decided to move up the first day of school). We didn’t want to get a dog until after Chris’s brother’s wedding, since we’d be gone practically that whole weekend, but I thought checking the newest listings on Petfinder wouldn’t hurt. How naive of me. As soon as I saw her picture and read her description I knew she was just what we were looking for. I saw the listing a week before the wedding.ย  I eagerly showed it to Chris, who gracefully agreed to let me call the shelter and let them know I was interested, but that we couldn’t come see her until after the coming weekend. When I called the next morning however, I was told that if I was really interested in her I’d have to come see her that day, since she was scheduled to be part of a convoy going up to a shelter in Minnesota the day after! Talk about pressure! Chris and I hadn’t even looked at any dogs at all yet! I ended up dashing off an application that morning (a couple of my friends were very surprised to receive reference calls, asking whether they thought I would be a good pet owner) and going to Siloam Springs to see her that afternoon. She was cute as a button, very laid-back, and walked perfectly on a leash. I was in love, but I didn’t want to make any decisions before Chris met her. The shelter’s manager (who happened to be my former partner teacher’s son-in-law…gotta love small towns) graciously suggested that I come back in the morning and take her home with me for the day so my husband could meet her (Siloam is a 45 minute drive, and Chris didn’t feel it would be appropriate to take off work in order meet a potential pet). When I brought her home Chris agreed that she was exactly what we wanted…small, submissive, out of the puppy stage but still young…so when I took her back that afternoon I went ahead and signed the adoption papers. I couldn’t bring her home until she had been spayed, however, which worked out for the best, because we were able to schedule the procedure for the Monday after the wedding. I made yet another trip to Siloam, and brought her home for good!

We decided to name her Elphaba, after our favorite musical character (if you haven’t seen Wicked yet, you really should get on that) and call her Elphie for short. She’s a yorkie/dachshund mix, with the yorkie’s fur and the dachshund’s body. Her legs are longer than a typical dachshund’s but she still has the walk (as my friend Mysti says, she prances). She’s pretty mellow and very affectionate. She loves people but doesn’t seem too interested in other dogs (when we’re out on our walks she pretty much ignores any barking she hears). She’s also very quiet…she doesn’t really bark at all, though she does whine (more on that in a minute) and makes a horrible rasping, wheezing coughing noise that sounds like she’s about to hack up a lung, or possibly a hairball.

Let me just say that there are a few things about dog ownership the books don’t really prepare you for. Here’s a list of unexpected issues we’ve dealt with so far:

1. Not all dogs can be crate trained

All the books recommended crate training as the best and easiest method for housebreaking a dog. Since Elphie was a stray and we didn’t know if she’d been trained or not, we planned to play it safe and train her from scratch, using the crating method. Elphie detests her crate. When we put her inside, no matter how calm she is and how “calm-assertive” we are beforehand, she starts whining, yelping, pulling at the door with her teeth and digging at the floor. Of course the books also recommend taking several days to let the dog get used to the crate and make sure the dog will go in on its own, but that’s not really possible at 12:30am when the dog is destroying the laundry room and making so much noise we can’t possibly sleep. We resorted to putting her crate in the office, closing all the doors between us and her so that I couldn’t hear her whining anymore because it kept me awake (I always thought I’d have no problem letting my baby “cry it out” when necessary…now I have serious doubts). That only lasted a couple of days before we decided to let her sleep in our room on a blanket next to the bed. She doesn’t sleep on the bed with us…although I do recall waking up in the middle of the night and the blanket over my feet feeling suspiciously heavy.

2. Not all dogs will go the bathroom in the backyard

Elphie really only does her business when we walk her. I learned this the hard way. The first day we got her I took her out to our lovely, fenced-in backyard every hour or so, but the only thing she’d do was look look around and then lay down. When she had her first accident on the carpet about 10 minutes after a fruitless trip to the yard, I decided we’d try walking instead. Sure enough, no problems (except for when I failed to notice the signs that she wanted to go out, so she calmly squatted right in front of the backdoor. I learned my lesson). Of course we’ve been having a record breaking heat spell, so walking two or thee times in the middle of the day is pretty miserable, but at least I don’t have to clean up the carpet every few hours. What will happen during rainstorms or in the cold and snow of winter…well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. The up-side is that we will be forced to get more exercise, so that’s good, right?

3. You conform to the dog’s timetable, not the other way around.

I guess I knew this one…but nothing brings it home like a restless dog waking you up at 5:45am during your summer vacation so that she can go for a mile and a half walk, after which she settles back into restful slumber. Of course you are too awake at that point to go back to bed. Our mornings are beginning much earlier these days, but I decided that’s all to the good, since I’ll have to be up that early in a couple weeks anyway. I have a feeling my husband, who will have to take over the morning walks once school starts, will have a more difficult time adjusting.

There will be many more additions to the List of Things I Never Knew About Owning a Dog in the near future I am sure. Until then, I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures that may explain why, despite the loss of free time and added inconvenience, I’m so very happy to now own a dog.

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List of California Memories: Part 2

July 11, 2011 at 8:47 pm (List of 30, Vacation)

Yosemite! If you have never been to this first and most beautiful of all our national parks, you must add it to your bucket list immediately! You simply can’t understand how much beauty is packed into such a small space without experiencing it for yourself. Growing up in California, my family spent many a summer vacation camped underneath the magnificent granite domes that ring Yosemite Valley. I have an odd connection to the place, almost like it’s my personal park. I was so excited to be able to share this special place of mine with my husband. You may have heard that Yosemite had a very late winter this year, and because of all the run-off the water levels are at record highs. This made for some breathtaking views, and one death-defying adventure!

Unforgettable: Seeing water pour down the face of a granite cliff, wind causing the spray to billow and explain its apt name: Bridal Veil Falls.

Less memorable: Waiting for a good 10 minutes for someone to leave the parking lot in order to get a spot, then hike to the the falls only to be turned back by the force of the spray. Normally the spray is nothing more than a refreshing mist – now to get to the foot of the falls means passing through a drenching sheet of water! We contented ourselves with pictures taken from afar.

Unforgettable: Returning to the falls at dusk, when the parking lot was empty and the falls glowed softly against the darkening sky…it was a sight I will never forget.

Unforgettable: Hiking through Mariposa Grove, dwarfed by Giant Sequoias so enormous they seemed like alien trees, grown on another planet then teleported here for us to wonder at. Pictures just cannot do the trees justice…but I’ll describe them in more detail in my upcoming List of my Favorite Trees.

Less memorable: Realizing that when we set out to find the Faithful Couple (my favorite trees) we had somehow made a wrong turn and ending up back at the parking lot. After refreshing ourselves with crackers and caffeine, Chris sweetly gave in to my plea to try again. We did…adding another couple of miles to our already tired feet and legs. Thankfully we made it to the trees and then back in time to catch the next to last shuttle returning to where we parked at Wawona. That 5 mile hike back would have been a bit beyond our limits I think!

Unforgettable: Hiking to the top of Vernal Falls via the Mist Trial, thus accomplishing #7 on my list of 30 at 30. I’ve done this hike a couple times before…once when I was six or seven, and once when I was twenty-one. I remembered it being pretty strenuous, but well-worth the effort. I neglected to factor in the effect altitude and a few years would have on my endurance. The beginning of the trail is pretty much straight up…I had to stop more frequently than I’d like to admit…but we made it to the bridge and our first view of the falls.

This was when I felt my first quiver of uneasiness. I had never seen falls so full. The water literally thundered downward, sending a plume of water shooting upward and blowing over the path that we were going to take. We were determined, however, so we donned the ponchos we had purchased for $1.50 at the gift shop that morning and began the ascent. I don’t know what to compare it to. Trying to walk upstairs when there’s a fire hose at the top spraying down at you? Our ponchos were approximately as much help as a water gun would be in the middle of a forest fire. True, they kept the cameras dry, but there was no way to keep the hood from blowing off my head or water from seeping down the front of me. Add to this the challenge of walking up widely placed, roughly made granite steps that were also being drenched with water, so that a river ran down them as we climbed up them, and you can see why this became less a strenuous hike and more a death-defying endurance test. At one point I looked back at Chris and yelled over the water, “Are you sure you want to keep going?” He yelled back, “We’ve made it this far!”

We did make it to the top, a peaceful haven of sunshine where we were able to eat lunch and dry out. The only fly in the ointment (besides the scads of other hikers) was the annoying persistence of the squirrels. Emboldened by stupid tourists who ignored posted warnings and fed the little buggers, they were determined to come right up to us and snatch the food from our hands! Nothing really worked until I started barking at them. Chris shakes his head, but I’m convinced that it was a very effect way to scare them off. Of course after our rest, there was only one thing to do…hike back down. I don’t like to think about that experience. Suffice it to say we made it, legs shaking, back to level ground. We both felt the same sense of accomplishment that triathletes must…but without the desire to repeat the activity any time soon!

Unforgettable: Gazing at the magnificent monolith, El Capitan, from all different angles as we followed the road around it. We even came to some people with telescopes trained on the rock who were watching some climbers. They gracefully allowed me to look through the lens and watch the guy for a minute. We found out that there were two guys, and that they were at day 5 of a 10 day continuous ascent! Yes, they were literally “hanging out” on the rock, spending the night bolted to the cliff! I admire dedication to one’s sport, but that’s taking things a bit far!

Less memorable: Getting stuck in terrible traffic on the “El Cap” shuttle as it headed back into the valley. I’ve never seen so many cars just sitting there! It was by now after 6:00pm on Saturday, and I could only assume all of these people were planning on camping for the night. Where they thought they would go I have no idea…as far as we saw all the campgrounds were full. We finally got out, apologizing to the bus driver to regretfully said he had one more run to do, and walked back to the valley.

I haven’t even mentioned the food! We treated ourselves to dinner at the Ahwahnee Hotel, a five star restaurant in the middle of rustic splendor. We knew there was a dress code so we dressed up, but poor Chris had nothing to wear on his feet except flip-flops, since his hiking boots had been soaked in our early excursion on the Mist Trail. Thankfully the hostess overlooked this breach of protocol and seated us anyway.

The food was divine, of course, but for the most scenic vista I would have to cite our table the next night at the Mountain Room, the restaurant at Yosemite Lodge, where we had a spectacular view of Yosemite Falls. The perfect end to the perfect trip to my personal paradise.

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