Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes you take a spur of the moment picture of your kids in front of the Christmas tree and they're all smiling and looking the same direction. It's truly a Christmas miracle.


Other times you dress them up and comb their hair and try to get a picture of them in a beautiful park setting, and you get this:



I'll take the drool-soaked shirt and uncombed hair and sweet smiles. Though the planned picture "fails" show their own kind of truth. I just won't be putting them in a frame on my wall.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Realization

Yesterday as I walked my two youngest children in a double stroller through our neighborhood I realized something.

Three kids + staying at home + double stroller + mini van + play dates + library storytime =
I am a suburban housewife/mom.

I knew these things before, but sometimes it just hits you. Like a friend who once said that she looked like a thirty-year-old mom. And another friend pointed out that she was a thirty-year-old mom.

And then you start wishing you were still only thirty and you see your gray hairs increasing daily and could have done without the Walmart cashier saying, "Oh, I definitely don't need to card you," when you bought cough syrup for your sick kids.

I love staying home with my kids, I love my home, and though I definitely don't love my mini van, I am mostly content with where I am in life. But there are moments when I look around and wonder how I got here. Wasn't I just barely the child? And now I'm responsible for three of them.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Freedom (or the Lack Of)

You know those women who do everything? They have kids in school and extracurricular programs. They volunteer. They work part time. They do online school. They attend community meetings. They go to book club and church. And they still have time to offer to bring you dinner or watch your kids if you need it.

Well, that is not me. But I have a friend like that and she amazes me. How does she find the time in the day, let alone the energy? I have one child in Kindergarten and I can barely keep up with her homework. I'm home all day with two little ones and I never have time to clean my house and only sometimes make dinner.

As I contemplated the difference between our lives tonight, I realized there are two things I lack that makes up the real difference. First, enthusiasm. I just don't care enough. Or at least about those kinds of things. I vote, but I don't go to community meetings. I think about putting my daughter in extracurriculars, but I never want to shell out the money or give up an afternoon each week.

Second, freedom. At first I thought I don't have the time. But I have oodles of time. At this stage in my life, I watch so much Netflix and read so many books it's ridiculous. And awesome. But mostly ridiculous. (In my defense, I'm very often breastfeeding while I read and folding laundry while I watch Netflix.) Even if I carved out more productive time in my day, I have small children who are too dependent on me for me to leave them for long. At the stages they're in, I struggle to find a time to shower when I know they'll be safe for the five minutes I'm in the bathroom.

So, whether you call it justifying it or coming to terms with it, I can imagine that at a later date, I will have more time to volunteer at my kids' schools and be more involved in my community. I might work part time. I might have a cleaner house. But I will be sadly behind on my Netflix bingewatching and my TBR book pile will be so large it will fall over.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Family Food



Ask most people what they eat for Thanksgiving dinner and they'll say, "Oh, just the traditional stuff." But when pressed for specifics, you'll find that the usual stuff varies widely by region and by family. Actually, all you have to do to figure that out is to get married and have a traditional holiday meal with your in-laws. You'll find dishes you've never had before and wonder where the sweet potatoes with little marshmallows are (though I'm more than happy to "miss" those).

The women in church are having an international Christmas night where we're encouraged to bring a dish from our heritage. There are many women from other countries and even if you're not, maybe you have a family recipe from a great-grandmother who immigrated here. Or maybe you're like me and most of you ancestors came over in the 17th or 18th centuries and anything like that is long lost.

I briefly joked that I probably had to bring Jello since I grew up in Utah, but then I started thinking about the foods that actually defined my childhood Christmases.

There was Jello, but it was the sugar free Jello that only my diabetic grandmother ate. And grandma herself made sugar cookie Santa heads with coconut beards and raisin eyes for the grandkids. We powered through the coconut flakes, but the rest was delicious. That side of the family also made popcorn balls--admittedly using Jello for flavor and color.

On my mom's side we couldn't eat our ham without Grandpa's potato rolls. And I had to spoil my dinner with Grandma's homemade caramels, always found in a candy dish shaped like a Santa boot. Great-grandma made divinity, but that was not to the younger generation's tastes.

So with those options in mind, I made Grandma's caramel recipe. And though I don't have a Santa boot candy dish, the buttery smooth flavor takes me back to my childhood.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Say Yes to Hand Turkeys

Majorie Pay Hinckley said, "Whenever possible, say yes they're only kids once!" I love this quote, but I don't live it very well. I don't like messes, I'm not good at playing, and I'm not spontaneous. I'm not exactly a "fun mom." I have other strengths, but every once in a while I remember to say yes.

Thanksgiving break has already begun around here and naturally we had to make hand turkeys. This was planned and not a big deal for me. Three-year-old's hand painted and turned into turkeys, five-year-old's hand painted and turned into turkeys... "Mom, can we paint your hand for a hand turkey?"

I said yes. That might not seem big to you. And it didn't take much effort on my part, but the girls were really excited to paint mommy's hand. The looks on their faces was worth an extra yes.





Monday, November 17, 2014

Awesome Mom Moment

Some people call this a Mom Fail. I get that term, but there are plenty of moments when I truly feel like a failure so I prefer to call it an Awesome Mom Moment--with sarcasm on the Awesome.

If there is lightning nearby, my daughter's school requires a signed note to release her to a parent to take responsibility for taking her out in the bad weather. Which makes a fun time carrying a baby in a carrier and dragging a toddler along with me in the pouring rain and then adding a five-year-old to the crazy train on the way back to the car. I leave home at about 2:50 to pick her up. Without fail, if there's going to be lightning, I hear it first at 2:45. Today was one of those days.

With the carrier and an umbrella the baby stays pretty dry. The toddler wears a raincoat and though it slips off her head a little, she loves the rain and doesn't seem to mind it. She often gets smiles from passersby because she's enjoying herself so much.

Today on the way back to the car, the two-year-old was not enjoying herself as much as usual. I was holding her hand and kept asking her if she was okay, but she didn't answer. I was a little concerned, but decided to just get to the car. As we walked through the parking lot, she was really slow and I kept pushing her to move faster to get out of the way of cars.

As soon as we got to the car, she looked up at me and said, "Mom, I'm underwear!"

Awesome. I pushed my daughter to move faster through the parking lot while she waddled along with her soggy pants around her ankles. The good news is her rain coat covered her backside so she wasn't actually exposed. The bad news is that I couldn't see that her pants were down. I'm an awesome mom.

This picture isn't from today, but as soon as we got home, the girls ran in the rain just like this. So I'm pretty sure I was forgiven quickly.



Friday, November 14, 2014

Missing the Cozy


I do not miss snow. Pictures of the first snow that family and friends post on Facebook make me nostalgic, but deep down I know how much I hate being cold and especially how terrified I am to drive on snow and ice.

But there is something about a cold and snowy outdoors that makes your house feel that much more cozy. When you come in from the extreme heat and humidity, you feel relief when you come indoors to the AC. You peel off as much clothes as is acceptable and sprawl out under the fan and hope that no one will touch you and get you all sweaty again.

When you come in from the cold and snow, you take off your coat and boots. You put on new, warm socks and curl up on the couch with a blanket. You hope that someone will cuddle with you to help warm you up. You eat soup and drink hot cocoa and look at the world outside and feel safe and warm.

I miss that feeling. It's finally cool enough to wear covers when we sleep (some nights) and every once in a while we need a jacket in the morning. But it's just not the same.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lizard in the Living Room



My baby’s been a little sick lately, so I haven’t been getting much sleep. Then I started getting sick. Two nights this week I fell asleep before 8 p.m. So yesterday when the baby went down for a nap and didn’t scream when I set him down, I decided to rest on the couch.

My two-year-old was snuggled up against me and watching a show. Just as I was about to drift into sleep, she screamed and told me that there was a lizard on the wall.

 Lizards are common in Florida and it’s taken a while for my girls to get used to them. The two-year-old in particular still gets scared when she sees them on the sidewalk. And she really stresses out when they cling to the window screen outside. I was sure that she saw one on the window, but she knew better. “No, Mommy. It’s on the wall in the house!”

Sure enough, peeking from behind the curtain was a baby lizard. In my house. I’ve heard of this and dreaded it. I don’t care that they’re harmless or how many bugs they eat—I don’t want one in my house.

First I tried opening the door it was next in hope that it would choose the outdoors. The movement scared it into dashing behind our big foam-filled bag. I moved that and found it sitting in the corner. I tried to trap it with a Tupperware dropped over it, but those little buggers are fast and it ran behind the couch.

And then I couldn’t find it.

My daughter relaxed because “the stupid lizard” was gone. I freaked out because I had no idea where it was. I spent much of the rest of the afternoon searching for a tiny lizard and imagining all the places it could end up in the house and fearing finding it days or weeks later dead somewhere.

When my husband came home, he found it and with help from a friend who was over for dinner, eventually got it outside. But not before it lost its tail that wiggled around on the floor. I guess we’ve been initiated into being real Florida residents. But I did not handle it well and will likely freak out just as much next time.

The good news is we swept behind the couch.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Have a Gratitude Attitude

If you grew up on the Brite Ideas tapes (yes, cassette tapes), then you sang that title in your head.

November is an obvious time to focus on gratitude. I've had this quote on my mind lately:

"Perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. ... It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach? Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be." - Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Yesterday was one of those days that was really hard to feel grateful. A sick screaming baby, not being able to shower till my husband came home, a daughter getting her toenail split open, dinner spilled all over the family room rug.

I am very far from being thankful in my circumstances. But to try to get there, I'm going to find something specific I'm grateful for in the moment each day this month.

I can't say that I'm grateful that my daughter hurt her toe, but bad situations can bring reminders of things we're grateful for. I'm grateful for a husband who handles those situations calmly. He used to be an EMT and teaches First Aid, so little things like bloody toes don't freak him out. I'm also very grateful that he was there when it happened so he could take care of it.

How do  you stay thankful in your circumstances? This is something I need to work on.


Friday, October 17, 2014

First Time Kindergarten Mom

What I Wish I'd Known:

Call Ahead:
When signing your child up for Kindergarten, you'll need about a hundred different papers and the website won't tell you what to bring beforehand. They'll assume everyone knows what's going on. But you won't so you'll have to drag your kids back and forth from school to home and back again trying to get everything in order. And you still won't have all the paperwork you need because you forgot where you stashed her last medical check up paperwork and she won't have had all her immunizations yet because she turns five over the summer. And everyone else you see will appear to know what they're doing and have no problems whatsoever.

Buy More:
On the huge list of school supplies, they will request that you buy approximately 16 thousand glue sticks. Buy a couple thousand more because Kindergarten homework will need glue sticks. And you'll be really frustrated that you didn't buy more and when you go to Target you won't be able to find glue sticks because all the back to school stuff is gone. You'll be able to buy Christmas ornaments in October, but it will take you ten minutes to find a glue stick among all the office supply stuff.

Don't Throw It Out:
You will finally throw out all those old magazines. And then your child will come home with an assignment to make a collage. So you'll dig the magazines out of the recycling bin and you'll cut out pictures of things that start with the letter "T." But you won't think about the fact that there are 25 more letters in the alphabet and you'll probably be making collages for each one, so when you're done with "T," you'll put the magazines back in the recycling and it will be taken to the recycling center before the next collage assignment. Just keep them. Don't throw anything out. Even toilet paper rolls because those will be needed to build a house for Hansel and Gretel at some point.

Don't Blink:
Your five-year-old will suddenly seem all grown up and responsible and will be spending so much of her day away from you. But she'll also look impossibly small as she skips into the school with her sparkly blue backpack, lunch box and pony tail swinging, and you'll want to run after her and hug her and never let her go. But you can't do that; you have to let her go. She'll come back at the end of the day with math homework that they manage to make confusing for you because of new terminology they use this year but will probably be changed by the time your next child is in Kindergarten.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Things I Never Thought I'd Say...

...In Just One Day

"Stop licking your brother!"

"Don't step in your poop!"

"Stop tracking pasta into the family room."

"Spit out that sticker."

"Your trains have to find a new home."

Having a two-year-old is hilarious and makes you say the strangest things, because they do things you could have never imagined.

***

"No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I'm not talking about the kids. Their behavior is always normal." -Bill Cosby

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

STEM vs. The Arts

We have an annual pass to our local science center. The kids love it, it's much cheaper than a theme park, and it's something to do on days that are too hot to be outside (of which Florida has far too many). They especially love the travelling exhibits. Curious George just left and my two-year-old was very upset and wanted to know where he went. She figured it out though--he went into the TV.

The Orange County Science Center sent me a survey asking about how often we visit, how often we go to other museums, etc. Their last batch of questions was about how important STEM is versus the Arts and Humanities. (STEM, for those who draw a blank as my mind often does lately, stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. We hear a lot about pregnancy brain, but I think breastfeeding brain is a thing. Or maybe it's just mom with a baby brain.)

I hear more and more about STEM. Those fields of study are not my strong suit. Okay, I hated most of them. But I enjoyed Geology in college. I know that they are terribly important in today's world. Can you even get a job anymore without a good STEM foundation? But I fear that they could crowd out the Arts and Humanities, which are important for another reason entirely.

This all comes from a former English major who took Art History and Political Science classes for fun. But I believe that the Arts and Humanities teach us, well, how to be human. How to communicate, how to interact, how to reconcile our place in the world. They teach about beauty and tragedy and empathy. What use is a good job if you don't know how to be a decent human being?

Why does it have to be either or? (I just read an article about how there is less time for PE in school but physical activity helps you think better which would help you in school...) Well, balance is always the question. And that balancing act was on my mind.

Sorry for two philosophical posts in a row. I promise my next one will be about something trivial, like the fact that my laundry yesterday included pooped on clothes from all three of my children. (And today's included chunks of puke. The joys of sharing a stomach bug.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thoughts on Censorship

I recently reread one of my favorite books of all time for book club. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Beautiful language, lovely sense of place. You really should read it. Everyone should.




While trying to learn more about the book and the author for the book club meeting, I came across this quote from an interview in the Paris Review:

"When I’m teaching, sometimes issues come up. I might read a scene in a student’s story that seems—by my standards—pornographic. I don’t believe in exploiting or treating with disrespect even an imagined person. But at the same time, I realize that I can’t universalize my standards. In instances like that, I feel I have to hold my religious reaction at bay. It is important to let people live out their experience of the world without censorious interference, except in very extreme cases." - Marilynne Robinson

As a religious person there are many things that are deemed acceptable in the world that I do not agree with. But as someone educated in the liberal arts, I don't believe in censorship either. I believe in each individual being able to choose what they write and what they read. (Of course, parents help make that choice for their children until they're old enough to make their own choices.)

Trying to ban or censor something only gives it more publicity and makes it more interesting. Mark Twain expressed excitement when a book of his was banned from a library because he knew that the children would want to read it and they'd have to go out and buy their own copies.

We should stand up for our standards and share them, but never try to force them on others--I don't want someone else's forced on me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pretending Autumn

My two-year-old is starting to make an important distinction between what's real and what's "just pretend."

What used to be my favorite season has become a time of seasonal-envy depression. (I made up the term and am self-diagnosed, but it's a thing.) We've cooled down about two degrees and are still hot and sweaty all the time. So this isn't autumn, but we did our best to pretend.

Yesterday we baked pumpkin bread in the oven; apple cider warmed on the stove. We ate soup and grilled cheese for dinner. A late rainstorm helped the illusion. But my kids wouldn't be running around barefoot in a real autumn rainstorm. (And an attempt at being grateful in the circumstances: what kid doesn't want to run barefoot in a rainstorm?--mine get to.)



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Happy Roald Dahl Day!

September 13 is Roald Dahl's birthday and we went to the celebration at our local library. They read some vile verses, played some games, and made fantastic fox masks. Then we came home and watched James and the Giant Peach.

Fantastic Foxes

I loved Roald Dahl as a child, His stories are about children overcoming the mean adults in their lives. And some silliness.

One of my favorite books as a child was Matilda. In my mind I was Matilda. Minus the sleazy father, neglectful mother, tyrannical principal, and magic powers. But I loved books. So I was Matilda. (Nerdy, book-loving kids love books about other nerdy, book-loving kids.)

Happy Roald Dahl Day!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Silly Things the Doctor Has to Ask You

Even though I read a million books and obsessed about many things with my first baby, there are some things I've never worried about that the doctor apparently does. Even more so now that I mother my baby from my experience and trusting my gut, some of the things that they want to measure seem ridiculous to me.

How often does he eat?
When he's hungry.
Well, would you say every hour and a half? every two hours? every three hours?

At this point I usually go with their middle number, because that's hopefully what they expect to hear. But really, I'm thinking that it's a stupid question because he's gained weight and is active and looks healthy. He eats as often as he needs to. And he gets enough. Sometimes that's every hour. Sometimes he goes four or five or six hours without eating. And then he eats for two hours with only a couple of pauses to burp to make up for it. Because my life is crazy enough without writing down when he eats and for how long and then average it out every 24 hours.

How many wet diapers does he have a day? How many poopy diapers?

Again, like I have the time to count. Oh wait, I actually did count his poopy diapers one day. But it was after the frustration out of realizing I was changing the fourth poopy diaper in less than an hour. So I counted out of curiosity and maybe some bonus points in my mommy book to see just how many poopy diapers I had to change that day. (There were eleven poopy diapers that day.) But normally, I don't count them. I have better things to do. And sometimes, just like counting how many times your baby woke you up in the night, knowing a number associated with an unpleasant task makes you more cranky about it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fall 2014 Bucket List

Fall is my favorite season. Or it was. It's still hotter than Hades in Florida and will be except for the two days this winter when it's a little bit chilly. I miss crunching through leaves in boots and bundling up in sweaters against the cool breezes. I miss the colors of changing leaves and picking apples to make homemade cider and sauce. But since we miss out on these things, I'm even more motivated to do the fall themed things we still can. Here's my list of things I want to do as a family this fall:

Fall 2014 Bucket List

Outings:
Visit a Pumpkin Patch
Go on a Nature Walk and Collect Leaves
Go to a Football Game
Go Camping

Arts & Crafts:
Paint or Carve Pumpkins
Make Leaf Art
Make Handprint Turkeys
Make Thanksgiving Centerpieces

Indoor Activities:
Write Thank You Notes
Watch Charlie Brown Halloween and Thanksgiving
Make a Thankful Tree
Family Room Fort

Food:
Drink Apple Cider Floats
Make Pumpkin Bread
Make Pumpkin Cookies

Have an Apple Dippers Party

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer Reading

A summer spent breastfeeding a newborn is a great time to do some reading. I read a couple of nonfiction books, but I spent most my time with novels. I'm behind on everything else in life. But my baby is fat and happy and my brain is full of books. Here's a few of my favorites from the last couple of months.

The best book I read all summer was All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry. The story was original and surprising. The writing was beautiful. Just read it.



The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd followed two women on either side of the slave South. I didn't know till I had finished it that it was based on true events and real, remarkable women.



The Girls at the Kingfisher's Club by Genevieve Valentine is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I've enjoyed retellings of fairy tales since I was a young teenager (a favorite author from those years was Robin McKinley, and the young girl still in me loves Shannon Hale stories). This is probably the most original retelling I've ever read. The bones of the story are still there, but it's set in prohibition era speakeasies.




Entwined by Heather Dixon was another retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I didn't intentionally read two of them. I think it might be becoming more popular (thus a movie should be coming out sometime soon). This one was more like a traditional fairy tale. Still fun and probably better for younger audiences than the above one.




Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Frost I read because of the author. I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet a few years ago. The title of that one sums up his books for me: bitter and sweet. His stories are beautiful and sad, but always redemptive. He's a great storyteller. This one has some difficult subject matter, so definitely for an older audience.




We Were Liars by E. Lockhart was a little bit dark, sending a few shivers down your spine. But if I can handle it, you know it can't be that bad. I liked it but would only recommend it if you like things that are a little bit dark.


Friday, August 1, 2014

3 a.m. Feedings

Sometimes 3 a.m. feedings aren't that bad--at least when you're breastfeeding. As your baby grows, you can even do it in bed and fall asleep during it. My baby still isn't great at latching in bed, so I get up and sit in a chair with a dim light on. Both baby and I stay sleepy so it's easy to go back to sleep when he's done eating. Most of the time.

And then there are 3 a.m. feedings that go like this:

Baby eats. 
Baby throws up everything he's eaten all over both of you.
Husband changes baby while you change. 
Husband goes to bed.
You sit down with the baby and the baby poops.
You change the poopy diaper.
While you're wiping the baby's bum, baby poops right into your hand (thankfully the wipe catches it all).
Once baby finishes pooping all over, you put a fresh diaper on him.
You sit down with the baby and the baby poops again.
You change the baby again and finish feeding him.
You finally get him asleep, but you're wide awake.

But you know, at least he didn't pee on me. It could have been worse.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Book Review and Thoughts on Grief

Having a Kindle Paperwhite has allowed me to read many books in just the past month that I've been breastfeeding. It's a lot easier to hold than a print book, the baby is not distracted by the noise of turning pages, and I can easily read books at 3 a.m. without turning on any lights.

One book I recently read (and finished at 3 a.m. as often seems to be the case) is Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala. It is a memoir of a woman who lost her husband, both her sons, and her parents when the tsunami hit Sri Lanka where they were vacationing on December 26, 2004.

I vaguely remember hearing about this tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people across many countries in the Indian Ocean. But as sad as such a news story is, if it doesn't directly effect you, you quickly forget it. As Annie Dillard said, "It hurts more to break a leg."

Wave tells the story of what happened to her family, and of the grief that followed. She is brutally honest about her feelings and her actions in the years following her loss. She doesn't sugarcoat the crazy things she did or the angry thoughts she had about other people. And she addresses things that made her feel guilty--like the fact that she didn't grieve for her parents' loss for a few years because she was so caught up in grieving for her sons and her husband. Something that most people grieving for the death of a loved one don't have to deal with because we usually face them one at a time.




This book made me think about grief and how we all deal with it. A couple of weeks ago marked the 4th year anniversary of my father's death from lung cancer. Two days before that an old acquaintance who touched hundreds of lives died. One day before that my great-uncle died. It was a tough week.

But I have something that Deraniyagala doesn't seem to--a belief in God and faith that we will one day be reunited with our lost loved ones. Knowing that doesn't mean you don't miss them or think it's unfair that they are gone. But when Deraniyagala spoke of her lost family, she kept stating that they were gone and she had to remember that. No hopes or thoughts of a future reunion. No comfort in knowing her family is together. How terribly bleak death must be without that faith.

I do not mean this next comment to make light of what Deraniyagala went through, but her apparent wealth made the process of dealing with what her family left behind different than what my family experienced at my father's death. Just the fact that her family traveled back and forth between different countries often shows she had a lot more than most. And this fact made it so that she didn't return to her London home until almost four years after her family's death--and it was still her home. My family had to leave the home they shared with my father just weeks after he died. Meaning we, and especially my mother, had to deal with the material things left behind right away rather than waiting years. I can't even begin to say what might be better or worse. She also traveled to new places she'd never been with her family to deal with the emotions she faced at each of her children's birthdays.

Birthdays. My family and I try to take my dad's birthday as a time to celebrate his life and remember him. The family that lives close get together and have a dinner of his favorite things and talk about him. I only rarely think about how old my father would have been. I might reflect on it more on the years he would have been 60 or 70. But losing a child fills each passing birthday with thoughts of how old they would have been, how much they would have grown, and what they would have been doing if only they had lived. I cannot even imagine that pain--especially in losing all your children.

As sad as the story is, I highly recommend the book. It is a very human story and I enjoyed her writing. It's one of those rare occasions when something extraordinary happens to someone and their memoir doesn't need to include the name of the person who actually wrote it. Fair warning, she uses the F word about half a dozen times. I can't say I necessarily blame her based on what she was going through, but I know some people would like to avoid it in the books they read.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Baby #3 Birth Story

The birth of my third baby is the reason for my long absence here. As I've said in the past baby #1 was an in hospital birth with an epidural. Baby #2 was a home waterbirth. With baby #3, I was lucky enough to live in a place that offered every option for birthing that I could hope for. (Florida is not a good place for a VBAC though. But that wasn't something I needed to worry about.) I chose another home waterbirth. Here's the short version of birth #3.

****

I had a midwife appointment at 40 weeks and 4 days. I had been losing my mucus plug for a few days and had been having harder contractions on and off, though they never lasted for more than an hour or two. When the midwife checked me for progress, I was dilated to a little more than a 3. Since I was past my due date, she offered to strip my membranes if I wanted. That is supposed to help get labor going in a few days if you’re close anyway. I felt I really was close to labor this time. After she stripped the membranes, I was dilated to 4 cm. 

At 4:00 p.m. I started having contractions that slowly built in frequency and intensity—until about 9:00 at night. Then they slowed down. I went to bed at 10:00 knowing that if real labor was going to happen, it would happen even if I was sleeping. I was woken up with a few sharp contractions, but fell asleep after them. At 1:00 a.m. they were frequent and strong enough that I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I got up and walked around and bounced on the birth ball. I woke my husband up a little after 3:00 and had him stay up with me and watch the contraction tracker. He was worried about calling the midwife too early (a mistake we made in the past), but I was ready. He called her a little after 4:30 and she headed here.

I got into the bathtub to help me relax through the contractions as they were getting much more intense. I was handling my contractions better than my past labors. The key for me this time was using the time between contractions to relax and enjoy the break instead of spending the time between contractions being tense and fearing the next contraction. This worked so well, especially early on that when the midwife got here (a little after 5:00 a.m.) my blood pressure and pulse were really low and made it seem as if I were relaxed instead of in labor. When the midwife first checked my progress, I was hoping to be dilated to a 6 (that’s a number that indicates real labor—you can walk around for days at a 3 or a 4). I was an 8!

I definitely wanted to labor and birth in the birthtub and since contractions were getting more difficult, I was hoping to get in soon. But the midwife said his head was a little to one side and it would help if I labored while lying on the opposite side for a while. So I did. It was nice to labor in a resting position, but hard to do it without warm water or movement to help. Eventually I moved to the birth tub. 

I’m not sure of the timeline from that point. But the contractions continued to get harder to get through, though I kept telling myself that they were good because each one got me closer to baby. 
I remember being tired and wanting a nap (I’d been awake since 1 a.m. after all). I asked the midwife how much longer it would be so she checked me and said I was dilated enough, but that the amniotic sac hadn’t broken yet. It was bulging with his head right behind it so she asked if I wanted her to break it and speed things up or if I wanted to try some pushes during contractions to see if I could get it to break. I pushed through three contractions. When the midwife checked, my water still hadn’t broken, so she broke it for me. Thankfully, it was bulging enough that she could do it between contractions instead of during one.

Things definitely sped up after that. I can’t remember if I threw up before or after she broke my water. But I knew it was a good sign when I did throw up because I had thrown up during transition with both my girls, so I was kind of waiting for it. I was upset that I did it during a contraction though—it just seemed unfair to have to deal with both. And not really possible to relax through a contraction while you’re throwing up bile.

I moved into a kneeling position with my husband kneeling outside the tub to support me. I won’t sugarcoat it—pushing a baby out without any pain relief is excruciating. I did notice with some curiosity that once the burning pain of the head crowning begins, the band of pain around my lower abdomen (which is where the pain of most my contractions are felt) was gone. Just replaced by the horrible burning sting that they call the ring of fire. My legs also felt like they were burning.

So why would I choose to give birth without pain relief? Without getting into benefits vs. risks of medical intervention, I have two main reasons. 1) With my first I couldn’t feel what was going on—which meant I couldn’t work with my body to push the baby out. Feeling pain meant I could also feel what I needed to do and when my body needed to push. 2) Relief and happy hormones come once you push a baby out without pain medication. When I couldn’t feel pain, I couldn’t feel any of the good hormones either. I still felt numb, both emotionally and physically, after my medicated birth.

I remember them telling me to try to relax in between contractions. But here’s the thing for me with pushing—there is no in between. There are waves of more and less pain, but they crash into each other relentlessly without giving you a break. The only way they end is to get the baby out. Which was motivation for me. Since I was more in control this time around, I was able to actually bear down and push with my body. I also had a chance to reach down and feel his head when it was partially out, which helped me realize how close I was to being done.

His head was out but his shoulders were stuck so the midwife told me to put one of my legs up. In the moment I couldn’t comprehend what that meant so she grabbed my leg and set my foot down so I was only on one knee to try to open my hips and help him out. This didn’t work so she told me I needed to lay back. I understood what that meant, but couldn’t comprehend how I could possibly change position in the moment. Somehow they moved me so my other leg was up and I was laying back. As I pushed I felt a definite tug as the midwife pulled and helped me get his shoulders through. The cord was wrapped around his neck a few times so it took a moment before he could be brought up to my chest.

When he was brought up, he was blue. Which is scary, but I could feel his heart beating and I knew it was common for babies to need help getting that first breath. The midwife and I rubbed him for a bit, then she took him and laid him face down while she rubbed his back. That still didn’t work so she got the bag and mask and gave him a few pumps of air. She asked the assistant what time he had been born and realized that only two minutes had passed even though it seems like an eternity when your baby’s not breathing. After the bag and mask he started coughing stuff up and breathing.

I held him and the family gathered around to see him. The placenta came out soon after and a little while later, Daddy cut the cord and baby got out of the water. Daddy and big sisters cuddled the baby in bed while the midwife and her assistant helped me out of the birth tub and to the bedroom. I had only a superficial tear and I was allowed to decide whether I wanted stitches or not. I chose not to and had to be really careful the first few days, but the recovery has been so much better without stitches.


Baby #3 was born at 8:55 a.m. after 6 or 7 hours of labor and only 14 minutes of pushing. He was my biggest baby weighing in at 9 lbs. 7 oz., 22 inches long, and a 14.75 inch head.

I absolutely do not want to do it again--I'm content with #3 and neither my husband or I feel that we'll have anymore. But if I did, I would still choose a natural birth again.




Friday, June 13, 2014

My Nonspecific Childbirth Advice

I try to not feel guilty about things I did or didn't do during the birth of my children. And I know that there will be things that I wish I had or hadn't done when all is said and done with baby #3. But as I've reflected on my past birth experiences as I look forward to this one, there are a few things I wish I had known or remembered--and that I'm trying to remember for this one.

1) Educate yourself. You can't make a choice if you don't know your choices. And yes, doctors and nurses and midwives have seen more births than you, but they haven't seen the one you're about to have. Many institutions have a way that they normally do things. That doesn't mean that way is right for you.

2) Speak up. This is my #1 regret with baby #1. I ignorantly thought that people had read my birth plan or cared. Some things happened in the hospital both during and after labor that I did not agree to. And I wish I'd spoken up. I wish I'd told that night nurse to leave my room and get someone else. I'm  not great at speaking up for myself. And I don't think either my husband or I realized that we could and should speak up. This is where a doula could really help.

3) Rest and enjoy the moments between contractions. With baby #1 I was so anxious to go into labor that I didn't sleep in very early labor, which was a Thursday night. Then I spent all of Friday and Friday night in labor and didn't deliver until Saturday morning. Exhaustion did not help the challenges I faced in labor or the recovery period at all. With both births, I spent the moments between contractions in fear of the next one. And that got me nowhere. Labor is not nonstop pain. One of the main things I want to do differently this time is to try to remember to use the moments in between to relax, to renew, and to enjoy not having a contraction.

4) Remember the baby. I know this sounds weird, and hopefully I won't be judged too harshly for it, but at many points during both my previous labors, I was so wrapped up in the work and the pain and the exhaustion that I didn't think about the coming baby much. I'm not saying I didn't care, but I didn't take advantage of the coping technique of imagining the baby in my arms--the whole point of what I was going through. This is my favorite picture from the birth of baby #2. I have it framed and I recently got it down to look at to remind myself that this is what it's all for:


I've also gathered some quotes from my readings that I review and want to remember. Here are just a few:

“Don’t let your over-busy mind interfere with the ancient wisdom of your body.” – Ina May Gaskin

“To diminish the suffering of pain, we need to make a crucial distinction between the pain of pain and the pain we create by our thoughts about the pain. Fear, anger, guilt, loneliness, and helplessness are all mental and emotional responses that can intensify pain.” – The Dalai Lama

“Knowing unshakably that everything is in constant transformation can be extremely helpful in childbirth. No matter how long your labor takes—hours or days—or how challenging or easy the experience is, it will end. Each labor lasts only a certain number of breaths. Then it’s over. We don’t know how many breaths we will take in and release during labor or many intense physical sensations we call contraction-expansions will arise and pass, but however it goes, it goes. That much we do know.” - Nancy Bardacke

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What Do Homebirth Midwives Do?

As homebirth is becoming more common, I'm finding that more people are enthusiastic (or at least not panicking) when I tell them I'm doing a homebirth. Even if "there's no way I ever would/could do a homebirth," many people of my generation have at least heard of someone else who did it.

There are still a few people who ask if I'm going to have a midwife come. Umm, yes. I may be a bit outside of normal, but not that much. I appreciate having the expertise of a licensed midwife combined with the comforts and freedoms of home. There are extremists out there who choose an unattended birth or want to give birth in the ocean with dolphins (I seriously remember a news story about that from a few years ago, I'm not making it up). But even back when homebirth was the norm, women usually had midwives and other women attend them.

Since we moved, I'm experiencing my second homebirth midwife. Though their personalities are wildly different, as Licensed Midwives their education, training, and abilities are the same. My current midwife's practice is called Sweet Baby Midwifery. I was going to write my own explanation of what a homebirth midwife does, but she writes it so well on her website that I'm going to borrow some of her words (and you can check out her site if you want more detailed information).

Prenatal Care

I offer complete prenatal care during your pregnancy. Visits are scheduled at standard intervals: Once a  month until 28 weeks, every two weeks until 36 weeks and once a week until the baby is born. All visits are done in the comfort of your own home.

All prenatal care covers the exact same care you would get from an OB or a hospital based midwife. They check the same things and do the same lab tests at the same times.

Labor and Birth

When your body goes into labor, my birth assistant and I will come to your home. I bring with me everything needed for the labor, birth and immediate postpartum. This includes my birth kit of instruments, bulb syringe, oxygen, IV supplies, emergency equipment and medications to stop postpartum bleeding. I am fully prepared and trained should the birth or postpartum move outside of normal.  

While in labor, you have complete freedom of movement. You are encouraged to eat and drink. I have the ability to give you an IV, but it is not standard and only given if needed. I will monitor your blood pressure, pulse and temperature. I will listen to the baby's heart beat with my handheld Doppler in increasing intervals as labor progresses. 

Baby comes right to your chest after birth. Anything that I need to do for baby, I can do right on your chest.

Once you and baby are medically stable, comfortable breastfeeding and ready to sleep, my birth assistant and I will leave you to enjoy your new family addition.

Should a situation arise that requires transferring to the hospital, I will accompany you. I will call ahead to the hospital to let them know what is happening and what is needed. We will go either via ambulance or personal vehicle depending on the situation. Although, I don't have hospital privileges, I will be able to communicate with the hospital staff to insure a smooth transition.

Homebirth midwives come with all the equipment and medication (and training to use them!) that would be needed in an emergency. Without interventions, birth usually goes just fine. But a homebirth midwife is trained to face any emergency and to know when it's wise to transfer to a hospital.

Postpartum Care

I will return to your home 24-48 hrs after the birth. I will check on you and the baby. I provide breastfeeding help. Overall, I make sure you and baby are happy and healthy. I will then return at 2 weeks and 6 weeks postpartum.

This care is significantly better than what I received from the hospital. If I have problems with breastfeeding, I have someone's personal cell I can call to get that help as soon as I need it.

*****

When I was pregnant with baby #2, I was in a car accident. I called my midwife and she came to check on me and the baby at home right away. It was a Sunday and I didn't have to decide between waiting to make an appointment the next day or going to the ER to make sure my baby was safe.

Homebirth is definitely not for everyone or even for every birth. But true choice in childbirth includes knowing your choices. And I can attest that anyone making a different choice than what you're accustomed to will appreciate you learning a little bit about their choice before passing judgment.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Birth Books

Going on baby #3, I've read lots of pregnancy and birth books. The list tends to be heavy on natural birthing because that it is what I have chosen when possible, but I've read a variety. Though I certainly advocate natural birth, I also know that it's not the right choice for everyone or a possibility for every pregnancy. But I firmly believe that you can't truly make a choice unless you actually know what your choices are. And just as it's important for someone like me planning a home birth to know about and be prepared for any possibility, including a c-section if it is truly needed, I believe it's important for someone planning a hospital birth with pain medications to have some knowledge of how to get through an unmedicated birth. I know plenty of women who planned a hospital birth with medications who had a baby too quickly to take anything--even one who gave birth in her car on the way to the hospital.

Since I keep a list of books I've read (yes, I'm a nerd like that), I can look back and know exactly what books I've read before each child.

Before Baby #1 (who I wanted to have naturally but being in a hospital setting contributed to me needing an epidural--one that didn't work like they're supposed to):

1) Having a Baby, Naturally by Peggy O'Mara
Written by the editor of Mothering Magazine, it's a good overview of natural childbirth.
2) Birthing from Within by Pam England
I don't remember a lot of details from this book, but I remember that it covers lots of methods for coping with the pain of childbirth, not just one like most books do.
3) Birth: The Surprising History of How We are Born by Tina Cassidy
Talks about the history of childbirth through the years. Interesting to see how much things change and how certain beliefs came to be.
4) Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy
Not an education book, but she does give some funny insight into a first time mom's experience. She can be a little crude, and I didn't like the follow up Baby Laughs nearly as much.
5) The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine
Written by a normal woman. It talks about some of the weird, embarrassing things that women in experience during pregnancy and childbirth that we don't talk about with everyone.
6) Hypnobirthing by Marie F. Mongan
I've known this method to work great for many people. It simply didn't for me. I don't think I'm the right personality for it. But if you are planning a natural birth, it's a good one to look into.
7) What to Expect When You're Expecting
This is the only book I wish I hadn't read. It should only be used as a reference book (but you can easily search the same information on childbirth websites like babycenter.com). Read from cover to cover it brings up too many scary what ifs that are rarely an issue.

Before Baby #2 (who I gave birth to in a tub at home):

1) Better Birth by Denise Spatafora
My take on it after reading it was: "Pretty good, a little too touchy feely, repetitive and there are lots of others like it."
2) Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein
This is a good one with lots of information and fairly unbiased. They also have two documentaries: The Business of Being Born and More Business of Being Born which are usually available n Netflix Streaming. The first one set out to explore natural birth, but in an unexpected turn of events also follows a birth that ends up taking place in a hospital. Which reinforces my feelings that it's important to know all aspects of birth.
3) Birth Matters: A Midwife's Manifesta by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May is the most well-known midwife in America, and is also known throughout the world. She definitely advocates natural birth. But if you want to learn about it, she is the one to read.
4) Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper, RN
This one was long, but had a good coverage of lots of issues surrounding childbirth.
5) The Official Lamaze Guide by Lothian and DeVries
Another method of childbirth pain management. I've never stuck to one method, but was glad that I read a variety so I had different methods to call on at the time.
6) Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
The book to read on natural childbirth.
7) Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin
A good guide to breastfeeding no matter what your childbirth choices or realities are.

Before Baby #3 (who is due in a couple of weeks and I'm planning a home waterbirth, though I have back up plans for if something goes wrong):

1) A Good Birth by Anne Drapkin Lyerly
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has given birth, especially if things didn't go as hoped. It helped me process both of my previous births and come to terms with some regrets I had.
2) The Homebirth Guide by some doctors
This one was okay. As someone who had already given birth at home, it was mostly reminders.
3) Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
A good reread and reminder.
4) Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin
Another good reread. I'm really hoping to avoid the same early breastfeeding issues I encountered with my first two (who had different issues). What I've probably learned the most is to get professional intervention right away if I'm having any difficulties.
5) Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke
The method in this one is mostly meditation, but I've found good information in it even without doing the meditation practices. Even with all the other childbirth books I've read, I'm glad that I picked up this one.

So there you have it. I believe that knowledge is power--but too much knowledge can stress you out. What I really wish I'd known the first time around (both in reading about birthing and parenting) was to gather knowledge but to trust in myself, to not become too attached to any one method or idea, and to speak up for myself.

For Baby #3, I have plans for how I want things to go, contingency plans for if something goes wrong, and trying to have more trust in my body's ability to birth, and since I'm religious, a little more faith in God and a little less need to try and control things out of my control.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Top 10 Signs You’re at the End of Your Pregnancy

Granted, a lot of people think I’m near the end of pregnancy long before I am. But I think that people don’t realize, or forget, what an 8 – 9 month pregnant belly really looks like because you see them so rarely. My nesting instinct is kicking in—not the cleaning kind, but the hurry up and run all the errands and buy all the things kind. Mostly because it’s getting harder and harder to go out and I’m looking forward to sitting around the house for the last few weeks. Which brings me to #1 on my list (this might only apply to women with short legs as it’s apparently not an issue for everyone).

1. The steering wheel hits your belly. Your driving days are numbered. (A short legs with big belly problem.)

2. Reaching things in general is more difficult. (A short arms with big belly problem. Cooking dinner is getting hard. Forget about being tired and food only sometimes sounding good. If I lean against the counter, the baby kicks back in protest and pushes me away from it.)

3. Your pregnant belly is not always round. It’s often misshapen and skewed in one direction or another as baby snuggles into one side.

4. Turning over in bed is a major production.

5. If you need to pick up more than one thing off the floor, you crawl rather than getting up and down and up again. Too much work.

6. It’s hard to see your own feet. Or if you have a small child who is shorter than your belly, she can hide underneath it.

7. Your maternity shirts are getting too small. Your limited wardrobe is limited further as you slowly have to put aside maternity shirts that no longer cover your belly.

8. Almost everyone opens doors for you. People even rush to offer to help you if you’re carrying something. (This same politeness doesn’t apply to all people driving through a parking lot. But let me tell you, if you’re not stopping for this pregnant lady carrying her toddler, you’re going to get a dirty look. Because come on, who doesn’t stop for that?)

9. You use the bathroom before you leave for the store. After the 15 minute drive to the store, you have to use the bathroom again before you dare start shopping. (A change of position can make you need to pee.)

10. Your four year old tells you that she’s walking slower for you because “pregnant ladies walk really slow.”


And every time you’re certain your belly can’t get any bigger—it does.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mother's Day and Mom Guilt

Mother's Day is supposed to be a day about celebrating moms. Somehow it's become more complicated than that.

A single mom I know just expressed bitterness about Mother's Day on Facebook (calling it just a reminder that no one appreciates what she does or goes through).

There are women who want to be mother's but aren't yet (because they're single or because of fertility issues). And though I've never experienced it, I can't imagine that "all women are mothers" can completely soothe that pain.

There are people who have lost their mothers. Father's Day is hard for me because I've lost my father--I try to focus on my husband as the father of my children, but the day is always tinged with sadness for me because my father is gone.

There are people with absentee mothers or who simply don't like their mothers (warranted or not).

And then there are mothers who don't like Mother's Day because they don't feel like they are or were good moms and it makes them feel guilty.

As long as there are mothers, there has been and will be mom guilt. It might be more exaggerated now. We don't just compare ourselves to the seemingly perfect moms in our neighborhoods, but we can now compare ourselves to the Pinterest perfect mom ideas and the carefully chosen pictures on blogs and Facebook. We can never live up to the ideals presented on the internet--and neither do the people who share them.

I love this post from one of my favorite blogs: Our Best Bites: A Few Thoughts Before Mother's Day. They address both comparing ourselves to the stuff we see on the internet (and show some truths of things that happen in their own homes) and their own relationships with their mother's (that were less than ideal).

Besides not nearly living up to the internet ideal of motherhood, I pretty much never live up to my own idea of the kind of mother I'd like to be. Sometimes I have a breakdown and feel like an awful mother. But I always try to pick myself back up the next day and do a little better. Without goals, I'd never do better. But I try to first be realistic (spending our summer with a newborn is going to pretty much equal the lamest summer ever, and I've tried to come to terms with that). And then I try to not feel guilty when I don't meet my feeble goals. It doesn't make me feel any better and it certainly doesn't make me a better mom.

In celebrating Mother's Day in our house, I think of it as a mom's day off. As much as it can be with small children who still need a lot from their mom. I don't cook or do the dishes. And I've learned to choose meals that I don't feel like I have to step in and help with.

Here's hoping that moms and those who wish they could be moms can find some peace this Mother's Day.

And a couple more blog posts I've appreciated about combating mom guilt:

How Does She: 6 Tips on Doing Away with "Mom Guilt"

Daring Young Mom: Drops of Awesome

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pregnancy is Weird

Pregnancy is beautiful, amazing, hard. Whatever. Mostly, pregnancy is weird. There are a million strange symptoms you could have because of being pregnant, and most of the time, no one knows exactly why. Some pregnancy symptoms could either be a sign of everything being perfectly normal--or a sign that something is terribly wrong. Like nausea or bleeding early on.

I read lots--probably too much--with my first pregnancy. I read a little bit with my second, because I knew that there were differences with a second pregnancy. But no one told me until I complained of it that your third is an entirely new battle too. Everything is already nice and stretched out and so there's a lot more pain and discomfort a lot earlier. Lots of women with three children tell me now that their third pregnancy was so much harder. Well, too late.

I've been more tired, more sore, and more uncomfortable a lot earlier on. Plus I've had weird symptoms that I never had before. Maybe I was just lucky before.

Swelling--I had minor swelling in my hands and feet before. But I never had my feet (or more often, just my left foot) swell up into marshmallows and get deep lines in them from wearing shoes. I guess it gives me an excuse to wear sandals everywhere. Those give me lines too, but at least I can slip them off when I sit down.

Bloody noses--This has seriously been a completely new and annoying one. I've gone weeks without a bloody noses, but then I'll have them in clusters. They come on suddenly and often last for twenty minutes. It's so fun to have a bloody nose in public. Or to have to pick up your daughter from school while holding your nose with a tissue. Or, my favorite, getting a bloody nose in the middle of the night and sitting in the bathroom pinching your nose at 3 a.m. instead of sleeping.

Baby activity--This probably has more to do with the baby than it being my third. I felt him move at 11 weeks. And unlike my girls, I don't have to be resting to feel him move. In fact, if you're ever sitting next to me, just watch my belly. It moves and wiggles frequently. I'm pretty sure I have bruises. Late evening is his favorite time and I timed him moving nonstop for more than an hour and a half. I'm excited to meet this child, but a little afraid of his activity level when he's a toddler.

One thing that has not surprised me is the tactless comments. At about 7 months along (where I am now) with all three is when people started assuming I was due any day now. Nope. Next they'll think I'm having twins. But as you can see from the pictures, I have a long way left to go. My belly can always get bigger. And thus far, it's never "popped."

Baby #3, 30 weeks
Baby #2, 40 weeks

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A River Runs Through It

When we bought our house, we had no idea that we were purchasing river and lake front property.

I've lived in the desert where the thunder and lightning is spectacular. I've lived in the Pacific Northwest where it rains for days on end. But I've never seen anything like a Florida rain and thunderstorm. I took the video when it had slowed down a bit.


video

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Least Favorite Holiday

Can April Fool's Day even be called a holiday? There's lots of traditions around it, but no one is sure why it started or what the point is. I found an interesting blog post with facts about April Fool's Day: Twenty Interesting Things About April Fool's Day. And there are some funny and clever things on blogs like Make It and Love It--in previous years she's done posts like chocolate covered veggies and embellished disposable diapers on April 1. There's cutesy stuff to do for your kids like making a cupcake look like a piece of corn on the cob. But that's far beyond the kind of time I'm going to take on just about any holiday, especially April 1.

The real reason I don't like April Fool's Day is that for the most part, any pranks or practical jokes made on this "holiday" are at someone else's expense. It creates a mess or a problem for someone else, or makes them look stupid so other people can laugh at them. And any time a joke has to be at another person's expense, it's not really funny.

This sentiment has sometimes given me the label of "not having a sense of humor." Well, having a different idea of what's funny than someone else doesn't mean I don't have a sense of humor. And I wrote a published paper about that as an undergrad, so don't get me started unless you want to hear the arguments I made in that paper. (And no, that's not an April Fool's Day joke.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Farm Fresh Produce


One of the things that surprised (and disappointed) me the most about Florida was the lack of farmer's markets. There are farmer's markets, but they are all a half hour or more away. And now that we live in a place where we don't have to drive that far for most things, we never got around to making it to a farmer's market.

A few months ago, a farmer's market store a few miles away. It's still farther than the stores, but it's closer than the farmer's markets, and it's hours are better because it's open seven days a week.

Today as one of our spring break activities, we went to the farmer's market store and bought all the produce pictured above for $20. The price is good, the produce is fresh. But best of all, is having my girls walk through and pick out fruits and vegetables they want to try.

On the way home, my four year old kept sniffing and saying, "Smells so fresh!" And my two year old said, "Mom, we got fruits and vegetables. They delicious!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring Break

It's strange to think that last year, every week was like Spring Break week. We never had any school or any other regular obligations during the week. My oldest only does a half day of preschool now, but when she doesn't have school, she gets really bored. That on top of the fact that I'm trying to pack and clean a house, I decided I need a list of things to do during our upcoming Spring Break or my kids are going to watch way too much T.V. and end up cranky and fighting with each other.

Some friends are planning a day at the beach during Spring Break. And while Orlando has a ton of fun things to do, I know that I'm not going to enjoy a beach day alone with a preschooler, a toddler, and 6 months pregnant. So my list is a bit simpler and closer to home.

1. Visit the Science Center
2. Go to the library in the morning, then have a read-a-thon in the afternoon
3. Paint pictures
4. Go to a splash park
5. Play outside
6. Go on a walk
7. Bake something
8. Go to the farm market store
9. Ride bikes
10. Look at scrapbooks

With baby #3 due in June, I'm going to need lots more ideas of fun stuff to do at home this summer. What do you do with your kids during Spring Break and Summer Vacation?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Female Friendships


For book club this month I read The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow. It's not something I would have picked up on my own, but it made me think and tore me in a few different directions.

One aspect I liked is that it made me think of This American Life where they interview average Americans and find that everyone has a unique story. If you delve deep enough, no one's life is boring.

The Girls from Ames is about a group of 11 women whose friendships go back forty years. They were (mostly) good friends through high school and kept in touch over the years. Now that they're in their forties, they meet together once a year even though they have completely different lives and live all over the country. It is inspiring how they support each other and how long they've kept in touch--even before social media was big.

On the other hand, as great as they treat each other, this kindness didn't always extend to outsiders--especially in high school. There is one girl in their group whom they gang up on and tell her all the things they don't like about her. She briefly leaves the group but ultimately forgives them and is accepted into the group again as adults. Many in their smallish town thought they were clique-ish and frequently excluded others.

As I read this book, I knew that they were girls I would not have liked in high school. And worse than not liking me, I would have been too unimportant to even notice. There's a character on the T.V. show The Middle. She's awkward and nerdy and unabashedly enthusiastic. And she's constantly having to convince people that she's lived there her whole life and isn't a foreign exchange student because they so rarely notice her. I was that girl, except that I was too shy to try to convince people that I did exist.

Today, I have exactly two Facebook friends who were friends from high school. I have plenty of "friends" who I barley know and haven't talked to in years. But I was important enough to two people in all my childhood and high school years for them to even bother "friending" me on Facebook where everyone has friends they barely know.

I do have some closer friends from college. Some who I can reconnect with even after years of silence between us. And there's a little comfort in that. But, I also have friends from college who I lived with for years and I thought we were really close even as the years have passed. And then they suddenly stopped speaking to me or replying to my messages. I don't really want to know what I did to either offend them or become so unimportant that I'm no longer worth the time to send a message to every few months. Now that I'm in my thirties, I wish I was beyond being hurt by such things, but it does make me second-guess myself and make me uneasy about new friendships. Do I dare get close enough to people for them to discover whatever unknown unlikable thing there is about me that has caused others to cut off years-long friendships without a word?

There are some bright spots in my close relationships with female friends (and if you read the book, as you age close female friendships are extremely important, even to your physical health). I have moved seven times in the eight years I've been married. And lived in five different states. But one of the great things about the church I belong to (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), is that no matter where you go, you have a built-in network of people who will befriend you and help you. Especially in the Relief Society, the church's women's group. Though I'm still a reticent person and take a while to become close to someone, almost everywhere I go, I have women who are willing to help me out. I've noticed this blessing more as my husband has had to leave the country on business for weeks at a time. His co-workers' wives have reached out to me and worried that I'm pregnant and have young kids alone in a new place. While I'm grateful for this and happy to pursue friendships with them as well, I've known that I am not as alone and isolated as they fear.

And the brightest spot, is my female friendships that truly have and will last a lifetime--whether they want it to or not. I have three sisters. We did not always get a long as children, we don't always agree as adults, but we love and support each other anyway. I turn to them for advice and ranting and de-stressing all the time. It was one of the things that made me desperately want a sister for my daughter.