Thursday, March 31, 2011

Alida's birth story - via her Mommy

Be forewarned – about 2 weeks after Kali was born back in August of 2003, I wrote up my account of her birth. Not long after circulating that to some family and friends, we received a copy of it, pasted on homemade paper, bound like a book and titled “An Epistle to the Lovers of Kali.” That was to say that it was not a short summary of that birth experience – I tend to not have a knack for “short summaries.” And it is hard to summarize any experience of the anticipation of and the experience of giving birth!

First of all, the place from which I’m writing this – it is now Monday, March 28, 2011 at about 7 in the evening. Kali is holding Alida in the chair next to me – playing with her head, holding her fingers, talking to her, and in general not succeeding in keeping her awake. She just gobbled a bunch of milk and is once again sacked out. Jason is journaling on the other side of me and I’m sitting with the feet propped up typing this. It is just the four of us, after a fun day of some of our family members meeting her. And it was an extra special day because we were home!! But backing up 2 days…

For the last few weeks I’ve known that the birth could happen any time, but I found myself hoping for just a few more days. As of early March our bedroom remodel project was done, which felt like the most essential project to complete on the home front before her arrival. I was eager also to get to a place in my work where I felt reasonably good about leaving my responsibilities to someone else. This past week felt like a gift of time I wasn’t sure I would have, and it included some good family times as well as a huge accomplishment on the work front – when I left the office on Thursday my email inbox was at ZERO (felt like as much a miracle as an accomplishment)! I was rather euphoric when Jason and Kali picked me up to head to our 40 week midwife appointment. And I felt something switch in me – I was ready for this little one to come and was ready for my maternity leave to begin…

I had been about 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced at our previous week’s appointment and at the 40 week one was about 3-3.5 cm dilated and 75% effaced. Still no guarantees on timing, but things were looking favorable! I was having more tightening of my uterus, but nothing consistent or timeable.

We decided we would keep making plans so Tadpole had something to interrupt with her arrival. Friday morning we enjoyed a family hike to the lake. Saturday, our official “due date,” we decided to enjoy the day around home with Jason in the garden preparing the onion bed and me in the house canning sour cherries (pie filling, juice and cherries) with Mom (how we acquired 120 pounds of pitted frozen sour cherries for free is another story).

By about 10 or so that morning I started to suspect that the day was a bit different than those prior to it – but did not want at all to get my hopes up (or anyone else’s for that matter). I noticed that the tightening I was feeling was different in that it started in my back and moved all the way around and it came and went in a bit more of a wavelike pattern. I also noticed they were coming and going so I started to glance at the clock noticing that I was having similar sensations every 5-15 minutes or so. We kept canning cherries …

I made butter from the week’s cream, got bread started, and made a large batch of soup. By about 2 or so in the afternoon I decided to start jotting down what I assumed at this point were contractions. They were now coming about every 3-12 minutes. Sometime in the mid-afternoon I walked down to the garden to let Jason know that I thought that maybe, just maybe, this was the “real thing.” It still felt a little silly to say I was in labor, when they really weren’t all that intense (though clearly noticeable and timeable) and we were able to continue with our day’s plans.

It seemed advisable by late afternoon to start thinking of plans for the evening to include a very probable trip to the hospital and for Kali to join my parents for the night. The 5 of us (6 including Tadpole) sat down to a yummy dinner of lentil burgers on fresh “green” rolls, potato bake, and sautéed wintercress. Jason wanted to make sure we also had time for our dessert of fresh sour cherry pie too! While we ate, Tadpole’s 0th chocolate birthday cake baked.

I made a few calls to midwife friends (one of whom had agreed to be at the birth and the other who was the midwife on call at the time). While not assuring me that I was in active labor, they seemed to suggest that this was likely not going to stop before we had a baby in our arms. Around 7pm Mom, Dad and Kali left for a concert leaving Jason and I to get the rest of our things together in preparation for heading to the hospital at some point that evening. Shortly after that one of our midwife friends came to help us determine the timing of our departure to RMH. I was still unconvinced of the need to go, but also knew that I had received multiple “warnings” that this could go fast – and Jason didn’t think this little one was going to tarry in arriving. Our friend midwife’s suggestion was that we head to the hospital right away. After putting the chickens in and finishing loading up the car we were on our way. On the 12 minute drive to the hospital I had about 4 contractions or so and they were coming regularly and were now getting my full attention, distracting me from paying attention to much else.

Upon arriving at the ER, I still felt a little silly as we cheerfully walked into the ER lobby announcing that I was in labor, only to be greeted by our neighbor and friend who works as a nurse there. It so happened that I was about 9 cm dilated upon arrival, but (thanks to both Nora and Kali) my body was handling labor with amazing ease. We got settled into the room shortly after 8am and Alida made her grand entrance into the world at 9:08pm.

(now Wed, March 30th) While it has now been almost 4 days since Alida’s birth, that final 45 minutes or so before she took her first breath will remain in my memory, along with the births of our other two daughters. I was very grateful to have two friends/midwives there, along with the steady companionship of Jason. And, with the inspiration received from being present for the birth of a friend’s daughter, I tried staying upright for this birth and when my legs got too tired from standing I used the birthing stool for those final contractions/pushes. Alida didn’t wait long to announce her arrival as she let out her first squeal before her shoulders had felt air. I pulled her out and towards my chest but then had to pause until they clamped the cord for Jason to cut it – she did not come equipped with a very long umbilical cord. I’m not sure if that was the reason for my lapse of good judgment but when I pulled her out, I found that the very first thing out of my mouth was, “it’s a boy.” I’m a bit ashamed that it wasn’t “welcome baby” or “we’re so glad you are here” but there is not much control in moments like those to where your mind goes and what it triggers to be verbalized. While we had thought of Tadpole as a boy for the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, the second half had definitely included becoming accustomed and excited about a third little girl joining our family. For some reason the cord played a really good trick on me and I was quite certain that our adjustment from boy to girl had been in vain – I was quickly straightened out and soon our little girl was in my arms, expressing her feelings about having been pushed from her warm water world, but before long expressed some interest in her surroundings (particularly the opportunity to try nursing for the first time – she started out a pro and continues to be one!).

The hour that followed included my not so favorite parts of the birth experience – the need to birth the placenta, get a few stitches and endure lots of pushing on my uterus to start its journey back to a more reasonable non-pregnant size. Thankfully I had a baby in my arms for a good part of that time to distract me, as well as the joy of making the first call to my folks who were with Kali to let them know that they didn’t have to attempt to sleep that night before meeting her.

I think Kali was smitten immediately, and it didn’t take a very long “family consultation” there at the hospital for the three of us to agree that she would be “Alida Hazel Sarina Myers.” We came to the hospital with several variations of that name and also an alternate first name of “Tama” in our back pockets. But Jason and I had been getting increasingly attached to the name we finally settled on, and Kali was agreeable though she would have been just as happy, if not happier, to have Hazel omitted. So Alida can only blame her Mommy and Daddy for four names.

Various persons have wanted to know the background of our choice of “Alida Hazel Sarina Myers.” Early on in pregnancy we started talking about names. It was clear that Kali wanted to be very involved in the decision of the in utero name AND the name we would call her after she was born. This seemed a reasonable request, as long as we maintained veto power. I was feeling overwhelmed by internet searching and Jason really wanted to spend time looking at a lot of name options. None of us were feeling attached to names we had considered when expecting Nora that we did not end up using. We kind of wanted to start fresh.

(now Thursday, March 31st) So on one of our trips to the library Kali and I picked up three baby name books. One evening we decided to set the timer for 30 minutes during which we each took a different book and wrote down names that we liked. At the end of the time, we shared our lists with each other. The process had such a good feel to it. Kali had pretty early on ditched her book and had made up a bunch of names. I had made speedy progress through the alphabet in my book and Jason only got through a few letters (he also had chosen the 60,000 baby names book).

There was only one name in common between my list and Jason’s and that was the name “Alida.” On Kali’s list, she had made up the name “Sarena” which she read to us as “Sarina.” We both liked it and upon looking it up also liked it being a variation of Sarah (her Grandma Myers), as well as sounding a lot like Sabrina, a cousin on the Benner side of the family. So those names made it to the short list. Jason continued to spend time in select evenings going through the rest of the alphabet and sharing names along the way. Hazel came from one of those times, though Kali thought the fact that it rhymed with basil was enough reason to not use it – even though we are all big fans of basil!!

So in the end, we couldn’t narrow it down any further and found that we didn’t really want to either. And it seems that it suits her just fine. When the meanings are strung together, one variation of them would mean, “small, winged, powerful one who laughs.” She hasn’t laughed yet, but she is showing signs of contentment in greater proportions all the time. And the strength required to move her little legs out of the way for a diaper change or her ability to lift her head high off my chest and turn it from side to side seems to be an indication that she is going to be a strong little gal.

So she had her name before March 26th left us and we entered the second day of her life. We spent all of Sunday in the hospital, feeling pretty sleepy, entertaining many hospital staff persons working on our discharge in various forms, answering calls and emails from excited friends and family, and adjusting to Alida’s schedule, or lack thereof. By the end of the day we were eager to head home and chose to do so even though a final test had to be done at 24 hours – meaning not started before 9:08pm . It ended up leaving a pretty sour taste in my mouth after once again having a really good experience at RMH. She had to go to the nursery for a PKU screening and a bilirubin test. The bilirubin checked out just fine (to my relief since Kali’s had been high, requiring a repeat test at the hospital a few days after she was born). The PKU, which had been described to us as a simple heel stick, ended up being quite the ordeal to watch from the nursery window and I was near tears, or deciding to bust into the nursery, by the end of it. All I could hear were her muffled screams and see here little appendages flailing about with no one attempting to comfort her as they unsuccessfully tried to get blood from a vein and then proceeded to prick and squeeze her little foot. I can’t help but wonder if that experience is partly why she is very unhappy at some point during every clothing or diaper changing session – which are being required at increasing frequency…

We were tired and happy to get home, and found ourselves walking on a little carpet of red rose petals that marked the path to our front door. Mom and Kali were there waiting for us, as was a bouquet of daffodils from our neighbors, welcoming Alida (and us) home. How good it felt to sit in the rocking chair by the fire that Dad had started to warm up the house for us. And how good it tasted to eat a piece of homemade sour cherry pie before working at winding down for the night.

I snuggled up with Kali while Jason snuggled with Alida in the front room. It wasn’t long after I finished reading to Kali that Alida started wailing. That was the only inconsolable crying we have experienced since arriving home and while it felt like it lasted “forever” it was probably no more than 10 minutes or so until she latched on, nursed heartily and zonked out. It was a big day for all of us! Amazingly Mom and Kali slept right through it all!!!

The last three days have included a lot of a very limited number of activities for Alida: nursing, being held, peeing, nursing, pooping, sleeping, being adored, nursing, sleeping, looking at the ceiling fans, peeing, enduring having her clothing changed, nursing, etc… And she hasn’t been out of someone’s arms for much of that time, and seems to like it best that way. For those that know me well, the change of pace is striking and there really is nothing like a baby in my arms to truly slow me down – even if I still attempt to multi-task like I am doing currently. Despite having held her for hours on end, it is still hard to really let it soak in that this is the little one that I carried in me for nine months and that she is here to stay. She really gets cuter by the hour and her alert times are showing glimpses of future interactions that will melt our hearts (that process is well underway already). She seems to be rather content by nature and interested in her surroundings, when she can keep her eyes open. And there is definitely nothing wrong with her appetite. Yesterday she had a 3 day old check up – mostly to check in on her weight. Supposedly a “typical baby” (who has one of those?) after losing some weight after birth returns to their birth weight by the time she is two weeks old. Kali did not follow that pattern and it seems too that Alida has no desire to fall in the “typical” category. Yesterday she weighed 7 lb 15 oz, about 2 oz above her birth weight. It is nice to know that we don’t have to be worried about whether she is getting enough and I may even ditch the charts where I’ve been tracking her “inputs” and “outputs.”

With some of the initial adjustments well underway, it seems that for all of us the reality of a new baby in our home will slowly start to sink in. Having the first load of cloth diapers hanging here in the front room is a good reminder but it is more the intangible “sinking in” that I’m thinking of.

I often find myself almost calling Alida “Nora.” And I look at Alida as I’m holding her and feeling her little fully formed head and think a lot about the little girl we welcomed into our family before her . Alida does many things that remind us of either Kali or Nora, as well as things that seem unique to her. It is special to experience the familiar and the things that are new to this experience of mothering. And I imagine some of the lessons that both Kali and Nora had/have to teach me will be reinforced by our newest addition and there will likely be other new lessons to be learned.

One of my hopes during pregnancy was to be fully present to all I was experiencing during that time. That remains my hope for these early months of Alida’s life, particularly as I enjoy the luxury of time at home. And between trying to catch naps as I can and keeping up with the needs of our expanded family, I hope to find times to allow this experience to fully seep into my being and change me.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Alida's birth story - via her Daddy

One day I was working in the garden making ready for this year’s onion patch, the next here we are in the hospital with a sweet baby who is sleeping the morning away.

I must say, her timing is impeccable. Not only did she come on her due date, she also came after a full Saturday of homemaking activities had rendered our homestead in prime condition for leaving. I spent the working part of the day preparing a bed for the planting of onions, which I thought Kali and I might do on Monday. Over the past week or two, as we’ve been living with the knowledge that labor could start at any time, I’ve been constantly wondering: will this be the moment I remember all my life? Will this be the activity that was interrupted by a trip to the hospital to meet Alida? I secretly hoped it would be some sort of gardening activity that got the honor.

As it turns out, she didn’t even interrupt it! Janelle had been experiencing gradually intensifying, occasional contractions over the past few days. About the middle of the afternoon yesterday she decided it was time to begin keeping track of them. She is someone who likes to keep busy, though, so she and her Mom decided to keep on with their cherry canning project (long, unrelated story as to why they were canning cherries in March), and I am someone who likes to keep busy so I kept working on my onion bed, albeit with heightened awareness of all the signs of springtime life: budding twigs, sprouting seeds, birds claiming territories with song, etc. It seemed like a good day to have a baby, I must say. I was prepared to drop my tools and get in the car at any moment.

Much to my pleasure, we were spared that sort of rush. I was able to primp the soil to my absolute satisfaction and put my tools away, but then I ran out of concentration for ordinary things…this was no ordinary day, after all. I went inside where Janelle, Kali, and Mom and Dad Myers were, and we all agreed this was the real thing and we should make a plan. It was seeming to Janelle that we still had some time, so I got a shower, and then, since the canning project was completed (double bonus!), Janelle, Kali and I mixed up some cake batter for Alida’s 0th birthday cake. Then we sat down to a scrumptious and nutritious supper prepared by Mom and Janelle, topped off with fresh sour cherry pie and a little coffee for me, seeing as the chances were good that there was a long night ahead. By the end of supper it was clear that there was not going to be time to dawdle too much. Mom and Dad left for a concert with smiles on their faces, taking Kali with them to attend a concert and wait for any news we might generate in the evening. As Kali left she hugged Janelle’s midsection and said “goodbye, bump.”

Soon thereafter our friend M, who had agreed to accompany us in this third birth just as she had the other two, arrived to help us decide whether it was time to head to the hospital, which it was, and which we did. Advice for families to be: do a practice run (complete with labor simulation if you prefer) on getting to the hospital. We got there just fine, and with no wrong turns, but I admit that I felt frazzled enough that I was having a pretty amusingly hard time thinking about which was the best way to go. It would have been less amusing and significantly more muddling if Janelle had been in serious distress or if we had procrastinated any longer!

In any case, we got there in good time, while Janelle was still feeling pretty o.k. between contractions, though the intensity of the contractions had picked up significantly while in the car. What a pleasant and fun surprise to be greeted by a familiar and friendly face when we (in a calm and happy mood, I must say) strolled into the E.R. at RMH. Our next-door neighbor L happened to be the E.R. nurse on duty at the desk!

After the perfunctory registration questions (“Are you in labor?”) we made our way to the Family Birthplace and got settled in to a room. None too late, none too soon, though perhaps a tad closer to too late than too soon.

After a progressively intense hour of contractions and pushing, during which I rubbed Janelle’s back or we hung onto each other, riding out the waves, Alida breathed her first air. She did it very well, and gave it back with a shout. A short umbilical cord bumped the cord cutting ceremony up on the priority list a tad, and then Janelle could hold her. She was wet and a little bloody and looked exactly like herself! She needed ten minutes or so to get a hold of her emotions after the dramatic exit, so while she was crying already the nurses went ahead and did their evaluations. Soon she got calm and curious, and starting looking for something appropriate to suck on, which she found.

During the night she nursed often, and seemed to be starting to actually get something out of it. When she wasn’t feeding, she was sucking on her hand and looking placidly around, or occasionally napping! Now that we’re feeling wakeful, the hospital is hopping with interruptions, and it’s light out, she’s occupied with adjustment to the outside world, which takes the form of deep sleep.

And so, this event was the end of a beautiful time, a momentous beginning.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Welcome Alida!

Words fail us! And we are tired! There will be more later, but before cyberspace gets the news out for us, we are happy to share that Alida Hazel Sarina Myers joined our family on the outside on her due date, which is technically yesterday now (March 26). 19 1/2 inches, and a chubby little 7 lbs 13 oz, with a medium amount of dark hair. She cried like a champ for about ten minutes, then nursed like a champ for a while, and is now alternating between those two activities and sleeping like a champ, the sleeping being the most dominant activity unless she has to try to transition to Daddy's arms.

Janelle did so excellently, even though she has confessed to again fully discovering the intensity of birth. Alida also did excellently, and now we just have to become accustomed to the idea that she's really here. Enough for now. More later. Love to all!

Friday, March 25, 2011

40 weeks and waiting...

So yesterday was a monumental day! By the time Jason and Kali picked me up to head to our midwife appointment, my email inbox was at ZERO! One of my work colleagues congratulated me, noting that maybe this is this decade's version of "nesting." While I hate to admit it, it clearly impacted my feelings of "readiness" for the upcoming transition!! I have had a hard time staying below 200 in my work inbox and so this did feel like a big accomplishment and one I only dreamed of achieving before Tadpole's arrival.

So since that time, I've moved from "just give me one more day" to EAGER!! We are attempting to make fun plans for our weekend that she can have some plans to disrupt. Today's very special activity was a leisurely (at the pregnant woman's and the 7-year old's pace) hike to the lake. It included Kali's almost constant cheerful chattering, lots of little explores on some new paths, multiple visits to streams along the way, a picnic lunch at the lake, and picking wild wintercress and digging some turnips we found an abundance of along the path. We didn't even take the jogger along so Kali walked all 4+ miles and seemed to have some energy to spare when we arrived back home. The fresh air was invigorating and it seemed well worth the time and physical energy used, even if it doesn't immediately bring on labor.

So I'm definitely feeling more ready than I have in recent weeks. Eager to welcome her, to slow life up and absorb all the special moments that will come our way as we get to know a new little person joining our family. The challenge in the coming days will definitely be to soak up the moments we have pre-birthing!

We have been having a lot of fun with Kali and have experience many moments of pure enjoyment of her. And we have taken more time for some family games together - before Jason and I find ourselves doing a lot of tag-teaming again. And we had a fun "breakfast for dinner" night the other evening in which Kali ate one pancake but gobbled 3 of the chicken sausage patties that were the partial results of Jason's most recent butchering. While she gobbled those, we savored our first sauteed wintercress. We are also enjoying eggs in abundance once again - including a VERY large double-yoker that Kali thought we needed a picture of.

Here's two more pictures of our day today (to make sure all four of us are photographed!):

Monday, March 21, 2011

First salad...springtime is here!

A p.s. to Jason's post from yesterday: he had wanted to add that, on the first day of spring, we enjoyed our first spinach/lettuce salad from greens that Jason had over-wintered. TASTY!!!!

There are so many signs of spring all around us, and we are soaking them up (just like the soil likely is soaking up the rain we just got). We slow up on our way to town to take in the baby goats, cows and sheep along the way. Our walks are extended by moments of gazing at new flowers bursting into full bloom. And we look at all of this new life and eagerly anticipate the new little life about to join our family.

While we wait, we also soak up moments together. Kali seems so grown up and so eager for big sisterhood! She's been practicing on her dolls, but is clearly eager for the "real thing." In the meantime, we are enjoying time together - we've played countless games of Uno, Skipbo and Yahtzee in the last number of weeks, gotten through our Pippi books and Mary Poppins and have enjoyed some outdoor explores including tire swing rides.

It is a good feeling to be beyond our "must do before the baby" list and on to the "wish list." That included a date for Jason and I, which we thoroughly enjoyed Saturday evening while Kali had fun with our neighbors S&M, not to mention playing with their dog Bubba. We were almost shooed away by them when we returned "too early" - they were clearly enjoying each other's company.

And today Jason even got to carve out time to work on a lullaby for Tadpole, which is now stuck in my mind (not a bad thing!). My last main "wish" at this point is that my body can fight off the nasty cough I currently seem to be having a hard time saying goodbye to.

The excitement is building to meet this little girl. And some days the emotions have built up too and run over. I have had a hard time fully comprehending how fast this pregnancy has gone; all the changes that will soon happen in our family; that we really are about to welcome a third daughter into our family; that this baby will not be Kali or Nora but her own little unique, wonderful person; that our "due" date is less than a week away; that my body is preparing for the amazing job of birthing (noted in part by being 3cm dilated at our last midwife appointment); and that we will hold her soon and bring her home to Keezletown. Will it seem real when it actually happens?? My cup 'of emotions' is full and running over!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Winter's come and gone

Today is the first day of spring. Man, was I ready! It felt like a long winter, probably because I was unable to do much of what Garrison Keillor recommends for coping with winter, which is to get out in it. I had indoor responsibilities, including cabinet building and bedroom remodeling, which prevented my even being able to clean up the garden from last fall, much less get a jump on anything.

That is, until this past week! As dark fell on this first day of spring, I found my early garden crops about 2/3 to 3/4 sown. So far, we have three kinds of peas (sugar snap, snow, shell), lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, chard, kale, beets, and carrots in the ground. Remaining to plant in the first round are the potatoes and onions, which I hope I might get in the ground this week yet. In two weeks, then, another round of spinach and lettuce. By then there will probably be a fresh, new baby around here. Just exactly what this spring needs!

The chickens sure know it's spring. They are laying eggs in full quantity, and I've been collecting for hatching. The plan is to fire up the ol' incubator just as soon as the dust clears after settling back in at home with the little one.

One day recently I wrote a poem about daffodils. Here it is:

They're At It Again

It looks like this year
is going to be no exception.

That is to say, the daffodils
have organized another pageant. Just now
they are working on the green
carpets, but I expect that soon
they'll be presenting the usual
surprise capsules.

I have mentioned
to them before that
not only have they failed to innovate
from year to year, but also that
each one is simply sending up
a variation on a theme (except that one...Oh, God,
where is it?!)

And so this March we will be greeted
with the typical array;
the same patient ceremony; a lifting
of the veils of Salome, endlessly rehearsed. And I,
on hands and knees, will crane my
neck and stare, trembling
with anticipation.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Return of the Shut-eye!

I, Jason, write this post today in a state of profound lethargy. My motivation level for anything having to do with sawdust or adhesives or electrically powered cutting tools is near zero. I should have finished the last two pieces of walnut trim for the kitchen desk yesterday.

We moved into the bedroom today! Right exactly on schedule, and with no insulation sticking out from around the windows (can this be a Benner project?). This feels like a major coup on my usual tendency to miss my time estimates by anywhere from fifty to three hundred percent. Two factors have made this possible: 1) Janelle, and 2) Evenings.

Completion of the bedroom project and the simultaneous completion of Mom and Dad's kitchen cabinets in the scattered pieces of time available was a logistical rat's nest, sense of which I had little hope of making alone. But the biological maternal clock was ticking...Janelle had strong incentive to get involved. As I have always suspected would be true, her strengths were an excellent counterweight to my weaknesses and the project had a sensible order to it that my projects have sometimes been shy on.

Also, I worked a lot.

This past Sunday I attended the weekly worship at our church again for the first time since probably Christmas, or thereabouts. I was amused at myself for how great it felt to me to see all those wonderful people again. I have been increasingly starved for non-useful human contact.

Similarly, sleep. Frequently in the past few weeks I've been working right up until bedtime or a tad later, and often up the next morning in time to get a good jump on the work day. Now, with the pressing need for my work abated, every horizontal surface is looking like the kind of place I want to spend time.

There was a tremendous satisfaction in seeing the brand new closet full of our same old clothes. They fit beautifully. Swelling under the lethargy is a steady little euphoria.

Though my feelings for the day were mostly victorious and mellow, I must confess to some sadness that seemed to arise when we were setting up the baby stuff in our bedroom. I can only assume it was one of the various manifestations of my grief over the loss of Nora. Making peace with starting this all over again, here in the same place and using many of the same objects and systems, is deeply meaningful in both endearing and confusing ways. I can only guess at the thoughts and feelings that will arise when holding our new one in a few short weeks.

But today's story is today's story, and mostly today it's about celebrating a success. And so, for the interested, I will enumerate a few "greatest hits" (little stories, etc.) from the bedroom project:

1) The bedroom design was the first time I have applied some of the design attitude and skills I absorbed during my Permaculture design course to a significant home project. Specifically, I spent more time drawing and mapping, with careful attention to detail, coupled with a willingness to try out a variety of ideas on paper, rather than just coming up with an idea or two, becoming attached, and making a plan. I was even careful to push myself to try out some of the wacky or far-out ideas, just to limber up my thinking and see where they might lead. Also, I tried to give credence to my intuition, being gentle and calm with my misgivings and musings so that I could hear their voices coming through.

Most importantly, I did not rush that stage of the process. One day, after having collected some ideas on a few hand sketches and scrawled lists, I spent an afternoon alone in somebody's office in Janelle's workplace and came up with a total of about eight (Plans A through H) carefully drawn and complete options for the floor plan of the room, from which we could later choose. As it turned out, we chose "Plan B." Having so many viable, worked-out options from which to choose allowed us to feel confident that we were doing the right thing, and that we weren't ignoring a design solution that could make for a superior construction process or flow of living in the space.

Until we have lived in the room for a while, I won't know for sure. But I think we nailed it.

2) I can't say as I loved every minute of this project. Specifically, I had to level the floor. Floating cork floor is a real problem solver for a bedroom on a concrete slab, but the slab does have to be flat, which ours was not. Furthermore, the previous floor covering was a cheap carpeting that is of a type installed with glue. Lots of glue. Also, just to spite me, the floor had been painted at some point in history. This renders the warranty useless on most of the floor leveling products available.

In a way, though, that was freeing, because I knew I couldn't possibly follow the manufacturer's recommendations without rendering the project too laborious to be borne while retaining sanity.

So, here's what I did: I figured, hey, it's going to be finished with a floating floor, not stuck down with anything, so why does the leveler need to stick to the concrete so wonderfully? For good measure I grabbed a broken chunk of concrete block and scored the painted, glue-gooed surface, peeling up whatever would come easily until it was clear I was making little more progress. Then I assessed the variability of the elevation of the concrete surface (up to nearly an inch difference in the room, with the highest spot being not six feet away from the lowest...TERRIBLE concrete job, probably executed around the time I was turning three). We then used that assessment/estimate to buy Lowe's out of their supply of Quickcrete's Fast-setting Underlayment, which is, far and away, the best material I've used for concrete leveling under a cork floor (it stuck to the paint and glue just fine). However, even the twenty bags we bought from them weren't enough...I had to finish the job with leftover tile mortar and even a little brick mortar. I would not have taken such a risk with someone else's house, and I don't recommend the idea. worked!

If I ever find a need to level a floor like that again, I'll know much better what to do. And if I don't...I'll be just fine with that!

3) Framing came next, then wiring. I hadn't expected to need to do any plumbing. However, when the time came to hang drywall, Janelle's Mom was sweeping the room for me and wondered if I had noticed the puddle.

I had not.

I couldn't imagine what could be causing a leak. Upon careful inspection, I still couldn't imagine what could be causing it. It seemed to me that I could see all of the fittings, and in copper pipe I think of it as very rare for a slow leak to spontaneously develop; generally it either leaks right away or never leaks. But I could think of no other remedy than to cut away the section in which the leak was and to re-do that section, which at that time contained only one elbow joint. I planned to do the repair the next day while everyone else was basking in the non-utilitarian social exposure at church. My "last" investigative effort of the evening was to jostle the pipe a tad.

That's when it started hissing at me, which bumped the repair up on the priority list. Most notably, it bumped the need for sleep back a bit on the list. I assembled my tools and materials, finding that I had just enough couplings, elbows, etc. to mess up the soldering one time and still re-do it, which was what I considered my minimal requirement for proceeding. So I plugged in the Sawzall and started playing plumber.

I cut the pipe on both sides of the elbow, but when I tried to pull it out from the hole where it passed through a double stud, it simply wouldn't come. At first I assumed it was just wedged in there tightly, but when it occurred to me that they could never have gotten it in there if it were so tight, the light dawned.


Yes, my friends, there was a nail in the pipe. I am still amazed when I think about it, because the nail tip that neatly pierced that copper pipe wall was driven at the time of the drywalling of our bathroom, which may well have been over a decade ago (this is a house of murky timelines). All this time it has been sitting there filling its own hole sufficiently to prevent the escape of water at 120 pounds per square inch. It was only the jarring effects of my driving electrical cable staples nearby that dislodged it enough to weep a little puddle just before I covered it over with drywall. How glad I am that it leaked just exactly when it did!

I wonder if there could be any other nails in any other pipes around here? There may be, and maybe I'll never know about them.

There is a moral to this story: when installing pipes and wires in stud walls, please do allow the standard distance between stud edge and wire or pipe hole, which I believe is a minimum of one inch, with 1 1/4 inches being preferable. Many standard materials, including drywall nails, are engineered according to this assumption. The pipe in question here was run through the stud with about 1/2 inch of clearance or so.

4) We are still pretty big on BioShield products. The greenish paint used in our bedroom is a clay-based paint from that company, and is the same product we used on Kali's bedroom in our house on Wolfe Street. Once again, applying a natural material was a special joy. All the usual pet peeves--odor, disposal, participation in systems we dislike--are simply gone, and it's a peaceful feeling. It's almost eerie to be working in a minimally ventilated room with wet paint all over the walls and to be smelling...nothing. Actually, I take that back. For some reason this time the paint came with a barely detectable aroma of frying dough. Odd, but harmless except for a developing craving for some Dunkin Donuts, which are certainly not harmless.

We are also making copious use of Bioshield's most versatile wood finish, "Hard Oil #9." Our Great Room floor and trim are finished with this product, and we decided to use it again on Mom and Dad's kitchen cabinets, and also on the built-in shelving and trim in the bedroom. My thinking was that I did not want to tell A. M. Yoder and Company, the green builder doing Mom and Dad's place, how to do their job, but that for my part I wanted to use the finishes I knew and loved. To match the cabinet finish, they started out with hardware store Minwax Tung Oil Finish. Trouble is, the solvents in that product are no different than what's in standard polyurethane, and the trim guy went home after the first day of finishing and spent the evening feeling nauseous. The next morning he tried again, but developed a headache right away. He called me to talk over what to do, and I told him to feel free to try out the Bioshield oil. He did. All the in-law quarters' woodwork is now looking fabulous, finished with Hard Oil #9, and the trim guy seems to be feeling great.

Well, that's all for now. I do hope that everyone who found themselves wanting to skim as they read this list of storylets indulged the impulse without remorse.

I shall now endeavor to become re-acquainted with my friends, and to take the time to prepare my spirit for the entry of a brand new character into my life.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Big sister baby shower!

Below you will find a few visual images of the festivities today!

Highlights (of which there were many) included, but were not limited to:

All sorts of guessing games in which we tried to guess what Tadpole's favorite food and color will be, how long she will be and how much she will weigh, what her name will be, what day of the week she will be born on, etc...

Attempts to figure out what baby items were hidden in 7 brown paper bags - the quacking duck gave himself away!

Pin the diaper on the clothesline followed by a difficult competition - kids against adults attempting to drink 2 ounces of water out of a bottle. I think most of us were using muscles that hadn't been used for awhile!! I gave up after downing a generous ounce.

A "baby sock hunt" in which 42 socks were hidden around the house.

And of course birthday cake, complete with candles and wishes for the birth-day to be and the baby.

Kali received a number of wonderful big sister presents and coupons for special events with friends to look forward to in the weeks after Tadpole's arrival. And I'll savor the words of a song sung to us that came from a book that was read together at the end of the party.

"We love you Janelle yes we do
We love your darling daughters too
Mr. Jason congratulations
We sure enjoyed the celebrations
All together shout hurray
Happy birthday Tadpole yay!"

Special day, special times! And the special times haven't ended for Kali yet. There was no time for "after party blues" as her special friend P remained after the party for a sleepover. Soft pretzels have been made and enjoyed and now a long game of doctor is taking place, in which temperatures are being taken in the "knee pit" rather than the arm. :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Full term...

Today marks entering our 38th week of pregnancy - we are now officially "full-term" (which is when labor was induced with Nora). So it is a new time, an exciting time, a time of much anticipation and also us telling Tadpole to stay comfy inside just awhile longer!!

As I type, Jason is working on the trim in our bedroom. We are close! And the "move in date" is scheduled for next Wednesday. So hopefully by the end of next week we'll be back in our bedroom and I can let the full force of my nesting instinct kick in.

In the meantime, we are doing plenty of fun things (and more mundane tasks) to get ready for this little one's arrival. Here's a run down of just a few that come to mind:

- Kali and I are going for walks whenever possible. I need/want to keep moving! And it seems it does both Kali and I a world of good to soak in the fresh air. I find myself taking in the beauty around me and storing up images that I hope will come back to me as I labor to birth our third daughter.

- Today was a day of a lot of baking and a good portion of that baking is going in the freezer - time to stock up for days where I won't have two free hands for hours on end. It was a yogurt and butter-making day, and we also made fresh "green" rolls to go with venison burgers for dinner, pumpkin muffins for an afternoon snack and the upcoming church potluck and a chocolate "birthday-to-be" cake for tomorrow's festivities.

- I've been surrounded by wonderful women for two "blessingways" in the past several weeks. The words, songs, pampering and other gestures of support have been a source of strength and encouragement as I anticipate the upcoming transition - and I have a tangible reminder of each by way of colored strings tied around each of my ankles - which the women in each gathering also placed on their wrist or ankle and will leave there until Tadpole's birth.

- Today I redeemed a coupon given at the most recent blessingway. A friend joined Kali and I this morning to do "henna tattoos." So Tadpole has two flowers on her and my feet are adorned with a butterfly and a tadpole (Kali and I have matching tadpoles which I am especially happy about!). It was a fun ritual, though Tadpole made doing her flowers slightly more challenging as she was a moving canvas.

- We are down to weekly midwife appointments now. Our last Centering group will be this coming Tuesday. Kali got to join us for our most recent appointment. We continue to feel so grateful for how well Tadpole seems to be doing - in growth, activity level, etc... I'm measuring "right on" and she is clearly gaining strength as some of her movements have moved from pleasant and enjoyable to slightly uncomfortable (though it's a discomfort I'm pretty okay experiencing for a few more weeks and one I'll miss greatly a couple of months from now...)

- We are slowly reclaiming borrowed baby items, picking up some additional things (especially outfits with frogs on them if/when they are to be found) at thrift stores, and we have made, as of today, an appointment at the fire department to get our new car seat installed properly next week. We still have a list of things to do before the baby arrives, but the list of "absolute musts" is shortening! And it is good to remind ourselves now and then that we already have what is most needed - lots of arms ready to hold her and hearts that are eager to embrace her entrance into our family!

- I'm attempting to be ready to be on maternity leave. I'm ready for the being at home part of it, but there is still much to do on the work front to prepare for being absent for several months. I'm grateful to have someone filling in for me and look forward to time to focus on family life, and especially integrating Tadpole fully into our family.

- Kali seems to be completely ready! But we also know this will be a big transition for her. So today has been a day full of preparing for a "big sister baby shower" that we will be having tomorrow with some of Kali's friends. I'm grateful for a friend's generous offer to co-host it with me, as I think my current energy level would not have withstood doing it alone! A report on the party will have to come later, but I can say that the anticipation and excitement is building in our household this evening (and Kali keeps coming up with more ideas of games we could play).

There are of course the daily tasks to keep up with. And I'm realizing that it is about time to tackle the pile of sun-dried laundry on our bed, including fresh sheets that need to be on the bed before I can crawl in.

Until next time!