Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I started to write a lovely, heartfelt Christmas post, but it proved to be too difficult a task for this tired mama. The good news is my sweet husband got me a digital camera for Christmas (he must read my blog), so I can now start posting better quality photos. Yay! It's also exciting because I love practicing photography, but using a film camera makes learning a little more difficult. Especially since I take so long to get film developed. Anyway, for now I'm just going to try to catch up on some rest that my one-month-old didn't let me get last night. I hope you are all enjoying your families on this wonderful holiday. I wish you all lots of love!

My Christmas Cuties!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nine Semi-Holiday and Baby Related Thoughts

1)      My baby’s name is Abram, not Abraham. I don’t understand what’s so hard about that.

2)      "Beebra", however, is still an awesome nickname. But it’s not Hannah using it now…she always refers to him by name or as “Baby Brother.” (It’s almost as though she realized he was a real person once he emerged from my tummy.) Her parents, on the other hand…well, we’ve always had a thing about silly nicknames. We used to call Hannah “Kabookie” for no good reason. We're weird.
3)      Having so much new responsibility at this time of year makes you feel like you’re missing out a little. Christmas will be here and gone before I know it. I don’t have time or energy to bake cookies, cook a big meal, go shopping, or do much else that I would normally be doing, but on the plus side, it forces me to slow down and relax. And I probably won’t get many other opportunities to just hang out with my babies. (Although “hang out” =  feeding, changing diapers, entertaining the toddler, and somewhat managing the household)

4)      My Christmas cards are going out ridiculously late. If I manage to get them out at all.

family christmas card

My kids sure are adorable though.

5)      I have a fantastic film camera, but I am not very timely when it comes to getting film developed. One day we will get a digital SLR, and I will stop posting so many photos from our phones. And one day we will get professional photos done to put on our Christmas cards.

6)      Sleep deprivation makes you silly. And it makes you nearly incapable of putting together a coherent blog post, or even an articulate sentence in most cases. Are you even understanding any of this?

7)      I wish I were as cool as The Pioneer Woman. And I want her to come make us prime rib and duchess potatoes for Christmas dinner.

8)      I can’t believe it’s nearly 2012. I feel like I just got through saying that I can’t believe it’s almost 2010. Start the countdown - Isn’t the world supposedly ending exactly one year from today?

9)      Did I mention I’m sleepy?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Abram's Birth Story

Best. Birth. Ever.

Okay, maybe not, because I didn’t experience one of those crazy “orgasmic” births that I’ve heard about (thank goodness – that’s a little too weird for me), but I really don’t think it could have gone any better!
I noticed the first contraction at 7:45 a.m. on Monday, November 28. I thought it was just one of those pesky Braxton Hicks contractions again, sent forth to get me all excited about nothing. Then I noticed another one at 8:00. And then 8:15.

Hmm…every 15 minutes, I thought. Well, that’s weird. They never did that before.
But they were completely painless. Absurdly painless. Not even uncomfortable. They continued like that all day. Hannah and I went to have lunch with Daddy. I told him not to get his hopes up because it was probably just a fluke…but maybe it meant it would happen in the next few days.

(I never experienced contractions like these on my own with the first labor. My water broke, and I ended up on Pitocin to speed things along. That’s why I seem so naïve/in denial in this story.) J
By suppertime the contractions were around 8 minutes apart and a little more noticeable, but I still wasn’t convinced that it was the real thing. (Yes, I know, I’m ridiculous.)

By bedtime we decided to get some sleep and figured if I really was in labor, things would probably pick up later in the night. The second I laid my head on my pillow, I had my first intense contraction. I had to breathe through it. Clint said, “I don’t think we’re going to get any sleep if you keep that up.”
They started coming about 4-5 minutes apart, and I finally called the midwife around 11:30 p.m. She was already at the birth center and said to come in whenever I was ready. We loaded up everything – including our poor, sleepy little Hannah – and arrived at the birth center at about 12:30 a.m. I hurried inside in between contractions and sat down just as one hit. The midwife said, “Oh wow, she’s serious.” (She had just sent someone home who’d had a false alarm.)

Our friend Jen met us there to keep an eye on Hannah, who by then was wired and totally excited about this middle-of-the-night adventure. They stayed in the waiting area, and Clint and I headed to the birthing suite. Turns out I was seven centimeters dilated. I was definitely having a baby, and soon.
Clint started filling the tub for me while I walked around a little and concentrated on breathing. I pictured Hannah’s face during each contraction, which actually really worked to take my focus off the pain. Meanwhile the midwife was running around like crazy while trying not to look like she was running around like crazy. A few times she called the nurse, who was on her way, and basically said, “Hurry.” I was excited because I knew I must be closer than I even realized.

Natural Birth Breathing Through Contractions
Sibling Love
By the time the tub was filled, the contractions were getting pretty painful. I labored in the tub for maybe twenty minutes and started feeling pressure. I had considered delivering in the tub, but by then I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t get into a comfortable position. I decided to move to the bed, and the nurse arrived just as it was time to push.
I’m glad that part doesn’t last very long. Talk about intense. I growled like a mama bear through several pushes, and then the midwife checked Abram’s heartbeat and said, “Okay, let’s get this baby out.” So I got serious.

One final, major push.

And then there he was. My son. He looked so much like his sister. I wondered what she would think of him. When she was brought to the room to meet him, she simply smiled and said, “Hi, Baby Brother.” I don’t think I’ve ever felt more blessed than at that moment.

I’m thrilled to have gotten the natural birth I wanted, but more importantly, I’m so thankful for such a smooth, uncomplicated labor and delivery. He’s here and beautiful, and we’re all healthy. I have nothing else on my Christmas wish list this year. Except a little extra sleep. ;)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two Years Old Today!

Early this morning I was nursing Abram and happened to glance over at the clock. It was 3:22 a.m. I realized that exactly two years ago I had just had another newborn placed on my chest. She was the sweetest little thing I’d ever seen.

How wonderful to be blessed with both of my children at Christmastime! I might be a little tired, I might not have the energy to do all I usually like to do during the holidays, and I might feel like these next few weeks are going by entirely too fast, but I am celebrating with great joy.
This is the season to rejoice, and today I’m rejoicing over the life of my little girl. Happy Birthday, Hannah! Thank you for being the blessing I always dreamed of and the best big sister a new baby boy could ever ask for.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

If you want to go into labor, just blog about how you haven't gone into labor...

if you want to go into labor

That's right, friends! I had a baby today. Abram Joseph entered our world at 1:20 a.m. this morning - 7 lbs, 15 oz (exactly a pound bigger than his sister at birth) and 20.5 inches long. It was the best labor and delivery I could have possibly imagined, and we are all doing great. Hannah is beyond thrilled to be a big sister! Thank you all for your prayers and well wishes!

And my darling husband Clint owes me a dollar (see previous post).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Birth Plan? Psh…What’s the Point?

I should have learned by now that expectations are nothing but mischievous little imps who sneak into your brain and somehow keep you convinced that your plans are always going to go according to plan. And then one day they release their spell and laugh at you as you realize the truth – life pretty much never happens the way you expect.

Throughout my first pregnancy I assumed that the baby would arrive late. After all, first time moms generally end up overdue, right? And the statistics say that only about 10 percent of moms experience their water breaking before going into labor. It usually doesn’t happen until somewhere in the middle.
Imagine my surprise when I woke up one morning at 38.5 weeks and felt a gush on the way to the bathroom.

So of course now that my due date is two days away, I realize I should not have foolishly believed that second babies arrive earlier than the first, and I probably should also let go of the hope that second labors are faster and easier than the first.
But you know what? I’m okay with the waiting and the not knowing. The anticipation is kind of exciting. The discomfort of pregnancy is not so exciting, but I know my little one will get here at just the right time. And in thinking back to some of my fondest memories, I realize that many of them are results of the unplanned. And that’s pretty awesome.

sweet little face
I loved the vacation this photo is from. We dealt with flu-like illnesses and getting snowed in on the trip back home, but it was such an adventure. I barely remember the inconveniences. What I mostly remember is this sweet face.

I hope to have a natural birth. I hope to be at the birth center and not the hospital. I hope for no complications. But what am I planning? For a healthy baby and a healthy mama. Let the rest of it keep me in suspense.
Not that I’m not anxious. There is definitely a lot of restlessness in my excitement. And don’t even get me started on the husband. This morning he told me he’d give me a dollar if I went into labor today.

I think I’ll hold out for at least fifty.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

In All Things

I’ve been trying to come up with a clever idea for a blog post for Thanksgiving, but it never really worked out for me. I’ve decided I’m just not that clever.  But I didn’t want to do the traditional list of things I’m thankful for because it always ends up sounding like everyone else’s lists… family, friends, health…you know, the usual. And also, I have much to be thankful for.

Then I got to thinking about what it means to be truly thankful. It’s so easy to be thankful for blessings, for the things that make our lives easier. The challenge is trying to see the value in the things that we see no reason to be thankful for.

The dirty dishes after the meal – The mess means you have friends and family to celebrate with.
The long lines in the stores during the holidays – They give you the opportunity to practice patience, and they show that families everywhere are taking the time out of their busy lives to celebrate too.

Those people in your life who let you down and disappoint you – They make you appreciate those who don’t, and more importantly, the God who never does.
The clothes that fit a little snug – They mean you have enough to eat. (Or you’re nine months pregnant) ;)

Each trial, every ache and pain, all of our woes – They mean we’re still alive and kicking…fighting the fight…running the race.
I would love to be someone who always gives thanks in all things, in all circumstances. But I’m not. It’s too easy to hold on to the stress. So this post is for me – a reminder to appreciate everything in my life, even the small things and even the hard things.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Building a Life in a Decade

So another ten-year milestone has come up – our dating anniversary!

Yep, tomorrow the hubby and I will have been together ten looooooong years. But the truth is it sure doesn’t feel like that long at all. It just feels right. And that feels good.

In honor of this exciting point on our timeline, I have put together a brief year-by-year playbook of the last decade.

First, it should be said that we were clearly family long before we actually became family:

It was meant to be.
And so here's how the story goes.

2001 – Senior prom. Couple of dates. Nothing serious.
Then I went off to college, and we missed each other lots. Got serious.
2002 – Smitten. Enough said.

2003 – Tough year. Lost a close friend. Had an incredibly strong man by my side through it all. Realized what a good thing I had. So glad the feeling was mutual! Proposal…on our dating anniversary. J

2004 – The time of our lives. Marriage, Caribbean honeymoon, Irish vacation!

Married on June 5th. Beautiful outdoor ceremony.
Adopted our first "child". GIANT mistake. :)

2005 – Year of the Big Move! Headed west.

2006 – Ups and downs. Opportunities. New house. Exploration.

2007 – The good life! Camping, travel, family fun!

2008 – Hardest one yet. Sorrow. Hardship. Made it out alive.

2009 – Best one yet. Bundle of joy.

2010 – Little girl grew. We grew…into some pretty amazing parents.

2011 – Baby boy expected. Sweet family. We’ve come so far.

As we’re looking forward to expanding our family again, I think back on all the obstacles, thrills, challenges, and surprises, and I’m so glad we’ve had each other through it all. Here’s to the next ten years and many more beyond!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Out of Control

You know the saying, “When it rains, it pours”?

That has pretty much been my life over the past several days.

It seems like it always begins with something minor, and you think, “Meh, that was kind of annoying, but I’m tough!”  And then it’s followed by one thing after another…and another.

The worst has been an unfortunate and stressful situation with a family member. I’m just having to distance myself because it’s a painful situation that I need to learn to let go of. I have to realize that I can’t control other people’s actions; I only have power over my own battles.  
Then I thought the kicker was Hannah coming down with a cold. Since her brother’s birth is quickly approaching, I’ve been saturating her in antibacterial hand sanitizer for the past few weeks in order to avoid illness, but apparently to no avail. Serves me right. Once again, I’ve been trying to control something that is ultimately out of my hands. I can’t help it that I have this vision of her meeting her brother for the first time, and holding him, and kissing him…and now I’m hoping he stays put for a while so she can get well first. But as we all know very well, birth timing is definitely something I have no control over.

And then Sunday night I pulled up to the drive thru, just wanting to grab a burger for my sick baby and get back home to her, and I became the victim of a hit and run. There was only minor damage to the car, but seriously, who smacks into someone’s vehicle and then just speeds off? It’s just more behavior that I can’t change, another circumstance out of my control.
I’m sensing a theme here. Life is full of the “out-of-control” moments. And I think they teach us to step back and say, “God, I know this is in your hands. Help me to let go.” It’s a lot easier to do when it’s just the little stuff. But when the big stuff comes along…well, I guess that’s when we can look back and truly be thankful for the preparation that the little stuff gave us.

I know I’m lucky. I’ve been blessed with an amazingly strong and faithful husband to lean on and a precious little family that brings the rainbow in the midst of the rain. I can only hope that I never have to face some of the “big stuff” that I fear, but at least I have the tools to do so.
moments that make it all worthwhile
And thank God for those sweet “out-of-control” moments that make it all worthwhile.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Toddlerisms: Praise the Lord! And the Cookie Monster!

Sometimes I really think I got blessed with the sweetest child on earth. Just like any toddler, she has her moments, but I’m so delighted by how loving and polite she is. I could go on and on about all the sweet things she does, but I’ll spare you the details and just concentrate on one of our favorites: prayer.

We pray every night at dinner, and she always joins in with her version, which consists of folding her hands, closing her eyes, and mumbling. She has now started repeating certain things that we say, so our dinner prayers go something like this:
“Dear God, thank you for this food…”

*mumble mumble* “Food…”
“…and thank you for bringing Daddy home safe…”

*mumble mumble mumble* “Daddy home…”
“and for keeping Hannah’s baby brother safe…”

“Baby…” *mumble* “Brutha…”
“In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”

So, so cute. But her prayer at church last Sunday takes the cake.

Since she loves music, we bring her downstairs from the nursery when it’s time for singing. (Plus everyone gets a kick out of her clapping and saying, “Yay!” after each song.)
Last week when the pastor started praying, she began her usual mumbling along with him. But at one point we heard some words that were clearly a very important part of her prayer.

*mumble mumble mumble* “Cookie Monster” *mumble mumble*
I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s good to know where her priorities are.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Very Special Day For Me

As most of you know, I just started blogging a couple of months ago, and it has been such a new and different experience for me. I was hesitant to start a blog since I have a tendency to be a very private person, but the more I thought about how important it is to build relationships in this life, the more I realized how great of an opportunity it could be.

When I'm browsing around on the Internet, the best articles I come across are the ones that are personal and moving, and that allow me to relate to a stranger in a way I never thought possible. That's what originally attracted me to blogging - the encouragement you receive when you find someone who has the same struggles, or the same dreams and desires.

This is why I'm thankful to have come across The Mommyhood Memos. Adriel writes about motherhood and raising little ones with such beauty and eloquence - I knew I had found something really special in her blog.

And today I'm so honored to be a guest blogger on her site - The First Year: Mama's Greatest Journey.

I hope you'll check it out and let me know what you think! And I hope you will all continue to join me in this beautifully complex journey we call life.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Newborn Alert!

Nope, he’s not here yet, but I’m starting to get super excited about meeting my son!

I can’t wait to see how his sister adores him. I can’t wait to hold a baby again and feel the soft skin and smell the sweet lotions. I can’t wait to watch his chest rise and fall as he sleeps and see him go through all the fun milestones.

Meanwhile I think I'm also trying to block out the tough stuff about having a new baby.

Apparently, newborns typically sleep up to 16-17 hours a day. I remember reading that while I was pregnant with Hannah and thinking, “Oh, that’s not so bad. I should be able to get a decent amount of sleep.”

HA! Ha HAH! Oh wow, I was naïve. Though I know it’s not entirely accurate, this is how I remember Hannah’s newborn days:

how often do babies sleep
This seems eerily similar to how the male brain works. (Ba-dum CHING!)
And then just when you think you can see the light at the end of the tunnel…WHAM! Here comes the four-month sleep regression that no one ever told you about. And teething. And the first fever. And growth spurts.
The good news is it’s all worth it. Now I’ve got this sweet, funny little person to show for all the hard work, and I’m about to get another one! He will most likely be quite different from Hannah in many ways, so it will be a whole new adventure.  A challenge, yes – but the most worthwhile one I could ever engage in.

So while I know there are going to be tough days, this time around I have the added benefit of actually knowing what to expect. Plus I’ll have Hannah to help me with diaper changes and spit-up laundry. Those aren’t unreasonable expectations for a two-year-old, right?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Life is Worth the Living

Sometimes I watch Hannah sleeping, and I can’t escape this tightness that forms in my chest. It makes me so sad to think that life won’t be like this forever. My little one is going to grow up, and although I’m so looking forward to watching her blossom, my heart aches over how quickly it’s all going to go by.

Now that we’ve reached November and her brother is expected to arrive this month, I can only think about how much faster it’s all going to go. There is so much that I hope comes true for each of them in this life, but if I could tell them my hopes and dreams right now, my message could be summed up like this:

I don’t care how successful you are according to the world’s standards. The world’s point of view is constantly changing and consistently wrong. This is why you will face heartache and pain, confusion and despair, but sometimes unspeakable joy and hope, and sometimes all at once. You were made for so much more than what the world tells you. Your worth comes from your Creator, and He gave you a mind for knowing Him, a soul for connecting to other souls, and a heart for loving all. Use those things, and you will be richly blessed beyond your wildest dreams.

2 Corinthians 4: 17-18

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.” Live the journey deliberately, and you won’t reach the end of your life wondering what it was all about.

Soon I will have two sleeping babies stealing my heart. This is going to be a beautiful month.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Little Details

Today is most likely the last day of the last full month that I’m a mother of one. It feels pretty surreal, especially considering how quickly these last nine months have gone by. I can’t help but think about all the things I wanted to get done that are not done:

Start on Baby Boy’s scrapbook. I haven’t even purchased his scrapbook. In fact I’m not even 100% finished with Hannah’s first-year scrapbook.
Stock the freezer full of meals. I was far too exhausted to do much of anything my first time around with a newborn, so this sounds like a great idea, in theory. Unfortunately, I enjoy having leftovers too much to ever actually freeze anything. I foresee a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup in our future. Good thing one of the easiest meals is also the hubby’s favorite!

Get the house impeccably clean and organized. Thankfully, nesting has somewhat kicked into gear, and I have found the energy to get some of this accomplished lately. It just never feels complete, but I suppose it never will.
Make the most of this last little bit of time with just my sweet little girl. Fatigue has made this a challenge, but I hope I’ve been able to do this as best as I can. No doubt Hannah will love being a big sister, but things are about to change in ways that we can’t even imagine. The past two years have been so precious… and so fast.

I know I’m more prepared than I think. Eventually I’ll get into a routine, and everything will fall into place. And none of this really matters anyway because all I’m going to want to do is love on my two babies. I’ll forget why the rest of it seemed so important.
So tonight I'm letting go of the little things and simply enjoying my evening with my loved ones.
Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Letter to Hannah: The Day You Came True

Hearing a baby’s heartbeat for the first time can be one of the most exhilarating experiences of a parent’s life. It can also be one of the most overwhelming and life-changing.

I was so anxious at my 12-week appointment when I was pregnant with you. I’d had a miscarriage many months earlier, and so far this new pregnancy had not been without complications and concerns. I didn’t know what to expect, but I just tried not to think about the possibility of things going the way they had before.
Your daddy sat in a chair next to the door, and I hopped up on the exam table. We didn’t say much until the midwife entered, and then we spoke to her briefly about my medical history and health. She talked about prenatal care. Then she pulled out her little black handheld Doppler.

 “Let’s take a listen.”
Dear God, No matter what, I know it’s going to be okay. I can be okay, whatever the outcome. It’s okay.

She poured the gel and pressed the Doppler to my tummy. I laid in silence, clenching my fists and straining to hear that precious sound as my own heart raced. It will be okay. Last time we never made it to this point.
She slowly navigated the Doppler around my abdomen, pausing occasionally. Nothing. Just static.

God, just help me to be okay. I’m giving it up to you. I know you’re in control.
I felt numb as she continued the search. More static. Agonizing seconds of no recognizable sounds.

“Where are you, baby?” she murmured as she listened closely.
No matter what. I’ll be okay.

And then, finally –

“There!” she said.
I was already crying, my body shaking with emotion. I let go of every sob I had held in for weeks. The tears and anxiety poured out, and the relief and hope flooded in. I covered my face with my hands and just let myself weep with joy.

Daddy came to my side and rubbed my arm gently, his eyes full of understanding.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for this blessing. Thank you for this hope.

That’s the moment I let myself start dreaming of you, the moment you became real. It’s the moment I let go and held on all at once. It’s the moment my new life began.

Hope after a miscarriage

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Costume FAIL

One Halloween night many years ago, I dressed up as a vampire. Now my frugal mom was never one to spend much money on our costumes – understandably, since they only get worn once – so my sisters and I often had homemade touches to our attire. Mom decided that since I was the “undead”, it was vitally important that my face was white. Finding a household product for such a purpose proved to be a difficult task. We didn’t have any sort of powder…Flour?...No, that wouldn’t do the trick…Ah, yes, of course…Noxzema.

costume FAILFor those of you unfamiliar with Noxzema, it’s a deep cleansing facial product that, oddly enough, contains many of the same ingredients as my beloved VapoRub. However, I most certainly do not have the same nostalgic feelings toward Noxzema as I do VapoRub, especially after this particular night.
When she applied the greasy goop, the first thing I noticed was how badly it stung my face.

“It’ll go away,” my mom assured me.
Eager to get started on the trick-or-treating, I accepted this explanation and chose to ignore the stinging sensation. We set out into the neighborhood.

The stinging did not go away.
My eyes watered and my skin burned more with each step we took. But I was determined and was not going to let some minor inconvenience like my face melting off to get in the way of my candy-collecting fun. I persevered through the pain, even though the vapors made my eyes feel like they were peering into the vortex of a steam engine.

When we returned home, I quickly removed the toxic mess from my face and happily munched on some chocolate, minimally affected by the ordeal. On the plus side, I probably had a really clear complexion for several weeks afterward.
When I recently reminded my mom about this particular incident, she was ready with the phrase that all parents must keep handy when their kids bring up these types of memories:

“You lived.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's A Zebra! I Mean...A Boy!

I’m going to wait on announcing the baby’s name until he gets here, but I will say that for some reason, Hannah can’t say it. She apparently thinks I’m giving birth to a baby zebra because when we ask her to say her brother’s name, she says excitedly, “Beebra!” I can assure you that his name sounds nothing like zebra or ‘beebra’, but who can understand the mind of a toddler?

Hopefully Baby Beebra’s sister will get the hang of his real name soon because I am 34 weeks pregnant today. Hannah was born at 38 ½ weeks. It’s amazing that I could possibly only have a month to go – or less – before this new little one gets here.
baby daredevil
I know that for the most part, raising a boy will be the same as raising a girl. All children need love, attention, guidance…the usual. But I keep hearing all these stories about wild acrobatics, broken bones, and extra trips to the emergency room. Are boys really that much more rowdy than girls?

Hannah may be a sweet, pleasant little girl, but don’t let that fool you. She’s always had a bit of a daredevil streak in her. She used to enjoy blindly running around with her skirt on her head, and she frequently attempted to play with mom-unapproved ‘toys’, such as the cheese grater.
But for some reason I have a feeling that her antics won’t even begin to compare with the stuff that the little boy comes up with. Perhaps I just know his daddy too well.
So tell me, moms with boys: Is Hannah’s assessment of her brother as a wild animal not so far off?
Should I be preparing for insanity?

Friday, October 14, 2011

An Ode to the Swing

When we were dismissed for recess during school, most of us would make a mad dash for the swings in the hopes of being the first to snag one of those coveted little contraptions. It was a rare occasion for me to actually get one, as it seemed like there was always another class that had been released early, and my heart would sink when I would round the corner and see that they were already full.

In an effort to make the swing-nabbing fairer, the teachers came up with a “brilliant” plan: If you wanted to swing, you could stand near one of the swingers and count to sixty. The swinger would then have to relinquish his spot and give you a turn.
The problem with this is sixty seconds is barely enough time to get the swing to full speed and enjoy a good ride, not to mention the poor shy kids who did not have the guts to participate in this plan. There was always the chance you’d end up choosing a little punk who’d refuse to get off once you’d counted, and I never wanted to risk having to spend my recess tracking down a teacher to tattle to.

But one glorious day I actually managed to find a free swing right at the beginning of recess. Oh, how happy I was! Those swings were BIG, and you could go HIGH. And I did. I pushed and pulled my weight until I had that thing flying so high and so fast that I thought it might break.
I was elated. I felt like I was soaring into the clouds, my little heart pumping wildly with joy. I was exhilarated by the whole awesome experience - the wind in my hair, the sun on my face, the strength in my body as I pushed myself higher and higher. I was unstoppable.

ode to the swing
“Fine! I’m telling!”
Shocked, I looked down to see an angry kid beginning to stomp off across the gravel. He had counted to sixty, and in my state of euphoria, I hadn’t even noticed. I skidded to a stop as he smugly returned.

After giving up my beloved swing, I spent the rest of recess walking around the playground, deflated and discouraged. I could have counted to get the swing back, but I likely would have had to give it up sixty seconds later anyway. And I knew that after such an abrupt disruption to my psyche, it would be impossible to get back what I’d had.

I love that I have that brief moment of bliss to look back on. It’s a shame that it couldn’t have lasted through the whole recess, but I suppose it was an important life lesson to learn. No matter how hard we try to hold on to those idyllic times in our lives, they are so, so brief, and sometimes it’s impossible to avoid the interruptions. But we’ll always have them in our hearts.
Always, always, always enjoy the ride. Because none of us ever has any idea how long it will last. And when you let someone else have his turn, go ahead and let it last the whole recess.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Autumn Musings

Well, we “got our pumpkin patch on” this weekend, and a fun time was had by all! Since the weather has been so nice, we ended up going back to the same place as last year, and hooray, this time it was much cooler! There also seemed to be a lot more going on this year – more animals at the petting zoo, a bigger hay bale maze, tire swings, and a bounce house (Hannah’s favorite!). I love making these kinds of memories.

autumn musings pumpkin patch field

picking the pumpkin with daddyAt one point I found myself watching all the other families walking around and thinking about how fortunate we all are to have the freedom to do stuff like this. Despite the economic hardships that so many of us are facing, we don’t give it a second thought that we can go on a peaceful outing with our families. It puts things in perspective when we consider what is going on in many other parts of the world, and when we consider what hardship truly means. Most of us never even worry about what the day will bring. Not that we should – especially when we know that God is in control and working all things out for good – but it was just a thought that gave me great peace. I am thankful.
I think about not taking things for granted a lot more these days. Hannah is more precious to me than anything I’ve ever known in my life. I always thought that I understood the love that a mother has for her children, but I had only scratched the surface until I had a daughter of my own. Growing up I had a sense of fierce protection for my little sisters, and a love so deep and strong that I knew I would give up my life for them and do anything to keep them safe. That’s the way it is with my babies, but on a level that I never could have imagined before.
tire swing pregnant bellyHannah is my best little friend, and it’s exciting to know that our bond is only going to grow stronger as time passes. When I look back at all we’ve experienced together as a family, I feel overwhelmed with awe-inspiring joy at the beauty of our life. And when I look forward to the future, I feel breathless with anticipation in knowing that we are only going to grow richer in love.
I pray that there are many more breathtakingly beautiful excursions in store for my family, and for all of you and yours as well.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Toddlerisms: Playin' With Doh

Hannah is at this insane stage in which she constantly repeats everything she says to the point that it drives us completely bonkers. I’ve mentioned her tenacity before, but I think it has reached its pinnacle. At least I hope it’s the pinnacle.

She’ll bring me a container of Play-Doh and say, “Open…open…open…open…open!”

“Okay, Hannah. Just tell Mommy one time. And what do you say?”
“Open peeeeeeeease.”

The phrase “one time” still hasn’t quite sunk in, and she seems to believe that she just might get lucky if she asks for enough things. She’s also figured out that it doesn’t hurt to be cute either.

“Mommy…want juice. Want juice, mommy. Want juice.”
“No more juice. You can have some water.”
She smiles sweetly. “Waaaant….cookie?”
I stifle laughter and watch her little wheels spinning as she tries to think of something I might say yes to.
“No cookie right now. We’re going to eat dinner soon.”
“No, Mommy is making dinner right now.”

So my life at this point seems to be a never-ending procession of toddler desires, coupled with some major abdomen acrobatics to remind me that more of this is on the way!
pregnant play doh mama
Thanks for the flattering sculpture, honey
And speaking of Play-Doh, Clint has discovered the art of making a snake out of it, much to Hannah’s disapproval. I told him this was not the best idea, but there is no stopping him when something is “hilarious”. And he is pretty clever with the Play-Doh.
So now whenever he gets the dough out and starts forming it into a tube shape, Hannah says, “No, Dada! No snake. Gitchoo, gitchoo!”
To his credit, Daddy always reminds her that he won’t ever let any real snakes get her. Then they make some nice animals together - like monkeys and puppies - before they happily put the dough away.

Five minutes later we hear:

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Daze

Ah, October. The month of cooler temps, leaves turning beautiful fall shades, crisp breezes, sweaters and hoodies…

Except that we don’t have any of that where we live.

Though the weather is slightly cooling down (you know, to like, 89), it’s nowhere near the brisk, invigoratingly cool air that I long for this time of year. This is the time when I miss the mid-south the most.
So when October rolls around I inevitably end up doing whatever I possibly can to achieve some sort of ‘fallness’ in my life. This past weekend I made sure we started the month off right with a trip to Oktoberfest. It was hotter outside than I would have preferred, and I couldn’t try out any German beer, but I enjoyed a corned beef sandwich and Hannah’s dancing.

Next on the list is my favorite – the pumpkin patch. I loved, loved, LOVED it last year, mainly because Hannah had so much fun and the pictures make it look more autumn-like than it actually was (notice the t-shirts and shorts).

This year we’re going to try out a different farm in a cooler town, so maybe we won’t be taking our hayride in the scorching sun. Fingers crossed.
Finally, rounding out the month is Halloween, a holiday I’ve always loved. I like the parties, fun costumes, scary movies, creepy cupcakes…all of it. I’m excited that this year Hannah might actually have a clue that something fun is going on, but I’m convinced that nothing will ever be cuter than last year’s costume.

little red riding hood costume
So there’s my plan, though what I really want to do is head to Michael’s and buy up every autumn decoration I can possibly find. I’m just going to have to resist the urge since we’ve got baby expenses to consider, and instead I’ll light up some pumpkin-scented candles, toast some pumpkin seeds, and look forward to the hubby’s annual carving creativity.
scary jack o lantern

Happy October!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Incident

baby's bladder trampoline
Running out of room in there =
bladder trampoline for baby
Lately my bladder has felt like a punching bag/squeeze toy. I probably have to pee an average of 87 times a day, and although this is a normal part of pregnancy, the constant trips to the bathroom are starting to drive me nuts. On the plus side, frequent urination also brings to mind an interesting story from childhood:
One day in kindergarten we were in the middle of recess, and I was enjoying a game of tag (or something like that – it was 23 years ago, so I can’t say for sure) when all of a sudden I felt the urge. I promptly made my way over to the teacher on duty and asked if I could go to the restroom.

“Recess will be over soon. Can you hold it?” she asked.
I pondered her question. I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t want to disappoint.

“Okay,” I said reluctantly.

I made my way back to my friends. Somehow in my little mind I thought this was a test. The teacher wanted me to hold it, and I wanted to make her proud.

But the urge kept getting stronger. What had once felt like a slowly expanding water balloon was beginning to feel like an enormous tidal wave getting ready to burst through a dam.
My friends were standing around, talking and trying to decide what to play next. Gravity was taking its toll, so I sat down on the ground, hoping it would somehow make the discomfort go away. Stay in, stay in, I kept thinking. Please don’t come out. But alas, it was not to happen that way. The next thing I knew, a river was springing forth from underneath me and flowing down the pavement.

Maybe no one will notice, I thought.
One of my friends pointed to the stream. “What’s that?”

I don’t remember much after that, other than trudging back to the teacher and informing her that I had wet myself.

She looked dumbfounded. “I thought you said you could hold it.”

Um, lady, I’m five.
Morals of the story? Well, first, if a child tells you he/she needs to pee, then by all means direct the poor little thing to a restroom! This I know from potty training Hannah - children are so distracted at playtime that when they finally tell you they have to go, that means they have to go RIGHT THEN.

Secondly, don’t overestimate a child’s sense of judgment. Common sense and discernment are not things we are born with – they are qualities that develop over time. This is why kids notoriously never reveal they have to go potty until they have already been bundled up to go outside.
And lastly, don’t try to be tough or try to please someone else by “holding it in” – metaphorically speaking. I was the type of child who was a little timid and didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. Had I just been assertive and insisted that I needed to go right away, the whole incident could have been avoided. And I’m still a little like that, still learning how to let my needs be known without worrying that I’m putting someone out.

Folks, we learn a lot more from our playground days than we realize.
Now, I'm off to the restroom...again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Soothing Salve and the Sincerest Form of Flattery

i love the smell of vaporub
Aaaaaah, yes
Does anyone else have the problem of not being able to go through the medicine cabinet without opening the jar of Vick’s VapoRub and taking a big whiff?
Seriously, I LOVE the stuff. There’s just something magical about the aroma, that tantalizing mixture of menthol/eucalyptus/camphor. It must be a nostalgic thing since I always got it rubbed on my chest when I had colds as a kid…but all I can say is if I see a jar of it sitting there, I HAVE to smell it.

I suppose there are much worse quirks to have. My grandmother once told me she loved the smell of gasoline so much that it made her want to drink it. Yikes.

I got to thinking about this because Hannah just recently got over a cold, so of course I’ve had the delightful concoction nearby, and now Hannah wants a sniff every time she sees it. I’m not sure if she genuinely likes the scent or if she’s just imitating Mama, but it’s definitely true that kids are little copycats at this age. They are watching EVERY. MOVE. YOU. MAKE. That’s why it’s so vitally important to set a good example at all times. Of course, as humans and as parents, it’s impossible to be perfect - but we do have to be mindful of the little eyes that are on us.
Eventually, our kids are going to grow up and make fun of all of our idiosyncracies. I know this from being a daughter. (You’re welcome, Mom.) But right now I embody everything Hannah knows about the world, and that is a pretty heavy concept to think about. My actions shape how she learns to behave and adapt and interact. It’s such an amazing and scary responsibility.

Daddies are just as susceptible to this scrutiny, perhaps even more so when there are daughters involved. Hannah adores her daddy. Every day they go to the garden to see if there are any vegetables to pick. To her dad’s dismay, she routinely picks unripe tomatoes off the vine when he’s not looking and cheerfully displays them. She just wants to make him proud. Maybe that’s also why she sits at his computer with his headphones on and pretends to chat with her gaming buddies.

Taking over daddy's "man cave"
My children will always love me, but they won’t always revere me. They will realize that I’m flawed, that I don’t have all the answers, that I have silly quirks that drive them nuts...and that’s okay. I just pray that I will provide them with the best example I can possibly be. I just want to know that I have done all I can to shape them into strong, loving, beautiful souls.
And I also just want to know if there is anyone else out there who has a bizarre obsession with VapoRub…

Friday, September 23, 2011

Toddlerisms: Manners

Somehow we have managed to turn Hannah into a very polite little toddler. She says please, thank you, you’re welcome, I love you, excuse me, good morning, and my personal favorite, “happy to see you.”
teaching a toddler manners
Clearly the face of a polite toddler

It’s so funny to think about how she picked up some of these phrases, and I wonder how much she truly understands them. When she would wake up from her naps, our dog Lia would follow me to the bedroom and wag her tail excitedly. So I started saying “Look, Hannah. Lia is so glad you’re awake. She’s happy to see you.” Now Clint and I are greeted each morning with, “Good morning, Daddy. Happy-see-you, Mama.”

I love when we walk by someone in a store aisle and she says “scuse me.” It always puts a smile on the stranger’s face, and I can’t help but be proud. And it’s too adorable when she talks to her toys: “Scuse me, Elmo. Scuse me, baby.” However, I have to wonder what she’s thinking when her courtesy extends to inanimate objects with absolutely no anthropomorphic qualities. When we were playing on the bed a couple of days ago, she moved a pair of her underwear out of the way and said, “Scuse me, panties.” I couldn’t stop laughing.

I also sometimes wonder if manners have been a little too ingrained into our little one. Occasionally she gets stuck on one track and Clint has a little too much fun with it, as evidenced by this week’s most entertaining conversation:

“Thank you, Daddy.”
“You’re welcome, Hannah.”
“You’re welcome, Daddy.”
“Thank you, Hannah.”
“Thank you, Daddy.”
“You’re welcome, Hannah.”

It went on for a little longer. Lucky Hannah. She’s about to get a baby brother who will no doubt have his Daddy’s playfully annoying sense of humor.

But even as polite as Hannah is, nobody’s perfect, so some scenarios are going to take a little more work. Today in the car I changed the radio station, and with each new song I turned to, I heard a little voice behind me say, “No, Mama.” I returned to the original song. She said “yes” and began bobbing her head to the music. She’s not even two yet and she already wants to control the radio in the car. And I thought I had another ten years…

I always thought it would take a lot of reminders to teach a kid manners, but surprisingly, our observant little sponge picked it up quickly and easily. Turns out all it takes is parents modeling polite behavior.

Well, that and obnoxiously repetitive conversations.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Love, Faith, Trials, Blessings

Yesterday Clint and I watched part of the video of our honeymoon. Although it was only a little over seven years ago, I couldn’t help but think we looked so young.
young kids in love

honeymoon waterfall

honeymoon on carnival cruise ship
Amidst footage of us traipsing through island gift shops and aimlessly walking through the corridors of the cruise ship, there are actually a couple of nice candid moments. At one point I turn the camera on Clint and ask what he would like to say to our future children.

“I’m glad you’re not here,” he says.
What can I say? The guy has a sense of humor.

I ask him why, and he says he would most likely be spending a lot of time disciplining.
“Except for that one girl,” he says. “She’s probably pretty good. But the oldest boy…he’s like me. He’s a pain in the butt.”

It was such a great moment to reflect on because Hannah really is a sweet, well-mannered little girl (most of the time – she is a toddler after all), but since Daddy was right so far about her, his other prediction has me a little freaked out.
I know nothing about little boys.  Growing up, I was surrounded by sisters, so I felt pretty prepared when I found out our first was going to be a girl. Of course, it turned out that I was not at all prepared for the trials of a newborn, but that’s a story for another day. Luckily, I have no doubt that I will figure out how to raise a boy as I go because, well, that’s just how it works.

This pregnancy has felt so much different from the last in a lot of ways, and not just in a physical way, though the fatigue has pretty much kicked my butt this time around. I can’t decide if I feel more prepared now, or if I’m actually more scared because I know what to expect…round-the-clock breastfeeding, pacing the floor until the wee hours of the morning…basically, I’m terrified of the sleep deprivation. But at least this time I also know from experience the joy that lies ahead.
Whenever I start to feel a little apprehensive about what it’s going to be like to add another little one to the mix, I remind myself that there was once a time when I wasn’t sure if I would ever even get to experience being a mother. It took nearly two years of some dark, emotional days and a devastating miscarriage before Hannah came into our lives. I think back to that time and the fragment of a person that I became, and though I’m so relieved and thankful for the way things turned out, I sometimes feel a little guilty. I didn’t have to struggle through it for as long as some people do. My heart aches for everyone who is experiencing infertility or loss because it hurts on a level that, I think, others can’t truly understand unless they’ve been through it themselves. It feels so unfair to watch everyone around you get pregnant and wonder why it’s not so easy for you, why you don’t deserve to have your longing fulfilled too.

I know that God is big enough to give us peace and comfort even when we are filled with despair, and that’s my prayer for those who are going through such tough trials. His love is greater than any we have ever known, and that’s a reminder that often escapes all of us, especially when life starts to look nothing but cruel. I know there are times when it was sure hard for me to remember.
I look at those two kids on that video, so young and in love and unaware of the hardships that are in store for them, and I’m thankful that they started out with faith.

journey of faith
It has been an amazing journey, and there is so much more life to be lived. I can only hope that as new trials approach, I can learn how to face them with more strength and faith than I have in the past.

And I hope this baby boy is easier than his daddy expects, but no matter what, he is a blessing and a gift that I will always treasure.