Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

I've decorated my home and wrapped all the gifts. I've taken the clan to church and said my many thank-yous. I've fed the family and some friends: smoked Cornish game hens, roasted winter vegetables with cranberries, pear-and-chestnut stuffing, and pot de cremes. I've tucked in my older daughter and sung Silent Night and The First Noel and Away in a Manger. We are now performing Santa duties, hiding stocking gifts from each other in a last attempt to be sneaky.

It's so different to be a grown-up at Christmas, even more different to be a parent. But I love this new role, love being the family member to host the big dinner, and the mom who picks out the most asked-for gifts. Christmas is magical for a new reason now: no longer about gifts and wants, now focused instead on giving, hosting, pleasing, loving. It is a fulfilling holiday, a reflective one, a joyful one.

Tidings of comfort and joy to you and your families. I hope your Christmas is magical.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Midnight Movie Musings

A lot of strange things go through my head as I nurse my baby several times each night. I compose beautiful blog posts in my head, I construct to-do lists, I replay conversations, I daydream of vacations, and recently I've worked out Christmas gift ideas. Most of these thoughts are completely forgotten by morning, but one has lingered.

I was thinking about my favorite movies, and which ones I would consider owning, even in this day of on-demand streaming. I think my generation of folks share a lot of the same favorites: The Princess Bride, The Shawshank Redemption, When Harry Met Sally, and the Stars Wars and Indiana Jones series come to mind. But there are a few movies that I adore that may be a little less familiar to people. Here is my list of lesser-known favorites.

- In America. After seeing this in the theater, my very masculine buddy asked if we could just sit for a while, as he had been crying. Our whole crowd was happy to just sit and relish the experience of moving storytelling. The acting is amazing. I rented it again recently, after having kids, to see if it was as good as I had remembered. It meant even more as a mother.

- French Kiss. In a decade of too many RomComs - and arguably too many Meg Ryan movies - this gem stands out. Meg is a charming level of cute, and Kevin Kline, as usual, steals the show. So adorable.

- Romancing the Stone. When Dad #2 moved in, he brought this movie with him, which I went on to watch several times a year. It is a ball of 80s cheese wrapped in a really entertaining adventure movie. I know no one who dislikes this movie, even if they'd be too ashamed to call it a favorite.

- Pixar of Your Choice (The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc. and How to Train Your Dragon are my tops). I have a masters in English, and I will adamantly argue that the best storylines for movies these days are in Pixar's "children's" movies. My friend who went to film school says it's because animated movies have one small team that takes them from first idea to final production, whereas other films are often rewritten and totally changed by several people over many years (case in point: Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights was originally written as a serious look at modern Cuba - ha!). Pixar tells funny, touching and beautiful stories for all ages.

What are your hidden favorites?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ups and Downs

This post is ripped off from inspired by my dear friend's beautiful blog post (all her posts are quite beautiful, actually, and you should read her thoughtful blog all the time).

I find myself at an interesting intersection right now, where joy meets sadness, where lightness of spirit meets heaviness of heart, where the sweet is tinged with bitterness. Something has shifted in my life outlook. I feel lighter, more joyful, more appreciative. I had a lively dance party with my daughters the other night. I have been cooking up sweets and meals with great joy. I have smiled more at my children, enjoyed their grins and cuddles more, and lived in the moment more. I have been grateful.

I've been trying to find the source of the joy, and I think it stems from the combination of 1) Sylvia has stopped being so contrary and challenging after about a month of constant, exhaustive boundary-testing, and 2) I have lined up my new job and am very excited about the regular work schedule and interesting tasks. But beyond these concrete reasons, the shift feels more subtle, like the changing of a season. I am exhaling. I am happy.

However, but, and then... There is sadness around me. Two of our dearest friends have decided to separate after about two hard years of struggling. They are pillars in our social life, "aunt" and "uncle" to our children, the type of friends who are family. My heart aches at their heartache. I can't fix it. I can't even help much. So I carry the sadness with me. Another friend, farther away but still very dear, is in the middle of a divorce. She is setting up her new life, trying to move on, but struggling each day with her new reality. Again, I can't help much -- even less from far away -- but I think of her often and mourn at her loss.

Perhaps the happiness I feel is possible because of the sadness. Maybe my spirit is lighter only because it has been weighed down -- is occasionally still -- but knows the importance of breaking free. Being low reminds me to reach high. Feeling pain reminds me to seek joy. This is cheesy and heavy-handed, I realize, but it's true. I will continue to carry my friends' griefs, to try to help them, but I will also rejoice in my blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Open Windows

My previous post was about a door being slammed in my career. Suddenly, I would no longer be a college instructor. After a few days of being upset, followed by a few days of soul-searching about whether or not I wanted to work at all (I do), I decided to go in search of new opportunities. I cleaned up my website, then sent out a few emails to some of my closer contacts from back in my days of working in Washington, D.C. I asked only that they keep me in mind for future editing, writing or PR projects.

And wow, the door may have closed, but many windows have opened. My old colleagues came back with positive support and encouraging ideas, as well as some concrete job offers. It looks like I may be doing social media and communications for a magazine (more on that when it's finalized). I'm also doing a quick editing job on an academic paper, which is another direction I could take locally. Folks, I am so blessed to have a skill set that will allow me to make some money at home, the support of helpful friends, and the ability to start slow, so that I can focus first and foremost on my mothering duties, while still using my brain a few hours a day.

The biggest lesson I'm taking from this is to not only avoid burning bridges when you leave a job, but to keep up with the coworkers you like and respect. You never know who may be able to help you in the future.

Thank you to everyone who offered encouraging words after my last post. I am excited about this new direction in my life.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ramblings about my Future, or Do You Want to Hire Me?

For reasons I won't go into in this public space, I won't be teaching my usual class this spring. After my frustration/anger/surprise wore off, I realized that I'm mainly just sad about it. I loved my students. I enjoyed teaching writing for public relations, as it kept my skills fresh and -- I like to believe -- helped students learn some real-life writing skills that they will use every day of their professional lives. It was very fulfilling to watch them improve over 15 weeks, and I treasured every email I received from former students telling me about jobs they'd landed or experiences they had that they attributed to my class.

Teaching was also a regular use of my brain, a time to step away from being a mom and instead be a professional. It forced me to stay on top of the news, both world news as well as happenings in business and social media. It took me onto campus twice a week to sit at a desk in a half-decent outfit, interact with fellow lecturers and professors, and have fun, adult conversations. Also, since my husband works in the same department, it allowed me to know more about the players and events going on in his daily life. While I've enjoyed my at-home freelance work, teaching was a way to get out into the world.

So, what do I do now? I could become a full-time stay-at-home mom. It's what I'm doing now, and it's not so bad, occasionally awesome. Without the distractions of work (which included an overwhelming if not overblown need to be on the computer a lot), I've become a more regular cook, a better housekeeper, and a more engaged mom (we do craft projects! we go to the playground often! we bake together!). I've even returned to regular novel reading during the daylight hours (bliss!). I don't mind this role, and I'm wise enough to realize these moments with my children won't last forever. It is a true blessing that we can afford for me not to work (it's tight -- very tight -- but we're making it).

But I'd be lying if I said it was 100% fulfilling. I miss talking to adults every day. I miss using my brain. I miss having a compelling reason to keep up with the news. I hate that when D comes home, I sometimes find myself chatting about a TV show I watched that day. I also have to admit that I'm not fully comfortable having D earn all the household income. I want to contribute. I like contributing. (Yes, I am FULLY aware that full-time parenting is a huge contribution, but I like it better when some of the cash in our account comes from my side).

I have been pulling in a little money here and there with my freelance work. It's not a lot, but I have enjoyed the projects, especially when I get to work on travel guides. So that's my second option: work to get more freelance clients. This may mean hiring more babysitters when projects come in (thus cutting down my per-hour earnings significantly). It will mean more stress, more computer time, less child-engagement time. But it would also mean more financial security (a little more money would help with house projects and vacations that I dream about,, not to mention those savings accounts that need some padding). It would keep me from falling off the bandwagon of the professional communications world; it would be my oar in the water (<---go read this article).

So now I am emailing a few old connections, seeing if I can drum up some new business. I'm not sure what I want, but I sure won't know what it's like to have more clients unless I try for some. In the meantime, let me know if you need some writing/editing/proofreading help, or help managing a PR campaign. I'm your girl -- I just may need to rearrange my entire home and work life first....

Monday, October 8, 2012


Dearest Sylvia,

As you have proudly told me several times today, while carefully displaying your three tiny fingers, you are three years old. Congratulations! We can both celebrate this milestone, achieved from 1095 days of adventure, many of them challenging, much of them rewarding, all of them growing, constantly growing.

I remember nursing you late at night in the green glider; now when you wake at night I stroke your sweaty hair, tuck you back in, ensure you have your Sleepies, and gaze at your beautiful, quiet face. You have given up naps, so bedtime is no longer a chore. You have come so far. I am so proud of you.

You can do the Hokey Pokey and the Chicken Dance. You can do a forward somersault and can balance on just about anything. You can play a pretty decent game of catch, catching most balls thrown your way and throwing most of them in a way that I can catch. You can kick a soccer ball really far and you are fast and sleek on your scooter. You are strong, coordinated and enthusiastic.

You know your alphabet by heart and can usually identify all the letters. You are starting to write letters; you've recently showed me S, E, F and H. You can reliably count to about 15, you can identify many written numbers, and you are grasping the concept of addition ("I had two M&Ms and I want one more so I will have three.").

You love to sing. You know several songs and bring back new ones from school regularly. You love art, usually coming up with your own ideas for projects. A favorite of yours is to collect flower petals, twigs and leaves from outside and then glue them to paper and paint over it. You color or paint on your easel several times a day. Your pictures are becoming more realistic: your people have eyes, nose and smiles, and you just added legs, feet, arms and hands. You've drawn identifiable kites, hot air balloons, lollipops, people, trees and cars. Your favorite color changes daily.

You are opinionated. You get frustrated easily when I want you to do something other than what you had planned. I'm told by other authority figures in your life (your teachers and gymnastics coach) that you listen well and follow directions, but at home you constantly test boundaries. You like to know the reason for every command. Your mastery of language makes you a rather interesting conversationalist and one who is constantly curious about the world, but it also makes you eager to talk your way out of obligations or demands. You;re also funny: you can make your father laugh his true belly laugh.

You are sweet with your baby sister. You try to include her in activities and often leave little gifts in her car seat or swing, like your special sticks, leaves, rocks and drawings. You like to climb on the bed to watch diaper changes, and you'll mimic your parents' soothing words, telling her, "It's OK, Sweetheart." You'll often tell me that Amelia wants milk, or you'll let me know the moment she falls asleep in the car seat. I call you Little Mama when you're a good helper.

You love pizza, the playground (especially swings), gymnastics class, television (especially Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Team Umizoomi and Super Why), chocolate, cheese, using glue and scissors, wrestling with your daddy, hiking, and cooking. You are independent, headstrong and full of ideas. You are talkative and very, very busy. You are silly, warm and engaging. You are my precious three-year-old and I love you dearly.

Your biggest fan,

Friday, October 5, 2012

Let me always remember...

...Her plump cheeks drooping onto my skin as she nurses, darting her eyes around as if daring someone to take the meal away.

...The incredible softness of her perfectly round head, crowned in downy fuzz.

...The heavy warmth of her body, curled up vertically against my chest, as she snuggles in the sling. She starts the journey by nuzzling her head into my chest, spends a few minutes observing the changing scenery, and then falls into a deep sleep, her ear pressed against my heartbeat.

...Her happy, open-mouthed smiles as she sits in the bent crook of my propped-up knees.

...Her giant, full-bodied stretches when I undo the swaddle in the morning. She arches her back and pushes both arms high above her head, joyful to start a new day.

...The deep, rough-seas blue of her eyes, showing flecks of mossy green and coffee brown. Those striking eyes are always looking, seeking, taking it in, sparkling. I'm sure they will change to brown, so I want to soak in this color now.

...Her tiny, beautiful fingers, which still instinctively curl around mine and hold on tight.

...Her radiating warmth and the soothing rhythm of her deep breathing when we curl up in bed together for afternoon naps. Even in the middle of a busy afternoon, or during times when Sylvia is scampering around the house, we can create a peaceful cocoon together in the dim warmth of my bedroom.

...Nursing at night, alone, lit only by my small book light, with no sounds except her gentle sucking. I am tired, yes, but also deeply comforted by these brief moments of togetherness and peace. We need each other.

My second, my littlest, my last baby. Let me always remember these fleeting moments. Don't let the rest of my cluttered life and its many distractions take my attention or my eyes from you for too long. This is your baby time. Let me be present.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Best note ever

My best friend B is coming to stay with me for a long weekend while my husband and almost everyone I know in town goes to a wedding in Philadelphia. B and I grew up like sisters, and while we don't see each other or talk as much as I'd like, we are the type of old friends that are as comfy and low-maintenance as the yoga maternity pants I'm still wearing.

I wanted to share the email she just sent me, because it may be the most perfect thing anyone could send a new mom:

I hope ya'll are settling in nicely; I can't wait to see you guys!  I don't know if you realize this about me, but I'm actually kind a picky houseguest and I have some requests listed below:

1)  I prefer clutter and dust (especially large clumps of floating dog hair under the coach).  so don't even think about cleaning or straightening up before I come.

2) I also like a nice empty refrigerator and long grocery list so I can do some grocery shopping and cook for you.  so don't worry about cooking or thinking up food for dinner
3) I especially like entertaining almost 3 year olds, so please be thinking of some activities I can do with Sylvia in the mornings.  

But really, I am coming to be helpful, so let me!  It'll be fun.  Should I just call you when I arrive?  or take a cab over?

I'm so excited and thankful for this visit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Reluctant Homebirthers

My midwife calls my husband and me "The Reluctant Homebirthers," a very appropriate title. Yes, we planned to birth at home, but not until the last minute. And when all this started, I did not at all expect to end up giving birth in my own tub. In fact, I believe D said "hell no" when I first brought it up.

I have long been an advocate of natural childbirth and the practice of midwifery. After taking a course my senior year of college called Women & Reproduction, taught by a midwife, my understanding of women's bodies and the natural process of birth made natural childbirth seem not only preferable, but safer and easier. I won't take time to go through all the reasons, but in short, it just makes sense to me that mothers should be allowed to be out of bed (reclining in birth is counter productive!), and that hospitals are more likely to intervene, and one intervention in a natural process throws the entire process out of whack. Women's bodies are designed to give birth, so why mess with it? For those interested, I'd recommend watching the documentary The Business of Being Born for a quick overview, though I think the film skips some opportunities to discuss the scientific benefits of untampered-with birth.

Not me

I feel the need to point out here that I don't identify myself as a hippie. I like doctors. I am pro-vaccine and love science. I once told my husband that I didn't want a midwife who would show up in Birkenstocks and a broomstick skirt with a crystal around her neck. To me, natural childbirth out of a hospital made sense scientifically and logically, not out of some need for me to express my "womanhood" or damn The Man. (I will now say that natural birth is incredibly empowering and hippies are awesome people, smelly sandals and all).

My first birth was at a freestanding birth center. My part of SC does not have any birth centers adjoining hospitals, which would have been my first choice. As a person who always plans for the worst-case scenario, I liked the idea of being close to medical help. Our center was three miles from the hospital where my overseeing doctor practiced, which made it worth the 1.5-hour drive during labor. My experience there was wonderful, I loved my midwives, but I knew (and my birth team agreed) that I wouldn't want to make that drive the second time. I also remained in touch and became friends with the woman who had been the apprentice at my birth, Carey. She is now fully licensed and practicing with an office 10 minutes from my house, so I knew I wanted to work with her. The only trouble was that she only did home births. Just like doctors can't just stroll into any hospital and start practicing, midwives have to be affiliated with birth centers to deliver there. So that was my choice: work with Carey, or find a birth center in Greenville (45-50 minutes away) and find new midwives.

Thankfully, Carey wanted to work with us, enough so that she contacted local birth centers to see if anyone would let her deliver there. A new one had just opened up, and they said yes. We were thrilled -- I could work with the midwife I wanted, have all my appointments be local (for those who don't know, midwives do all your prenatal appointments as well, and wow are they kinder and warmer than doctors' visits!), and still deliver in a birth center that was nearer to a hospital, though still a 50-minute drive for us. We made this decision, booked a tour of the birth center, and then let the months pass by.

So much nicer than a plastic box
We had to cancel one tour. Carey had to cancel one time. The owner of the center, who would be the second midwife attending our birth, cancelled one time, and then didn't show up another time. Suddenly, we were within two months of birth, and we had never toured the birth center, met the owner, seen a contract, or received any feelings of support or trust from the center. We grew nervous. One trait a midwife must have is reliability, and we weren't feeling that from the center's owner. Plus, and this is small but nagging, the center's fees were expensive.  I expressed my anxiety to my overseeing doctor at my 35-week appointment, and he frankly told me this: "If you choose out-of-hospital birth, it makes no difference if you're in a birth center or at home. The midwives have the same equipment, the same training, the same oversight. At a birth center, you're basically just renting a room for the location." He then suggested I asked a friend in Greenville if I could deliver at their house -- a favor too big for me to even think of someone to ask. So we then discussed the "what ifs" of transport, and he assured me that my location to hospitals -- one 15 minutes away, another 25 minutes away, and one with a NICU 50 minutes away -- was perfectly safe for anything that might come up during a home birth (for the record, very few home births require transport, and when they do, it's rarely a dire emergency; you usually have plenty of time to decide when and where to go. For real emergencies, you call 911).

So I came home from that appointment and sat down my husband for a chat. He agreed to a home birth before I had even finished my spiel. I asked how he had changed his mind from being so clearly opposed to the idea just a few months before. "Well," he said, "I'm going to be worried about you [he may have actually said "terrified" because he's not a big fan of the labor process] wherever we deliver. If you feel more comfortable at home, and that seems easier, let's just do that." So, at 35 weeks pregnant, we became part of the fringe.

So much nicer than a hospital bed
We discussed how our families would feel, fearing the worse, but they were all surprisingly supportive. In fact, most people I told said something along the lines of "good for you! I hope it works out." We received a lot more support than I expected, and though I know it wasn't a decision many others would make, no one called me crazy.

Thankfully, our birth went smoothly. It was so easy to labor at home, not worry about when to leave, what to pack, where to go. There were no forms, no people to meet, no sterile environments. I watched the Olympics in my living room, sipping Powerade. My mom moved in and cooked. After the birth, the baby and I walked to my own bed and didn't leave it for three days, a wonderfully calm and healing experience. If we were to have more children, I would certainly birth at home again -- and this time, without reluctance.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Amelia's Birth Story

This post contains frank details and photos of birth - read at your own risk.

After missing my LMP due date on Saturday, Aug. 4, I was watching every sign, eager to know when labor was beginning. On Monday and into Tuesday, I had started to feel a lot of low pressure and a bit of an ache between my legs, so I figured things were underway. Monday night I had some discharge, likely the start of my mucus plug, which set off my adrenaline so much I couldn't sleep but a few hours. Tuesday late morning, I had some bloody show and felt more low pressure and aching. I called my mom, who lives nine hours' drive away, and advised her to pack and maybe leave the next day. I wasn't having contractions but I knew things were starting. I awoke Tuesday night with mild cramping but got back to sleep after an hour or so awake. On Wednesday morning, Aug. 8, I felt enough mild cramping to say that labor was starting, but it was clearly starting slowly. I sent D to work, advising him it might be a short day, and called my mom. She had already decided to start her drive that morning, so she was in the car before I even called.

I did some organizing around the house, and noticed that the cramps stopped. I decided to go wear out Sylvia, so we headed to the playground. I tried to stay on my feet to get contractions started again, but I was also rather tired. While pushing Sylvia on the swings around noon, I felt the cramps start up again, this time much more like contractions. I had about 4 within that hour. We came home for lunch, and I napped after, and felt no contractions while sleeping. I had been texting Carey, my midwife, throughout the day, but at this point I expressed frustration that the contractions had stopped. She realized that I had Sylvia with me, and suggested I pass her off so my body cold stop being a mom and get down to work. D came home around then, and we decided to go as a family to get ice cream, and then take Sylvia to her grandparents' for the night. By the time we had gotten everything ready to go, though, I realized the contractions were back and stronger, so I hugged my daughter goodbye and sent them out without me. Almost immediately, the contractions picked up to being more noticeable and less easy. It was around 5pm.

I decided to paint my toenails - one last act of personal indulgence - which I thought had gone fine but now see is a smudgey mess. I wanted to shower, but put it off until things got more intense (it never happened). D returned home and I helped him prepare dinner (artichokes and pork chops). I gave him permission not to sit and watch me, so he hung out upstairs and I watched some Olympics while timing my contractions on my iPhone app. We ate dinner together, but sitting at the table was the first time I began to feel real discomfort. I called Carey to explain that I was having trouble timing things, because I had classic contraction waves, but also short bursts of cramps (I had the same combo of feelings with Sylvia). Intense feelings were happening every 5 minutes or so, but not all were long contraction waves. Carey advised me to pay more attention to my brain: as long as I was rational and thinking through these kind of details, I wasn't yet in active labor...but I could call her to come over any time.

After dinner I settled in front of the TV, watching first some Olympic track and then diving events, still tapping my phone app to try to time things. I sat on a birth ball at first, but then moved to my knees on the ground to lean on the ball. Around this time (about 7pm) my mom walked in. D helped her empty the car and get settled while I stayed on my ball. Mom was concerned that the midwife wasn't there, but I still felt "with it" and didn't see a need for another person to come hang out. I called D over to rub a tennis ball into my back during some difficult contractions. I then realized that they were lasting about a minute - a sign Carey told me meant she needed to come. So I texted her this at 8:08pm: "still rational, but cons are 1min+ and intense." She promptly responded that she was on her way (her house is about 15 minutes from mine).

Contractions were indeed intense, and I found the need to walk  around some. Jenn A, one of two apprentices, came in, and I greeted her but left her to do her thing. I gave instructions to D and my mom to put down a tarp on the carpet, the last set-up item on my list. I remember leaning into the bed for contractions, and D and Mom whispering that I was indeed "different" now. I walked out of the bedroom to return to my ball, but only made it as far as the staircase before having to double over. Carey and the other apprentice, Jenn C, walked in at that minute to find me on my knees, groaning on the stairs. I asked Carey to please check me quickly so I could get in the tub (I remembered that the bath had provided a lot of relief in my last labor, and I was ready for that).

Baby crowning as Carey supports physically, D emotionally
Carey asked me to get on the bed to be checked, but my body would not let me lie down. She managed to check me while I was on all fours, but all she could confirm was that I was indeed dilating and progressing. If I wanted an exact number of centimeters, I was going to need to lie down. That did not at all sound worth it to me, so I headed right into the tub. I was disappointed that the tub didn't make everything better. I instead began moving around in positions like a partial squat that admittedly weren't very comfortable or relaxing, but it was all I could manage. D sat on one end of the tub, Carey knelt on the other end. I was not happy because I wasn't getting much rest between contractions (I should have realized this meant I was near the end). Carey encouraged me to try to feel the baby, so I reached in and felt a soft joint. I blanched and said, "Carey, that's not a head." The room collectively took in a breath, but Carey promptly assured me it was a head, it just might not feel like one to me because a) baby heads have lots of shifting plates on top, and b) my water hadn't broken yet, so there was still a gelatinous layer covering it. She quickly checked me and confirmed it was indeed a head - thank goodness!

Concerned/amazed Mom

I continued to contort into weird squatting positions while trying to vocalize my two pre-decided laboring words: Down and Out. Occasionally, my body would release large bubbles, which I found strangely encouraging, like I had made progress. I really wanted to feel my water break, as I had read in other birth stories that it creates a huge feeling of relief, followed quickly by crowning. Instead, my chants turned to NOOOO as things got very intense. Then, I realized that I was pushing while contracting, even though I never had a clear pushing urge. I just had a LOT of pressure on my bottom, and then pain (most of labor really is pressure and waves, but this was rather acute pain around my rectum). My brother had made the joke that I would be "pooping out a baby at home," and that is exactly what it felt like.

Now, let me tell you the definition of selfless service: Carey leaned into that bath and provided counter-pressure to my rectum so it wouldn't hurt so much. I was then shocked to realize then that the baby was crowning - my water hadn't broken, but I could  feel her head exiting my body, and I cupped the head as it slowly lowered out of me. At this point it suddenly dawned on me that my mom, who had been in the kitchen staying out of the way, might want to see the birth, so I yelled at the top of my lungs "MOMMMM!" She replied from 2 feet away, "I'm right here," and everyone in the room laughed. And then...pause. I lost my urge to push, and whoop! Baby went back up the birth canal. It was such a weird feeling, almost like an upward suction. I sat there for a minute, shifted position  to be fully up on my knees, and felt her exit and then suck back up again. I was done with this. Even though I didn't have a contraction to help, I pushed anyway. Carey's hands and mine together supported my body and led Baby's head out. She came easily and slipped right from my body into my arms.

Baby born!

I saw immediately that the cord was loosely wrapped around her shoulder and her neck. Carey untangled her as I held her, and Baby began hollering right away. She was pink and perfect, not slimy or beat up in any way. I checked to make sure she was a girl and announced that to the whole room. I asked Carey what to do next, and she suggested it would be easier to birth the placenta out of the tub. Elated, I carried my new daughter against my chest as the midwives helped me walk the few feet from the bath to my bed. I lay there, gazing at my perfect, squawking daughter, as Carey and Jenn C helped me birth the placenta and put it in a bowl next to us. They then inspected me for tears or problems, and everyone helped wipe and clean me and the baby. I was feeling blissful, only a little crampy, and a bit overwhelmed that we were already done. She was born at 9:48pm, so I'd only been in active labor for about 2 hours.

Pure joy.
A flurry of activity happened around me as the midwives cleaned up and assessed, and Baby tried her first nurse. About 45 minutes after birth, the cord had gone flaccid, so Carey helped D cut it, and they then showed me the placenta. It seems like my membranes had been really strong, and instead of my water breaking, one membrane had just torn slightly and slowly leaked (which I never felt, maybe because it all happened in the tub?). I could still clearly see where my baby had lived for the past 10 months. The placenta is in the freezer now, but will soon be planted under a magnolia tree we bought for the occasion.

Around 11pm, the midwives weighed and measured the baby: 8lbs, 0 oz, 20.5" long. Her Apgar scores were 8 and 10. We couldn't come up with a name (none of our three finalists were immediately standing out; it would take us three days to name her), but no one seemed to mind. Mom brought me an amazing grilled cheese sandwhich and a peach, and a few people toasted some Stellas. The midwives all left by 11:30 or so, and D joined me in the bed to sleep just before midnight. We were joyful, overwhelmed and exhausted. Baby nursed and cried (a comical, froggy wail) until 4:30am before finally taking a long snooze. She certainly made her presence in the world immediately known.

Many thanks to Jenn Anderson for taking photos with my camera. Also, I'll follow up soon with a blog on how we (relunctantly) chose homebirth.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I had a baby! At home! On purpose! I will write up my birth story, as well as our reasons for choosing homebirth, as soon as I have a computer again (my laptop died 3 days before I went into labor - ugh). I'm also just a smidge busy nursing my very hungry new daughter Amelia and gazing at her perfect little face.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's Time

I am large and slow. I feel uncomfortable pressure against a variety of organs. I cannot stand up or sit down without omitting some kind of grunting sound. I am always hungry and yet feel overfull after eating. My mind is foggy. I am always, always hot (the 95+ degree temperature and unrelenting humidity don't help). It's time for this baby to be born.

In late June, after returning from all our trips, I made a "July To-Do List" on the Notes of my iPhone. As of today, all but one item have been completed (that outstanding item is a research paper I was supposed to edit, but my brain is just not capable of completing that task, despite multiple attempts). That list was so overwhelming at one point, but now I walk around the house with great satisfaction, eyeing the completed nursery, the lovely painted walls of our bedrooms, the sorted garage, the refurbished cloth diapers, the clean car seats. I've had time to make some deposits in the karma bank, taking food to three friends who have had babies in the past month. And D and I have even carved out a few nights for socializing with friends, soaking in some adult time out in the world before we are confined to the home. It's time for this baby to be born.

I've had some great talks with Sylvia about what is about to happen. She understands that when the baby decides to come out, she will be going to play with Hanna, our wonderful babysitter, for a while, and then she'll come home to meet the new baby and throw a birthday party. She understands that Baby will sleep with Mama, and that Mama will have to be in bed for a while. She knows that her Grand is coming to help, and that soon after that she'll start school (which she is very excited about), and then gymnastics class (which she is thrilled about). She seems to understand how small and helpless the baby will be, though I fear she is also envisioning a playmate. But we can talk about these things, and she seems so much more prepared, more capable of understanding, than even a few weeks ago. It's time for this baby to be born.

D has completed this semester of teaching. He hosts an exam tomorrow, but that can be proctored if need be. He's been working hard to plan out the next few weeks and remove most items from his desk. He had a wonderful night out with friends earlier this week, but yesterday seemed to shift to a focus on home. It's time for this baby to be born.

My fundus has dropped and baby's head is very, very low. Tonight is a full moon. There are thunderstorms in the area. My midwife tells me that all of these are indicators of birth. It's time for this baby to be born.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dear Husband (a belated birthday thought)

Thank you.
Thank you for casting me in your scene, from the play we’d later name our daughter after.
Thank you for asking me out so casually that day after we performed that scene.
Thank you for convincing me that moving apart wasn’t necessarily a reason to break up.
Thank you for believing in our future, even when I couldn't see it, much less believe in it.
Thank you for being endlessly patient with me, my craziness, my screams for independence, my need to run, my wanderlust.
Thank you for not only tolerating my family during a lot of ups and downs, but working your way into my family. And thank you for welcoming me into your family so openly, generously and completely.
Thank you for waiting on me, waiting for the right time, even when I kept you waiting too long.
Thank you for showing me your world, your hometown, and then helping me make it my own.
Thank you for constant support and encouragement. Thank you for trusting me even when I didn’t trust my own decisions.
Thank you for setting goals that included me and the family we didn’t even have – and then reaching them.
Thank you for choosing a career that uses your brain and your talents, but doesn’t abuse your time or your family. Thank you for being so good at it that we have such security, and I don’t have to worry about your happiness there.
Thank you for giving me our daughter, trusting me to raise her, and supporting my naïve mothering choices. You always said I knew best, even when I had no clue what I was doing.
Thank you for freeing me from any other obligations than motherhood, but then encouraging me to start a career path anew.
Thank you for getting me through my master’s degree. You didn’t have a very present wife for a few years, yet you happily provided sound advice, extra hours at home, and plenty of encouragement, with rarely a complaint.
Thank you for tolerating my endless prattling when you come home, when I am so eager to speak with an adult and to share my day. Thank you for being a full-time employee and a full-time dad.
Thank you for being an extraordinary father. Sylvia is a better person because she has a present, loving, fun, cuddly, entertaining, supportive and hands-on daddy. I couldn’t ask for a better partner in parenting.
Thank you for wanting to go through the chaos of newborn life again, but also for understanding how brief that time will be.
Thank you for teaching me how to value friends and family, why NPR is awesome, the subtleties of Southern barbeque, the simple joy of a day at the lake, and that it is perfectly acceptable – nay, rewarding – to be dependent on another person.
Thank you for sharing the last 13 of your 36 years with me. I love you.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


(c) PepsiCo
And now I'd like to put on my PR professor hat for a moment and and rant make an observation. Pepsi's new global campaign is entitled, "Live for Now." I just heard my first radio ad about it, and I'll admit it was catchy.

According to PepsiCo's press release, the slogan is about connecting Pepsi drinkers to music, entertainment, and pop culture events, and will open the door to various partnerships (the first one, launched in May, was with singer Nicki Minaj). Furthermore, "Live for Now" apparently, "embodies a mind-set that is true of Pepsi loyalists around the world, while still connecting with a large and growing number of consumers who share the same values."

I think that "value" must be living a life without consequences.

Living "for now" means not considering consequences, or not caring about what might happen in the future. For a company that produces a sugar-loaded nutrient-free drink, this might be one of the more brilliant moves in recent advertising. Inundated with pervasive press from health experts that people should not consume their products, a threat from the NY Mayor Bloomberg to ban large servings of their product, scientific links of consumption of items like their products to increased obesity and diabetes - especially in youth, it is quite savvy to try to make consumers think less about consequences of consumption. 

If I am living "for now, " I don't care that I'm drinking massive amounts of sugar with no nutritional value. If I live "for now, " I'm not worried about weight gain, sickness, or even the expense of drinking sodas. I don't need to worry about the packaging the drink came in, or even bother to recycle it. I am young! I am fun! I live for the now, for the latest pop culture phenom, the hottest concert, the coolest You Tube clip. I can't be bothered with consequences -- I just want what tastes good NOW.

Brilliant move, Pepsi. If you can't change your product, change your consumer. And you're probably right that the consumer will happily buy into this messaging (who doesn't want to live in the now?). But , for the sake of our future, our health, our environment -- I sincerely hope you aren't too persuasive.

P.S. I prefer Coke anyway.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Evil Milk, or Why It's Hard to be a Pregnant, Cheap Hippie

First, it's 11pm and I'm blogging, which is shocking in that I'm awake and actually writing. Turns out this last month of pregnancy comes with insomnia, something I have never, ever experienced. I'm exhausted around 1pm (and luckily find time to nap most days), but I'm wide awake until midnight. The kid is up at 6:30am regardless, so this is really not working out. But moving on...

I am currently drinking a glass of milk and having a near mental meltdown because of it. My husband bought the milk this week, and it's NOT ORGANIC. Cue: freak out. See, we started drinking soy milk soon after Sylvia was born. She was having so much trouble sleeping that I (briefly) tried giving up dairy (which I'd read can cause stomach upset through breast milk). She never slept better, but I liked the milk, so we stuck with it, which in the end proved a good idea as Sylvia was dairy-sensitive until about 20 months old. She likes soy milk too (she calls it "delicious milk" and won't drink the dairy kind), and my husband has a strong distrust of the Milk Industry (a.k.a. Evil Corporate Overlords with Strong Lobbying Power), so we've stuck with the soy.

All that said, I have strong hippie tendencies, and I like to do my Internet research, so I started learning about the possible negative effects of soy consumption during pregnancy (here is an example of a not very scientific overview of the concerns). More scientific reports (like this one from the Mayo Clinic) and others I read obsessively several months ago convinced me that drinking soy milk is OK, as long as I limit it to about one cup a day (soy has lots of benefits, too, so I felt good about that one cup).

That limit has become difficult to manage, as I have major dairy cravings. I use soy milk in my cereal (my usual breakfast) and my morning coffee or tea. That means I've had my one cup by 9am and a whole day of dairy cravings ahead of me. Thus, I've started buying dairy milk for that second serving of cereal at 9pm (don't judge), for the big glass in the middle of the day with graham crackers, and for mixing into the numerous baked goods I keep producing. Due to previously mentioned hippie tendencies and abundant research, I only ever buy organic milk, as I'd like to avoid Human Growth Hormones, especially (!) while pregnant.

So that brings us back to tonight's conundrum: I want milk, but Hubby has brought home evil, tarnished, regular, treated, dairy-industry over-produced milk. Yes, I drank this my whole life. Yes, most people the world over don't drink organic milk...but still. As I poured myself a glass (strong cravings tonight), I actually felt guilty. But I'm too cheap to throw it away, and my husband and daughter won't drink here we are. I'm feeling about as guilty for this glass of milk as I would if I'd had the ice cream sundae I originally wanted (which, incidentally, is made from regular milk, as I'm too cheap to buy organic ice cream, so WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!).

It's hard to care. And be cheap. And have cravings. And be pregnant. Man, I need a drink. At this point, I could likely be persuaded that wine is safer than the evil milk in my glass. Bottoms up!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Reading Elsewhere

So, it turns out I really like doing that brief book review post, and found several of my friends on Facebook recently were asking for book recommendations. So...I finally joined Goodreads, and I'll save my reviews for that site. Follow me at CClaiborneL if you'd like.

I've heard from most of my friends that as much as they like the idea of Goodreads, they don't stay active on it. Clearly, as this blog shows, I'm inconsistent with updates, but I'll do my best, and I have motivation: with my first child, I watched a LOT of bad TV as I nursed her every 1.5 hours for months. I was stuck to that couch. This time, I hope to integrate some more reading into the mix so that my brain doesn't go to mush as much as it did last time. Famous last words, I know...but it's a goal. Help me keep it -- publish good reviews of the books you love, please!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Where I've Been

It has been quite a week. Quite a month, actually. I am exhausted, though thankful that we were able to fit in so many adventures and see so much family. I'm also thankful that my kid travels well. Our schedule has been as follows:

My mom and Sylvia take on the Outer Banks

  1. At the end of April, a moving van showed up with the remainder of my mom's furniture and decor that she is sloughing off giving to me. Some furniture made it into the house, but the garage filled up with boxes that need sorting. Some of them are exciting (new dishes! some nice art!), others not so much (high school yearbooks, like I really want to store those now). The garage can now only fit one car, and piles of boxes await my precious free time for sorting, moving into the house, or processing through consignment.
  2. Classes ended that week, and Sylvia and I flew to Dallas to help care for my dad after rotator cuff surgery. We stayed 5 days, and I finished up my grading, did some house care, and took Sylvia out at least once a day for running around time. I'm proud that we rather successfully managed the Atlanta airport, two flights, and the same bed together. Not sure we helped my dad much with logistics, though I hope we provided some entertainment value.
  3. We were then home for 3 days, and hosted a big multi-family BBQ one night.
  4. Our family (minus dog) then drove 10.5 hours to the Outer Banks of NC for a mini-vacation at my mom's house (she now lives full-time in the family beach house). We stayed for a relaxing 5 days, read a lot of books, ate a lot of seafood, and pushed Sylvia in the neighbor's swing ad nauseum.
  5. D and I left Sylvia with my mom and flew to NJ for a dear friend's wedding (which also served as our mini-babymoon). By the time we drove to Norfolk, flew to Newark with a layover in Philadelphia, and took the train from Newark to Long Branch, we realized we could have driven in the same amount of time (oy). The wedding was a gorgeous, happy event, we had a great time catching up with college friends, the hotel was mediocre but had a great location right on the beach, and we actually felt like grown-ups for a few days.
  6. D flew back home (for work and a bachelor party) and I flew back to the Outer Banks to hang out with my mom and daughter for 10 days. I was working on a big travel guide update with a looming deadline, so I frantically hit the computer any second that my mom could spare from her job. Luckily, she wanted more time with Sylvia, so it all worked out -- though it was weird to spend days at the beach house hunched over my laptop. I should also mention that pregnancy finally caught up with me big-time, so those two hours in the middle of the day that I usually work while Sylvia naps got replaced by my own needed naptime. It's so hard to be productive when you're exhausted and feeling like an overstuffed pinata.
  7. Sylvia and I drove 11 hours home (in torrential rains!) and stayed for all of 2 days.
  8. The whole family (minus the dog again, poor buddy) drove down to Atlanta to meet up with D's sister and her two kids before we all flew to Indianapolis to visit his father's side of the family. We missed our flight there (they shut the door in our face, despite our arriving at the airport 1hr10min early and hustling -- the airport was insanely busy). AirTran, though initially our enemy, corrected course quite nicely and rerouted us through Tampa at no fee -- though it did mean a longer day and an extra flight with 3 children under age 6. The kids were champs, even though we arrived in our final destination (3 hours from the Indy airport) at 11:30 p.m. We visited with D's 96-year-old grandmother and several cousins and their families for 1.5 quick days before heading back home (direct flight this time).
  9. One week at home. We learned that D's maternal grandmother, who lives with his parents (same town as us) in the winters, has been getting sicker. After a few days, she was admitted to the hospital with a failing digestive system. In the middle of dealing with that change, I hosted a bridal shower for one of D's oldest and dearest friends and his awesome fiance. It was chaotic but turned out pretty nice, if I do say so myself (the bride enjoyed her first ever ham biscuits, and I pulled off a layer cake topped with lovely blackberry buttercream frosting made from berries Sylvia and I had picked).
  10. It became clear that Grandma was not going to recover. One of D's aunts flew in, and his sister decided not to go home after the shower. The family began spending time at the hospital 24/7 and saying their goodbyes. D was out late several nights, but enjoyed some very dear time swapping stories and sharing memories with family around Grandma's bed. I stayed home, needing to tend to Sylvia but also wanting to avoid hospitals while pregnant. I helped by sending some food and coordinating phone calls with hospice and family. Grandma was moved to a wonderful hospice facility on Wednesday morning, and we all visited her there. I got to say goodbye to a strong, classy, smart woman. She was an avid reader, a former English teacher, a lover of genealogy, and a great conversationalist. She passed away Wednesday afternoon at age 97. The family had a lovely dinner in her honor Wednesday night.
  11. I cancelled the baby shower I was supposed to host on Wednesday afternoon and decided to spend Thursday thoroughly cleaning my chaotic house (it only got halfway done). Tomorrow, we leave again for our last adventure for the summer -- and probably for a long while. 
Sleepy during our 2nd flight to IN
I have always loved travel and grown weary of too many days at home, but I admit that I am Done. The physical and emotional toll of the past month has been a bit too much for this lady, and I find myself fiercely drawn to my bed, my books, my quiet routine. I've neglected phone calls to friends and family who need checking in on. I've neglected house projects, both the regular tasks and the bigger ones that need completed before Baby arrives. I've neglected care for self and Baby. It's time to turn inward, and as such, I look forward to July.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fighting Amongst Ourselves

The Time cover story showing a mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son, along with the fall-out from that article about attachment parenting, has the interwebs in a flurry. Mommy-bloggers and opinionated folks of all sorts are using this as the latest vehicle to promote their own ways of parenting while tearing down those who make other choices. These arguments are not new. Since I became pregnant 3+ years ago, and when I started researching midwifery/natural childbirth almost a decade before that, I've been frustrated, pained and gobsmacked by the level of judgment and cruelty that mothers will inflict upon one another.

I could go on and on about how disturbing I find this trend, but a lovely woman in my local circle of moms already said it quite well. So I encourage you to go visit her Mother's Day Manifesto for a little deep breathing and enlightenment.

And to all mothers out there, kudos to you for doing what you do. It's the hardest job in the world.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I don't know if it's pregnancy hormones, the trials of parenting a 2.5-year-old, the end-of-semester stress, or all of it, but I've been on an emotional roller coaster recently, and by that, I mean one of those rides that takes you way, way up high, balances uncertainly for a few seconds, then plummets you down fast and hard.

This morning was the perfect example. Sylvia and I joined our playgroup for a children's theater production of The Ugly Duckling at the awesome campus theater, The Brooks Center. The show was magical, done by puppeteers covered in lights in a dark house. It was unlike anything I'd seen before, and it was enchanting for kids and adults alike. It was the perfect way to introduce Sylvia to her first live theater performance. (She is named after the play D and I were doing when we met, so we hope she shares our love of the stage).

As I sat in the dark theater, surrounded by excited children, holding Sylvia in my lap, my heart swelled. Each time she enthusiastically applauded, or tried to explain to me what was going on ("look Mama, the rabbit is dancing!"), or I sat amazed at the stunning stage work, I grew almost weepy. This is the joy of being a stay-at-home mother. This is the best of parenting: exposing your child to the wonders of the world and getting to experience that wonder right along with her. Yesterday, we finally bought our house. Today, I sat in a theater at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. I could do both things because I have a generous, hard-working husband with a steady job, and we've decided to prioritize childcare over salaries. It's often a difficult decision for me, and I actually quite miss the office life, but for that magical hour, I knew I had a wonderful life, amazing opportunities, and countless blessings.

And then...the show ended. Sylvia was ready to leave. She took to her new favorite trick these days, running as far away from me as possible, rarely even stopping at my desperate screams to "stop!" when she is nearly out of sight (she has become quick the same time I've become quite slow). She looks back at me mischievously, fully aware that she is disobeying me. Then she went limp in the middle of a parking lot, knowing that is against the rules. Then she thew a fit to have candy while still holding onto a cookie. It seems like everything is a fight these days, or at least a negotiation. "Testing boundaries" is the nice way to label this phase; "pushing all my buttons" is what it feels like. And within 15 minutes of my moments of parental joy, I was ready to strangle the little brown-eyed fiend. By the time we met my husband for lunch, I practically threw her into his arms and went for a moment's peace in the bathroom.

It's strange, these ups and downs, this love and frustration, this joy and pain. I hope it molds me into a patient, tolerant parent, and doesn't wear me down into a numb, exhausted lump. Depending on which high you find me in, I'll let you know how it's going. Have I mentioned I no longer enjoy roller coasters?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Back to the Books

I've been having some issues recently with idea generation-turned-completion. In other words, I am composing blog posts and to-do lists and brilliant emails in weird hours of the night, then either forgetting about them completely or losing all motivation during the day. To try to spurn myself back to writing, I thought I'd start easy: book reviews.

For two years during my master's degree (which was also baby's life 3 months - 2 years), I didn't have the mental or physical capacity to read for fun. I splurged on a few novels during Christmas and summer breaks, but not at my normal pace of regular evening page-turning. Now I'm back, and happily reading my escapist literature again. This interest (plus my cheapness) has also led to regular visits to the library. Yes, I'm that person who still supports the library. (Parenting side note: it's a great location for kids. Sylvia plays happily for a while; I feel like a good parent for surrounding her with books; and we go home with a few books that break the monotony of her regular favorites, though they too become very old after 10 days of constant re-reading). But now I carry in my Post-It note (copied from an ongoing Notepad doc on my desktop) of recommended books I want to read, search through the database, and take home a new treasure. I also had the random opportunity to snag some free books from last year's big publishing fair, so that added some unexpected books to my sidetable. So far I've read (with apologies to the authors for being too lazy to look them all up):

Cutting for Stone: LOVED
The Book Thief: Meh. Too long. Sad without enough redemption.
Like Water for Elephants: Quite good
Hunger Games (all 3): Enjoyable brain candy
Ender's Game: For teens, but now I know why my fellow nerds reference it often
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Unsure why it was a national phenomenon
Never Let Me Go: Intriguing, and I wish I could discuss it with others, but why was this ranked a "book of the year"?
Bright Before Us: Relatable at my age but overly depressing
The Lantern: I wish I owned a villa in France
The Taker: Awesome
The Elegance of the Hedgehog: Brainy and interesting character study
The Sense of An Ending: Slow, but a good ending
Dogwood: Quite good, but with a weird ending
The Bell Jar: If I had read this at 18, it might have been life-changing

 As you can see, I read novels. With one exception -- which I'll make my next post (trying to make myself write regularly here...).

Thursday, March 29, 2012


I'm pretty sure some woman has mentioned this before, but the whole work/life balance thing is tricky, man. And something like a pick-up of work activity or a sick kid throws off a finely (if precariously) balanced system that results in stress and unhappiness all around. That, plus pregnancy makes your hormones do weird things, no?

I am currently stewing in rage because my daughter had the gall to get pinkeye and then act like maybe she felt bad. The nerve! Doesn't she know that Mama was already feeling overwhelmed?

To make matters worse: pregnancy makes me get angry faster (I swear, it's a hormone, I'm normally not like this) AND I can't have a giant fishbowl-sized glass of red wine like I want. >pout<

And then it makes me write cranky, uninteresting blog posts. Sorry. My bad.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Girl babies!

Baby #2 is a girl.* We didn't find out during our first pregnancy, but this time we wanted to plan, and to be able to talk to Sylvia about it, so we found out. D was suspecting a girl all along (he believes the Fates had already deemed him to be a Father of Daughters (read 4th paragraph). I wanted a girl - it just seemed easier after having had one - but last week changed my mind and I began to think it was a boy, especially since this pregnancy has been different than my first (in related news: pregnancy acne, really?! That's just cruel, Nature).

Actually, when I was in my early 20s, I wanted a flock of boys, four or five maybe. Enough to field a team, or maybe a band. I saw myself as a mother of boys, boys who would skin their knees and muddy up the house and love their mama no matter what. I was unsure what to do with myself when I had a daughter, but within a few days, I couldn't imagine anything different. Sylvia has since turned out to be an adventurous, funny and nature-loving kid: not the princess-obsessed prissy girl I had feared. But then again, I love it when she gets girly and wears tiaras and tells me "I love your red lips, Mama." So maybe I'm mushier than I realized.

So...tell me about sisters. My high school friends didn't get along with their sisters until after college. Other friends of mine name their sisters as their long-time best friends. I look forward to watching these girls grow together, but I can't say I know what to expect.

I guess having a girl, like, well, having ANY kid, will be a new adventure. I'm excited.

*Sorry for the lack of the expected ultrasound image here, but we were given paper copies and I just don't have the time to deal with scanning right now. My favorite pic was of her precious, tiny foot. I'll try to post soon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I realize it's become trendy to like things others' don't, or to shun minority opinion, but I have a few opinions that so oppose everyone else's that I usually keep them to myself. Until now, when I feel an odd need to confess.

1. I don't like Peanuts (the comic strip). The original TV holiday specials are charming, I guess, but rather depressing.
2. I don't understand why everyone is so crazy about the book Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was interesting (after 100 or so pages), but a national phenomenon? I haven't read the next books and I'm not sure I will. And don't even get me started on Twilight (yes, it's possible to read just one).
3. I don't really like spending time with children (other than my own).
4. While I enjoy bacon occasionally, I see no reason to put it in every dish or worship it as the new food craze. Bacon is just O.K.
5. I hated Titanic. And Jerry McGuire.
6. The older I get, the less interested I am in talking to or spending time with people I don't know well.
7. I really like my in-laws. I'm glad we live in town so near them.
8. I don't really like buying shoes.

I'm sure there are more, but that feels pretty good for now. I am prepared for your wrath.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Checking Back In

I may have mentioned that I back in the throes of academia. Not the class I teach (that is moving along smoothly, and I love it, thank goodness), but a visit back to my master's degree. Yes, it only wrapped up in November, but that feels like ages ago based on how much I've turned off my brain.

For reasons I'm having trouble remembering, I agreed to be part of a panel to present at ATTW (Association for Teachers of Technical Writing). My thesis fits in well among several other Clemson professors' work, so we're all heading to St. Louis to hold a panel about it. We each have 10 minutes to discuss our topic, which translates to about five double-spaced pages of written text. So now I'm working to summarize my ENTIRE thesis into five pages. This takes brainpower like I haven't flexed in a long, long time.

Then, once the presentation is over, I need to shift focus to turning the thesis into a publishable paper. The paper will need to be about 30 pages, so I'll need to either elaborate on the presentation or cut the thesis (not sure which approach will be easier, though I'm thinking the former). My adviser will then add an intro and conclusion based on his expertise, and we'll shoot it off for publication early this summer.

This stuff takes time. And brains. And yet I'm not getting paid for it. I agreed to the paper when my adviser took me on: we had a deal that he wanted to publish a paper on this, and I wanted a thesis out of it, so let's work together and kill two birds with one stone. The presentation came out of those discussions as well, and then something about grad school sucks you in and makes you want to volunteer for stuff and show off your work and be stellar like you were in high school and AH! I have a kid! And minimal daycare! And a freelance career that actually seems to be expanding a bit! Why did I agree to this?!

And yet, it's nice to feel smart again. In my very, very tiny world of this topic, I know a thing or two, and that's somehow empowering. And Lord knows you'll all hear about it should I get published. I guess it's nice to succeed in one world, even an isolated one.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Not Dead

I'm not dead, though a little hazy in the brain. After the great sickness that consumed this house for almost 4 weeks, I have not been able to successfully check back into the world.

I am presenting my master's research at a conference in a month, but I haven't opened that document (or put any thought into it) since the first week of January. I am supposed to be working on a paper with a professor, but that's also been on hold for about 6 weeks. My consulting project seems to have wrapped up, and my class is going very smoothly. My kid is healthy and happy, but our home is still a mess, never quite fully cleaned up from the time of quarantine.

I have attempted a social life again, and that has been a wonderful step back into the world. I atttend a fabulous Oscar party, with most of us wearing ball gowns and all of us being silly while eating divine food. We took a last-minute short trip to Atlanta to visit D's sister's family, which was quite fun (proving that perhaps the unplanned trips are the best kind). D and I have finally started watching Downton Abbey, which has made for some enjoyable nights cuddled together on the couch.

So, life returns. Life grows in my belly (I sorta forgot to make a post about that, but I'm 17 weeks along and looking huge). But life has not yet inspired me to be productive. Hoping that changes soon, or we're going to be living in filth and my conference presentation will be quite vapid. We'll see.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Deep Thoughts on R--::cough, hack, wheeze::

I haven't been sleeping, due to what has finally been diagnosed as RSV-and-pregnancy-induced asthma. It took three trips to Urgent Care, a round of steroids, an inhaler and a round of antibiotics to get us here, and now we've added breathing treatments, cough medicine and more steroids, yet I'm still not feeling better. I haven't slept more than 1.5 hours at a time since Saturday (or Friday?) night.

During these sleepness nights, I've worked out some wonderful blog posts, including thoughts on Valentine's Day, my kid's TV habits, my computer addiction and its affect on my parenting, male vs. female reactions to illness, the new Chipotle commercial and some thoughts on organic farming, and so much more. But I'm sorry, gentle readers, I just don't have enough energy or clear thoughts to put these posts together. All brain power has gone to trying to keep the house afloat and do enough of my teaching job to not forsake my students. Please just trust that I'm a brilliant and fascinating writer when I'm composing in my wheezy sleep.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beauty Interrupts

I was planning to regale you all with the woeful story of how awful it is to be sick while caring for a sick kid. Sylvia has RSV with a particularly stubborn cough, and I seem to have the exact same thing. We haven't slept in two nights. She is not napping much. It's been a long few days.

But just as I was gearing up to go into detail about the sheer amount of mucus being secreted around here (who knew someone so small could produce SO MUCH SLIME) and how scary it is to watch your kid struggle through a coughing spell, something beautiful came around and interrupted things.

I watched this video (an Academy Award-nominated animated short; 15 totally worth-it minutes). And it transported me. And moved me. And made me appreciate all that is good. So I encourage you to do the same. Enjoy.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Word of the day: toddertia (toddler + inertia)

Pronuntiation: todd-er-sha

Definition: A toddler, moving in one direction, will continue moving enthusiastically in that direction until instructed to turn around and go back home, at which point s/he will suddenly lose the ability to move at all.
Most likely to happen when diapers are dirty, rain begins to fall, or the dog is being a pain.
No known cure (note: begging and reasoning have no effect).

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Time Stands Still

My kid is sick. Nothing zooms priorities into place, and puts the rest of the world on hold, like watching your daughter briefly struggle to breathe. We have a nebulizer and medicine from Christmas break's pneumonia scare, so we made it through the night OK (in that I awoke every time she coughed and failed to get her to use the breathing machine at 2am, not that I blame the sleepy, exhausted little one, but she did eventually sleep), and we're off to see the doctor this afternoon.

She's been coughing at night, but last night right after falling asleep, it sounded worse and then turned into a fit. Immediately, classes were cancelled, computers were turned off, brain functions stopped, and all efforts of both parents went into the love and comfort of our precious little one. The pull on your hormones is awesome (as in a lot of AWE) and exhausting. Your focus becomes so singular. We are so very, very blessed that she's never been really sick, never had a hospital or ER visit, and had so few small illnesses. I don't know if I could handle it. Bless all of you who have nursed a sick child, for it is the most all-encompassing and life-force-giving activity I know.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Old Literature, Interrupted

This afternoon, I was reading a book (The Sense of an Ending) that is set in mondern-day England. The section I read today ended with a mention of the narrator using Google Earth to search for a childhood home. While this was not out of place in the story, it took me out of the book for a moment. Current technology, to me, rarely fits into my escapist fiction.

To me, literature is old. In high school, I didn't have progressive teachers or trendy syllabi, so I think the most modern author I read was Faulkner. In college, despite my love of English classes, I only took two: one honors seminar on Nabokov and a British Literature class (i.e. Shakespeare & Austen). After college, I went crazy reading current novels. I was rather shocked to learn that novelists who are still alive can still write really well. Who knew?

Still, even with my more contemporary taste, I crave books to take me outside my world. I escape into the worlds I read about. As such, I find it disconcerting to be reminded of everyday things, like technology. I mean, as much time as I spend daily on my computer, I don't want to read a book about a person perusing Facebook several times a day.

As a sidenote, movies rarely embrace technology basics either. Items like cell phones - especially smart phones - would solve movie problems too quickly, so now they have to establish reasons to not have phones (lost, out of range, etc.) in order to continue that world. And for some reason, we all accept that characters don't have the same tools that we do to navigate their worlds.

I guess I'm saying that maybe the mention of Google Earth threw me because I've never read of such a contemporary technology being used by a character. But then again, in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth regularly uses the Internet, but that wasn't so disruptive because her character was a techie. I accept those.

Am I being weird here? Does this bother you too?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What I'm Worth

I'm experiencing a business conundrum that has become a metaphor for my life. I agreed to do a freelance project for much less (read: more than half) of my usual fee. The agreement was that the project was quite easy (mostly website research), the hours were light but regular, and that it would transition within a month or two to a higher-paying writing project. I happily agreed to this and am glad I did. But now, as I skip movie-watching with my husband or shower time during the currently brief toddler naps, it's got me really wondering: is that minimal (but still nice) amount of pay per hour worth it? What is my time worth?

In the past few years I've been freelancing, the matter of my fee has been a tricky one. When I first started, I charged fees based on how things were in D.C., where I had just moved from. That changed quickly: turns out small-town SC companies don't expect to pay that. My largest freelancing client just tells me what I'll make per project, without discussion. I can take it or leave it, and am usually happy to take it. Other clients have vacillated within a rather standard range, with fee variations based on whether I'm proofing, editing or writing original material, and how much time it will actually take.

On the other hand, my most time-consuming job pays absolutely zero dollars an hour. As a mother, I work long, tiring hours that require 100% brain function, can't be done while watching TV (excluding Nick Jr. breaks), and will get me put in jail - or her in the hospital - if done poorly or against the rules. I have become accustomed to the idea that I make no money, most of the time.

So when an offer comes up for a little money, it's hard not to say: "Yes! I'll do it! Your small offering is more than I would otherwise make (i.e. zero)." But...but I've come to realize that my free time, while earning me nothing, is actually worth a heck of a lot. Free time equals sanity, a good marriage, a clean(ish) house. That's worth a lot, right? Last night, I watched a movie curled up on the couch with my husband, and I did not have my computer in my lap: it was glorious. Over Christmas holidays, I spent most of Sylvia's naptimes napping myself (with her, which is decadent), which kept me from being so sleepy in the evenings when friends came over. I even splurged on brunch with friends and shopping trips while she was at preschool.

As many stay-at-home moms likely know - especially those of us who left well-paying jobs for mothering gigs - I often feel guilty about not contributing much to the family income. So I feel like money, any amount of money, should be acceptable to earn during my few toddler-free hours. My husband would be unhappy if he never saw me, or only saw me as a stressed-out lunatic (harkening back to some of those grad school days), but he's willing to give up a few nights of couple-time a week for me to earn some bucks. And beyond the money, I like using my brain, feeling a part of the world, and just, well, working. I enjoy it. I feel valuable beyond my ability to mother and cook. But to what end is this money, and this feeling of work, worth the stress on myself and my family?

As a product of all this self-reflection, I'm proud of myself for recently negotiating a fee to consult on a new class. I stood up for what I thought I should make per hour, and how many hours I really thought this would take, and after some discussion, I was given what I asked. Women are notoriously bad at this kind of negotation, thus we tend to make less money than men. I myself have been part of the wanting-to-please types who don't negotiate well. But I feel that all the interal conflicts I spoke about above came to play in my firm belief that I Am Worth This: I know now what my time is worth. I know what people have paid and will pay me. I also know how great it feels to stay at home with my daugther, to watch her learn and grow, and to spend relaxing hours with my husband and our family and friends. And I know these hours are worth a lot more than working hours, in the grand scheme of things.

So if you want me to work, you need to pay me for it. I may make zero dollars for most of my day's work, but it's the most valuable job in the world. Future employers better be able to negotiate against that.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Taking a Breath

I graduated in mid-December. That was immediately followed by a blur of cooking, hosting guests, feasting, cleaning, organizing, toddler-entertaining, napping, writing cards and trying to do a few things to make it feel like vacation. I then took on a freelance writing project, which was fun but filled up my free hours. Then my free hours went out the window when Sylvia toyed with giving up her nap (egads, that means two hours less per day of work time for me, plus a crankier kid).

Now, though, the writing project is over. I'm working on a research project, but it's not too time consuming. I've crossed off (or soon will) most of my "to do" list for this vacation (believe it or not, you can now fit two cars in our two-car garage). I still have to put together my new syllabus, but since I've taught this course twice before, it shouldn't be too challenging.

So that means, folks, that I may actually have some calm around here. I'm currently not feeling stressed about anything: a weird, light feeling that I hardly recognize. I am really enjoying spending time with my daughter, and giving her my full attention (which she is certainly demanding these days). I am motivated to do more house projects and get back into a routine.

Yes, I'd like more freelance work to pay the bills and feed the brain. But for now, it feels great to be relieved of the burden of school and deadlines, the constant lingering of things to do that aren't for me. If Sylvia returns to napping (it looks like she will at least do so a few times a week), I may actually have some "just me" time. How novel.

Now...what to do with it?