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Your People Will Be My People of Walmart

January 28, 2014

Today I resigned from my job of almost eight years.  It took me at least five attempts to do it.  I kept chickening out, not because I feared a bad reaction, but mostly just because it was a huge thing to do…  And it’s just one of the many huge things I have to do in the next four weeks. 

We are moving to Illinois.

Why?  We are moving to advance my husband’s career.  We are moving for a more affordable cost of living.  We are moving because we are disillusioned with California.  We are moving because there’s not a lot keeping us here.  We are moving because we are responding to God’s will.  We are moving to raise our daughter elsewhere.  We are moving to get a control-alt-delete on our lives.

Four weeks from now I’ll be somewhere between here and there.  With my husband, my daughter, two cats, and everything we own.  On my way to a place I’ve never been before where I know nobody.  My new home. 

I’m no stranger to being a stranger.  I’ve moved a lot.  I ain’t skerred. 

I’m trading In-n-Out for an abomination called a horseshoe sandwich which is covered in French fries and cheese sauce.  I’m trading beautiful weather for humidity and snow.  I’m trading beaches and mountains for flat, land-locked fields.  I’m trading Los Angeles for Lincoln.  But I’m also trading my job for the ability to stay at home with my baby.

ImageA few weeks ago I framed this print for my daughter’s nursery.  Her name is Ruth so it seemed fitting.  Now it’s speaking to my heart.  I am leaving my home, where I grew up, my family.  I am going to the land of my husband (the Midwest).  His people will be my people…  Even as he describes them fondly as “People of Walmart.”

Doing huge things means taking risks.  Like leaving what is comfortable.  Challenging yourself to be a mom full-time even though it scares you.  Leaving everything behind, even Mexican food.  Jumping blind.  I’m trusting there’s reward for the risk. 

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Happy half birthday, Roo

December 6, 2013

My Ruthie-girl,

You are half a year old now.  I knew nothing about you for the nine months I carried you around inside, except that you hiccup a lot.  But I’ve learned a lot about you in the six months you’ve been in the world…

You are very alert.  We hear it all the time.  Even your pediatrician comments about how you look around with interest at everything and seem to listen when people talk.  You are not content when you cannot see the world around you.  I hope you don’t lose that sense of curiosity.

You are petite.  Having been a chunky baby I didn’t expect to have such a small girl.  You’re in the 8th percentile right now and haven’t quite doubled your birth weight.  People guess you are much younger than you are because of your size, but I love that you’re tiny right now.

You are so happy.  We love your smiles and giggles and how easily you share them with everyone.

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You are not very cuddly.  You are a sweet girl but you don’t like to snuggle much.  When we hold you, you arch away from us.  This was hard for me at first because I wanted some affection but you will show your love differently as you get older.

Things you love: the clownfish on your exersaucer, your stuffed Roo, Mommy’s milk, bathtime, being naked on the changing table, flying through the air, spending time with your grandparents, car rides, lights, and blowing raspberries.

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When I was pregnant with you, and I thought about you, everything was a possibility.  You could be a boy or a girl.  You could be big or little.  You could have red hair or blonde or none at all.  You could like being swaddled, rocked, bounced, sung to, or none of the above.  But now that I know you, I can’t imagine you being any different than exactly who you are.

You are Ruth, a sweet little girl with a curl in the middle of your forehead and a red stork bite birthmark on the back of your neck.  You are part Keller, part Taylor.  You are our daughter and God’s.  You are small but strong.  You are an IU fan (according to Dad).  You are blue-eyed and beautiful.  You are everything to us.

We are so excited to see you grow up and find out what else you are.  Maybe you’re an athlete.  Maybe you’re an artist.  Maybe you’re a Democrat.  Maybe.  We’ll have lots of adventures and find out together.  So much is still possible.

In the words of Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, “You are my darling daughter and I love you.”

XOXO

Mom

Babies Don’t Keep

October 6, 2013

I came across this poem and it perfectly expresses how I feel about being a working mom.  My standards for the house have dropped, and I’m fine with that.  Something has to give.  So here’s a sweet poem, by a Ruth, dedicated from me to my Ruth.

Mother, O’ Mother, come shake out your cloth,

Empty the dustpan, poison the moth.

Hang out the washing, make up the bed,

Sew on a button and butter the bread.

IMG_6657-2602941644-OWhere is the mother whose house is so shocking?

She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,

Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.

Dishes are waiting and bills are past due,

Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek – peekaboo.

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew,

And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo.

But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.

Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?

Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,

But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.

So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!

I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

~ Ruth Hulbert Hamilton

My Roo

My Roo

 

roo’s debut

September 4, 2013
Insomnia.  It’s my new thing.  It’s not my 10-week-old daughter keeping me up (she’s, thankfully, mostly doing what mommy message boards call STTN – sleeping through the night).  Tonight, my sleeplessness is prompting me to record Ruth’s birth story. I love reading and hearing birth stories. I truly believe that birth matters, that is, that how babies come into the world, is important.  This is how my Ruthie-Roo joined us.
I was due June 17. Knowing that Father’s Day was June 16, I bought Curtis two cards: an expectant dad card and a first Father’s Day card.  I hid them away until I knew which one would be applicable.
A few notes: As I discussed before, we had planned a natural, unmedicated, intervention-free birth outside of a hospital, attended by a midwife.  The baby’s gender was unknown. Fair warning: I’ll spare the gorier TMI details (mucous plug, tearing, etc) but this is a birth story so words like cervix will be used.
I started getting Braxton Hicks contractions on Wednesday, June 12, then Thursday they became painful and frequent, but still random. Friday the contractions really picked up and I started timing.  We went to a movie (we saw “This is the End” and indeed, the end was near). Contractions got to about ten minutes apart and were really strong, then they just stopped.  Completely.  Then Saturday they started again.  It took forever for them to speed up so I was breathing through them all day.  Right after midnight, I was in bed, awake with a contraction and my waters broke.  Luckily, I had invested in a waterproof liner for the bed, just in case.  My instructions were to call my midwives if my waters broke or if my contractions were five minutes apart.  At that point, they were about eight.  So we called, and the midwife on call, BJ, said to call her back when we hit a five minute interval but that she’d see us soon.  I labored at home awhile, sleeping a few minutes at a time between contractions. At about 4:30 we called her back and we were on our way in, finally.  I was super exhausted already from the lack of sleep that comes with having contractions for two days but it was time for Baby to come.

We got to the birth center and BJ pulled up right behind us and we got settled in, and her doula, Mitte came in.  For some reason, the car ride in and all the activity seemed to stall my contractions, so they spaced out again.  When BJ checked me I was only at four centimeters.  We did everything possible to get the contractions coming closer together and stronger.  Mitte had me in every possible position.  Some things worked better than others.  They made me walk the stairs over and over, I bounced on the ball, I got on all fours, I stood and rocked.  Hours and hours later, my contractions were still sporadic, and when I got checked I was only at five cm.  So we weren’t making much progress, even though Ruthie had dropped significantly.  I got in the tub for only a short while because it slowed my contractions down.  Bummer because it felt so nice. Apparently my body just didn’t know how to really work itself up to delivery.  It was doing stuff, but not progressing.  Luckily, my temperature, blood pressure, and the baby’s heartbeat all were stable, so there was no reason to be worried.

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I was getting frustrated at this point, because I had been contracting for days and I was so, so tired.  My abdomen was incredibly sore from the extensive workout it had been getting (my contractions were all in my lower belly).  I sipped my Laborade (coconut water + pineapple juice) and soldiered on.  At this point, BJ said she wanted to try a homeopathic treatment to try to get things going.  So every 15 minutes Mitte was dumping little herbal capsules under my tongue.  It did help, but I was still not progressing enough.  I stalled at six cm.

BJ said she wanted to try a procedure.  She would have me wait for a strong contraction, she’d have me push, and she’d try to manually open my cervix.  This sounds like it’s not a walk in the park, and it was not.   We had to do about five or six contractions’ worth.  It was so weird pushing before it was actually time to push.  She was able to get me from six to nine.  An hour and a half later it was time to push for real.

I pushed her down to where she was almost crowning.  I worried I didn’t have it in me to finish.  BJ said I’m an efficient pusher (must have been the gallons of Red Raspberry Leaf Tea I drank in that last trimester) and it would go quickly if I did my best work.  I pushed.  Then I freaked out.  It was a cycle:  I got my head in the game to push, then when that contraction was over, I got a little hysterical.  I cried, I hyperventilated, then I calmed myself down and did it all over again.  I was never so hot in my entire life.  Curtis was handing me washcloths soaked in ice water.  Her head came half way out, and then I felt it pull back in and turn.  I lost it.  I was yelling, “What was that? What happened?”  And BJ reminded me sometimes babies take two steps forward and one step back and that it was fine.  It just was not okay with me after all that work that she’d be going backwards.  But then I got her whole head out with the next push and they commented about her hair.  I was thinking I still had at least a half hour of pushing ahead, but with my next pushes at 7:07 pm, BJ said, “Reach down and get your baby,” and my mom was in tears and I looked down and there she was, and I caught her myself.  And she was a girl.  And she was just the most beautiful thing ever.

The first picture

The first picture

My dad and stepmom were there in the waiting room for most of the day and I found out later they could listen to us on a baby monitor so they heard a lot of her being born.  Another thing I found out later is that BJ had called her backup OB and told him she’d probably be transferring me over.  So I probably would’ve ended up in surgery.  But all the prayer paid off and I did finally progress enough, with a lot of herbs and BJ’s magic torture procedure, we did it.

I wasn’t allowed to leave until I peed and I ate.  My stepmom made an In-n-Out run.  I hadn’t eaten more than half a handful of trail mix in two days (I was allowed to eat but I had absolutely no appetite during labor) so that hamburger was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Ruth had her first meal too, then weighed in at 7 pounds, 4.5 oz.  Apgar of nine. Stork bite on the back of her neck. Really big feet. Rosy and sweet. We were home less than four hours after she was born.

 It was the most incredible experience, and even though my labor was long and somewhat difficult, I would never choose to have a baby any other way, with any drugs or interventions.  I felt everything and I did it all myself, with lots of prayer and through God giving me strength.  It’s just so empowering and so life-changing to know what you’re capable of and to know you did something the very hard way because it was best for someone else.  I really believe conception, pregnancy, labor and delivery were all designed perfectly and the less we mess with those processes, the better we are.  Even going through it unmedicated, and it lasting so long, I wouldn’t rate the pain as a 10 on a scale of 1-10.  It’s not the most painful thing I’ve ever done, but it is the best thing.
I threw away the “expectant dad card” and Curtis got the “first Father’s Day” card that night, the day his daughter was born, on Father’s Day.
Dad and his still swollen and bloody newborn daughter

Dad, and his still swollen and somewhat bloody newborn daughter, in love

Child’s play

August 30, 2013

I used to work in a toy store.  Two actually.  When one closed, I got a job as a manager at another.  I knew all the latest video games.  Beanie babies and Pokemon were all the rage.  Little boys were all about Tech Deck finger skateboards.  We had boutique items like Madame Alexander dolls and Lionel trains. All the classics sold well: Barbie, board games, Nerf.  Matchbox car collectors (yes they exist) knew when our shipments came in and lined up to go through our boxes.  It sounds like a fun job but it makes you feel like all kids are monsters.  It also gave me very specific ideas about toys for my future children.  I did not want to spend $30 on a nickel worth of plastic.  I did not want to go on epic quests to find the last piece in a “collect them all” set.  I did not want to be constantly tripping over cheap Chinese junk.

Ruth and Dolly

Ruth and Dolly

And here I am.  A new mom.  My daughter is just now at the age (10 weeks) when toys have started to interest her.  She stares, follows with her eyes, and makes attempts to bat at them.  I have a tendency to over think a lot of things and sometimes get political when there’s no need to, and the topic of toys is no exception.  So here is my manifesto.

TOYS SHOULD…

  • Encourage imaginative play.  I like toys that give kids an opportunity to make believe.  Imagination seems to me to be like a muscle.  Many people never develop theirs, or they let it atrophy at some point.  It’s a shame because the ability to pretend and to think creatively and abstractly is such an important thing.   Examples of toys in this category: dress up clothes, food and kitchen sets, occupation sets (doctor, tool kits), puppets and dolls.
  • Be mostly gender-neutral.  As I’ve stated before, I’m very against the “princess culture” that is so popular right now.  I also have huge issues with Barbies and Bratz.  I don’t like how many toy stores are divided in half into boys’ and girls’ departments. Boys can and should play with dolls and girls can and should play with cars.  I don’t want my daughter to have a room full of pink plastic.
  • Foster creativity.  Arts and crafts are important.  Making things with your hands.  Getting messy.  Feeling textures.  I plan to always have PlayDoh, crayons, glue, string, glitter, fabric, popsicle sticks, and unlimited paper around.
  • Teach music.  Making noise is a big part of being a kid.  Almost everyone had a Fisher Price xylophone when they were little, and maybe a tambourine and a little drum.  I like those kinds of toys (and you can remind me I said this when I have a migraine and my daughter is pounding on a toy piano).
  • Get kids active.  I was never athletic or interested in sports (still true) but certain things were fun to me, like chinese jumprope and tetherball.  I’d like to see my kids be more active than I was, and learn things like teamwork and coordination through sports.  Our garage will be full of balls, pads, helmets, nets, gloves, and bikes.
  • Teach construction.  My favorite toys for kids are things like blocks and Legos.  Whether they follow complex instruction sheets or construct their own creation, building toys are great for teaching kids things like attention to detail, following a process, and design.
  • Be non-violent.  I don’t like toy guns or action figures that are used to simulate fighting.
  • Teach kids how to play.  While the kind of play that kids invent as they go along is great too, things like board games show kids how to work under established rules, how to strategize, how to take turns, how to win and how to lose.

One common observation of kids is that they can occupy themselves with a tube sock or a wooden spoon for hours.  Or that they’d rather play with the box the toy came in than the toy.  Kids are great that way.  Everything is a toy.  Everyday things are fun, like making cookies with Mom or helping Dad pull weeds.

I know my daughter will end up with Barbie dolls, just like she ended up with princess bibs, despite my feelings.  I had Barbies as a kid and suffer no harm for it.  However, I do have control over what my own toy dollars buy.  So I plan to purchase art supplies, musical instruments, building blocks, games, sporting equipment, and lots and lots and lots of books.

learning not to cry over (spilt) milk

July 9, 2013

Our baby girl is here.  Someday I’ll type out her birth story but it’s long  so I’ll save it for later.  I’ll just say God blessed me with the unmedicated, intervention-free birth that I wanted.  That sounds like torture to a lot of people, but for me, the bigger struggle has been breastfeeding.  Ruthie was born healthy, all pink and screaming.  Things quickly changed by day three when she lost a lot of weight (all babies lose weight after birth but she lost more than 12% which was a concern), her diapers were clean and dry and she was so lethargic that we couldn’t wake her.  First-time parent panic set in and we saw our pediatrician and made a trip to after-hours urgent care.  Finally we made an emergency appointment late on a Sunday night with a lactation consultant.  We discovered that Ruth was not getting milk when she nursed.  When she was weighed before and after nursing, there was only one tenth of an ounce difference.  We were ordered to give her formula while we figured out the problem.  That absolutely broke my heart.  I broke down in tears when we got home.  I felt like a failure.  I had carried her safely for nine months, eating healthfully, carefully taking my vitamins, doing my exercises, all to give her the best start in life that I could.  I had given birth the hard way, and it had taken days, and I did it for her.  Now, I couldn’t feed her.  I had done everything I could to prepare for breastfeeding: classes, books, LLL meetings.  But my body was betraying me.  It wasn’t working.  And my baby was “too weak” to suck.  I was told to take her to an Occupational Therapist to see “what is wrong with her.”

I put this pressure on myself.  I know a lot of babies grow up healthy and strong on formula.  I know a lot of women give up on breastfeeding because it can be very hard.  I know that I should be grateful that I was able to get pregnant, and that I delivered a healthy baby (and I am so, so thankful for that).  With some perspective I can admit it’s not the end of the world if I have to bottle-feed my daughter.  It wasn’t the plan but parenting requires us to be flexible and act in the best interests of our children.  But I wasn’t going to give up easily.  So we jumped through a lot of hoops.  I tortured myself with pumping around the clock, never sleeping for more than 90 minutes at a time (if I was lucky).  We tried devices that were seemed totally silly in hopes that something would click.  We spent a lot of money on advice and herbs and equipment.  I prayed a lot.  I was sore, tired, frustrated, sad and maybe a little angry.

Bottle-feeding.  Not part of the plan.

Bottle-feeding. Not part of the plan.

One night as I sat pumping in the rocking chair I had bought to nurse my child in, I thought about the Hanukkah story, and how a tiny bit of oil had sustained the Jews, through a miracle of God.  My milk seemed to be a never-ending resource too.  I’d pump only drops, but somehow, there was enough.  Ruth got very little formula and then gradually, I was producing more milk.  I knew this was something I had to trust in God about.  So I relaxed and let Him provide.

And He has.  He gave us people who could help.  He gave us patience.  He gave Ruth strength.  My body started working.  Ruthie and I both got better at nursing.  And now, feeding my girl are the most special times of my day.  The sweetest sight is her finishing up and looking up at me with “Milk Face.”  I love how I can instantly comfort her when she’s fussy.  I’m grateful we didn’t give up. I’m thankful for how God designed my body to provide something for my child that keeps her healthy and helps her grow up strong, makes her smarter, prevents allergies, provides immunity.  It’s all perfectly created, and I’m glad I kept my faith in that and trusted God to bless our nursing relationship.  I pray we are able to continue for a year, through challenges like me going back to work.

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Eatin like a champ

My grandma’s advice was when you go to nurse, have a graham cracker and a glass of milk.  I think that kind of folksy advice is why breastfeeding worked better in her day.  No nipple shields.  No double electric pumps.  No pressure about baby’s weight.  No alarm over the number of daily dirty diapers.  Just relax and give it time.  Find your groove.  There is no normal, no expected… every woman and every baby is different.  It works and it’s important.  It’s worth fighting for.

 

Feathering the Nest

May 31, 2013

Last Friday was my last day of work before my  maternity leave started.  I have four months of state-paid time off to prepare for, recover from, and bond with little Baby TBD.  The first week has been glorious.  I’ve spent most of my time a cliche, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.  I’ve discovered the joy of a midmorning weekday grocery run (no crowds, friendly cashiers!).  I’ve taken a nap for the first time in months.  My bellybutton popped out (little turkey’s almost done!). Lest I forget the peacefulness and productivity of this short time of my life before a precious and wailing newborn intrudes, I’m documenting my adventures in nesting.

Saturday

We took a day trip up to Cherry Valley for the Colonial Faire.  Curtis had planned on camping with his reenacting group but, as my 18th century clothes do not fit and there are not modern bathrooms, I wasn’t excited about that idea.  Everyone hiked down to a Colonial tavern for lunch (I hitched a ride) and we had pot pies in the sunshine.  (Yes, that is one random Red Coat – they let him hang out with us unshackled for some reason).

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Sunday

Church.  Picnic by the lake.  Curtis fished unsuccessfully.  It was a beautiful, quiet day.  It was also my in-laws’ 40th wedding anniversary, so we Skyped with them in Indiana.  Skyping with Luddites is always fun.  I get the giggles because my mother-in-law is only half on screen and yelling at the microphone, and my father-in-law is really close and we’re seeing right up his nostrils.

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Monday

Memorial Day.  Our very best friends were in from out of town at their time share so we hung out with them by the pool and grilled some lunch and watched their kids play in the water.

Tuesday

The first official day I should’ve been at work but wasn’t.  Slept in a little.  Cleaned refrigerator and pantry.  Shopped for and put away groceries (which is no small feat in itself when you’re 8.5 months pregnant and you live upstairs and it’s hot and your garage is across the street. Waaah.).  Made a chocolate cream pie just because.

Wednesday

Reorganized kitchen cabinets, cleaned countertops and floor.  David Sedaris once said something like, “You can have a clean floor…. or you can use a mop,” and agreeing with that, I scrubbed the floor like Cinderella.  Basically, if I had to deliver this baby at home, I’d run for the kitchen because it’s spotless and sterile.  Dinner out with the girls from our old Bible study.  Nice to have some chit chat.

Photobomb: Dickens

Photobomb: Dickens chowin down

Thursday

Appointment with my midwife.  Baby’s heartbeat is still in the 130s, it’s still head-down, my blood pressure is still good.  No news is good news.  Ran errands (Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Joann’s Fabrics).  Organized and dusted den.  Did five loads of laundry, including all bed linens.  Took a two hour nap with my favorite kitty.  Curtis came home and cleaned the bathrooms while I made dinner.

Friday (today)

I plan to organize and clean living room and dining room.  Finally go down to the library and get my library card (we’ve only lived here 18 months).  Maybe do some sewing.

This weekend we’ll wash windows and hardwood floors.  Curtis needs to tackle Mount Babylympus, the pile of baby gear that needs to be assembled and installed (car seat, co-sleeper, swing, humidifier, Rock-n-Play).

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Next week, my mom arrives.  I plan to put her to work making freezer meals.

Maternity Leave Scorecard (thus far)

Rooms clean: 3.5

Cups of Raspberry Leaf Tea consumed: at least 20

Episodes of Arrested Development, Season 4 watched: 11 (I don’t normally binge on TV but I make a special exception for AD)

Bags of trash taken out: 6 (I’m in total purge mode)

Times I’ve thought about work: 0