Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I thought I would be better...

Because I am a nurse, I naively assumed that when my babes were sick, my professional side would kick in and I would be calm and steady while I checked fevers, looked at symptoms objectively, medicated appropriately and called the doctor only when my own skills were exhausted. Instead, when I ended up in the ER last night with sick baby boy, I was crying almost non-stop and asking the doctor ridiculous questions such as how high did his fever have to go before they discharged us. (what?!)

Grant left for Pittsburgh on Sunday to start his new job and because the closing on our new house was delayed a week, I stayed in State College with the babes to finish up the move and wrap things up with our life here. To help with the chaos of packing and solo parenting, Purslane decided this would be a great time to start crawling out of her crib. This marvelous development = almost a hundred (we counted) times in two hours returning her to her bed and a frantic internet search to get advice from other parents on the best way to handle this. Of course, most of the blogs talked about children who got out of bed "almost a dozen times!" and parents beside themselves. Grant and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. Pursy has always been an over achiever. The first night was pure hell but we stayed firm, kept putting her back in bed and drank more Diet Coke (for Grant)and coffee (for me).

So yesterday as we were winding down a day of packing and trying to keep Pursy entertained with empty boxes as her toys are all packed, I noticed Little Man was flushed and just kind of lying in his swing staring into space. I checked his temp and he was 102 rectally. Of course the parameters that I had memorized at the pediatricians office went out of my head and I grabbed the internet. Anything more than 100.4 for babes under 3 months get a call to the doctor. I wasn't taking any chances. I grabbed Pursy out of her high chair where she was calmly eating dinner, threw her in the car after shoving snow boots on her feet because they were the first things I could find in the disaster that is her room. I called my dear friend Ann on my way out the door and told her to meet me at the hospital to pick up Pursy. I got in the car and forced myself to drive slowly. All I could think of was bacterial meningitis, RSV and other horrific unlikely causes of an infant's fever. I was terrified. All I wanted to do was talk to Grant but he was too far away to do anything except worry. So I turned on the Indelible Grace CD and listened to the hymn Dear Refuge of my Weary Soul and prayed hard. I was at the end of my strength and just asked God to be with my baby boy.

Becki met me at the hospital and stayed with me the whole time. Ann swept Pursy away and it was amazingly wonderful to know she was taken care of. Three hours later, we were being discharged with a reduced fever, normal lab work and unremarkable chest X-ray. Purslane had been dealing with a cold for the past week, and the doctor think his little body just couldn't handle the virus. He went through a normal work up and handled everything like a champ-except the lab draw during which he cried so hard his little mouth was wide open and no sound was coming out. My heart was literally breaking and all I wanted to do was grab his little body and run for the door. But we got through it, and one by one all the tests came back normal and his fever went down to normal. The nurses, techs and ER doc were wonderful- talking to him and giving me information.

We got home and Pursy was asleep in the car after playing hard for three hours with Ann and Dan. She stayed asleep while I transferred her to her big girl bed- and stayed asleep until 5AM. Thank God. I brought Knox into bed with me, propped up on his Boppy pillow where I could watch him breathe all night long. He slept soundly, waking up only to eat and go back to sleep. I finally talked to Grant and let him know that all was well. First trip to the ER over with.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Purslane and Knox: My favorite things

My delicious babes, here are my favorite things that you do or say right now.

Knox, you are a snuggly little man. When I pick you up from your bassinet or bouncy seat and you are still a little asleep, you hold your legs up close to your body, which always makes me call you my Little Mushroom. When you are nursing and your arm is down against my body, your little fingers stroke the skin on my side. After your belly is full, you love sitting in the bouncy seat as long as you are in the room everyone else is. You sit there and make sweet noises with your mouth wide open like you are just taking in the whole world at once. You laugh in your sleep like you are having the greatest dream- I love when I catch you doing this one. Of course my favorite thing you are doing right now is smiling at us. It is getting easier every day to get one out of you- sometimes all I have to do is look at you and it's like you were just waiting for the chance.

Purslane, you continue to be a fantastic and crazy little girl.Your language acquisition is astonishing and I love watching other people's reaction to you saying things like "mayonnaise" and "I have poops". You are not supposed to be able to say three word sentences yet, but there you are clear as day knowing exactly what you mean. You came running out of the back bedroom today and informed me of a "mess"- which I found was an entire pack of notecards you had taken out and strewn all over the room. You hate having shoes and socks on in the car and they come off as soon as you are in your car seat- your intensity is cute but I do hate having to hunt them down when it's time to get out. In the morning after you finish breakfast and I am still drinking my coffee, we watch Sesame Street or Muppet videos on You Tube. They are only 2-3 minutes long, so it isn't very relaxing for me but I do like hearing your one word commands for which video you want to watch. "Tar" is Adam Sandler playing a song to Elmo on his guitar, "Papaste" is Drew Breeze measuring Elmo with a tube of toothpaste, "Apple" is Amy Adams teaching us the word Ingredient, "Baball" is Carmello and Lamar teaching Grover about the word Compare and of course the ever-lovin "Feis" singing 1,2,3,4. Your other favorite media activity is the Lion King, which you have been watching way too often while we are trying to pack up the house. You love the scene where Timone, Pumba and Simba eat bugs and at least once look at me with your little nose wrinkled up and say "Eww Gross". You still love puzzles and books, looking at pictures on Mama's cell phone and playing with "Whit Miles Whit". You have recently started dancing and love to show us your "moves". You also are a fan of getting "dizzy" and seem unfazed when you bounce off walls or people after a few spins. I could keep going but am starting to sound like "that Mom"...

I am so proud of both of my babes. I can't wait to teach you all kinds of more great stuff. And once we hit Pittsburgh we can spend our days at the Children's Museum, Carnegie Science and History museums, Frick Park, the Andy Warhol Museum, the Zoo...  Your Dada is going to wish he had decided to be a stay at home Dad instead of getting this silly little PhD... but we will call him Doctor Martsolf for a little while to make him feel better.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Marital Bliss?

Because I try to be as candid as possible on this blog, I am writing today about married life post-babes. This is not always wine and roses. Or frequent romps in the hay. Or kind words and sweet kisses. Or romantic dates with hand holding and long conversations. Or homemade meals and folded laundry. Or even wanting to be in the same room together. Some days I am so tired from taking care of two babes all day that when Grant walks in the door from work and asks for a glass of water, he gets a "get it your damn self" from his bride who promised to always cherish and respect him. Fortunately those extreme moments are few but there are more days then I would like where we fall into bed without really even talking about anything other then the kids.

My older brother gave me a book before I ever met Grant called "A Severe Mercy". If you have never read it and are in or ever planning on being in a long-term relationship with another human being- stop reading and go out and buy this book. It was written by a man named Sheldon Vanauken, who was a friend of C.S. Lewis. The book is about Sheldon and his wife Davy and their journey through life, love and eventually death. Throughout the book, Sheldon speaks about something he and Davy called the "creeping separateness" which they considered to be the greatest threat to their marriage. It is the idea that very rarely does one big event cause the end of a relationship. Even things like stepping out come after months maybe years of the individuals becoming more and more comfortable with not sharing everything with their spouse. The slow steady rise of individuality and the decline of the couple.

When I read this book for the first time as a single woman, I did not understand how two people who were wildly in love and enjoying all the benefits of life lived WITH someone could let themselves gradually fall apart. When I met Grant and he pursued me as he did, I knew I had found someone who shared my same desire to be together on everything. And over the past 8 years we have heard from numerous people that our intimate relationship is both enviable and annoying. We literally do not make any significant decisions without the other person. We decided that we would never do things like go out to lunch or spend any significant one on one time with someone of the opposite sex. This has caused tensions in both of our work situations because not everyone shares this commitment of boundaries. But we have seen too many relationships fade away because it is too easy to find comfort elsewhere when life is messy at home. So we accept the criticism and enjoy the trust that exists from knowing exactly who each other is spending time with. My male friends are all friends of Grants as well and vice versa.

Having children was the first time I began to understand how the creeping separateness could creep in. Grant is a very involved father but even he can not understand what my days are like at home. I went from a full time Cardiac nurse working 40+ hours/week in a high stress job to being a stay at home mother of 2 in less then 20 months. Sometimes the most difficult task I accomplish all day is figuring out how to get breastmilk stains off the couch. And even though I may not leave the house all day and still be in my pajamas at noon, the work I do at home is more intense then any shift in the ICU. I am raising children and there are no lunch breaks or vacations from that. I am ON all the time because if I lose my temper or miss opportunities to teach Purslane important life skills, it affects her. And I don't expect myself to be perfect but I am keenly aware that I always have eyes on me.

So when Grant comes home and wants to talk about his dissertation committee, I don't always have the attention span or the energy to listen to him. In the evenings when he wants to play cards or even spend time just listening to records and talking- I want to either watch TV or go to bed. Let's not even talk about the logistics of jumping into bed together. With a 7 week old sleeping at the foot of our bed in his bassinet and Pursy needing at least 5 songs sung to her while being rocked to sleep, the magic hour of having sex often disappears in exhaustion or just not connecting enough to want to be intimate. We decided not to move Knox to his crib until we move because we didn't want him to have to adjust twice in three weeks to a new sleeping situation- which was a kind decision for him- but came with repercussions for us as a couple having any privacy.

It is hard. Hard to find time to be together just as Grant and Christy- married people. Hard to find the energy to find out what the other person has spent their day doing and TRULY care. Hard to connect on things other then being Knox and Pursy's parents. And that is an important part of who we are right now, but that won't keep our marriage together. At our core we are still those crazy in love kids who think the other person is the bees knees, we just don't always have the energy to show it. And it is hard when I realize I haven't kissed Grant all day or I listen to myself snarking at him about leaving his shoes on the floor.

So we just keep talking. And sometimes all I can muster up is to tell Grant that I WANT to have the energy to sit up with him after the babes are asleep, but I just don't have it in me. And the great guy that he is, he kisses me on the forehead and tells me all he needs to know is that I want to.

We will fight the creeping separateness and his will be the hand I am holding when I am 85 and can't remember what my name is or how I got here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Santa Claus is better than Jesus (c)

I wanted to copyright the title of this blog post just to annoy my dear friend Becki who made me promise I wouldn't write about why Christians hate Santa Claus. I am doing this for one purpose; I am going to force her to start her own blog so other people don't steal her good ideas. (by the way, for those of you who noticed my brilliant semicolon, I quote Kurt Vonnegut who said "Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college").

Life has been good around here. The move to Pittsburgh grows ever closer so my days are filled with packing and hanging with our people. I try not to say goodbye too many times, as I hope that most of my friends will come to visit us before too long. I am not above guilt and shame to make this happen... And it shouldn't be too painful... we will have the Children's Museum, Pittsburgh Zoo, good Thai food and the Incline, after all. (oh, Amanda and Kim?? You read my blog? How convenient... see you soon!)

Ever since I got my big girl camera, I have been trying to capture every adorable (and not so adorable) thing Pursy and Knox do. This has made me a little into the annoying "wait right there!" amateur photog who runs for the camera dozens of times a day. It's totally worth it though, when you capture things like this:

 Aw, shucks...
 Little Man started smiling!!!
 A little light reading on the potty.. this is Grant's Economist. Reading about the economy in Greece if I remember correctly...
 Knox and Monroe take on the world together...

 Pursy with egg on her face...

 I was wondering why Pursy wasn't complaining about nap time until I snuck to check on her...
 Regress much?...
 Cozy on the couch watching Lion King..

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Birth Story

I cannot believe my little man is six weeks old. I feel like he has been part of our family forever.. or maybe just because since the night I saw that little pink plus sign I wanted him to be here already. The intense way I anticipate the arrival of my babes neither one of my children can ever accuse me of not wanting them. The entire last trimester of my pregnancy with Knox I was longing for sleepless nights, poopy diapers and the return of those horrendous nursing bras. I LOVE my babies and even love the newborn mushroom stage- where all they do is eat, sleep and cry. And I thought I would love love being pregnant- that I would become the calm and nurturing earth mother who endured all inconveniences with a quiet whisper of thankfulness for the sacred vessel that is my womb.

Anyone who spoke to me for longer then 10 seconds while I was pregnant is already laughing. I hate being pregnant. The only good thing about it to me is the gorgeous prize at the end. So here is the story of the arrival of my second gorgeous prize- my son: Knox Thomas Steele.

My EDD (estimated due date) from my doctor was October 15th. But being a nurse and a lover of gathering information, I had convinced myself that because this was a second pregnancy and MY calculated dates had me at 40 weeks on October 1st that my babe would arrive the first week of October. Therefore I started preparing for the start of labor the last week of September. Basically, I set myself up for misery. Every day from September 26th on was like a Christmas morning that never came. I woke up every morning crushed that I did not have a baby overnight. I started with weekly OB appointments the middle of September and every time the doctor checked my cervix, I was convinced they would tell me (in a shocked voice!) that I was almost 10 cm dilated and needed to get to the hospital immediately. This never happened and my due date came and went. I literally sat on the couch like a beached whale whimpering about the cruel, cruel universe.

Grant's parents came to visit the weekend of Oct 15th, partly to hang out with us for homecoming weekend at Penn State and partly to meet their new grandchild that I had convinced everyone would be here waiting for gifts and adoring. Saturday my dear friend Becki brought me over her old wives tale- eggplant parmasean- that she had refused to bring before my due date. (When she told me this, I almost broke up with her) I love vegetables of all shapes and sizes... except one. I hate eggplant. But guess who ate every bite of that disgusting meal?? This desperate pregnant woman. No baby.

Sunday morning I woke up with contractions that took my breath away. We waved a happy good-bye to the grandparents, Grant threw me in the car and we drove to the hospital. I should have known it wouldn't end well when I had the clarity of mind to yell at him for not running red lights on the way... not because I was in such hard labor that I was afraid of delivering en route, but because I wanted breaking the law to be part of Knox's birth story. *just a note to girls who have never gone through labor- when true labor is going on, you are not thinking about telling the story later- you are just trying not to die* We arrived at the hospital, by which time the strong contractions were long gone. But we went upstairs anyway and one disappointing hour later, we were walking out the front door led by my enormous 40 week+1 day belly. I was so upset that Grant offered to take me to Cracker Barrel for breakfast.. only a pregnant woman can dry her tears on pecan pancakes and feel better.

I decided to wait him out. I started the new week determined to enjoy my last few days with Purslane as my only babe, so we went to the library, the park, the farmer's market, read a million books and put together a thousand puzzles. I spent lots of time with my hand on my belly feeling little man move around. As much as I wanted to meet him, I knew that he and I would never be this connected again- literally sharing a body. So I tried to enjoy it.

Wednesday morning at 1230AM I was woken up by contractions that, again, took my breath away. I walked into the bathroom where I discovered that (I thought) my water had broken. Having been to this rodeo once before, you would think that I would remember that some things are hard to miss- like your membranes rupturing- but being 4 days past dates and desperate to go into labor, I decided it was the real deal and woke up Grant. We waited a little bit, not wanting a repeat of a few days ago, then when the contractions intensified and got closer together, we started calling our list of peoples who had agreed to be woken up in the middle of the night to come stay with Purslane while we went to the hospital. Five calls later, no one answered their phone and we got desperate. We started calling college students. First try, Grant's cousin Rachel answered the phone in her sweet (and very awake) voice and was at our door in 5 minutes. I started to give her instructions about what to feed Pursy for breakfast, and she shooed me out the door. I hadn't realized until that moment how panicked I was about leaving my baby girl- she was my only child thus far and even in labor I didn't want to leave her. But off we went.

The 10 minute ride to the hospital, the contractions stayed consistent and strong. I was still able to be excited inbetween them, and I squeezed Grant's hand as we talked about what a great birthday October 19th was going to be. We hit the ER doors, and... everything stopped.

As the ER nurse escorted us through the halls to Labor and Delivery on the 4th floor, I tried to will my body to start contracting again. I walked faster, breathed harder- hoping for something, anything. I could not believe we were about to have a repeat episode of false labor and I was going home with no baby. The nurse met us at the door, escorted us to L&D room 5 and hooked me up to the monitor. 20 minutes later, I had 2 nice contractions that I only knew I had because the little tracing line on the monitor told me so. The nurse came in and told me that the doctor recommended I walk for an hour to see if anything started again,and if not she was going to send me home... again. I took one lap around the unit then told Grant this was ridiculous- I had been walking miles a day for the past month without going into labor, why did I think walking in the hallway was going to do anything? I started cursing like a 15 year old boy, ripped off my hospital gown and got dressed. Halfway down the hall when Grant caught up with me, he told me I needed to at least let the nurse know I was leaving. We told her our plans, and she asked me to sit tight for another minute while she called the doctor again. Twenty minutes later, the doctor was sitting at the foot of my bed while I told her if she didn't break my water I would do it myself. She advised me to wait... reminded me that my first labor was quick and natural and mother nature often knows best. I told her I was done and was willing to have a c-section if it meant this was the last minute I would ever have to be pregnant. I think she knew I meant business at that point, and agreed to break my water- with the understanding that if labor did not begin naturally after that then in 6 hours she would start the induction process, which meant pitocin, maybe cervidil and more then likely pain medications to manage the intense pain of induced contractions. I agreed, she broke my water and I settled in.

By settling in, I mean I put on my slippers grabbed Grant's hand and we started walking the halls. A solid hour of walking and some small contractions had started to return. *this is the point in the story where I start to get a little hazy about details* Another hour and we were stopping to breathe through the contractions. Around 5AM I got back into bed to be checked and monitored. At that point, I was 5 cm dilated and contractions were about 3 minutes apart and growing in intensity. 30 minutes later, I told Grant I needed to go to the bathroom NOW. He looked at me suspiciously and asked "do you have to poop or push?". I said I didn't know. He ran into the hallway and yelled for the nurse. When she came in, he told her that my labors progress quickly and she should check me again. I was 8cm and labor was in full force.

I do remember the recessed lighting on the ceiling of the delivery room, because that was my fixed point to stare at while I rode the contractions. I also remember Grant holding my hand and coaching me through every one- reminding me to stay relaxed, breathe and encouraging me that every contraction brought our son closer to our arms. The pain of labor contractions is so consuming and unbelievable- I had forgotten my labor with Pursy until this moment and then all I could think about was getting through each excruciating rise and fall when I would have at least a few seconds of relief.

When the doctor came in, she checked me and I was 8 1/2 dilated but the urge to push was so strong, I couldn't stop myself. Because she was afraid I would tear my cervix pushing past it, she manually stretched me through the last 1.5 cm of dilation. That was the most intensely painful thing I have ever experienced. By the time I was fully dilated and every push was a desperate attempt to push him out, I could not handle the pain anymore. I remember feeling desperate and frantic. Grant had one leg and the nurse had the other, and they were holding my knees to my chest while I put everything I had in me into every push. I remember being afraid of the screams coming out of me at one point- they were feral and completely out of my control. I have heard some women say delivery is an out of body experience, but not for me- I definitely was right there. And then came the blessed release of his body leaving mine. It is a beautiful emptiness because a moment later, he was on my chest. I could hold him, feel his little body and touch his face. Grant was right beside us and the three of us were together at very long last. They let me hold him for a good hour before taking him to the nursery to be bathed and weighed. It was a precious hour- everything still so fresh and brand new- both of us exhausted and so crazy happy. We had a son.

I wrote Grant a letter the night after Knox was born. The husband of a woman going through natural labor deserves all the praise in the world. He was my solid place and no words will ever describe how much I love him.Our family feels complete with Purslane and Knox and no woman was ever so blessed.

 Yeah... If you look like this you probably aren't in labor...
 The first few moments.

  Knox Thomas Steele. 8 pounds 9 ounces of pure baby boy happiness.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Everyone Needs a Special Place

I know my last few blog posts have been a little shallow... I just haven't had the time or the mental wherewithall to take my usual care with writing. Please accept as my apology these pictures of my daughter taking advantage of the kitchen being packed up and the resulting empty cupboards.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Things I Definitely Did Right

As it is Thanksgiving week, I decided to count my blessings in a narcissitic way. By congratulating myself on my wisdom and good decision making that has allowed my life to be so full of goodness and love. Let's begin.

First of all, my husband Grant. I met this bearded beauty in August of 2002 while we were both working night shift at Denver Children's Hospital. He was post-college and looking for some space to hike and camp, and I was "finding myself" in the Rocky Mountains and a BA in Anthropology. We were all wrong for each other from the start but were drawn like moths to a flame. We fell in love all over the western US- Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado.. everywhere we set up a campsite or hiked a trail was the foundation of our romance. We fought constantly, made out even more, and finally married each other during a thunderstorm in Ohio. We became best friends in New Orleans, got our shit together in Washington DC and started a family in State College, PA. Grant is the best decision I ever made.

Second, my babes Purslane Claire and Knox Thomas Steele. Becoming a mother changed my life in every possible way. It changed my body, my priorities, my focus, my job, my life plans- basically these children took my selfish heart and melted it around their tiny hands. Having children is the most painful honor ever bestowed on a woman- starting with their entry into the world. But from the moment these babes left my body and the intense pride came over me at having birthed a child, I knew I was strong enough to be a mother. And every day that I wake up and feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders, I know that I can either go about my task with courage or be crushed under it. So I pray for wisdom and patience- then get to work. Because these babes make my world go round. Pursy and Knox are the second best decision I ever made.

Thirdly, my decision to become a nurse. One of the many reasons why Grant is the best decision I ever made is that he was somehow given a unique ability to understand my colorful parade of individuality. He gets me. So when I was filling out my application to graduate school for a MS in English, he flat out told me that was the wrong career for me. He encouraged me to go back to nursing school, which I did but only after thinking about it just long enough that it looked like my idea. I have been a nurse for almost 5 years now and though I would be foolish to claim that every shift with every patient has been a beautiful miracle, I have found a life work that plays to every one of my strengths. I am good at being a nurse. It is the third best decision I have ever made.

Fourthly, my decision to open my heart to women. (no... keep reading). When I met Grant, I had exactly three lady friends- two of which lived across the country. All my friends were guys- including my best friend and confidant. I loved setting myself apart by loudly proclaiming that I didn't understand women and perferred the company of men who were less emotional and didn't care that I didn't shave my legs. Did I mention that I was studying Anthropology at the University of Colorado... i.e. I was a pseudo-hippie. Not the political vegan kind, just the vegetarian hemp-wearing drum circle kind. Grant didn't care about my perference for male company and told me to get some girlfriends. Thus for the past 7 years I have been collecting the most marvelous assortment of female friends- from dramatic Margo in Orlando to southern sugar Becki in State College to loyal Julia in Denver to smartass Tiffany in Ohio- amazing women come out of the woodwork when you put yourself out there. Becoming a woman's woman is the fourth best decision I have ever made.

And because I love John Cusack in High Fidelity, I will make this a Top Five list. The fifth best decision I ever made was to start eating meat. It sounds trivial, but after 13 years of thinking, planning, and cooking vegetarian, the freedom that has come from eating whatever I want and whatever is served to me has been monumental. I have enjoyed Grant's 12 hour labor of love smoking a pork shoulder, simplified my favorite Pad Thai by making it with fish sauce, and discovered the magic that is a beautifully executed buffalo burger. Becoming an omnivore is the fifth best decision I have ever made.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow narcissists who have also made private lists of their personal triumphs that they are thankful for... now share them with the world.

Much love-

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

the Cheese Man

Purslane's favorite food staple (for many months now) is cheese. Cheese in every shape and size- from the humble string cheese to the exotic Gouda- that girl loves her cheese. Our local grocery store offers free cookies to babes at the bakery, but we bypass that every week for the cheese counter and her best friend, the Cheese Man. We gave him this title and he seems to like hearing it come out of her sweet mouth.. followed by a frantic string of "pees, pees, pees, pees" (Please) as if on this particular day, he would forget to give her a slice of white American or Colby Jack.

She sits in the front of the cart and happily eats her treasure- giving me a good 3 minutes of peace from her grabbing my grocery list, my pen, the front of my shirt or whatever she can reach on the shelves around her. Grocery shopping with her is like intense mud wresting with a really cute octopus.

With FOUR of her molars making their appearance at once, Pursy has been more selective then usual about what she will eat. She is even refusing some of her favorite fruits- apples and pears, which she eats seeds and all, and sometimes the stem if I don't catch it first. Fortunately for her growth and development, she will always eat cheese and if hungry enough, some bread and butter. Her diet is starting to resemble a Parisian aristocrat. But I feel like it is healthier then some kids who get stuck on one food- my nephew keeps Heinz in business and us entertained with dinners like ketchup sandwiches. My sister in law picks her battles and passes him another gummy vitamin.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Still Have the Ace...

Last night we had our small group over for dinner- Grant made chicken masala (yummy) and we all sat around our big kitchen table and laughed our heads off. These people are salt of the earth. My best friends and the sort of humans you can talk about topics like child molesters (we are enduring a sad time in HappyValley) and Dawson's Creek (thank you for that, Alex) over the same dinner and somehow everything is alright.

At one point during the meal, someone commented that they had never known me not pregnant- i.e. able to drink alcohol. My dear friend Bec leaned over to me and said "I could tell some stories about drinking with you..." and we both threw our heads back and laughed because we both knew exactly the times she was probably talking about. More then likely there was a game of quarters involved and definitely there were darts and cigars.

The night ended and of course Becki was the last to leave- but not before a parting comment about the size of my boobs. I was left in a quiet house with a sleeping Knox while Grant went to go collect Pursy from the babysitters. The laundry and dishes can wait- I sit down to let the happiness of the evening linger a little more.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life. The 2AM version.

I should be sleeping. Knox is back asleep after nursing but will be awake in 3 hours and I should be sleeping.

But he is 3 weeks old today and I am just now starting to think about things other then baby. My head is clearing, my body is healing and suddenly the other part of myself- the 31 year old woman part- is freaking out just a little. Because next weekend my little brother is getting married and I haven't really had time to ponder that. I remember the day he came home from the hospital, I remember how he used to call those little Fisher Price plastic people "beeble", I remember helping him with his paper route and I remember the day he graduated from High School. He is a man now and found himself a good woman- and now they have a gift registry together with table settings and towels. He is getting married. And as life goes, I have been living mine in sundry locations across the country for the past 16 years and I haven't talked to him as much as I wish I would have. I don't know things about him that I wish I did. But I do know that he is crazy happy and is going into this whole marriage business with a clear head. I do know that he is going to be a good husband.

I am also looking at the empty walls in the living room where pictures used to hang. Grant has already started packing things up in the anticipation that the next 6 weeks are going to pass by quickly- and I think he is right. I have known for a while now that we are moving to Pittsburgh- he went the weekend after Knox was born and bought us a house, so it's official. And I am so excited for his new job and the end of grad school for him. I am excited about returning to urban living, good Thai food right around the corner, a cool Children's Museum and miles of sidewalks to walk, Art theatres and music venues, and my pick of state of the art hospitals. Pittsburgh is going to be good to our family, I know it. But for the first time maybe in my entire adult life, I don't want to leave a place- not because I am in love with State College but because I have family here. I have sisters that knew me before babies, trudged through pregnancy with me, and have now been raising my babes with me. Those are the girls you want to hold on to forever. And I know that Happy Valley is a transient place- in 5 years none of these people will still be here. Grad school will end, jobs will move and we will be sending Christmas cards to each other across the country. But it is pretty utopian right now- dinners at each others houses, walks downtown, church together every Sunday. And being KNOWN. We have lived here for almost 5 years and are reaping the benefits of all those times we put ourselves out there and hoped someone would meet us halfway. We have a true community and I love these people with all my heart. Grant and I used to joke about how hard it was to make friends when you are married because you aren't just trying on one person, you are figuring out if your spouse likes their spouse and if the four of you are compatible. I count Alex, Sam, Mark and Bill as some of my closest friends and am very aware of how rare that is. Our friends have strengthened our marriage by being so transparent in their own. In my wildest dreams, the 2.5 hour drive to Pittsburgh won't change any of these friendships and I know at their core it won't- but it won't be the same. There will be "catching up" phone conversations and major life events that will have to be viewed as a photo album on facebook.

Pittsburgh, you have some work to do. Bring out your best people and get them ready to put themselves out there- because I am going to need some.

Okay, tears flowing freely and really need to go to bed before little man wakes up again. This is life at 2AM.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hip Hop Lovin'

I feel like I should be turned off by the girl audition in this video but can't stop listening to this song.  Makes me want to jump on the dance floor with Monica.. how bout it, girl?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rip Van Winkle

My babe is 2 weeks old today. I go back and forth between being amazed at how new he still is and feeling like he has been in our lives forever. It is much different this time around- now at night when I put him to sleep in his bassinet at the foot of our bed, I crawl under the covers and fall sound asleep myself. When Pursy was two weeks old, I would stand over her for hours just watching her breathe to make sure the next one came. I have more faith in Knox, and thus am far less sleep deprived. I also find myself being much more comfortable with doing things one-handed.. with two babes under the age of 2 my arms are very rarely void of a child.

I have spent the last two weeks listening fondly to messages from dear friends wishing us congratulations- then saving them for another day without returning the call or email. These two weeks were my time to heal (4 hour speed labor requires a little TLC to my lady parts), help Purslane adjust after her world got rocked with the presence of her brother, and allow both of my mothers to serve our little family. I let go of my need to control the grocery shopping, what P ate for breakfast, how I like to do laundry, how much cream I take in my coffee, where I keep things in the kitchen.. I allowed others to take over the rest of my life so I could lay on our bed and watch Knox open his eyes and look around. And when Pursy wasn't being doted on by her grandmothers, she was in the bedroom with me pointing out Knox's eyes, toes and belly for the millionth time. That girl loves her new brother. It is a suffocating, intense kind of love- one that would definitely kill him if we weren't there to pull her off his face, but her interest in him has been sweet rather then jealous- for which I am so happy.

So I return to the world with a feeling of intense thankfulness for TWO healthy babes, a husband that adores and takes care of all of us and a renewed sense of peace in the face of chaos. I remind myself at least once an hour that puzzle pieces on the floor will hurt no one and string cheese for breakfast is better then coffee alone. It will take me a little while to adjust and get things running smoothly around here, but eventually I will learn where to find the 30 seconds to put my mascara on in the bathroom rather then the front seat of the car.

So hello again world- I may have a hat on for the 4th day in a row, but I have yet to recycle underwear or wear a skirt with unshaved legs. Two weeks out, I think I am doin' alright.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's just an oogie...

Thanks to my overflowing supply of hormones (no, they don't disappear into the night the moment the babe is born... they linger like the smell of a baked potato that was cooked in a microwave for 20 minutes.. what, I didn't tell you that story?- remind me later, it's a good one) I spent a good hour of my life last night sobbing into dirty laundry with a ziploc bag crumpled in my hand.

Here's how it went down. Purslane for whatever reason she does anything had decided to call frogs "oogies", and the noise they made "ooggie googie". It was incredibly cute and I refused to allow Grant to correct her. It is amazing how many books frogs show up in and I LOVED hearing her take on it. Then last night, we were reading her favorite book "Brown Bear" and we got to the frog page. I smiled in anticipation... and disaster struck. Clear as day, Pursy said "froggie". Stunned, I asked her to repeat it.


I looked at Grant who was looking at me with the same stunned expression. It was over. Oogies were now a thing of the past and this froggie creature had taken its place. Grant had to take over the reading of the book because I was crying too hard to finish. Pursy kept looking at me with a perplexed look and I attempted the brave Mommy smile. After book time was over, he carried her off to bed- and I collapsed into a chair and grabbed the first thing I could to muffle my sobs- a dirty dress out of the laundry I had worn the day before. I had just gotten myself under control about the oogie thing and was starting to pick up our bedroom, sniffling, when I came across a ziploc baggie containing the little hat they had put on Knox right after he was born.


I literally shook with gut-wrenching sobs for a good 30 more minutes until Grant realized from the living room that I hadn't emerged from the bedroom in quite a while. He came in to find a snotty ball of hormones wrapped helplessly around a handful of dirty laundry. He tried his best to understand, and then finally just told me he loved me and rubbed my back.

You never know when you will hear something for the last time, or watch some new skill change overnight from a clumsy attempt to a smooth action. These babes of mine constantly amaze me. And I have managed not to do it yet, but you better believe the video I took of Pursy a few weeks ago going over her animal sounds will be watched today. And tomorrow. And I need to remind myself that it is probably wrong to correct her and try to get her to call it an oogie forever... right?

 Check out that pouty lip potential...
 What do you get when you cross naptime with curly hair?...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

If One is Good...

I listened to lots of advice from other parents about the moment when you see your first child after having a baby. They said Purslane would look so grown up, little girl-ish and in general much older then she did before we left for the hospital to birth Knox. I pretended to know what they meant. I nodded, smiled- and then congratulated myself on the fact that I knew she would still be my 18 month old baby girl running around in feety pajamas and loving her evening "bap" (bath) time with Dada. I instead focused on how I would manage two babies- both in diapers, both in car seats, both needing to be rocked to sleep.

I didn't plan on how intense she would all of a sudden seem to me. Her need to run and yell and jump off the bed a million times a minute has me completely stressed out. Trying to figure out where to put Knox so he is safe while I go chase after her because I told her not to do something and she didn't just ignore me- she did it with both hands TWICE in rapid succession (while looking directly at me) then ran away screaming with laughter while I tried to disentangle myself from the blankets while trying not to stress my recently very stressed lady parts. When did she become so complex? What used to take just a look now takes at least two rounds of stern voice followed by some kind of follow-up. Even reading books with her is intense. She has her favorites and wants them read 'gain and 'gain.

I am tired and frustrated. Overwhelmed with the importance of the job before me- TWO children to keep safe, teach kindness and grace and make sure are clothed and fed. They need to be stimulated, exercised, challenged, taught, loved, disciplined, encouraged, played with- and I still only have two arms. And Grant's Mom for another few days and then my Mom for a week. After that, it's just Grant and I- man to man defense.

I don't say all this to get sympathy. My life is full of kisses and snuggling and baby breath and laughing and crazy fun. But it is different now- Pursy and I will both have to get used to the reality that I have to split my attention now between her and Knox. And last night when I stood outside her door and cried while she cried in her crib because she wanted to be rocked a little longer and I needed to go feed crying Knox, I realized that having two children is going to be much harder then I ever thought. And probably more fun and more colorful then even I can imagine.

Pursy's first look at Baby Knox...
 Knox gets his first lesson on trucks... Pursy thought it was important to start early.
 She loved being at the hospital- so many things to explore...
 I love this picture- she looks like such a little imp.
 And all's right with the world.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Letter to YOU, Grant Martsolf

It is a little after 5AM. Less then 24 hours ago, we met our son Knox Thomas Steele Martsolf for the first time. He entered the world at 0725 and I will write the whole birth story up very soon. Right now though, when I should be stocking up on sleep and taking advantage of the fabulous nurses who staff the nursery, I want to say some words to the only person in the universe brave enough to go through two natural births with me.

 I know from the day you married me you have been worried that I would have a slow,steady descent into craziness. My love for all things herbal, natural and experimental- including humans- used to make you very uncomfortable. And so over the past 8 years, we have compromised on a daily basis. We have both become comfortable enough in our own skin to change when it fits our relationship,and cling to the bits of ourselves cultivated in college and beyond that made us individuals.

 In a sense, we grew up together. I will never forget sitting in Jeffrey Lancaster's basement hearing about the concept of community for perhaps the first time, and thinking that was the way to go. Our passionate agreement about the life we wanted has made us into the family we are. We love people well. Our home has always been open to whomever wanted to wander in and our life has been made so colorful by the people we never would have met if we weren't constantly seeking community. We let people in- even when the house is a disaster and we have been fighting all day. No pretends with us-and that makes me proud.

And now, we are passing this along to the next generation. Purslane is an amazing person who is so used to having different people around that she totally just skipped over the developmental step of separation anxiety. Do you know how lucky we are just to be able to leave the house when we go out of dates without needing to give a babysitter a long list of ways to distract her so we can slip out? She asks whomever is sitting on our couch to read her books, because she has learned to open her heart too. And now we get the chance to teach our little man about loving humankind. We are lucky, Grant.

And now back to these babes and particularly their entry into the world. You knew that I wanted natural home births from the day we started talking about children. I wanted the full experience of birthing a baby and even though you thought I was crazy, I will never forget the day you called and told me you had done all the leg work of finding a Bradley instructor and had already signed us up. Here was another compromise. Your nervous risk-averse self could not accept an unassisted birth, so you found a way to make the experience work for both of us. You went with me to every class, practiced every technique and learned everything you could about helping me through childbirth naturally. Your running joke about an elective C-section wasn't lost on me- I know if you could eliminate every element of surprise or possible adverse outcome you would have done that. But you let me do this my way.

And so, this morning we have another babe who entered the world in a dramatic parade of natural childbirth. We were lucky again to have babes who just want to start their lives and don't waste much time being born. I'm sure your back would hurt less, your ears wouldn't be ringing with the feral sounds that come out of me during labor, and you would enjoy the experience more knowing everything was under control- but you let me birth our babies how I wanted. I have no regrets. And I will always be thankful for your grace and strength in the most intense of circumstances- you and I did this together and every time I look at our gorgeous children I will remember that they came into the world with both of their parents so ready to be right there to meet them. Thank you for giving this to me.

I love you, Grant.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Notes From a Dragon Mom

Not sure if today was the best day to read this NY Times article or not. It was posted on one of my favorite blogs, Dear Baby, and I usually can't stop myself from reading anything she recommends. She even warned ahead of time that it was hard to read.

Notes from a Dragon Mom was written by a woman whose 18 month old son has Tay-Sachs disease. This is a genetic disorder that will gradually paralyze him until he passes away. The article is her words about what it is like to parent a child you know might not see their 3rd birthday. She speaks about what elements of parenting have taken a front seat and which are completely unimportant. She speaks about the importance of making sure her son knows he is loved, comfortable, pain-free and basic needs are met. She also mentions how unimportant it is to read books about setting limits, researching elementary schools or choosing organic baby foods. Regardless of what she does, her son will die.

So here I sit- 40.5 weeks pregnant with an 18 month old of my own, reading about a pain every parent prays to God they never know. My heart hurts when Pursy runs to me wanting to be comforted because she ran into the door frame while tearing through the house. I would run into a thousand door frames to save her the tears. And yet part of parenting is letting your kids get hurt, learn tough lessons and deal with the unfairness of life. I pray every night that I would remember that God loves my daughter more then I do and that I would accept whatever His will is for her. But I can't deny how many nights I whisper- "but please don't ask it of me to lose her".

So the dance is this- to remember that as parents even though we spend thousands and thousands of hours creating the world our children grow up in, we ultimately have very little that we actually control. We protect our babes as much as we possibly can, but at some point they still walk out the door- as they need to. For most of us, we think about this in future tense. WHEN my kids get on the bus, WHEN they go to college, WHEN they move across the country. For the Mama who wrote this article, there is no future. She spends every day with her son watching for signs that he is slowly slipping away. And it gives her love a simple immediacy that was beautiful to read about.

And so even though I read this article with tears streaming down my face, it is a reminder that my daughter is in God's hands and every day I have with her is a gift- not my right. It is a reminder that when my son enters the world, he also comes to me as a visitor that I am being entrusted to take care of. And when I get hot and bothered about organic food or dye-free detergent or charter schools, it is a luxury of having the resources to have those choices. If they went away, I would still have beautiful children that I am blessed every day to have the gift of loving.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Little Distraction...

So to take my mind off the fact that my due date has come and gone, I spent an hour tonite playing with my new toy... Grant gave me my push present early- a Canon Rebel T2i. This is the camera I have been salivating over for months now- and lament not having every time I take a picture with my crappy point and click digital camera that never takes the picture I saw in the creative part of my brain that tells me every picture I take will be awesome.

Let's just clarify one thing. I realize the fact that there are push presents in my world means I have crossed over into full on yuppiness. I am okay with this. Although it will probably get me points on Stuff White People Like.

So Grant and his parents pooled their sneaky resources and have known they would give me this for a while now... and listened to me whine over and over about how I absolutely NEED a nice camera in order to be a good mom and MAYBE Purslane would forgive her baby pictures being mediocre but Knox certainly would hate me one day. Fortunately for our budget and my eternal soul, Grant is very wise in discerning when my needs and wants are ridiculously at odds. He did his research and found me the camera I wanted refurbished on Ebay and even though it was still extravagant, we will be able to put food on the table and keep our children in size-appropriate clothing.

My new sweetheart Emily came over tonite to show me all the features of a nice camera- plus brought cookies, which I thought was wicked cool and totally above and beyond. I am now armed with everything I need to take pictures of my sweet babes and hopefully find an artistic medium I can be good at. I am more of an art appreciator rather then creator, so photography fits me like my Seven jeans used to...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I like Food

Because food is Oh-so-important to me right now, I thought a food journal just of my day yesterday would be entertaining. A little embarrassing, particularly for those who have only known me as a farmers market, locally grown, close to the earth kind of eater- but all bets are off during pregnancy, as evidenced by the fact that the only food "substances" I could keep down during my first trimester were plates of chinese buffet steamed rice with jarred gravy and Doritos. Thankfully, not together. When you are choosing between Doritos and vomit-induced, electrolyte imbalanced starvation, you just eat Doritos and ignore the opinions of the outside world who all want to tell you how important it is to eat 3 servings of dark green vegetables a day during the first few months of pregnancy for babe's development. If Knox is born with scurvy and ends up at community college, we all know who to blame.

So yesterday. Started out pretty normal. Two bowls of Raisin Bran. Cup of coffee and half of Pursy's banana. She starts fussing in her crib- Grant goes in to change her horrific morning poop diaper while I start making her breakfast. It is lonely eating alone, so I make myself Second Breakfast, which is scrambled eggs and a yogurt. Finally full, we leave the house for some play time at the library. Halfway home, I stop at the bakery. SO proud of myself- I did not have a bavarian cream donut. I had two bavarian cream donuts. Home to put Pursy down for a nap. Another bowl of Raisin Bran. And a pear. After her nap, I feed her lunch and am surprisingly not hungry. Drink water and feel alright. At 530 the family eats together- very important to us. Homemade shells and cheese, peas and a beer for Grant. I try to pretend my glass of grape/peach juice is a wine spritzer and then we wash,dry and read books to the babe. Bedtime. While Grant puts Pursy to sleep, I eat half a package of gingersnaps and make red raspberry tea to try and bring on labor. No dice on the labor, but do create wicked heartburn for which I take 4 Tums and drink some milk. End of eating day.

"Mama- eat your vegetables!"
 Has anyone else discovered the pasta made out of veggies that Wegmans sells???This pasta is made of tomatoes and carrots. Pursy loves it.
 P's fish face.
 Since we are talking about food, how much do I love a husband who does manly things like smoke whole chickens and feeds them to me with BBQ sauce and cheese grits?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall in Love...

Unashamed at my kitchy play on words for the title of this blog post...

I love autumn, fall- whatever you call this time of year- I LOVE it. Going through it with a 17 month old is even better. There have actually been moments when I forgot to step on every leaf on the sidewalk...Purslane reminds me this is not acceptable. Walks take twice as long when you are trying to find the perfect leaf to take home as a souvenir and the line is longer at Starbucks when the fall drinks come to town. You can't rush through Autumn. I love mums on the front porch and funky gourds and squash as decoration on my table. Now that I have babes I love Halloween and trick or treat night. Pursy is going to be a doctor (complete with tiny scrubs that have Dr Pursy embroidered on the pocket) and little freeloader is going to be a pea in the pod- my life dream since the day I considered every having children. He needs to hurry up and be born however or this costume is going to be ridiculously huge.

The air smells like firewood and happiness. The sun is still shining daily and I can acceptably wear sandals and a fleece. 65 degrees is the temperature of the new Jerusalem, I am sure of it. And it will be Autumn every day. And Reeses PB cups will always be in the shape of pumpkins.

Friday, October 7, 2011

God help us if this girl ever gets ahold of a cigarette...

Pursy hasn't shown much interest thus far in movies or TV. We haven't really encouraged it either- we don't have strong feelings for or against letting her watch things like Sesame Street or PBS kids, but for my sanity she will not be allowed to watch Barney or the Wiggles. Not because I think they are bad, just highly annoying. She is such a curious little cat that I wasn't surprised when after 3 minutes of Sleeping Beauty she was crawling off the couch in search of something better to do. Fine with me- I really would prefer her not to get sucked into the world of TV babysitting. Although when/if she does, I think investing in DVD collections of The Smurfs, Fraggle Rock and GI Joe would be way better then letting her watch the new cartoon junk on TV. Some of it creeps ME out a little- no telling what it would do to her pure little mind. I'm sure there is good stuff out there, but Grant and I like old things and it's hard to argue that the cartoons we grew up on were WAY better. (Remember the Snorks??)

The one exception to her lack of interest in television is this silly little video on YouTube called The Duck Story. A girlfriend of mine sent it to me after humming the "waddle waddle" chorus every time I walked by her at the hospital. Purslane happened to be in the room when I opened the video and was immediately hooked. She wanted to watch it on repeat until I wanted to throw the computer out the window. The following have also resulted: when asked what a duck says, she now says "Hey Man". First thing in the morning when either Grant or I walk into her room, instead of "Mama" or "Dada" she now greets us with "Duck! Duck!". If I need a few minutes to make a phone call or fold some laundry, I can put her in her high chair and pull her up to the kitchen counter with the 3 minute video on repeat and know that she will be entertained. She wants to watch it all the time, and her addictive little personality is starting to make me nervous. God help us when/if she discovers things more harmful to her health...

Mamas- let me know if you need a few minutes of quiet or want to watch your active child become a zombie for 3.5 minutes and I will send you the link. This video is baby crack and Pursy is a cute little addict.